France Travel Inspiration

50 Best Things to Do in France

09/22/2020

This article may contain compensated links. Please read disclaimer for more info.

Looking for your next adventure or travel destination in France?

With so many interesting regions, beautiful landscapes, and endless French landmarks scattered throughout the land, it can be hard to pick between them.

But if what you’re looking for are the 50 best things to do in France to satisfy your urge for adventure, ensnare the senses or just have fun, we may be able to help.

We narrowed down a France Bucket List, a list of most iconic, popular, beautiful, fun, awe-inspiring, 50 best things to do in France when you visit this great country. Now, how many have you ticked off your list?

Northern France

1. BE MOVED BY MONT SAINT-MICHEL

Mont Saint Michel - Normandy

Be moved by Mont Saint-Michel, the wonder of the Western World and one of the best places to visit in Northern France. This amazing Benedictine abbey and renowned center of pilgrimage is set on a rocky island at the mouth of the Couesnon River, where the regions of Normandy and Brittany meet.

The area is known for its high tides which let the abbey inaccessible for some hours and give Mont Saint-Michel a picturesque setting.

2. A ROYAL DAY IN VERSAILLES

Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles is a wonder of French baroque architecture and a must of any holiday in Paris.

Visit the awesome rooms and halls inside the Palace, home of 3 French kings and their courts. Then explore the magnificent French-style gardens, with beautiful fountains and grooves, and the grounds around the Grand Canal, perhaps on two wheels or on a rowboat.

3. NORMANDY D-DAY LANDING BEACHES

Pointe du Hoc - Normandy, France

The Normandy Landing Operations was the largest seaborne invasion in history. The invasion took place on the beaches of Normandy (Omaha, Utah, Sword Gold, and Juno Beach), on Tuesday 6 June 1944 by the Allies and it was the beginning of the liberation of German-occupied France (and later Europe) from Nazi control.

The Normandy D-day Landing Beaches is one of the most popular day trips from Paris. If you have the time, however, explore the area on a multi-day road trip to visit the beaches but also some war cemeteries and memorials.

4. SPEND A NIGHT (OR TWO!) IN A FRENCH CHATEAU

Hotel - Château near Paris - France

France is home to more than 40,000 châteaux of all periods and styles. Some of these châteaux are home to nobles or rich people while others have been beautifully restored and turned into boutique hotels, perfect for a relaxing weekend getaway in France.

Château de Villiers-le-Mahieu or Château d’Ermenonville are two beautiful examples near Paris but there are many more!

5.CLIMB UP THE EIFFEL TOWER

Eiffel Tower - Paris

If you are visiting Paris for the first time, going up the Eiffel Tower is a must.

The Eiffel Tower is the most iconic monument in Paris and France plus the views of the Paris skyline from the summit are great, especially at sunset.

On the second floor, there’s also an interesting exhibition about the history of the Eiffel Tower and its construction.

6.VISIT THE BURIAL PLACE OF THE KINGS OF FRANCE AT SAINT-DENIS

Basilica of Saint-Denis - France

The Basilica-Cathedral of Saint-Denis is the burial place of the Kings of France, from the 12th century to the 19th century.

This magnificent building also represents the birth of Gothic architecture in France. Indeed, this is the first French cathedral rebuilt using techniques like the pointed arch, the pointed ribbed vault, or the use of stained glass windows to get more light inside.

Located in the city of Saint-Denis, a few kilometers north of Paris, the Basilica-Cathedral of Saint-Denis makes for an easy half-day trip from the French capital.

7.A DAY AT THE LOUVRE

Visit the Louvre, the world’s best museum, and admire some of the greatest masterworks of all time!

Also, take the time to learn the history of this former Royal Palace, the seat of the French Kings, and their courts for many centuries. Explore the Louvre’s medieval moats and walls, Napoleon iii’s apartments, the royal galleries, and more!

8.FOLLOW THE CIDER ROUTE IN NORMANDY

Cider Route - Normandy

In Normandy, apples abound and the region is famous for its cider and other famous French drinks like Calvados or Pommeau.

Get ready to unfold the journey of apples from farms to your glasses by following the Cider Trail – a well-marked 40km tourist circuit through the region of Pays d’Auge in lower Normandy.

The Pays d’Auge is popular for typical half-timbered houses, stud farms, apple orchards, and distillers who open their cellars and pressing sheds to visitors to taste their products.

9.A NIGHT OF BUBBLES AND CAN-CAN IN A PARISIAN CABARET

Parisian cabarets are a fun way to enjoy Paris at night in style and a very popular option for special celebrations.

Today the most famous cabaret shows in Paris like the Moulin Rouge or the Lido are a mix of music hall and burlesque show offering lavish musical and theatrical productions, with elaborate costumes, singing, and dancing.

A cabaret show in Paris is traditionally served with dinner paired with some of the best French wines and champagne into an all-evening extravaganza but of course, you can also go only for the show. It is an evening of entertainment, fun and lots of bubbles.

10. ADMIRE THE SPECTACULAR CLIFFS OF ETRETAT

Etretat - Normandy

Etretat is a small town on the Alabaster Coast in Normandy, famous for its spectacular vertical cliffs and other rock formations that inspired some of Monet’s masterworks. There are arches, sea stacks, and tunnels cut into the 50 to 80 m high walls of chalk.

Etretat can be visited on a weekend trip from Paris or be included in a Normandy road trip.

11. FEEL THE DIVINE AT THE GRANDES CATHÉDRALES OF PICARDY

The historical region of Picardy, in Hauts de France, is probably the region with more awesome gothic cathedrals per square meter in the world!

From Laon, one of the first cathedrals inspired in this new Gothic art, to the cathedrals of Amiens or Beauvais, visitors can witness the main steps of the evolution of Gothic architecture in France, awesome buildings all listed UNESCO heritage and usually surrounded by charming old towns.

12.NATURE AS ITS BEST AT BAY OF SOMME

Somme Bay - France

The Bay of Somme is the largest estuary in northern France, an unspoiled place composed of dunes, marshes, and salt meadows.

Situated on the route of the migrating birds, the Bay of Somme is a paradise for birdwatchers, with more than 250 different species of birds spending a part of the year in the area. It is also home to the largest colony of French seals which can be spotted resting on sandbanks which emerge as the tide recedes.

Enjoy the Bay of Somme and its wildlife from the water or along the cycle and walking paths of the bay. The Belle Époque steam train (Le Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme) is also a fun way to discover these wonderful landscapes.

13. LOOK FOR THE WATER LILIES AT MONET’S GARDEN

Monet's Garden - Giverny

Explore Monet’s Gardens in Giverny, the object of some of Monet’s masterworks. Admire the water lily pond, where Monet painted his world-famous series of water-lilies.

The artist’s house and the attached workshop are also worth the visit and they a good opportunity to get a glimpse of Monet’s life and work in Giverny.

Central France

14. FLY OVER THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS ON A HOT-AIR BALLOON

Hot-Air Balloon Ride - Châteaux de la Loire
Balloon ride over the Châteaux de la Loire – Photo courtesy: France Montgolfières ©

A hot air balloon flight, wherever it is in the world, is a truly magical experience. But it is even more magical if you can fly over some of the best castles of the Loire Valley.

Glide through the sky in a massive floating vessel while enjoying sunrise or sunset — and perhaps a glass of champagne — over magnificent Renaissance châteaux, and their beautiful grounds.

15. LOIRE VALLEY BY BIKE

La Loire à Vélo is a unique, 800 km cycle route that links Nevers to Saint Brevin-Les-Pins in the Atlantic Ocean. Follow France’s last great wild river on two wheels while exploring the French Valley of the Kings with its beautiful renaissance châteaux, medieval towns, and good wines!

Southern France

16. IN SEARCH OF BLUE GOLD IN PROVENCE’S LAVENDER FIELDS

Provence’s lavender fields are one of the most striking landscapes in southern France. From mid-June to late August explore the Valensole Plateau, the Luberon Valley, and the Sault Plateau, well known for its “blue gold”, lavender distilleries, and pretty small towns.

17.EXPLORE THE WORLD OF PERFUMES IN GRASSE

Fragonard Perfume Bottles

Grasse is a small town in Provence known all over the world as the perfume capital. The perfume industry has prospered here already since the end of the 18th century and today Grasse attracts visitors from all around the world to learn about the art of perfumes in France.

There are several perfume factories, of which the most famous one – Fragonard – features also a fascinating museum on the art and history of perfume making.

18.GORGES DU VERDON BY KAYAK

Gorges du Verdon, in the Verdon Regional Park, is one of Europe’s most fabulous natural settings. This limestone canyon with turquoise waters runs for 25 kilometers through the park and at points, it reaches depths of more than 700 meters.

Among the different ways to explore the Gorges du Verdon, kayaking is the most popular. Rent a kayak for half-day and paddle through the canyon alone or in two. There are some spots where you can tie the kayak to take a refreshing bath.

19. EXPLORE THE MAGNIFICENT PALACE OF POPES IN AVIGNON

Avignon - France

Avignon in southern France was in the 14th century the heart of Christendom, home to six Catholic Popes. Standing high above the city there’s the Palace of the Popes, the magnificent 14th-century building where the Popes lived and celebrated the most important religious events.

Listed UNESCO World Heritage, the Palace of the Popes is also the world’s largest and most important civil construction built in Gothic style, with more than 15,000 square meters of living space.

20. A BREATH OF FRESH AIR AT THE CALANQUES OF MARSEILLE

Calanques Marseille Port Miou - France

The National Park Calanques of Marseille – Cassis, in southern France, offers spectacular landscapes, rich flora and fauna, and endless outdoor activities. This National Park includes coastal ranges of creeks, a vast marine area of the Mediterranean Sea, several islands, and one of the richest submarine canyons in the world.

The best way to explore the Calanques is by walking one of the hiking trails that follow the coast but you can also book a catamaran tour and explore this wonderful area from the water.

21. EXPLORE THE HILLTOP VILLAGES OF PROVENCE

Hilltop Village of Roussillon - Provence

The region of Provence is dotted with many perched villages, a world of winding roads, beautiful stone houses, silence, and stunning panoramas. Built on the hills to protect themselves from different threads, these pretty villages are today one of the top attractions of Provence.

If Roussillon, Gordes, or Menerbes are popular villages of Provence, there are still many hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

22.CORSICA BY CAR

Corsica Island - France

A road trip is the best way to explore the beautiful Corsica Island, and the only way to reach the best beaches.

For short stays, we suggest staying in one of the biggest cities and explore its surroundings on day trips by car while longer stays will allow you to go off the beaten path and also visit smaller islands nearby.

23.WHISPER TO HORSES AT CAMARGUE NATURE RESERVE

Camargue - France

This protected area in southern France, mostly made of marshlands, is famous for its herd of horses and pink flamingos. The Camargue is also great for bird watching or just for a relaxing mini-holiday among great nature.

24.FOLLOW THE CATHAR TRAIL

Château de Peyrepertuse - Cathar Country, France

The Cathar Route in southern France takes you to some of the most incredible vertigo fortresses, intriguing abbeys, and medieval towns. These sites are related to the Cathars, a Christian dualist movement in the region of Languedoc between the 12th and the 14th centuries considered as heretic by the Catholic Church.

A Cathar Country road trip with your own car is the best way to explore the Cathar sites like Carcassonne, Montségur, or Fontfroide.

25. WALK THE OCHRE TRAIL IN ROUSSILLON

Ochre Trail Roussillon

The Ochre Trail in Roussillon is a beautiful hike through the remains of the ochre quarries’ exploitation. Walk between the cliffs and the red tints, surrounded by a lush forest, and learn about the ochre exploitation in Provence.

26.WINTER FUN AT MENTON’S LEMON FESTIVAL

Lemon Festival Menton

The picturesque town of Menton, in the French Riviera close to the Italian border, is famous for its lemons: very bright, yellow, and elongated fruits prized by chefs for their rich essential oil.

Every February since 1934 the Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival) takes place. This unique event which celebrates lemons involves giant sculptures of lemons and other citrus fruits. The displays are also accompanied by parades, shows, music, and dances.

27. A JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH AT GOUFFRE DE PADIRAC

Gouffre de Padirac
photo credit: JGS25

The Gouffre de Padirac, is the monumental entrance to a natural cavity 53 meters wide and 103 meters deep located in the Lot department in Occitanie.

After a vertiginous descent, embark on a boat trip along the subterranean river to explore one of the most interesting geological sites in France,

The best part of the visit is, however, after the boat trip where the caves are stunningly brilliant. Book your tickets well in advance.

28.DREAMY DAYS IN THE FRENCH RIVIERA

Nice - France

The French Riviera (Côte d’Azur) is one of the most beautiful parts of southern France which always seems to be bathed in sunshine. Nice is French Riviera’s capital and a convenient place to stay to explore the surroundings.

Clustered around Nice there are some compelling destinations like Antibesthe hilltop villagesCannesMenton, or Saint Tropez, which are perfect to explore on day trips from Nice. You can really spend some dreamy days in the French Riviera!

29. THE CANAL DU MIDI ON A BOAT BARGE OR BY BIKE

Canal de Midi

Stretching from Toulouse to Sète, the Canal du Midi is a feat of architectural genius that makes a link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. This 17th-century construction required the work of 12,000 men over fifteen years.

The Canal du Midi is listed UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is an unmissable tourist destination in southern France. It can be explored boat or hotel barge but bikes are also a popular way to visit the Canal.

Eastern France

30. FOLLOW THE ALSACE WINE ROUTE

Alsace Wine Trail

The Wine Route of Alsace is one of the best road trips in France. The legendary 170-kilometre stretch along the historical region of Alsace, in Grand Est, takes you through a string of picturesque villages, well-known wine-producing towns, and exceptional landscapes.

To get the most of the Alsace Wine Route, consider a minimum of 3 days but of course you can take more time! Be sure to include places like Strasbourg, Colmar, and perhaps a short hike through the vineyards.

31. JOIN A FOOD TOUR IN LYON

Food Tour

Generally acknowledged to be the gastronomic capital of France, Lyon is also an ideal place to discover French cuisine and fell in love with it. 

Lyon is a city with more restaurants per head and where food is taken to another level and people, it’s a way of life!

Join a food tour to discover the secrets of Lyon’s cuisine and try it as much as you can in one of its endless gastronomic restaurants or bistros.

32. EXPLORE THE LAKES AND WATERFALLS OF THE JURA

The department of Jura, in the region of Bourgogne-Franche Comté, offers a magnificent succession of forests and lakes with wooded banks. There are also some belvederes, perfect to admire the lakes and get some fresh air.

The Jura is also land to many waterfalls usually linked through beautiful hikes.

The Jura and its natural wonders are best explored by car. Have a look at this road trip through the Jura, one of the best road trips for nature lovers.

33. MODERN ARCHITECTURE BY LE CORBUSIER

Notre Dame de Ronchamp - France

The Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier is the father of Modern Architecture and he designed many iconic buildings all around France.

Villa Savoye near Paris is the most famous one, the first project where he applied the five pillars of Modern Architecture. Other famous buildings by Le Corbusier include Ronchamp Chapel (on the picture above), l’ Unité d’Habitation in Marseille, or La Tourette Convent.

34. ENJOY SOME OF THE WORLD’S BEST WINES ALONG THE ROUTE DES GRANDS CRUS

Côte-de-Nuits Vineyards

Among all the Burgundy Wine Trails, the Route des Grands Crus is the most popular. This Burgundy Wine Trail from Beaune to Dijon is an ideal road trip for wine lovers who also enjoy picturesque small towns and beautiful landscapes.

Explore the beautiful region of Burgundy and learn about its winemakers’ savoir-faire while enjoying some of the world’s best reds and whites.

35.WINTER GETAWAY AT LES TROIS VALLÉES

La Plagne - French Alps

The French Alps are a great destination for a winter getaway in France, home to iconic snow-capped peaks, charming old towns, and endless ski slopes.

Les Trois Vallées in the French Alps is the largest ski area in the world, with 600 kilometres of pistes and luxury resorts. Enjoy a ski holiday in one of the most snow-sure resorts in Europe as well as other thrilling activities guaranteed to keep dedicated skiers and non-skiers alike happy all holiday.

36. LYON’S FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS AWAITS

Festival of Lights - Lyon

In Lyon, the coldest season kicks off with the Festival of Lights one of the most famous winter festivals in France.

The Fête des Lumières (usually the first weekend of December) began as a spontaneous celebration of the Virgin Mary when a bronze statue of her was erected and Lyonnais all placed candles in their windows.

Today, different artists light up buildings, streets, squares, and parks all over the city. With more than 40 light installations to discover, the city has a magical atmosphere.

37. ADMIRE THE TOP OF EUROPE FROM AIGUILLE DU MIDI

The Aiguille du Midi is a 3,842-metre-tall mountain in the Mont Blanc massif within the French Alps. It can be directly accessed by cable car from Chamonix for a closer view of the Mont Blanc (4,810m).

Once up, several terraces offer panoramic views of beautiful glaciers and the Alps. Don’t miss The Vertical Space, a museum dedicated to the adventure of ascending Mont Blanc throughout history.

38. CHAMPAGNE TASTING IN EPERNAY

Sunset Champagne Celebration

Epernay, in the region of Grand Est, is the capital of Champagne, where the most important champagne houses succeed one another along its famous Champagne Avenue.

Visit the city with its beautiful 19th-century private mansions and join a champagne tour to learn about the history and production of champagne wine and do some tastings.

39. HIKE THE VOLCANOES OF AUVERGNE

Auvergne, in the Massif Central, is a land of 450 dormant volcanoes spread in the Chaîne des Puys, Monts Dore, Artense, Cézallier, and Monts du Cantal. The volcanoes of Auvergne are a paradise for hikers, with long and short trails that suit all levels.

The Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Natural Park is the largest French regional natural park, with unique landscapes, but also beautiful heritage built with volcanic stones, and a remarkable biodiversity.

40. A SPA DAY AT VICHY

Vichy - Wellness

Thanks to the richness of its volcanic soil, the region of Auvergne contains a variety of thermal sources to treat many conditions, also perfect for a quick recovery after a long hike.

Among the Auvergne’s spa towns, Vichy is the spa resort par excellence, well known for the healing and therapeutic properties of its springs and its beautiful Art-Déco architecture.

Enjoy Vichy Thermal Spa, one of the biggest spas in Europe, but also be sure to explore Vichy’s rich Art-Déco heritage, with an Opera House, eclectic villas, grand hotels, and two casinos.

41. CHRISTMAS WONDERLAND IN ALSACE

Christmas Colmar

Alsace’s Christmas Markets are the best Christmas Markets in France to visit. As Alsace sits on the border with Germany, some of the German traditions of Christmas have become part of the culture in Alsace.

There are huge Christmas trees, many lights, and lots of Christmas decorations in the different old towns and it truly feels like a Christmas wonderland.

Wander around the different wooden chalets, do your last Christmas shopping, eat some sweets or gingerbread. When it gets too cold you can always keep you warm with a hot chocolate or a jar of mulled wine.

Western France

42. SURF THE WAVES IN BIARRITZ

Biarritz - French Basque Country

Biarritz in the French Basque Country is a surfing haven, the undisputed epicenter of surfing in France.

In the beginning, it was the foreigners who came to surf in Biarritz but the locals quickly adopted the sport and promoted it to the point that today Biarritz is at the top of anyone’s places-to-surf bucket list, the place where some of the biggest international-surfing competitions take place.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced surfer, we are sure that you will find your sweet spot in Biarritz.  

43. HIKE THE SENTIER DES DOUANIERS

Le Sentier des Douaniers

The GR34, also known as Le Sentier des Douaniers, is one of the top hikes in France. This path was originally used by the custom officers to prevent smuggling and it borders all the coastline of Brittany for over 2,000 kilometers.

Walk part or the full multi-day hike and explore Brittany’s impressive cliffs, lonely beaches, and picturesque coastal towns.

44. HAVE FUN WITH LES MACHINES DE L’ILE IN NANTES

Machines of the Isle of Nantes

Les Machines de l’Ile, is the must-attraction in Nantes. Located on an isle in the middle of the Loire River, in the city’s former shipyards, this artistic project brings together a set of crazy machines that seem straight out of Jules Verne’s imagination and Leonardo Da Vinci’s invention.

Ride the Sea World Carousel on the back of the strangest marine creatures or wander around the isle on a crazy elephant who likes to shower all the kids he finds on his way! Visit the Galerie des Machines, where a team of crazy inventors and machinists are working on new projects and machines.

45. GET MYSTIC AT THE ALIGNMENTS OF CARNAC

Carnac Stones - Brittany

The alignments of Carnac in Brittany western France is an exceptional site of megalithic alignments with more than 3.000 menhirs over more than 4 kilometers. These menhirs were erected between 6.000 and 2.000 AD, and even if we still don’t know the purpose of these alignments, they are just amazing.

Start with an introductory video and exhibition at the Maison dees Mégalithes. Then take the time to wander around the stones and soak up the special atmosphere of this unique site.

46. CLIMB UP DUNE DU PILAT, EUROPE’S LARGEST SAND DUNE

Dune du Pilat - France

Dune du Pilat is an impressive sight, spanning around 3 km in length, 600 m in width, and a lofty 100 or so meters high. It is located in the Arcachon Basin, not far from Bordeaux in western France.

Dune du Pilat is one of the most unique things to do in Western France. Climb up to the top of the dune to admire the nature on offer or book in for a paraglide over the dune to gain a bird’s eye view of the nearby forest and the Atlantic Ocean.

47. WALK INSIDE AN ATWORK WITH IMMERSIVE ART

Immersive Art at Atelier des Lumières

Immersive Art exhibitions are mind-blowing experiences where the viewer becomes a whole with the exhibit. It usually involves different media, like sound, images, or scents. In Immersive Art exhibitions, the spectator becomes part of the artwork, walking literally inside an artwork or interacting with it.

Currently, there are different immersive art experiences in France located in Paris, Bordeaux, and Aix-en-Provence. These digital centers, set in singular buildings, feature the works by some of the best master paintings.

48. ENJOY AMAZING PREHISTORIC ART AT LASCAUX

Lascaux Paintings - France

Lascaux, in Dordogne, is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world! A UNESCO World Heritage site, the cave features over 600 parietal paintings, considered to be masterpieces of stone age art.

Lascaux was discovered in 1940 by a group of local young boys and open to the public in 1963. Unfortunately, human breath started to make the paintings deteriorate which is why the original site was permanently closed in the 80s. The caves that can be visited now are replicas (Lascaux II).

49. THE SWEET LIFE IN GULF OF MORBIHAN

Gulf of Morbihan

With its many islands and islets, its micro-climate that warms the sea, and its sweet life, the Gulf of Morbihan is one of the most beautiful landscapes of Brittany to discover all year.

Morbihan means little sea in the local language and it is the perfect place to sail or kayak, hike or explore the little islands protected from the vagaries of the ocean. Among the fifty or so islands in Morbihan, Île aux Moines and Île d’ Arz are locals’ favorites.

50. ?

And there’s our France Bucket List, the list of unique things to do in France. What do you think are the best things to do in France? Let us know in the France Travel Facebook Group so we can complete the list.

Click here for more Travel Inspiration

Back to Homepage

Sharing is caring!

Love France Bucket List?

Sign up and get the best of France in our Newsletter

Enter your email address below and we'll send you the goodies straight to your inbox.

Thank You For Subscribing

This means the world to us!

Spamming is not included