FRANCE

WHY GO TO FRANCE?

France has anything and everything you could possibly want in a vacation. Amazing food? Check. You can feast on cheese, wine, baguettes, croissants and snails. Gorgeous beaches? Check. Don your swimsuit, fancy hat and stake out a spot in St. Tropez or Nice. Outdoor sports? Some of Europe’s best skiing, biking and hiking trails are located in the Alps. Scenic vineyards? Take your pick for touring Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne or Côtes du Rhone regions. Culture? Absolutely. Start with Paris’s extensive museums and the Versailles palace and explore from there.

See what it looks like: FRANCE PHOTO GALLERY. 

Check out our FRANCE ITINERARIES for amazing activities and great places to eat and drink.

WHERE TO GO BY INTEREST

First Timers Wanting to Hit the Must-Sees. Start with a few days in Paris, then head to Bordeaux if you like wine country or the south of France if you’re a fan of beaches – best spots to explore here include Nice, Antibes, Cannes, St. Tropez and, across the border, Monaco. If it’s winter and you’re excited to ski, head to the French Alps and visit Chamonix, Courchevel, Meribel, Val Thorens, Val d’Isère-Tignes or Megeve.

⛱ Getting Beachy. Head to the South of France for the country’s best beaches. Stop off in Nice, there’s a nice (although crowded) boardwalk. Then keep moving west (a 30-45 minute drive or 10 minute train) to Beaulieu Sur Mer, Saint Jean Cap Ferrat and Villefranche.  The drive along the coast to these towns is beautiful and these beaches are all worth the extra effort. Keep in mind the beaches are rocky, so it’s best to reserve beach chairs, umbrellas at a beach club or a spot at a restaurant on the water. If you’re heading to the northwest part of the country, there are beautiful beaches in Brittany as well and it’s a hot spot for sailing.

⛰ For the Love of the Outdoors. There are amazing spots for biking not only in Paris but also pretty much everywhere in France. Paris has hundreds of beautiful public parks and gardens, often built around a chateau, cathedral, or government building, which are perfect for a run, bike ride, stroll, or picnic on a sunny day. The city’s biggest parks are the Bois de Boulogne and the Parc de Vincennes. Just outside the city (within an hour by train) are St Germain en Laye and Parc St Cloud – both beautiful grounds with lots of trails for running and biking and perfectly groomed lawns for lounging. Outside Paris, the possibilities are endless. There are the French Alps, wine country regions and beaches of Brittany.

🍷 Wine Enthusiasts. France has too many vineyards, cellars and chateaus to name. Pick the region based on your favorite type of wine and go from there! Our favorite spots include Loire Valley and Laguedoc, also Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Côtes du Rhone.

🛍 Shopping Till You Drop. In Paris obviously. The city’s two best shopping centers include Galeries Lafayette and Bon Marche. The city is also filled with small boutiques and best areas to wander around for these include Passy, St Germain/Odeon and the Marais.  Make sure to visit the rue Saint-Honoré in the 1st arrondissement of Paris as well, an iconic street of shops for all tastes.

🍽 Calling All Foodies. Paris not only has more Michelin starred restaurants than anywhere else in the world but also countless tasty bistros, cafes, brasseries, pastry shops, boulangeries and markets.  If you want to really understand why the French are famous for high cuisine, and why French chefs with a third Michelin star are as famous as soccer stars, visit any 3 star restaurant, order the set menu with wine and be prepared to spend half your paycheck! Make a reservation far in advance and plan to be treated like royalty for the 3+ hour experience.

✈ Long Weekend Options from the U.S. Spend three days in Paris. There are tons of direct, well-priced flights from all major U.S. hubs. Walk around the city, enjoy the bars, restaurants, museums and live-music gigs.

⬄ Combining France With a Neighboring Country. Rent a car, explore France and then drive east for Italy and Switzerland or drive west for Spain. The options are endless because you’re in the heart of Europe.

WHERE TO GO BY REGION

Map-France
Regional Map of France

Paris. The capital of France. Paris has incredible museums, historic sights, nightlife, shops  and restaurants.

Normandy & Brittany. Sandy coves, rocky cliffs, serene farmland and rich history. Normandy and Brittany provide an opportunity to experience France without the hustle and bustle, but with no shortage of historic and scenic sights.

South of France (St. Tropez, Nice, Monaco & Cannes). Stunning beaches and glamorous villages. Incredible seafood!

Strasbourg & Surroundings. Charming, medieval villages, rolling vineyards and a heavy German influence.

Loire Valley. Grand castles, scenic landscapes and more vineyards!

WHEN’S THE BEST TIME TO VISIT FRANCE? 

The best time to visit France is well, anytime! The temperatures in Paris range from around 68F in July to around 41F in January. There are so many restaurants, museums, bars, coffee shops and indoor cultural sights that you’re unlikely to mind the weather. If you plan to ski in the French Alps, visit December to March when the temperatures average 7F to 9F and snowfall is in full swing. If you want to spend time on the beach, visit the south of France from May to September where summers are sunny, hot and have a sea breeze. The average temperature in Nice in July hovers around 74F. 

Summer in the south of France

PASSPORT & VISA REQUIREMENTS

If you’ll be in France for under 90 days, a visa is not required for U.S. and most European citizens. From the U.S, your passport must be valid for at least three months beyond your planned date of departure and you must have one page for entry stamps.

Additional information from the U.S. State Department about Germany, including travel requirements, is located at travel.state.gov

Find visa and passport requirements for other countries here.

HOW DO I PAY FOR STUFF?

Currency: All of France is on the Euro.

ATMs/Credit Cards:  Credit cards and debit cards are widely accepted in France, but it never hurts to have cash on you as that is the European way!

Tipping:  Like most European countries, tipping is 5-10% (10% when there’s heavier service involved) in restaurants.

Money Saving Tip: Some hotels and merchants offer discounts if you pay cash, so ask.

Vineyard in Bordeaux Wine Region; Cozy Chalet in French Alps

EATING & DRINKING

Locals eat all their meals later than in the U.S.  A lot of restaurants close in between lunch and dinner from 3-7pm. Locals eat dinner around  8:30/9pm as some  kitchens close at 11pm. Bars don’t get busy in cities until after midnight. 

Meals are not a rushed affair, so if you’re in a hurry, let your server know.

Regions of France, even cities and towns, are known for specific food and drinks. These are noted in each Travel Honey itinerary, but we’ve listed some must tries anywhere you go:

  • Escargot – of course, the French love to eat snails! Roasted in butter. They are small and brown and taste like salty gummies.
  • Cheeses – while there are too many to name, let’s start with camembert, brie, roquefort, munster and reblochon.
  • Boeuf Bourguignon – beef stew in red wine.
  • Coq Au Vin – chicken stew with red wine, onions and mushrooms.
  • Onion Soup – soup made from beef and onion stock, sprinkled with bread coutons and covered in melted cheese.
  • Ratatouille – stew of vegetables.
  • Chocolate Souffle – sweet, airy, egg based puff, with a gouey, molten center.
  • Tarte Tartin – apple pie, heavy on the apples with a super thin, buttery crust.
French farmers market, radishes and sausages.

HOW DO I USE MY CELL PHONE IN FRANCE?

Cell phone service is excellent in France. Check your U.S. carrier for their international rates and read the Ultimate Guide to Using Your Cell Phone Abroad for more information.  

WHAT SHOULD I READ, WATCH AND LISTEN TO BEFORE THE TRIP?

Listen to Kassav, a Martinician band known for its carnival style beats. Watch Blue is the Warmest Color, winner of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or, which tells the turbulent love story between two French teenagers. Read Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.