France has it all - enviable beauty, refined architecture, cultural sophistication, and infectious romance. Every little corner of the country is worth visiting regardless of season, and deciding on a compact itinerary given all those unmatchable attractions can really give you a hard time.
Following some research into the preferences and opinions posted by users of various social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as own resources and reviews by the most popular travel sites, Open Travel has compiled a list of top 25 things to see or do on your France Vacations. We are sure it will convince you of the country's uniqueness and help you to plan your trip. France is not just a recommendable destination, but a definite must on the list of both an amateur tourist and a conscientious traveler.
Musee du Louvre
As befits the most visited museum in the world, even the main entrance to the Louvre is a work of art. But don't linger for too long marveling at the glassy pyramid. Inside await the riches of world's most exquisite artistic legacy, from Egyptian mummies and Code of Hammurabi to Venus de Milo and Leonardo's Mona Lisa. The museum has absorbed the centuries of transformations in the French political and social sphere, as well as managed to show the beauty and vastness of human mind under one roof, making in accessible to the common eye, and thus becoming a potent symbol of French sensitivity and finesse.
2.Abbaye du Mont Saint Michel
Where the forces of nature meet the artistry of medieval architecture and Brittany melts with Normandy, there rises one of the first sites to obtain UNESCO World Heritage listing. Atop a rocky tidal island sits the legendary abbey - a symbol of the French national identity and heroic resistance to English attacks during the Hundred Years' War. The fortified walls stretching at its foot embrace a picturesque village that grew up from the Middle Ages and flourished in the pristine setting of the bay. If you happen to be there at the time of the spring tides, you'll be in for a mesmerizing natural performance of a range unseen elsewhere in Europe.
3.Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Built to mark the centennial celebration of the French Revolution, it lays claim to being the most visited paid monument in the world. On a gloomy morning you may not even find it attractive - a mere pile of welded metal. Yet standing on its top observation deck on a cloudless afternoon and gazing at the infinite panorama, you are likely to change your mind to the point of calling it awesome. Even better, when the night catches you on Champs de Mars and the construction suddenly starts to twinkle with millions of multicolored lights, you immediately realize why it is by far one of the most popular proposal spots on Earth. But regardless of weather and time of day, the Eiffel Tower is a mighty symbol to all Frenchmen alike, and symbols don't have to be beautiful. Their task is to unite, commemorate, and stir emotions. La Tour Eiffel does all that and more.
4.Cathedrale de Chartres
All we know about the creator of Chartres is that by outlining some entirely new principles he inspired all distinguished architects for years to follow. The soaring spires, the glowing 12th- and 13th-century stained-glass windows, and the porches elaborately adorned with detail-faithful sculptures mark the high point of French Gothic art. The cathedral seems all the more impressive since it miraculously survived a fire in 1134 that destroyed much of the town. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major pilgrimage destination, Chartres is a masterpiece of architecture and a true spectacle of detail.
Versailles Palace (Chateau de Versailles)Photo by Panoramas
Having access to grand pieces of fine art on a daily basis must be entirely rewarding, but living in one is a totally different affair. Louis XIV certainly knew what he was doing when he moved to the court of Versailles in 1682. Today the gilded royal apartments, the breathtaking Hall of Mirrors, the intimate cabinets, and the dazzling enfilade of other rooms - all of them masterpieces in their own right - as well as the meticulously manicured garden straight from a fairy-tale make for not only an awe-inspiring symbol of absolute monarchy, but also the finest example of artistic creation, and one of France's foremost tourist attractions. To double the impact, ask your guide to tell you about the complex court etiquette.
6.Le Val de Loire (The Loire Valley)Photo by Panoramas
The twisting Loire cuts through the landscape of rolling hills and rocky protrusions to provide a soothing spectacle of nature, and set stage for a stupefying fit of architecture. This fabulous land of vineyards and blooming flowers has both river banks dotted with more than a thousand of unbelievably elaborate chateaus, and as you follow the 280 kilometer long route from Sully-sur-Loire in the Loiret to Chalonnes-sur-Loire in Anjou, you can't help but agree the valley deserved its UNESCO recognition. Stretches of scenic beauty enhanced with an immense doze of history.
Musee d'OrsayPhoto by gillesklein
If the Louvre is the most splendid museum in France, then the Musee d'Orsay is right behind. Housed in the former railway station on the left bank of the Seine, it holds mainly paintings and sculptures by French artists, all of great merit and stunning sensitivity to detail. And much as the entire space is definitely worth perusing, the museum is perhaps best known for its extensive assortment of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces. Nowhere else in the world can you take in the genius of Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, and Monet displayed under one roof. It doesn't take expertise in the fine arts to fall in love with this place.
Cathedrale Notre-Dame de ReimsPhoto by Chi King
A runner-up in Europe, after Chartres, in terms of bedazzling sculpted ornamentation, the former coronation site is an outstanding blend of royal history and architectural artistry. The Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Rheims displays the perfect synthesis of Gothic elements distinguished by remarkable unity, harmony, and balance. The subtle contrast in adornment between conspicuous realism and rigidly formal classicism may not be noticed by a lay eye, but the overall grandness will definitely make a lasting impression. Together with the 9th-century Abbey of Saint Remi and the Tau Palace, the RheimsCathedral has been drawn on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Arenes de NimesPhoto by Wolfgang Staudt
By far the best preserved Roman amphitheater in the world, the arena has been dominating the city of Nîmes for nearly 2,000 years, bearing a testament to the genius of Roman engineers. It is down to the enviable degree of perfection they achieved that we can today enjoy numerous contemporary events, from two annual bullfights to congresses and popular concerts, in so venerable a setting. Most importantly, the amphitheater rests in the close vicinity of Orange and the Pont du Gard. What of feast of antiquity!
Notre Dame Cathedral (Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris)Photo by Serge Melki
Victor Hugo's novel and the hugely touching characterization of the hunchback, Quasimodo, has served the cathedral's popularity well, but no attention seeking was necessary at all. No measure was spared in conceiving of a church that would reflect the capital's prestige, and the result proved to be incredible. The lofty archways, rose windows of stained glass, ornate spires, ribbed vaults, flying buttresses, and the indispensable Gargoyles all constitute the essence of Gothic at its most exquisite. A witness to historic events, an inspiration for artists, and a major landmark, Notre Dame de Paris deserves a place in anyone's itinerary.RATE IT
Arc de TriomphePhoto by David G...
Evidently under the spell of the ancient Roman architecture, Napoleon I commissioned Jean Chalgrin to design a triumphal arch dedicated to the glory of the imperial armies. The world's largest monument of this kind, today it links old and new Paris, forming a backdrop for the precious urban ensemble. The impressive sculptural reliefs adorning the pillars epitomize French artistic sensitivity, and the names of 558 generals as well as major victories engraved all over the arch symbolize the pride all Frenchmen take in their military history. Underneath, the arch shelters the tomb of France's Unknown Soldier, and the panoramic terrace that it carries on top offers a fine panorama of Paris. Some bash it for being nested in the middle of traffic hustle and bustle, but the fact remains that the Arc de Triomphe is one of the most eagerly visited sites in France.
Centre PompidouPhoto by Jaz8085
Centre George Pompidou perfectly epitomizes all those cases when the very building competes for supremacy with its contents. Named after a former President of France and completed between 1971 and 1977, the center is truly a weird construction. Representing hi-tech architecture, it's a skeleton of shapes, colors, cables, boxes, and tubes, as if the designer wanted to turn a complex machine inside out. The composition provides distinctive home for a public library, the Bibliothèque publique d'information, the Musée National d'Art Moderne, and a centre for music and acoustic research (IRCAM). Most importantly, the center succeeds in thriving as a space with ordinary people at the heart of art and culture. Surrounded by artistic creation, the public feels at home, rather than at a cold gallery that stands aloof over the society.
Moulin RougePhoto by stevehdc
Toulouse-Lautrec adored Moulin Rouge, and he certainly had good reasons to do so. Located in the vicinity of Montmartre in the Paris red-light district of Pigalle, the cabaret was a hotbed of brash entertainment, and the lithe, long-legged dancers had a special appeal to the crippled painter. Today, thousands of tourists take obligatory pictures under the replica of the original red windmill, but the real attraction only comes with the evening performance of cancan. Lively and seductive, the dance is a spectacle of whirling costumes, slender legs, sexy loungerie, and outstanding technique. You'll have to loosen the purse strings a bit to enjoy the show, but it's still not much for a trip to turn-of-the-century France and its unbridled romance hoovering in clouds of cigar smoke.
La Valle de Chamonix (The Chamonix Valley)Photo by ti lapin tom
Backdropped by the monumental wall of Mt Blanc, the Chamonix valley is a year-round paradise not only for enthusiasts of outdoor sports, but for anyone who appreciates a speck of history wrapped in heart-melting vistas. Lifts transport visitors into the heart of the massif, endless trails unveil indescribable panoramas, mountain torrents challenge rafters, and cozy hotels warm up frozen limbs. Add to it an exploding calendar of events in downtown and you have a comprehensive holiday multi-pack. Unforgettable fun guaranteed.
Pèlerinage de Lourdes (The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes)Photo by http2007
The news spread fast that Our Lady of Lourdes had appeared to Bernadette Soubirous several times, and a tranquil market town nested in the foothills of the Pyrenees turned into a major pilgrimage destination, which today is believed to have the second greatest number of hotels in France after Paris. Every year millions of Christians flock to the Sanctuary, whose most sacred site is the Cave of Apparitions. Devout or not, you will be moved on seeing people engrossed in reverence, immersing themselves in the allegedly healing waters of the grotto's 17 pools, and leaving petitions in a handicraft box. A touching experience.
Pont du GardPhoto by zak mc
2000 years ago over 1000 people spent 5 strenuous years constructing the Pont du Gard - a spectacular compilation of stones weighing up to 6 tons. Constructed entirely without the use of mortar, which makes it even more impressive, it was part of a nearly 50 km aqueduct designed to carry water through the Gardon River valley to the Roman city of Nemausus (Nîmes). Yet for some reason, from the 4th century onwards its maintenance was neglected, and although it soon fell into complete oblivion, thousands flock today to marvel at what is considered one of the most outstanding pieces of the Roman legacy. With plenty to do around, including an awesome swim, the site is a major highlight of a stay in France.
Lascaux IIPhoto by JackVersloot
A little oak forest south of Montignac, France. Four boys are desperately trying to rescue their dog trapped in a cave, the depth of which it's hard to tell. As they lower one another into the darkness, little do they realize that the trusty companion has lead them to make a groundbreaking discovery.What the children accidentally discovered in 1940 was a system of Paleolithic caves with over 1500 well-preserved paintings and engravings of wild animals. Believed to have been a sanctuary for the performance of sacred rites, and estimated with to date back some 17,000 years, the finding sheds light on the dawn of European art and provided further information on the nature of the early Homo Erectus. Immediately made accessible to visitors, the artworks quickly started to fade, and the Ministry of Cultural Affairs took the dramatic decision to close the caves to the public. To compensate for the major loss, a detailed replica was created in 1980, and Lascaux II opens a door into the past for anyone who's willing to follow the footsteps of their early, talented forefathers.
Carcassonne Medieval CityPhoto by Wy@rt
To be precise, there are two Carcassonnes: the famous walled City (Cité) and the adjacent town spreading at its foot (ville basse). A visit to the fortified settlement is a true step back in time. Its narrow cobblestoned streets, medieval buildings, and little squares filled with atmospheric restaurants make for a unique experience you're going to love no matter if you dig castles or not. During the day it's obviously going to be flash-flooded with tourists, but it gets enchanting and quiet towards the late evening, and who knows, perhaps you'll feel like staying overnight. Not a budget option, but well worth it.
Theatre Antique d'OrangePhoto by http2007
Orange is an ordinary town devoid of that touristy luster you expect to find in a place of this significance. Agricultural in its heart, the modest setting doubles the aesthetic impact of the ancient heritage it unveils to visitors. Orange is home to one of the most complete and best preserved Roman theaters in the world, if not the superior one. Built early in the first century AD, it displays such distinct features that one almost feels it's part of extremely well-staged contemporary mystification. Not to be missed, especially in summer when it becomes a venue for the annual opera festival, the Chorégies d'Orange.
Oradour-sur-Glane old town10 June 1944, in retaliation for the sabotage attacks by the French Resistance, the idyllic village of Oradour-sur-Glane was razed to the ground and 642 innocent residents massacred by Waffen-SS soldiers. A new settlement was built post-war but the ruins of the martyred village have been preserved to bear silent witness to the atrocities of war, to serve as a startling reminder of barbarity, to commemorate the dead and ensure that nobody forgets. Each entrance to the ruins bears a notice that say "Remember", and having seen the crumbling walls, wrecked cars, and abandoned houses, you'll be haunted by this image for a long time.
Route des vins d'AlsaceStretching from Marlenheim to Thann, winding through endless terraced vineyards and flower-decked adorable villages, passing medieval castles and myriad free degustation spots, Alsace's Wine Route cannot be missed on any account. The region may be in less spotlight than Bordeaux or Burgundy, but it boasts two millenniums of agitated vinification history, and attracts rapidly growing tourist attention, enchanting visitors with both the quality of its flag product and the settings in which it is born, then matures, and is finally sent away to conquer the world's restaurants and the taste buds of wine connoisseurs. Lots of special taste and appeal.
Disneyland Park ParisPhoto by samlavi
A paradise for kids and an opportunity for adults to be kids again, Disneyland Resort Paris is the second one to open outside the United States. As you enter the "Happiest Place on Earth, you are immediately possessed with the magic you so happily yielded to years ago. Scream, chant your favorite Disney songs, and shuttle between Captain Hook's Pirate Ship and Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Two theme parks, a retail, dining and entertainment district, and seven Disney-owned hotels provide for so much fun that even the most die-hard grouches can laugh their head off and have their hearts melted.
Champagne Route (Route Touristique du Champagne)Photo by Tavallai
Celebrated around the world for the sparkling wines, the Champagne region has more highlights than just the fizzy beverage. It's a picturesque oasis of tranquility, pristine beauty, and fine historical heritage sprawled over five wine producing districts with the commercial centers in the towns of Reims and Épernay. The very Champagne Route meanders through the region's diverse vineyards, adorable villages, and elegant champagne houses whose owners await the visitor to be able to share their passion. If you try hard, an obligatory glass of champagne may be followed by a candlelit dinner in a cellar ... and yet another glass.
St Tropez beaches (Plages de St Tropez)Photo by jezpahjoy
Famous for Brigitte Bardot and the clumsy gendarme, this sparkling pearl of Cote d'Azur is able to cast a spell on everyone from history buffs to cinema aficionados. But it is beach bums, including the red carpet crème de la crème, that will have the time of their life in St Tropez. With the choice of locations ranging from the rather family-oriented La Bouillabaisse and the secluded Plage de la Briande to the trendy Plage de Pampelonne, celebrity-ridden Plage de Tahiti and the naturist Les Salins everyone will find their sun-kissed niche along the brilliant coast of St Tropez Bay.
Aquarium La RochellePhoto by zemoko
La Rochelle is an ocean packed into just two floors. From the dancing jellyfish and dazzling Mediterranean coral to zooming shoals of piranhas and the king of the depths - the shark, the riches contained in all those tanks are so well displayed that visitors gaze at the species as if hypnotized and move on reluctantly as if their noses were glued to the glass. Millions of cubic liters of water, a comprehensive collection of all oceanic biosphere representatives, and an interactive display informing about potential perils to the underwater realm make for a day of awe, discovery and aesthetic impressions.