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Things to do in France

Must-see France sights

Romantic, beautiful, delicious - France is a bit of everything. From the lights of Paris to white slopes in the Alps, France suits all types of travellers with each region feeling and looking so different from the next.

  1. Explore twinkling Paris
  2. See glorious Mont St-Michel
  3. Visit fairy-tale Carcassonne
  4. Ski in the Alps
  5. Trundle through Aix-en-Provence
  6. Enjoy Corsican beach life
  7. Indulge in tasty French cheese

France is one of Europe’s most stylish and dynamic countries. The largest country in Western Europe, it offers a variety of cultural and geographical experiences unmatched across the continent. One day could see you browsing a food market in the south of France, while the next you could be soaking up art in the Louvre. What’s not to like?

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1. Explore twinkling Paris

If you’re looking for what to do in France, visiting Paris is a must. All the clichés about it are true - stylish, romantic, glamorous and compelling - yet it retains surprises that continue to delight even the most seasoned visitors. The landscape of the city changes as you cross from quartier to quartier, and each area has a distinct style and atmosphere - from historic St-Germain and the genteel Luxembourg Gardens to the vibrant Marais, abuzz with bars and cafés, and the steep cobbled streets of Montmartre. The best way to explore it is on foot - or do as the locals do and rent a bike. Of course, it goes without saying that the café, bar and restaurant scene here is among the best in Europe.

Best for: A perfect introduction to France

While you’re there: The iconic Eiffel Tower is a must-see. Don’t miss the impressive Louvre, too.

2. See glorious Mont St-Michel

Second to the Eiffel Tower as France’s best-loved landmark, the merveille makes a magnificent spectacle atop the sea-girt islet of Mont St-Michel. The stupendous abbey of Mont St-Michel was first erected on an island at the very frontier of Normandy and Brittany more than a millennium ago. The island of Mont St-Michel is almost entirely covered by medieval stone structures, encircled by defensive walls. Once through the King’s Gate, you find yourself on the narrow Grande Rue, which spirals upwards, passing top-heavy gabled houses amid the jumble of souvenir shops and restaurants. Amazingly enough, less than a third of all visitors climb up to the abbey itself at the summit. Large crowds gather each day at the North Tower to watch the tide sweep in across the bay.

Best for: One of France’s most-loved landmarks

While you’re there: For another must-see attraction, don’t miss the majestic churches in the Loire Valley.

3. Visit fairy-tale Carcassonne

Carcassonne is one of the most dramatic, if also most-visited, towns in the whole of the Languedoc region. Everybody comes to Carcassonne to see the Cité, the double-walled and turreted fortress that crowns the hill above the River Aude. From a distance it’s the epitome of the fairy-tale medieval town with its towering Count's Castle and St-Nazaire Church. Make sure to visit on Bastille Day (July 14) when there is a mammoth fireworks display.

Best for: Fairytale medieval architecture

While you’re there: A top summertime event is the Carcassonne Festival from late June to mid-August, featuring world-class and music.

4. Ski in the Alps

With their long and varied runs, extensive lift networks, and superb après-ski, the French Alps offer some of the best skiing in the world. The facilities here are incredibly efficient. There are an abundance of hotels, equipment outlets and ski schools. At many hotels you can simply clip your skis on at the door and be zipping on some of the most challenging pistes on earth within minutes. Skiing is one the most exciting things to do in France for sure.

Best for: Winter sports

While you’re there: Note that cross-country or nordic skiing has become increasingly popular on gentler slopes, particularly around Morzine.

5. Trundle through Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence is immediately attractive. The tangle of medieval lanes at the city’s heart, known as Vieil Aix (Old Aix), is a great monument in its entirety, an enchanting ensemble that’s far more compelling than any individual building or museum it contains. With so many streets alive with people; so many tempting restaurants, cafés and shops; a fountained square to rest in every few minutes; and a backdrop of architectural treats from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it’s easy to while away days enjoying its pleasures. On Saturdays, and to a lesser extent Tuesdays and Thursdays, the centre is taken up with some of the finest markets in Provence. Searching for France holidays? We recommend staying at Loft 52 Hotel for a cosy stay.

Best for: The prettiest place in France

While you’re there: Lavender fields are rife here, and so are lavender souvenirs such as soaps and infused honey.

6. Enjoy Corsican beach life

More than six million people visit Corsica each year, drawn by the mild climate and some of the most diverse landscapes in all of Europe. Nowhere in the Mediterranean has beaches finer than the island’s perfect half-moon bays of white sand and transparent water, or seascapes more dramatic than the red porphyry Calanches of the west coast. The Saleccia Beach is a firm favourite with its soft white shell sand and clear water. Even though the annual visitor influx now exceeds the island’s population nearly twenty times over, tourism hasn’t spoilt the place: there are a few resorts, but overdevelopment is rare and high-rise blocks are confined to the main towns.

Best for: Beaches

While you’re there: Make the most of the food Corsica - think chestnut fritters and red mullet.

7. Indulge in tasty French cheese

Charles de Gaulle famously commented “How can you govern a country that has 246 kinds of cheese?” For serious cheese-lovers, France is the ultimate paradise. No country offers a range that comes anywhere near other places in terms of sheer inventiveness. In fact, there are officially over 350 types of French cheese, and the methods used to make them are jealously guarded secrets. Head to Chez Virginie in Paris for your cheese fix. It’s been there since 1900.

Best for: Cheese fans

While you’re there: Note that the best, or most traditional, restaurants offer a well-stocked plateau de fromages (cheeseboard).

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