France remains the world’s most-visited country, welcoming over 85 million visitors per year! And with good reason.
The capital city of France, Paris, is quite controversial among seasoned travelers. Some love it and some hate it – I personally find it to be one of the best cities in the world, one I will return to again and again. Still, there is so much more to France than just Paris!
France is renowned for its food (particularly cheese, bread, and wine), fairy-tale castles, otherworldly romance, and beautiful countryside. Not to mention world-class skiing, rugged coastlines, and plenty of history.
getting to france
France has a large number of airports, the two busiest being Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) and Paris Orly (ORY). There are also airports in Marseille, Lyon, and Nice (among many, many others).
Coming from outside Europe, Paris will offer you the cheapest flights. Within Europe, RyanAir serves many of France’s smaller airports for not much money if you’re a budget-conscious traveler.
France has a well-connected railway system within Europe, and taking the train into France is easily accessible from the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Belgium, among others.
when to go
Peak season in all of Europe is summer, when Europeans are taking their holidays and venturing off to neighboring countries. It’s super-hot and crowded, so the larger cities can be a little gross during these months. Your best bet for visiting France during the summer is to go to the coast – prices will be high either way.
Shoulder season is March-May and September-November where you’ll find cheaper prices and less tourists.
Winter is slightly more expensive than shoulder season, particularly around Christmas and New Years. But, with the abundance of Christmas markets and holiday festivities, France is definitely worth visiting during this time. Head to Chamonix for some world-class skiing or hit up the fairy tale locales of Strasbourg and Colmar.
what to see
France has an extensive history and a culture like no other. Depending on your interests, you’ll definitely find something to suit your tastes when visiting France.
|Paris||Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Sidewalk Cafés, High Fashion|
|Marseille||Port City, Street Markets, Bouillabaisse|
|Nice||Riviera, Art, Medieval Buildings, Pebble Beaches|
|Bordeaux||Wine Capital, Grand Cathedrals, Medieval Squares|
|Reims||Champagne, Important Historical Site, Coronation of French Kings|
|Chamonix||Skiing, Glaciers, Year-Round Outdoor Activities|
|Avignon||Provencal City, Pope’s Palace, Medieval Walls|
|Amboise||Chateaux, Leonardo da Vinci|
|Lyon||Gothic Cathedral, Roman Amphtheatre, Film History|
|Carcassone||Medieval History, Chateaux, Museums|
|Brittany||Pink Granite Cliffs, French-Celtic Region, Medieval Towns, Beaches|
|Aix-en-Provence||Grand Boulevards, Hot Springs|
|Annecy||Lakeside Town, Outdoor Activities, Medieval Center|
|Languedoc-Rousillon||Wine, Beaches, Pyrenees Mountains, Roman Ruins|
|Dijon||Wine, Mustard, Medieval Churches|
|Rouen||Joan of Arc, History, Old Town|
There are hundreds (at least) of other places in France worth visiting not listed above. Each village, town, and city in the country has something to offer.
traveling within france
Within Paris, the metro system is my favorite in the world (that I’ve experienced). It’s super-easy to navigate and virtually fool-proof.
France has a great railway system with high-speed trains. Most cities are well connected. Purchase tickets in advance to save money!
Buses are also a good option if you want to save more and take your time. Flixbus provides the best services (be forewarned, they are not pet-friendly).
If renting a car, be sure to have an International Drivers Permit to be on the safe side.
detailed france articles
Money-saving tip: Don’t input any dates to scan the best available times to go OR simply input ‘France’ instead of a specific airport – you may get a much cheaper flight!
When I travel, I personally prefer to use Airbnb. I book an entire apartment, giving me my privacy and the comfort of home amenities, such as a kitchen and washing machine. Since my dog(s) travel with me, it also allows me to filter based on pet-friendliness without the stress of disturbing hotel guests.
If you’re travelling long-term, Airbnb usually offers discounts for stays of a month or more – the discounts are significant, sometimes 50-60%! It winds up being cheaper than what I would have paid for my apartment rent back in the USA.
If you’ve never used Airbnb before, you can get a discount by using my link below.
If you’re a budget-conscious traveler and not travelling long-term, hostels are a great option and are abundant in France.
For standard hotel stays, Booking.com usually offers the best deals.
France is a relatively safe country, though, as in any popular (and crowded) tourist destination, pick-pockets and scams are a common occurrence. I personally have never had any issues, but with 80+ million visitors per year, I’m sure there are some horror stories out there.
Be aware of the most common scams in France. This will keep you alert and savvy to any bullshit artists out there.
Trust your judgement and remove yourself from situations that make you uncomfortable, for whatever reason.
money saving tips
France is a pretty expensive country, particularly in the larger cities. Still, there are some ways you can save if you’re budget-conscious.
Head to a couple of specialty shops, such as a fromagerie & a boulangerie to grab some cheese and bread for a picnic in a park. Don’t forget the wine. Speaking of wine, if you’re drinking the local stuff, it’s actually quite cheap since it’s not imported. Stock up!
Get a city pass if you intend to go to more than a couple of tourist attractions in any one city. This can save you quite a bit, and often includes public transportation as well.
Many popular museums have ‘free days,’ where they do not charge any admission. Be sure to check this before purchasing tickets. The only downside is that these days are definitely more crowded.
Grab a jambon-beurre for lunch. It’s a simple ham & butter sandwich on a baguette, but it’s heavenly (plus, cheap and portable!).
A simple search on Pinterest will give you a lot of resources on ‘free things to do in…’. There are ways to save in any city, and French cities are no exception. Pinterest is your friend.
Take a free walking tour or self-guided tour to familiarize yourself with your surroundings. If you’re taking a free tour, be sure to save a few EUR to tip your guide.
covid resources for france
Before booking any flights or accommodations, be sure to check the COVID restrictions currently implemented in France. Things are subject to change without notice, and many standard travel insurance agencies will not cover losses due to COVID. Travel safely, wear a mask, socially distance, and follow local regulations.