France is well known for its wine, cuisine, language and culture. In fact, many books and movies have been written to give us all a glimpse of Paris, known around the world as the city of lights. But France goes beyond Paris and its metropolitan way of life – France is nature and countryside, France is hospitality and landscape, France is relaxation and fun. There are many unexplored regions in France that offer a little bit more to those looking for cozy and quaint places.
Where to Go?
Known for its monuments and museums, Paris is the most visited city in the world. It’s Eiffel Tower is recognized as one of the most beautiful structures around the globe. Paris is also a very accessible city. In fact, you can take the metro to all the touristic destinations such as Notre-Dame cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe, or the Grande Arche de la Défense. There are also plenty of museums to visit such as The Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée Picasso, Musée Rodin, Musée Carnavalet, Musée Marmottan and the Arab Institute, just to name a few.
From Paris, take the TGV train to the Loire Valley in the west of France. The Loire Valley is rich with meandering streams, majestic oaks, quiet roads, and lush green countryside. This region offers plenty of sports and leisure activities. The cities of Orleans and Tours, popular in this region, are known for its beautiful restaurants, inns and hotels on quaint cobblestone streets.
The north of France is lined with sandy beaches that border the Atlantic ocean. England can be reached through the Eurotunnel that runs from Calais/Coquelles to Folkestone, England. The ride lasts 35 minutes and departs every day approximately 4 times per hour. The Nord/Pas-de-Calais region consists of contrasting forests, gentle meadows, and rolling hills in the expansive countryside. Lille is the major city in the region and home to fine arts museums, the 17th century stock exchange, gothic churches and business schools such as ESC-Lille and Edhec.
Travel east – 90 minutes from Paris – and you will find Champagne, a region known for (you guessed it!) its champagne. Multiple tours to vineyards and champagne production sites outside of Reims are available. Burgundy, also 90 minutes from Paris, is known for its famous wine, architecture and colorful roofs. Burgundy’s major city is known for being the birthplace of a popular type of mustard: Dijon.
The southwest of France is an area rich in history. Bordeaux in Aquataine is well known for its wine production, but Aquataine is known for being the center of a conflict between the French and English that lasted several centuries. Today, the fortified villages and castles built during this time have become major area destinations. Besides vineyards, Bordeaux offers plenty of cultural events such as theater and music festivals.
Situated between the Alps and the mediterranean sea, the region of Provence-Alps-Côte d’Azur is a must-see place in the south of France. Here you will find Marseille, an active port with a lively local atmosphere; Avignon, a blissful town of cafés, art galleries and fashionable shops; Aix-en-Provence, a university town filled with students; St. Tropez, famous for its glamour and beauty; and Montpelier, a bubbly and beautiful university town with town squares and mansions.
The French Riviera, internationally known for the festival of Cannes, provides visitors with exciting party towns such as Nice and Cannes, and quieter areas such as Beaulieu, Menton or Cap Ferrat. Grasse, the perfume capital of the world, offers tours that allow visitors to learn how perfumes are made.
Where to Eat?
Finding the right French restaurant is very important – try asking locals, hotel staff or even browsing restaurant guides for recommendations as simply walking in off the street can be a hit and miss affair.
There are many places to try French food in France, from three-star Michelin restaurants to French “brasseries” or “bistros” that you can find at almost every corner, especially in big cities. These usually offer a relatively consistent and virtually standardised menu of relatively inexpensive cuisine. In general, one should try to eat where the locals do for the best chance of a memorable meal. Most small cities or even villages have local restaurants which are sometimes listed in the most reliable guides. There are also specific local restaurants, like “bouchons lyonnais” in Lyons, “crêperies” in Brittany (or in the Montparnasse area of Paris), etc. Ethnic food is available throughout France, Chinese restaurants and takeaways (actually most of them are Vietnamese) are everywhere, and large cities have North African, Greek, Italian (pizzerias) restaurants and eateries. Hamburger eateries (US original or their French copies) are also available.
In France, taxes (19.6 per cent of the total) and service (usually 15 per cent) are always included in the bill ; so anything patrons add to the bill amount is an “extra-tip”. French people usually leave one or two coins if they were happy with the service.
Menu fixed price seldom include beverages. If you want water, waiters will often try to sell you mineral water (Évian, Thonon) or fizzy water (Badoit, Perrier), at a premium; ask for a carafe d’eau for tap water, which is free and safe to drink. Water never comes with ice in it unless so requested (and water with ice may not be available).
Where to Study?
France has more than 250 universities and specialized schools of engineering, management, arts, and design. It is also one of the top destinations for high school and college students studying abroad. France is also home to a few American universities: The American University of Paris, nulland The American Graduate School of International Relations and Diplomacy. Check out So You Want to Study in France for more information.
Visas & Documents
Visas for stays of no more than 3 months are required by all except EU/EEA nationals and citizens from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, United States, United Kingdom and other countries. A uniform type of visa, the Schengen visa, is issued for tourist, business and private visits. All visas cost either US$44 (short stay; up to 90 days) or US$64 (long stay). For more information, contact the French embassy or consulate in your country.
Source for Where to Eat section: Wikitravel France. The content in these sections was created by Wikitravel authors and may be used under the Wikitravel Copyleft license.