The most visited country in the world, France is a place of infinite variety, with incredible museums, historic sights, opulent chateaus, towering cathedrals, pretty villages and of course, the city of romance, Paris. Savour the quality of life, the exceptional food and wine, and the unique joie de vivre of this extraordinary land.
Where to go
Paris needs almost no introduction as a great city of famous sights, including the iconic Eiffel Tower and the Musee Louvre, which contains the largest art collection in the world. Visit the Notre-Dame Cathedral, Napolean's Arc de Triumph, the Jardin des Tuileries, bohemian Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur, colorful Pigalle and the trendy Latin Quarter. Stroll down the wide boulevards of the fashionable Champs Elysees.
Take daytrips to the royal palaces of magnificent Versailles and elegant Fontainebleau, and the Cathedral at Chartres. Remember to bring the kids to Disneyland Resort for some enchanting Disney magic. History buffs may be interested in the prehistoric cave paintings of Lascaux and the Bayeux Tapestry in Normandy. Visit the chateaus of the Loire Valley, the medieval citadel of Carcassonne, and the abbey of Mont-St-Michel. Eat the bouillabaisse of Marseille, and at the atmospheric bouchons of Lyon.
Take wine tours to the vineyards of Alsace, Burgundy, Rhone Valley, Champagne, and Bordeaux; take brandy tours to Armagnac and Cognac. In Provence, travel the Riviera coast and the historic towns of Avignon and Arles. For sun, sand, sea and style, visit the Cote d'Azur, with its rich and famous resorts of St Tropez, Cannes, and Nice. Further along the coast, gamble at the casinos of Monte-Carlo and Monaco. The adventurous will enjoy skiing in the French Alps, or wandering along the remote trails of the Pyrenees.
The Metro and RER regional trains are efficient and fast, and bring you everywhere around Paris. To save money, buy a carnet of 10 tickets. Alternatively, get the Paris Visite card, which gives you unlimited use of Metro, bus and rail, as well as discounts on some attractions. Taxis are easily available, with a 10% tip as standard practice.
Domestic flights, mostly by Air France, link major cities. Ride the excellent SNCF train system, especially the high-speed TGV trains. Get information and tickets from the stations. If you’re planning for extensive travel, go for a rail pass instead to save money.
Buses are cheaper than trains, but slower and less comfortable. Or make use of well-maintained roads for a pleasant road trip through rural France. However, avoid driving in Paris, because traffic and parking are notoriously difficult.
Do's and Don'ts
Do learn a few basic French phrases. Trying to speak the language goes a long way. Bonjour!
Do dress well, as the French are fashionable people and pride themselves in looking effortlessly chic.
Don't hurry your meal, or complain about slow service in restaurants. For the French, lingering over a meal is part of the social pleasure of dining out.
Don't leave your coins or small change as a tip, unless you're in a coffee shop. If you want to tip, leave at least 10%.
Did you know…?
Most restaurants serve a "menu du jour" at lunchtime on weekdays. It's the daily special, cheaper than a la carte, and a safe bet if you're not sure what to order. Pair it with a glass of wine and people-watching at a roadside bistro. Bon appetit!
The French love a festival, and in summer practically every town and village will take the opportunity to be "en fête" by celebrating with cultural events, concerts, food markets, or art fairs. Plan ahead, and you could be at big festivals like the Cannes Film Festival, Bastille Day, or the Nice Carnival.
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