France is the world's most popular tourist destination and it's really not hard to see why! It is a country of great natural beauty with the mountainous landscapes of the Alps and the Pyrenees offering excellent skiing and mountaineering prospects - and the gorgeous coastlines of the Bay of Biscay and the French Riviera offering some of the best seaside resorts in Europe. It is a country with an ancient and proud heritage with stunning historic cities, fairytale castles and an unrivalled prestige in the fine art world throughout history. It also boasts some of the most well regarded cuisine anywhere on the planet with classic dishes - including Boeuf Bourguignon and Foie Gras - accompanied by the fine wines of Bourdeux and the Loire Valleys and followed by world famous cheeses like Brie de Meaux, Roquefort, Morbier and Comte - to name just a few!
France's capital city is Paris - a city which must surely rank as the most romantic anywhere in the world. Its attractions - Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Champs Elysees are so famous as to hardly need repeating here whilst its bars, restaurants and hotels are amongst the finest on the continent. But there are a great many other historic cultural centres worth visiting - Toulouse, Strasbourg, Bourdeaux, Marseille - the list goes on.
When: France's temperate climate means that it is very pleasant in the spring and summer months but a little on the cold side in the autumn and winter months - though no less attractive for it!
Where: Be sure to see Paris if you haven't done so already. The iconic attractions here include the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, the opera house and the Champs Elysees. There are some of the best museums in the world including the Louvre, the Pompidou, the Musee d'Orsay, the Picasso Museum and the Rodin Museum.
Why: Paris is the place for culture buffs and boasts more stunning historic attractions than can possibly be seen in a short visit. If you haven't already been, there's no time like the present, and if you have, you simply must go again!
When: Head out to France in the midsummer for the stunning Mediterranean climate of the South of France and the Riviera.
Where: Beach lovers shouldn't miss out on the resort towns of the Riviera. St Tropez and Cannes are Europe's top glamour destinations whilst Monaco is the place to spot the Forbes rich-list on their super yachts! For some gorgeous beaches and true Belle Epoque charm, though, head to Nice.
Why: The French Riviera has long been one of the continent's top summer destinations. As well as stunning beaches, great nightlife and fantastic cuisine, it boasts beautiful and historic cities as well as a countryside dotted with beautiful and historic villages.
When: Why not head out to France at christmas time or in the early spring when the ski season is in full swing and you're guaranteed excellent snow cover?
Where: The French Alps boast a great number of fantastic resorts that have great skiing conditions in the winter months and make for stunning mountaineering in the summer. Chamonix, Meribel and Courchavel are the best known resorts but there are a great many more.
Why: The French Alps offer some of the best skiing conditions in Europe with stunning scenery, perfect snow and pistes suitable for all levels of ability.
When: Head out to France in the kids' summer holidays when the weather is pleasant - warm but not overbearing and when the countryside is in full bloom.
Where: Disneyland is the most visited tourist attraction in Europe and boasts a huge number of rides and live shows as well as the prospect of coming face to face with your favourite characters from the classic films. It is just a half hour's train ride from central Paris.
Why: Finding a holiday destination that appeals as much to the children as it does to their parents is always tough. An ideal solution would be to spend a couple of days on the rides of Disneyland followed by a couple of days in the art galleries of Paris which is just a short train ride away!
France has a temperate climate with the moderating effect of the Gulf Stream ensuring relatively mild winters and warm summers. The climate does vary quite a lot throughout the country though. The South of France has a more typically Mediterranean climate, with long hot summers and reasonably warm winters whilst the west of the country has an oceanic climate with lots of rain and fairly mild summers. Further east, the climate becomes more continental with greater temperature extremes - hot summers and freezing winters. The alpine regions are generally much colder and boast good annual snowfalls.
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What to expect
France is a hugely varied and very beautiful country. It is most well known for its capital city - 'the city of light' - Paris, its stunning cuisine and its excellent vineyards. It is also famous for the stunning beach resorts of the South as well as its gorgeous, bucolic countryside which is sporadically populated by stunning Renaissance palaces, charming farmhouses and quaint little villages. There are a great many other attractions which are well worth exploring in France though, like the attractive, historic seaside towns of the Bay of Biscay and the numerous stunning old cities like Toulouse, Strasbourg, Marseille and Bourdeaux. There is too much in France to possibly see in one lifetime!
Flight InformationFlights available from:
Belfast International, Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool, London City, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Luton, London Stansted, Manchester, NewcastleAirlines:
Aegean Airlines, Aer Lingus, Air Europa Scheduled, Air France, Air Malta, Air Mauritius, Air Serbia, Alitalia, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Delta Air Lines, EasyJet, Egyptair, El Al, FlyBE, Germanwings, Jet2.com, KLM, Lufthan