Trips to France are always special, regardless of which part of the country you’re visiting. Whether you’re heading to Paris for a few days or planning a road trip along the country’s southern coast, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to landmarks and tourist attractions.
The best things to do in France range from partying in Saint Tropez to hiking in the footsteps of 18th-century customs officers for 2,000 kilometers. And there’s a myriad of things to do in between, including castles, art museums, volcanoes, and, of course, landmarks in Paris.
No matter where you choose to stay or which places you decide to visit, you’ll always have access to some of the best food and wines in the world. It’s the country that produced the Michelin Guide, one of the most relevant authorities in the restaurant and travel industry.
From the stunning Mont St. Michel in Normandy to the beaches of Côte d’Azur, here are all the best things to do in France!
For a first-time visit to France, it’s best to stay in Paris. Focus on the top sights of the capital, which are numerous and spectacular, and make as many day trips as you can during your stay.
Versailles, Bourges, Champagne, and even Normandy are all relatively close to Paris and can be visited on day trips either by car or public transport.
Best of France Quick Guide
- Must See: The Louvre, Palace of Versailles, Bourges Cathedral, Chateau de Chambord
- Where To Stay: Alcôve Hôtel (Nice), Hôtel La Maison Champs Elysées (Paris), Hôtel Mont-Blanc (Chamonix)
- Fun To Do: Dune of Pilat, House and Gardens of Claude Monet, Skiing in Chamonix, Mont Saint Michel
- Day Trips: Bordeaux, French Riviera, Nimes
- Must Try Foods: Coq au Vin, Ratatouille, Crepes, Pain au Chocolat
Best Things To Do In France
With big cities, stunning beaches, and countless hiking trails, there’s plenty to do in the country for everyone. Want to spend your trip lounging on the beach and sipping cocktails? Head to the French Riviera in southern France for the most magical experience.
Do you prefer hiking and outdoor adventure? That shouldn’t be a problem, considering that nearly a third of France is a forest with too many trails to count. You can even climb to the top of a volcano and stay in a village at the foot of the highest summit in the Alps. And for short city breaks, there’s hardly a better destination in Europe than Paris, the city of lights and love.
1. Mont Saint Michel
Mont Saint Michel is a tiny island and commune in Normandy. The island is famous for two things – the Romanesque abbey at the center of the island and Europe’s highest tides. The island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, inscribed for its significance as a Catholic site.
This is one of the most famous landmarks in northern France, and it’s not to be missed by travelers in Normandy. I recommend combining a trip to Mont St. Michel with a visit to Jersey Island and its stunning castle with secret rooms.
Mont St. Michel is open from 9 AM until 6 PM. Tickets are 11€.
2. Visit The Louvre
The Louvre has managed to hold on to the title of the most visited museum in the world for several years. Millions of people queue in front of the glass pyramid for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the Mona Lisa in person.
What’s sad is that many people don’t get a good look at Da Vinci’s most famous work because of the massive crowd in front of it. Even in the off-season, the Louvre is insanely crowded, and getting the best spot in front of the iconic painting is virtually impossible.
But that’s okay because there are loads of other interesting artworks at the museum.
Venus de Millo, The Wedding at Cana, and The Coronation of Napoleon are some of the other iconic artworks at the Parisian museum, and the crowds in front of them are much smaller. Get the Paris museum pass.
Insider Tip: Head to Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and walk down the stairs to enter the Louvre without waiting in line for hours.
The Louvre is open daily from 9 AM until 6 PM except for Tuesdays. A standard ticket is 17€.
3. Drink Champagne in Champagne
It’s not champagne if it doesn’t come from the Champagne region of France, and this is the perfect opportunity to head straight to the source for the real deal. Champagne occupies the northeastern region of France and can be easily visited on day trips from Paris.
The Pressoria Champagne Museum is a treat for all five senses. It features a detailed exhibit on the history, production, and trends in champagne making, as well as tastings.
The Champagne region is home to countless wineries, which offer tours and tastings to visitors. By far the most popular one is Moët et Chandon, and other great wineries to visit are Champagne Taittinger, Leclerc Briant, and Paul-Etienne Saint Germain.
Tours of the Champagne region are organized from many places in France, but most depart from Paris.
4. Tour The House and Gardens of Claude Monet
The garden of Monet’s house in Giverny is what inspired his iconic Water Lillies painting. A visit to the artist’s former house is an absolute must for all art lovers in France.
Set in Giverny, just an hour and a half outside Paris, Monet’s house is one of the best day trips from the capital. The home is decorated with period furniture, and the walls are covered with paintings from floor to ceiling.
The Garden is so expansive that a map is provided to visitors to help them get around. Walking around it is an adventure in itself and my favorite thing about the entire place. We already know just how much it inspired Monet, and just imagine what it could do for your creativity.
Monet’s House and Garden are open from 9:30 AM to 6 PM from late March until the 1st of November. Tickets are 13€.
5. See The Dune of Pilat
Set in the Arcachon Bay area of France, the Dune of Pilat is Europe’s tallest dune. It’s like a mini-desert and a stunning natural landmark anyone should visit. My favorite thing about the Dune of Pilat is that it’s not extremely famous, so it’s rarely as crowded as some of the other popular destinations in France.
The dune is 100-115 meters tall, depending on the wind. It takes about 10-20 minutes to climb to the top of the dune from the car park, depending on your physical fitness. Walking the ridge offers a splendid view of the ocean.
Insider Tip: Kick off your shoes and feel the sand between your toes because climbing the dune is the easiest when you’re barefoot.
The Dune of Pilat is free of charge and accessible by car and public transport from Bordeaux.
6. Kayaking in the Verdon Gorge
Verdon Gorge is one of the most stunning natural landmarks in France and a top destination for hiking, climbing, and water fun. It’s dubbed the “Grand Canyon of France” and offers a wide variety of attractions and many ways to discover its natural beauty.
It’s even possible to drive to the top of the highest cliffs in the gorge and discover some breathtaking panoramic vistas. Travelers on foot can have fun kayaking, climbing the cliffs, hiking through the gorge, and even paragliding. You could easily spend several days here having fun and discovering the best of France’s nature.
Verdon Gorge is most easily accessible by car, but public transport is available to the site.
7. Tour The Palace Of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles is one of the most famous landmarks in the country. The 18th-century palace is known for its gilded apartments, fountain show, and the Hall of Mirrors. It’s a big reason why so many travelers choose to stay in the Versailles commune, which is just 45 minutes outside Paris by public transport.
A proper tour of the Palace of Versailles will take an entire day. With more than 2,300 rooms throughout the palace, it’s easy to spend hours roaming around the property and marveling at the opulent decor.
Palace of Versailles is open from 9 AM until 5:30 PM. Tickets are 19.5€. Buy tickets online for guaranteed admission during busy times.
8. Go Skiing At Chamonix
Situated on France’s border with Switzerland and Italy, Chamonix is one of the best destinations for skiing in the country. With five ski resorts in the Swiss, Italian, and French Alps and access to World Cup pistes, Chamonix is by far the best place in France for an active winter vacation.
Chamonix lies at the foot of Mont Blanc, the highest summit of the Alps. Cable cars from the town transport passengers to the mountain slopes for easy access to France’s best pistes. Chamonix is also great for hiking, Alpine climbing, mountain biking, and virtually anything else you can do in the mountains.
The closest airport to Chamonix is the Geneva International Airport, just 2 hours outside the town by train.
9. Stand At The Top Of The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is one of the most famous landmarks on the planet, so naturally, it’s on the list of the best things to do in France. Climb to the top of the iconic tower to experience a spectacular view of Parisian rooftops and feel like you’re on top of the world.
It’s a must if you’re in Paris unless you’re afraid of heights. The Eiffel Tower is a busy landmark, but the queue to climb it isn’t nearly as long as expected. Most visitors hang out at Champ de Mars, the sprawling park at the foot of the landmark, and just enjoy the views from there.
For stunning photographs of the famous Parisian tower, head to Rue de l’Université. The charming alley offers an uninterrupted view of the tower, and it’s never as busy as the park.
Insider Tip: It’s always windy on the tower’s top floor, so bring a jacket.
Tickets for the Eiffel Tower are from 11.3€ to 28.30€. It is open for visits from 9:30 AM until midnight.
10. Learn About Perfume History at Grasse
Situated in the hills above Cannes, Grasse is a town on Côte d’Azur famous for its perfume industry. The town is home to the International Perfume Museum, which houses a fascinating exhibit on the art of perfume-making over the ages.
It’s fasting to see all the different tools used for perfume-making throughout history, as well as how the containers have evolved. The museum even includes a few samples to smell, which are mostly staple ingredients used for manufacturing perfumes.
Grasse is easily accessible by train rides from Cannes and other cities on the French Riviera. The Perfume Museum is open every day from 10 AM to 6 PM, and tickets are 6€.
11. Discover French Cuisine
French cuisine is one of the most influential in the world. It has shaped the way many professional kitchens operate and produced the world’s leading restaurant guide. Michelin stars have become synonymous with fine dining and excellence, and France is entirely responsible for that.
A culinary tour of the best French dishes is in order for anyone traveling in the country. Personal favorites include French onion soup, Coq au Vin, Ratatouille, and Quiche Lorraine. Some dishes are skippable, and I’d rather chew on Michelin tires than try escargot.
For dessert, I can always go for some crepes, macarons, profiterole, or pain au chocolat. I’m getting ravenous just thinking about the delicious flaky pastries stuffed with hot, melted chocolate. BRB.
The Michelin guide recommends Kei (Paris), AM par Alexandre Mazzia (Marseilles), and La Vague d’Or – Cheval Blanc (Saint Tropez) as some of the best fine dining restaurants in the country.
12. Roman Ruins at Nimes
Set in the Occitanie region of southern France, Nimes is one of the best cities for history and architecture. Once upon a time, it served as an important outpost of the Roman Empire, and it’s got the Roman Ruins to prove it.
The double-tiered Amphitheatre of Nîmes is one of the top sights in town. Ancient Roman towers, churches, and city gates are also scattered throughout the city, and a classic walking tour of Nimes will allow you to discover all of its best landmarks.
If you’re already in Nimes, you must visit Pont du Gard. The spectacular aqueduct bridge dates back to the 1st century AD, only half an hour outside Nimes.
Nimes is situated in southern France, an hour and a half outside Marseilles.
13. Tour Château de Chenonceau
Situated on the River Cher, Château de Chenonceau is a mesmerizing French castle from the 16th century. The medieval castle is a fabulous example of Late Gothic and Early Renaissance architectural styles.
Château de Chenonceau also redefines the castle moat, as the entire building spans the River Cher. On the northern river bank are the sprawling castle gardens with a maze, and a fine-dining restaurant.
The most famous attraction at the stunning castle is the collection of the Old Masters paintings. Artworks by Rubens, Van Dyck, Tintoretto, and others adorn the walls of the chateau.
Château de Chenonceau is open for tours every day from 9:30 AM until 5:30 PM. Tickets are 15.5€.
14. Visit the Bourges Cathedral
Situated in the heart of France, Bourges Cathedral is one of the country’s most famous religious buildings. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site inscribed for its remarkable Gothic architecture. The cathedral is also famous for housing the crypt of Jean de Berry.
Tours of the crypt are available every day, and they’re the highlight of visits to the cathedral. Don’t miss out on the interior of the church either; it is as extravagant as its High-Gothic exterior, with stunning stained glass windows, vaulted ceilings, and opulent chandeliers.
Bourges Cathedral is open every day from 9:30 AM until 11:30?AM and from 2 PM to 6 PM. The tickets are 6-12€.
15. Cruise the Canal du Midi
Stretching from Toulouse to Sète, Canal du Midi is one segment of the Canal des Deux Mers, which connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea. It boasts gorgeous nature, historic towns, and a rich history, which are best discovered by the canal’s cycling trails or on the river.
Canal du Midi accounts for 80% of all river tourism in France. It offers visitors the opportunity to stay in hotel barges and dine in restaurant boats for a unique way of experiencing France. Water sports are also common in the area, and in addition to cycling, Canal du Midi is also popular for rowing, kayaking, canoeing, and more.
Cycling trails following Canal du Midi are accessible whenever free of charge. Summer is the busy season, and most restaurants and hotels are closed for maintenance in the winter.
16. Hike to a Volcano Summit
Auvergne region of France is rural, mountainous, and home to around 80 dormant volcanoes. The tallest is Puy de Dôme, which is easily accessible by hiking trails. Two paths lead to the top of the volcano, and both are so easy, even for inexperienced hikers.
The summit offers spectacular views of the region’s landscapes. There’s even a restaurant here where you can get something to eat, but it’s pricey. Camping is allowed in the area and is a great way to discover the stunning scenery of Auvergne.
Insider Tip: Bring a windproof jacket because it is very windy at the summit.
Puy de Dome summit is accessible by trains and walking paths. The trail up the volcano is easy and we recommend hiking to save money and have fun.
17. Lounge on the Beaches of Corsica
A boat trip from Nice or Marseilles will take you to Corsica, the stunning French island in the Mediterranean Sea. Known for its crystal clear turquoise sea and vast sandy beaches, Corsica is a very popular destination for relaxed summer vacations.
What’s great about the island is that it appeals to anyone. Whether you’re looking to stay in a five-star resort or in a secluded bay where you can have an entire beach to yourself, Corsica delivers. The island boasts beautiful cities, a sprawling nature park, and tall mountains accessible by hiking trails.
Corsica is accessible by flights and boat trips from France and other countries.
18. Road Trip Along Côte d’Azur
The French Riviera, also known as Côte d’Azur, is the perfect excuse to rent a car in France. Drive from Nice to Montpellier for days, visiting every town you want on the coast. Cannes, Marseilles, and even Monaco are all excellent destinations on Côte d’Azur, but they’re certainly not the only ones.
This region of France is by far the best place in the country for seaside vacations. With countless resorts, endless sandy beaches, and azure blue sea, it’s a small slice of paradise you’ll never want to leave.
While the likes of Saint Tropez and Cannes are perpetually busy and crowded, plenty of smaller towns offer a more serene vibe.
The border of the French Riviera is not defined legally or officially. It encompasses the entire coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea.
19. Uncover Secret Rooms in Mont Orgueil Castle
Mont Orgueil Castle is a logistical nightmare to visit, and absolutely worth the hassle. It’s situated on Jersey, one of the Channel Islands, with ferry access from Granville and Saint-Malo. Also, the Channel Islands are technically not French soil but are most easily accessible from the northern coast of the country.
The castle offers sweeping views of the sea, with sandy beaches just minutes from the chateau entrance. But my favorite thing about this castle are its secret rooms, which feel like something out of an Agatha Christie novel.
The castle’s exhibit on witchcraft is also fascinating, as are all the different sculptures found inside its walls.
Mont Orgueil Castle is open every day from 10 AM to 4 PM. Tickets are £16.90.
20. Winter Wonderland at Alsace
Alsace is the region of France on the border with Switzerland and Germany. Strasbourg is the capital of the region, best known for its historic city center, Grande Île, which is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The architecture and atmosphere of the place are different from those in France’s bigger cities. They remind me more of the smaller towns in Switzerland and Germany, which is a direct result of Strasbourg’s position on the border.
This wonderful city is also home to the best Christmas markets in France, making it a top destination for a winter trip in the country.
Strasbourg in Alsace is most easily accessible by train from the Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg Airport.
21. Thermal Baths at Vichy
Situated in the heart of central France, Vichy is one of the best spa towns in France. Visit the town to relax in the thermal baths and reap all the benefits of the healing waters.
When you’re sufficiently relaxed, head into the old town of Vichy to see its eclectic architecture and Art Deco churches. Stroll down the riverfront promenade and enjoy the views of the Allier River, preferably at sunset for the most magical experience.
The airport in Lyon is the closest international airport to Vichy. Trains and buses can take you from Lyon to Vichy in about three hours.
22. Wine Tasting at Bordeaux
The Bordeaux region of France is internationally famous for producing some of the best (red) wines in the world. Tour the region’s best wineries, which offer insight into the production of the different Bordeaux wines, as well as endless tastings.
Cité du Vin is a museum dedicated to winemaking in Bordeaux, famous for its bizarre curved building. The high-tech exhibition offers insight into the production of wine, covering everything from the differences in the types of grapes to the purpose of the differently shaped wine glasses.
Cité du Vin Museum is open from 10 AM to 6 PM (7 PM on the weekends). Tickets are 22€ and include wine tastings.
23. Hike the GR34
The GR34 is a famous long-distance hiking trail in northwestern France. It stretches for more than 2,000 kilometers from Mont Saint Michel to Saint-Nazaire, following in the footsteps of the customs officers in the 18th century.
The hiking path traverses the entire coastline of Brittany, offering spectacular views of the sea the entire time. This is a trail suitable only for travelers with experience in long-distance hikes as it takes several months to complete.
Hiking a small segment of the long-distance trail is the best way to partake in the adventure, without actually setting out on a three-month-long adventure. Head to Crozon for untouched nature and some of the best views in western France.
GR34 is a long-distance hiking trail of more than 2,000 kilometers, which takes approximately 85 days to complete in its entirety. Segments of the trail are suitable for quick hiking day trips.
24. Party At Saint Tropez
Saint Tropez is internationally famous for its nightlife. With many excellent bars and clubs, it’s the best party town on the French Riviera. And if dancing all night long is something you’d like to do in France, there’s hardly a better destination than Saint Tropez.
The city is also famous for its vast beaches, many of which feature beach bars and beach clubs so the party never stops. For tanning, swimming, and partying, Saint Tropez is one of the best places in France.
Saint Tropez is situated on the French Riviera. The closest airport to the city is in Nice.
25. Visit Notre Dame Cathedral
Set on a tiny island in the River Seine, Notre Dame is undoubtedly the most famous religious building in France. The church has been famous for centuries and made even more so after the devastating fire in 2019, which destroyed most of the church’s roof.
The Notre Dame in Paris is best known for its stained glass windows, which are considered Gothic masterpieces. As one of the most famous landmarks in the French capital, it’s an attraction not to be missed by anyone in Paris.
The sad news is that Notre Dame has been closed to the public since the fires. But it should reopen in December of 2024 when the general public will again be able to see the mesmerizing interior of the cathedral and visit its observation decks.
Notre Dame is currently closed to the public. The entrance to the cathedral (before the fire) was 8€.
26. Château de Chambord
Château de Chambord is the most famous and important castle in France. It was inhabited by French kings and dukes, and it serves as the best example of French Renaissance architecture.
The history of the chateau is varied and tumultuous.
It was initially constructed as a hunting lodge in the mid-16th century by Francis I, King of France. During the French Revolution, furnishings from the castle were sold. It was abandoned for decades, and restoration wouldn’t happen until the 19th century.
Today, the chateau is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the Loire Valley. Visitors are fascinated by its architecture, opulent interior, and rich history, all of which make it a must-visit destination in France.
Château de Chambord is open daily from 9 AM until 5 PM. Full-priced tickets are 14.50€.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is France A Cheap Place To Visit?
France isn’t necessarily a cheap place to visit, but traveling to the country on a tighter budget is possible. Paris is the most expensive part of France; the other cities should have much more affordable hotels and restaurants.
What Is France Famous For?
France is famous for the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Mont Saint Michel, Notre Dame de Paris, and the Palace of Versailles. Champagne, Mont Blanc, and Côte d’Azur are also very famous French destinations.
What Are The Three Most Visited Places In France?
The three most visited destinations in France are Disneyland Paris, the Louvre Museum, and the Palace of Versailles. All three are situated either in Paris or close to the capital.
Why Is France A Fun Place To Visit?
France is fun to visit because of its incredible diversity. From sandy beaches to mesmerizing castles, the country offers something to everyone.
Tips And Information For Visiting France
Best Time To Visit
Any season is a good time to visit France, and the best time for your trip depends on how you want to spend your time in the country. For hiking and beach time, summer is the best season. But France has a mild climate, and the seaside is very fun in September as well, when the crowds are half as large as in July and August.
Winter is the best season for skiing in the French Alps and exploring the more popular tourist destinations when the crowds are smaller. Overall, there’s no bad time to travel to France, except for maybe strikes. Or protests.
Charles de Gaulle International Airport is the busiest airport in France, with the most direct flights to international cities. Chances are you’ll be landing at this airport just outside Paris and you can catch a train or a bus to central Paris.
Other major airports in France are Lyon Airport, Nice Airport, and Toulouse Airport. Lyon Airport serves central and eastern France, while the other two offer easy access to the French Riviera and the French Basque country. The airports in Basel and Geneva also offer easy connections to cities in eastern France.
Renting a car and driving around France is best for visiting as many destinations as possible. But if you can’t or don’t want to do so, trains will help you get around. High-speed trains that develop speeds of 300 km/h operate on some routes, so train travel is often faster than driving.
Buses operate on the routes without a train connection and they can take you to the more remote destinations. Taxis are also an opinion, although they are generally much more expensive than train and bus tickets.
For visits to islands off the coast of France, ferries are the usual mode of transport. And if you want to visit Corsica, you can do so by either plane or ferry.
How Much Time Do You Need
France can be done in a week or a month, depending on what you want to do in the country. For big-city trips, Paris is the ideal destination.
Anywhere from three days to a week can be enough for Paris, but I always recommend a longer stay so you can explore more and go on day trips. Five to seven days is enough for a Côte d’Azur road trip or a seaside/skiing vacation.
Where To Stay In France
Paris is one of the best places to stay in France. The capital has a lot to offer to tourists, and it’s centrally located for easy access to the best attractions in northern, central, and eastern France. For Côte d’Azur road trips and seaside vacations, any town between Nice and Marseilles is a good place to stay.
Stay in Chamonix if you’re traveling to France in the winter and want to go skiing or snowboarding. The resort offers easy access to the French Alps with some of the best ski pistes in the entire country. Here are some of the best hotels in France for all budgets:
Choose your base in France carefully, according to the attractions that are close by, especially if you don’t plan to rent a car. Trains aren’t always reliable and could impact your plans to travel around the region. Buses are slow, but that shouldn’t matter too much if all the attractions you want to see are close to where you’re staying.
Hopefully, this guide to the best things to do in France offers enough information to help you plan your ideal trip to the country.