15 Best Things to Do in France

France is the world’s most chic tourist destination, and it is undoubtedly not difficult to identify with the fact. France is a county that can woo tourists of all age groups and genres. Whether you search for a historical and cultural escapade, a shopping extravaganza, a culinary journey, or a romantic rendezvous, France caters to the tastes of all its visitors.

One thing which is rarely commented on in regards to France is the number of European families who have their summer holidays there. It is simple, if you are in Germany or Netherlands or UK, pack up your car with your kids and all they need.

Hop on the motorway or ferry and drive to one of the many excellent and good value for money campgrounds in France. You can rent a chalet, mobile home or set up your own tent. Then wander around and enjoy the heat which is usually not too high, the food and the culture or simply laze by the pool.

In addition to being a beautiful holiday destination, France is also geographically well located. For tourists from Great Britain, Benelux, Scandinavia and a large part of Western Germany who want to drive to Southern Europe by car, must drive through France. Most tourist use the autoroute du Soleil.

France is the number one holiday destination for Dutch people. Around two million Dutch tourists spend their holidays on French campsites every year. Spain is number two and Italy is number three. Many Dutch tourists who drive to Spain and Italy also make a stopover at a campsite in France.

best things to do in France

Here are the best things to do in France.

1. Colmar

Alsace is a piece of Germany inside France, like a delicious fruit that fell on the other side of the fence from the tree of the neighbor who saw it being born. Although Alsace has well-known brands (Kronenbourg and Kanterbräu), you have to dare to ask for a brand of homemade beer. Let yourself be advised and taste without hurry.

The best way to discover them is to follow the Alsace Wine Route, a 170-kilometer itinerary that has one of its most beautiful stretches between the cities of Obernai and Colmar. They say that the Alsatian storks are oriented in this plain taking as reference the mountains that, like sentinels, watch over the vineyards. The Mount Saint Odile is one of the most famous for its religious significance.

Two other important cities are Mulhouse, one of the first cities in France to industrialize, and Colmar, whose old town is a well-preserved example of German Gothic style and early Renaissance. In the center, the St Martin's Church seems to call to order its squares and monuments. This Gothic work of beautiful design and cathedral dimensions opens onto the homonymous square.

Taking a boat ride through the Little Venice of Colmar is like traveling back in time to the 15th and 16th centuries, when Alsace was one of the richest regions in Europe. From the walls of this 12th century Haut Koenigsbourg castle an incredible view of the Vosges mountains, the Rhine valley and the Black Forest is seen.

Together with Ribeauvillé and Kaisersberg, Riquewihr is one of the most beautiful hiking villages in Alsace in the French country side.

2. Tours

Not too far is the Loire Valley with hundreds of amazing castles and pretty cities of Angers, Blois, Tours and Orléans, all very wel connected to other cities and with Paris. Old stones, castles, majestic forests and rivers, royal domains is what you will aim for. These cities are typical of ‘central France’ and are rich of their history. There many more secondary cities, too long to be listed.

France has always been the hub of Europe’s historic heritage, exuding an aura of rich cultural heritage and unmatched charm. Some of the most beautiful French Renaissance sites in the country include that of the 19th century Orsay museum in Paris, The Louvre, Paris, the 11th century Notre Dame cathedral in Chartres, the Georges Pompidou center, and the monastery of St. Michaels.

Provinces in France offering the most beautiful castles are that of Value de la Loire popularly known as the Loire Valley, which houses 300 chateaux, Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, Dampierre-en-Yvelines and Bordeaux which is also world-famous for its wine estates. The Loire Valley castles are as diverse as they are numerous (over 300).

If you are planning to take a tour of the châteaux in the Loire Valley it’s important to make a selection. While most of them are culturally and historically significant, it’s impossible to see them all. There is an area blessed by the gods that represents the heart of France. It runs along the gentle hills that separate the towns of Angers and Limoges and that fully symbolizse the ideas of quiet well being and moderation in all things.

Loire Valley is a lesson in the history of living France in a mixture of Celtic awe and Gaelic charm. The ancient village of Amboise, at the foot of its fortified castle, extends over the south bank of the Loire river. Separated from the river by a mattress of colorful flowers, Amboise is home to the Chanteloup Pagoda, a typical Chinese structure.

Located 5 minutes from Amboise, and only 5 kilometers from the Chenonceau castle, it is the perfect place to enjoy a break and visit beautiful landscapes next to the Loire. In the vicinity of the pagoda is a museum that revives the splendor of the old Chanteloup Castle.

The city of Chartres is quite small but has plenty of interesting architecture including timber-framed buildings. The city of Chartres is well known for having one of the most beautiful and largest cathedrals in Europe, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Chartres Cathedral is the jewel of the city, built in Gothic style.

It is believed that in the place where the cathedral is located, there was already a place of worship, in the times of the druids when the area was a religious center for the Celtic tribe of Carnutes.

Inside the church, stands the crypt, the largest in France. The cathedral is very impressive inside and out, including a labyrinth and three rose windows. A particularly impressive feature is the choir screen with Biblical scenes carved from stone between the 16th and 18th centuries. The Museum of Fine Arts of Chartres is located in the former palace of the bishops, in the apse of the cathedral.

These are counted amidst the most popular cultural heritage sites in France and are a must-visit for those traveling to France. Transport yourself to the land of fairy tales as you visit the striking castles in France. Treat your eyes to some of Europe’s most beautiful castles as you visit Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, Château de Beynac, in the province of Dordogne and Fontainebleau.

In the leafy valley of the River Creuse, this Berry village that George Sand was so fond of has played host to many painters all of whom were charmed by the romantic sight of its steeply-roofed houses, clustered harmoniously around the Roman church and the castle. Gargilesse still enjoys a wealth of cultural events today that take place in a welcoming, easygoing atmosphere.

A Carthusian monastery has become a village in the heart of the undulating scenery of the "Parc Naturel Régional du Pilat". Although most of the site’s religious buildings are houses today, the 17th century monastic church and its remarkable furniture, the monastery kitchen, cloister and a restored cell are open to the public thanks to the work of the Association for the Preservation of the Carthusian Monastery and Grounds.

3. French Riviera

It is located in the Provence region. It is located near the French Riviera and hence is a top-rated tourist destination. The canyon has a depth of 700 meters and a length of 25 Kilometres. The river canyon can satiate the adrenaline rush of every adventure-seeker. One can go for rafting, jet-skiing, scuba diving, kayaking, rock climbing, surfing, etc.

This place attracts many birds, including eagles and vultures. One can also take a road trip along the gorge.

Long sandy beaches, bright sunshine, and ocean breeze are all synonymous with the French Riviera. The Mediterranean coastline of France is one of the most popular tourist spots in the country. The 560 miles of shoreline is flanked with some of the swankiest resorts. The regions offering the most beautiful French seaside experience are that of Languedoc, Poitou-Charentes, Aquitaine, South of Bordeaux, and Brittany.

4. Biarritz

Then why not have a feel of the Basque country and head south to BAyonne/Biarritz? The typical colorful city of Bayonne is super charming and Biarritz is an old time famous ressort for beach, suf and farnienete. Then head south on a day trip to Saint Jean de Luz, a quaint Basque village on the ocean.

In the southwest you will find this pretty area. It was once only marches, and is now mostly a huge pine tree forest on a flat land bordering the ocean. It is the perfect place to do biking in family. The beaches there are infinite, and it is nicknamed the « French California », although it has a lot more rain. At the south end of it is the beautiful and rich city of Biarritz, well know for its main beach and its constant vacation atmosphere.

The best way to explore the charm of France is to plan a camping trip to rural France and learn about the traditional methods of the French. Camping holidays offer travelers an opportunity to peek into the culture, tradition, and way of life of the people. Some of the best camping holiday destinations in France are that of Aveyron in the Midi Pyrenees province, the Corrine, the Haute Loire, and the Vosges.

Biarritz is located in the southwest of France with the Bay of Biscay to the west, and to the northwest with Anglet. It is also close to Bayonne and only 30 km from the Spanish border. So the city has an ideal location to enjoy both beach and mountain.

Among the honeymoon islands in Europe, the beaches in the Bay of Biscay are known for their elegance. Ile de Re is quite possibly the best one in the area, maybe even on the entire west coast while traveling France. Charming waterfront houses, striking sand dunes, and pine tree greenery set the scene for this idyllic French spot. You will eat well here too - the oysters and freshly caught fish of the day just have to be tried.

The mixture of French and Basque tradition make this small coastal town a small paradise where you can taste a good foie accompanied by a Bordeaux (the region is neighboring), try a delicious cannelé in any of its bakeries or have a hake to the Basque in its port restaurants. In the Rue de Mazagran and the Rue Gambetta the most modern venues are concentrated, where the young people who go out on a march through the area meet.

The Cantabrian Sea is wild in these parts and the tides make theirs with the most confused tourists. In the Grande Plage, the waves can be as tall as towers, and that is a family beach located in the center of town, just in front of the Casino. Do not be fooled. On the Miramar beach, surfing is not allowed, although the waves are also strong.

5. Languedoc-Roussillon

Walk from sea to glistening sea! The GR10 is a 955km trek across the French Pyrenees from Hendaye on the Atlantic Coast to the Mediterranean coast at Banyuls-sur-Mer. Walk through valleys of wildflowers, cross glaciers in a day, and hike at the foot of the French Pyrenees. Along the way, interact with varying cultures, accommodation types and terrain.

Perpignan isn’t too far from beaches. Canet is around 30 mins drive (25–30kms) from Perpignan station. There’s a bus that leaves at regular intervals from Gare de Perpignan (Gare Routiere close to the railway station). Collioure is a 25 mins drive from Perpignan railway station. The sea here can be comparatively a bit warmer and loads of restaurants to feast. PS: do try the ice creams (glaces) there.

If you’re looking for a nude/semi-nude beach, you can think of hitting Plage du bocale. Around 30 minutes from Perpignan, but a very beautiful view of the sea. The way to reach the beach can be a bit tough, but once you’re there it’s definitely worth the effort!

Lac d’Oô, in the Pyrenees is the fist of the three lakes located along the trail to go see them. All three are different, at different altitudes, and it is possible to see them in a day, or even an afternoon if you walk fast.

6. Luberon

Lourmarin sprang up at the foot of a gash that the River Aiguebrun cut in the Luberon and it stands amid vineyards and olive groves. Its fountain-lined streets thread their way around the Castellas and a charming Roman church and lead to the magnificent castle. It was built in the 15th century by the Agoult family and today houses a large collection of furniture and objets d’art. Lourmarin is an artists’ village and, among others, attracted Henri Bosco and Albert Camus who are both buried in the cemetery.

7. Lille

Then head to North to Lille the capital of the Flandres! Another vibe, people from the North are very lively, drink a lot of beers, eat French fries a lot! Lille is super pretty and agreable to visit! The architecture is very ‘Flemish’, the food is also very northern style with a lot of cheese and beer!

Parfondeval is in Picardy and its impressive redbrick, grey slate-roofed houses are clustered around a carpet of greenery. The village revolves around farming and its scenery includes apple orchards, pastureland and fields of maize – beautiful unchanged countryside.

8. Rouen

End at the seashore, almost in the English Channel, in one of the most touristic places of Normandy of Deauville. It is a historically visited town and an emblem of the beautiful Costa Fleurie, both for its casino and its racecourse or spas. Deauville is a good place to settle and travel Normandy, visiting historical sites of World War II, the Interesting city of Caen or the spectacular and nearby cliffs of Honfleur and Etretat.

Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei lies nestled in a loop of the River Sarthe that is spanned by a small stone bridge. Its old houses are clustered around the 11th cent. Roman church that with outstanding frescos. On the other side of the river, opposite a delightful 15th cent. chapel, a miracle spring, which arose following a prayer made by Saint Céneri, is said to have the power to cure certain eye diseases.

Sainte-Suzanne is perched at a height of 70 meters above the Erve valley. Known for having faced William the Conqueror, the medieval town has kept remnants from this time. The origins of Sainte-Suzanne are older though. The Erves dolmen (the oldest monument of Mayenne) and recent archaeological excavation prove that the site existed five or six centuries B.C.

9. Saint-Tropez

Once you have climbed your way up the flower-decked alleyways lined with pastel walls to Place Deï Barri, you will enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of the Golfe de Saint-Tropez and the Maures mountain range. This is also a delightful spot to stop and savour a bite to eat and a glass of Côte de Provence wine at one of the village restaurant’s terraces.

10. Camargue

Towards the west are the wetlands of the Camargue with its wild white horses and unfortunately, tribes of mosquitoes. But compared to many other warm places mosquitoes are not usually an issue out of the wetlands. And you are usually minutes from a toasty warm beach that you can use nearly all year round.

Even by French standards the food is excellent and it doesn’t hurt that so much good fruit grows literally all around you. In any case you are a short drive from Liguria where you can get a real pizza whenever you want.

11. Brittany

Nantes, Rennes, Dinan will plunge you into a different vibe in Bretagne. Medieva streets, crèpes and galettes, fish, cider, castles. The sea is not to far and deserve a visit too. Rennes and Nantes are among the fastest growing cities in France due to their quality of life and dynamic job markets. They are fastly link to Paris with TGV.

Rouen in Normandie is also worth a visit for the medievel core of the city and the history of Jeanne d’Arc. These cities have many student, are a little bit Bohème at times, lot of concerts and festivals.

Saint Malo and its surroundings is unique in France. It is not the only walled city (hello Carcassonne), but it is the only one next to the ocean, with views on it from the fortifications. It is also known to be the place where the best kouign-amann (a pastry made of butter and sugar, from Brittany) are made.

East of the city is a beautiful rugged coastline, west of it are where the best French oysters are made (Cancale) and, a little bit further, is the world famous Mont Saint-Michel.

12. Verdon Gorge

Located in the Côte d’Azur’s backcountry, Gorges du Verdon is the place that amazes the most. You can rent a canoe to visit the Gorges on the pristine water, surrounded by 500+ meters high beautiful cliffs. Just next to the them is the Sainte Croix Lake, with clear blue water.

13. Nimes

For a relatively small area, Nimes, France has some of the best and highly concentrated examples of preserved Roman buildings that are actually placed outside of Rome. None so impressive is the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct built in the 1st century AD.

Built entirely without the use of mortar with precisely cut bricks this aqueduct was responsible for supplying the town of Nimes with water. What is most impressive about this structure is that it has been used as a conventional bridge right the way through to the modern day. Second is the Maison Carree which is one of the best preserved temples in existence from the Roman period.

The constant use of the temple after its conversion of this temple to a Christian church in the 4th century is perhaps a significant reason behind its survival. It was also used for a variety of other functions such as a storehouse, stable, and its current use of a museum.

The third and final building that Nimes has to offer is arguably the most impressive yet it is relatively unknown. Nimes boasts its own ‘coliseum’ in the form of the Nimes amphitheatre. The Amphitheatre was built sometime in the 1st century AD as part of a series of transformations to the city that started under the emperor Augustus. The arena had an impressive capacity of 24,000 and is one of the best preserved amphitheatres in existence today.

What is more impressive is how it maintained its importance throughout its long existence. It managed to survive its transformation into a fortified palace in the middle ages, not only surviving but proving to be a very effective defensive against multiple sieges and occupations of the city. In 1863 the arena was modelled into a bullring, where two events still occur every year.

Apart from the pristine condition of these buildings, what is most impressive for me about these structures is the fact that despite being nearly 2000 years old, these buildings are still being used.

14. Sarlat

From there, why not go back north and discover the pearl of the fantastic Périgord, Sarlat? It is a small city but very representative of the French ‘terroir’ with one of the best food you can have in the world, old stone houses, amazing fresh markets, castles everywhere, prehistorical sites (among the oldes in Europe), and breathtaking landscapes over river Vézère and Dordogne.

15. Bordeaux

Bordeaux is a grand city with handsome buildings strandling the banks of River Garonne. Be sure to visit the Place des Quinconces, one of the largest public squares in Europe. A day trip from the city centre will bring you to the world famous vineyards. Yet another day trip takes you to coastal resort of Arcachon - and the largest sand dune in Europe. And when visiting the city, you’ll need sample the fine Bordelais food and drink.

Bordeaux is more ‘classisist’ with stunning architecture, the ‘rives de la Garonne’ are registered as a UNESCO world heritage site, the city is also experiencing an impressive revamping. It is basically the world capital of wine, with a great new museum by the river. It is also close to the Bassin d’Arcachon with amazing beaches.

A trip to France is incomplete without visiting its exquisite countryside manors. Chateaux are perfect places to unwind and enjoy the serene and quiet country life of France. Chateaux are becoming a rage among travelers, which is why chateaux are now available on rentals to travelers.

Bordeaux is just two hours from Biarritz. Bordeaux is the capital of Aquitaine (altered by the English rulers into Guyenne), and its unique neo-classical architecture ensemble. The proud city was unfairly left out of touristic circuits, despite the attractiveness of its famous wine producing region. After a series of revampings started in the 80s, the town is a jewel, with remains from the Middle Ages, Romanesque style church, and the largest pedestrian street in Europe (rue Sainte Catherine).

As for the food, Bordeaux is the main town of what is probably the best food area in France. The matchless red sandstone is the hallmark of this former stronghold of the Counts of Turenne. It is everywhere beneath the "lauze" stone-slab or slate roofs of the impressive 15th and 16th century houses, and adorning the corn and wine market and the Church of Saint Pierre too.

For food, wine and imposing public buildings, then a visit to Bordeaux is a must. You’ll enjoy a visit to a vineyard outside the city, sample the legendary local food, marvel at the architecture and wander among the magnificent public spaces. Consider a day trip to the impressive sand dunes at Pilat just outside the pretty coast town of Arcachon.
Kalyan Panja