France Travel Guide

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.

France is the only country where you can marry a dead person.

France – Quick Facts

  1. The name France is derived from the word ‘Frank’, which means ‘free’ in Frankish. The name was given by a Germanic Tribe.
  2. Euro is the official currency since 1st January’2002. Before that Franc was the official currency.
  3. French is the official language.
  4. Christianity is the main religion with 55% of the population.
  5. France is the 21st most populous country while area wise, it is 42nd.
  6. France is a Republic (almost for two hundred years).
  7. Paris is the largest city, followed by Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Lille-Roubaix, Bordeaux, Nice, Nantes, Strasbourg & Rennes.
  8. France has many islands both in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Ocean (also around the world).
  9. There are 17 International Airports in France. Paris has two – the Charles de Gaulle & Orly.
  10. France has won the Fifa World Cup two times – in 1998 and 2018.
  11. France is the seventh largest economy.
  12. It is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – China, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States of America, being the others.
  13. France is a major producer of wine.
  14. The Louvre in Paris is the most visited museum in the world. More than 9 million people visit the Louvre every year.
  15. France has the highest number of Nobel Prize winners in Literature.
  16. You can find more than 1200 different kinds of cheese in France.

Customs

You can bring the following items into France without paying customs duty.

Duty Free Goods Purchased at Airports / Ferries Outside the European Union:

  • 1 liter strong liquor or 2 liters of less than 22% alcohol and 2 liters wine
  • 100 gm tea /40 gm tea extracts & 500 gm coffee/200 gm coffee extracts
  • 50 gm perfume & 0.25 ltr eau de toilette
  • 200 cigarettes & 50 cigars or 250 gm loose tobacco

Duty Paid Goods Purchased in Other Countries and Brought into France:

  • 10 liters liquor (more than 22% alcohol) or 20 liters of fortified wine or aperitif/110 liter beer
  • 800 cigarettes and 200 cigars or 1 kg loose tobacco

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.

Top 15 Reasons For Visiting France

  1. Paris, one of the most popular cities in the world
  2. Glamorous cities like Nice, Bordeaux,  Cannes, Toulouse, Lyon, Avignon and Marseille
  3. Spectacular beaches
  4. The gorgeous French Riviera
  5. Some of the best museums and most beautiful cathedrals and chapels
  6. Musée du Louvre, Versailles, Musée national d’Art moderne, Musée d’Orsay, Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, Centre Pompidou
  7. Wine Tasting – Champagne or Chardonnay
  8. French cuisine – bread, pastries, sauces, steak tartare
  9. Cheese – Comte, Brie or Camembert
  10. Castles and chateaus
  11. Winter sports – hiking in the Alps, mountain biking
  12. Shopping – legends like Christian Dior, Coco Chanel, Yves Saint-Laurent, and Christian Lacroix are all from France 
  13. Art & Culture
  14. Films – the Cannes Film Festival
  15. Theme Parks – Euro Disney

Visa, Customs, Airport Tax

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.

  • Tourists from Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand and the US do not need a visa if their trip is for 3 months or less.
  • Everyone else needs a schengen visa.
  • The fees vary for transit visa, 30-days visa, and visa for stays up to three months.

To apply for a visa – 

  1. Your passport must be valid for 3 months after your date of return.
  2. Show proof of address
  3. You should have a return ticket
  4. Proof of booked accommodation
  5. Must submit detailed itinerary
  6. Must fill out the application completely
  7. Furnish a covering letter
  8. Proof of travel visa insurance
  9. Show adequate finances to support yourself while in France
  10. You will also have to provide 2 passport size photographs

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.

Photo Gallery

Airport Tax

No airport tax is levied on passengers upon embarkation at the airport.

Health & Immunization

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.

Top 7 Regions Of 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.

 

Top Places to Visit in Île-de-France

  1. Paris
  2. La Defense – Architecture
  3. Versailles – For the Palace of Versailles or chateau of Louis XIV
  4. Fontainebleau – For Renaissance chateau, Foret de Fontainebleau, beautiful forests & rock climbing locations
  5. Chantilly – For Chateau de Chantilly, Chantilly Forest, parklands, gardens & lakes.
  6. Mama-la-Vallee – Disneyland
  7. Chartres – For cathedrals 
  8. Senlis – Museums, cathedrals, Gallo-Roman ramparts and towers, medieval towns.
  9. Vaux-le-Vicomte – Chateaus and gardens

Top Places to Visit in Northern France

  1. Calais – This is where you cross the English Channel to enter England. Nearly 20 million people visit Calais to or from England. There are a few museums to see.
  2. Normandy – See the World War II legacy, beaches, cathedrals, and agricultural farmlands. The Normandy region is famous for its fruits and seafood.
  3. Lille – See the old towns and art museums. Charles de Gaulle was born in Lille. Lille is also good for fine dining and has an active nightlife scene.
  4. Picardy – See the war memorials, cemeteries and battlefields.

The local people drink more beer than wine in north France.

Top Places to Visit in North-Eastern France

  1. Champagne – For what else “Champagne”. There is also Reims, Aube and Epernay. You can see vineyards, churches, castles and forests. Do not forget to try the world famous champagne.
  2. Alsace – The Rhine river, Vosges Mountains, vineyards, distinct local culture, local wine, cathedrals and castles.
  3. Lorraine – Here you will find beautiful cities, cathedrals, architecture, World War I legacy.
  4. Franche-Comte – The home of world famous French cheese, waterfalls, lakes, river valleys, beautiful gorges, hills, forests, villages and thermal baths. Try skiing, kayaking, cycling and hiking.

Top Places to Visit in the Great West

  1. Brittany – Famous for sea coasts, beaches, forests, old castles, farmlands and rugged islands.
  2. Loire – A beautiful valley with many chateaus and heritage sites. See architecture of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period, chateaus, lakes, the coastline, and the Loire River. Things to do include cycling and hot air ballooning.

Top Places to Visit in Central France

  1. Burgundy – Try the famous Burgundy wines, see the vineyards, lakes, forests, and learn about the rich history of this region. There are many roman churches, castles and beautiful Renaissance buildings. The cuisine is also unique. Good for cycling, boating, walking and hot air ballooning.
  2. Limousin – For rural life and natural beauty. Good for angling, sailing, kayaking and canoeing.
  3. Auvergne – See extinct volcanoes, forests, lakes and the Massif Central mountain range. Visit the Auvergne Volcanoes Park & the Livradois-Forez Park, chateaus, and spa towns. You can try skiing, walking and paragliding.
  4. Poitou-Charentes – This region is for Cognac and beach holidays.

Top Places to Visit in South-Western France

  1. Midi-Pyrenees – Parc National de Pyrenees, lakes, mountains, spa towns, Toulouse & Lourdes. Cycling and hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.
  2. Aquitaine – Visit for Bordeaux for wine. There are many beaches, pine forests, castles, beautiful old towns and villages to see.

Top Places to Visit in South-Eastern France

  1. Corsica – Sea and mountains. Called “island of beauty”, Corsica has diverse scenery. You can go on a sailing adventure, try scuba diving, hike up the mountains or simple laze on a nice beach. The summer months are particularly popular here.
  2. Languedoc-Roussillon – Beaches, wind surfing and hiking.
  3. Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur – Goof for wine tasting, beautiful rural landscapes, the French Alps, beaches and the famous French Riviera. Take a car or bicycle ride through the countryside to see the villages. For the film fans, there is Cannes.
  4. Rhone-Alpes – For the Rhone valley and Massif Central. Natural beauty and diverse landscape makes this an interesting area.

Highlights Of France

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. 

  • Corsica – The birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • Ile de Quessant (Ushant) – See the rare Quessant sheep here, bird migration, and take in the breathtaking views of the sea.
  • Belle-Ile-en-Mar – Beaches, cliff rock formations, biking and picnics.
  • Ile de Re – Marshlands and forests. Good for paddle boating, cycling, kayaking,.
  • Ile de Brehat – For natural beauty, varied flora and flowers.
  • Ile de Batz – White beaches, botanical gardens
  • Ile d’Yeu – Sandy coves, granite cliffs, chateaus.
  • Ile de Noirmoutier – Hidden coves, narrow village paths, historical buildings, beaches.

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!

Most Popular Festivals And Events In France

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.

The Cannes Film Festival for 2019 is scheduled from May 14th to May 25th

The Best Time to Visit France

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.

How Many Days Should You Stay in France

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.