With stunning landscapes, fabulous food, and a rich cultural heritage, it’s not difficult to see why France is the world’s favourite tourist destination.
Almost 90 million holidaymakers came to France in 2018, sealing the country’s reputation as the ultimate place to spend a vacation. But what exactly is it that makes France so popular with tourists from all over the world? Here are just a few of the many things this wonderful country has to offer.
1) Dramatic countryside
France is the largest country in Western Europe, with a dazzling range of landscapes to please all travellers. You’ll find a little of everything: rolling green hills covered in vineyards, wild, mighty rivers, towering mountains, expansive sandy beaches, volcanoes, gorges, and even pink salt plains.
Take your pick from an impressively diverse selection of terrain, including the dramatic volcanoes of the Massif Central, the lavender fields of Provence, the dizzy heights of the Alps, and the serene lakes of the Limousin. What’s more, France is littered with picture-perfect villages, boasting historic architecture and bustling markets. The French countryside is simply stunning, and is the number one reason tourists keep coming back for more.
2) Unbeatable gastronomy
French cuisine has a formidable reputation, and part of the joy of a trip to France is found in sampling some fabulous traditional French cooking. However, until they arrive, few travellers really appreciate the sheer diversity of French gastronomy.
Each region is proud to present its own culinary specialities, which are often rooted in local produce and traditions. Whether it’s by seeking out delicious truffles in the Périgord, sampling olives in Provence, or picking blue plums in Alsace, you’ll have the opportunity see French chefs work wonders with the raw ingredients found in their backyards. One thing is certain – wherever you go in France, the food certainly won’t disappoint.
Paris, that dreamy, romantic City of Lights, is one of the most popular reasons to visit France. Although there’s plenty to see outside the capital, most visitors to France can’t resist a glimpse of this iconic city.
Paris has something of everything: world-class museums and galleries, medieval architecture, fashion, food, and cultural attractions in abundance.
There’s an endless list of things to see and do, and when you get tired of pounding the pavements, simply relax in a café terrace and watch the world go by. Paris is a city with layers, and one that you’ll want to come back to again and again.
4) The coastline
Bordered to the west by the Atlantic, and the south by the Mediterranean, France’s coastline is dramatic, varied, and full of charm.
Sun-seekers flock to the Cote d’Azur, known for its chic towns and summer parties, but travel a little further west and you’ll discover the gorgeous limestone calanques near Marseille and the salt flats and flamingos of the Camargue.
On the west coast, you’ll find wild, sandy beaches in Normandy, picturesque fishing villages and coves in Brittany, and plenty of opportunity for surfing in the Basque country.
5) Art & culture
The French are justifiably proud of their rich cultural heritage, and many tourists are drawn by the lavish array of treasures on display in French museums and galleries.
Paris boasts an embarrassment of artistic riches, of which the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and the Rodin and Picasso museums are the most popular.
Outside the capital, cities such as Bordeaux, Nice, Lille and Strasbourg are gaining a reputation as artistic and cultural hubs, with festivals and events throughout the year.
In addition, each region showcases its own unique heritage with traditional music, fairs and shows, such as the many celebrations of Celtic culture in Brittany.
6) Outdoor activities
France’s diverse and beautiful landscape offers endless possibilities for the more active traveller. Go canoeing down wild rivers passing by majestic gorges, hike in some of Europe’s most spectacular mountains, or try cycling, cave diving or rock climbing.
The Alps offer some of the best skiing anywhere in the world, and millions of winter sports aficionados flock to France each year to get in some serious time on the slopes. In winter or summer, France is the ideal destination for an activity holiday.
7) Medieval castles & churches
France’s medieval history looms large across the country, which is littered with imposing castles and elaborate gothic churches.
Head to the Loire Valley for some of the dreamiest, romantic chateaux you could ever wish to see, perched on the banks of France’s wildest river.
Alternative, head further south to ‘Cathar country’, where the crumbling remains of dozens of medieval castles cling to the craggy, verdant cliffs and gorges. A favourite activity among children, France’s castles are certain to transport visitors back in time.
8) Underground marvels
Although France’s countryside is perhaps its finest asset, some of its best treasures actually lie beneath the ground. In particular, the south west of France is known for fascinating prehistoric remains and geological marvels.
The Vézère Valley contains a host of subterranean prehistoric sites, many of which are adorned with cave paintings dating from the Palaeolithic period.
Don’t miss the spectacular display at Lascaux, now with a state-of-the-art museum and interactive tour.
What’s more, the Dordogne region is also known for its hidden geological secrets: glittering caves decorated with stalactites and stalagmites formed over millions of years.
It’s difficult to speak about France without mentioning viticulture, and almost every part of the country boasts its own grape varieties and wine styles.
Taking a tour of wine country in the Loire or the Bourgogne regions is a great way to see the countryside, learn about wine production and of course, sample some fine produce.
Even for non-drinkers, this is a fascinating part of France’s cultural and gastronomic heritage, and an excellent way to get a flavour of different parts of the country.
10) French people
Although Parisians have something of a reputation for treating tourists with disdain, the reality is that in most parts of France, you’re likely to receive a warm welcome.
Contrary to the stereotype, the French are usually very happy to meet travellers, and are eager to show off all that their country has to offer.
There are some cultural differences and conversational codes that may make French people appear rude to Anglophone visitors, but scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find some of the warmest and most welcoming people in Europe. Patience, a smile, and a smattering of French will go a long way, and you’re sure to make plenty of friends during your trip to France.
In short, it’s easy to see why so many people flock to France every year. Visitors are spoiled for choice, and it’s clear that one trip can’t possibly do the country justice – once you’ve had a taste of all that France has to offer, you’ll be itching to come back for more.