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The best of France
"The Hexagon," as France is commonly known, has all the climates and terrains you could ever need, which means the best things to do in France are... well-rounded? To be honest, it would be a real challenge to experience them all in just one lifetime. From Paris (and its supersized dose of culture) to gastronomic delights at every turn, we’ve pulled together the best of the France you don’t know, right here. Make sure to book a room at one of the best hotels in France while planning your stay. Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere. Find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world.
Year after year, France holds on to its title of the world’s most visited country (at the last count, about 85 million visitors a year). It’s hardly surprising: you’ve got three coastlines – the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the Channel – combined with the Alps and the Pyrenees, plus world-class cities, exquisite villages, volcanic landscapes and a seemingly endless stream of natural parks. The food and wine aren’t bad either. As you would expect given the number of tourists and the fact that this is Europe’s third-biggest country, France offers its guests a dizzying range of accommodation – everything from Alpine lodges and seaside hideaways to chic city hotels and countryside chateaux. Your choice will usually depend on what sort of holiday you’re planning, but we’ve come up with some of the best in the country.
Now that more countries are opening back up to international tourism again, our minds have turned to where we’re going to explore next. And the chocolate-box villages of France are a strong contender. But where to start? It could be Hunspach, which has just been named the nation’s favourite village. The tiny town in the Alsace region won its new title as part of annual French TV show ‘Le Village Préféré des Français’. Tourism is expected to rise by 30 per cent in the town, thanks to its new crown. Luckily, for those looking to skip the crowds, another 13 delightful French villages appear on the competition shortlist – and they’re all among the most beautiful places to visit in France. Here’s the full rundown of the best villages in France in 2020, as voted by the public, so you can start planning your picture-perfect road trip. Bon voyage!
Ever diverse and impossible to pin down, France of course means many things to many people. For some, it’s beaches and Mediterranean sun. For others, it’s the glossy ski slopes of the Alps. For others, it’s the otherworldly lavender fields of Provence. And for others yet, it’s all those rural châteaux – ironically complete with impeccably manicured ‘English’ gardens. So what do all those visions of la vie à la française have in common? In their own way, they’re all bloody beautiful. And we each, inevitably, have our own absolute favourite. That’s probably why indefatigable travellers like us can’t stop going back: year after year, France is the most visited tourist destination on the planet. We crave a return to that one local boulangerie, that one blue run, that one coastal walk. Even if you haven’t visited the country before, you’ll no doubt come away singing the praises of whatever random region you end up going to first. Planning a holiday right now? Browse our list of the 17 most beautiful places to visit in France in your lifetime and pick your next dream tricolore getaway. RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in France
It’s been a playground for millionaires, Hollywood stars and other celebrity jetsetters since the late 19th century – when a railway was built linking the French Riviera, or Côte d’Azur, with the rest of Europe. And what’s kept them coming for the last 150 years? No doubt the balmy climate, which generally guarantees around 300 days of sunshine a year. Once a place of recuperation for Brits with tuberculosis, by the 19th century the ritzy Riviera was awash with grand hotels and swanky casinos that pulled in slebs ranging from Queen Victoria and Ernest Hemingway to Coco Chanel and Pablo Picasso. And these days, not much has changed. A glitzy string of chic conurbations, scattered like gold-plated confetti along the Mediterranean from sultry Saint-Tropez to border town Menton, still attract modern-day royals the Beckhams and the Kardashians. We bet pretty much anyone who has a yacht – and who doesn’t? – will have passed through in the past year or so. But all this isn’t to say you have to be in the money to have a good time on the Côte d’Azur (though that obviously helps). Explore our selection of the absolute best cities and towns to visit on the French Riviera and you’ll find France’s most exclusive coast… isn’t actually all that exclusive. Allez, vite! RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in France
It might be better known for pioneering gastronomy and world-class museums – plus that ineffable eyeful of a tower. But fabulous France is also a beach lover’s paradise. Whether it’s the sparkling seas and secret coves of Napoleon’s birthplace Corsica, the French Riviera’s glitzy, boutique-lined bays, the endless dunes and sleepy fishing villages that line the Atlantic or Normandy’s stately seafront, the Hexagon’s three coastlines have been a magnet for holidaymakers for decades. Thing is, there are hundreds of beaches in France to choose from... so where do you even start? We have some ideas. You may prefer off-the-beaten-path swimming spots to Blue Flag beaches with all imaginable facilities, but whatever’s your seaside jam, our pick of the absolute best beaches in France should have you covered. So plop on that beret, grab a baguette, some boursin and a bottle of red – and head down to spend the day at one of these idyllic coastal destinations. And while you’re at it, why not combine your trip with one of these incredible places to visit in France? RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in France