Wine, cheese, the Eiffel Tower, snooty waiters – France is famous for a lot of things and for good reason. It’s beautiful with stunning coastlines, valleys, wine country, forests, and beaches; has some of the best food and wine in the world; historic towns and chateaus, and a long and rich history. And, despite what you might hear, the French are a wonderful people who love to stop and smell the roses. There’s nothing like a picnic along the Seine or a day through the French countryside to make life seem beautiful. France is everything that people make it out to be and then some. Its long history lends itself to beautiful ruins, castles, architecture, and culture. Traveling France is a very expensive affair, second only to traveling through Italy in mainland Europe. Those on a super tight budget will find it hard (but not impossible thanks to three Euro bottles of wine) to experience everything France has to offer. Make sure you go to France with a few extra Euros in your pocket so you can soak in all the food, wine, and beauty you see but this guide will help you cut costs!
Top 5 Things to See and Do in France
2. Explore the Loire Valley
3. Go to Marseille
4. Hang out in Nice
5. Drink wine in Bordeaux
Other Things to See and Do
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1. The D-Day beaches, Normandy
Learn about the WWII Allied forces D-Day landings along the beaches of northern France. There are memorials and museums detailing the history of the event. You can still see some of the old bunkers and fortifications.
2. The Palace of Versailles
Located very close to Paris, the old palace of the French kings was built by Louis XIV. This palace was constructed during the height of French power and seeks to show off the monarch’s tremendous wealth. It’s as awe-inspiring today as it was back then. It was used by the French Kings until the French Revolution in 1789. You definitely don’t want to miss it!
3. Explore history in Lyon
The area around Lyon has wonderful castles and small villages. It’s great for those looking to explore the French countryside. If you want a look at medieval France, this is where you should go. The whole place is a UNESCO World Heritage site and truly feels like you have stepped back into the past.
4. Hob nob with the rich in Monaco
This tiny kingdom is home to tiny streets, beautiful buildings, a world famous casino, and gigantic modern yachts. Hang out with society’s well-heeled, those who flock to the Cote D’Azur from other parts of France during the summer.
5. Visit St. Tropez
If life in Marseilles is too mundane for you, catch a boat out to St. Tropez where you can relax in beautiful hillside towns, swim in azure blue water, and bump shoulders with the rich and famous.
6. See Alsace
This northeast region of France is a beautiful place to visit. Colmar is an old town and the main attraction. Some of the buildings date back to the 1300s. It’s as picturesque a French town as one could ever one!
7. Wander through Parc de la Villette
This park is host to a science museum and some other odd attractions. There is a large collection of architectural follies, theme gardens, and open space for activity and exploration. It was designed for children as well as adults and is a neat place to check out.
8. Return to the trenches
France was ground zero during the First World War, and there are still many indicators of the damage caused during those years around the country. For example, two important battles took place at Vimy Ridge (which marked a huge success for Canadian forces) and Verdun. Both sites have set up excellent tourist centers and visiting facilities. It’s a moving and educational experience.
9. Explore Roman ruins
France has some of the best Roman ruins outside of Italy. Orange, Nimes, and Arles all have beautiful Roman theaters, and Nimes also contains a well-preserved temple (I loved Nimes a lot). It’s certainly a surprise to see so many indicators of Roman rule in the south of France, and these sites are definitely worth a visit.
10. Visit the Medieval town of Carcassonne
Carcassonne is a medieval walled city. Legend has it that the town survived a siege when one of the townswomen had the bright idea of feeding the remaining food to a pig. Once they fattened it up, they threw it over the fortifications so that it appeared that they were so well-fed that they were being wasteful and gluttonous. The attacking troops gave up and went home. That’s probably not true but, no matter, this town still retains a lot of medieval character and offers plenty of interesting shops and alleys to explore.
11. Go skiing
The French Alps offer some of the best ski slopes in Europe. If you’re in Europe in the winter months and at a loss for what to do, consider getting a group together and renting a ski chalet, or staying at one of the slope-side hotels or hostels. Bring plenty of beer and wine to warm you up after a long day on the hills! Note that skiing in France is not that cheap!