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Historically and culturally recognized as one of the most influential nations of the Western world, France is a powerhouse of commerce, fashion, cuisine, art, and architecture. People from around the world dream of visiting Paris – The City of Light and The City of Love - for its majestic Eiffel Tower and incredible museums. However, France has a lot more to offer than just Paris. Normandie is known for its idyllic countryside villages, delicious cheeses, and rich history. Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur boasts stunning marinas, excellent cuisine, and gorgeous lavender fields. Centre-Val-de-Loire, home of superb wine and the Renaissance movement is another must-visit.
The best way to experience France is by driving around the country. Book your vehicle with Enjoy Travel for a seamless trip around France.
Guide to France
France is a dream destination for many and it brims with tourists throughout the year. However, the best times to visit would be in spring from March to May or in autumn from September to November. The weather is pleasant and rainfall is scarce during these times, although autumns tend to be slightly chillier. Temperatures range between 10°C to 22°C in spring and between 8°C to 15°C in autumn.
Located on the western edge of Europe, France is bordered by the Bay of Biscay (North Atlantic Ocean) in the west, the English Channel in the northwest, and the North Sea in the north. It also borders Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland, Monaco, and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. France also has several overseas regions and territories, including French Guiana, Guadeloupe, and Martinique.
Culture in France
French culture displays influences from Celtic and Gallo-Roman cultures, as well as a Germanic tribe called Franks. Most people speak French, the official language, but there are ethnic enclaves scattered across the country that also speak German, Flemish, Catalan, Breton (a Celtic language), and languages from former colonies of France, such as Kabyle and Antillean Creole.
The French are an open-minded and passionate people. They uphold its motto: "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité" (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity) with vigor. They are also known to take extreme pride in their cuisine, fashion, and art.
Monuments in Paris
The Notre Dame Cathedral is considered one of the best examples of Gothic architecture. It became more popular after the publication of Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1831. Visitors are mesmerized by the church’s ornate spires, ribbed vaults, lofty archways, rose-hued stained glass windows, flying buttresses, and most importantly, the infamous stone gargoyles.
The Arc de Triomphe is a link between old and new Paris. This monument was built by Napoleon I in dedication to the glory of his armies and imperialism. Engraved in the arch are Napoleon’s major victories and around 660 of his army generals’ names. Below the arch is the tomb of France’s ‘Unknown Soldier’. It represents all the soldiers who died in the two World Wars but were never identified. This monument is the largest of its kind and is a fine example of French artistic sensitivity. It also portrays the nation’s pride in its military history.
One of the world’s most-visited monuments, the Eiffel Tower was constructed in 1889 to commemorate the French Revolution’s centennial celebration. Visit this iconic monument at dusk to discover Paris at its most enchanting. The golden glow of the setting sun gets reflected on the Seine River lending an ethereal effect to the vistas. As a bonus, the tower is illuminated with glittering lights every evening for a few fleeting minutes. Enjoy breathtaking panoramic views from either of the two restaurants or a couple of cafes located in the posh 7th arrondissement area.
Things To Do in France
Cruise along the Seine River
Opt for a fascinating cruise on the Seine River to view Paris’ top sights. The Compagnie des Bateaux-Mouches offers picturesque boat rides sailing past the Place de la Concorde, the Louvre, the Musee D’Orsay, and the Notre-Dame Cathedral among other landmarks. You can choose from daytime tours, brunch sails, dinner cruises, or cabaret shows. For a romantic evening, we recommend a dinner cruise because the monuments along the Seine are lit up in the evening, creating a spectacular visual.
Discover world-famous art
Arguably the world’s most famous museum, the Musee du Louvre was a former royal palace resembling a glassy pyramid. It hosts some of the most famous art collections in the world, including the Code of Hammurabi, Egyptian mummies, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and Venus de Milo. It will take you at least two weeks without break to complete a comprehensive tour of this impressive museum. You can also explore the history of the French kings, their courts, medieval moats, and royal galleries inside the Louvre. The museum has survived many political and social transformations in France and bears a rich testimony to the beauty and complexity of history.
Visit the Palace of Versailles
Your Paris itinerary should definitely include a visit to the Palace of Versailles, also known as the Chateau de Versailles. Do try to attend the Royal Serenade, a splendid event held in the palace’s ostentatious Hall of Mirrors every Saturday evening from mid-June till mid-September. The Royal Serenade enacts a scene of France’s Ancien Regime featuring period costumes, Baroque music, and dance. Visitors can also take a tour of the stunning chateau gardens with their perfectly manicured lawns and luxurious landscaping before or after the Royal Serenade. On balmy summer weekends, the Chateau de Versailles presents musical fountain shows whereby the fountains come alive to the tunes of Baroque music and fireworks.
Take a trip to Mont Saint-Michel
Perched on top of a rocky tidal island between Brittany and Normandy lies the legendary Abbaye du Mont Saint-Michel, one of the very first UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The abbey is a symbol of France’s heroic resistance to the English during the Hundred Years’ War. Mont-Saint Michel is known as the ‘Pyramid of the Seas’ and this Benedictine abbey was one of Christianity’s most important sites of pilgrimage from the 8th to the 18th century. Walk across the bay for about two hours with an accredited guide during low tide to reach the abbey for a spiritual experience.
Loire Valley & the French Riviera
You can follow the Loire River as its twists and turns through the rolling hills of its valley for 280 km from Sully-sur-Loire in Loiret to Chalonnes-sure-Loire in Anjou. The picturesque valley is truly heaven on earth with beautiful blossoms, grand vineyards, and more than 1000 charming chateaus, granting it UNESCO recognition. Alternatively, head to the French Riviera for a sophisticated escape from the urban bustle. This stretch of Mediterranean coastline is known as the Cote d’Azur or Coast of Blue for its dazzling blue waters. The highlights are: luxurious private yachts of Saint-Tropez, the beaches of Antibes-Juan-les-Pins and the beach clubs of Cannes.
Eating Out in France
French cuisine is so highly regarded all over the world that UNESCO added the ‘gastronomic meal of the French’ to their list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010. The French are known for their sophisticated cooking styles. They love to dine out, which makes the country a veritable hub of restaurants, cafes, pubs, bars, and bistros. Most people are introduced to French food through cheese and wine, but the national dish is Pot-au-Feu. It is classic comfort food that is prepared using stewed meat and vegetables. It can be traced back to the times of King Henry IV who wanted all peasants to have chicken in their pot at least once a week on Sundays.
Other dishes to try during your France trip should include soupe à l'oignon, coq au vin, cassoulet, boeuf bourguignon, chocolate souffle, flamiche, confit de canard, salad Niçoise, ratatouille, and tarte tatin.
Some of the top restaurants that we would like to recommend include Le Meurice, Guy Savoy, Le Fouquet’s, Le Relais Plaza, Café de Flore, Le Procope, Tour d’Argent, and L’As du Fallafel.
Transport in France
The two most popular airports in France are Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) and Orly Airport (ORY). The national carrier, Air France, operates in 20 domestic and 150 international destinations.
France has a well-developed public transportation system. It has one of the densest road and rail networks in the world, with 146 km of road and 6.2 km of rail lines per 100 square kilometers.
The Paris public transport system consists of the underground Metro, Tram, RER suburban express train, Bus, and Noctilien (night bus). There are 16 metro lines that can get you anywhere in the city. The metro ticket can also be used on buses and on the RER within the city limits.
The national rail system, SNCF services nearly all major cities and operates one of the fastest trains in the world – the TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse).
The cheapest and most efficient way of getting around within individual suburbs of Paris would be the Velib bicycle.
Driving in France
The most convenient and enjoyable way of experiencing France would, hands down, be with your own vehicle as no public transportation comes close to the flexibility it offers in terms of your itinerary. The French drive on the right.