5 reasons why France is the most popular country in the world
PUBLISHED: 15:00 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 15:35 20 February 2017
More than 82.5 million tourists can’t be wrong! France is once again the most visited country in the world and here are 5 reasons why
France has once again come top in the United Nations World Tourism Organisation league table of most visited countries with between 82.5 and 83 million visitors in 2016! What is it about France that keeps tourists coming back year after year, and what does it mean for househunters?
France borders eight different countries, so it’s easy for European Francophiles to pop over. Despite UK travellers having to cross the Channel, there are plenty of travel options, including ferries from Dover, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Weymouth and Pool, travelling to Calais, Dunkerque, Dieppe, Le Havre, Caen-Ouistreham, Cherbourg, St-Malo and Roscoff. Then there’s the Channel Tunnel – just over half-an-hour journey from England to France – as well as flights to 40 airports within France. The train is an efficient and enjoyable way to travel, providing you don’t have lots of luggage. Eurostar leaves the UK from London St-Pancras, Ebbsfleet and Ashford stations, arriving in Lille and Paris, where you can connect to high-speed TGV trains.
When buying a French property, it’s advisable to have more than one travel option just in case things change in the future; for example, flight routes may be dropped, or you may no longer want to drive long distances.
2) Cities and culture
With landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Champs-Elysées, the French capital is loved the world over. Paris has some of the finest museums, restaurants, shops, bars and architecture in the world. Each arrondissement has its own character, and no matter how well you think you know the city, there’s always something new to discover.
For those who want a more permanent foothold, Parisian property doesn’t come cheap but there are plenty of other French cities to choose from for a weekend away or a pied-à-terre, from Lille to Lyon, Toulouse to Toulon, Marseille to Montpellier, Nice to Nantes, and Bordeaux to Biarritz, all full of heritage, culture, nightlife and adventure – perhaps your dream home is at the heart of one of them.
French culture is not just to be found in cities either, history is everywhere you look, from well preserved villages and towns, châteaux big and small, religious buildings, forts and fortified towns right through to prehistoric sites.
3) Wide open spaces
France’s 66 million residents have over 640,000km2 to roam around in – in the UK 64 million people squeeze into almost 244,000km2. It’s clear to see that France is full of space, and that includes spectacular scenery, from mountain peaks to vineyards, vast plateaux to pretty river valleys, and almost 5,000km of coastline.
Natural sites abound: Mont Blanc is Europe’s highest mountain while Lac Leman (Geneva) is one of Europe’s biggest, there are seven national parks and 48 regional natural parks, and UNESCO natural sites include the Canal du Midi, Cirque du Gavarnie and the Loire Valley.
What this means for househunters, apart from having gorgeous countryside on your doorstep, is that land is relatively cheap. British buyers are often astounded at the size of the gardens they can afford, while those seeking the Good Life have plenty of smallholdings to choose from. If you really want to get away from it all, the least populated region is Limousin – also the cheapest place to buy a property.
There’s no doubting the appeal of France’s food and wine. From the menu du jour to haute cuisine, food is intricately entwined into everyday life in France. French gastronomy is so important it was added to the UNESCO intangible heritage list in 2010, the first time gastronomy made it onto the list. Each region has its own specialities too, with many festivals celebrating local produce.
No celebratory meal is complete without a glass of French wine, whether Champagne or Bordeaux, Chablis or Sauvignon Blanc. Indeed, the most everyday of meals can be uplifted by a bottle of the local plonk. There are vineyards across most of France, producing a huge variety of wines from AOC to vin de pays. Wine tourism is more popular than ever, and one of the great things about owning a property in France is that winetastings don’t have to be limited to annual holidays!
Running through all these themes is diversity – France offers an incredibly wide variety of scenery, towns, cities, villages, architecture, climate, culture and gastronomy. As with Paris, there’s always something new to discover, even for the most ardent of Francophiles. It would be very difficult to become bored with France! Each region has its own character, as do the different departments and communes, and as France borders eight countries it also benefits from the influence of their cultures, not to mention the opportunity for day trips or longer visits to these neighbouring nations.
Diversity is certainly key when it comes to property. From grand châteaux to country cottages, elegant townhouses to charming farmhouses, and cosy chalets to glamorous villas, there’s something for every househunter in France.
And for every budget too, from cheap renovation projects, reasonably priced apartments, village houses and spacious country homes, right through to multi-million euro dream properties in exclusive areas like Paris, the Riviera and ski resorts.
There are plenty of styles to choose from too, whether you prefer rustic or regal. Brick houses are relatively rare, mainly in the north-east of the country and around Toulouse, while stone houses can be found all over France, whether built from granite in Brittany, pale ‘tuffeau’ in the Loire or mellow golden stone in the Dordogne. In the mountains and forested areas, timber houses and chalets are typical, while in towns and tourist hotspots there are more new developments to choose from.
With so much choice it can be difficult to decide on a location let alone a particular property, but I’m sure you’ll agree, half the fun is in the journey – happy hunting!
Like this? Check out our 4 favourite cities in France