As one of the largest countries in Europe, it can be difficult to take the entire country of France in, but it is possible to travel to France and enjoy the best of its culture. Those who visit France will find it has a varied topography, which includes everything from the French Alps to the sandy beaches of the Mediterranean, offering visitors a chance to personally design their trip. What’s more, France is a country rich in history, making it home to some of the most famous museums, monuments, architectural feats and historical sites in the world. As a major destination, France travel is easy and visitors will find a nation that’s relatively easy to navigate even with language barriers and that caters to tourists looking for a budget-friendly vacation or a luxury-filled escape from the norm. Whatever your reason for visiting, the country is sure to impress, bearing repeat visits in the years ahead. Use Travel + Leisure’s France travel guide as a blueprint for what will surely be an unforgettable trip.
Things Not to Miss in France
• Visit wineries in Champagne and Bordeaux, the hearts of French wine country, or head to Normandy for delicious, locally produced cider and apple brandy
• Take in the best of the French Riviera by visiting the cities of Marseille, Nice and Montpellier
• Experience French Basque culture in Biarritz, located on the French-Spanish border
• See The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Tuileries Garden and other unforgettable sights in Paris
• Head to Grenoble for easy access to skiing, snowboarding and mountaineering in the French Alps
• Check out the city of Strasbourg, which shares both French and German cultural heritage and serves as the seat of the European Parliament
• Follow the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh and stay in the exceedingly charming city of Arles where he created some of his most amazing works
When to Go to France
As with any country of its size, climates vary widely across France with cities in the north and northwestern reaches of the country experiencing temperate climates (Parisian summers rarely exceed daily temperatures of 80 degrees) and the southeastern swaths of France weathering Mediterranean climates complete with warm, humid summers and mild, cool winters. Still, spring and summer is the best time to visit France if only for a chance at taking in the best weather the country has to offer. Unless, of course, you’re hoping to take part in more wintry activities. In that case, the best time to visit France and the French Alps is between December and March.
Seeing as the world “hotel” has its origins in the French language, there’s obviously no shortage of hotels in France. Visitors will find everything from international French hotels to cute B&Bs and, another French word, plenty of chateaux (especially in the famed Loire Valley). And for those traveling on a budget plenty of hostels and hotels in France offer affordable accommodations perfect for the wallet-conscious traveller. There’s even a long tradition of work-to-stay France hotels that give visitors room-and-board in exchange for working French farms. Just be sure to do your research before booking a hotel in the country’s many cities and make finding an excellent concierge or enthusiastic local guide a top priority. Both can do wonders for a great French vacation.
Gastronome or not, France is the place to go for great food. The country has a long history of not only rich, haute cuisine, but a tradition of excellent regional fare that has transformed France into the culinary giant it is today. It’s far too difficult to name just a few of the many great restaurants in France (though the famed Guide Michelin is always happy to help), so those visiting France restaurants should work overtime to try cuisine that is unique and native to the country like pot-au-feu, a hearty beef stew; matelote, fish cooked in cider; coq au vin or boeuf bourguignon, chicken or beef braised in red wine; and ratatouille, a rich vegetable stew. And don’t forget to drop by an authentic patisserie to stock up on madeleines, croissants, macarons, baguettes and all the delicious breads, desserts and cheeses that have set France restaurants apart as leaders in culinary excellence.