the fp is things-to-do
Things to see and do in France
Atout France (French Government Tourist Office) in the UKAddress: Lincoln House, 300 High Holborn,
Telephone: 09068 244 123 (calls cost 60p per minute).
Atout France (French Government Tourist Office) in the USAAddress: 825 3rd Ave, Fl 29th, New York, 10022
Telephone: +1 212 838 78 00
Attractions in France
Be part of the Tour de France
The annual sporting showcase that is the Tour de France remains the world’s biggest cycling event, and the route itself (which varies each year) always travels through some of the most picturesque parts of the country. Joining the crowds that throng the roadsides makes for a fantastic experience. Rattle those cowbells...
Coo over Carcassonne
Almost too picture-perfect to be true, the fortified town of Carcassonne is home to a wealth of monuments from different eras. Rising above the plains of the lower valley like some far-fetched storybook citadel, it's a favourite of history buffs – and with its current spread of restaurants, a first pick for gastronomes too.
Cross the Millau Viaduct
Designed by British architect Norman Foster, the astonishing Millau Viaduct is today the tallest bridge in the world. Its modernist structure is made all the more impressive by its rural setting, spanning the valley of the River Tarn in the south. You’ll need to pay a toll to cross by vehicle.
Cross to Mont Saint-Michel
Normandy's most iconic sight draws countless visitors yearly with its impossibly photogenic setting: Mont Saint-Michel (Saint Michael's Mount) is a rocky island surrounded by tidal waters 1km (0.6 miles) off the coast of Normandy. It was founded in 708 by the Bishop of Avranches, who built a chapel there after the Archangel Michael appeared to him in a dream.
Cycle the Loire Valley
Is there a better way to take in the medieval chateaux and sparkling wine caves of the Loire region than on two wheels? The gentle pace of life here has drawn countless artists and writers over the years, and plenty of cyclists as well. Bike hire is easily arranged.
This long-eulogised region of southeast France is famed both for its breathtaking countryside and its sense of romance, which combine to create one of the most magical corners of the nation. From medieval hilltop villages to purple fields of lavender, Provence is one of the country's most seductive destinations.
Drive the Alsace Wine Route
There’s no shortage of enjoyable French wine trails to explore, but the Route des Vins d’Alsace—a gloriously scenic 170km (106 miles) drive through hushed, hilly countryside—is arguably the most atmospheric of the lot. Wine can be bought and tasted at roadside cellars. Alsace wines are predominantly white – the area’s dry Rieslings are world-class.
Explore past and present in Brittany
A region with a deeply individual character, Brittany blends a proud Celtic heritage with a trove of vibrant travel attractions, from prehistoric megaliths and lively port cities to dense forests and dramatic coastlines. Its still-keen sense of independence only adds to the overall ambiance – the Breton language, while not widely spoken, is still very much in evidence.
Feel the energy of Marseille
Simmering with the colourful urban rhythms of the south, Marseille is a coastal city with a multi-layered history and a character that’s part Provence, part North Africa. From the lively buzz of the daily portside fish market to the clamorous throng of its football crowds, it’s a city with a boisterous, confident identity that remains very much its own.
Feel the opulence of the Château de Versailles
The Palace of Versailles is a magnificent royal chateau that served as the centre of political power in pre-revolutionary France. Today, the super-sized and beautiful structure remains delicately preserved, and represents a fascinating insight into the grand flavours and follies of its day. You’ll find priceless artwork, regal luxury and flamboyant design at every turn.
Follow Bardot to St Tropez
Synonymous with glamour, glitz, and the various other trappings of the jet-set, St Tropez was 'discovered' by Brigitte Bardot in the 1950s and has been a trendy holiday destination ever since. Over the summer months, shiny mega-yachts pack the town's marina, which sits on the gleaming Côte d'Azur.
Hike in Corsica
The island of Corsica is a wonder once visited, never forgotten. Ruffled with mountain ranges and edged by vertiginous cliffs, it's a place of rugged beauty and age-old heritage. Its hiking trails are among the most celebrated in Europe – particularly the world-famous GR20, a challenging long-distance trek through the hills.
Kayak the Gorges du Verdon
Considered by many to be the most impressive river gorge in Europe (others have it as France's answer to the Grand Canyon), the Gorges du Verdon reaches depths of up to 700m (2,297ft), with steep banks blanketed in greenery. Join a kayak tour to get onto the water.
Lose yourself in Lyon
There's a great deal more to France's second-largest city than its fabled restaurant scene—although miss that at your peril, foodies. When you aren’t savouring the cuisine, you’ll discover the art museums, vibrant clubbing scene, riverside walks, and historical old town that make this city an alluring destination. Eurostar can whisk you there from London in five to six hours.
Roll up for the Cannes Film Festival
The Côte d'Azur resort of Cannes bursts to life each spring when its iconic film festival comes to town. La Croisette, the town’s seafront promenade, becomes an A-list parade of directors, producers and Hollywood actors, while yachts file along the harbour-side. Even if you don’t bag a ticket for a screening, it’s a spectacle.
See the cave art of Lascaux
Discovered by chance in 1940 by a group of teenagers, the cave paintings of Lascaux are considered to be among the world's best examples of prehistoric art. The 15,000-year-old images of bulls, horses and reindeer caused a visiting Pablo Picasso to proclaim, ‘we have invented nothing’.
Sightsee in Paris
Anywhere that boasts the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Sacré-Cœur, and Notre Dame Cathedral is more than just another city. Equal parts chic, edgy and drop-dead beautiful, Paris is always cosmopolitan, ever-changing, and unmissable.
Ski the Alps
The French Alps play host to some of the most famed ski resorts in Europe, among them Courchevel, Val-d'Isère, Méribel and L'Alpe d'Huez. The region as a whole covers a colossal area and offers superb choices for skiers of all levels. At most resorts, the season runs from mid-December to April.
Take to the peaks in Chamonix
A magnet for winter sport fans, summer hikers, and serious climbers, Chamonix is France’s mountain resort par excellence. In addition to the range of opportunities for physical activity, there are plenty of options for those more interested in enjoying the views. As backdrops go, the Mont Blanc Massif takes some beating.
Watch a game of boules
Few things are as redolent of the France of old as a game of boules (also called pétanque, after the sound made when the balls strike each other), in which players attempt to throw metal spheres as close as possible to a small wooden 'jack'. Expect old men, cloth caps, and a respectful hush.