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Home » Blog » Destinations » All-in-one guide to visiting France

All-in-one guide to visiting France

Written by: Lydia Crispin | Travel Insurance Expert
Last updated: 14 May 2024 | Created: 27 June 2022

Before you go to France

France is a popular destination for us. In 2019, 10.5 million Brits crossed the Channel to pay a visit.

Check out our blog below for ideas about what to see and do in France.

5 Things to do

1. Take in the views from the Eiffel Tower.

When you picture France, you probably picture this feat of engineering. This 330m tall structure was built in 1887 and offers excellent views of Paris. Sunsets are magnificent.

While you’re in the French capital, be sure to check out the Old Quarters. The quaint bookshops of the Latin Quarter give way to the grandeur of the Le Marais and its royal palace. Paris has so much to see.

2. Visit the Summer Festival in Carcassonne

Each July, the walled mediaeval town of Carcassonne hosts various performances. There is something for everyone, from jazz and rock music to opera and theatre performances.

The venues are almost as spectacular as the shows, with many of them in outdoor venues. So you can take in a show in a 13th-century Château or a play within the city’s ancient ramparts. Carcassonne looks like it belongs in a fairy tale, making it worth visiting at any time of year.

3. Go Skiing in the French Alps

It’s not just city breaks that France has to offer. You can also hit the slopes and go skiing in the Alps.

Widely regarded as some of the best and most beautiful ski slopes in the world, this region offers a wealth of choices for ski resorts. The very first Winter Olympics took place in the area.

Even if you don’t want to ski, there are plenty of quaint mountain villages to explore.

4. Explore the Loire Valley by land and air

This grand river valley is steeped in French history and studded with grand palaces and quaint villages. Romantic hot air balloon flights allow you to drift over Renaissance chateaux as you sip champagne and take in the scenery.

Another popular way to explore this region is by bike. A 500-mile cycle route links Nevers with the Atlantic ocean. So if you’re a keen cyclist, you can lose yourself in the French Valley of Kings and soak up the region’s history.

5. Climb Europe’s largest sand dune

It comes as a surprise to everyone that Europe’s largest sand dune is found in France. The Dune du Pilat is not far from Bordeaux. Just under 2 miles long, the dune is around 100 metres high. It offers excellent views of the area; if that’s not enough, you can also paraglide over it for a bird’s eye view.

5 Best Beaches

1. Île Vierge, Brittany

While it may not be as warm as the beaches further South, this pebble beach in Brittany is not without its charms. With tranquil swimming spots to enjoy and tiny sea waves to explore, it’s a great place to visit for a relaxed beach trip with a difference.

Even if you can’t make it to Île Vierge, any other beaches near Morgat, a former sardine fishing town, are worth visiting.

2. Étretat Beach, Normandy

With soaring white cliffs on either side of it, Étretat beach makes quite an impression. With clear water and a charming town to explore, you’ll soon have built up an appetite to visit one of the restaurants on the promenade.

For a post-dinner stroll, take in the many artworks and gardens in the town. This little paradise is only a two-hour drive from Paris and is a popular weekend excursion for Parisians.

3. Calanque D’en Vau, Paca

Nestled in the heart of the Calanques National Park, this is a beloved and protected beach. It’s also stunning. You could almost be in the Caribbean with azure waters and white sands.

It can be a challenging journey down the dramatic cliffs surrounding the cove, but it is worthwhile. You can also hire a boat in nearby Cassis and arrive via sea.

4. Paloma Beach, Paca

Found on the French Riviera, Paloma beach is an excellent place for a spot of celebrity spotting. When you’re not trying to find the rich and famous, you can enjoy a dip in the clear waters of this limestone cove.

Flanking the beach on either side are rocky seagrass meadows—a great spot to snorkel among the Sea Breams and starfish.

5. Plage De L’escalet, Ramatuelle

This secluded cove offers you a multitude of wild inlets to explore, either by kayak or with your snorkel. You can also take a stroll along the six-mile coastal path, absorbing the views.

Once you’re ready for some food, there is a Michelin-starred restaurant, La Voile, only a five-minute drive from the beach.

5 Best Restaurants

1. Septime, Paris

Not all fancy eateries have to be expensive. This effortlessly cool restaurant in the French capital offers a price of €60 for five courses and €95 for seven courses. So you can try dishes like grilled green asparagus with pickled wild garlic and black pork bacon without breaking the bank.

You will likely need to book a table, though, with the restaurant offering bookings up to 3 weeks in advance.

2. Arpège, Paris

Another Parisian restaurant, this three Michelin starred eatery, caused waves when it went vegetarian in 2001. Since then, they have reintroduced a small amount of meat onto the menu.

If you’re a keen vegetarian or looking to get more vegetables into your diet, the farm-fresh produce here is second to none.

3. Cuisine Jardiniere de Saisons, Carcassonne

If you want traditional French cuisine served in traditionally eclectic surroundings, then Cuisine Jardiniere de Saisons may be your place. This friendly place offers a wealth of meat, fish and game dishes with a bit of Michelin flair.

It’s so authentically French that chef Robert Rodriguez has a huge moustache.

4. Le Mayssa Beach restaurant Villefranche-sur-Mer

What better place for a seafood restaurant than this spot, right by the beach in an old fishing village? This restaurant offers amazingly fresh seafood and stunning views. There are few spots in the French Riviera which can beat it for a seafood lunch.

5. Maison Martin et Fils, Menton

Right next to the local market, Maison Martin gets its fresh ingredients daily at dawn. Being right near the border with Italy, this restaurant offers simple, good cooking. There’s something for everyone with a blend of French and Italian dishes.

The steak is rated highly, but the courgette flower starter is something to try.

5 top tips

1. Don’t be afraid to say Bonjour.

You should try and make it the first thing you say to any French person. Opening the conversation in their language goes a long way to making an excellent first impression. Don’t worry about your pronunciation. The fact that you’re trying goes a long way.

The more French you can learn for your trip, the better.

But even the basics like bonjour, au revoir, and merci will help a lot.

2. Ask for the bill

Part of French culture is lingering over your meals, especially dinner. In general, the French are in no hurry, and it’s doubly true at meal times as such waiters will not be in a rush to get you out of the restaurant. So don’t expect them to bring you the bull unless you have asked for it.

If you’re ready to head back to your accommodation, ask for the bill when you are ready.

3. Cheap wine isn’t always bad wine.

You’d expect the cheaper wine to be lower quality in most places. But, after all, this is France. By no means does ordering the more affordable wines mean you’ll be slumming it with a low-quality vintage.

France produces a vast amount and variety of wines, making a good bottle very affordable.

4. Trade the supermarkets for the farmer’s market

Here in the UK, we’re used to the convenience of the supermarket. And while it does have its plus sides, you’re missing a trick in France if you don’t visit the local farmers’ market. Most towns and villages will have them, as well as the cities.

Fresher produce, usually at lower costs, and you experience some traditional French culture.

5. Sundays are a day of rest.

While it may be changing in more urban areas, nothing is open on Sundays in the more remote parts of France. You might have a supermarket available for a few hours in the morning, but expect everything to be closed.

The French use this as a day for long, lingering lunches with family and friends, so why not do the same?

France has so much to offer and is well worth taking the time to explore.

Make sure you have France Travel Insurance covering all your needs when you go.