Première France: where to go and what to do

France is the world’s number one tourist destination for good reason: artistic and architectural masterpieces, remarkable museums and natural landscapes, and a history that dates far beyond the Romans. Top it all off with fine wine, food, and a culinary culture that permeates every town and small town. This beginner’s guide to things to do in France can help you find the best places to go, as well as other tips to get the most out of your visit.

The Eiffel Tower is an essential stop on a trip to Paris © seng chye teo / Getty Images






Paris

Château de Chambord, imposing Renaissance white brick building with turrets and gray slate roof.  There is a large body of calm water in front of the castle which perfectly reflects the cloudy blue sky above
The Château de Chambord is one of the most visited castles in the Loire Valley © StevanZZ / Shutterstock






The Loire Valley

Villefranche-sur-Mer sparkles along the Côte d'Azur © Olga Vorontcova / Shutterstock
Villefranche-sur-Mer sparkles along the Côte d’Azur © Olga Vorontcova / Shutterstock






French Riviera

This strip of seaside on the great Mediterranean has it all, hence the extreme crowds in summer. The seaside town of Nice is the queen of the Riviera with its cutting-edge art museums, its Belle Epoque architecture, its pebble beaches and its legendary promenade. Take glitzy day trips keeping an eye out for movie stars in Cannes, Formula 1 drivers in Monaco, and celebrities and socialites in St-Tropez. Sensational views make the walk along the three coastal roads from Nice to Menton an absolute must. Otherwise, put on your hiking boots and walk the fiery Estérel Massif to admire mountain landscapes with dazzling red rocks.

Colorful French fields in Provence.  A field of yellow sunflowers runs parallel to a field of purple lavender
Summer brings incredible colors to the fields in Provence © Linhking / 500px

Provence

Make sure all devices are fully charged: The extraordinary light and scenery of this part of southern France demands constant shooting and sharing. Start with Marseille, a thousand-year-old port with notable museums such as the anthropological MuCEM and a coastline straight out of a film set. Inland, zoom on the glorious Roman amphitheatres and aqueducts of Nîmes, Orange and Pont du Gard. Pass lavender fields and cherry orchards to hilltop villages and food markets in the bucolic regions of Luberon and Vaucluse. No goal is big enough for the summit of Mont Ventoux (cyclists’ paradise) or the Gorges du Verdon, the deepest canyon in Europe with sheer cliffs of 2,620 feet (800 m) and surprising emerald green water, no filter required.

Green vineyard hills with a small town in the background.  A steeple rises from a town and there is a thick forest beyond
Take a tour of vineyards and a Champagne house © FreeProd33 / Shutterstock






Champagne

The sparkling wine region of Champagne in the north of France is second to none. Where else can you sip champagnes in century-old cellars and make your way through vineyards and medieval villages straight out of a Renoir painting? Stay in Reims (pronounce something like “rancid”) or in Épernay to visit Pommery, Mumm, Moët & Chandon and other great Champagne houses. In Reims, choose a clear day to climb the tower of the cathedral where dozens of French kings have been crowned. From the two towns, panoramic roads of Champagne plunge motorists into the heart of this intoxicating region.

The magical Mont St-Michel abbey against a very dramatic colorful sunset.  The abbey sits on a plain of smooth white sand
Don’t miss the magical Mont St-Michel abbey © Jean Surprenant / Getty Images / Moment RF






Brittany and Normandy

A windy part of northern France, Brittany and Normandy were created especially for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs with sensational seafood, cliff top walks, rugged coastline and ancient sites steeped in traditions and legends. Headlining, Mont St-Michel, a mysterious and magical abbey island, which is best to approach barefoot on the sand with a guide. Rent a bike to discover the megaliths of Carnac that dot the south coast of Brittany (wear a windbreaker). The masterpiece of time travel in Normandy is the Bayeux Tapestry, but it’s the D-Day beaches and nearby WWII war cemeteries that will truly take you back to a time in history. .

The sun sets over Briançon in the French Alps.  There are sparse evergreens in the foreground, sitting on a blanket of snow, with craggy peaks in the background, crisscrossed with trails
Outdoor enthusiasts will love it in the French Alps © egyjanek / Shutterstock






French alps

The French Alps are a huge outdoor playground, which operates during the ski season (December to April) when incredibly difficult slopes and trails attract adrenaline junkies from everywhere. Mont Blanc prevails and the party town of Chamonix is ​​the perfect place to get closer to its might and majesty – the mountain panorama from the top of the Aiguille du Midi cable car is the best there is, no matter what. be the season. If small and chic is more your style then put on your skis in Megève-St-Gervais. To let yourself be torn apart after dark during a hardcore après-ski, go to Val d’Isère or Méribel and Courchevel in the Three Valleys.

What to pack

  • Walking shoes
  • French phrasebook
  • The Paris City Guides app from Lonely Planet
  • Adapter for French two-pin plugs
  • Raincoat and umbrella (especially for Paris and the Nordic regions)
  • Sunscreen and mosquito repellent (especially for the south of France)
  • Detailed road map and / or GPS device

Essential phrases

Hello: Hello
Good afternoon: Good afternoon
Good night: Good night
Goodbye: Goodbye
Pleases‘please
Thank you: Thank you
Do you speak english?: Do you speak English ?
I’m lost!: I’m lost !
Can I book a table for two / four people: I would like to reserve a table for two / four people please.

An aerial view of a train line with a bridge over a body of water
TGVs are high speed trains © Enzojz / Getty Images

Move

Regular trains connect towns and main cities. Check the timetables and buy your tickets on SNCF. Getting around by car buys freedom, flexibility and a ticket to rural France. Motorists drive on the right side of the road and pay to use it highways (highways). Track routes, tolls and fuel costs with highways.

Biking is a great way to navigate cities, including Paris. Elegant cycle paths connect the sites of the beautiful and flat Loire Valley, Provence (not so flat) and Brittany. Search routes with France Cycling Tourism.

Article first published in June 2015 and last updated in July 2021.


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About Guillermo Russell

Guillermo Russell

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