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The 22 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, 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.

Best things to do in France

Lose yourself in the galleries of the Louvre
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/luizfilipe

2. 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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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.

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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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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Tour the bouchons of Lyon
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/RachelLovinger

8. 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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Discover the exceptional Corsican landscapes with a hike in the Agriates Desert
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/CarloCravero

9. 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.

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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Live like a Breton fisherman on Île de Quiberon
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/laurphil

13. 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.

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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.

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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.   

Ready to book your stay?

  • Hotels

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.

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