Click on the images to enlarge them
France with more than 82 million visitors per year still remains by far the most popular tourist destination in the world. Its sheer physical diversity is what makes it such a great place to spend an unforgettable vacation. There are so many places to visit from the coasts of Brittany and the limestone hills of Provence to the canyons of the Pyrenees and the half-moon bays of Corsica, and from the lushly wooded valleys of the Dordogne and the gentle meadows of the Loire valley to the snow covered peaks of the Alps.
Each of the regions of France has a different look and feel with its own style of architecture, often its own dialect and characteristic food. Many people in France refer to their own region as ‘mon pays’ which means my country and this strong sense of regional identity has persisted despite centuries of central governments, from Louis XIV to de Gaulle.
So whether you are a family looking to rent a ski chalet in one of the famous ski resorts or a French Gite in the countryside, or a couple looking for a romantic holiday apartment to rent in Paris you are guaranteed to have a great time in France.
France is a country with a population of approximately 64 million that covers 211,209 square miles (547,030 square kilometres) located in Western Europe to the south-east of the United Kingdom, west of Italy and Germany, and north-east of Spain bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean. The capital (and largest city) of France is Paris, which is home to more than two million people.
The first inhabitants in France date back approximately 50,000 years when France was initially defined as the western area of Germany known as Rhineland, but it was later referred to as a territory known as Gaul during the Iron Age and Roman era, when it was conquered by the Romans in the first century BC, after which the Gauls adopted the Roman Language and culture. Later around 400 AD Germanic tribes known as Franks began entering Gaul, which is where the modern name France was derived from.
In 843 the territory of Western France was created by the treaty of Verdun. A number of noble families ruled France until the monarchy was overthrown during the French revolution in 1798. 10 years later Napoleon Bonaparte took control of France and declared himself the Emperor and then went on to wage wars and conquer a good part of Europe before being defeated at the battle of waterloo on Sunday 18th June 1815.
During the First World War France suffered huge losses despite being on the winning side, then was seized by the Nazis during World War II, but liberated in 1944 by a combined effort of the United Kingdom, Canada and the USA.
France is now a big part of Europe and one of the leading countries pushing the EU monetary union.
Most people think of Paris as the centre of fashion, cuisine, art and architecture when they think of French culture, but life is very different outside the City and varies from region to region. In the past French culture has been influenced by the Franks, Celtic and Gallo-Roman culture.
Food and wine are central to life for everybody in France no matter what class or socioeconomic level, the French love to socialize around lengthy dinners. Bread and cheese are usually an essential part of any French meal and France is famous for its long, crusty baguettes.
Although France has always been famous for its fine cuisine, it is also, the second largest consumer of
McDonalds’ burgers after the USA, consuming more than a million Big Macs daily.
There is always confusion when meeting and greeting French people with the double kiss, or bise, when it is appropriate, which cheek should you start with, whether to touch or air kiss or whether it’s better to shake hands instead, norms vary between regions, social situations and age groups making it not only confusing for Foreign visitors but French families alike. If in doubt, hold back and copy what everyone else does. A new law was passed in 1910 forbidding couples from kissing on platforms in train stations to avoid delaying the departure of trains, although the law is still in place it is no longer enforced.
Below are the regions of France along with their capital cities:
Alsace (Alsace) Capital Strasbourg
Aquitaine (Aquitaine) Capital Bordeaux
Auvergne (Auvergne) Capital Clermont-Ferrand
Brittany (Bretagne) Capital Rennes
Burgundy (Bourgogne) Capital Dijon
Centre (Centre) Capital Orléans
Champagne-Ardenne (Champagne-Ardenne) Capital Châlons-en-Champagne
Franche-Comté (Franche-Comté) Capital Besançon
Île-de-France (Île-de-France) Capital Paris
Languedoc-Roussillon (Languedoc-Roussillon) Capital Montpellier
Limousin (Limousin) Capital Limoges
Lorraine (Lorraine) Capital Metz
Lower Normandy (Basse-Normandie) Capital Caen
Midi-Pyrénées (Midi-Pyrénées) Capital Toulouse
Nord-Pas-de-Calais (Nord-Pas-de-Calais) Capital Lille
Pays de la Loire (Pays de la Loire) Capital Nantes
Picardy (Picardie) Capital Amiens
Poitou-Charentes (Poitou-Charentes) Capital Poitiers
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur) Capital Marseille
Rhône-Alpes (Rhône-Alpes) Capital Lyon
Upper Normandy (Haute-Normandie) Capital Rouen
Corsica (Corse) Capital Ajaccio
French Guiana (Guyana) Capital Cayenne
Guadeloupe (Guadeloupe) Capital Basse-Terre
Martinique (Martinique) Capital Fort-de-France
Mayotte (Mayotte) Capital Mamoudzou
Reunion (La Réunion) Capital Saint-Denis
Suggested Cities/Towns in France to visit
France is a country full of beautiful cities, each one with its own style, character and flavour. Just a few of them are:
Paris – a beautiful cultured city famous for its romantic city breaks, food, art, architecture & fashion. During the day you can wander the beautiful Parisian streets and stop off in the quaint bakeries, fresh markets and superb boutiques.
There are many sights to see in Paris including the world-famous Eiffel Tower, the Sacre Coeur church, Arc de Triomphe, and the Champs-Elysees. If you are looking for something more educational why not visit some of the many museums such as the Mémorial de la Shoah and Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, or If you are an art lover you have to visit The Louvre, the Picasso Museum, the Musée de l'Orangerie and the Musée d'Orsay.
Avignon - with its narrow streets opening onto expansive plazas, enchanting pedestrian shopping zones and fabulous restaurants, ringed by incredibly preserved 800-year-old stone ramparts. Few people realize that the pope's palace was relocated to Avignon in France during the Middle Ages, the Pope's Palace, first built in the 1300s, is the size of four normal French cathedrals and is the largest gothic palace in Europe.
If you plan to visit both the Languedoc and Provence, Avignon makes an ideal home base.
Bordeaux – still the world’s HQ of wine and château owners with some of the most graceful streets in France and the centre has a grandiose 18th-century harmony unmatched in Europe. Bordeaux has been renovated with a vengeance – restoring noble façades, installing trams and reclaiming from dereliction the vast swathe of riverbank.
Cannes - on the Côte d’Azur, (French Riviera) is best known for its Film Festival in May and its chic elegance and high living for well over a century. There are many places to visit like Le Suquet overlooking the old port with its narrow streets which climb to the 12th century Tour de Mt Chevalier and the church of Notre Dame de l'Espérence, the Bellini Chapel, Villa Rothschild and Villa Domergue.
Lille - (Rijsel in Flemish) one of France's most underrated cities. In recent decades it has transformed itself into a glittering and self-confident cultural and commercial hub. It has an attractive old town with a strong Flemish accent, three renowned art museums, stylish shopping, some excellent dining options and a cutting-edge, student-driven nightlife scene.
Lyon - the capital of the Rhone-Alps region and shaped by its two rivers, the Rhône (to the East) and the Saône (to the West), which both run North-South is the third largest city in France and centre of the second largest metropolitan area in the country. It is known as a gastronomic and historical city with a vibrant cultural scene. It is also the birthplace of cinema.
Marseille - still known as the "Phocaean city" is an amazing city nestled between sea and hills that moves with the seasons and passions. France's second largest city founded 2600 years ago; the oldest city in France combines the richness of a unique heritage, an intense cultural life, and an exceptional location.
Montpellier - capital of Languedoc Roussillon is a lively city and some of the world's most prestigious heritage sites. It’s the ideal location in the South of France for a Mediterranean holiday. A few hours from Paris, Montpellier offers great holiday rentals, fine wines & restaurants.
Nantes - the sixth largest city in France, but quaint enough to feel at home, situated 30 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean on the Loire estuary, Nantes is a perfect gateway to the Brittany and the Loire Valley
Nice - fifth largest city in France and the capital of the Riviera, not just a beach resort, it has all the advantages and disadvantages of a major city: superb culture, shopping, eating and drinking, but also crime, graffiti and horrendous traffic, all set against a backdrop of blue skies, sparkling sea and sub-tropical greenery kept lush by sprinklers.
Strasbourg - capital of the region of Alsace Set on the Franco-German border shaped by both countries throughout the centuries, its medieval and village-like charm is intertwined with a dynamic contemporary twist and international scene.
Toulouse - one of the most vibrant cities in France and capital of Haute-Garonne in the Midi-Pyrenees region, half way between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean is the fourth largest city in France, after Paris, Marseille and Lyon, and it is known as the capital of French rugby and for violets, which are used to make bonbons and liqueurs.
Walking and Climbing
France has a network of 180,000 signposted long distance footpaths, known as sentiers de grande randonnée or GRs e.g. GR5, GR10 or GR20 which have campsites, refuges and gites along the way. There are also thousands of shorter sentiers de promenade et de randonnée, the PRs, as well as nature walks and many other local footpaths. Mountain climbing is possible all year round in France, but remember some of the higher routes will be snowbound until quite late in the year. In the mountainous areas you can usually find Professional Mountain guides located in the tourist offices, who can organise walking expeditions for all levels. In the lowland areas, particularly the limestone cliffs of the south and west, you can also find possibilities for rock climbing (escalade).
Famous for the Tour De France, there are more than 50,000km of marked cycle paths (pistes cyclables) in France.
There are an increasing number of specially designated long-distance cycle routes (véloroutes and voies vertes) in the countryside and many towns and cities have cycle lanes.
Skiing and Snowboarding
France has millions of visitors for skiing and snowboarding, whether its downhill, cross-country or ski-mountaineering. These days more and more people and families are organising their own ski and snowboarding holidays, booking their own flights and holiday rental accommodation. The peak season for skiing in France is February and March although it is possible to ski at high altitudes from early November through to the end of April. The best skiing and snowboarding is usually in the Alps and the higher the resort the better the snow and longer the season. The foothills of the Alps in Provence offer skiing on a smaller scale although the snow may be not as reliable. The Pyrenees are generally less developed in France unless you go further into Andorra and they are also warmer, which means the season can be shorter and the snow can be less reliable. France is currently trying to promoting Cross-country skiing (ski de fond), especially in the smaller ranges of the Jura and Massif Central, it is said to be easier on the joints, but it’s certainly not any less energetic. If you are experienced and fit, it’s a good way of getting about on the snowbound GR routes to discover villages that are still relatively un-commercialized.
The Hautes-Alpes of Provence, the Pyrenees and Corsica are very popular for hang-gliding and paragliding in the limestone caverns of southwest France, the gorges and ravines of the Pyrenees and the Alps and the Massif Central are very popular for caving in France, arrangements can be made through local clubs and they can usually organize beginner courses or half- and full-day outings.
What better way to explore the French countryside than on horseback. The most famous and romantic region for horse riding is the flat and windswept Camargue at the Rhône Delta. Almost all towns in France have an equestrian centre (centre équestre) where you can arrange to ride with a guide or unaccompanied. Also popular are Donkey and Mule trekking, particularly along the trails of the Pyrenees and Alps. A list of riding centres is available from the local tourist offices or the Comité National de Tourisme Équestre (wffe.com/tourisme).
Most water sports are available along the extensive well developed coastline of France, especially in the south.
The towns and resorts on the Mediterranean coast have every conceivable type of beachside activity, including diving, snorkelling, sailing, water skiing, sea-fishing and pleasure boat trips. A lot of the popular resorts can be very busy at peak times so if you are looking for some peace and tranquillity a private holiday Gite or villa rental can be a good choice and some of the quieter sandy coves with clear-blue waters are unbeatable. The Western Mediterranean is wind-licked and perfect for windsurfers where they can enjoy calm saltwater inlets (étangs). The Atlantic coast is good for sailing, particularly around Brittany, The best surfing can be found in Biarritz and further north, Anglet, Hossegor and Lacanau regularly host international competitions. If you like diving then Corsica and the Côte d’Azur have a number of World War II era wrecks. There are also many river beaches, real and artificial lakes in France that have leisure centres (bases de plein airs or centres de loisirs) where you can rent pedaloes, windsurf boards and dinghies, as well as larger boats. On the bigger reservoirs you can also rent jet-skis. Canoeing is another very popular water sport in France, in the summer practically every navigable stretch of river has an outlet where you can rent boats or organizing excursions. The rivers of the southwest (the Dordogne, Vézère, Lot and Tarn) in particular offer a good variety. The Loire and Burgundy are very popular for Canal-boating.
Welcome Worldwide Holiday Rentals
On Welcome Worldwide Holiday Rentals you can search from a selection of holiday homes, Gites and vacation properties to rent in France. Luxury villas with pools on the coast, beautiful traditional inland Gites, Apartments or Chalets in the many Ski resorts like Chamonix or St Anton or luxury holiday apartments in Paris. Welcome-worldwide.com Holiday Rentals can assist holidaymakers with all French holiday accommodation rentals in France. Holiday letting on Welcome Worldwide Holiday Rentals is done directly through the owners. With Welcome Worldwide website you can book a holiday rental home suitable for any type of holiday or vacation, whether you are looking for a family skiing holiday, family holiday on the beach or a romantic city break in Paris.
Welcome Worldwide Holiday Rentals offers you a wide range of holiday rental properties in France helping you to organise your unforgettable French holiday.