France is one of the most visited countries in the world. And that’s no surprise -- when you have Paris, the Riviera, Provence, Burgundy, the Loire Valley, Normandy, the Pyrenees, the Seine, the Rhone, and some of the world’s best food and wine, you’re going to draw crowds. Whether you tour France by river cruise, culinary tour, or bike tour you’re sure to agree: Viva La France!
A tour to Paris, of course, is on most everyone’s France tour itinerary, with sights like the Louvre (so huge it could easily take a month to cover beyond the Mona Lisa), Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, the Latin Quarter, the Marais, and the Seine with its Bateaux Mouches boats and dozens of bridges offering a walkway or river ride through the center of it all.
But as wonderful as it is, Paris is just a start. Not far away stands the splendid Palace of Versailles, where the Sun King, Louis XIV, and Marie Antoinette held court in the days preceding the French Revolution. Also nearby is Chartres Cathedral, featuring some of the finest stained-glass windows in Europe.
A bit farther takes you southwest of Paris to the Loire Valley, site of a number of wineries and chateaux. And northwest lies a series of towns and cities along the Seine that inspired artists like Van Gogh and Monet and where Joan of Arc died at the stake in the 14th century.
The Seine leads to Normandy, on the English Channel, site of distinctive architecture, lovely seaside villages, Mont-St-Michel (the remarkable fortress surrounded by water and reachable only at low tide) and beaches that were crucial to the Allied invasion of then-Nazi-occupied France in World War II some 60 years ago.
Paris to Normandy is one of the major river cruising routes in France. Other popular river cruise routes include Lyon -- one of France’s gastronomic capitals -- south to the Mediterranean, which goes along the Rhone River through Burgundy wine country; and routes that travel through the Bordeaux wine regions on France’s west coast.
All offer a relaxed but informative way to tour France, since all the river cruises feature numerous port stops, many with guided tours included.
The Riviera and Provence
A visit to France may include a tour along the Mediterranean Sea. The glamorous and sometimes ostentatious French Riviera beach resorts include Cannes (site of the film festival), Nice (the largest city), Cap Ferrat, and St. Tropez. The Riviera is just part of sunny Provence in southeastern France, which is tucked between the Rhone River, Italy, the Alps and the Mediterranean. It’s a land where sea air, mountain gorges, vineyards, medieval villages, Roman ruins, olive groves and lavender fields combine to create a sensuous medley of sights, scents and tastes.
The light in Provence is so striking that painters such as Van Gogh, Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso were all drawn here, immortalizing the landscapes, architecture, and people. Provence is home as well to France’s second largest city and major port, Marseilles, which displays North African influences and is known for bouillabaisse, the local fish stew. All this has helped make Provence France’s number one tourist destination beyond Paris.
And Much More
France also has mountain playgrounds in the Alps bordering Switzerland and the Pyrenees bordering Spain; the French-German influenced province of Alsace-Lorraine centered in Strasbourg, and other magnificent cities such as Avignon, Toulouse, Dijon, Nantes, and Lille.
In fact, every corner of the country contains picturesque villages, inviting bistros and cafes, the aromas of fresh-baked baguettes and croissants, the clink of wine glasses, and roadways and paths just waiting to be explored on foot, by bike, or by motor. With such a wealth of attractions to choose from, you can rely on Stride to help you find the right escorted tours of France for your upcoming voyage touristique.
Important Information for Traveling to France
Capital city: Paris
Dialing code: +33