Indulge your senses with fine flavours and beautiful scenery on a trip to France.
You’ll need time to really experience France, but for a taste of the place, pack your walking shoes and a sense of adventure. For art and culture, throw yourself into Paris to soak up its sights and sounds, or if you’re looking for something more relaxed, head to the French Riviera and the idyllic Cote d’Azur for striking landscapes and some gentle meandering.
Explore the cities
The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe… Paris is packed with big sites. But, once you’ve ticked all the must-sees off your list, you may be tempted to take a stroll around the city to simply take in the atmosphere — have a leisurely coffee at a cute café, enjoy some street food (gourmet food trucks are gaining popularity), pop into a pretty boutique. There are also a number of green spaces in the city well worth a walk around. Le Jardin des Plantes is a public garden with an impressive alley of plane trees, while Le Jardin d’Acclimatation is the country’s first amusement and leisure park that was designed to preserve its 19th-century heritage. And of course, if you’re into fashion, design, food, and art, you’ll easily customise your explorations to get your fix — begin with the world-famous Champs Élysées, then wander down side streets to find gems of your own.
Beyond the capital, visitors to France are often drawn to Nice, where the French Riviera attracts anyone looking for a little glamour and beauty. Nice’s Old Town is a colourful area packed with narrow streets, galleries, eateries and shops. Around half an hour along the coast from Nice is Èze, a medieval village located on some cliffs above the sea. With its alleyways and beautiful Mediterranean views, the little town is a great spot for walking.
Once you’ve soaked up the cities, you’ll find plenty of beautiful spaces to enjoy the outdoors. With a choice of the Alps and the Pyrenees, there are a number of options for mountain biking and hiking if you’re feeling energetic. For something truly memorable, consider a road trip around Provence.
The region borders Italy and the Mediterranean Sea and is well-loved for its scenery. In fact, Provence is famous for attracting artists like Rénoir, Chagall, Cézanne and Picasso for its natural beauty. If you want to spend a few days simply exploring, Provence and the Cote d’Azur are ideal — take the back roads and enjoy the diverse landscape, from lavender fields to mountain passes, and Mediterranean beaches.
A barging trip is also a great way to see the countryside and some lesser-known villages. France has a network of waterways, and there are a number of companies that offer barge cruises on canals and rivers all over the country.
Explore the historic canals near Paris, or opt for something more remote, like the canals that wind through the pretty Brittany landscape; or the Aquitaine region in the south-west.
Barging in France:
Phone Le Boat on 021 200 1825 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Treat your tastebuds
French food is known the world over, and you’ll certainly want to try some of the indulgent classics. But, don’t miss out on some of the country’s simpler pleasures while you stroll the streets — a freshly baked baguette, a warm croque-monsieur, and a buttery croissant from a local boulangerie are musts.
If you’re interested in some fine dining, you’ll be pleased to know that France is said to have more Michelin stars than any other country in the world, and Paris alone holds 70 of them. Plaza Athénée is one such Michelin-boasting spot and serves locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, including sustainable fish, rediscovered grains, and vegetables grown at the Château de Versailles — expect beautifully crafted, healthy dishes like octopus, green cabbage and truffle stew; and Atlantic sea bream with green asparagus, salicornia, and roasted pistachio nuts.
If you find yourself in the bohemian district of Port Nice, try JAN — the fine dining restaurant is headed by South African chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen. Guests can enjoy tasting menus inspired by South African favourites combined with French techniques and fresh Mediterranean produce.
For the sweet tooth, France’s many patisseries will look like heaven with their rows of pastel-shaded macrons, chocolate éclairs, tarts and pretty pastries. Some of the most loved spots in Paris include Ladurée, which is famous for its double-decker macrons; Stohrer, known for its puits dámour, little round cakes filled with jam or caramelised cream and sprinkled with sugar; and Angelina, a tea house with a gorgeous gold and white interior.
Whatever the weather or time of year France and all its wonderful cities make for an unforgettable must-do holiday.