France travel guide

You could spend a lifetime’s worth of holidays in France and still not feel you’d done the country justice. It remains the planet’s most visited tourist destination, meriting its standing with an almost overwhelming mass of historical treasures, storybook landscapes, and cultural idiosyncrasies.

The teeming glam of Paris makes for one hell of a centrepiece, matching any city on the planet for ambiance, individuality, and set-piece sights. But the real beauty of France, in many ways, lies elsewhere. The country’s natural gifts are striking: white sands, hulking mountains, swathes of rolling countryside. It’s a land that has inspired dreamers and drinkers, revolutionaries and artists. Little wonder that Francophiles (and it’s telling that even the country’s devotees have a word to describe them) are found the world over.

You can soak up the A-list beaches of the Cote d’Azur, drowse in the timeless greenery of the Loire Valley or gaze up at the monumental peaks of the Alps. Wander the lavender fields of Provence, eat your way round the legendary bistros of Lyon or sample the rugged charm of Corsica. France’s cities, coastline, and countryside all have their own endearing rewards, and when taken as a whole, they present a near-perfect visitor package.

That’s not to say that France is somewhere easily bracketed. When you’re walking the moody portside backstreets of Marseille or delving among the sprawling flea markets of Paris, it can be a job to remember that they’re a part of the same country as the vineyards of Alsace and the sand dunes of the Atlantic coast.

This diversity, in many ways, is the magic of France. It’s why endless magazines, books, and texts have dedicated their works to the joys of the French lifestyle. It’s why the national spirit is well-known for its boldness and radiance. And it’s one reason why, in a world full of historical wonder and natural beauty, France still draws more tourist attention than anywhere else.

“How can one describe a country which has 365 kinds of cheese?” once asked former French president Charles De Gaulle. Even today, it's a very good question.