20 things you must do in France
PUBLISHED: 10:55 17 November 2010 | UPDATED: 15:42 25 May 2016
© Olivier Tuffé
With so many amazing sights and spectacles to see and do in France, selecting the 20 best activities was a tough task but we believe the following celebrate the true magic and diversity of France
1. Immerse yourself in the wonder of France’s 37 UNESCO World Heritage sites – from Le Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy to the fortified city of Carcassonne, they never fail to amaze.
2. Take a boat trip along one of the marvellous waterways such as the River Dordogne, the Canal du Midi or the Loire or Seine rivers.
3. Enjoy France from on high and stand atop the Aiguille de Midi near Chamonix or the Pic du Midi in the Pyrénées. Alternatively, get a different view of Paris from the Arc de Triomphe.
4. Admire the new architecture of France. The Millau Viaduct, the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris and the European Parliament in Strasbourg are just a few of the modern marvels.
5. Indulge your sense of smell in the stunning lavender fields of Provence and the perfumeries of Grasse. Even the aroma of freshly baked baguettes proves France can be olfactory heaven.
6. From the mighty Louvre in Paris to a corkscrew museum in Ménerbes, there’s a museum for everything and anything in France.
7. Admire a château of the Loire; Chenonceau, Chambord and Azay-le-Rideau all have the wow factor.
8. Follow a Route du Vin or walk part of the ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, France has a trail for everyone! If you fancy a real challenge,complete one of France’s Grande Randonnée trails such as the GR20 in Corsica – the toughest in France.
9. It’s a more sombre reason to visit France, but the D-Day beaches, cemeteries and war memorials across the north coast can’t be missed. Check out our section on the two world wars
10. Enjoy a major sporting event such as a stage of the Tour de France, Roland Garros for tennis, horseracing at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris or Le Mans for motor-racing.
11. Visit the natural marvels. France has it all – dramatic sand dunes, extinct volcanoes (Auvergne), gorgeous gorges (Verdon), wildlife wildernesses (the Camargue).
12. Visit one of the 152 plus beaux villages such as Gordes in Provence or a village fleuri. Each has been rewarded for its own special charm.
13. Take a break in one of France’s iconic cafes such as Paris’ Café Flore and Les Deux Magots, or Les Deux Garçons in Aix-en-Provence. Check out our 10 favourite cafés in Paris
14. Island hop around France’s coast, which is littered with beautiful hideaways. Head to the largest, Corsica for some fabulous walking, or see the wild Île-d’Oléron or the tranquil Île de Ré, off the coast of La Rochelle. Read a guide to our top 10 beautiful French islands here
15. Take a wander through a colourful market before tasting cheese, buying gifts or chatting with locals. And at Christmas, the Marchés de Noël are the perfect place to enjoy the festive season.
16. You don’t have to be a skier to enjoy the mountains in winter. Try snow-shoeing, husky-sledding or simply walking, and you’ll discover an awe-inspiring winter wonderland in France.
17. The French invented the Michelin star, so try one of the
26 three-star (such as Maison Troisgros in Roanne), 73 two-star or 449 one-star restaurants throughout the country.
18. See the inspiration for the Masters, whether it’s Monet’s garden at Giverny, the coast at Étretat or a poppy field in Provence, you can learn how artists have been inspired by France for centuries.
19. Wherever you go, the French will be celebrating something – whether its their heritage at the Festival de Cornouaille in Brittany, or gastronomy, there’s sure to be a party somewhere.
20. Take the most of France’s eco-friendly modes of transport. Take the TGV high speed train or why not share a bike? Hop on Paris’ Vélib’, Nice’s Vélo Bleu or use one of the 23 other schemes.
Like this? Then check out 30 reasons to visit France in winter