France: The Ultimate Travel Guide

From medieval cities to Mediterranean beaches to premium ski slopes, this is a country with a unique and diverse geography.  Whether you would prefer a city break in romantic Paris, to relax in the sun on the white sands of the Cote D’Azur, do winter sports in the Alps, or adventure in France’s great outdoors, this is the most popular tourist destination in the world. Plus, the gateway to Europe is rich in history and culture, offers some of the finest foods in the world and is one of its most picturesque places.


Dive into our (free) travel guides below!

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The Key Info

You could spend a lifetime discovering the many locations in France that will make you fall in love with the country all over again, and still not see all of it. At 543,965 square kilometers, France is the largest country in Western Europe and some evidence suggests that it is one of the oldest nations in the world. It is bordered by six different countries, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Italy and Spain, and shares a tunnel crossing with the UK. 

Country in numbers

  • Population number: 67,022,000
  • Total size of the country: 643,801 km²
  • Capital city: Paris
  • Currency:  Euro (€/ EUR)
  • Language: French
  • Religion: Christian 51%, Non-Religious 40%, Islam 6%, Jewish 1%, Others 2 %

The 5 Largest Cities in France

1. Paris

With a population of almost 2.2 million, Paris is an iconic city. This majestic capital is filled with impressive sights and landmarks, with everything from the Eifel Tower, Moulin Rouge, and the Arc Du Triumph to Europe’s only Disney theme park. The sightseeing, museums, and monuments are sure to impress, as well as the chance to see original masterpieces from genius artists at the Centre Pompidou, Musée d’Orsay, or the Musée du Louvre. Also, the Parisian food speaks for itself, with culinary masters and Michelin-starred restaurants around the city.

2. Marseille

On France’s south coast lies the city of Marseille. The second-largest in France and reportedly the oldest, Marseille is a warm metropolis which has a bold and vibrant culture. It has the largest port in France, which is protected by two strong forts. If you are visiting the area, the local specialty is a form of fish soup named bouillabaisse and it is truly delicious. The nearby 19th Century Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde is hard to miss and definitely worth a visit.

3. Lyon 

A city that dates back millennia, Lyon is the third-largest city in France with a population of just over half a million. For anyone who is looking for a gastronomical experience like no other, the city is a paradise for foodies and connoisseurs. The Notre Dame de Fourviere is a beautiful 19th Century basilica, with the indoors being just as stunning and ornate as the outside.

4. Toulouse

Also Known as Ville Rose or the Pink City, Toulouse is located in the southwest of France, just by the Pyrenees. The city is dominated by beautiful rose-colored buildings, as well as two UNESCO heritage spots, including the Canal du Midi and the particularly breath-taking Basilica of St. Sernin. 

5. Nice

Situated on the French Rivera, Nice is a popular tourist destination for those looking for a relaxed holiday by the sea. Get cultural and visit the multiple museums and art galleries, enjoy delicious local delicacies such as the Salade Niçoise, and mingle with the film stars at the nearby Cannes Film Festival. Looking for designer shopping? Nearby microstate Monaco is where the ultra-rich and famous spend their vacations.

Top Tourist Attractions

1. The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks and it is the symbol of Paris. Built by Gustave Eifel in 1889, the tower stands at 324 meters and it is the tallest building in the city. There are two restaurants inside the tower itself, including the outstanding Michelin-starred Jules Verne Restaurant. Climb to the top of the Eiffel tower for a phenomenal view of Paris below; sunrise and sunset are particularly spectacular.

2. Disneyland Paris

Europe’s only slice of the happiest place on Earth, Disneyland Paris is officially the country’s most visited attraction. Join Mickey, Minnie, and the rest of the gang for a Disney experience- French style. Whether you are traveling with kids or just want to let your inner child loose, Euro Disney is around 20 miles from the center of the city. The best way to get there is via the Regional Express Network.

3. The Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles is a lavish celebration of the French royal family. Both the exterior and interior of the palace are stunning, including the well-known Hall of Mirrors. This is where people would wait for the king, with the sunlight streaming through and dancing between the multiple mirrors. There is so much to see amongst the beautiful gardens, including Marie-Antoinette’s Hamlet, where the lavish queen pretended to be a peasant to escape royal life.

4. The Louvre

This former royal palace hosts one of the most comprehensive and finest collections of art in the world. Witness the beauty of the Mona Lisa; see the Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese, as well as the Venus de Milo sculpture. With over 30, 000 pieces art, this astounding collection is not to be missed.

5. Brittany

In the northeast of France, lies the region of Brittany with picture-perfect towns, sandy beaches and imposing castles. Britany is steeped in mythology and legends, a Celtic stronghold whose Emerald coast is rugged and wild.

Best time to travel

Overall, France has fairly moderate weather, but it can get quite wet and rainy in the north. In contrast, the south is much warmer offering stunning coastlines, white sandy beaches, and a Mediterranean climate. If you are visiting France to see the sights, spring and autumn are an excellent choice as it can get quite hot during peak tourist season (July/ August). Winter is also a magical time to go, with world-class skiing on the Alps and traditional Christmas market.

Holidays in France

  • 1 January: New Year’s Day.
  • 22 April: Easter Monday 
  • 1 May: Labour Day.
  • 8 May: VE Day
  • 30 May: Ascension Day
  • 10 June: Whit Monday
  • 8 August: Peace Festival
  • 1 November: All Saints Day
  • 11 November: Armistice Day
  • 25 December: Christmas Day.

Visa Requirements

That does depend on your country of origin but you can check here to clarify whether you will require a visa for your French trip.  France is part of the European Union and is a signatory to the Schengen agreement. If your stay is not exceeding three months, US citizens will not need a visa for their holiday.  

Currency

Like many other countries in the region, France uses the Euro. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted, including MasterCard, Visa, and American Express. However, you should carry some cash at all times, particularly when it comes to paying for smaller items or drinks. Exchange Bureaus are plentiful, but check the international charges with your bank for withdrawals, as it may work out cheaper to get cash from the ATM.

Packing must-haves

The French ooze style and to achieve that casual high fashion look of the locals might be asking too much. Think Parisian flavor, bright red and monochrome stripes. Sightseeing or shopping trips will require a comfortable pair of shoes. Be ready for any weather with a light waterproof jacket and layers.

DOs and DON’Ts in France 

DoDon’t
Indulge: France is a country that takes food and drink seriously, world-renowned cheeses, soft bread, pastries, the list goes on.   
Practice your French: Speaking a little bit of French can go a long way, even if you’re not exactly fluent!
Use the metro: Public transport around France is pretty reliable. Remember to validate your ticket before getting on a train though.
Be polite: Try to use the formal ‘vous’ for ‘you’ instead of ‘tu’ when speaking French with people you don’t already know.
Go off the beaten path: There is so much to see and do in France, with hidden gems around every corner.
Dress too casually: It is all about the effortlessly chic French style, and in this country, flip flops are reserved for the beach.
Be prey to pickpockets: Keep your belongings safe and only carry enough cash for the day.
Leave the shopping untill Sunday:  In France, most businesses are closed on Sunday.
Be too punctual: If a party starts at around 8, most guests will arrive a few hours later and your host may not be quite ready for you if you turn up on time

Secret Tips From Bloggers

  • Complete France says, don’t just stick to the popular beaches. There are tons of hidden coves that are off the beaten path.
  • Eat like a local, with many regions having their own uniquely delicious delicacies, recommends Take Lessons.
  • Heading to Paris? Spot a Home likes to wander down the Rue des Matyrs for its fabulous selection of  boutiques, pattiseries, bars and cafes.

TOP 7 Instagrammable places

Fun facts about France 

Did you know..?

  • With over 9 million visitors per month, the Louvre is the most visited museum in the world.
  • The average French person eats around 500 snails per year
  • There are around 40, 000 chateaus in France
  • Almost a billion tons of cheese is produced in France each year and there around 1,200 different kinds
  • The world’s oldest recorded person was French. Jeanne Calment died on the 4th August 1997 at an impressive 122 and 164 days old.

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