France - The Triumph of the Sun King
Living like God in France? This is surely possible in the metropolis Paris with its impressive Eiffel Tower and a cuisine full of ingenuity and singularity. The magical coast of Nice and the fragrant lavender fields of the Provence present the most beautiful sides of this popular travel destination.
Geography - Between mountain, valley and sea
The "hexagon" France is one of Europe's biggest countries and rich in varied landscapes. Whether you are in the mountains or at the coast - France is not sparing with natural beauty. In the east, French borders on Spain, the Pyrenees constituting a natural border. Belgium, Germany and Switzerland as well as Italy and Luxembourg lie north-east and can easily be reached from France. In the south-east the country borders on Monaco. This way, France is a great starting point for a round trip through Central Europe. The country consists of 18 French regions altogether, of which 13 are located on the European mainland, the other five are oversea territories. Corsica, France's biggest island, lies in the Mediterranean Sea.
Nature - Smooth hills, spectacular peaks and overwhelming coasts
France's three most important landscape formations surpass each other regarding attractiveness and beauty. The smooth plains of the green hilly landscapes invite visitors to pause and relax, while the breathtaking mountain ranges offer many opportunities of doing active sports of any kind. France shares the Pyrenees with Spain and the snow-covered peaks of the Alps lie at the eastern border to neighbouring countries. The Vosges, which are also located in the east, and the magnificent Massif Central between Limoges, Lyon and Toulouse are popular destinations with sportspeople and holidaymakers. France is also the right location for beach and seaside holidays. Travellers can choose between the Atlantic in the west, the North Sea and the English Channel in the north and the beautiful Mediterranean Sea in the south.
Natural sights - A sea of lavender
Besides the nine national parks and over 40 nature parks, France's natural beauty can be discovered in a number of other places. The country's highest mountain Mont Blanc (4,810 m) in the French Alps is a popular destination for climbers and mountaineers. The mountain villages in the southern Pyrenees also leave a scenic impression. A true diva among the coastal towns is the region around Nice at the French Riviera (Côte d’Azur). The magical Provençal beach and Mediterranean landscape is one of Europe's most beautiful coasts. With 300 sunny days a year the "azure blue coast" is a worthwhile destination at almost all times of the year. Travellers who want to literally smell France's nature should not miss out on the blooming time in the Provence. The vast lavender fields around the city Grasse fill the whole region with an aromatic flowery scent and remind visitors of the fact that France is one of the most significant nations of the art of perfumery worldwide. Another highlight are the bizarre rock formations of the megalithic site in Carnac in the Brittany or the unique natural spectacle of the Verdon Gorge. The French island Corsica, on the other hand, impresses with its beaches and an exceptionally rocky mountain region. France also has an extraordinary fauna. If you travel through the Camargue in the country's south by car or bike, you can see a sea of pink and white from afar. Looking more closely, visitors identify the 45,000 pink flamingos which choose this place as their breeding and mating ground. Pheasants and the rare partridges also feel comfortable in this region.
Culture - Joan of Arc, the Sun King and the French Revolution
No other nation's character is evaluated in such a differentiated manner. The Frenchman is a romantic and a great cook, while the Frenchwoman is witty, beautiful and self-confident - according to the cliché. The population generally likes to present itself as a proud nation with a strong character. France is one of the most significant cultural nations on earth and the influence of the medieval French aristocracy extended beyond the country's borders. Legends like that of the national heroine Joan of Arc are embedded in the cultural awareness of the French. According to legend, the young Frenchwoman lead her people to victory against the English on behalf of God. Especially one ruler set new standards regarding architecture and landscape design: Louis XIV, the Sun King. He had his Château de Versailles, one of the greatest European palaces to the present day, built in the capital Paris. The darkest chapter of French history are the turbulent years of the French Revolution at the beginning of the 18th century. The Storming of the Bastille and the death of the last royal couple Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette was supposed to end the monarchy in France. Napoleon and the following years of war, however, prolonged the country's way to a republic considerably. Today Paris is considered the most important city and cultural centre of France - if not in the whole of Europe.
Cultural sights - C'est la vie á Paris...
Travellers looking for cultural variety will undoubtedly feel like God in France. The cultural capital Paris with its characteristic Arc de Triomphe, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris (Sacré-Cœur) in Roman-Byzantine style, the greatest museum Louvre, the early Gothic cathedral Notre-Dame and of course the favourite of people in love, the Eiffel Tower - one day is not enough to actually experience all the sights. Those who also want to explore the regions outside of the capital will probably need months to have seen at least a bit of everything. The north is characterised by the white crosses of the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, which went down in history as D-Day. In contrast, the Gothic city Strasbourg, which is the current seat of the Council of Europe, appears to have arisen from a fairytale. In addition, the city holds the landmark of Alsace - Strasbourg Cathedral. Other worthwhile sacred buildings are the Papal Palace in Avignon or Bordeau Cathedral, which was built in the 11th and 12th century. Near Nîmes you find a Roman relic. The magnificent aqueduct Pont du Gard counts 35 arches altogether and already became part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage in the 1980s. Visitors who want to relive the Middle Ages should take a walk along the banks of the Loire. The numerous fairy-tale castles at the river bring the glorious years of the French monarchs back to life. Worth mentioning is also the Château d'If at the coast of Marseilles. This former prison complex owes its publicity most of all to the exciting adventures of the Count of Monte Christo.
Experience - Haute Cuisine and Mont Saint-Michel
The fabulous cuisine française has taken the world by storm, was frequently copied but never equalled. The UNESCO incorporated it into their intangible cultural heritage. A crisp crème brûlée, fresh crêpes, the goose liver foie gras and of course the obligatory baguette as a side to every meal are not only known among gourmets but also popular with people across the border. Other culinary specialities which need to be mentioned are the delicious Bayonne Ham, the fish soup bouillabaisse and the vegetable dish ratatouille from the Provence. A suitable drink to those meals is a strong red or a fruity white wine. The Alsace wine route is one of Europe's most beautiful wine-growing regions and the place of origin of the most exquisite types of vines. Champagne, which was named after its region of origin, is without doubt the best-known French sparkling wine. The goods produced in the Champagne are often generally called "champagne". If your trousers feel a little tight after you have had your meal, you can take a walk through Paris' streets. The French capital is one of the world's most important fashion metropolises and an excellent location for a shopping trip. You can buy a piece of France on the markets in the Provence. Holidaymakers like to get the distinctive Herbes de Provence or a little bottle of the finest olive oil for taking home. The soap produced in Marseille is one of the most popular souvenirs from France. The island town Mont Saint-Michel, which resembles a fortress, is a great destination for a day trip. Its fascinating beauty still creates a medieval atmosphere. Tourist also experience France's typical character during the world's greatest cycling race - the Tour de France. This sports event has been taking place since 1903 and is regarded one of the most important ones beside the Olympic Games. Of course, France also offers a lively and enjoyable nightlife. Party-goers find numerous clubs and discos not only in Paris but also in Cannes, which is located in the south and famous for its parties. Especially during the Film Festival the city at the Côte d'Azur is vibrant with life and glamour. Strasbourg is still an insider tip with its many bars, pubs and clubs.
Activities - Winter sports and Disneyland
Holidaymakers looking for thrilling activities should go directly to the French Alps. The most popular skiing region Chamonix-Mont-Blanc offers ski slopes which are 20 kilometres long and fully-developed lift systems for winter sports fans. Hikers face an impressive landscape in the Dune of Pilat, mountaineers can pursue their hobby both in the Pyrenees and in France's many mountainous regions and water sports opportunities are offered at all adjacent seas. Those who want to explore the country on horseback can best do this on the plains of the Provence and you can also conquer France from the air. Holidaymakers discover the vineyards and old rivers of one of France's most beautiful regions on a hot air balloon above Burgundy. Disneyland Paris is a great attraction for children and families. Besides the many roller coasters and merry-go-rounds, the small ones can meet their Disney heroes.
Due to its variety of landscapes and varied climate, France is a popular and attractive travel destination at all times of the year. Depending on where you want to start your journey, you can comfortably arrive by plane, car, bus, ship or train. France is part of the EU and has the currency euro. The French love their language and prefer to also use their mother tongue when talking to tourists. Most tourist centres, however, have adapted to the English language as well. In some regions, like Alsace, German is still commonly used.
France's magic is undeniable. It is the country of art and culture as well as the centre of fashion and an excellent cuisine. France is the perfect travel destination for both active travellers, lovers of nature, families and lovers of culture. Romantics are in good hands in Paris, the city of love.