Vive la France! From the rugged Atlantic shores of Brittany to the glittering coastline of the French Riviera; from the majestic Alps to the little-explored Pyrenees; from the elegant avenues of Paris to the lavender fields of Provence, there is literally something for everyone who wishes to visit France.
France shares its borders with Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Andorra, Monaco, and Italy. It packs a lot of geographic and cultural diversity into an area roughly the size of Texas, with impressive Roman ruins, Celtic roots in Brittany, Italian dialects in Nice, North African cuisine in Marseille and a Basque influence along the Bay of Biscay.
Its geography is equally diverse, and all of the country’s natural beauty is well maintained and proudly accessible to all.
No other country on earth reveres its culinary history and culture as much as France. And each region has its prized dish; locals will tell you where to find the best oysters, bouillabaisse, cassoulet and more. And don’t get them started on the wine!
What more can be said about Paris, a city that hasn been written, sung and painted about for centuries? The capital of France a must-visit destination for any first-time traveler to the country, and the most-visited destination in the world.
But visitors shouldn’t miss out on France’s second-largest city: Lyon, a foodie mecca with a wonderful Old Town and lots to see and do. Pay homage to the Lumière brothers, who brought cinema to the masses; visit the unique Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière; and have your mind blown by the trompe-l’oeil work scattered about the city.
Getting to and from France
European budget airlines fly to many destinations in France, but almost all long-haul international flights arrive at one of Paris’s major airports – Charles de Gaulle (CDG) or Orly (ORY). If you’re traveling on to another city in France, Air France offers many connecting flights to all over the country.
The Schengen agreement’s relaxed border policy has made it easy to cross into France by land, with no border controls between member countries (roughly the same as those in the EU). However, your passport will be checked on the Swiss border and there will often be spot checks on the eastern Spanish border, particularly if you are traveling by train or bus.
Another popular way to arrive in France is via the Eurostar train that goes through the Chunnel (English Channel tunnel), or by ferry from Dover in the UK, the preferred choice for those with cars. Because the UK is not a part of the Schengen agreement, there are strict border controls.
When crossing the Italian border into the French Riviera by train, it should be noted that there is no “direct” route; you must take the train that goes between Nice, France and Ventimiglia, Italy, and then connect in either one of those towns to further proceed with your trip.
The Société Nationale Maritime Corse-Méditerranée, or put more succinctly, ferries, link Marseille to Corsica, Sardinia, Tunisia and Algeria.
France travel resources
Check out our Best Cities in Europe podcast or browse the articles below.
This page by Christine Cantera.