France is the dream vacation destination for lots of people. It is one of the most visited tourist locations in the world. And most of us already know why that is.
What is France famous for? France is famous for so many things, and in a nutshell, they are Paris, French cuisine, fashion, stunning natural landscapes, historical sites, Tour de France and famous people like Napoleon Bonaparte, Coco Chanel, Louis Vitton, Avril Lavigne, and Roman Polanski.
I’ve been to France three times in my life, but now, writing this post I realize that my visits are incomplete. I have a lot yet to be discovered. I’m glad I’m writing this post to you because now I know what some of the best things to experience in France are.
Below, I’m going to breakdown the famous things in France and expand the items a little bit for your information.
But also note that this is only a tiny fraction of the fantastic things in France. You will find that the country is abundant with sights to see and experience.
If you’ve never been to France before, and have only a short time on vacation, I propose that you visit Paris.
The city of lights has a lot of incredible historical, modern and cultural facets to entice the foreign eye. If you are not up to sightseeing then just enjoy the culture and romance here.
Paris is known for its markets like the Marché Bastille, Marché d’Aligre (you’ll find staple French cuisine here), and the 1866 Marché St-Quentin market, etc.
Then there are the churches, the romance, literature, panoramas, art, architecture (both modern and old), parks, gardens, history, plus some quite fun free stuff.
The free stuff is things like Cimetière du Père Lachaise, Musée de la Vie Romantique, Jardin du Luxembourg, Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen etc.
I think I will have to write a separate blog post entirely for all the lovely attractions of Paris.
Personally when I think of France, what immediately follows my thoughts is the Eiffel Tower. It is a cultural icon of the nation.
In addition to obviously offering wonderful panoramic views of the city of Paris, there are some other neat features of the tower too.
Each level of the 324-meter high tower gives you a different atmosphere.
On the first floor take a walk on the transparent glass floor above the void. Don’t try this if you are faint-hearted.
INFO: The second floor is where you will be able to experience breathtaking views. You will be able to see some famous landmarks in Paris from here.
The third floor also offers you more stunning views of the city. Both the second and third floors have telescopes so that you can take a closer look at the city.
There is a lot of diversity in French cuisine with dishes that can range from simple to exotic. French cuisine is undoubtedly one of the best and most sought after in the world.
Their cuisine is an integral part of their culture. It is unlike any other in the world.
Freshly baked bread, variety of cheeses, and pastry….
Cheese and wine play a huge role in their food.
Some of the popular French food are duchess potatoes, ratatouille, quiche lorraine, croissants, onion soup, brioche, crème brûlée, éclair, and foie gras.
Speaking of French cuisine, we can’t skip over this delectable flaky butter pastry.
The croissant is thought to have come to France from Austria. But no matter its origin, today croissants are a French staple.
This lovely pastry is made in many countries in the world but it is a popular belief that the croissants in France taste a whole lot better.
A reason for that belief could be because in France the pastries are more fresh and hot (owing to their demand within the country) than those of any other country.
Or because the French do not skimp on the butter that is added to the dough as it makes up a quarter of the ingredients.
Nevertheless please do try French croissants while you are in the country. You’ll be able to tell the difference yourself.
Palace Of Versailles
Named a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Palace of Versailles is one of the most visited historical monuments in France. It is a national icon of the country.
A visit to the Château de Versailles is the chance for you to walk the footsteps of the French royalty. The grandeur and opulence of the palace and its estates cannot be described in a few words.
Some of the famous attractions of the palace are the Hall of Mirrors, Royal Opera, the royal apartments, lush gardens, fountains, Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon, the Hamlet of Marie Antoinette, the Museum of the History of France, the bosquets, and the Royal Chapel.
Being one of the biggest wine producers in the world, the history of French wine traces back to the 6th century.
Wine is inherent to the culture of France. I said before about its importance in their cuisine, and it is their tradition to serve wine with food. A majority of the wine in France is produced for this reason and rarely for drinking on their own.
The quality of wine produced in France is recognized as the world’s best.
In addition to being able to buy some of the best wine in France, you can have a chance to taste wine, take tours of vineyards and wineries, take wine-inspired cooking lessons, etc.
NOTE: In some regions, there are wine schools where you can take wine appreciation and sommelier training classes and there are also wine museums.
There are wines ranging from super expensive ones that are sold internationally to modest ones that are only found within France.
The Louvre is the largest art museum in the world and is housed within the Louvre Palace.
What started with just 537 paintings, today has more than 380,000 objects on display from prehistory to the 21st century.
There are sculptures, art objects, paintings, drawings and archeological finds exhibited here.
Some of the most noted pieces here are Mona Lisa, Vénus de Milo, Les Noces de Cana, Victoire de Samothrace, Le Sacre de l’Empereur Napoléon, French Crown Jewels, etc.
TIP: Louvre Palace was originally built as the Louvre Castle and the remnants of the original fortress are still visible in the basement of the museum. This is another sight to see here.
France is home to some of the most popular perfumeries in the world such as Chanel, Estée Lauder, Christian Dior, etc.
Needless to say that another famous element of the country is perfume.
There are two capitals of perfume, one in Paris and Grasse.
The most reputed perfume creators are based in Paris. While Grasse is known for its natural fragrances such as jasmine, lavender, myrtle, roses, etc, but synthetic ones are also produced here.
In the small town of Grasse you have the opportunity to learn about the history of the perfume industry in France. The International Perfume Museum and the Fragonard Perfume Museum are also located in Grasse.
Launched by the French businesswoman, Coco Chanel in 1921, Chanel N°5 is one of the most well-known and admired perfumes even today.
Coco Chanel wanted a fresh new scent that was unlike any other at that time. Her wishes did come true, Chanel N°5 was and is still a hit.
INFO: The perfume is imbued with sandalwood, vanilla, rose, and jasmine. It was created by the French perfumer Ernest Beaux.
The name N°5 was chosen by Chanel because the number 5 apparently brought her luck.
The bottle of the perfume also played an important part in its allure.
The French do love their cheese! It is an important part of their cuisine and culture just like wine.
Every region in the country has its own specialty and there are more than 1000 cheese varieties in the entire country.
French cheese varies from soft cheese to hard cheese, to blue cheese.
Camembert is one of the most popular cheeses. Some others are Brie de Meaux, Roquefort, Boursin, Reblochon, Pont l’Évêque, and Munster, etc.
Roquefort is probably the most ancient, having records dating back to 79 A.D.
Tour De France
Tour De France is a men’s multiple stage bicycle race held every year.
It is mainly held in France but also occasionally passes through neighboring countries.
It is defined as the most prestigious and most difficult bicycle race in the world.
The Tour De France consists of 21 day-long stages over the course of 23 days.
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French statesman and one of the greatest military leaders of the world.
He crowned himself the first Emperor of France.
There are famous sites related to Napolean that you can view in France.
His tomb located in the Dôme des Invalides in Paris.
Another famous site in Paris the Arc De Triomphe was commissioned by Napolean to celebrate the victory at Austerlitz in 1806.
Château De Malmaison, which was purchased by his first wife Josephine for them to reside in. And there are more residences throughout Paris that Napolean lived in.
Also on a different note, the historical Le Procope restaurant dating from 1686. This was a place Napolean visited a lot to hold meetings in. He once left his hat there which is on display in the window to this day. You can view it from the outside.
For an outsider, going to a boulangerie (a shop that sells bread) and buying French bread is part of the whole French-experience.
There is so much you can experience in a bread shop from the smell of freshly baked bread to the nicely stacked baskets of them.
Bread is ingrained in France’s traditions and one of the most popular types of bread eaten there are baguettes.
If you’ve never had a baguette before, its a thin loaf of French bread that has an elongated shape and a crisp crust.
NOTE: Although baguettes are also made in other countries, this long loaf of bread is considered a symbol of the French culture by foreigners.
In fact every year in April, Le Grand Prix de la Baguette is held in Paris. It is a competition to determine who makes the best baguettes in the city.
I personally did some extra research on this and looked for the best boulangeries in France that I can visit. In my earlier visits, this was not a focal point, which is why I plan on making it one come my fourth trip to France.
France is popular for its luxury, beauty, and fashion. There are many cities here that are popular with fashion lovers.
Paris is the center of the fashion industry. In fact, it is known as the fashion capital of the world.
The fact that the city is home to many of the renowned designers of the industry further supports the term that Paris is the fashion capital.
Some of them are Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Louboutin, Yves Saint Laurent, Balmain, Dior, etc. and the list goes on.
Some other popular fashion-cities in France are Marseille, Lyon, Cannes, Nice, etc.
The beautiful Mediterranean coastline located in the south of France is very popular with tourists as well as locals.
In French, it is called the Côte d’Azur. It is known for its stunning Mediterranean waters, lovely beaches, sceneries, yachts, plus as the playground for the rich.
The French Riviera is a popular vacation spot with royals, celebrities, and jet setters.
It is also known that many famous celebrities like Elton John and Brigitte Bardot have homes here.
Some of the famous places within the riviera are the state of Monaco, Cannes, Saint Tropez, and Nice.
Us foreigners find French culture fascinating. Culture consists of religion, values, languages, cuisine, art, fashion, holidays and celebrations.
I’ve already mentioned two aspects of this in France that are very popular worldwide; cuisine and fashion.
The other aspects are best experienced when you visit the country.
Here are some very basic tips on how to manage yourself in France if you are a first-timer. I don’t want to overload you with information here so these will do for now.
When it comes to language, the primary language is of course French. A lot of English-speakers think that the French don’t know how to speak English and this makes them anxious. In reality, plenty of French people speak English quite well.
TIP: It’s advised to first ask them if they speak English rather than starting a conversation in English right away. Parlez-vous Anglais? – Do you speak English?
Also, be polite and greet people properly. This creates a good first impression with the locals and they like this.
Is there anyone who doesn’t know Disneyland?
If you are traveling to France with your children, a trip to Disneyland in Paris will most certainly be the highlight of the trip for them.
The park is divided into five themed lands, Main Street, U.S.A., Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Discoveryland.
The Disney Railroad runs along the perimeter of the park and stops in each of the lands.
There are over 50 attractions in the park for your entire family.
You can book your stay in one of the beautiful hotels or lodges in the park.
PERSONAL NOTE: I like to stay in the Disneyland Hotel to feel the full magic of the fantasy park. It is located at the entrance to the park and is elegantly decorated like a building of the Victorian railroad era.
The Alps are the largest mountain chain in Europe and have some of the highest peaks on the continent too. The French Alps are the portion of the mountain range that is located within France.
This is a widely known destination for winter sports. But it is also a great place to visit during the summer.
If you are a person who enjoys outdoorsy activities, then the French Alps is the ideal place for you to go to.
There is a range of outdoor activities that you can do here such as hiking, skiing, pot-holing, white water rafting, mountaineering, mountain biking, visiting thermal baths, etc. and the list goes on.
There are numerous natural parks that you can take a hike through as wells as picturesque lakes.
Known for its historic towns, architecture, and wines, the Loire Valley is just a short journey from Paris.
It is also referred to as the Cradle of the French and the Garden of France because of the abundance of fruit orchards, vineyards, artichoke and asparagus fields that line the banks of the river Loire.
This is also the perfect place to enjoy the French countryside and sceneries along the river.
A famous activity with visitors to the valley is sight-seeing the chateaux. There are 22 majestic castles to see here.
I personally love exploring castles and their history. And the best thing about the castles in Loire Valley is that they have a fairytale-like quality to them.
Then there are the beautiful historical towns, villages, and cathedrals. Two of the most important towns are Tours and Loche.
And another fantastic opportunity a visit to the Loire Valley gives us the chance to enjoy some of the best-quality wines in the country.
Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean sea.
It still retains many Italian cultural elements due to its historical connections with the Italian peninsula. And even though the island of Corsica is a part of France, the atmosphere and culture there feel very different from the mainland.
Corsica is an enchanting place to visit whatever the season. There are marvelous mountains, beautiful beaches, and landscapes, and heritage sites to see.
There are numerous widely varying opportunities for you to take advantage of on a vacation to Corsica such as hiking, snorkeling, sunbathing, boat trips, enjoying the island’s history, and enjoying the local food.
You will find that a trip to Corsica is a very individual experience owing to its cultural difference with the mainland of France.
Notre Dame Cathedral
The Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris), is one of the most popular places in Paris. It is a widely recognized symbol of France.
The Notre Dame is a medieval Catholic cathedral consecrated to the Virgin Mary.
The cathedral boasts fine French gothic architecture and has the world’s largest organs and large church bells, which make the church especially stand out.
Each year thousands of spectators enter the cathedral to marvel its glory. But sadly a huge fire that took over much of the cathedral’s roof and spire in April 2019 put a pause on visitations.
Let’s hope that the renovations will be finished soon and we will be able to see the splendid ancient cathedral in its former glory again.