France

Welcome to France

France seduces travellers with its unfalteringly familiar culture, woven around cafe terraces, village-square markets and lace-curtained bistros with their plat du jour (dish of the day) chalked on the board.

France is about world-class art and architecture. It seduces with iconic landmarks known the world over and rising stars yet to be discovered. This country’s cultural repertoire is staggering – in volume and diversity. And this is where the beauty of la belle France lies: when superstars such as Mademoiselle Eiffel, royal Versailles and the celebrity-ridden French Riviera have been ticked off, there’s ample more to thrill. France is, after all, the world’s top tourism destination with some 89 million visitors each year who flock to the land of the Gauls to feast on its extraordinary wealth of museums, galleries, ateliers (artist workshops) and hands-on cultural experiences.

Food is of enormous importance to the French and the daily culinary agenda takes no prisoners: breakfasting on warm croissants from the boulangerie (bakery), stopping off at Parisian bistros, and market shopping are second nature to the French – and it would be rude to refuse. But French gastronomy goes far deeper than just eating exceedingly well. Its experiential nature means there is always something tasty to observe, learn and try. Be it flipping crêpes in Brittany or clinking champagne flutes in ancient Reims cellars, the culinary opportunities are endless.

The rhythm of daily life – dictated by the seasons in the depths of la France profonde (rural France) – exudes an intimacy that gets under your skin. Don’t resist. Rather, live the French lifestyle. Embrace the luxury of simple, everyday rituals being transformed into unforgettable moments, be it a coffee and croissant in the Parisian cafe where Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir met to philosophise, a stroll through the lily-clad gardens Monet painted, or a walk on a beach in Brittany scented with the subtle infusion of language, music and mythology brought by 5th-century Celtic invaders.

The terroir (land) of France weaves a varied journey from northern France’s cliffs and sand dunes to the piercing blue sea of the French Riviera and Corsica’s green oak forests. Outdoor action is what France’s lyrical landscape demands – and there’s something for everybody. Whether you end up walking barefoot across wave-rippled sand to Mont St-Michel, riding a cable car to glacial panoramas above Chamonix or cartwheeling down Europe’s highest sand dune, France does not disappoint. Its great outdoors is thrilling, with endless opportunities and the next adventure begging to be had. Allez!

Top destinations in France

Marseille

Grit and grandeur coexist seamlessly in Marseille, an exuberantly multicultural port city with a pedigree stretching back to classical Greece and a fair claim to the mantle of France’s second city. Once seen as somewhat dirty and dangerous, and lacking the glamour of Cannes or St-Tropez, this black sheep of the Provençal coastline has blossomed in cultural confidence since its 2013 stint as the European Capital of Culture. The addition of a brace of swanky new museums is just the outward sign of an optimism and self-belief that’s almost palpable.

Cannes

Glamorous Cannes sets camera flashes popping at its film festival in May, when stars pose in tuxes and full-length gowns on the red carpet. But the glitz doesn’t end there. Throughout the year, as you walk among the designer bars, couture shops and palaces of La Croisette, the wealth and glamour of this city cannot fail to impress. Admiring Ferraris and Porsches and celebrity-spotting on the chic sunlounger-striped beaches and liner-sized yachts moored at the port are perennial Cannes pastimes.

Lyon

Commanding a strategic spot at the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône Rivers, Lyon has been luring people ever since the Romans named it Lugdunum in 43 BC. Commercial, industrial and banking powerhouse for the past 500 years, Lyon is France’s third-largest city, and offers today’s urban explorers a wealth of enticing experiences.

Paris

Paris’ monument-lined boulevards, museums, classical bistros and boutiques are enhanced by a new wave of multimedia galleries, creative wine bars, design shops and tech start-ups.

Chamonix-Mont-Blanc

Mountains loom large almost everywhere you look in Chamonix. Skiers and sightseers are launched by cable car to heights of 3842m on the Mont Blanc massif, while the glacial void of La Vallée Blanche – one of Europe’s most fêted off-piste adventures – beckons to the brave. Skiers and boarders have a choice of pistes along the valley, while in summer the same lifts access hiking and biking trails.

Montpellier

Graceful and easy-going, Montpellier is a stylish metropolis with elegant buildings, grand hôtels particuliers (private mansions), stately boulevards and shady backstreets, and gorgeous white-sand beaches on its doorstep.

Nice

With its mix of real-city grit, old-world opulence, year-round sunshine, vibrant street life and stunning seaside location, no place in France compares with Nice.

Trip ideas

More in the Europa region

Austria

No country waltzes so effortlessly between urban and outdoors as Austria. One day you’re cresting alpine summits, the next you’re swanning around imperial Vienna.

Czech Republic

Since the fall of communism in 1989, the Czech Republic – and its capital in particular – has evolved into one of Europe’s most popular travel destinations.

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