The Main Attractions of France
France draws more tourists and visitors than any other country – it is the most popular tourist destination in the world. It is easy to understand why this is the case, given France's reputation for its gourmet cuisine, unrivalled wines, high fashion and relaxed lifestyle.
Paris is one of the world’s great cities – offering a myriad of attractions and opportunities to get to know French culture. The Eiffel tower is one of the most famous landmarks in the entire world, standing tall at over 320 meters (1050 ft.) and providing spectacular views of the surrounding landscape from its observation decks. The Arc de Triomphe which was originally commissioned by Napolean stand on top of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier along with an eternal flame to mark those who have died in the two world wars. Notre Dame de Paris is one of the most spectacular examples of Gothic architecture in Paris, dating from the 12th century and since then continually altered and restored. The Louvre was originally constructed as a fortress, before becoming a palace. It now serves as one of the finest museums in Europe, and contains some of the most famous pieces of art including da Vinci's Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Versailles was built by Louis XIV back in the 15th century, the Palace of Versailles served as home to French royalty until the French Revolution. While it has suffered with the passing years, it stands as a monument to the past glory of France and remains a world famous attraction. Other highlights of Paris include its café culture and other diverse eating and drinking experiences which can be found all over the city.
The other large cities of Lyon and Marseille have their own charms, both boasting alternatives and complements to the Parisian experience. Outside of the big three, there are many more cities worth exploring and every town and village seems to have something different to offer. Even smaller towns and villages usually include a beautiful church or building of interest, a museum and always restaurants that celebrate the French culinary traditions, which the country is famous for.
Other highlights include the Alsace region that is both neighboring Germany and Switzerland. This part of France has see-sawed from French to German control during conflicts between the two countries for centuries. The major cities of the area are Strasbourg, Colmar and Mulhouse. Strasbourg, by far the largest and most important headquarters the European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights and is rich in historic monuments and architecture, including a magnificent cathedral. A visit to Colmar can be a pleasant glimpse into the Middle Ages, and it is also the capital of the Alsatian wine country. The narrow, winding, cobbled streets are flanked by half-timbered houses, painstakingly restored by the burghers of the city. Colmar is a perfect place from which to set out along the Route du Vin (Wine Route) stopping at many of the appealing towns along the way to taste the local wine. Turckheim, just outside Colmar, has some of the best-preserved array of 15th- and 16th-century houses in the district and a town crier takes visitors through the streets at night to recall the atmosphere of old. The town of Eguisheim, with its Renaissance fountain and monument in the village square, is also a charming Alsatian town with many historic houses and wine cellars open to the public for wine-tasting. A particularly popular town with tourists is Riquewihr, with its 13th- and 14th-century fortifications and belfry tower and its many medieval houses and courtyards. Bicycle trails are marked along the Rhine, where bicycles are readily available for hire.
The Provence and the French Riviera are known for their warm and pleasant climate, smells of lavender and also its delicious food. The beauty of the landscape was an inspiration for many artists and you will find many art museums in this part of France. Avignon hosts the Papal Palace and Arles has many beautiful cathedrals and squares. The Provence has something to offer for everyone. Famous for bouillabaisse, lamb and fresh sea food its food incorporates a Mediterranean mix of of flavors such as garlic, olive oil, thyme and basil. The Alps drop straight down into the sea and the sun shines during most of the year. The Cote d’Azur or French Riviera is the wealthiest region of the Provence and playground for the rich and famous. But the coastline also offers spectaculare sights for nature lovers such as spectacular panoramas, unforgettable landscapes and a blue turquoise sea. East of Marseille, magnificent white cliffs (callanques) rise from the sea and make the area a ideal hiking location. Surrounded by the delicious smell of sage, juniper and myrtle you can hike for hours and explore the deep creeks and rocky cliffs between Marseille and Cassis.
France manages to be a lot of things to many people. There is a diverse range of scenery, with everything from towering Alpine peaks in the southeast and rugged sea cliffs on the Atlantic coast, through to sweeping beaches in the west and south and some of Europe’s wildest areas, like the wild Camargue in the south. Any list of French attractions is, by virtue of the country’s rich and eclectic nature, bound to be incomplete.