Top 10 French Experiences
France is one romantic destination that you can’t help but fall in love with. People often say that the locals appear to be on holiday too.
This fascinating jewel in Western Europe is a combination of medieval buildings and chic cities, busy Mediterranean beaches and quiet villages. Sit down to a lovely French meal as you marvel at the beautiful Eiffel Tower in the distance. That’s how they do it in fascinating France.
1. Cities to Visit
Paris—nicknamed ‘City of Lights,’ is a haven for the fashion conscious and art lovers. It lures scores of visitors every year, most of whom come to see the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Nice—with its beachside setting and fabulous 19th-century architecture is popular amongst artists and musicians. People also love the city for its relaxed atmosphere.
Bordeaux—maybe famous for its wines but there’s much more to discover here. The city is teeming with fine restaurants, public gardens, and excellent museums.
Toulouse—nicknamed ‘Pink City,' is widely popular for its coral-coloured ancient buildings and alternative culture. Since it houses a major university, it’s a busy metropolis full of students and scientists.
Lyon—is all about high culture. It has an excellent collection of Michelin-star restaurants, theatres, and performance venues.
2. Climb the Eiffel Tower
The famous Eiffel Tower is a symbol of France. Interestingly, it was almost demolished and sold for scrap metal back in the 20th century. Fortunately, that plan was permanently shelved. The tower remains the most-visited paid landmark in the world. This 324-metre tall tower is spread over three levels. If you don’t mind the exercise, you could even climb 600-odd steps to reach the first and second levels. Eiffel promises the best views of the city from every angle.
3. Get Lost in the Louvre
Spend time at the Louvre to view its spectacular collection of art and antiquities. The museum boasts more than 35,000 exhibits. To view them all closely, you might have to spend an entire month at the museum. Some of the highly valuable exhibits that are on display at the Louvre include the Mona Lisa painting, sculptures by Michelangelo, and masterpieces by Renaissance artists.
4. French Riviera
The Côte d’Azure, or the French Riviera, is an alluring coastal destination that draws some of society’s rich and famous. It’s here you’ll come across premier resort towns like Cannes, Saint-Tropez, and the sovereign city-state named Monaco. There’s always some sort of community festival or event on the French Riviera. If you love motor racing, jazz festivals or the famous Cannes Film Festival, this is where you should be.
5. The Palace of Versailles
King Louis XIV’s opulent palace was built almost 400 years ago. Nearly 30,000 people worked together to drain swamps, flatten hills and move marble to construct this enormous royal residence. It’s here you’ll find many masterpieces of both art and craftsmanship. The golden-edged royal apartments and exquisitely decorated ‘Hall of Mirrors’ bathroom will take your breath away. If you pay for the ‘passport ticket,’ you’ll have access to the entire estate. This is a popular venue for exhibitions, musical performances, and concerts.
6. Visit Chamonix
The wonderful mountainous region named Chamonix is perfect for adventure seekers. There are many outdoor activities on offer here. If you like climbing, mountain biking, gliding or river rafting, head to the mountains during spring or summer. If you like skiing, visit Chamonix during the winter months. This region is blessed with crisp sunny days and good snow depths during the winters.
7. Check out Ancient Cave Art
If you’d like to see hundreds of Paleolithic cave paintings, spend some time at the Lascaux Caves in Southwestern France. Did you know that these caves were first discovered by four boys back in 1940? They had gone looking for their dog. What they ended up discovering was a complex underground system full of magnificent cave paintings. Although the original cave is no longer open to the public, you’ll find a replica of the original version just a short distance away. Look for the ticketing office online before you visit the caves. The staff is known to change their location and hours of operation depending on the month.
8. Favourite French Foods
The country is known for its food scene. Bite into their delicious pastries, crêpes, and hearty soups to taste the local cuisine—which by the way differs from one region to another. Apart from well- known French favourites, try some or all of the following:
Tarte Flambée - a flat bread, either rectangular or circular shaped, generally topped with fresh cream, cheese, onions, and bacon.
Frog’s Legs - a dish that the locals savour. The meat tastes quite like chicken and is features in a variety of regional French cuisines.
Escargot - that’s French for snails. Another delicacy cooked with butter, garlic, and parsley.
Bouillabaisse - a fish stew fit for a king. Hungry fishermen once devoured this seafood-rich dish along the coast. It’s not the cheapest item to order, but it may well be the tastiest.
9. Fancy a Glass of Bubbly?
Raise a glass of fine champagne to your lips under gorgeous blue skies at the Route du Champagne. You’ll be in for a treat here. There is a scattering of premium champagne chateaus in this beautiful region. The route often serves as a backdrop for many films. Each and every chateau offers incredible views and excellent champagne. Quite a good combination we think. The Champagne Route is divided into 3 main drives. The Montagne de Reims and Côte de Blanc are home to chateaus offering high-end fizz. If you’re looking for better value and beverages of the fruity kind, make your way to Vallée de la Marne.
10. Pitch a Tent
Yes we know, pitching a tent is not everyone’s idea of an ideal vacation in France. But before you dismiss this suggestion, think again. The island of Corsica, located within proximity to the French coast, is an idyllic camping spot. It’s known for its secluded beach, Plage de Saleccia. This beach offers postcard-perfect vistas, white sandy shores, and turquoise waters. So if you need some time away in a picturesque setting, this is the perfect place for you.
Whether you’re here to visit medieval cities or to explore France’s quiet villages, you’ll love this geographically diverse destination in Europe.
More than 80 million visitors travel to France every year to indulge in its food, wine, and culture. It’s also a favourite amongst history enthusiasts and those with a keen eye for fashion.
The country shares a land border with several neighbouring destinations like Belgium, Monaco, Spain, Switzerland, Andorra, Germany, Italy, and Luxembourg.
Although France is on Central European Time (CET) UTC+1, it also follows daylight savings UTC+2. This runs from the last Sunday in the month of March to the last Sunday in October.
Culture and Customs
The French love their culture. They’re very proud of their country and follow a few customs that may seem quite formal. If you make an effort to engage in their culture, the locals will warmly welcome you.
Don’t forget to say a simple, bonjour madame/monsieur, whenever you walk into a shop, restaurant or public place.
It’s a good idea to memorise a few French words to be able to communicate better.
If you make friends with a local, get to know them before asking about their profession. It’s considered rude in France. You could instead strike up a conversation about food or places of cultural interest.
Words to Know
Bonjour - Hello
Merci - Thank you
De rien - You’re welcome
S’il vous plaît - Please
Au revoir - Goodbye
Excusez-moi - Excuse me
General Travel Advice
You can certainly visit France at any time of the year. However, the months of July and August see a lot of local and international tourists. That’s when the schools are on holiday. Expect to see big queues at popular tourist spots if you do visit during these months.
Most regions across France enjoy a temperate climate. Areas along the Mediterranean coast, in particular, see many days of sunshine. The temperature drops as you draw closer to the northern part of the country.
Average Temperatures in Paris
Jun to Sep
Sep to Dec
Dec to Mar
Mar to Jun
5°C to 20°C
The country has a fantastic public transportation system. With their high-speed train services, you’ll find it easy to get around without wasting much time. Buses, trams, and metros serve passengers in most major cities. You’ll also find many rental car operators in several towns but driving in France may be an overwhelming experience for some.
The world’s fastest wine-bottle opener hails from France. Alain Dorotte can open 13 bottles of wine in 60 seconds, using only a T-handled corkscrew.
Do you know who won the record for the most simultaneous high kicks in 30 seconds? The Moulin Rouge can-can dancers of course!
Australian citizens don’t need a visa to stay in beautiful France for up to 90 days
(average rate 2017)
16 and over for beer and wine and 18 for hard liquor
Most restaurants add a service fee to your food bill, so it’s best to round up the amount with a few Euros.
Use the right-hand side of the road
You’ll need an adapter and a Type C plug
France is not a dangerous destination. There isn’t a big chance that you’ll get into a lot of trouble, even in the big cities.
Apart from the terror attacks of 2015, the country hasn’t faced major crime problems. Petty crimes like pickpocketing do happen so you ought to guard your belongings as you would in any other public place.
Regional or coastal areas are more prone to natural disasters. This may hamper your vacation, depending on the season.
Some areas in France have been the target of several terrorist attacks. The authorities have beefed up security in high-risk areas like Paris. Don’t feel alarmed if you come across heavily-armed police officers and military units as you walk through popular tourist spots and transportation hubs. It’s important to check the latest terrorist threat alerts online before departing. Visit www.smartraveller.gov.au for reliable information.
The country has a few rules that may catch first-time visitors off guard. They’re as follows:
Don’t photograph any security guard or law enforcement officer.
Don’t hide your face in public. Not even for religious reasons.
Don’t hesitate to assist someone who has been in a motor vehicle accident. Neither should you refrain from helping someone who’s crying out for help, unless it would risk your safety.
Carry some form of photo identification when you’re stepping out in public.
Pickpocketing is common in France. Robbers work together to distract people and rob them of their possessions. Carry your backpack in front of your body and avoid putting all your valuables/personal items in one single pocket.
Travel insurance providers may cover you for stolen items. You will have to, however, file a police complaint, even if it’s written in French. This will help you make a claim.
There are many sophisticated street hustlers in France who are waiting to con tourists. You may come across shady street vendors who try to sell you items from their duffel bags or suitcases. They usually sell fake items for a good price, so if you ever meet a stranger who asks you if you’ve dropped a gold ring, keep walking. If you tell them the ring doesn’t belong to you, they might try to sell it to you for a discounted price.
Don’t ever forget to look at the weather report before going skiing or hiking in the country. Since some areas are prone to natural disasters, you might get into trouble in inclement weather. Avalanches, mudslides, forest fires, and flash floods have affected tourists in the past. So be sure to stay on top of weather warnings.
Although the hospitals and clinics in France offer a very high quality of healthcare, treatments can be quite costly. The cost of hospitalisation ranges between $1,450 and $3,500 per day. You may also have to pay out-of-pocket or produce a guarantee from your insurance provider if you go in for medical treatment.
If you’re injured while hiking or exploring remote areas in France, you might have to pay an even higher price for being medevacked to a health care centre.