“Every man has two countries; his own and France.”John F. Kennedy
Top Five Destinations In France
- Paris, The city of light Paris, is the world’s most popular tourist destination. France’s capital is known for its romantic ambiance, gastronomy, fashion art, and iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Versailles Palace Sacre-Coeur Notre Dame Cathedral. Paris is also home to some of the world’s finest museums, including the Louvre Museum and Musee d’Orsay. Paris boasts magnificent gardens such as the Luxembourg Gardens and outdoor markets.
- Provence Extending into the French Riveria Located in the South of France is the Mediterranean sea’s shoreline (Cote d’Azur). The area is a lovely landscape of rolling hills, vineyards as far as the eye can see, gorgeous castles, quaint villages, expansive lavender fields, and simply pure wonder. The Provence markets are world-renowned, and there is no better way to spend the day.
- Loire Valley Is a region in France nicknamed the “Garden of France.” It is regarded for its spectacular scenery, splendid chateaux, picturesque vineyards, wineries, and historic villages; a castle lover’s dream.
- Wine region, any of them Bordeaux, Burgundy, Reims/Champagne, Beaujolais, Rhone, and Alsace. France remains one of the top wine producers, with wines of every style and quality level from hundreds of unique appellations. Each of these regions has a unique beauty and lovely villages. There is nothing like miles and miles of spectacular vineyards to enjoy while wine tasting.
- Colmar and Strasbourg Along the German and Switzerland border of France. These cities are a photographer’s dream, with a labyrinth of cobbled lanes, flower-lined canals, and timber-framed houses painted in a rainbow of pastel hues. They are the quintessential Alsatian towns, brimming with traditional restaurants and surrounded by vineyards and medieval castles. Many travelers feel that Colmar is quainter. Both are known for their Christmas markets.
Did you know?
- Population: 67.8 million
- Capital City: Paris
- Currency Euro: (EUR)
- Language: French (official) 100%, declining regional dialects, and languages (Provencal, Breton, Alsatian, Corsican, Catalan, Basque, Flemish, Occitan, Picard)
- Government type: semi-presidential republic
- Religions: Christian (Overwhelmingly Roman Catholic) 63-66%, Muslim 7-9%, other 4.5-6.5%, none 23-28%
- U.S. State Department Risk Level: 3 due to Covid, Terrorism, and Civil Unrest
- Terrorist groups: Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps/Qods Force; Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham; al-Qa’ida
- Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity are the national motto of France.
- France’s formal name is La République Française (French Republic)
- France is the wealthiest country in Europe and the fourth wealthiest in the world.
- GDP 2.954 trillion ranked tenth in the world.
- France is the world’s most popular tourist destination, with about 84 million visitors annually.
- It is the largest country in the European Union, with 22 different regions.
- France’s Independence day is July 14th and is celebrated on a large scale nationwide.
- 94% of French children have English as their second language
- France won the most Nobel Prizes for literature than any country.
- The French rail network is the second largest in Europe ninth biggest in the world.
- The coastline of France is 2,142 miles.
- Mont Blanc in the French Alps is the highest mountain in Europe.
- France produces nearly a billion tons of cheese annually, of which there are 400 different types.
- Once rated 4th most productive country in the world.
- France is the world’s third-largest exporter of agricultural goods.
- The French inventions include the metric system, tin cans, hairdryers, hot air balloons, sealed glass jars for preserving, champagne, braille, and the camera phone.
- Life expectancy is 82.9 years old, which is a world ranking of 5.
- France’s literacy rate of 99%.
- France is famous for having many castles, palaces, and manors. It’s said to have around 40,000 castles. The most visited castles in France are Versailles, Chenonceau, and Chambord.
- France is also referred to as L’Hexagone, which means the hexagon due to its geometrical shape.
- The French army was the first to use camouflage in 1915.
- The French drink 11.2 billion glasses of wine each year.
- France has more Nobel prize winners in literature than any other country, 15.
- In France, you can marry a dead person posthumously in exceptional cases.
- Half of the world’s roundabouts are in France.
- The Louvre in Paris is the most visited museum in the world.
- French was the official language of England from 1066-1362.
- France in 2016 banned supermarkets from throwing away food, the first in the world to do so.
- The first movie screening occurred in France in 1895.
- April Fool’s day originated in France.
- The world’s first artificial heart transplant and face transplant occurred in France.
- French cuisine, or Gastronomy, was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status in 2010.
- The French eat around 30,000 tons of snails yearly or about 6.5 snails per person.
- France produces around 1.7 million tons of cheese a year in approximately 1,600 varieties.
- The tradition of wearing a white dress at weddings originated in France in 1499.
- Denim clothing originated in Nimes, France.
- The Statue of Liberty in NYC was a gift from France to the U.S.
- The Tour de France cycle race has been running for over 100 years (1903).
- France is where gothic art and the Baroque style of architecture were born.
- The most popular sport in France is soccer.
- France has the most extensive railway system in Western Europe. Commercial rail companies use high-speed trains traveling at up to 200mph.
Good to know before you go
- Tipping is not required in France, as it is included in the bill. Though not customary or expected, rounding up or a few extra euros for excellent service will be appreciated. This includes restaurants, cab drivers, porters, bartenders, and other service workers.
- Credits cards are readily accepted everywhere except for small vendors or in some markets. For small items like coffee or a pastry, cash is ideal.
- Overall, the clothing is stylish, sleek, and well-kept. The French tend to be fashion savvy. If going to higher-end restaurants or the theater, there is a dress code, so dress appropriately. While wandering Paris, you will see both casual and haute couture on the same street. Though jeans have become more popular, it is still not as common as in other European nations. Sneakers are common but tend to be more stylish and have darker colors. In the smaller villages in France, the dress is often more casual except among the older locals.
- France’s roadways are diverse, from modern high-speed motorways to rural one-way dirt roads. There are three kinds of routes, and you should become familiar with them; 1) Autoroutes, 2) National Roads, and 3) Department Roads. The majority are A for autoroute and are toll roads. Tolls (péage) can get quite expensive in France, so be cognizant if you are on a budget. Toll roads take credit cards, and there are many large service areas (every 9 miles) along the autoroute. If you want to take a more scenic route and are not rushing, then D for department roads is the way to go. You will discover new towns and have a much better view of France’s landscape. N for National routes is the shortest distance between two major centers and the preferred method for freight traffic, which is huge in France. Keep in mind in small villages, streets are very narrow and, at times challenging to negotiate.
- In France, they have a low tolerance for driving under the influence. As a matter of fact, Since July 2012, all drivers must have a breathalyzer (L’éthylotest) on hand. You can buy a single-use breathalyzer in a pharmacy, Tabac shop, or some supermarkets. The tolerated blood alcohol level in France is very low, 0.5 mg. per ml, which means one drink can put you over the alcohol limit.
- France requires your vehicle to have three items: 1. A warning triangle 2. A yellow reflective security vest 3. French Breathalyzer
- This is the home of roundabouts. They are magnificent once you learn to navigate them. Take time to learn roundabout etiquette, and you will fall in love with them too!
- Speed cameras are common in France, so it is best to watch your speed closely.
- The French public transportation system is exceptional. The metro in Paris is simple to navigate, and no place in Paris is greater than 1/3 mile from a metro station. Trains within Paris and all over France are incredible and very timely. The train stations are enormous!! The TGV, high-speed trains, are always worth it. If you buy tickets in the months before the trip, you will find the train much less expensive and first-class only for a few euros more. First class is wonderful and much more enjoyable if you can catch it when prices are low. Don’t miss your train; Joelle did that once from Lyon to Paris, and she paid an exorbitant price for a coach seat on the next train.
- The French love American music, and you will hear it everywhere, but by law, at least 35% of all music played on private radio stations must be French.
- The French love almost everything American, especially the people. They still appreciate the U.S.’s role in liberating France from Hitler. Joelle observed this when her American family and friends were directly thanked while visiting Normandy for their role in rescuing France; they weren’t even born yet.
- The French don’t appreciate rude Americans, but we can guarantee they despise rude fellow Frenchpersons even more. They take the mindset of good etiquette, manners, and politeness seriously in France.
- France is not a place for impatient people. Speedy service is not their thing. Anything worth doing is done thoughtfully and well.
- The only beverage you should have during a meal is wine or water: no coffee, soft drink, tea, or beer. Oh, and coffee to go is still not the norm in France.
- When speaking English, speak slower. They understand English, but we tend to talk fast and use slang they did not learn in school.
- The French do have their superstitions! According to folklore, placing a baguette or a loaf of bread on the table upside down puts the people around you at risk of misfortune or death. As a guest in someone’s home takes care of your baguette placement.
- The French have a great fear of drafts. “Le Courant d’air” is no laughing matter to the French. Midsummer in stifling heat in a crowded dining room Joelle and her family were enjoying a meal with her lovely French family; she went to open just one of many closed windows. The reaction was swift and firm. Close that window, or you will get sick from the Courant d’air.
- The French eat late. Of the finer restaurants or non-touristy ones, you will find opening hours between 7-8 pm. With many more exceptional places or tiny establishments, there are two seatings: 8:00 and 10:30. You will be there the whole time, and yes, the 10:30 finished around 1:00 am.
- In most of Europe, especially France, most restaurants won’t clear your plate until everyone at the table is done. This is good etiquette, and we wish it were practiced everywhere. If one plate is removed while the other customers are still eating, it sends the message that they are being rushed to leave or that the others are taking too long to eat. No plates should be cleared until all the customers are finished eating. Finer dining establishments call this the book rule.
- The French greet predominantly with kissing on the cheeks, even in business. This is usually a light kiss cheek to cheek, mainly in the air. Usually two, but in some regions, it can be four. Suppose you are unsure what to do; just let them lead. If they reach out their hand, then shake it. The French are not huggers; even with close family, this is a romantic gesture between couples. It may even be offensive to some french people.
- Most French metro shuts down at 2:00; remember when you are out and about. Taxis and rideshare services can be called during later hours.
- The French are proud people; they will self-criticize their own country and politics but don’t like it much when you do. Keep your opinions to yourself. If you need to critique, speak about your views on U.S. politics. They watch us closely.
- Never leave a bathroom door open. Always fully close the door.
- The French have a particular sense of humor, often dry and sometimes offensive. Not meant to offend; they try not to take themselves too seriously!
- Raucous dinner debates and arguing in common in French culture. This will include dramatic gestures and raised voices. This is ingrained in the french, don’t take it personally if directed at you.
- As Joelle is French and has all her extended family in France, she will address some cultural tips in the next section to enhance your French experience.
Joelle’s Do’s and Don’ts when visiting France
The French have a reputation for being rude, intolerant, and hating Americans. That is so far from the truth. The French are some of the kindest and most gracious people I have come across in my travels. That is not my native bias but from close observations outside my interactions. I have taken many American friends of all ages and watched closely (it is the behavioral scientist in me). Or I am simply watching tourists interact with the locals.
When I travel to accompany friends and family for the first time, I always share a basic set of rules (#1 below), and they have rarely had negative experiences anywhere in France.
The French follow established manners, rules, and cultural customs or, more to say, etiquette. These are very important to the French, and by acting on these, you will find a much warmer and kinder welcome. The French are proud people; being aware and showing respect goes a long way. You are a guest in their country, be a good one.
When to go to France
Thanks to the five mountain ranges (the Alps, Pyrenees, Massif Central, Jura, and the Vosges) and the three oceans (Atlantic Ocean, North Sea, and the Mediterranean), France is a veritable year-round playground.
The best time to visit France is Spring’s shoulder seasons (April to May) or fall (September to November) when the weather is warm, and the crowds are less crazy. The winter months (December to February) are great for ski holidays and wide-open attractions, while the summer with lovely weather (June to August) is the most crowded and priciest time of year.
The temps below are for Paris. The French Alps would have harsher winter temps and the Mediterranean warmer overall all seasons.
- Summer 56-78 °F (13-26 °C)
- Spring 41-69 °F ( 5-21 °C)
- Fall 42-71°F ( 6-22°C)
- Winter 36-48 °F (2-17 °C)
Our Favorite Resources
This resource section contains some Amazon affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!
France is the place Joelle had been to more than any other country in the world. Her parents were born and raised in France, and French was her first language. That said, when all your extended family is in France, all those trips are not about seeing the country but going from one table to another. It wasn’t until she was an adult she saw France beyond that. Using guides for those trips was what started her travel guide collection. Learning what there was to see was not easy, and it emphasized the importance of research early on.
This was the first Rick Steves guidebook Joelle bought, and she has since relied on them for all destinations he offers. Full disclosure, we are huge Rick Steve’s fans; it will be rare not to recommend one of his wonderful guides. We love his travel style and perspective. His off-the-beaten-path approach and his independent travel philosophy match well with how we travel. The guides never disappoint and are a wonderful resource. Find this must-have guide here.
A passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on the highlights France has to offer and what hidden discoveries await you. Grab a café crème at a Parisian sidewalk cafe, take in glacial panoramas above Chamonix and explore the Champagne-soaked city of Reims. Great photography and lots of details to aid in planning. Discover this travel guide here.
This is the quintessential guide to France. Michelin is based in France and knows its home base better than anyone. It also uses a rating system that helps pick what is best for your trip. The updated version presents star-rated attractions, accompanied by regional introductions, cultural background, detailed maps, and recommendations for many great hotels and restaurants. Looking for medieval castles, a guide to visiting Normandy beaches, info on world-renowned wine regions, finding the lavender fields in Provence, or detailed guides to cities? Michelin ensures you see the best of France. Find this guide here.
Our favorite websites
2. U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs France Country Info
We cannot encourage you enough to visit this website as you plan and prepare for your trip. This is the U.S. Federal Government addressing the safety, security, travel risk, entry, exit, visa documents mandates, emergency U.S. and Embassy contacts, health, local laws, special circumstances, threats, traveler vulnerabilities, government warnings, and transportation in France. This is your best and most reliable resource for all this important info. Check back often before you go, as things can change quickly. Being prepared is essential in all travel, but especially internationally.
3. The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travelers Health Resource
This CDC travel resource provides essential health info for your specific destination. Using their tool, you can determine which vaccines, medications, and health advice recommendations are needed for France.
Our favorite maps
Renowned for over 100 years for their clear, accurate, and easy-to-read mapping, Michelin gives travelers an overall picture of their route with practical road and travel information; and city maps containing extensive street indexes. Major sites and landmarks are well marked. Though we default to Google maps, this came in handy when service was poor or during construction detours. Find this essential map here.
Our favorite apps
Rome2rio: Trip Planner Trip and Holiday Organizer Enter any address, landmark, or city in the App will instantly display all your travel options, and booking info, along with accommodation providers and things to do. Find on your local App store.
Rick Steve’s Audio Europe This App includes a vast library of Rick Steve’s audio content. Get cultural and travel info. Includes self-guided tours of top attractions and historic walks. A must-have. Find on your local App store.
iTranslate One of the most popular Translation Apps, iTranslate can translate words, phrases, and text into French. You can listen to translations both in male and female voices. Find it in your App store.
Google Translate We use this often to practice proper pronunciations of French words. As we always encourage, learning the basics of greeting and thanking people in the local language is essential. Google translate was an easy app to use. If needed, you can enter text in English, which will speak back in French to aid in communicating with locals. Furthermore, it came in very handy to translate text into images instantly.
Do you have a favorite France travel resource? Share your favorites in the comments section at the bottom of this page or
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Our Recommended Travel Resources
Our favorite travel insurance site!
If you book a trip, don’t forget to get travel insurance within 14 days of your first booking. We could not be stronger advocates of being well-insured. Not just for the little stuff but the big things like medical emergencies. We never leave home without it. Over the years, we have used many sites but have now found our go-to place. Squaremouth.com does a fantastic job; it has a user-friendly interface, uses top-rated and reputable insurance carriers, and most policies cover COVID-19 medical issues and cancellations. They also mediate on your behalf if you have problems with your policy.
To empower you as a consumer, we suggest you read our blog post on the importance of travel insurance and how to get the best coverage from top-rated companies for an affordable price.
Medical transport back home from anywhere in the world
They are the premier global air medical transport. One caveat to travel insurance is that medical evacuation usually gets you to the closest facility to care for you. Medjet gets you back to the U.S. to the hospital of your choice once you are stable enough to fly. They cover Covid-related transports as well.
Medjet carries its own policies. The policy is only for transport and no other aspects of travel insurance. They have individual trip policies starting at $99 and annual policies for around $300. Most of their policies limit the age to 74 and younger. Prices are not based on age below that.
To learn more about how Medical Evacuation membership with Medjet Assist works, check out our blog post for a more detailed review.
Hotels, home rentals, BNBs, flights, and other transportation & tours
Expedia is a US-based company whose mission is to power global travel for everyone and everywhere. Whether planning a family vacation, booking for business, or organizing the trip of a lifetime, they are a fantastic resource. Wanderers Compass focuses on independent travel, and using sites like Expedia makes that possible. Every aspect of travel you need, from airfare, accommodations, rental car, and cruises to activities to do at your destination, can be booked on Expedia.
Hotels, Home rentals, BNBs, Flights, and other Transportation & Tours
Booking.com connects millions of travelers to memorable experiences, various transportation options, and incredible places to stay – from homes to hotels and much more. It is one of the world’s largest travel marketplaces for established brands and entrepreneurs of all sizes.
We always check Expedia and Booking.com to verify prices. At times, one is sold out of rooms while another at the same place has rooms. As well we often find some European hotels, especially smaller ones, on Booking.com but not on Expedia. It could be they are a Europe-based company. Try both before booking accommodations.
Are you traveling with a family or having an extended stay at your destination?
With over 2 million bookable vacation rentals, VRBO connects homeowners with families and vacationers looking for something more than a hotel for their trip. The VRBO community offers families or groups various rental property types such as condos, cabins, lake rentals, beach houses, etc.
VRBO is under the Expedia group ownership now, which many were worried about, but it hasn’t panned out to be a concern. It is a massive network with access to all lodging forms should issues arise. Joelle has used VRBO for many years with her family with no problems.
As the leading marketplace for travel experiences, Viator believes that making memories is what travel is all about. And with 300,000+ experiences to explore—everything from simple tours to extreme adventures (and all the niche, interesting stuff in between)—making memories that will last a lifetime has never been easier.
With industry-leading flexibility and last-minute availability, it’s never too late to make any day extraordinary. This one site has it all and has experiences throughout the world. We use them often during our travels, especially for food tours. We especially take the time to read the reviews provided.
An excellent source for travel essentials and guides
We now have our own Amazon Storefront with all our favorite travel accessories and gear in one place. Check out our travel store at the link below.
Amazon is one of the most comprehensive online shopping sources in the world. On behalf of their customers, teams worldwide provide lower prices, better selection, and rapid delivery. They offer a vast inventory, and their 1.7 million small and medium businesses worldwide selling on Amazon.com offer extensive options to customers.
We buy most of our travel books, accessories, and luggage from Amazon. We have ordered up to two days before travel and get what we need.
(Airport and sightseeing service)
A global leader in ground transportation for travelers. They help hundreds of companies worldwide enhance their services and boost their revenue with our 5-star ride experiences and hassle-free automation.
Founded in 2015 in Athens, Greece, Welcome Pick-ups goes above and beyond the standard transfer service as the first company to deliver a holistic, in-destination travel experience. From the moment a traveler arrives at a new destination until they return home, Welcome accommodates all their travel needs (transfers, travel products, things to do, information) as the easiest, friendliest, and most personalized solution.
Discover Europe by Train
Rail Europe sells train and bus tickets for travel across Europe. They cover 24 countries, 105 rail operations, and 20,000 stations. They are the official rail and bus operations agents in the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Rail Europe continues to add coverage all the time.
It is a fast, easy, and economical way to purchase European train and bus tickets. Eurail passes are also available to buy through their site.
Travel documentation services
Do you feel like you are wasting time visiting an on-site photographer only to be embarrassed by the photo? Would you like control of the final product? Get the perfect VISA or passport photo online with PhotoAID.
When traveling, you often need to apply for official documents such as a passport, ID, and different kinds of licenses or cards. Those applications require a picture that must meet specific conditions to be accepted, depending on the country. Now, it is possible to take this picture at home without the help of a professional photographer. The PhotoAiD app allows you to take the perfect biometric photo that will be guaranteed by yourself without leaving your home.
This article contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!