France, a country in Western Europe, has everything that traveler needs for an exciting journey: medieval cities and castles, villages in the Alps, and, of course, the Mediterranean Riviera, for relaxing summer holidays.
Paris, France’s capital, is world known as a fashion center, filled with classical art museums including, of course, the Louvre and the world’s most famous landmark – the Eiffel Tower. The country is also well known for its wines and exquisite cuisine.
Most of the visitors come to Paris, as this marvelous city is a must-visit destination for decades now. World-famous landmarks, museums, restaurants, and high-end shopping are among the top reasons to visit Paris.
Outside of Paris, there are many other places to visit – Côte d’Azur, Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, Châteaux of the Loire Valley, Reims with its magnificent Gothic Cathedral, villages, and historic landmarks in Brittany (Bretagne), the Alsace region, Mont-Blanc and Annecy, the Burgundy region, Pyrenees Mountains, Island of Corsica and list goes on.
With diverse offers like these, France will certainly satisfy the most demanding visitors as there is so much to explore.
1. Quick facts
- Official name: French Republic
- Capital: Paris
- Country population: 63.5 million
- Area: 543,965 sq km (210,026 sq miles)
- Major language: French
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 78 years (men), 85 years (women)
- Currency: Euro
2. Where is it?
France is located in Europe (West) and it is neighboring with several very interesting countries you should also visit: Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Andorra, and Spain. It has access to the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
France also has several overseas territories: French Guiana (South America), Saint Pierre and Miquelon (Atlantic Ocean), Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy (Antilles), French Polynesia, the special collectivity of New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, and Clipperton Island (Pacific Ocean), Réunion island, Mayotte, Kerguelen Islands, Crozet Islands, St. Paul and Amsterdam islands, and the Scattered Islands (Indian Ocean) and Adélie Land in the Antarctic.
3. Visa requirements
Your passport must be valid for at least three months after you complete your visit to France. France is part of the Schengen agreement and a visa for any of the countries from the Schengen group is also valid for France. A list of countries requiring visas can be found here.
4. Getting there
France is located in Europe, so getting there is not a problem: there are hundreds of flights in and out of Paris airports – Charles de Gaulle (CDG), Orly (ORY), Beauvais (BVA), and other major cities (Nice – NCE, Lyon – LYS, Marseille – MRS and many more). You can also travel by car or bus from neighboring countries, take a train from London or arrive by cruise lines to any of the famous French Riviera destinations.
5. Where to stay in France?
Depending on your budget, staying in France can range from hostels, AirBnB, where you can rent a room or entire apartment or a house, to regular and high-end hotels, it’s up to you. For the latest offers on hotels from our providers use the search form below:
6. Moving around
France has great public transport, including metro (subway) in Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Lille, Toulouse and tramways in Bordeaux, Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Nancy, Nantes, Nice, Reims, Rouen. For moving within Paris, you can also use a taxi service, which is moderately cheap for quick transfer between points of interest.
Moving outside of Paris, there is an express commuter train service, RER, which covers any destination in the area (including Euro Disney).
For traveling throughout France, you can use the national railway, SNCF, which runs between any of the major cities and you can also use local bus companies to reach even the most remote rural sites.
You can rent a car to travel between cities, but it’s not recommended to drive within Paris or any major city due to very chaotic driving styles and traffic jams.
7. Food in France
France has one of the best cuisines in the world and French people are very proud of that. They will be happy to recommend you their gourmet food in every restaurant and advise you about matching wines, side dishes, and desserts. Not to miss while in France are certainly these: baguette, croissant, and macarons, which you probably already tried elsewhere (one of the good sides of globalization), but having them in France is something different.
From top dishes, we recommend steak frites (classic steak and fries), Croque-monsieur (or Croque-madame, whichever of these staple sandwiches you prefer), Duck confit (deliciously cooked duck meat), crêpes (of many kinds, you can buy them from street stands as well, all great), and a large selection of cheese, which will require another article for itself.
And of course, having wine and cheese is a gourmet experience you should not miss while in France.
If you are homesick while in France (it can happen, especially if you stay longer, we are not judging), you can find any international food you like and if you are really desperate (besides all this lovely food listed above), any world food chain is available, especially in Paris (McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, Tacobell).
For some tips on where to eat in Paris, click here.
How safe is France for tourists? France is quite safe, but tourists are generally advised to be vigilant, especially with pickpockets, so take care of your belongings when walking around for sightseeing. Tourist areas are generally safe, both for single tourists and groups/families, but extra caution is always advised.
More details about safety in France you can find here.
France can be costly for tourists, but you can always find great deals on accommodation, meals, and attraction tickets. For detailed pricing information for various items, click here.
It is also a huge difference between prices in Paris (a most expensive city in France, but cheaper than London or San Francisco, for example) and some other top cities in France, such as Lyon, Nice or Strasbourg, so keep this in mind when planning your trip.
France is a medium to large-sized country and it is spread over different geographical areas, such as the Mediterranean coast in the south with a nice climate with warm summers and mild winters, central France with four distinguished seasons, or the Alps region with snowy periods and cold winters. Average temperatures for Paris are ranging from 4 C (40 F) in winter (December-February) to up to 20 C (69 F) in summer (June-August). Keep in mind that high temperatures in Paris can go over 31 C (87 F) during July.
For more info on temperatures and weather in France click here.
11. Best time to visit France
You can go to France any time of the year, really, but you might want to avoid hot summer at the end of July or winter in January/February. If you are going to Paris to visit famous attractions, any time of the year is fine and in the winter you might have fewer tourists, but recommended time with both fewer crowds and nice weather would be April-June and September-October.
More info on best times for France visit here.
12. Money matters
France is part of the European Union and Eurozone, so the official currency is Euro. You should pay attention when paying bills if you are coming from non-Euro countries and mind the exchange rate. (Xe.com). You can pay almost everywhere with credit cards, but check card charges from your bank in foreign countries before the trip. It is always good to have some cash on you, especially when leaving the tip in the restaurant. There are ATMs and banks on every corner and cash withdrawals are in Euros with a small fee.
More info can be found here.
13. What to see in France?
There are so many things to see in France, we will list only the most famous:
Eiffel Tower, landmark 324 m (1,063 ft) 19th-century tower. Built in 1889, (Engineered by Gustave Eiffel) this iconic tower, with steps and elevators to observation decks, has become a synonym with Paris and France and a worldwide recognizable attraction.
The Louvre Museum, the world’s largest art museum is also a historic monument itself. Located in Paris, France, on the Right Bank of the Seine River. It is world known for the famous painting of the Mona Lisa, Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece.
Notre-Dame de Paris, also known as Notre-Dame Cathedral or simply Notre-Dame, is a medieval Catholic cathedral, famous for Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.
Palace of Versailles, 17th-century palace with gilded apartments, chandeliered Hall of Mirrors & fountain show, used by French kings, starting with Louis XIV.
French Riviera, (or Côte d’Azur) is the Mediterranean coast of southeastern France. Famous (and glamorous) beach resorts such as Saint-Tropez and Cannes are located there, together with Monaco, the independent microstate.
Champs-Élysées. The famous central site is full of landmarks, dining, and high-end shops. Louvre, Tuileries, and Arc de Triomphe are all located in this area.
Arc de Triomphe, is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, standing at the western end of the Champs-Élysées at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle.
Disneyland Paris. World-known theme park with family-friendly rides shows, and costumed characters, also includes hotels and restaurants.
Sacré-Cœur, Paris. Iconic hilltop white basilica is a Roman Catholic, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, built in 1914, with interior mosaics, stained-glass windows, and a crypt.
Mont Saint-Michel. An island commune in Normandy, France. It is located about one kilometer off the country’s north-western coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches.
Montmartre. A large hill in Paris’s 18th arrondissement; it is 130 m high and shares its name with the surrounding district. It’s known for its artistic history, the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur, and as a nightclub district.
Place de la Concorde. One of the major public squares in Paris, this 18th-century promenade is decorated with fountains, statues, and a genuine Egyptian obelisk.
Musée d’Orsay. Masterpieces of 19th and 20th-century art, mostly from French authors. It is housed in a former railway station.
Le Marais. A historic district in Paris consists of many important buildings from France’s pre-revolutionary period.
Jardin du Luxembourg. Park with manicured lawns and statues, created in 1612 by Marie de Medici.
Moulin Rouge. Famous 19th-century cabaret featuring Belle Epoque decor, dinner, and dancers in elaborate costumes. Immortalized in paintings of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and a famous movie starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.
Centre Georges Pompidou. Architecturally avant-garde complex housing National Museum of Modern Art (the largest one in France), library and music center.
Les Invalides. Series of army museums and monuments including a church and the tombs of many famed officers, including Napoleon. Everything related to the military history of France can be found there.
Château de Chambord. Expansive, 16th century, a former royal palace with multiple towers and cupolas, surrounded by a moat. Recognizable by its specific French Renaissance architecture design.
Sainte-Chapelle. Built in the 13th century, the Gothic chapel with relics and notable stained-glass windows of biblical scenes. It was intended to keep precious Christian relics, including Christ’s crown of thorns, acquired by Saint Louis.
Île de la Cité. One of two remaining natural islands in the Seine within the city of Paris. An urban island with historic landmarks. It is home to the Notre Dame cathedral.
Canal du Midi. Canal du Midi is a 240 km long canal in the South of France. Originally named the Canal royal en Languedoc and renamed by French revolutionaries to Canal du Midi in 1789, it was considered one of the greatest construction works of the 17th century.
Champ de Mars. Landscaped park with extensive lawns, paths, and trees, birdlife, a children’s play area. And not to forget – the Eiffel Tower!
Read more: Travel around Bordeaux and Arcachon and learn French!
Pont du Gard. Landmark Roman aqueduct with 3 tiers. Mighty aqueduct bridge rising over 3 well-preserved arched tiers, built by 1st-century Romans. It was added to the world heritage monument of UNESCO.
Château de Chenonceau. A French château spanning the River Cher, near the small village of Chenonceaux in the Indre-et-Loire département of the Loire Valley in France. It is one of the best-known châteaux of the Loire valley, housing tapestry, and Old Master paintings collection.
Catacombs of Paris. The Catacombs of Paris are underground ossuaries in Paris, France, which hold the remains of more than six million people in a small part of a tunnel network built to consolidate Paris’ ancient stone mines. Illuminated labyrinth in former limestone mine with millions of ghoulishly arranged skeletons. Creepy? You bet.
Panthéon. A building in the Latin Quarter in Paris, France. It was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve and to house the reliquary châsse containing her relics but, after many changes, now functions as a secular mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens.
Aiguille du Midi. A mountain in the Mont Blanc massif within the French Alps. Very popular tourist destination and accessible by cable car from Chamonix.
Tour Montparnasse. Tour Maine-Montparnasse, or simply, Tour Montparnasse, is a 210-meter office skyscraper in Paris. It has panoramic views and is great for taking photos of Paris from the roof terrace and 56th-floor observation deck.
Place de la Bastille. A famous square in Paris where the Bastille prison stood until destroyed during French Revolution (1789-1790).
La Défense. Paris business district (largest in Europe). Located at the westernmost side of the 10 km (6.2 mi) long Historical Axis of Paris, which starts at the Louvre in Central Paris and continues along the Champs-Élysées, beyond the Arc de Triomphe, and along the Avenue de la Grande Armée. If you are into long walks, you can walk all the way from Louvre to La Défense and come back by metro or a bus.
Palais Garnier. A massive (almost 2000 seats) opera house, built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. It’s an Italian-style opera with Library Museum, with a ceiling painted by Chagal.
The Promenade des Anglais. Also called locally, in Nice: Camin de Anglés, a promenade along the Mediterranean Sea at Nice, France. It extends from the airport on the west to the Quai des États-Unis on the east, a distance of approximately 7 km (4.4 mi). Administratively speaking, it forms part of Route Nationale 98, which runs between Toulon and Menton.
Lake Annecy. Scenic swimming and water-sports locale. Picturesque lake for nice sightseeing adventures, including 13th-century Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard and village of Menthon-Saint-Bernard. Also good for biking around the lake.
Old Port of Marseille. The Old Port (“Vieux Port”) of Marseille engulfs a lively yacht marina and is famous for stylish hotels, cafes, and seafood restaurants serving fresh seafood from the quayside fish market. Dominant in port is centuries-old Fort Saint-Jean, standing near the Romanesque-style Saint-Laurent Church.
Musée de l’Orangerie. An art gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, mostly from the 20th century. In the west corner of the Tuileries Gardens, next to the Place de la Concorde.
Place des Vosges. Originally named Place Royale, Place des the Vosges is the oldest planned square in Paris. It is located in the Marais district, and it divides the 3rd and 4th arrondissements of Paris. Lined with trees and red brick houses and was built by Henri IV in the 17th century.
Palais des Papes. A historical palace located in Avignon, in the south of France. It is regarded as one of the most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. It even rivaled the Vatican in the 14th century.
Mont Ventoux. A mountain in the Provence region of France, with an iconic bike trail, made famous in the Tour de France.
Musée Rodin. A museum opened in 1919, dedicated to the works of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. The most famous work is world known The Thinker.
Luberon. A massif in central Provence in the south of France. The spectacular countryside of vineyards and orchards, fascinating hill-top villages, offering natural produce.
Pont Neuf. The oldest standing bridge across the river Seine in Paris. Built in the 17th century, this stone bridge hosts statue of King Henri IV.
14. Interesting facts about France
Here are a few interesting facts about this amazing country:
- There are around 40,000 châteaux (castles, palaces, manor houses, etc) in France. And many of them are for rent, so why don’t you try and have a French holiday in style? You can rent your stay here.
- Famous croissants were invented in Austria. That’s right, Austria, in the 19th century, in a Viennese bakery “Boulangerie Viennoise”. But we don’t think croissant lovers will be taken away from this delicious pastry. Find your best croissant.
- French was the official language in England for almost 300 years (1066-1362). After the Norman Conquest in 1066, the French language replaced English in the royal court, among clergy and aristocracy, although common people still used English.
We hope you enjoyed reading about France!
Last Updated on October 28, 2021 by Tours Editor @ gotravelyourself.com