France should be an obvious destination for when you decide you want to just jump on a plane and go somewhere far away. The language is beautiful, the culture is rich and the food is to die for. However, if you need a bit more convincing, there are plenty of other reasons to visit France – whether it be Paris, Lyon, Marseilles, or any of it’s incredible exciting cities. In fact, here are 20…
1. The food
France is famous for being home to great cheese, chocolate, and, above all, bread. But these aren’t the only dishes that will make you want to open a patisserie on the Rue de Grenelle. Some personal favorites to try when you’re there are croque madame and tarte citron. Outside of Paris, there are regional specialties that I highly recommend, such as the bouillabaisse in Marseilles or kouign amann, only found in Bretagne.
2. The wine
Another word inevitably associated with France, the wine definitely lives up to tourists’ expectations. French wine is obviously available at any and all restaurants, but an especially memorable experience is taking a trip to the French vineyards where the wine is actually produced. Champagne, Burgundy, and Alsace are just a few of the regions you can visit where the grapes are grown, and the wine is made, aged, and bottled.
3. Fashion Week
If you’re unsure of when to plan your jaunt over to the land of croissants, consider visiting Paris Fashion Week, one of the largest and most exciting convergences of the fashion designers and models who inspire the trends we read about for the rest of the year. Valentino, Elie Saab, and Jean-Paul Gaultier were just a few of the big name designers present on last year’s catwalks.
4. The street style
Of course, regardless of when you visit France, the street style is going to be on point. Aside from tourists rocking their jeans and white tennis shoes, Parisians are possibly the most fashionable people in the world. Bring a pen with you, because you’re going to want to take notes to update your style at home.
5. The shopping
Whether you go to one of the impressively large department stores (Bon Marché and Galleries Lafayette recommended) or window shop along the Champs-Elysées and Avenue Montaigne, good shopping in Paris is almost guaranteed. When outside the capitol city, smaller boutiques and regional items are a better buy. In Brittany, you can pick up a classic Breton striped sweater, along the Côte d’Azur, a huge pair of sunglasses to blend with the other glamorous beach-goers.
6. The language
French is such a beautiful language, and even if you understand nothing more than “bonjour” and “oui,” it’s still fun to listen to other conversations in coffee shops or on the street.
7. The bookshops
Since France is home to some of the greatest authors of all time (Sartre, Camus, Voltaire, Dumas, Hugo), it’s fitting that the country should have cozy bookshops that inspire visitors to read. When you visit France, be sure to stop by my personal favorite, Shakespeare & Co. in Paris, an English bookstore right across from the plaza outside Notre Dame.
8. The cafés
Another great spot to read and feel intellectual is a French café. Of course, cafés come along with the added bonus of being able to order a glass of wine, cup of coffee, or maybe a jambon fromage if you’re hungry! Cafés can be found in any French city or town, and they range from chic Parisian spots to cozy family-run corners.
9. The people watching
An added benefit of cafés and really, hanging out in any chic part of France, is people watching. Even if there aren’t any celebrities strutting in front of your café table, there are bound to be some obnoxious tourists, seriously fashionable French women, and shoppers sporting more shopping bags than they can carry. Pack a pair of dark sunglasses, especially if you’ll be in Paris!
10. The romance
Paris is considered one of the most romantic cities in the world, and for good reason: the way the buildings light up at night, endless attractive Parisians, the list goes on. However, there are plenty of other romantic spots to check out when you visit France, like the cloudy beaches in Brittany or the quaint belle villes all over the country. Bring your significant other, or find one in France!
11. The night life
All of the big cities in France offer an exciting nightlife. Dinner generally starts later in Europe, around 8:00, so you can spend the night at your restaurant eating and drinking, or head out to a bar or club!
12. The beaches
The south of France is well-known for its gorgeous beaches, especially along the Mediterranean Sea. There, you will find sand and surf as well as fancy hotels with even more glamorous guests. Of course, there are other coasts of France, and the beaches to the north, while slightly gloomier, tend to be less crowded.
13. The skiing
The exact opposite climate can also be found when you visit France; in the Pyrenees, on the Spanish border, or the Alps along the Swiss and Italian borders. Not only is there skiing, but also some special ski resorts. Chamonix is the oldest, but Val-d’Isère and Tignes are also great.
14. The art
France is home to some of the most famous paintings and sculptures ever created. Artists like Monet and Rodin even have their own museums in Paris (the Orangerie and the Rodin museums). However, there is plenty of art to be found outside of Paris as well. The Bayeux Tapestry, a 70 meter/ 230 foot long depiction of the Battle of Hastings, an integral part of Normandy’s history.
15. The museums
Of course, all of that glorious artwork has to be housed somewhere, and French museums themselves are works of art. The most famous in Paris include the Louvre, D’Orsay, and the Centre Georges Pompidou, which holds mainly abstract modern art Equally impressive artwork can be found in some lesser-known spots like the Rodin museum and L’Orangerie,
16. The cathedrals
Yet another manifestation of art in France is the architecture. In Paris one can experience both the white buildings and wide boulevards of Haussmann and the gothic buttresses of Notre Dame. Some of the most impressive buildings you’ll see when you visit France are cathedrals, like the Chartres cathedral. The arches outside the building are amazing, but so are the carvings and designs inside. Also, be sure to check out the circular, stained glass, rose window.
17. The chateaux
Some of the greatest architectural feats in France, however, aren’t cathedrals or museums, but chateaux, the exquisite palaces that French kings and dukes lived in or used as hunting lodges. Most are located in the Loire Valley, and they are worth the drive from Paris! Also, if you can visit France in the summertime, most of the chateaux have amazing gardens too.
18. D-Day beaches
One of the greatest tragedies in recent French history was undoubtedly World War II, which destroyed many French cities and towns, due to ground fights and bombing. The most iconic battle took place on the beaches of Normandy, near Calais, where American, Canadian, and British troops landed on the beaches and took them back from German control. In visiting the site of these battles, you can learn about the strategy and planning involved, and honor the lives lost.
19. Mont St. Michel
Outside of Paris, Mont St. Michel is an amazing artificial island off the coast of Normandy. First built during the Roman period, different empires and kings continued to construct buildings on top of the ruins, and today it’s a great vacation spot with breathtaking views of the surrounding bay, which isolates the island when the tide comes in.
20. The monuments (particularly in Paris)
Monuments in Paris are not only great for photo ops, they also symbolize France’s rich history. France has an exciting and long history, and that is visible in most of the places you can visit! Paris’s Arc de Triomph was actually built for Napoleon and the iconic Eiffel Tower was constructed for the World’s Fair at the turn of the century.
Featured image source: theglitterguide.
Ariana will be a freshman at Claremont McKenna College. She enjoys playing tennis, cooking, and travelling and hopes to major in international relations.