By Admin | Last Updated August 27, 2019
France is in Western Europe. The country has borders with Italy, Switzerland and Germany towards the east, Luxembourg and Belgium in the north, United Kingdom and Spain in the west, and the Mediterranean Sea in the south. There is also the Bay of Biscay in the west. France with a total land area of 640,679 square kilometers or 247,368 square miles is the biggest country in European Union. France is the world’s most popular country for tourists according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). 86.9 million tourists visited France in 2017, a 5% increase from the 82.7 million of 2016. Spain ranked second, followed by the United States, China and Italy.
Medieval cities, historical sites, Roman theaters, alpine villages, ski resorts, ancient cave drawings, Mediterranean beaches, the Riviera, wine, champagne, food, some of the best museums in the world like the Louvre, and Paris… the country has it all. There are 37 UNESCO World Heritage sites in France. Paris is the third most visited city in the world. Visit France for its rich history, art, culture, mountains and farmlands, beaches, gastronomic delights, and shopping.
The tourist infrastructure is very developed. The cities are well connected by roads, fast trains, and air. Tourists visit France throughout the year. Every region of the country is popular.
You can bring the following items into France without paying customs duty.
Duty Free Goods Purchased at Airports / Ferries Outside the European Union:
Duty Paid Goods Purchased in Other Countries and Brought into France:
Bringing in banned drugs is a punishable offence. You can be imprisoned for up to 10 years or for life if the offence is more serious. A fine of up to EUR 7.5 million can also be imposed.
It is mandatory to carry an id proof at all times for everyone (both French nationals and foreigners). For visitors, passport or a copy is must. Those from the European Union need their national ID Cards to enter France.
To apply for a visa –
The tourist visa cannot be extended in any case except in emergencies. To work or study or stay for over three months in France, you have to approach the local French Embassy or Consulate.
No airport tax is levied on passengers upon embarkation at the airport.
You don’t have to show immunization certificates while travelling to France except if you are travelling from infected areas. But it is better to double check with embassies or travel agents before visiting France.
France has an abundance of sightseeing and activities to do. It is divided in to seven cultural regions:
|1.||Île-de-France||The area in and around Paris. There are many cathedrals here, forests and farmlands, milk producing diaries, river lands and grand chateaux. For children, there is the Disneyland. There is of course Paris here too.|
|2.||Northern France||You can see the legacy of the World Wars here. Not as famous as the other regions of France, but there are some very good dining options here. There are also many interesting activities to choose from.|
|3.||North-Eastern France||The merging fields of French and European cultures (mainly German). The country has its borders with Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland, and hence the influence of these nations.|
|4.||Great West||You will see the influence of the Celtic people in this part of France. Agriculture is the prime occupation here. The English Channel in the north and the Bay of Biscay in the south make up the shoreline.|
|5.||Central France||Chateaus or castles, river valleys, old towns, farmlands, vineyards make up this part of France. You will also find monasteries, old churches and Roman ruins.|
|6.||South-Eastern France||Best for beaches, fine wine, the Pyrenees Mountains and pine forests.|
|7.||South-Western France (with Corsica)||The warm Mediterranean climate and cold mountains of the French Alps makes the South-East the most visited tourist region after Paris.|
Paris – Capital and the largest city of France. The world’s third most popular city with tourists! There are many museums to see, chapels, cathedrals, the Eiffel Tower, Seine River, gourmet restaurants and French wine. Paris is one of the fashion capitals together with London, New York, and Milan.
The Islands – There are many beautiful islands in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
Rivers – France attracts millions of visitors for Paris, the beaches, islands, and chateaus. But there are some beautiful rivers too and their valleys that are worth visiting. The Seine (flows through Paris), the Loire (the longest river in France), the Rhine and the Rhone are the main rivers. There is also Escaut, Meuse, Aude, Herault, Adour, Charente and Villaine.
National Parks – National parks, regional parks and small nature reserves constitute the forest area. They together attract over seven million visitors every year. Parc national de la Vanoise, Parc national des Pyrenees, Parc national des Cevennes, Parc national des Ecrins, Parc national du Mercantour are all in the mountains. Summer is a popular time for hikers and rock climbers. There are 36 regional parks and nature reserves.
Marine Parks – There are two marine parks. Parc National Des Calanques and The Parc National Port Cros in the south!
|Cannes Film Festival||Held over 12 days, Cannes Film Festival is very popular with film buffs rivaling the Venice Film Festival. Held in the summer, it is attended by many actors, directors, producers, film critics, journalists, and those who like to watch some of the best movies. Head to a beach in the French Riviera to chill off after a long day of movie watching.|
|Bastille Day||Commemorates the day Bastille. The prison and fortress was stormed on 14th July 1789. The French National Day is celebrated throughout the country. The festival atmosphere is best seen in Paris. There are military parades, fireworks and parties.|
|Tour de France||The world’s most famous cycling competition has a carnival feel to it. Covering 3600 kilometers over three weeks, the route passes through the most scenic villages.|
|Festivals of Avignon||Cinema, dance, theatre and music constitute the most famous and oldest French festival. There are more than 40 shows. Both French and non-French programs. The festival is held in July in the Popes’ Palace and also in other locations.|
|Nice Carnival||At par with the Venetian Carnival & Brazilian Carnival, the Nice Carnival is a spectacular show. There is music, dancing, fireworks and grand parades. It is held in the French Riviera town of Nice in February.|
|Le Choregies d’Orange||Held in August in Orange (21 kilometers from Avignon), this is a festival of opera. It started in 1860. The festival now also includes concerts.|
|Fete de Bayonne||The largest festival in France, this is held in the last week of July at Bayonne. Held over 5 days, it is inspired from bull running of Spain. There is bull fighting, basque dances and music, basque sport competitions, parades, fireworks and campsite parties.|
There are other smaller festivals and events in France like the Monaco Grand Prix, Fete de la Musique, Paris Quartier d‘ete and the Rock en Seine.
You can visit France all year round. Atlantic Ocean affects the weather in the north, while you will feel the Mediterranean weather in the south. Of course, the Alps too bring in chilly weather and snow. The best time to visit France is the spring (April-May), summer (June-August) and autumn (September-October).
The winter is cold, especially in the Alpine regions. There is snow fall. The ski resorts are all packed. But overall, there are fewer tourists. Many hotels and restaurants in the French countryside may however be shut down. In Paris, the museums and sites will remain open, which is good because there will hardly be a queue. Christmas markets sell cheese, wine and other things.
Spring is a great time to visit France as the weather warms up. It is more comfortable. But there will be more tourists this time of the year. The summer is also a good time to visit France. The beaches are full as are swimming pools. The temperature never goes up too much in Paris for most tourists. The autumn too is good. France is a riot of colors in the countryside.
France can be addictive. You may want to stay for life. It may be difficult to see the entire country in a single visit – you will need at least a month. Paris itself will demand a minimum of 7-10 days. So it is best to pick any one or two regions of France and of course Paris and plan a trip for around 2 weeks.