From the coastal reverie of the French Riviera to the cozy luxury villas in France, there’s more than a hundred reasons to visit the world’s most famous tourist destination.
Today, France has almost become synonymous with prestige. With finesse and cultural refinement. It is the cultural clay that molded the likes of Edith Piaf, Henri Matisse, Claude Debussy, and Jean-Paul Sartre. The same backdrop that inspired the masterpieces of Charles Baudelaire and Honore de Balzac. But the best characters don't rise out of trivial tales. France's rich heritage played a great role in concocting its treasures and the world is intent on experiencing a share of that legacy.
Perhaps a major driver of the French charisma is the immense value it places on its history and culture. These are evident in the well-maintained attractions that although beckon millions if not billions of tourists every year, are still taken care of and very much valued. From the Pont Du Gard Aqueduct near Nimes reminiscent of the Roman empire at the height of its reign, the charming gîtes in the countryside, to the iconic glass pyramid museum, the Louvre in the capital city, Paris, there’s nothing not to love in this magnifique pays.
The country we now call France was originally called Gaul or Gallia after it was conquered by Julius Caesar around 51 B.C. But its history started with the farmers who called the land their home thousands of years before. Much later, the Celts moved into the territory, bringing their own culture and crafts and lifestyle. They shared the land with the original settlers. After Caesar's conquest, the territory then included what are now known as the independent states of Belgium and Switzerland.
There wasn't any French language during that time. Instead, the culture was by and large Celtic which is associated with Gaelic or Welsh. The Romans started their reign, concentrating towns and erecting public infrastructure which to this day remain evident in the persisting architecture of the old Roman amphitheaters in Orange and the large corinthian pillars of the Maison Carree Temple at Nimes.
Since then, the country has undergone various geo-political transformations from the hands of the Germanic King Clovis who overtook the Romans and divided the land into three territories, one of which was called Francia; the first French-speaking king, Francien, who imposed the use of the new language; and William the Conqueror who invaded England.
Most notable is the influence of Eleanor of Aquitaine during the Middle Ages. She promoted the arts and led the country through an age of prosperity - until the Black Death.
France got into numerous conflicts with other countries, especially with its neighbors England and Germany. Much of the events that occured in the later centuries revolved around ideology. These difficult times gave us Joan of Arc, Voltaire and Rousseau, and the great names that fertilized the cultural landscape of the country. Napoleon brought on a new age of progress, encouraging education on the arts, sciences, literature, and the abolishment of feudalism.
The France that we know today has indeed carried on a long history and trial and triumph, of which came out a unique cultural identity that continues to be celebrated in the 21st century.
Such is the primary reason why traveling to France is always a good idea. From gawking at the architectural feats of the Roman empire to chilling in the infamous French cafes and bookstores, a traveler will never run out of things to discover.
It does not matter if it’s your first time or tenth. More than the attractions, the thing that brings people under the French skies is the collective célébration de l'art de vivre.
The romance capital of the world has become synonymous with glamour, glorified for its Hollywood image of class and elegance. But before anything, it is lovely. Being in the city feels like being stuck between present and past. A little walking adventure will take you to pocketed secrets, a cozy bookstore, a postcard-perfect 50s outdoor cafe. These little surprises make exploring the city a favorite pastime among locals and tourists alike.
Paris alone would overwhelm any fairytale fanatic. But the charm could easily rub on you when you find yourself among a frantic crowd of people when what you had in mind was a romantic, a-la-local Parisian stroll.
The secret to not losing the initial charm is to travel like a local. Here are some handy tips:
When in Paris, witness the majestic dome ceiling inside the Pantheon. Snap a photo of the sunrise in Pont Alexandre III, or be amazed by the elaborate gilded chandeliers and frescoes of Palais Garnier. Commune with nature in Parc des Buttes Chaumont. Your social media feed wouldn't be complete without a photo of Jardin des Tuileries. Walk past the pastel-colored homes of Rue Cremieux. Dine in style at La Cour Jardin restaurant in Hotel Plaza Athenee. To perfectly conclude a day, head to the dreamy River Seine at dusk.
Image Source: Complete France
The history of Normandy dates back to the Neolithic period, through the Roman rule and invasions of the Germanic tribes as mentioned earlier in this article. However, the Normandy we know today was founded by the Vikings who ventured from Scandinavia down to Paris, attracted by the riches of the province. The French king gave the region to the Vikings and was named Normandy or the country of the Northmen. In the centuries that followed, the province experienced turbulence and violence under warring rulers and as France itself was caught in turmoil against other nations.
To this day, the province's rich heritage of famous sites and superb museums are all that remain of the tumultuous era.
A mainstay when visiting Normandy is the seaside town of Arromanches where visitors commemorate the D-Day landing during the invasion of Normandy in 1944. The long stretch of shore that spans hundreds of miles were divided into five sections and are still known by their code names: Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, and Utah.
The small-town Bayeux has been around for a century and has survived the assaults of the previous wars. The signature Romanesque architecture of the huge cathedral is accentuated by Gothic style, and houses the famous Bayeux Tapestry that tells of the invasion of William the Conqueror of England. This piece of art and history offers a peek into the way of life back in the medieval times.
But perhaps one of the most breathtaking and picturesque attraction in Normandy is the abbey of Mont St-Michel. Its architecture is mainly Gothic with a pinnacle topped by a gilded statue of St Michael. Seeing the abbey from afar is like stepping into a painting.
Image Source: Wanderlust Travel Magazine
Beautiful Mediterranean coastlines are the great pride of Brittany. But like any other French region, it’s also teeming with cultural wealth.
Situated at the northwestern tip of France, Brittany shares its Celtic origins and Roman influences with the rest of France. Surprisingly, it has withstood the test of time, despite the onslaught of military conflict during the previous century.
Today, the city boasts a concentration of Medieval towns, fortresses, and UNESCO-protected villages.
To experience Brittany fully, you need to immerse in outdoor activities such as sailing, swimming, fishing, and watersports - the favorite pastimes of the locals. The climate is good year-round so you don’t have to worry about missing out on all the fun when “visiting off-season.”
A most recommended activity for tourists and travelers in the city is to follow the Cider route which starts in the AOC Cournouaille cider region. But of course, you need to take that riverboat tour in the Rance, explore the walled city of Saint-Malo and Dinan, chill and relax with a great Thalassotherapy experience, and of course, celebrate culture at the Quimper.
For more information on Brittany attractions and accommodations, please view our post on Finding Gites in Brittany France.
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Located in the middle stretch of the Loire River in central France, in the administrative regions of Pays de la Loire and Centre-Val de Loire is the Loire Valley. The enchanting panorama is home to a total of 100 castles, and is best known for the world-famous chateaux, the Châteaux d'Amboise, de Villandry and Chenonceau.
Historically, it became a hotbed of disputes, once claimed by both France and England in the Middle Ages. In the 15 century, it became a showplace for pleasure castles and the succeeding ownerships only perpetuated the extravagance, with its manicured green meadows and landscaped terrains, a straight out of fairytale garden with its delicate frescoes which to this day is an enduring relic of timeless Italian Renaissance brilliance.
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In the summertime when most of the touring crowds flock the rues of Paris or the French Riviera, the locals drive down to the west coast where the more laid-back, yet equally marvelous regions of Poitou-Charentes, Aquitaine and Pays-de-la-Loire promise a more relaxed holiday. The miles of beaches are laced with sand and scenic hamlets.
In the exquisite cradle of Bordeaux, the city called by the Queen herself as "the very essence of elegance," you can feast in the famed French cuisine and drink Bordeaux's very own world-famous wines. The city itself is in touch with its Latin side, harboring influence from both the Basque and Spanish culture.
In the neighboring Dordogne, famous for the majestic glory of the swiftly flowing Dordogne River, an idyllic town that mirrors the quintessential countryside France awaits. The most beautiful luxury villas in France dot the landscape, and are open to holiday goers looking to stay for a night or two. In the Dordogne, not only can you find sensational cuisine - and black truffles! - but also Europe's most prized trove of prehistoric art.
Just south of Bordeaux is the lovely stretch of pine-covered beach, Côte d’Argent.
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Lovely red-roofed castilles laid in pastoral green meadows, a great climate with glittering Mediterranean beaches, untamed centres of culture, countrysides with postcard worthy hilltop villages, rolls of lavender stretching for miles. This is Provence, undoubtedly one of the most romantic and charming regions of France.
Walk in the cobbled streets and among golden stone houses in Gordes. Join the music festival in the summer, or visit the Pol Mara Museum to witness the old settlements of the Bories.
In Uzès, you can find the imposing aqueduct of Pont du Gard, built during the Roman reign. The town still has a Duke, who lives in a castle in the center of town among the medieval homes and cobbled courts.
Lourmarin is the quintessential French town, but this one has been hailed the most beautiful of villages. Bustling with life under the Luberon mountain range, it is frequented by food connoisseurs, book lovers, and artists alike. Speaking of artists, the Rousillon has a massive art scene, owing to its revered ochre vein, the largest in the world. The surrounding vegetation only serves to compliment the sight, and inspired so many artists that the town, however small and close-knit it might seem, now has 15 galleries that showcase the works of around 50 painters and sculptors.
At Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is where Van Gogh created The Starry Night. It is also the birthplace of Nostradamus, and the location of one of the surviving Arcs de Triomphe of France.
Avignon is to Provence what Paris is to France. The center of culture in the region, it is marked by the Palais des Papes and other smaller churches and chapels. The list of outstanding structures include UNESCO World Heritage sites, the famous medieval bridge. In Avignon, theatrical performances are grand, along with its world-renowned music festivals.
If you prefer a more secluded retreat, the Porquerolles tops the list. It is perched on an island off the coast of Toulon and offers a generous amount of nature (beaches, flora and fauna). Though a bit isolated, it never veers away from its French heritage with its yearly sailing and jazz fetes.
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Also known as Côte d'Azur, the unmissable French Riviera is a staple for any France visit. The Mediterranean coast in southeastern France does not have an official border but it stretches from the France-Italy border in the east to the French Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in the west.
Stop by Nice and climb La Colline du Château to a breathtaking view of the Baie des Anges. Navigate the narrow streets of Vieille Ville or the Old Town and window shop among the sundries of the shops, galleries, and cafes.
For the most epic instagram photo of your France adventure, visit the medieval town of Èze, a photogenic village at 1,400 feet above sea level, because of course, you got to invest for that photo. Make sure you bring along a good pair of walking shoes though.
Another noteworthy stop on your French Riviera itinerary is the perfume capital of the world, Grasse. Not only will you get your very own bottle of authentique French perfume, you will also have the chance to marvel at the rolling lavender hills.
And of course, one of the best kept secrets of the Côte d'Azur is the town of Menton, with beaches as distinguished as that of the coastal villages of the Riviera but only a fraction of the crowd. No need to worry about coming at the wrong timing, the town boasts sunshine year-round. Shop in boutique-filled alleyways and spend an afternoon admiring the usual bustling France - in slow motion.
Image Source: Boutique Travel Blog
Although situated cheek by jowl, the Lyon and the French Alps make an interesting contrast. While the former swarms with people coming and going - either to mix in the cultural scene or just passing, the other operates in a more lackadaisical note, almost as if in a different world. It's often a shock to realize that one is only a train ride away from the other. Where the two worlds meet, the fortunate traveler is graced with the bounty of its wine produce and the great, mouthwatering food.
Lyon lives in the journal of the artiste, the same way he lives in it. The interesting contrast of urban life is juxtaposed against a quaint, almost classic ambience of its stone houses, painted storefronts, and low-slung bridges.
In the Alpine villages, one is greeted by the misty azure backdrop and the blanket white snow. The unrivalled ski resorts of Megève and Chamonix make for a chilly, yet fantasy-like setting for your own fiction.
Chalets, villas and luxury apartment rentals will feel like a blissful retreat after a long day on the slopes. There are many accommodation options for parties big or small.
Take as much time thinking over the best place to stay in France as much as you labor over your itinerary. Make the trip worthwhile by choosing accommodations that compliment - if not add - to your whole experience.
Staying in luxury villas in France for example, is a more immersive way to get a better feel of the French countryside. A gite is a French french term for a kind of rental building that is usually converted from old farm houses. The hosts live nearby to offer hosting services or assistance whenever it is needed.
More adventurous travelers may opt to couchsurf, but if you don’t really have a connection in the country, want better privacy or simply don’t want to compromise yours and your family’s safety, book a luxury vacation rental in France that:
France is an endless canvas of beauty, but if you are wondering where to stay, you’ll need to first think about what excites you the most. Are you looking to visit a historical city rich in romance and culture? Perhaps Paris would be your answer. Or are you looking for a luxurious coastal retreat? Then Maybe Cannes, Monaco or Saint Tropez would suit your tastes. Or maybe a colder climate in the French Alps? Whatever you decide, luxury vacation rentals and gites in France are available on this site and waiting for your arrival.