Famous for being home to the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Notre Dame, France is a mecha for art, fashion, history, and nature. Located in Western Europe and sharing its borders with eight different countries, including Germany, Spain, and Italy, French culture is strongly displayed throughout the nation.
The country is often placed on travelers’ bucket lists because it’s a unique blend of natural and man-made beauties with modernity at the forefront and a medieval past. France has a population of 67.5 million people (as of 2021) and 5% of that population is ranked as ethnically diverse.
Bonjour – Bienvenue en France!
Paris is the capital of the country and rests along the Seine River. The capital is often considered to have its own unique culture that balances fashion, cuisine, art, and architecture. This makes it a global destination for tourists.
The capital is famously photographed with its landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, which both tower over the perfect Parisian streets. An almost endless list of tourist attractions provides visitors with entertainment and makes The City of Light an icon in the eyes of the world.
- Culture and Language
- Spending Budget
- How to Get Around
- Top Cities to Visit
- Points of Interest
Culture and Language
France is steeped in history making it almost impossible to give an overview without writing an entire chapter. Numerous cultures have shaped the country into what it is today, and you will find that the timeline spans from pre-human ancestors to when it was ruled as a monarchy.
The most famous pre-human evidence is the Lascaux cave paintings, which are estimated to be up to 20,000 years old. If you take a large leap forward in history, you will find that France has cultural influences from the Greek colonies, Gaul, and Frankish tribes before developing its own monarchy.
The famous French monarch, Louis XIV, was commonly known as The Sun King and had the longest reign of any sovereign country in European history with 72 years and 110 days on the throne. Louis XIV was also famous for having resided at the Palace of Versailles.
Not too many years after the end of Louis XIV’s reign, the French Revolution began in 1789 and ended with Napoleon Bonaparte in power by 1799. While Napoleon is a controversial figure in history with people both supporting and opposing him, he did live at the Tuileries Palaces, which are now connected to the Louvre Museum by the gardens.
No matter where in the timeline of French history you jump, tourists should know that the French are proud of their country, history, and culture.
A large part of their culture includes their language. French is the official language and is spoken throughout the country. French is a romance language and is frequently called the “Language of Love” because of its smooth-flowing and elegant pronunciation.
Although, tourists should be aware that the French take pronunciation seriously and are known to be picky with how their language is spoken. But tourists who try in earnest to say a few words in French are likely to get a warm welcome.
While many are eager to get started exploring the beauty of France, it’s important that you consider your spending budget before your arrival in the country. With France consisting of various regions, the diverse landscape of the country draws in about 90 million tourists each year.
The country makes a solid earning from tourism and you’ll find that some destinations are more expensive than others. This includes areas along the Mediterranean, Loire Valley, and Dordogne as well as cities like Paris, Nice, Lyon, and Bordeaux.
Many aspects of traveling in France are pricey, like food and drink. However, the largest portions of your budget, such as your plane ticket and accommodation, will be paid for before you depart for your flight.
Many major airports within the US now offer direct flights to France, which typically costs over one thousand dollars, but saves you time. However, the price can change depending on when you travel, how far in advance you book your tickets, and whether you can find any airlines offering discounted prices.
The cost of accommodation can be very expensive or affordable, depending on what you’re looking for. There are plenty of options, but it will be up to your personal preference whether you choose basic accommodations or want luxury services. A hostel is the best choice for those looking to save while a hotel will provide you with more privacy at a moderate price.
Luxury accommodations will be the most costly, reaching into the thousands, especially in a city like Paris. Airbnb is also available in France and has plenty of housing options. If you are traveling in a large group, there may be larger Airbnb listing that provides space for everyone, though it will be pricier than a smaller location.
But you will also have to consider the cost of food, drink, and entertainment as part of your budget. France is internationally known for its cuisine, so there are a variety of dishes for you to try.
The most famous dishes include soupe à l’oignon, which is French onion soup. This dish is traditionally served with croutons or crusty bread and topped with melted cheese. Coq au vin was popularized by Julia Child and it cooks chicken with a variety of flavors and a Burgundy red wine.
Soufflé is an egg-based dish that dates back to 18th century France and is traditionally a chocolate dessert. Tarte tatin is another famous dessert that is France’s own twist on a traditional apple pie. However, there are other dishes available for you to taste and many can be found at a traditional French café.
After you’ve satisfied your appetite, you may want to have some fun and go out for drinks or explore the nightlife. There are numerous bars all over the country that provide a thriving party scene for nighttime adventurers.
Paris has an almost endless list of bars with one of the most popular being Le Syndicat, which offers world-class mixology in a contemporary setting. Le Truc de Nice is a cozy and casual bar located in Nice, France that provides an excellent selection of wine.
How to Get Around
Transportation is another part of your budget that needs to be considered before you begin traveling to the country. Most cities in France are easy to navigate and there may be a reliable public transportation system. Flying is an option if you want to get from one end of the country to the other, as is taking a train, which is affordably priced.
The Paris Métro is famous and fast with connections all over the city. The Métro uses small cards and they can be purchased in a bundle of ten. The ten cards will get you ten rides and are well-priced. But other ways of traveling include renting a car, taking a train, plane, taxi, shuttle, or walking.
If you are staying in a specific city, like Paris, the best way to get around would be to walk and use the Métro system. The Métro is extremely affordable and has stations all around the city that can get you within walking distance of your destination.
Taxis or Ride Sharing Apps
If you’re tired you can always hail a cab or take an Uber. Uber is a great way to get around the city if you need a break from walking, but you will need access to the internet to use the app. Other cities may have their own public transportation systems like trains or buses.
Car rentals are widely available, however, if you do rent a car and drive, you should be aware that most French highways use a toll system. The toll system can quickly push your budget higher and you may want to consider a different transportation method.
Top Cities to Visit
France is a sizeable country and there are plenty of cities that you can visit. While Paris is often the most flocked to, there are plenty of destinations that offer a range of attractions. Home to beaches, vineyards, waterways, and UNESCO world heritage sites, here is a brief overview of some of the most popular city destinations throughout the country.
Often called “The City of Light”, Paris is the capital of the country and is located in the north. The sprawling urban landscape is home to gorgeous architecture, charming cafés, and a long list of tourist attractions. The city is known for resting alongside the Seine River and many of the tourist attractions are right beside the river itself, on both sides.
Some of the most famous landmarks within the city include Notre Dame, Sacré-Coeur, and the Louvre Museum. If you’re looking for extravagance just outside the city, the Palace of Versailles is away from the bustle but still within the Paris area.
Bordeaux is a city that rests in the center of the famous wine-growing region. It’s located on the Garonne River, which makes it a port city too. Gothic architecture is presented in the Cathédrale Saint-André and along the city streets.
Surrounding the city are 250,000 acres of vines for wine producers, which makes Bordeaux a hit with sommeliers. The city is easy to walk so you can explore everything it has to offer on a budget.
Nice is part of the French Riviera and was originally founded by the Greeks as a posh retreat for the European elite. The port city has a blend of cultures from Italian architecture and medieval streets. You can take a stroll along the lovely Promenade de Anglais or simply enjoy the turquoise waters at the beach.
The Colline du Chateau offers an excellent view of the city and the Mediterranean Sea. The close proximity to the principality of Monaco also makes it a popular starting location for further travel.
Saint-Malo is a stunning French port located in the Brittany region. The cobbled streets make you feel like you’re stepping into history and connect you to the city’s seafaring past. The city was once a stronghold for privateers but is now home to various seaside resorts.
The granite stone walls that surround the city provide a stunning landscape with clear turquoise water behind it. Inside the granite walls, you can explore the history, shops, dining, and accommodations for a great adventure.
If you’re part of the younger crowd, you’ll love the university city of Aix-en-Provence. The once-medieval area has been turned into a college town that’s booming with tourism. The Cours Mirabeau has a double row of planted trees and is bordered by luxurious houses and fountains for a picture-perfect view.
The irregular streets extend to Gothic architecture and history at the Cathedral of the Holy Saviour. Tourists will also find that the city is full of fountains, including a natural hot water fountain that dates back to the Romans.
Marseille is a port city in southern France, which is famous for being the crossroads of immigration and trade. The Vieux-Port is the heart of the city where you can find fresh fish or walk the boat-lined quay.
The Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde rises above the skyline and includes a golden statue-topped watchtower. For nature enthusiasts, Calanques National Park is located nearby and boasts limestone cliffs descending to the sea.
Lyon sits where the famous Rhône and Saône Rivers meet but boasts an impressive span of cuisine, gastronomy, and historical and architectural locations for tourists to explore.
The city is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and was once important in the history of producing and weaving silk. Once a year in December, the city has a light festival that draws many tourists and lasts for four days.
Points of Interest
While cities gather the most attention, you may also find that there is a specific attraction that you want to see in France. With plenty of historic sites to explore as well as gorgeous landscapes to stroll around, it’s worth adding a few of these locations to your itinerary. Here are some of the most popular tourist destinations in France.
Discover the best of France’s thermal springs to add to your itinerary, on our sister site, Top Hot Springs.
Engineered by Gustave Eiffel, the Eiffel Tower was constructed for the 1899 World’s Fair. Today, the Eiffel Tower is widely recognized and considered a cultural icon of France. You can see it on the Champs de Mars, which also has public garden spaces for a leisurely stroll.
If you’re curious to see the view from the Eiffel Tower, you can purchase tickets to take one of the elevators up to the viewing platforms. You should try to get tickets in advance because they are time reservation based.
The Louvre Museum is the world’s largest art museum with numerous galleries that span half a mile long and take up 72,735 square meters of space. It’s also a historic monument that was once used as a royal palace.
Today, the Louvre is popular for tourists who would like to see popular art pieces like The Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and The Coronation of Napoleon painting. With three different wings, you could spend weeks exploring.
Mont-Saint Michel is one of the most noted icons of the Normandy region and boasts a rich history. The abbey is located on a rocky island and has a medieval history. Tourists can take a free bus or walk the pathways to the island and abbey.
There’s a small town that rests at the base of the abbey on the island and has food, dining, shops, and hotels. Visitors should be wary of the tides because, during certain times of the year, Mont-Saint Michel will be inaccessible while the tides are high.
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
For Americans and many others affected or familiar with World War II history, the Normandy American Cemetery is the place to go to honor those who lost their lives in the war. Located in Colleville-sur-Mer, overlooking Omaha Beach, visitors can walk the grounds daily to remember loved ones or visit the graves of others.
For tourists interested in D-Day history, you can tour the Normandy area and visit the close by beaches of Omaha and Utah.
The Côte d’Azur, or French Riviera, spans the length of France’s Mediterranean coastline. The area is loved for its glamorous, pristine, and turquoise beaches. There are many awesome spots along the Côte d’Azur including Cannes, Saint-Tropez, and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.
Nice is the largest city in the area and has a large airport that is the third busiest in the country. With plenty to explore, the Côte d’Azur can easily become your next travel destination.
Loire Valley Châteaux
For architecture lovers, exploring the Loire Valley will unlock numerous historic towns that boast gorgeous châteaux. The châteaux are Renaissance style and rest in small towns like Amboise, Blois, Nantes, and Tours. Each château will have its own name and opening hours. Visiting the different châteaus is a terrific way to tour the region.
Provence is a region of France located in the southeast. The area is close to the border of Italy and is known for its diverse landscapes. The Southern Alps touch the region and the Camargue plains are home to vineyards, olive groves, pine forests, and the infamous lavender fields.
Marseille is the region’s largest city, but the former capital was Aix-en-Provence which is also a popular tourist destination.
Chamonix Mont-Blanc is a world-famous resort that rests near the junction of France, Switzerland, and Italy. It was the site of the first Winter Olympics, which took place in 1924. As one of the oldest ski resorts in France with the best verticals, Chamonix Mont-Blanc is very popular with ski enthusiasts.
The impressive mountains boast a variety of ski runs for you to explore and you can take a cable car lift to the Aiguille du Midi to access Vallée Blanche, which is an off-piste run. You’ll be afforded impeccable views of Western Europe’s largest peak, Mont-Blanc, 15,771 feet (4,807 meters).
France is a country that has something for everyone. Whether you want to refine your palate with food and drink or explore medieval architecture, the diversity of the country is sure to draw you in. Any traveler can step foot into history by touring the country’s fascinating cities.