One of the most culturally rich and addictive countries in the world, France is a place you’ll want to visit again and again. Whether you prefer bustling cosmopolitan cities, rustic farm villages, or luxurious beach resorts, the captivating country is home to such a great diversity of experiences that you’ll be absolutely spoiled for choice!
France has many different fond nicknames, with L’Hexagone being one of the most popular. It literally translates into English as “the Hexagon” and came about due to France’s similar shape. When you visit, you’ll find there are plenty of things to do in this six-sided country.
From the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris and the mesmerizing lavender fields in Provence to the glamorous shores of Saint-Tropez and the lush vineyards of Bordeaux, you’ll never be stuck for what to do in France. Whether you visit for one week or one month, you’ll always wish you had more time.
With such a diverse choice of things to see and do, it can be tricky to know where to begin. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the best things to do in France. Add these activities and attractions to your France bucket list, and you’re sure to have an amazing time exploring L’Hexagone!
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25 Fun and Unique Things to Do In France
1. See the Mona Lisa at the Musée du Louvre
Whether or not you’re into artwork, one of the must-do things in France is to visit the Louvre in Paris. This important art gallery is home to one of the most famous pieces of art in the world – the Mona Lisa!
The iconic painting is kept safe in the museum’s largest room (Salle des États), where you’ll also find other incredible Venetian paintings, including The Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese.
While the Mona Lisa is undoubtedly the most famous painting in the Louvre, there are plenty of other remarkable things to see. The Venus de Milo and La Victoire de Samothrace statues and La Liberté Guidant le Peuple and Louis XIV paintings are also definitely worth checking out.
There’s so much going on inside the Louvre that exploring it feels more like wandering around a town than a museum. There’s a spectacular section for genuine Egyptian mummies and the dazzling French Crown Jewels. There’s also a medieval part where you can wander around the museum’s original foundations, which date back to 1190.
Tip: If you want to avoid the long entrance lines, it’s well worth purchasing a Louvre Museum Timed-Entrance Ticket, which allows you to skip the line.
2. Step Back in Time in Carcassonne Medieval City
For some of the best sights in France, visit Carcassonne. There are technically two different Carcassonnes: one is the medieval walled city, and the other is the neighboring town (also known as Ville Basse) which lies at its base. We recommend you visit the ancient fortified city.
Stepping foot in Carcasonne really is like going back in time. The narrow cobbled streets are lined with enchanting medieval buildings and lead to stunning squares which are framed by cute cafes and restaurants. It’s a wonderful place to just wander and soak up the atmosphere.
If you want to put together an itinerary, we recommend visiting the Château Comtal, Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts. If you’re in the mood for a hearty lunch, we also suggest you stop by a local restaurant and order goose or duck confit – two of the region’s specialty dishes.
Carcassonne is a hugely popular place for tourists, with hundreds visiting each day. To get the most out of your visit, try and go early in the morning or late in the evening. This is when the streets are at their most peaceful, and you’ll have the best and most authentic experience.
3. See Gigantic Kites at the Berck-sur-Mer Kite Festival
The Berck-sur-Mer Kite Festival is one of the few places where pigs might actually fly! For more than two decades, around 700,000 people have traveled to Berck-sur-Mer for the chance to see some of the most spectacular kites in the world.
This colorful festival takes place for around nine days every March or April. You may have seen kites before, but we bet you haven’t seen anything like the ones at this festival. Kites that look like giant whales, dragons, octopuses, and all kinds of cartoon characters take over the skies above the sandy beach.
There’s loads of room for spectators on the sand dunes, so you’ll never be stuck for space. Grab a blanket, pack a picnic, and plan to spend the whole day at the beach enjoying the show. There’s so much else going on that there’s no way you’ll get bored!
You can join in with workshops to learn how to make and properly fly kites. There’s also a huge number of stalls selling various kites and equipment. Make sure you stay until the end of the festival when there’s a night flying display and fireworks show.
4. Live Your Childhood Dreams at Disneyland Paris
Spending the day at Disneyland Paris is one of the most fun things to do in France. If you’ve never found the time to visit Walt Disney World in the US, now’s your chance while you’re on vacation! Located on the outskirts of France’s capital, Disneyland Paris is the perfect place to let off some steam and break up your France sightseeing adventure.
There are so many things to see and do here that we definitely recommend buying a Disneyland Paris Multi-Day Entrance Ticket. If you’re visiting during the busy summer or holiday season, a fast pass is probably worth the splurge, too, if you want to go on as many rides as possible.
Little kids will have the chance to meet their favorite characters, have princess makeovers, and go on fun-filled rides designed just for children. Adults and older kids will have an amazing time riding the rollercoasters, watching the parades, and staying up late for the incredible fireworks display.
5. See Replicas of 17,000-Year-Old Cave Paintings in Lascaux II
You’ll find one of the coolest things to do in France hidden in a small forest to the south of Montignac. Tucked away inside a system of Paleolithic caves lies more than 1,500 well-preserved cave paintings and engravings of wild animals.
The caves were discovered in 1940 by a group of four boys who were trying to rescue their dog. Not only did they manage to save their pet, but they also made one of the most breathtaking discoveries France has ever seen!
The amazing engravings and paintings are said to be more than 17,000 years old and provide invaluable information about the beginnings of European art. They also give a great insight into the early Homo Erectus.
Unfortunately, the real caves where the artwork was discovered aren’t open to the general public. However, you can see detailed and highly accurate replicas in Lascaux II. This cave is located just steps away from the original and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
6. Marvel at the Views from the Top of the Eiffel Tower
If you’re looking for France bucket list activities, you can’t visit Paris without taking a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The French landmark rises up 330 meters into the sky and rewards visitors with the most incredible views of the city.
You can’t visit the very top of the tower, but you can get pretty close! The highest up you can go is 276 meters, which is more than enough to soak up the remarkable city views.
There are two sections at this level – one outdoors and one indoors. The weather in Paris can be a bit hit or miss, and the indoor section provides a great place to admire the view without getting wet or cold. The walls are decorated with panoramic maps telling you the highlights to look out for.
If you’re not scared of heights and the weather’s fine, we definitely recommend going into the outdoor section. The feeling of the wind in your hair and the ground so far below you will really get your heart racing!
7. Appreciate Spectacular French Art at the Musée d’Orsay
Although the Musée du Louvre is definitely the most famous art gallery in France, the Musée d’Orsay comes in at a close second. Also located in Paris, on the left bank of the Seine, this incredible museum is home to some of the best things to see in France.
Here you can discover all kinds of stunning sculptures and paintings created by a host of French artists. With a vast collection of impressionist and post-impressionist work, there’s a lot of great stuff to take in here. You’ll need at least 3-4 hours just to get a brief look at all the levels and display rooms. If you’re short on time, it’s well worth booking a Reserved Access ticket ahead of time, which will allow you to skip the lines.
Even if you’re not really into art, you’re sure to recognize some of the most famous pieces by Renoir, Degas, Cezanne, and Monet.
In addition to the permanent exhibitions, the Musée d’Orsay continuously hosts temporary exhibits and events. Check the website to find out what’s going on during your visit, so you don’t miss out on anything!
8. Indulge in Cassoulet
If you’re planning your trip for the chilly winter months, you’ve got to try cassoulet. One of the most comforting dishes in all French cuisine, cassoulet is a decadent slow-cooked casserole that originated in Toulouse.
It features several kinds of meat (usually a combination of pork sausage, goose, and duck) cooked with white beans, onions, and carrots. Some places also sprinkle the top with toasted breadcrumbs, but that’s not the traditional way this dish is served. The best types of cassoulet are gently simmered for hours until the meat and beans take on a luxurious, velvety richness.
Chez Emile in Toulouse is our favorite place to indulge in cassoulet. It features on their signature Emile menu and is one of the most decadent and comforting things we’ve ever eaten!
L’Assiette in Paris is another fantastic place to try cassoulet. It’s a house specialty and is served bubbling in the earthenware container in which it was cooked.
9. Feel humble at the Palace of Versailles
For some of the best France sightseeing opportunities, head to the Palace of Versailles. In 1682, King Louis XIV decided to make the palace his home. As soon as you step foot inside, you’ll instantly understand why. The imposing palace and the surrounding gardens are beyond stunning.
The Hall of Mirrors is one of the most incredible things you’ll ever see in your life. The most famous room in the palace, the Hall of Mirrors pays tribute to the artistic, economic, and political success of France. The vaulted ceilings, detailed frescoes, gold accents, and sparkling chandeliers are sure to impress.
There are plenty of other fascinating parts of the palace to explore, too. The War Room is remarkable and pays tribute to the military victories which resulted in the peace treaties of Nijmegen. The walls are decorated in marble panels, trophies, and gilded bronze.
The Peace Room is also worth checking out. It looks similar to the War Room but features a decorated cupula and arches with depictions of the benefits of France bringing peace to Europe. While you can do a self-guided tour of the Palace grounds, it’s well worth booking a guided tour or, at the very least, an audio-guided tour so you can learn all about the history and intricacies of the palace.
10. Visit One of the World’s Most Complete Roman Theaters
One of the best things to do in France in summer is to visit the Theatre Antique d’Orange. Located in Orange, a beautiful town in Vaucluse, the dramatic theater is one of the best-preserved and most complete Roman theaters in the world.
The breathtaking theater was built in early 1 BCE and looks so well-made that you could easily be forgiven for thinking it was a modern building made with the help of complex machines. While the theater is an interesting place to visit any time of the year, it’s best to go in summer when it’s transformed into a spectacular venue for Orange’s annual opera festival.
Known as Chorégies d’Orange, the festival starts in late June and runs until early August. During these dates, you’ll have the chance to see everything from classic operas and astounding symphonies to spectacular ballets and theatrical performances. Check the website to find out what’s going on during your visit and snap up tickets while you can!
11. Smell Sweet Aromas of the Menton Lemon Festival
One of the most unique things to do in France is held every February in Menton. For two weeks each year, the town comes to life to celebrate the sweet-smelling Lemon Festival. Known locally as Fête du Citron, the festival celebrates everything to do with the zingy citrus fruit.
During the day, the streets are filled with colorful floats decorated with fresh oranges and lemons. They’re accompanied by incredible acrobats, mesmerizing musicians, and energetic drummers who do a great job of entertaining the crowds.
When the sun sets, 32-foot-tall statues and models made entirely out of citrus fruits are displayed in the Biovès Gardens. The gorgeous displays are made by more than 300 professionals and 145 tons of fruit each year. They’re unlike anything else you can see in the world!
As well as the parades and displays, the Menton Lemon Festival also gives you a great opportunity to buy all kinds of handicrafts made with citrus fruits. From marmalades and jams to perfumes and soaps, there are loads of wonderful things to buy here, all of which are made from local produce.
12. Walk around the Labyrinth at the Chartres Cathedral
A stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Chartres Cathedral (Cathedrale de Chartres) dates all the way back to 1145. Even though much of the town of Chartres was destroyed by fire in 1134, the cathedral survived and shortly became an important pilgrimage site.
A masterpiece of French architecture, the cathedral boasts soaring spires and decorative porches adorned with elaborate sculptures. The 12th- and 13th-century stained glass windows are also gorgeous.
One of the most interesting parts of the cathedral is the labyrinth. Not the maze-like labyrinth that you may be imagining, this labyrinth was designed in the 13th century and is inlaid into the floor in the central nave. It’s covered in chairs most of the time, but when they’re cleared, you can appreciate how large it is and take a walk around it.
It took a staggering 26 years to build the cathedral. And when you see all the incredible details found all over the building, you’ll easily understand why.
13. Get Back to Nature in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Valley
For some of the best France activities, head to Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Valley. A wonderful place to visit at any time of year, this beautiful valley is an incredible spot for photographers, outdoor enthusiasts, and anyone who enjoys a beautiful view.
In winter, the snow-dusted wonderland is an excellent place for skiing, snowboarding, and just playing in the snow. During the warmer months, you’ll find ample opportunities for hiking, whitewater rafting, and paragliding.
If you’ve got a head for heights, you’ve got to check out Le 3842. This cafe and restaurant is at the peak of l’Aiguille du Midi and boasts a glass viewing platform that you can step on to feel like you’re walking in thin air.
The Chamonix Luge Alpine Coaster is something else you’ve got to try. This high-speed ride jumps, twists, and turns through 540-degree spins to keep your adrenaline pumping along the 0.8-mile ride.
14. Chill Out with Provence Rosé
France is well-known for its full-bodied red wines, but if you visit Provence, you’ve got to try some local rosé. This light and delicate type of wine accounts for around 82% of the wine produced in the region. It’s the perfect thing to drink on a warm spring day!
The wines produced in Provence are pale in color and have a crisp, dry palate. They pair perfectly with the Mediterranean cuisine typically enjoyed in this part of France. You’ll find all kinds of delicious rosé wines available in bars, restaurants, and grocery stores throughout Provence. But for an extra special experience, consider booking a half-day wine tour to do a couple wine tasting sessions!
Vineyards in Provence are truly amazing. Much more than a place to try wine, many plantations throughout the region now boast art displays, tempting restaurants, and fantastic performances throughout the summer months.
The award-winning Mirabeau is one of our favorite vineyards in Provence. The family-owned vineyard covers 14 hectares and produces four different kinds of organic vegan rosés.
15. Try White Water Rafting at the Gorges du Verdon
If you’re in search of high-speed thrills, one of the best things to do in France is to visit Gorges du Verdon for white water rafting. The stunning gorge goes on for over 15 miles through the Verdon Regional Park and is almost too beautiful to believe. Some of the limestone cliffs rise a kilometer into the sky, making you feel as tiny as an ant.
The combination of sparkling aquamarine water, spectacular white cliffs, and the deep verdant of the mountains make the Gorges du Verdon look more like a photoshopped picture than a scene from real life.
There are loads of different white water rafting routes for different ages and levels, giving you plenty to choose from. If you’d prefer a more private experience, there are even some small rafts available that can hold just two or four people.
White water rafting isn’t the only thing you can do in Gorges du Verdon. This spot is also fantastic for climbing, hiking, cycling, and swimming.
16. Start the Day with Pain au Chocolat
France may be well-known for buttery, flaky croissants, but we recommend you start your morning at a cute cafe with a cup of coffee and a pain au chocolat. This classic French breakfast literally translates as “chocolate bread,” but it’s so much more than that.
A pain au chocolat is made from the same pastry as a croissant, but it’s in a rectangular shape. And in the center, you’ll find a wonderfully rich block of chocolate. As the pastry bakes, the chocolate takes on a crumbly, velvety texture that you don’t find in other desserts.
Starting the day with a buttery pastry stuffed with chocolate may sound a little indulgent, but it’s totally normal in France. You’ll find the sweet breakfast treat available in all cafes, bakeries, and grocery stores.
Bo & Mie serves the best and most beautiful pain au chocolat we’ve ever tried. The creative bakery uses the finest quality products and expert techniques to develop chocolate-filled pastries you won’t be able to get enough of.
17. Visit the Magical Mont Saint-Michel
Mont Saint-Michel is somewhere you need to see to believe. Nestled in between Normandy and Brittany, the legendary sanctuary is perched on top of a tidal island and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
The island is less than a kilometer from the mainland, making it fairly easy for pilgrims centuries ago to walk there during low tide. Today there’s a handy causeway so you can travel to the island by shuttle or on foot, regardless of whether the tide is high or low.
The settlement was originally a symbol of the French resistance during the Hundred Years’ War. But today it’s a magical tourist attraction that looks like it was plucked straight out of a fairytale. As it’s less than a kilometer from land, it’s very easy to access during low tides.
The tiny islet is protected by 11th-century medieval walls and imposing towers which rise above the clustered buildings of the village. The ancient abbey acts as the crown of the island and is definitely worth a visit.
18. Climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe
If you want to take photos of as many France attractions as possible, don’t pass up the chance to visit the Arc de Triomphe. The largest monument of this type in the world, the Arc de Triomphe links the old and new sides of Paris together. While the view from the ground is stunning, the view from the top is even better.
Yes – you can climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe! The iconic structure is over 60 meters tall and you can choose to scale it by climbing 284 steps or by whizzing to the top in the elevator.
For the most spectacular experience, we recommend making the climb after dark. This way, you get to see the city illuminated with sparkling lights. If you can plan your visit for sunset, you’ll also get to see the sky transform from pinks, oranges, and reds to purples, blues, and blacks.
19. Party for Weeks at the Nice Carnival
If you’re planning to visit France in February, you’ve got to take a trip to Nice. At this time of year, more than one million people from all over France and beyond head to Nice for the chance to take part in the Carnival celebrations.
The most important event held on the French Riviera, Carnival transforms the usual laid-back, sophisticated city into party central. You can expect a fantastic lineup of events, including lively parades with flamboyant floats, exaggerated colorful costumes, and high-octane street parties that seem to go on for days.
More than 1,000 musicians, artists, and dancers from all over the world take part in Carnival to make it an incredible event you’ll never forget. The Flower Parade is one of the highlights of the festival. During this special procession, vibrantly dressed revelers throw 100,000 flowers into the crowd while bursts of confetti and silly string fill the air.
20. Take in a Show at the Moulin Rouge
You can’t visit Paris without visiting the birthplace of the cabaret and the cancan. The famous Moulin Rouge is tucked away in Montmartre and hosts some jaw-dropping shows that you’ve simply got to see.
Three shows are performed each night inside the building with the instantly recognizable spinning red windmill. Whichever show you choose, you’re guaranteed to be blown away by the lively music, unbelievable costumes, and marvelous dancing.
More than simple performances, each show has a storyline. The technology is also pretty impressive and has definitely come a long way in recent years. The stage is transformed every few minutes with props appearing at the sides, top, and bottom. All the performances end with the fun-filled cancan dance and music you’ll be moving in time to!
Watching a show at the Moulin Rouge can be pretty pricey. But if you’re celebrating a special occasion, there are a few ways you can splash out to make your experience even better. Some tickets include VIP seating, fancy French meals, and champagne.
21. Visit the Inspiration for the Hunchback of Notre Dame
If you’re a fan of classic literature, one of the top things to do in France is to admire the building on which Victor Hugo based his 1831 novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Even if you’ve never heard of the book, the cathedral is still a pretty impressive thing to check out.
With lofty archways, rose-colored stained glass windows, elaborate spires, flying buttresses, and ribbed vaults, you can lose time just wandering around the cathedral and taking in all the details.
The most fascinating part of the structure is the collection of gargoyles. These creepy creatures are perched on the corners of the highest parts of the cathedral and watch over the people far down below.
As the building is slowly being restored following the devastating fire in April 2019, only certain parts of the cathedral are open to visitors. Check the website to find out which sections are open during your visit.
22. See a spectacular feat of engineering at the Pont du Gard
You may not think that a bridge deserves to be on the list of the best things to do in France, but the Pont du Gard isn’t any old bridge. Built over 2,000 years ago using bricks weighing up to a grand total of six tons, this remarkable bridge is more like a work of art than a way to cross the river.
It took more than five years to complete the Pont du Gard, which almost looks like three bridges combined into one. The immense structure makes up a significant part of an aqueduct that stretches on for almost 50 kilometers. It was created to move water from the Gardon River valley over to Nemausus in Nîmes.
Around the 4th century, the bridge began to get neglected. Regular maintenance wasn’t carried out and the bridge was left to ruin. Despite its lack of care, the bridge is still in fantastic condition and remains an excellent example of Roman ingenuity.
23. Challenge Your Taste Buds with Escargot
Trying escargot (better known as snails) is one of the things to do in France that you’ve absolutely got to try. It may sound bizarre if you’ve never seen them on a menu before, but snails can be remarkably delicious!
The upscale French dish is usually served as a sophisticated hors d’oeuvre or sometimes an appetizer. The classic way most chefs prepare them is to remove them from their shells, cook them in lots of garlic butter, and place them back in their shells before pouring more garlic butter all over them.
Escargot have a similar texture to chicken, with an earthiness that’s a little like mushrooms. Their subtle flavor is usually overpowered by whatever they’re cooked in, which isn’t always a bad thing – especially if you’re unsure about trying them.
We had some of the best-ever escargot at Benoit in Paris. This amazing restaurant is located in the very heart of the city and dishes up escargot in portions of six, nine, or 12. They’re always soaked in the most delicious garlic butter and come with slices of a freshly-baked baguette.
24. Soak up Some Rays on Calanque d’En Vau Beach
When you need a break from all that France sightseeing, have a relaxing day and soak up some rays at the beach. If you’re in Provence, we suggest spending a few hours at Calanque d’En Vau beach.
One of the most beautiful bays in all of France, Les Calanques de Cassis beach features powder-soft white sand, dazzling turquoise waters, and towering cliffs that protect it from the wind. Due to its small size, you’ll need to get there early to get a good spot. But it’s more than worth it for the chance to spend time somewhere so beautiful.
Beware: you need to make a pretty long trek to get to Calanque d’En Vau beach. The beach can only be accessed on foot, and you first need to pass by Calanque de Port Miou and Calanque de Port Pin before reaching it. But if you’re in the mood for a hike in stunning scenery and you love the idea of spending a day in complete peace and tranquility, we definitely recommend it.
25. Sip Real Champagne
Champagne is the most glamorous, sophisticated, and quintessential French drink, making it a must-try when you’re visiting. A lot of sparkling wines get called champagne. But only the special sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France is genuine Champagne.
The right type of grapes must be used to make Champagne, and a very specific production technique must be followed. It sounds a little complicated, but that’s why real Champagne is so expensive and glitzy.
Reims, the capital of the Champagne wine region, is only a short trip away from Paris. So if you fancy a day away from the city, you can hop on a tour and drink Champagne in Champagne!
But you don’t have to travel to Champagne to enjoy the famous drink. You’ll find genuine Champagne all over France in grocery stores, bars, and restaurants.
If you just want to try a glass, we recommend visiting Champop. This fun space combines an art gallery with a champagne bar and water bar all in one building.
There you have it! The 25 best things to do in France. What’s your favorite thing to do in France?
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