France is a country of contrasts. Modern megacities and original villages, skyscrapers and medieval castles — all this is concentrated in a relatively small area.
Things to do in France
Ancient Roman architecture, numerous museums attract history buffs to France.
A variety of landscapes attracts outdoor enthusiasts. In summer, people come here to visit national parks, nature reserves, walk along the picturesque gorges.
Museums are open to the public in many French cities. Perhaps one of the most famous is the Louvre, but it is far from the only one.
At any time of the year, France pleases with its magnificent pastries: croissants, macaroons, eclairs, millet will not leave anyone indifferent.
Designed by Gustave Eiffel in 1889, the tower has become a symbol of Paris. It can be seen from anywhere in the city. During the summer months, when tourism is at its peak, the climb to the tower is delayed. Everyone determines the height independently — you can get to the first level or the second.
At the top, there is an observation room surrounded by glass. Even on a windy day, tourists can comfortably view the city from a bird’s eye view. It is believed that the view from the second level is better than from the third — monuments and sights are clearly visible from here.
The medieval city is surrounded by a system of defensive ditches with towers and ramparts. Restored in the 19th century thanks to the attention of the historian Viollet-le-Duc, the citadel of Carcassonne looks like it was built by King Louis IX in the 13th century.
A tour led by an expert will reveal the secrets of this walled city. A visit to Carcassonne takes a full day. In the evening, enjoy dinner at a restaurant hidden among winding roads.
Palace of Versailles
Also known as the castle of Versailles. The first part of the palace was built by King Louis XIII in 1624 as a hunting lodge. Later, Louis XIV expanded it. The palace has 700 rooms, 2153 windows, 68 staircases and 2000 acres of garden. Today, the Palace of Versailles is used as a tourist attraction.
Inside the palace, rooms differ in size and style, depending on the rank of the person who lived there. The Hall of Mirrors is a popular part of the palace with tourists. The garden in the Palace of Versailles is made in the French style. It includes 200,000 trees, 50 fantastic fountains and meter-long flower beds.
Chateau de Chambord
An unfinished castle in the Loire Valley is located in central France. This is an example of French Renaissance architecture. The estate is surrounded by the largest forest park in the country. It was built for King Francois I as a hunting lodge. It is now a popular tourist attraction and a World Heritage Site.
Construction began in 1519, and it took 28 years for the building to acquire its modern look. The castle has 440 rooms, 80 staircases and 280 fireplaces. The tour offers tourists the opportunity to explore all the premises as well as gain information on construction methods and design styles.
Pont du Gard
A masterpiece of Roman architecture was built in 19 BC. as part of the Roman aqueduct system that transported spring water from the nearby town of Uzès to Nimes. This bridge carried 12 million liters of water per day at the upper level. The lower ones served as bridges over the river Gard.
Unused for 1700 years, the bridge was rebuilt in the 19th century. Now visitors drive through the lower level and pass through the upper two. The amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site definitely deserves attention.
Chateau de Chenonceau
The castle is located at the top of the Cher River. Chenonceau is known as the «Castle of the Dames» because it owes its existence to charming women. Built in 1513 by Catherine Brisonnet (wife of Charles VIII of France), it became more attractive thanks to Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of King Henry II, and Catherine de Medicis, his wife.
Later, the chateau was saved from destruction during the revolution by Madame Louise Dupin. Now tourists can see Renaissance furniture, an extensive ensemble of tapestries from the 16th and 17th centuries, and masterpiece paintings here.
Pont du Gard bridge
The giant structure is located in the city of Rome in southern France. The bridge over the Gardon River, 50 kilometers long, was built in the first century AD. It was used by the ancient Romans to deliver water and is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Yellow limestone stones were used for its construction. The Pont du Gard has three tiered arches 48.8 meters high. Until the 6th century, the ancient Romans used it to deliver water, later it served as a toll bridge.
A popular attraction among tourists is the hallmark of the country. The construction of this monument was ordered by the French emperor Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate the soldiers who fought with him in a number of wars.
The arch was opened in 1836, despite the fact that construction was stopped several times. The names of the soldiers of the Napoleonic troops are written on the white wall of the monument. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the First World War was also kept under the vault of this monument.
City of Albi
Another small town, which turned out to be at a distance from the main tourist trail. Albi is a city with a turbulent past. Evidence of this is a massive medieval fortified cathedral made of red brick, unique in its kind.
Next to the temple, in the former episcopal palace, the museum holds exhibitions that tell about the work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the great post-impressionist whose work showed the life of Paris.
Churches and cathedrals
Mont Saint Michel
The abbey, connected to the mainland by a dam of 1877, rises majestically above the waves of the sea. The buildings on this isolated island date back to the 11th century.
Inspired by the appearance of Saint Michael, Bishop Tombe built the first chapel on the island, followed by other luxurious buildings. The beauty of Mont Saint-Michel is visible from afar, it is especially beautiful at dawn and dusk. History buffs will enjoy a guided tour of the abbey and its surroundings.
Notre Dame Cathedral
In addition to outstanding architecture, Notre Dame de Paris has historical significance. The kings of France were crowned here — from Clovis in the 6th century to Charles X in the 19th. The construction of the current church began in the 13th century. Over the past 100 years, it has been rebuilt, but after a recent fire, it again required restoration.
Notable windows are the 13th-century Great Rose Window depicting the Virgin Mary among angels and apostles, and the Chagall window with the Crucifixion. And the complex facades of the cathedral with numerous statues are simply unique.
Cathedral of Chartres
Originally built in 1020 and destroyed by fire in 1194, this cathedral was rebuilt in the 12th century. It is considered an important work of architecture in Western civilization and the most impressive Gothic cathedral in Europe.
The city of Chartres is located an hour from Paris — ideal for a day trip. After a tour of the cathedral, you should take the time to walk along the cobbled streets, explore art galleries, antique shops and museums, and traditional cafes.
A popular religious site in Europe is located on the island of Normandy. Its lower tiers include shops and bakeries. Pilgrims reach the observation deck on the roof of the abbey through a spiral staircase. They overcome a difficult path and climb 900 steps. A tour of the Saint-Michel Museum will introduce you to the history of the construction of the abbey.
In translation, this name means «holy heart.» The famous cathedral is located in Montmartre, in the Parisian quarter of artists. The huge church stands on a hill near the city center — it is reached by stairs or by funicular. The scenic road will be a nice bonus.
It took more than 40 years to build the Basilica of the Sacré Coeur. A special mineral was used as the material, which has an amazing feature. It turns white when exposed to water. Therefore, year after year, precipitation only makes the cathedral more beautiful.
The little-known great Gothic cathedral, unlike Chartres, Amiens and others, was not marked on the main tourist routes. The abundance of other attractions in Paris and the district in a relatively small area distract tourists from this building. But the medieval cathedral in Bourges is the only owner of five aisles, as well as a magnificent collection of medieval stained glass windows.
Megaliths De Carnac
Located in and around the village of Karnak, thousands of ancient granite rocks form intricate patterns and are still a mystery. Scientists put forward various theories of their origin, but still have not come to a consensus. It is believed that these places have religious significance, but the location of the stones suggests the construction of an astronomical calendar.
What we do know is that ancient tribes carefully placed these stones as early as 4000 BC. There are also a number of caves with drawings in the area, which are visited by history buffs.
A series of rugged white cliffs jutting out into the Mediterranean form a series of entrances. Les Calanques are located in the south of France between La Ciotat and Marseille. The most famous site is the Calanque massif in the Bouches-du-Rhone region between Cassis and Marseille.
The striking beauty of these natural formations is best viewed from the sea by boat. There are also several ports that offer short trips to see the rock formations.
dune du pilat
It is a «mountain» that is easy to climb. Not only is the coastal panorama from the top of Europe’s largest sand dune a fascinating sight in itself, but there is also the Banc d’Arguin bird sanctuary, which is home to dozens of rare species of birds.
The nearby beaches have some of the best surf spots on the Atlantic coast. Another good news is that bike paths are laid to the beaches. You can complete the exciting trip with a dozen oysters with traditional sausages cooked in front of you.
The «Grand Canyon of Europe» is located in the southeast of France. Its length is about 25 kilometers, and the height of the rocks is 700 meters. The gorge attracts the turquoise-green water of the Verdon River, which has such a beautiful color due to minerals from rocks and glacial springs.
Kayaking on the river Verdon will be an unforgettable adventure. However, hiking, canoeing, paragliding, rafting and rock climbing will be no less exciting.
Alsatian wine route
A very popular destination for tourism. And it’s not even that everyone loves good wines. A trip to the northeast corner of France is a journey into another world full of lush vines, ancient castles and gently sloping misty mountains.
Along the way, tourists are waiting for cozy villages and roadside wine cellars where you can taste and buy Alsatian wines. The route is especially popular in autumn, when the vines bend heavy bunches to the ground, and the harvest begins.
Lavender fields in Provence
Fields in the south of France attract tourists when bright purple fragrant lavender flowers appear on them. Flowering continues from late June to early August. The scent is truly captivating.
Here is the Lavender Museum and a typical lavender farm. Tourists are not only allowed to admire the plants, but they are also told how it is harvested and what products are made from beautiful flowers. Lavender cheese or vanilla cream is a delicious and unusual treat that you should definitely try.
The most important biosphere reserve in Europe. The area of wetlands in the Rhone Delta is home to a range of wildlife of international importance. Indian white ponies live almost freely on the salt marshes, where black bulls and pink flamingos live.
The Camargue is also famous for its gypsy heritage. It is also the only place in France where visitors can drive through rice fields. For tourists, three routes have been laid in the Camargue with the names “Path of drivers”, “Path of flamingos” and “Path of safari”.
Cultural attractions and entertainment
The museum, famous not only in Paris, houses an impressive collection of works of art, which makes it the most visited in the world. There are 35,000 valuable items here, including Egyptian antiques, royal treasures, old paintings and ancient sculptures.
The museum is part of a Baroque palace dating back to the Middle Ages. The Louvre was opened in 1763. Later, Emperor Napoleon added a considerable number of works of art to the expositions. The contributions of the following French emperors further expanded the collection.
The amusement park opened in the center of Paris in 1992. Disneyland covers an area of 20 square kilometers, includes two theme parks, resorts, shops, 57 attractions and entertainment sections.
One of the most visited rides is the Pirates of the Caribbean. Another interesting project was the Walt Disney Studios Park, opened in 2002. Here the world behind the scenes of successful films is revealed, and heroes familiar from childhood live.
The beaches of Normandy
One of the most emotional trips ever. Vast stretches of sandy beach are quiet today, but on June 6, 1944, gun salvos and explosions thundered here. The death toll was in the hundreds—today, long rows of symmetrical tombstones run uphill from Omaha Beach.
The solemn memorial in Normandy is a silent testimony to the price paid for the liberation of France from Nazi tyranny. Despite the dark history, these places are very beautiful today.
National Gallery of the Grand Palais
The gigantic stone building with a magnificent glass roof was built for the 1900 World’s Fair. Dedicated to the «Republic for the Glory of French Art», the gallery was recognized as a historical monument exactly 100 years later.
At one time, the architectural innovation attracted the attention of specialists from all over the world. The Grand Palais now hosts four major exhibitions each year. Every year, more than 40 events are held here, which are attended by millions of people.
National Opera of Paris
The architectural masterpiece of the 19th century was built by Charles Garnier and opened in 1875. This is the thirteenth theater in Paris. However, the opera appeared much earlier — the first performance took place here 200 years before the construction of the current building.
Napoleon, dreaming of returning the building to its former glory, ordered its complete reconstruction. The work was carried out under the leadership of Baron Osman. Today, the historical monument is open to visitors on the days of opera and dance performances.
National Historical Museum of Nature
The Jardin des Plantes is a 400 year old botanical garden in the center of Paris and a research base. Its task is to collect and study collections of plants. It is pleasant to walk among the numerous flower beds, trees and statues, especially on a hot day. The garden occupies 2.5 hectares, and in this area there are plants from all over the world. There are very old trees here — real centenarians. Such, for example, as a 315-year-old pistachio.
Museum of Fine Arts of Paris
The Petit Palais is an architectural gem from 1900 located on the Champs Elysées. The building was built for the World Exhibition and now houses the Museum of Fine Arts of Paris.
The museum has 1300 works (sculptures, paintings, tapestries, objects of art, icons), which form a large artistic panorama. Antique and medieval collections are presented along with works of the French and Italian Renaissance, Flemish and Dutch painting.
Visitors can get acquainted here with a collection of paintings by major French artists of the 19th century: Delacroix, Monet, Sisley, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Courbet. A small open-air indoor garden that you can walk around gives the museum a special charm.
Amphitheater in Nimes
A monumental building, almost an exact copy of the famous Colosseum, is located in the city of Nimes. The amphitheater was built at the beginning of our era, that is, it is already more than two thousand years old. The majestic building, unlike the Italian counterpart, is still in operation. Today it hosts concerts and public events in the open air.