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The 23 best things to do in France

From world famous cuisine to jaw-dropping sports to landscapes, these are the very best things to do in France
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‘The Hexagon,’ as France is commonly known, has all the climates and terrains you could ever need. 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.

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Find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world.

Best things to do in France

1
Le Jules Verne
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Lawrence Y.

Eat in a Michelin-starred restaurant on the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower

Which chef comes top of the top of French gastronomy year after year? Alain Ducasse, of course, who took over Le Jules Verne on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower, 125 metres above the ground  a few years ago. Expect haute cuisine French ingredients prepared by talented chef Pascal Féraud.

2
Le Louvre
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/luizfilipe

Lose yourself in the galleries of the Louvre

Under architect I.M Pei’s glass pyramid, commissioned by President Mitterrand in 1983, awaits hours of culture vulturing. From Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek and Roman treasures to the mythical Mona Lisa, Musée du Louvre has one of the most beautiful collections in the world.

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3
Chateau de Versailles
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/michalo

Admire the finest contemporary art at the Château de Versailles

From the Galerie des Glaces to the Grand Trianon and Marie-Antoinette's estate, to the Opera Chapel, treat yourself to an overdose of gilding at the Château de Versailles. Jeff Koons, Xavier Veilhan, Takashi Murakami, Bernar Venet and Joana Vasconcelos have all exhibited at the Palace of the Sun King - keep an eye on the program to see which contemporary artists is up next.

4
Pigalle Moulin Rouge

Wander the streets of Pigalle and finish up at Bouillon Pigalle

Pigalle is hands down one of the capital’s most mythical and mystical neighbourhoods. The area never sleeps and each of its streets tops the last. Beyond its gaggle of sex shops, there are more bars than you can shake a cocktail at. Before a heady concoction at the classic Glass or the trendy Mansard, fill your belly at the great-value brasserie Bouillon Pigalle. Believe us, it’s worth every second you queue.

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5
Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris

Get in touch with your inner child at Disneyland Paris

Decide what you want out of your time at Europe's largest amusement park: Fantasyland is a must for the little ones, while Walt Disney Studios is an adrenaline hit for the grown-ups. But everyone, big or small, will love meeting Mickey and Minnie in real life at the park.  

6
Calanques
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/jbdodane

Swim in the heavenly creeks of Marseille

Known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as Massalia, a stay in the city of Marseille would not be complete without a detour through the idyllic creeks - or calanques. Sormiu, Sugiton, Morgiou...the names for these little corners of paradise are as enchanting as the hike to reach them. Expect the walks to be more than just a stroll, but surrounded by turquoise water, the smell of pine trees and the sounds of the cicadas, you’ll forget your aching feet. Magical.

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7
Stade Velodrome de Marseille
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/FredRomero

Attend a match at the Vélodrome, one of the hottest stadiums in Europe

Much more than just a football stadium, Marseille’s Stade Vélodrome is a cathedral to the sport. The atmosphere is warmer than a summer barbecue, but you’ll barely notice, as the fans will make it an experience to remember.

8
Salade de gizzarde
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/RachelLovinger

Tour the bouchons of Lyon

If the gastronomy of Lyon was represented in just one street, it would be rue Mercière. Filled with bouchons - traditional Lyon restaurants - you can feast on quenelle, gizzard salad or Lyonnaise sausage, making it the mecca of meat.

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9
Lotu, Corsica
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/CarloCravero

Discover the exceptional Corsican landscapes with a hike in the Agriates Desert

Corsica’s reputation, local accent and breathtaking, demanding landscape has put this Mediterranean island on the map. With a centre that is all iridescent mountains, its heavenly beaches are a stark contrast. Lotu is one of the best, accessible via an energetic hike through the arid, steep landscapes of the Agriates Desert from Saint-Florent. And for the perfect picnic, stock up on figatellu sausage, lonzu charcuterie and sheep’s cheese.

10
Tour de France
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/DavidNijhof

Join in with the legendary Alpe d'Huez stage of the Tour de France

Long before Mbappé, Kimpembé and Pogba, the Tour de France was summer’s  most electrifying summer sporting event. The early stages might send you to sleep, but the last stage is worth rerouting a holiday for. More specifically, The 21 Turns of Alpe D’Huez. Our advice? Stop at turn number seven, the Dutch one, where the atmosphere is madness, aperitifs are aplenty and inevitably, everyone’s decked in orange.

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11
Cannes Film Festival
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/plb06

Get on the red carpet at Cannes

The world’s most famous film festival takes place each May and all the glitziest personalities descend on this French Riviera town to hang on the Croisette. If you really want to starspot, hang around in the evenings, when the expression "rhinestones and sequins" takes on a new meaning.

12
FESTIVAL DES VIEILLES CHARRUES
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Facebook/FESTIVAL DES VIEILLES CHARRUES

Go to Vieilles Charrues, the biggest festival in France

All music fans should do the "Charrettes" at least once in your life. Since 1992, the unmatchable Breton festival has brought the music industry’s biggest stars to... Carhaix-Plouguer. And as anyone who’s already been Brittany will know: those Bretons seriously know how to party. Dancing shoes on!

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13
Cote Sauvage
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/laurphil

Live like a Breton fisherman on Île de Quiberon

For those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the Carnac Stones, head to Quiberon. With its typical fisherman's huts, you'd think you were in an episode of Thalassa. The ultimate reward for your visit to the peninsula? Mussels and a bowl of cider before a breathtaking walk along the Côte Sauvage.

14
Braderie Lille
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/tcdrolin

Eat moules frites in a Lille braderie

Mussels in a flea market may not sound the most likely of combinations but The Grande Braderie de Lille lets you do just that. The annual event draws the crowds in their hundreds of thousands at the beginning of September, with everything from vintage furniture to car parts on sale. Once you’ve shopped ‘til you drop, make the most of the free-flowing beer moules, and frites.

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15
Mont St Michel
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/James West

Visit the legendary Mont Saint Michel

An age-old bone of contention between the Bretons and the Normans, Mont Saint Michel is one of the most visited sights in France. After navigating the tempestuous tides, check out the timeless city itself, with a trip to the Abbey in particular - it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

16
Biarritz
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/mikaelG

Surf the best beaches of Biarritz

France might not immediately strike you as a surfer’s paradise but the Basque coast is one of the best spots to catch a wave in the world. And the stunning beaches of Biarritz make coming ashore all the more pleasurable. With a backdrop of buildings dating back to the 19th century, life in Biarritz really is a beach.

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17
Strasbourg
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/francoisschnell

Go Christmas shopping in Strasbourg

The Strasbourg Christmas Markets are the oldest of their kind in Europe. Running for over 450 years, it’s the loyalty of its visitors that keep it feeling fresh every year. Expect giant fir trees with twinkling lights, wooden chalets, gingerbread and mulled wine: the perfect start to the festive season.

18
Champagne
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/adamchandler86

Escape to the Champagne region

Champagne is the party drink par excellence. To find the best appellations, go to the region where it got its name - especially the northeast. From the Massif de Saint-Thierry to the Marne Valley, knock on the doors of local producers and they will be more than happy to give you a tour and a taste of those glorious golden bubbles.

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19
Avignon
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jeanlouis_zimmermann

See a play at the Festival d’Avignon

A sojourn at the Festival d’Avignon guarantees a serious dose of the creme de la creme of contemporary theatre. Created by Jean Vilar in 1947, the Festival d’Avignon transforms the Cité des Papes into one huge open-air theatre every July. As well as the more classic shows performed in the Courtyard of the Palais des Papes, make sure to dip your toes into the flourishing OFF Festival program.

20
Chamonix Mont Blanc
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Ashenwolf

Climb to Chamonix to gawp at Mont Blanc

4808 metres above sea level, Mont Blanc continues to be a huge draw for visitors to Chamonix. Once you’ve ticked off all the traditional walks in the alpine village, venture further to the heights of Brévent for a real feast for the eyes. Other unmissable spots include l’Aiguille du Midi and hikes through Lac Blanc and the Grand Balcons.

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21
Dune du Pilat
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/archigeek

Go to the Bassin d'Arcachon and make sand castles on the Dune du Pilat

Climb to the top of the tallest dune in Europe to admire a unique panoramic view of the Bassin d'Arcachon. The 3km-long Dune of Le Pilat is constantly moving and sits upon one of France’s most exquisite nature reserves, with everything to amuse explorers from the age of 7 to 77. Don’t miss a boat trip to Ile aux Oiseaux or ‘Bird Island’.

22
Étretat
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/MathieuBrient

Paint the chalk cliffs of Étretat

In the 19th century, literary and artistic movements made Étretat a top holiday resort. Adored by impressionist painters for the white chalk cliffs and three natural arches, Étretat towers high over the Atlantic Ocean and draws visitors from much further afield than just Upper Normandy. In fact, it’s become one of the most frequented French tourist areas. Stroll to Caux while you’re there, which is quieter but just as beautiful.   

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