Get us in your inbox

View from above of the calanque of En-Vau, a hard-to-reach narrow natural creek with white sandy beach close to Marseille and Cassis, with people sunbathing and swimming in the crystal clear water.
Photograph: Shutterstock.comView from above of the calanque of En-Vau, a hard-to-reach narrow natural creek with white sandy beach close to Marseille and Cassis, with people sunbathing and swimming in the crystal clear water.

The 22 best things to do in France

From world-beating cuisine to jaw-dropping landscapes and iconic culture, these are the very best things to do in France

Edited by
Time Out contributors
Advertising

A little bit of realistic thinking is required. It is important to accept that covering everything in France is an impossible task that would take several lifetimes to complete. Best to focus on the best of the best then, right? The best things to do in France are enough to make travel obsessives out of cynics, covering everything from the tops of mountains to secret coves between the seas. France is famous for many reasons, but ‘being France’ is probably the most important.

Paris gets most of the attention, yet falling in love with a beautiful village here is almost a rite of passage. The cuisine is as good as our species has produced, while the beaches somehow stay rugged and stylish. France is France, and it can never be anything else. This is the best that France has to offer.

RECOMMENDED:
🛏 The best hotels in the South of France
🏰 The best French châteaux you can rent on Airbnb
😋 The best restaurants in France

Best things to do in France

Eat in a Michelin-starred restaurant on the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Lawrence Y.

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

Does it get any more romantic? A Michelin Star meal some 125 metres above the ground, from a famous restaurant on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. Three-star chef Frédéric Anton now runs Le Jules Verne, a mecca of fine dining with the finest French ingredients. Magical. 

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. Not a term? Not a problem; you get the point. 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. Is it worth every second of queueing? You better believe it is. 

Advertising
Admire the finest contemporary art at the Château de Versailles
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/michalo

3. 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 are up next.

Wander the streets of Pigalle and finish up at Bouillon Pigalle

4. 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 trendy Mansart, fill your belly at the great-value brasserie Bouillon Pigalle

Advertising
Swim in the heavenly creeks of Marseille
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/jbdodane

5. 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. Sormiou, 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.

Attend a match at the Vélodrome, one of the hottest stadiums in Europe
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/FredRomero

6. 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.

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

7. 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.

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

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

Corsica’s reputation, local accent and breathtaking, demanding landscape have put this Mediterranean island on the map. The centre is all iridescent mountains, and the 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.

Advertising
Escape to the Champagne region
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/adamchandler86

9. 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.

Get on the red carpet at Cannes
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/plb06

10. 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.

Advertising
Go to Vieilles Charrues, the biggest festival in France
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Facebook/FESTIVAL DES VIEILLES CHARRUES

11. Go to Vieilles Charrues, the biggest festival in France

All music fans should do the Charrettes at least once in their 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 to Brittany knows: those Bretons seriously know how to party. Dancing shoes on!

Get in touch with your inner child at Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris

12. Get in touch with your inner child at Disneyland Paris

Decide what you want from 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. 

Advertising
Climb to Chamonix to gawp at Mont Blanc
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Ashenwolf

13. 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.

See a play at the Festival d’Avignon
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jeanlouis_zimmermann

14. 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.

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

15. 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.

Eat moules frites in a Lille braderie
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/tcdrolin

16. 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 crowds in the 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.

Advertising
Visit the legendary Mont Saint Michel
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/James West

17. 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 with a trip to the Abbey a must - it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Join in with the legendary Alpe d'Huez stage of the Tour de France
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/DavidNijhof

18. 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 the 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 is decked in orange.

Advertising
Surf the best beaches of Biarritz
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/mikaelG

19. 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.

Go Christmas shopping in Strasbourg
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/francoisschnell

20. Go Christmas shopping in Strasbourg

The Strasbourg Christmas Markets are the oldest of their kind in Europe. Running for over 450 years, the loyalty of its visitors keeps 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.

Advertising
Go to the Bassin d'Arcachon and make sand castles on the Dune du Pilat
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/archigeek

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

Climb 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 (Bird Island).

Paint the chalk cliffs of Étretat
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/MathieuBrient

22. 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 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.  

Recommended
    You may also like
    You may also like
    Advertising