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France Travel Guide

Updated on February 4, 2013
Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower

“How can someone lead a country that has two hundred forty six different types of cheese?” (Charles de Gaulle, French president, 1st October 1962). If he would have been alive today, the general Gaulle should revise his statement – France now can boast with over 400 types of cheese, this fact suggesting the country’s cultural variety. A large portion of France’s originality is a result of the fact that its territories are located in all the great regions of the continent, each one having its own personality. Both the landscape’s beauty and the troubled history of its political leadership have shaped the inhabitant’s customs, language and attitude.

The clichés die hard, so the French are still represented in their black and white striped t-shirt and bonnet, smoking a Gauloise cigarette and having a strand of onions around their neck. Another typical image of a French is driving a 2CV Citroen. Of course that it’s unlikely to see something like this in France, but the countryside still holds the centuries’ old tradition and the old lifestyle. The old France can be seen in the villages and markets, traditions and regional specialties. Its charm is discharged by the elegant Paris boulevards, the shinning ski slopes in the Alps, the sunny vineyards and the golden beaches, a game of boules or the coffee and the croissant in a small hidden village. If you have all the time in the world you can wander through France wherever you like, living an unforgettable experience, but you have limited time, you shouldn’t miss the most important attractions.

France's Tourist Attractions

  • Fall in love with Paris and the famous EiffelTower, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Triumph Arch, Champs Elysees, Sacre Coeur from the Montmatre’s heart and the Louvre pyramid.

  • Take a step back in time in the VersaillesCastle and enjoy the fireworks show during the summer.
  • Visit one of the countless castles on the Loire valley, including Blois, Chambord, Chenonceau, Azay le Rideau and Chinon.
  • Be careful with the tidal waves when you visit Mont St Michel in Brittany.
  • Admire the rugged atmosphere in Corsica, the island that consists of two French departments, with the scenic cities Bastia and Ajaccio, which have become famous because of Napoleon.
  • Discover the MillauBridge, created by the British architect Norman Foster.
  • Visit Pont du Grant, 2000 years old. The Roman aqueduct is one of the greatest architectural achievements in the history of humanity.
  • In the south you can admire the Roman and Gallic ruins in the Languedos-Roussillon region. Maison Carre, Diana’s Temple and the Roman Arenas from Nimes, “the Gallic Rome”, are some of the most beautiful examples of Greek-Roman architecture.
  • Visit the PapalPalace in Avignon, and close by there are the Roman amphitheater and the Orange ruins.
  • Visit Marseille, the most important trading port in France, on the Mediterranean Sea. Other places of interest include the old harbor, the Notre Dame de la Garde church on a hilltop, some museums, the Vieille Charite asylum and Chateau d If.
  • Visit the countless cathedrals in France that include the one in Reims, where the first French king, Clovis, was baptized, Chartres and Tours.
  • Relax in one of the Paris’ 80 museum and 200 art galleries – visit OrsayMuseum located in a beautiful restored garden, LouvrePalace, the GeorgePompidouModernArtCenter or the RodinMuseum.
  • Relax in the Luxembourg gardens from Paris, close to the Latin Perimeter (St Michel and St Germain boulevards), the center of student activities.
  • Discover the future in the City of Science and Technology in Villette or the Futuroscope in Poitiers.
  • Pay a visit to Mickey Mouse from the Paris Disneyland resort, from Marnela Vallee.
  • Enjoy a large range of water sports on France’s 3000km of coastline. The famous resorts include St Enogat and St Jacut on the EmeraldCoast in Brittany and Cannes, Nice, St Tropez, Antibes and Menton on the southern coast.
  • Admire the extravagant life on the AzureCoast – take a walk on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, famous for the Flower Carnival that takes place in January or spend some time among the celebrities at the Film Festival in Cannes, which takes place in May.
  • Sail to or from La Rochelle, a popular port located in the Charente sea area. Close by, the islands Oleron and Re are connected with the continent by bridges.
  • Discover the winter sports in the French Alps and in the Pyrenees.
  • Indulge yourselves in a spa center in Biarritz, Contrexeville or Vittel.
  • Take a pilgrimage to Lourdes, located in the south-west, a famous place due to Bernadette Soubirous’s visions from the middle of the 19th century.
  • Watch a bull fight in the Arles Arenas from the south west.
  • Try your luck in the Monaco casino or the one in Deauville, also famous for its golf course and its racing circuit.
  • If you have the opportunity take part in the grapes’ harvest – there are 10 main wine-producing areas, including Alsace, Burgundy, Champagne and the RhoneValley, each one having its own identity based on grapes and soil variety.
  • Watch Tour de France, take part in an opera show at Roland Garros near Paris and bet on a horse at Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Rue de Rivoli, Paris
Rue de Rivoli, Paris

French Cuisine

The French cuisine has evolved from the aristocrats’ abundant banquets in the Middle Ages, to the French Revolution when there were many spices and sophisticated techniques used, to the 20th century cuisine, when Georges Auguste Escoffier had become the modern version of the haute cuisine. Escoffier kept the regional characteristics from the provinces of France. The dishes and the ingredients range depending on the region, but the cheese and the wine, along with countless assortments, represent a very important part of the French cuisine.

France's History

Every century added a new architectural façade to the present France. The Roman, that occupied Gaul for the first time in 120 BC, had built beautiful arenas, villas, aqueducts, thermal baths and other structures that still hold on even today in the southern France. The Roman were followed by medieval religious orders who constructed the 4th century St John’ Baptistery from Poitiers, the Holy Trinity Chapel in the CannesGulf and hundreds of monasteries throughout the country. The medieval cities were surrounded by walls for protection, and some of them, like Carcasone, still exist today. In the beginning of the 12th century the Romanesque style was shadowed by the Gothic architecture in the Reims, Amiens, Chartres, Vezelay, Mont St Michel cathedrals and many others. The Renaissance brought the architecture that you can admire today in the castles located on the LoireValley. The 20th century French architecture, like the Le Corbusier Chapel in Ronchamp, the PompidouCenter and the Louvre glass pyramid, has influenced the architectural beliefs beyond the borders of France. The French influence affected the arts, literature and philosophy.

In the past 30 years France has become a melting pot for immigrants from all over Europe, Africa and the Middle East, who have come to France for a better life. This has created conflicts but also local diversity – almost every city in France has a mosque now, and the classic cuisine has been changed and adapted to the exotic flavors.

Montmartre and Sacre Coeur, Paris
Montmartre and Sacre Coeur, Paris

Useful Info

To greet someone use a hand shake or a kiss on both cheeks. The way to address someone is a simple “Monsieur” or “Madame”. In formal dinners, the most important guest or the host is the first one to begin eating. The topless beach outfit is tolerated on most beaches but nudism is restricted to the designated areas. Smocking is forbidden in all institutions and public spaces. Spring is the most beautiful season when you can visit France, even if sometimes it rains. The summer is warm and the winters are mild. The local hour is GMT+1 and the electricity is 220 V.

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