Explore France

Explore France
France conjures up images of couples busy romancing, or sipping on champagne at a country chateau, or lounging underneath blue umbrellas on the French Riviera, or even shopping for famous designers in the high streets of Paris. If you are a history buff then France may represent great battles that were fought, or beautiful medieval abbeys and castles, or the newest archaeological find of caves nears Port Nice telling tales of human existence 400,000 years ago.

In any case, these images illustrate how diverse France as a country is, and yet it’s not that big in terms of geography. In fact to fly from one end to the other is just a little over an hour and a half (Lille to Nice). And unique to France, the country is in between two coastlines with the Atlantic to the west, and the Mediterranean to the south. Even the heritage of the people varies throughout the country. In the north you have the Celtic influence, to the south are Italian influences, and to the east you’ll find German influences. All these geographical and cultural variances make France an amazing country to explore.

Lafayette Shopping Mall, Paris
The French Riviera, Nice
French Cheeses

Places to Visit in France

  • Paris
  • Versailles
  • Monte Saint-Michel
  • French Rivera: Cannes, Nice, Monaco, Antibes, St. Tropez 
  • Gevrey Chambertin region, south Burgandy

Unique Things to See and Do in France

  • Walk the steps of Sacré-Cœur cathedral in Montmartre
  • Walk through the streets of Strasbourg
  • Try your luck at the casino in Monaco
  • Tour the gardens of Versailles
  • Taste wines in Bordeaux

A glimpse into a few of France’s Regions

Brittany derived its name from the Britons immigrating during the Anglo-Saxon invasions during the Dark Ages. From this, you can see a strong Celtic culture still within the culture today. The coastline is rugged, but inland is farming country. Brittany is known for their milk and butter. The main attraction for tourists is Mont St. Michel (borders Normandy actually). It is a mediaeval abbey that sits atop of an offshore rock.

Normandy is another popular region for visitors, particularly the Beaches of Normandy- the D-Day landing site in WWII. Another well-known spot within Normandy is Giverny, the inspirational spot of Claude Monet’s famous garden and home. Probably the most important feature of this region is the Camembert they produce, and its apple ciders and Calvados (a distilled spirit).

Ile de France (Paris) is an incredible city to explore, so much so that a couple of sentences won’t do it justice at all. This is the city of lights, romance, cafes, exquisite cuisine, fashion, architecture, and art. The grandeur of Paris can be seen everywhere – particularly in places like the Opera House, or viewing the world’s greatest artists, like D’Orsay Monet, Manet, Cezanne, and Van Gogh. Or viewing the Eiffel Tower at night – the city lights up with a majestical glow in the evening.

Burgundy is the home to famous wineries and picturesque countryside. Some of the most expensive wines in the world come from this region, like Gevrey-Chambertin and Volnay. What makes visiting these wineries so unique for the average person is that they are steeped in secretive traditions. The Burgundian wine producers operate in underground stone cellars that very few people know much about. In some cases, the only entrance in is a small trap door! In addition to wine, this region was also a major dukedom during the middle ages and has plenty of history to tell and interesting buildings to visit.

The last popular region we will touch on is The French Riviera. This is where the Alps meet the Mediterranean sea – it has a warm climate throughout the year and if you’re travelling out of high season, the beaches aren’t too crowded. The most popular town/cities along the coast are: Cannes (home of the film festival), Antibes (48 beautiful sandy beaches), Grasse (capital of French Perfume industry), Nice (5th largest town in France – plenty of shopping and nightlife), Monaco (known for the famous Monte Carlo casino), and stunningly beautiful St. Tropez (the classic Mediterranean town that celebrities tend to frequent).

Did you know…?

In the Palace of Versailles, Louis XIV demanded perfection in the construction of the Chapel that it took 28 years to complete. Another piece of history is that treaty that ended WWI was signed in the Hall of Mirrors – The Treaty of Versailles.

The Royal Chapel, Versaille

Did you ALSO know…?

France is the world’s largest commercial producer of Lavender for perfumes.

Lavender Fields. Provence

Getting around France

The easiest way to travel through France is by train. There are high-speed trains that can get you just about anywhere within the country and they are a great way to see the country side. If you are pressed for time, you can fly domestically too, although this is a bit more expensive. Renting a car in France is pretty easy, but our advice is to rent a small compact car. The streets are narrow and can be nerve-wracking when a larger lorry is baring down on you. If you do rent, be sure to drop it off when in Paris. Travelling by car in Paris is expensive and a headache. Parking is difficult and navigating through the twisty streets can confuse even a long term resident.

Best time of year to travel to France

Weather
Overall France is a country that can be travelled comfortably in all seasons, the summers are hot and the winters are cool. Along the coastline, France has a fairly temperate climate which means it doesn’t truly get too cold or too warm. The further south you travel the warmer it will be at any time of year, whereas  in areas like Brittany it can get a little wet/rainy in the off seasons. Spring and Fall are really nice times to go; The crowds are less and the flowers are in full bloom or the leaves are just turning. The temperatures are moderate, averaging around 12-20C.

In southern France, December through March is ski season and the resorts in the Alps and Pyrenees fill up. During the last week of June, Provence is absolutely beautiful with all the lavender fields in the Luberon in full bloom.

Crowds
That being said, France is popular destination and line-ups to major monuments can be long during the high season (July and August). If you do travel during that time you can really minimize your “wait” times by either employing a tour guide (they get you ahead of the queues) or by truly planning out your visit. For example, expect at least a 1.5-hour line-ups for the Eiffel Tower unless you book a reservation at least 2 months in advance! Or you could take the stairs and avoid the lines. Another example is visiting the Louvre at opening time (9am). The lineups are ridiculously long and three hours later you can usually walk in within minutes. If you do want to arrive early for events or openings, make sure you are there at least 40 minutes prior.

Ready to plan your visit to France? Check out these popular guides and trips.

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