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Living in France
Discover France: From Historic Towns to City Trips
Whether you’re spending time in France for work or for leisure, you’ll be able to enjoy all the different activities the country has to offer. From a relaxed beach holiday on the French Riviera to seeing the highest mountain in the Alps, this guide covers it all.
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At a Glance:
- You can still find many famous historic sites in France, including buildings from the Middle Ages that were spared in the Dunkirk and Normandy landings.
- If you want to have an active holiday, the French Alps are the perfect place to ski, snowboard, and try out other extreme sports.
- From June to August, the lavender fields in Provence are in full bloom all around the region. You can take different routes that lead you along the blooming “blue gold”, and try out the lavender honey and sorbets.
- The annual Festival de Nice is one of the most prestigious events in the world, and attracts a large international audience.
- From hidden boutiques in passages to strolling around parks like Jardin des Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris has lots to offer beyond the famous landmarks.
With its diverse range of leisure activities, the land of wine and cheese is one of the world’s leading tourist destinations. After welcoming 84.5 million foreign tourists in 2015, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has set a goal of attracting 100 million visitors per year to France from 2020 onwards. As well as Paris’ Charles de Gaulle — the second busiest airport in Europe — France has more than a dozen airports with international connections. From different coastlines to mountain ranges, there’s something in France for everyone.
Discovering l’Histoire de la France
Besides the capital, there are many great places to visit. In Hauts-de-France you’ll find historical sites that played a key part in World War II. For example, Dunkirk — where the evacuation of Allied troops took place in 1940 — is France’s third largest port, and has several historic buildings that were spared during the war. The old belfry that used to be the bell tower of church Saint Éloi, is an impressive landmark that attracts many tourists.
If you want to discover more of France’s rich history, organize a visit to the Palace of Versailles. Around 45 minutes from the center of Paris, you’ll find the magnificent former residence of King Louis XIV. Guided and audio tours are held daily, exploring all aspects of the palace from the Hall of Mirrors to Marie-Antoinette’s private chambers.
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From Winter Sports to Lavender Routes
Les Alpes françaises are a popular tourist attraction in both summer and winter. The highest point is Mont Blanc, and there are countless places in the area with stunning scenery that are worth visiting. Surrounded by mountains, meadows, and streams, towns like Chamonix are great to visit if you want to be active all year round; a 20-minute ride on the Aiguille du Midi cable car takes you up into the Alps for a stunning view of Mont Blanc. If you don’t like heights, picturesque towns like Aix-les-Bains and Annecy are close by, and both have beautiful lakes where you can swim and do all kinds of water sports.
Regardless of the means of transport, traveling through the south of France will give you stunning views of the countryside and the surrounding villages — especially from June to August when the lavender fields are in full bloom. This “blue gold” plays a key part in Provençal cuisine, and along many routes you can taste the lavender honey and sorbets. These routes de la Lavande show you all the different sites of Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur, and are a great way to discover both the culture and the country.
Heading west, you’ll find the most visited ancient monument in France: le Pont du Gard. It’s a 48 m high aqueduct built in the first century AD to show the superiority of Roman urban civilization. Nowadays, it attracts many international tourists, and the Gardon River is a popular site for water sports such as canoeing and kayaking.
From the French Riviera to Les Jardins
France has various festivals throughout the year, most of which are well-known and attract a big audience. Former French Minister of Education and Fine Arts Jean Zay founded the famous Festival de Cannes, considered to be one of the most prestigious events in the world. Although it’s an “industry only” festival, you can still attend free screenings of classic Cannes films on Mace Plage, the beach next to the Palais. Music is also very important to the country, and many people travel to the French Riviera to attend the annual Nice Jazz Festival; it’s been held in the beautiful gardens between Place Massena and the seaside since 1948.
The most visited city in France is Paris. Besides famous landmarks such as Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, there are plenty of other activities in the city of lights. If the weather is not on your side, you can discover little boutiques, bookshops, and art galleries in the covered passages around the city. Some of the most popular include Passage Molière and Galerie Vivienne with its spectacular mosaic tiles. Moreover, parks like Jardin des Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg are the place to be on hot summer days. During the winter months, Parisians enjoy visiting the numerous Christmas markets around the city, often accompanied by a vin or chocolat chaud.