- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
From the boulevards of Paris to the fashionable seaside resorts of the Côte d'Azur, France offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. France delights romantics with fairy-tale castles, soaring cathedrals, and picture-perfect villages, yet still impresses realists with its progressive, contemporary style. Begin with the Eiffel Tower, the modern emblem of France. Then discover famous masterpieces of art at the Louvre Museum. Spend a day pretending to be royalty at the elegant Palace of Versailles. Save time for leisurely gourmet meals; traditional French gastronomy has been inscribed on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Each region has its own distinctive cuisine and culture. Quaint fishing villages of Brittany specialize in crêpes and seafood, while cozy chalets in the French Alps serve hearty cheese fondue with charcuterie. Indulge in it all and savor the irresistible charm of France.
e Eiffel Tower is the symbol of Paris and one of the top tourist attractions in France. The tower was built by Gustave Eiffel as the entrance arch for the International Exhibition of Paris of 1889. At 324 meters (1,063 feet) tall, it is still the highest building in Paris, offering stunning vistas of the city below. Since its construction more than 200,000,000 people have visited the Eiffel Tower making it the most visited paid tourist attraction in the world.
Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles is frequently associated with Marie Antoinette, the French queen who was beheaded during the French Revolution. The royal palace started out as a hunting lodge in 1624 and became more ornate over the years. Located outside of Paris, Versailles is known for the Hall of Mirrors and beautiful gardens.
Mont Saint Michel is a small tidal island located just off the coast of Normandy. A spectacular and well-preserved Norman Benedictine Abbey of St Michel stands at the peak of the rocky island, surrounded by the winding streets and convoluted architecture of the medieval town. A causeway connects the mainland with the island.
Chateau de Chambord
The château to end all châteaux, the Chateau de Chambord is a masterpiece of the French Renaissance. Construction of the Chateau de Chambord started in 1519 by King François I so he could hunt in the nearby forests. The cold and massive 440 rooms of the Château made it unpopular as an actual residence and François I himself stayed here for less than 40 days in total.
Palais des Papes
The star attraction of Avignon, the Palais des Papes is one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. This is the palace where the Popes of Avignon ruled, during a period when the Papacy was divided, with a Pope in Rome and another in Avignon. The 3 meter (10 feet) thick walls, portcullises and watchtowers emphasize the castle-like look of the palace.
The awesome spectacle of Mont Blanc in the French Alps is an unforgettable sight. The highest mountain peak in Europe, Mont Blanc forms part of the French border with Italy. Mont Blanc, "White Mountain," soars to 4,810 meters, so high that it's always blanketed in snow. Beneath its heavenly peak is the traditional alpine village of Chamonix, nestled in a high-mountain valley. This quaint little town is filled with historic churches, cozy chalet restaurants, and charming auberges. Chamonix is a great base for skiing, hiking, rock climbing, and outdoor adventures, or just relaxing.
Loire Valley Châteaux
raveling through the Loire Valley feels like turning the pages of a children's storybook. Throughout the enchanting countryside of woodlands and river valleys are fairy-tale castles complete with moats and turreted towers. The entire area of the Loire Valley, a lush area known as the "Garden of France," is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of the Loire castles are medieval fortresses built on hilltops and surrounded by ramparts.
The most fashionable stretch of coastline in France, the Côte d'Azur is synonymous with glamour. The Côte d'Azur translates to "Coast of Blue," named after the mesmerizing deep blue color of the Mediterranean Sea. Also known as the French Riviera, the Côte d'Azur extends from Saint-Tropez to Menton near the border with Italy. During summer, the seaside resorts are packed with beach lovers and sun-worshippers. The rich and famous are also found here in their lavish villas and luxury yachts. The town of Nice has panoramic sea views and stellar art museums.
In the former royal palace of French Kings, the Louvre is an incomparable museum that ranks among the top European collections of fine arts. Many of Western Civilization's most famous works are found here including the Mona Lisa by Leonardo DaVinci, the Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese, and the 1st-century-BC Venus de Milo sculpture. The collection owes its wealth to the contributions of various kings who lived in the Louvre. Other pieces were added as a result of France's treaties with the Vatican and the Republic of Venice, and from the spoils of Napoléon I. The Louvre has an astounding collection of 30,000 artworks, including countless masterpieces. It's impossible to see it all in a day or even in a week. Focus on a shortlist of key artworks for the most rewarding experience.