Official language: French
Welcome to France!
France is the most visited country in the world, 83 million people on average every year. It has the fourth greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world with 39, and another 38 under consideration. France is so unique it combines the best of so many things, if you want culture, you have access to world class art, music and theatre. If you want open spaces and nature, you have the choice of mountains, sea, and countryside. France is such a big country that each region has had the chance to develop a personality of its own, the people are different, the dishes are specific to the regions, and above all the landscapes change depending on where you are. Although of course the country has a national identity, you know its France, you could almost be mistaken in thinking that you have somehow crossed a border without noticing.You could travel to France every year of your life and not run out of new places to visit!
Must see places in France
The capital of France is Paris, city of lights and city of lovers, the most magical place, with its rich history of arts and culture. Versailles and its sublime Hall of Mirrors and Paris the city of lights and of lovers, an absolutely unmissable part of any visit to France
Gastronomical capital of France and the home of the creator of film-making, Lyon is a cosmopolitan city, ideal for lovers of good food and culture.
A city built on volcanoes in the heart of France, at a few kilometres from ski-able mountains and with enough wide open spaces to make any nature lover happy.
The Haut Savoie area is a dream for action and nature lovers. Take a huge breath of clear mountain air in Annecy, with its lake and nautical activities. Visit Mont Blanc and Chamonix which are spectacular whether you visit in summer or during the ski season.
Wine lovers will be in paradise in Bordeaux, with acres of vineyards and « caves » open for wine tasting sessions (in moderation of course!) Bordeaux is also an ideal city for a family holiday, with loads of things for the kids to do.
Cote d'Azur - Nice/ Cannes/ St Tropez/ Monaco
The French riviera... walk in the footsteps of the stars along the croisette in Cannes, and try to catch a glimpse of royalty in Monaco. The Cote d'Azur is the ideal region for party lovers.
The Camargue and Arles area
France's Mediterranean island, is closer to Italy than to mainland France, and has a big Italian influence. It has amazing white beaches, and crystal clear turquoise water and is one of the sunniest places in France. The water temperature is good for swimming from April to November/December. It is the greenest of all the Mediterranean islands and over 2000 different species of plants, making it a colourful island.
Things to do in France
France has the most beautiful castles throughout the Europe. The experience is so romantic and dreamy. You’ll definitely want to hit up one of these awesome castles during your trip to France.
Enjoy coffee on the terrasses
Wherever you go in France, you will find cafés with chairs outside full of people taking a coffee or a cool drink and watching the world go by.
Try local bread - Le pain
Bread is like a national emblem in France, no French table is complete without it, not sliced white loaf, but a “baguette” or a “pain” long thin crusty loaves. You buy your “pain” every morning fresh from the bakery (boulangerie) ready to eat at lunch.
In the town squares, or at the park, in fact almost anywhere that there's a suitable piece of land, you will see people playing petanque, or boules as it's sometimes known. In a team or individually you try to hit a small wooden ball about the size of a table tennis ball, using metal balls the size of large tennis balls. It's taken very seriously by some, even to the extent of getting out the tape measure to see who got closest.
Pick the time right!
Tourists travel to France from June to September
France is beautiful in all seasons, but the high season (July and August) is often too busy close to the coasts, as the French take their holidays then. If you visit in June or September, it's less crowded but the weather is still superb. Be aware that a lot of smaller tourist attractions or camp sites close between october and Easter. If you like winter activities, the snow season runs from Mid November through to April, depending on the weather.
Did you know?
There are over 400 different french cheeses.... and over 1300 museums
The town of Vittel in the vosges department has held a yearly “frog fair” for over 40 years, dedicated to all things froggy, but mainly eating frogs legs.
You will often see people kissing cheeks - “la bise”, depending on the region this can be up to 4 times each person! Confusion also reigns about which side to start with, again depending on the region, or the person, this can be either side. The people won't be offended if you shake hands instead.
France is famous for wines and cheeses, and several specialities like frogs legs and snails. French fashion and perfume are recognised all over the world as being of top quality.
France is a country of festivals (fetes), with something going on almost every weekend. There are however the famous ones:
- The Carnival of Limoux – 3 month period between January and Mardi Gras, each weekend.
- The Dunkirk Carnival – Feb to March – Different town each weekend.
- The Nice Carnival – two weeks before Mardi Gras.
- Cannes Film Festival – May
- Menton Lemon festival – Feb to March
Many french foods are specific to their own regions, or at least at their best in a specific region, there are however some which are known and loved all over France.
- Patisseries : Ranging from the humble croissant to the most elaborate artistic creations, the French love their pastries.
- Frogs legs (lovely taste, especially with garlic sauce),
- Paté de pommes de terre (potato and onion pie with creme fraiche) ,
- Rillettes (chopped meat paste, seasoned and slow cooked),
- Confit de canard (duck slow cooked in its oil),
- Moules Mariniere (mussels, usually served with chips)
- France drives on the right
- Road signage is in kilometres, and almost exclusively in French, although close to borders or in very touristy areas it is often in several languages. The road signs are standard European signs.
- In some places you might come across « priority to the right » this means that if a vehicule is at your right, even if it's coming out of a side road, it has priority over your vehicule.
- The speed limit is 50kmph in urban areas – these are limited by the name sign with a red border at the entrance and the same sign barred at the exit. Other speed limits vary between 70 kmph and 130 kmph depending on the type of road and the weather.
- French motorways are often toll roads, however they benefit from regular stopping areas either traditional service stations with fuel, food and coffee, or a more basic parking area with toilets only.
French people are brought up with strict rules on politeness, everytime you enter a shop or a restaurant or bar, you will be greeted with a “bonjour monsieur” or “bonjour madame” - Hello sir/madam, and when you leave it will be to a “au revoir” - goodbye. You will sometimes be wished “bon journee” - have a good day! The less formal greeting you might here is “salut” - hi and bye, but this is generally only if you know the people well.