First-time traveler to France? We got you covered! First-time or not, don’t you worry, with my Complete Travel Guide to France, travel like a pro to one of the most visited countries in the world.
France as a country is magical in its own sprcial way. The dazzling towers, extraordinary museums and galleries, picture postcard villages, snow-capped mountain peaks, sun-soaked beaches in Cote d’Azur, freshly baked baguettes and finest wine and cheese keep the French spirit going.
Beautiful Cities to visit in France
France’s bustling metropolitan and charming countryside cities offer you a plethora of amazing places to visit and unique unforgettable experiences. So, here are the best of the best cities to visit on your vacation in France.
When you think of France, you think of Paris. Don’t you? The dazzling capital city of France will delight you in every way and no wonder it is one of the world’s most visited cities. Much of the praise goes to the spectacular Eiffel Tower that simply cannot be missed from the Parisian itinerary. A visit to Musee du Louver, world’s largest museum housing the one and only ‘Mona Lisa’ of Da Vinci and a vast collection of exhibits from masterpieces of art to mysterious Egyptian mummy tombs is absolutely mandatory too. You shouldn’t miss the majestic Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris, an architecturally rich Gothic cathedral and the crystal chandeliers at the grand Château de Versailles. The City of Lights will not disappoint the foodies, for them the hot scrumptious croissants and some good wine are icing on the cake.
Nice sits along the sunny French Riviera aka Cote d’Azur jammed between the Mediterranean Sea and the Maritime Alps. The capital city of Cote d’Azur boasts about its old town, Vieille Ville and its pastel-colored buildings, the 7km stunning Promenade des Anglais, eye-catching flower and fresh produce market, Cour Saleya, majestic cathedrals and the picture perfect pebble beaches! You can also explore Musee Matisse, a museum featuring impressive works of the French artist Matisse. Also try mouthwatering Nicoise street food from pan bagnat, an olive oil soaked sandwich with a tuna, egg and raw vegetable filling, to tourte de blettes, a sweet pie and socca, pancake with chickpeas.
Cannes, a city also nestled in the Cote d’Azur is all about its glitz and glamor. The beautiful resort city will offer you nothing but the best from immaculate beaches to enchanting boulevards, fancy restaurants, vibrant street art and luxurious shopping experiences. If you happen to visit Cannes in May expect to meet your favorite celebrities at the Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivales on the red carpet. Spare some time exploring the old town of Le Suquet, its cobbled streets and pastel-shaded buildings and the La Croisette, a 2 km promenade along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea dotted with exquisite restaurants and chic boutiques, offering you stunning views over the sea and the surroundings. Before leaving Cannes, check out Boulevard Vallombrosa for street art featuring ‘Charlie Chaplin’ if you are a fan of street art.
If you are a lover of wine, you should definitely visit Bordeaux, the wine capital of the world. Taste the finest wines like Sauvignon Blanc, a white wine variety to expensive red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and everything in between in Bordeaux at local wineries on a wine tour. Don’t miss to visit La Cite du Vin to learn all about wine. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the historic center of Bordeaux features rich architectural wonders with over 300 monuments. It is a must to visit the spectacular Place de la Bourse square to witness Le Miroir d’Eau, a mirror made of water and the neighboring Saint-Pierre Quarter. Marvel at the Cathedral St-André and get to the top of Pey-Berland Tower for mesmerizing views over the city. Other highlights include Porte Cailhau and Le Grand-Theater.
With a proud history of more than 2600 years, the oldest city in France is yet another beautiful Cote d’Azur city to visit in France. The city, now a working seaport, has tons of amazing places to explore. Start off your journey from Vieux Port or popularly known as the Old Port, where you’ll be able to try fresh seafood at gourmet restaurants and from there head to Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde for some awesome views from the top. Le Panier, the perfectly preserved old town of Marseille is not to be missed. It will amaze you with its candy-colored houses, chic cafes, boutiques and restaurants. If you have time, visit Palais Longchamp to explore the Museum of Art. If you are a lover of nature and looking for a little bit of adventure don’t miss Parc national de Calanques, where you will find limestone cliffs and quite a lot of natural beauty.
Once a small fishing village, Saint-Tropez is now a glamorous seaside resort city beautifying Cote d’Azur. The sun-kissed city is home to glorious beaches with turquoise waters, fancy beach clubs, stylish designer shops and a lot of luxurious yachts! The city’s Old Town, La Ponche is worthy of a visit where part of it is a pedestrian only area lined up with posh boutiques, cafes and galleries of art awaiting to be explored. However, the beaches in Saint-Tropez steal the show! Among the many are Plage de Pampelonne, Plage des Canoubiers and La Bouillabaisse Plage. Those who aren’t beach bums can spend time visiting its museums including La Maison des Papillons, a Butterfly Museum and Musee de l’Annonciade, an art museum or hiking Sentier du Littoral.
These are just a few of the charming cities in France. Beautiful cities are bountiful in France and are worthy of a visit. If you have more time, visit Menton, renowned as the ‘Pearl of France’ to explore gardens of lemon trees, the historically rich Rouen and Lyon, ‘world’s gastronomic capital’ with Michelin star restaurants and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Magnificent Beaches in France
France is home to a lot of beaches including some spectacular ones in Cote d’Azur that you shouldn’t forget to include in your French itinerary. Get ready for some beach fun with these magnificent beaches in France!
Pampelonne Beach is one of Saint-Tropez’s stunning beaches and a popular one in Cote d’Azur. It is a 5 km sandy beach that attracts the rich. You might even spot a few celebrities sunbathing here. The beach got much of the recognition after ‘And God Created Women’ and ‘The Troops of St. Tropez’ were filmed here.
About 10 km away from Porto-Vecchio you will find this beautiful Corsica’s beach. Its clear blue shimmering waters will amaze you. It is also a popular surfing spot.
Paloma Beach is a half-pebble, half-sand Cote d’Azur beach with a breathtaking backdrop of cliffs of Eze and Beaulieu-sur-Mer in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat giving you jaw-dropping views of the surroundings. It is named for the daughter of Pablo Picasso, Paloma.
Cote de Granit Rose
Cote de Granit Rose is a stunning coastline with pinkish sand and granite rocks scattered here and there. Some of the activities you can do here are kayaking, paddle boarding and hiking and the beach is a family-friendly place.
Les Calanques de Cassis
Les Calanques de Cassis beach is a picture perfect beach in Provence. It is a beach with a combination of sand and pebbles surrounded by limestone cliffs. You will for sure fall in love with this one!
Shopping in France – All You Need to Know
From shopping at designer boutiques to shopping at local markets and stores, you are in for unforgettable shopaholic experiences in France. Here are some of the best places to shop in France.
A good starting point to start shopping is Paris, one of the world’s fashion capitals. Visit these streets and shops to shop till you die in Paris.
1 Avenue Des Champs Elysées
Avenue Des Champs Elysees being one of the avenues of The Golden Triangle is a super expensive shopping street selling mid-range brands like Disney, Nike and high-end brands like Cartier and Louis Vuitton. You can buy toys, fashionable clothes and top-notch linen here.
2. Galeries Lafayette
This is a flagship store on the Avenue Des Champs Elysees featuring about 3500 brands from cheapest to luxurious fashion items, jewelry and many more in 3 buildings. It also houses 25 restaurants with gourmet food.
3. Bon Marche
Bon Marche, the very first department store in Paris, offers Maison Cartier jewelry, cosmetic brands like La Mer and award-winning By Terry.
If you are looking for cheap shopping, especially to buy antiques, go to Montmartre avenue. You will also find cheap clothes at Tempolino, furniture at De l’Autre Côté de la Butte.
Shopping in Bordeaux
Here are some of the best shopping destinations in Bordeaux.
1 Rue Sainte Catherine
Rue Saint Catherine is a long pedestrian shopping street housing Galeries Lafayette and Galerie Bordelaise, two of the biggest department stores selling brands like Zara, H&M etc. Buy shoes from Bata, Minelli and Staggy. In the months of February and July clearance sales take place, so if you happen to visit during these months make sure to get the benefit.
To buy the finest wines, visit L’Intendent owned by DUCLOT. You will get more affordable wines at the ground floor and old vintages at the fourth floor.
Tip- Why you should buy wine from Bordeaux is because it has some rare wines and vintages. When you shop, do not limit yourself to the best brands like Angelus, Le Pin etc. but explore different varieties, even the ones that are cheaper.
You will find colorful clothing, accessories including fashionable bags, headbands, perfume, shoes and jewelry all made in France at Mieux on Saint James Street.
Shopping in Cannes
In Cannes these are the best places to shop.
1 Boulevard de la Croisette
You will come across a variety of shops along Boulevard de la Croisette with big names from Dior to Chanel and Armani. Shop for leather products at Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and jewelry at Cartier and Ferret.
2. Marche Forville
This is a traditional outdoor market that sells vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, olive oil, cheese and herbs. The market closes early in the afternoon, so the best time to visit is early morning to buy local produce.
Shopping in Lyon
Best places to shop in Lyon are Presqu’lle-Bellecour District, Vieux Lyon and Confluence Shopping Center with a wide array of shops.
You will find clothes for all three segments; women, men and kids here and if you want to buy electronics or sportswear you will find them here apart from the big names Zara, H&M, Gap at Rue de la Republique, Rue Grolee and Louise Vuitton and Hermes at Rue du President. It is recommended to visit these stores on weekdays as the places could get crowded.
If you want to buy souvenirs head to Lyon’s old town, Vieux Lyon and you will find souvenirs at Rue Saint-Jean. To buy clothing made out of Lyon’s silk, visit Place du Gouvernment and Rue de Boeuf.
Confluence Shopping Center
This shopping center has 74 boutiques and 26 restaurants across 3 floors featuring mid-range brands like Adidas, Zara and Sephora for beauty care products. You can also shop for home ware, tea and chocolate here.
Shopping in Nice
Nice invites all the shopaholics to enjoy unending shopping. Here are some of the best places to shop in Nice.
Avenue Jean Médecin
You will get quite a lot of department stores along this avenue. Galeries Lafayette is one. It houses over 600 brands from fashion, cosmetics and tableware in 5 floors. Also visit FNAC for books and music and NICETOILE, also a shopping center with 100 stores.
If you are looking at luxury shopping, Le Carre’d’Or District is where you need to be. Fashion labels such as Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Armani, and Hermes are featured here together with Haute Couture labels.
The Cours Saleya Market
The Cours Saleya Market dates back to 1816 and is very popular among locals and tourists. Fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers are sold here and this is where you will find fresh seafood. It is famous for the flowers; roses, peonies etc.
Here are some of the top tips for France shopping.
1 Always greet by saying ‘Bonjour’ when entering a store and saying ‘Merci’ when leaving the store. This is considered shopping etiquette in France.
2. The French tend to take a longer time for breaks, so expect shops to be closed for a couple of hours.
3. If you need any help with shopping, feel free to get help from the sales associates. They are well trained and are aware of the available products.
4. If you are going for grocery shopping, skip Saturday afternoons as the stores will get super crowded at that time.
Travel Tips – Good to Know before visiting France
It is always good to know some facts about France before traveling there, especially if you are a first-timer. Here are some handy tips to have a hassle-free vacation in France.
1 France is not only Paris
Don’t get stuck on only Paris. France is much more than its capital city and is home to some picturesque cities, villages and towns. Spare some time to explore their beautiful landscapes from pristine beaches in Cote d’Azur to lavender fields in Provence and everything in between.
2. Brush up on a little bit of French
The French are proud of their language and a majority of them are not comfortable speaking English. So, it is always better to learn a little bit of French before heading to France.
3. Keep an eye on your personal belongings
Always be vigilant about your belongings as there could be pickpockets, especially in crowded city areas.
4. Dress as you please
There is no proper dress code in France. You are free to wear what you prefer.
France is an awe-inspiring country worthy of giving you memorable experiences. I really hope that my guide helps you in crafting your France itinerary.