Best Places to Visit in France – If you are traveling to France, you want to be sure to see everything while you have the chance. Our Traveling to France sector will make it easy for you to plan your holiday. With popular cities and lesser-known areas, you won’t miss a thing. Our articles feature superb eateries, wineries, historic sites, and much more. In this featured section all about France, you will find useful information about must-see cities, major attractions, beach towns, historic sites, cultural attractions and events, and fabulous French food and wine. You may even decide to learn French! Use these traveling to France tips and enjoy planning a carefree vacation.
Best Places to Visit in France
You are planning your big trip to France and need to be certain you will have a good idea of major attractions to see while you are there. We encourage you to build in time to revisit something you enjoyed or to linger at an outdoor cafe. Get a feel for the area before you go with articles in our Traveling to France section.
Things to Do in Paris with the Kids
City breaks to Paris aren’t just for the grown-ups, although French food and shopping in Paris is. There are actually dozens of great attractions for the kids to enjoy in Paris that will make it a strong contender for your summer holiday. Here are just five ways to keep the kids busy in Paris after arriving on (hopefully) cheap flights.
It goes without saying that perhaps the ultimate place to take your kids in Paris, is to Disneyland. Comprising of two parks, Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios, inside the resort is where children of all ages can meet their favorite cartoon stars. See the fabulous themed parades and enjoy the many fantastic rides like Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain Mission 2. It’s an unforgettable experience that even adults can’t help but enjoy!
Cité des Enfants
If your kids are of the curious disposition, they’ll adore a visit to the Cité des Enfants, a children’s museum that’s as educational as it is downright entertaining. From a TV studio to a water park, there’s something to delight all of the senses in this colorful, cleverly designed museum. It’s so fun-filled, you may have a problem persuading the kids to leave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this adorably quaint children’s park has been brought up to date yet still retains much of its old-time charm. Not that your kids will care, as they’ll be too busy losing hours on the jungle boat ride, exploring the zoo and dodging the jets in the sprinkler park. Make sure you take the narrow-gauge train from the entrance too for a meandering journey around the Bois de Boulonge.
Le Jardin des Plantes
If you’re blessed with good weather on your trip to Paris, take the little ones for a stroll through Le Jardin des Plantes, a lush and flower-filled botanical garden along the banks of the River Seine that also boasts a zoo within its grounds. On the other hand if it’s raining, head here anyway to wander around the parks’ natural history museum and see the many hundreds of dinosaur bones that fill the museum’s great hall – a day out the children won’t forget anytime soon.
You might not be able to convince the kids to take a trip to the Louvre, but nearby is the Tuilleries Garden which may be more of a hit with your little adventurers. In the middle of the garden is a large fountain where you can hire a sailboat for a trip around the park with a difference, plus if you visit during the summer the annual carnival will have been set up in the grounds, complete with giant Ferris wheel.
Tour De France
The tour is one of the biggest events in the sporting calendar, drawing in a worldwide television audience of 3.5 billion people. The race is broadcast in 188 countries and receives 4700 hours of television coverage. In a typical year, the route will be lined with 12 million spectators. On the 5th July the opening stage of the Tour will make its way into Harrogate & District through the market town of Masham after an exhilarating route through the Yorkshire Dales. The riders will start to jockey for prime position as they pass through Ripon, arranging their lead-out riders along the A61 as they approach the finish line. By Ripley the main sprint teams will be jostling for the front of the peloton, with the lead-out riders doing their best to give their sprinter the greatest chance of success before racing into Harrogate.
The race finish will be unique with a short climb to the Flamme Rouge, after which the riders will hurtle down Ripon Rd, past the Royal Hall and Royal Baths, before climbing once again before a dramatic make-or-break sprint finish by the Stray, after which the first Yellow Jersey will be awarded. There is every chance that first jersey will be placed on the shoulders of Mark Cavendish, former World Champion, who’s mother is from Harrogate and has said of the Harrogate finish “If I had to choose one stage of the 21 in the Tour, that’s got to be it”. On Sunday the 6th July the Tour will leave York and make its way through Knaresborough, then down the historic High Street in Starbeck before cutting through High Harrogate and then leaving the district with a dramatic climb on the A59 through Blubberhouses to Kex Gill. Knaresborough and Harrogate will see the first breakaways as the riders begin the fight for the King of the Mountains title. Each town will offer great viewing opportunities for spectators, as well as a warm Yorkshire welcome to visitors from around the world. But the race itself will be just one part of a carnival of events across the district to celebrate this amazing event.
Over the coming months Masham, Ripon, Harrogate and Knaresborough will release the details of their Grand Depart events; so keep checking back to Visit Harrogate’s Tour de France page for more details of this once in a life time spectacle. Whether travelling from other parts of the UK, or flying in via our nearby airport, Harrogate and its surrounding Market Towns will give you the best Tour de France experience you could have! The Tour De France will plunge Yorkshire onto the world stage for the opening of the world’s foremost bike race. If you can’t wait to cheer the riders along, then get right into the heart of the action and join the greatest county in England in celebrating the greatest of events.
Spanning 674, 843 km², France is one of the largest countries in Europe, divided into 26 different regions. Each one of these regions are unique and offer something unique and distinctive to that area. This diversity is what makes France such a great destination to travel to. One of the most popular areas is Normandy, a region located in Northwestern France, famed for the D-Day Allied invasion on June 6, 1944, but also known for so much more. From the rocky cliffs in the Cotentin peninsula and the famous white cliffs of Etretat, to wonderful small towns and villages with half-timbered houses in the inland area, there are many things to see in Normandy. Here’s a quick guide to the top sights and attractions in Normandy.
White Cliffs of Etretat
Famous for its beaches and chalky white cliffs, these 70meter high cliffs are a beauty to behold and one of the most beautiful features of Normandy – its three rock formations are known as Potre d’Amont or the Upstream Cliff, Porte d’Aval or the downstream cliff and Manneporte. Carved by nature and adorned by mysterious names there are images of a hollow eye needle and an elephant dipping its trunk in the ocean. A walk along the Pebble beach, climbing up the steep stairs to the top of the cliffs for a view, and discovering a 17th Century oyster bed are just some of the things you can do in Etreat. An easy way to get to Normandy is to take the ferry from UK to Calais and continue down the coast from there – click here for information about ferries to Calais.
Mont St. Michel
This tiny tidal rocky island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most visited places in all of France. This remarkable medieval walled city, crowned by its great gothic abbey, is built on a small granite outcrop standing all by itself in Mont Saint Michel bay. At the peak is the spectacular and well-preserved Norman Benedictine Abbey of St Michel. During the French Revolution, the abbey was used a prison, and today a few prison-era showpieces, like the human hamster wheel used to lift supplies in and out of the complex, have been kept. Still to this day, people actually live in this village, and there are even a few places where you can eat on the island, such as La Mere Poulard, which is world-famous for its omelets (a specialty on the island).
D-Day Landing Beaches
On June 6, 1944 – today known as D-Day, Operation Overlord, a long-awaited invasion of Northwest Europe, began with Allied landings along the coast of Normandy where the Germans had turned the coastline into an interlinked series of strong points. The Allies launched a simultaneous landing of British, Canadian, U.S., and French forces on five separate beaches with the code names Sword Beach (British), Juno Beach (Canadian), Gold Beach (British), Omaha Beach (American) Utah Beach (American). When they landed they stormed the mined beaches and stormed the gun positions, and continued fighting their way into the towns and hills advancing inland. The victory was a turning point in World War II and led to the liberation of Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany. While today the coast is dotted with lovely peaceful seaside towns, there are still many remains from German gun emplacements and bunkers, and war memorials and monuments marks where the allied forces landed on the beaches. Since there is barely a square yard that wasn’t fought over, there are also monuments in almost every village and at every bend in the road. These beaches can be reached from UK by taking a ferry from Dover to Calais and then continue by car for about 1.5 hours. You can simply drive your car on the ferry at Dover Port and drive down along Normandy when you land in Calais.
South of France
France is a country rich in art and history, surrounded by culture and tradition. Its magnificent landscapes are superbly complemented by unique wildlife, amazing food and friendly people. Whether you like mountains, lakes, rivers…the diversity of its locations cannot be compared! A road trip through France will take you back into time and allow you to discover one of the oldest nations on Earth, where modernity is very much a part of daily life today.
France has something for every taste too: beautiful beaches, historic cities worth visiting, gorgeous architecture, festivals, castles, palaces, museums, parks and gardens, caves…. You could spend years exploring it all without getting bored and even that would be nowhere near enough! This is why we have compiled this ultimate guide for those who love travelling and for whom seeing the whole of France is the dream come true.
Associated with the glitz and glamour, the south of France is often the choice of millionaires as they look to escape the ‘stresses’ of life. With a host of cities and villages for you to explore, you can soak up the southern climate in more ways than you think. Or alternatively, head to the beach!
The wonderful thing about France is that each region has its own very distinct specialties. Most produce their own wine, and have cheeses, breads and dishes they call their very own. From bouillabaisse in the South of France, to the wonderful bleu cheeses in Auvergne, to the champagne from—where else? Champagne, you could very well spend your time nibbling and sipping across the country. When I taught English during the 10-11 school year I ended up in Burgundy, which is (in my humble opinion), France’s Basket of Deliciousness. Thus my guide to the best French food is heavily Burgundy-biased.
Kir is a mixture of crème de cassis (black currants) and white wine. This is Burgundy’s regional drink, so if you’re going to do it right your wine should be one of the delectable whites from Mâcon. Mixing it with champagne makes it a kir royale, but again: purists will insist you go with one of Burgundy’s crémants, a sparkling white from the region.
Hailing from the south of France, pastis is a refreshing anise-flavored beverage that is mixed with water until it reaches the potency you desire. The most famous brand of pastis is Ricard, which when mixed with water goes from yellow to a cloudy white.
Bière (French Beer)
A note on French beers: Unless you prefer your beer to closely resemble mineral water, you will be unhappy with France’s offerings. One would think that its proximity to Belgium and Germany would make France a suds paradise. One would be wrong. Many bars try to pizzazz-up their offerings by adding fruity syrups. I tried a Monaco (grenadine plus beer) when I was sick and didn’t think it was too bad. Once I could breathe through my nose again and taste things, I re-tried it and wanted to spit it out. Word to the wise.
French Hors d’Oeuvres
French cooking is all about the sauce, and the sauce typically used for snails is a real winner in my book: parsley, garlic, and a lot of butter. I’ve had varying experiences with escargots, from the awful to the sublime, and I think this is one of the cases where you get what you pay for. Do not go to a random brasserie at 4:00 p.m. and expect to pay 6E for delicious snails. Go to a nice restaurant at a proper eating time (lunch is served at noon and dinner starts at 8:00) and make sure they’re served piping hot. You may have to fish them out of their shells yourself, which is a fun exercise in dexterity. If you decide you’re not a fan of the chewy texture, you can always shake the liquid from the shells onto your plate and just go to town on the sauce with a piece of baguette. You will get strange looks, but hey! You’re a tourist! You’re never going to see these people again!
Les Cuisses de Grenouilles
Everything you’ve heard is true: frog legs taste like chicken. Generally you will see them fried, accompanied by a lemon wedge and a wet nap. Yes, this is one of the few things besides baguette you’re allowed to eat with your hands in France. Beware of the legs’ many bones—eating around them can be quite a chore. Do not order these on a date or in front of anyone else you may want to impress. It’s messy.
Salade de Chèvre Chaud
I saw this once translated on a menu as “hot crusty goat cheese.” YUM. It’s basically a salad topped with toasts on which goat cheese, or chèvre, has been melted. It’s a taste sensation.
Plats Principals French Food ~ Boeuf Bourguignon
This is the dish that brought me to Burgundy. After mastering Julia Child’s version, I thought to myself, “Any place with something this tasty named after it has got to be the place for me.” Any time you see a dish with “bourguignon” or “à la bourguignon” after the name, it usually means it has a luscious, rich sauce made from Burgundy wine. Boeuf bourguignon is a beef stew, usually accompanied by carrots, mushrooms, onions, and a smattering of other vegetables, as well as lardoons—little chunks of flavorful bacon. Highly recommended for a cold winter’s eve.
Coq au Vin
Coq au vin is very similar to boeuf bourguignon, but with chicken instead of beef. I’m fairly certain the rooster of the dish’s namesake is no longer used. Again, a rich Burgundy wine sauce will fill your insides and make you feel loved.
Oeufs en Meurette
One more winey dish and then I swear I’m done. This one is a bit more delicate—it’s poached eggs along with our usual cast of characters. I highly recommend slathering some of the egg on the baguette slices that come with your meal. It should go without saying that you should also be using this baguette to sop up every last bit of sauce you can from the serving dish.
Pôt au Feu
The first time I had pôt au feu was in November at a celebration of the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau—the toddler-aged wine from the region just south of Burgundy that had spent the minimum amount of time aging in its bottle. It gets you just as tipsy as its older brothers and sisters, though. Pôt au feu is a beef stew that hasn’t been thickened by wine or any other thickening agent. It’s beef, carrots, leeks, potatoes, etc. that have been simmered together with a bevy of soup bones all the livelong day. It’s served with some stone-ground mustard and cornichons (little dill pickles). If you’re lucky, your waiter might bring out a bowl heaped with those boiled calf femurs and you can spread some of the marrow on your baguette. It’s rather greasy, but if you like fatty greasy things it’ll be right up your alley.
So clearly I did a lot of eating in winter.
Raclette is actually the name of a cheese that hails from the region of the Alps near Grenoble. Its name is now synonymous with this dish. I had this only at people’s homes, not restaurants, and this is how it was always served: you take a boiled potato and mash it around on your plate, along with pieces of charcuterie (duck breast, prosciutto, dried beef, etc.), pickles and cocktail onions. You then top it with a freshly melted piece of raclette cheese and snarf that sucker up. You can find a raclette machine at most home appliance stores, and it has an internal heating element under which you put individual trays of cheese. Once one of the trays is bubbling, you slide it onto your dish, refill it with another piece of cheese, and put it back under the heater. Because you will want more.
I could do an entirely separate post on the attributes of French cheeses, but for now I’ll just give you some highlights. You will often be given the option of a cheese plate between your main course and your dessert. Be adventurous! DO NOT be afraid of the stinky cheese. It will help give you a taste of the teroir.
- Comté, a nutty and mild hard cow’s milk cheese
- Reblechon, a soft cow’s milk cheese from the Haute Savoie with a bit of a bite
- Délice de Bourgogne, a sinfully creamy cow’s milk number from my favorite region
- Chèvre—any kind of goat cheese—especially when paired with fig jam.
French Food Desserts
Popularized by Amélie, this sugar-crusted custard is always a winner. Some restaurants will go nuts with special flavors and textures, but, for me, the classic always wins out.
France’s version of an apple pie is concocted with caramelized apples that are baked crust-up in the oven. When it’s done, the pie is flipped onto a plate and served hot. For those who don’t like their desserts too sweet, this will tempt your taste buds.
Egg whites are whipped into a frenzy to create this meringue floating in a sea of anise-flavored crème anglaise.
Speculoos à Tartiner
This isn’t really a dessert, and it isn’t really French, but I discovered it there so it counts. It’s a paste made from the Belgian spice cookies of the same name. The best way to describe it is liquid teddy grahams. Slather it on a chunk of baguette and just try not to polish off the rest of your bread with it in one sitting. I dare you. Did I miss any of your favorite French food? Tell me about it in the comments. Bon appétit!
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