France is a familiar country to most – at least in terms of images in everyone’s mind:
Endless fields and lush vineyards, romantic castles and hilltop villages, croissant-scented metropolitan market squares, the fancy boulevards of coastal towns and the rugged mountains of the Alps.
With 87 million visitors each year, France is the most visited country in Europe. The vast country contains an unbelievable number of well-known destinations in all of its parts.
Paris is the most popular city destination in Europe, and undoubtedly the best-known destination in France. Who hasn’t heard of the Louvre Museum, the Notre Dame Cathedral or the Eiffel Tower? Or seen on TV as movie stars stroll on the bridges and the riverbanks of the Seine River? The Palace of Versailles and the Disneyland amusement park near Paris are common day trip destinations from Paris.
Normandy by the English Channel in Northern France is another well-known sight with its steep, rugged cliffs and a long shoreline. The famous D-Day beaches of the Second World War are situated north of the city of Caen. Along the coast, there are several museums concerning the Allied invasion of Normandy. The luxurious beach resort Deuville, famous for its high-end hotels and fashion boutiques, is the best-known beach destination in Normandy. You should also include in your itinerary the island & monastery of Mont Saint-Michel, which is also inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Champagne area in northeastern France is famous for the sparkling Champagne wine and champagne-related tourism. The city of Reims is a good starting point for a wine tour, as you’ll be able to visit, for example, the Champagne houses of Taittinger or Veuve Clickquot. The Alsace province, situated in northeastern France on the French-German border, is certainly worth a visit. The capital of the province, Strasbourg, has both rich architecture as well as history.
The Rhone Alpes province in Western France is one of the most interesting provinces. Lyon, the third largest city in France, is certainly familiar to food fanatics, since Paris and Lyon both claim to be the number one culinary spot in France. The Bouchon bistros of the city are mostly well worth your while. There’s enough architecture, art and history in Lyon to cover a holiday of several days, especially if the holiday includes trips to the wine regions of Beaujolais, north of the city, or Côtes du Rhône, south of the city. The Alps and several famous ski resorts such as Chamonix, Val d’Isere or Courchevel, are situated west of Lyon.
Provence is located in the southeastern corner of France. The best-known attractions are the French Riviera, Cote d'Azur, and the city of Marseille. Nice, Cannes, Antibes and St. Tropez are all famous high-end holiday destinations in the Riviera, where gorgeous yachts, sports cars and fashion items are a common sight. Contrarily, Marseille is known as a romantic, bohemian port city. The local kitchen in Marseille combines the original French kitchen to that of several other cultures. The local kitchen is one of the strengths of Marseille.
Southwestern France is an interesting area for historians, since the cities of Nimes and Narbonne have plenty of Roman remains. Carcassone is a beautiful fortified village and one of the most popular destinations in France. Biarritz in the Bay of Biscay is a sympathetic beach resort that has been in fashion among holiday destinations for decades. More interesting architecture, culture and world-class wine is on offer in Bordeaux, in southwestern France. While you’re there, make sure you visit the mighty dunes on the Silver Coast.
Bretagne in northwestern France, between the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay, is famous for its sandy beaches between the edged cliffs on the shore. Bretagne is the second most popular beach regions in France, only surpassed by the Riviera.
The Loire Valley zigzagging from central France towards the west is without a doubt one of world’s most beautiful river valleys. Due to the lush fields and vineyards, majestic castles and historic cities such as Angers and Tours along the river, the whole Loire Valley has been inscribed on the UNESCO World heritage List.
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The climates in France can be roughly divided into two: a colder one in the north and a warmer one in the south. In 2019, several temperature records were broken in many areas of France, and in late July, the temperatures were widely above 40 °C. With regard to global warming, the year 2020 can be expected to be just as hot or even hotter.
While the ski resorts have the high season from the beginning of December to Easter, elsewhere in France the winter months from December to January constitute the low season. Paris is a suitable destination also in winter, and the hotel prices are much lower than in the high season. The winter months are the coldest time of the year in almost all parts of the country; it also rains often.
The months of April – May as well as autumn are an excellent time period to have a holiday in France, as the flowers are blooming colorfully, and the temperatures are pleasant.
By June, the beach season is well underway in beach destinations across the country, but the biggest rush is yet to come. The months of July and August are the high season in most parts of the country, which is also when temperatures may reach unbearable levels. During these months, you might want to avoid city destinations.
September is still an excellent month for even a beach holiday in Southern and Western France, as the air temperature is pleasant and the seawater still warm. September-October is a good time period to visit city destinations or towns in the countryside, as the prices are lower than in summer, and the weather is good for spending time outside. The harvest of wine grapes takes place from August to early October. Harvest festivals (fête des vendanges) take place from the end of September to the beginning of November.
Based on a survey by Eurostat in 2018, prices in France were above the European average in terms of accommodation and restaurants.
Within the country, the prices of accommodation and restaurants are more expensive in the north than in the south, apart from the French Riviera.
According to International SOS, the largest medical & travel security services provider in the world, the risks involved in traveling in France are low. Car break-ins and pickpocket thefts are common especially in Southern France and in the biggest cities. Keep your wallets, passports and other valuables well protected, and do not leave them in sight inside your car.
Bear in mind the possibility of natural disasters such as floods, wildfires or avalanches. Wildfires typically ignite in Southern France during the hottest times in July-August. Floods are a nuisance in Northern France from late autumns to early winters.