Got France down as the land of wine, cheese and the Eiffel Tower? Think again, because Europe’s second largest country really does have it all. Within these borders you’ll find from some of world’s best places to ski, stunning beaches, top museums, fine cuisine and eccentric French festivals, not to mention the sheer magnificence of Paris, the nation’s capital. Experience France travel 2015, and get ready to have your lazy expectations overturned.
“London and paris was amazing, I absolutely loved the people I was with and my tour manager and bus driver were amazing people and they both helped all of us greatly. I decided to follow the tour to Amsterdam so I could stay in Europe longer and that was the best decision I ever made. Amsterdam was simply incredible. I highly recommend this trip.”
“This was my first contiki and turned out to be an amazing trip! I was traveling alone so was a bit nervous in the beginning but the group really became like a family...I liked it so much that although I had originally signed up to do London to Rome, the last night I was in Rome, I decided to extend to ATHENS! The trip took me to all the places I was dying to see (Paris, Barcelona & Florence) and opened my mind to places I had not really known much about (French Riviera, Corfu). Our tour manager, Zac, & driver, Rui, were super informative and fun! I highly, highly recommend this trip!”
“I wish the trip went longer. Made some best mates and had the time of my life. Could not ask for a better driver (Marco) and tour manager (Bec). Really helps when the contiki crew want to make the most out of our trip. And all 49 people were ever so greatful.”
With so much to see here, it pays to take a little extra care planning your trip. You won’t have time to savour everything this wonderful country has to offer in just one hit but we’ll help you boil it down to the essentials. Here are our pick of the top places to visit in France.
Marvel at the iconic Sagrada Familla in Barcelona.
Gaudi’s majestic creation has been wowing crowds since it first began construction in 1882. Since then, multiple architects have taken up the reins on the project, some honouring Gaudi’s original designs, other’s redefining the creation completely. The multiple and varied facades of the building, plus its sheer size and majesty, make it a must do for any traveller visiting Barcelona.See all trips that visit Barcelona
Indulge in traditional Andalusian delicacies in Seville.
Seville is renowned for its gastronomic offerings, and whilst the traditional dishes may be simple to prepare, they’re bursting with fresh regional flavours. Gazpacho, Pescaito frito and Huevos a la Flamenca are all famed Andalusian specialities, or for those preferring traditional tapas, Seville has around 4,000 tapas bars to choose from – take your pick!See all trips that visit Seville
Live like a King in the Royal Palace of Madrid.
Get a glimpse of life as the other half live with a guided tour of the Royal Palace in Madrid. The largest palace in Europe, the Palacio Real de Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, though is only used formally for state ceremonies. Gorge your eyes on the many works of art by famed Spanish painters as you delve a little deeper into Spain’s rich history.See all trips that visit Madrid
Party till dawn in the clubbing mecca of Ibiza.
Nowhere on Earth will you experience clubbing quite like Ibiza. Home to some of the world’s most infamous clubs, come and join the party as night after night revered world class DJ’s play their hearts out to adoring crowds. Get into the mood with sunset cocktails at Café Del Mar then party till sunrise at Space, DC-10 or Ibiza Rocks.See all trips that visit Ibiza
Bask in sunlight on Barceloneta Beach.
Some cities are fortunate enough to have the perfect city/beach balance, and Barcelona is one of them. Whilst Barceloneta Beach may be man-made, the water is clear and refreshing and the beach is alive with travellers and locals alike chatting, swimming and generally loving life. Spend long leisurely lunches in the surrounding cafes and restaurants, hire bikes or rollerblades or just relax in the sunshine.See all trips that visit Barcelona
Explore the Islamic inspired fortress of Alhambra.
Rising from woods of cypress and elm, the Alhambra reigns supreme on the hillside of Gibraltar. Born in the 11th Century and then further developed over the 14th and 15th century’s, the fortress holds an extensive network of lavishly decorated palaces and irrigated gardens and gives those who visit it a glimpse into the rich history of the Spanish empire and the influence both Islam and Catholicism had on the Alhambra’s design.See all trips that visit Gibraltar
1. Cannes Film Festival – The Cannes International Film Festival is just about the biggest and most prestigious film event of them all. With over 250,000 people in town, snagging a ticket to official screenings can be difficult, but there’s always the beach cinema, souvenir tents and some good old celeb spotting to fall back on. For film freaks, it doesn’t get much better.
For more information on Festival De Cannes, click here.
2. Rock on Seine, Paris – Handily, the biggest three-day mainstream music festival in France is located within walking distance of the Paris Metro. With over 60 artists performing on five stages in front of 100,000 fans, this one is a major event on the French festival calendar, making it a must-do if you want to some of the world’s major acts in a truly iconic city.
For more information on Rock on Seine, click here.
3. Fête Du Citroen, Menton – Founded in the early nineteenth century, this eccentric French festival is held each year in the beautiful resort of Menton on the Franco–Italian border. The premise? A celebration of huge sculptures made entirely from citrus fruits. Yes, it’s as bizarre as it sounds and is definitely one of the best French festival experiences.
For more information on Fête Du Citroen, click here.
4. Nuits Sonores, Lyon – This week-long event occupies 50 venues in the historic and stylish city of Lyon. Catering for a more modern and diverse audience of some 80,000 people, Nuits Sonore champions the fringe of international music, art and performance. Long days, late nights and Lyon sights: perfect.
For more information on Nuits Sonores, click here.
5. Nice Carnival, Nice – Apparently, they’ve been holding an annual shindig in this part of the world since 1294. That’s a lot of hangovers, and a lot of partying expertise: no wonder this two-week spectacular attracts over 1 million partygoers to the Mediterranean shores of the Côte d’Azur.
For more information on Nice Carnival, click here.
1. The Louvre Museum, Paris – The Louvre Museum in Paris is reputed to be the most visited museum on earth. A mind-boggling 9 million people a year hit the bricks here, attracted by the museum’s countless priceless artefacts, paintings, drawings and sculptures from all four corners of the globe. And yes, OK, the Mona Lisa. No wonder the Louvre is one of top places to see in Paris
For more information on the Louvre, click here.
2. Musée Rodin, Paris – Housed within the artist’s final residence, Hôtel Biron, the Rodin Museum Paris hosts the largest collection of the celebrated sculptor’s work alongside a programme of related exhibitions. Incredibly skilled and often surreal, this iconic Frenchman’s works are one of the must see sights in Paris
For more information on the Musée Rodin, click here.
3. Centre George Pompidou, Paris – The Pompidou Museum Paris: post-modern eyesore or functionalist dreamscape? Whatever your view, this one-of-kind building fulfils a number of functions. Home to the National Library, the Centre for Music Research and Europe’s largest Museum of Modern Art, expect to be both surprised and delighted by its ultra cool programme of exhibits.
For more information on the Centre Pompidou, click here.
4. Mucem, Marseilles – Housed in a stunning series of modern waterfront buildings, Mucem celebrates the art of Europe and the Mediterranean. Whenever you visit, expect to find a bewildering number of lectures, concerts, debates and exhibitions taking place on 3 sites covering some 44,000 square metres. Attracting 1.8 million visitors each year, this relatively new project already enjoys a reputation as one of the best places to visit in France.
For more information on the Mucem, click here.
5. Picasso Museum, Paris – The Picasso Museum Paris houses over 5,000 examples of this most celebrated artist’s work, including sculptures in wood and metal. Recently reopened after a massive expansion project, the Hôtel Salé site is also home to a number of other artist’s works including Rousseau and Matisse. The result is yet another of the essential places to visit in Paris.
For more information on the Picasso Museum, click here.
We all know the clichés. And while there’s more than a grain of truth to the idea of French cuisine as some form of over-the-top expressive art, the quality and variety of the grub on offer in France makes it one of the very top destinations for the food loving visitor. Fantastic seafood, artisan pastries and – n’est pas – the best wine in the world await you. Here are some tips to help you make a start:
Crêpe – A pancake served with either sweet or savoury fillings, this simple food is available everywhere and can be simple or complicated. Either way, it’s sensational.
Best eaten at – Breizh Cafê, 111 Rue Vieille 75003, Paris
Fruits de Mer – As you might expect from a nation with over 2000 miles of coastline, this dish of raw and cooked shellfish is all about fresh produce and spectacular presentation. Expect any combination of lobster, prawns, mussels, langoustine, oysters, crabs and clams served on ice with sauces for dipping. Shellfish allergy sufferers might want to steer clear.
Best eaten at – Le Ciro’s, Michel d’Ormano Promenade 14800, Deauville
Baked Camembert – ‘How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?’ asked French President Charles de Gaulle. It’s a fair point, and our favourite cheese-based dish originates from the northern region of Normandy. Baked whole and served hot with crusty bread – what’s not to love?
Best eaten at – Au Bouillon Normand, 7 Rue de la Ville, 14600 Honfleur, France
Petit Four – Literally translated as ‘Little Oven’ these delicious treats come glazed, salted or dry and are available in every patisserie. Best sampled with a cup of French coffee.
Best eaten at – Ladurée, Avenue des Champs-Élysées, 75008, Paris
Coq au Vin – This rustic farmhouse stew of chicken simmered in wine with bacon, herbs and vegetables originates from the Burgundy region. Like much great French cooking, it relies on the quality of the local ingredients.
Best eaten at – Le Bistrot des Halles, 10 Rue Bannelier, 21000, Dijon
French phrasebook - Speak the lingo to the locals here and they’ll treat you like an adopted son or daughter. Try English on them? Mon Dieu.
Light waterproof jacket - Rain can come and go without warning and it may help you blend in with the locals. Select one with a hood to protect your freshly coiffeured bouffant.
Indigestion tablets - All that fine wine and rich food can have an impact. Pop a couple of these little first-aiders in your bag just in case.
Camera - How else are you going to keep track of the sheer number of iconic sights you’ll see on your Gallic odyssey?
Adaptor - The French dance to the beat of their own electrical drum, so make sure you pack an adaptor so you can keep those phones and cameras charged.