Travel to France

Travel to France

Elegance, sophistication, beauty, France welcomes more tourists than any other country.

France is truly a global beacon of culture. Besides a center-stage role in world history, its impacts in the culinary, film, and fashion departments can’t be overstated. You’ll fall in love with its distinctive cities, from Paris, Marseille, and Lyon to Nice and Bordeaux. Whether you are an epicurean at heart or just love to try new flavors, French cuisine is sinfully delicious. Each region has its own specialties—from Burgundy’s coq au vin to the south’s meat-and-bean cassoulet. These delicacies reward a lifetime's worth of visits. You’ll also surely swoon over the rich variety of native wines: From Riesling and Chardonnay to Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, these glories of the grape are as justly renowned as the masterpieces of the French kitchen. Among France’s leading attractions are the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the beaches of Normandy, and the farms, vineyards, and restaurants of timeless Provence.

Throughout its many years of existence, France's culture has undoubtedly spread its wings and impacted Western civilization as we know it today. France is a powerhouse of fashion, music, perfume, literature, fine art, cinema, cuisine and opera. Its great writers, musicians, culinary chefs, philosophers and artists have truly made it one of the great cultural centers of the world. We're talking about Victor Hugo and Voltaire, Claude Monet, Serge Gainsbourg and Paul Cezanne. Gustave Flaubert, Georges Bizet and Edgar Degas. Moliere, Matisse, Renoir, Dumas, Debussy. Jules Verne, Josephine Baker, Emile Zola, Daft Punk and Edith Piaf.

France's museums are some of the finest in the world including the Musee du Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay, the Bayeux Tapestry Museum, the Centre Pompidou and Provence's Fondation Maeght. It is home to an impressive 38 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 85 official moments managed by the Centre des monuments nationaux and hundreds of astonishingly-beautiful gardens.

And don't make the mistake of confusing Paris with the rest of France; it isn't quite tres chic everywhere! The different regions that compose France boast their own interesting cultural elements. Visitors to France find that Alsace for example shares many cultural similarities with its nearby German neighbor. Picturesque Provence and its quaint villages are very slow-paced. Some isolated destinations, like Lourdes, are sacred pilgrimage sites, and some areas have preserved their ancient cultural heritages; Brittany's Celtic traditions are still very much present as are the Basques and the Catalans of Languedoc-Roussillon.

France is about as gourmet as it gets. Its culinary techniques are revered as some of the finest in the world. Its sophisticated baking or patisserie is world-renown, and its long-established Michelin-star system is recognized as the global standard for a restaurant's excellence.

France has an ancient tradition of winemaking, and year after year, its vintages are rated as some of the world's best. Its top wine regions include Bordeaux, Burgundy, Cote du Rhone, and Rheims (for champagne).

When vacationing in France, part of the joy simply comes from eating, so incorporate it into your sightseeing! Take a cooking class, go on a chocolate tour, try truffle hunting, visit a cheese farm, or visit a neighborhood market to create a tasty picnic lunch.

Every region has its own specialties so be sure to try a few of the local dishes like cassoulet in Carcassonne, bouillabaisse in Marseille, fondue in Savoie, camembert in Normandy and choucroute garnie in Alsace.

The largest nation in Western Europe, France borders the nations of Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Andorra and Spain. It's only separated from Great Britain by a short stretch of sea, and it's one of only three countries in the world to possess both Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines. And while it's often overlooked, the beautiful island of Corsica (Napoleon's birthplace and the fourth-largest island in the Mediterranean) is also part of France. (We'll not go into it here, but France also has several overseas territories).

Due to its location, quantity of airports and overall excellence in rail technology, as a vacation destination France is easy to combine with other countries in Europe; London, Amsterdam, Cologne and Brussels are all a quick train ride away.

France is home to a terrific variety of landscapes including dense forests, coastal plains and spectacular beaches. Skiers, mountain climbers, and hikers enjoy its dramatic mountain ranges including the Pyrenees, the Massif Central and the Alps. Vacationers seeking countryside chateaux or wine estates will often find themselves along one of France's famed rivers including the Seine, Rhone and Loire. France's seaside resorts, villages and monuments that follow its Atlantic coastline are particularly beautiful, as is its famed Cote d'Azur (also referred to as the French Riviera). It is a nation that has taken great measures to preserve its natural beauty, and visitors to France can enjoy the country's extensive national park system.

Largest cities in France: Paris, Lyon, Marseille

The history of France is nothing if not lengthy, complex and intriguing! It is a tale of Celtic chieftains, Greek colonies, Gallic tribes, Roman legions, Frankish kings, absolute monarchs, rivaling dynasties, revolutions, and a vast, far-reaching colonial empire. Some of Europe's most interesting characters have played a role in shaping the history of France (and Western Civilization!) including Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, William the Conqueror, Marie Antoinette, Marie Curie, Jacques Cartier, Charles de Gaulle, Louis XIV, Jacques Cousteau, Joan of Arc, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Cardinal Richelieu, Samuel de Champlain, Robespierre, Louis Pasteur and Catherine de' Medici.

History fans visiting France on vacation have an unimaginable multitude of historical sightseeing attractions to choose from! Some date back 20,000 years like the famed, Stone-Age cave paintings found in the Dordogne (with Lascaux being the most famous). These caves along with other important prehistoric sites form part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Vezere Valley.

France's ancient heritage is very much alive with cities like Marseille, which is the official 2013 European City of Culture, having been established on the shores of the Mediterranean as a Greek colony 2600 years ago. Other important ancient cities in France with Greek colonial origins include Nice, Agde, and Antibes. The Romans too vastly contributed to the development of many cities in France including Nimes, Lyon, Arles, Narbonne, Reims, Orange and Paris. As a result, visitors to France today can enjoy some of the best Roman monuments left standing in the world including temples, aqueducts and amphitheaters.

There are also fascinating medieval and Renaissance sites to consider. Ornate palaces, Loire Valley chateaux, monasteries, abbeys and remarkable gothic cathedrals (many of which were established along the pilgrimage route of the "Way of Saint James" to Spain's Santiago de Compostela) add to the immense historical, cultural and architectural heritage of France; it is easy to comprehend how it has become the most-visited country in the world!

It's also worth mentioning that many travelers to France flock to its 20th-century historical sites such as the important battlefields, memorials and cemeteries from the Allies' D-Day Invasion in Normandy during the Second World War.

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