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The ultimate France Travel Guide

Dec 17, 2021 by The Go Ahead Tours Team

With the world’s most-visited museum, a rich history, indulgent pastries, and a reputation as the fashion capital of the world, it’s clear that the hype about France exists for a reason. This European gem is filled with so much beautiful scenery that you’ll savor every moment of your French vacation just as much as each buttery croissant. Whether you’re wondering what to do in France or want expert tips on the top places to visit in France, our ultimate France Travel Guide is here to help you enjoy your trip to this dreamy destination.

Currency: Euro. Note that better exchange rates are often available overseas, but it’s a good idea to order currency from your local bank so you have cash on hand for those decadent French pastries!

Language: Don’t worry if you’re not a fluent French speaker. While French is the predominant language, many locals also speak English and give grace to visitors who do their best to speak in the native language, even if imperfectly. Here are some of the key phrases you’ll want to know.

  • Bonjour” is the standard French way to say “hello.”
  • Merci” can be used to say “thank you.”
  • Je ne parle pas français” will be your go-to phrase if you struggle with speaking or understanding French since it means “I don’t speak French.”
  • Comment allez-vous” is a phrase you can use to ask “how are you?”

See our list of other phrases to learn before you travel to France →


Getting around in France

Where you are in France will determine the best way to travel from place to place. In major cities like Paris or Nice, trams and metros are prevalent, making public transit your best option. In more remote areas, a private motorcoach is the best way to go. Good thing that’s included on all of our France tours!

  • We include tickets to use the metro on our Paris City Stay, and our Tour Directors will be happy to tell you how to get tickets during your free time on all our other tours of Paris!
  • Whether strolling through the Louvre to view the Mona Lisa or wandering the cobblestone streets and gazing at fresh French food at local markets, walking will give you the opportunity to take in all the beauty France has to offer at your own pace.
  • For those longer journeys that can’t be made on foot, our tours also include transportation by private motorcoach.


When to go to France:

There a plenty of things to do in France all year round, though the weather will vary between coastal towns and inland cities. The best time to visit France will likely depend on what type of vacation you envision for yourself and what you’d like to do on your trip.

  • Generally speaking, you’ll experience the most moderate temperatures and smaller crowd sizes when visiting France during spring and fall, with temperatures ranging from 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • As the temperature warms in the summer, Paris comes to life with picnics, farmers’ markets, and outdoor festivals.
  • Even though the winter months may be colder and wetter, they’re pretty mild in France, and you’ll still find plenty to do—think celebrating festive holiday events like New Year’s Eve in Paris, when the cheer will warm your spirits in spite of the cooler temperatures. Here are some free-time winter activities in Paris.


What to pack for a trip to France:

With so many things to do in France, you’ll want to put a little extra thought into your ensembles, especially considering France has a reputation for its fashion sensibility. Here’s everything you’ll want to bring along your trip where you’ll do everything from visiting châteaus to marveling at the iconic artwork at the Louvre.

  • As the weather changes depending on the time of year, you’ll want to dress accordingly. Think lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that’s easily layered. Perhaps even consider sticking to neutrals or a cohesive color pallet to maximize the number of ways you can mix and match your outfits.
  • An outfit that’s très chic for those fancy Parisian dinners and higher-end French restaurants. Many restaurants don’t consider sneakers and shorts appropriate attire, but your Tour Director can help advise you on appropriate ensembles.
  • Modest clothing that covers your legs and shoulders for when you visit churches or religious sites like Saint Chappelle.
  • Many of our French tours involve a good amount of walking, so comfortable and sturdy shoes like sneakers or even light hiking boots are essential.
  • It’s never a bad idea to bring a water bottle anywhere you go, and you’ll especially want one on hand if you’re considering our French Riviera & Provence: Nice, Avignon & Aix-en-Provence tour.
  • Rainwear is great to have on hand during outdoor activities, particularly in the chillier months.
  • A journal, sketchbook, or camera to remember every minute during your trip of a lifetime.
  • Once you book one of our France guided tours, you can find a packing list for that specific trip in our free EF Go Ahead Tours mobile app.


The best things to do in France:

There is too much to do in France to fit everything into one single visit. These are just a few of our travelers’ favorite things to experience in this beautiful European country.

  • Channel your inner James Bond and visit the lavish Monte Carlo Casino, which is available as an extension on many of our France tours.
  • Taste wine and oysters and take in stunning ocean views with a cruise through Arcachon Bay, or as locals call it, “le Bassin.” According to traveler Fanny, “[This was] perhaps my favorite excursion—a ferry ride to an oyster farm, which provided serene scenery of the ocean to sample the oysters paired with wine with the owner present as a most gracious host!”
  • Tour Villa Ephrussi on the French Riviera
  • Visit some of the popular landmarks from Emily in Paris like Pont Alexandre III, a famous bridge that’s the setting of the Maison Lavaux perfume commercial.
  • Browse the town market in Paris and find handmade cheeses, freshly baked bread, cured meats, locally grown produce, and more.
  • Deepen your appreciation of French Impressionism and view paintings at the Musee d’Orsay.
  • Stroll through the Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy and take in the beautiful Romanesque and Gothic Style architecture.
  • Honor World War II soldiers at the Normandy beaches. Walk along Omaha Beach, where American troops landed on D-Day, and view the granite monument that honors the American 2nd Ranger Battalion at Pointe du Hoc.
  • Sample French chocolates at La Cure Gourmande, a French biscuiterie and chocolatier in Carcassonne. “I was immediately drawn in by the enticing displays and after some free samples, found myself standing in front of a glass case full of different kinds of chocolate,” said staffer Laura, “Each had a unique kind of filling, from praline to cherry.”
Learn more about staffer Laura’s visit to a French chocolate store


The best things to do during your free time on tour in France:

With so many places to visit in France, you’ll surely want to see as much as possible during your free time. Here are just a few of our suggestions:

  • Visit the Picasso Museum in Le Marais in Paris to view an impressive collection of works created by the man who pioneered cubism. Located in a former mansion, the museum contains over 5,000 pieces of Picasso’s work and some pieces by Matisse and Cézanne that Picasso once had in his personal collection.
  • Head out on the Burgundy wine route. You can even book an excursion to visit vineyards along the Côte d’Or wine route where you’ll sample Chardonnay and other world-renowned white wines, as well as Pinot Noir and other bold reds in the Côte de Nuits area.
  • Shop at Rue Vieille du Temple in Paris and support local independent businesses that sell clothing, shoes, leather goods, perfume, and more.
  • Hike along Le Sentier du Littoral in Antibes. “While on tour in the French Riviera, I hiked this oceanfront trail at sunset,” says staffer Emily. “It took about 90 minutes, and the views were stunning. It hugs the Cap d’ Antibes and there are little viewpoints you can walk out to throughout the hike. While it wasn’t too steep, the landscape is pretty rocky and uneven. Definitely consider those mobility factors before heading out on this hike. Some sturdy sneakers will certainly help! If the terrain seems manageable to you, and you’re looking for a little adventure that’ll help you get your steps in, this is the perfect way to cap off a day on tour in France!”
  • Grab wine and cheese from a local market and have a picnic in the park. “The Tuileries Garden in Paris is prime real estate for people-watching,” said staffer Jamie.


What to eat and drink in France:

The flavors you’ll taste in France are as memorable as the country’s iconic art and landmarks. There’s a wealth of options between pastries, cheeses, wines, and more all waiting to be tried with fresh, seasonal ingredients taking center stage. And if you want a truly special experience, join a Parisian family for a home-hosted dinner.

  • Wine. Whether you like red or white, sweet or dry, French wine offers plenty of varieties all of superb quality. Taste Bordeaux in Bordeaux and other local sweets like merveilles, canelés, bouchons de Bordeaux, or even the famous Grand Crus wine while on our tour, A Taste of Bordeaux and Burgundy.
  • France is known for its mouthwatering pastries and of course, you should indulge in some!
  • If you’re feeling adventurous, escargot, (snails cooked in butter, garlic, and herbs) are a unique French delicacy you’ll want to experience, even just to say you tried it.
  • From pistachio to rose, macarons come in all kinds of flavors with something sure to satisfy any palate.
  • Cheese and charcuterie may be having their moment in the U.S. right now but in France, charcuterie boards are an artform.
  • Crêpes with honey is a great classic French dish, especially when you’re in Paris.
  • Gâteau Basque and a meal at Restaurant Aux Pigeons Blancs, according to staffer Jamie “The cherry gâteau Basque is the most traditional cake in the Basque region of France, but the almond cream is the most popular—so I tried both!” she said, “I liked the almond cream version the best. It had a soft consistency in the middle with a hint of almond. I also ordered a great shrimp dish at Restaurant Aux Pigeons Blancs in the center of town...this was one of the best meals I had on the whole tour.”

For even more suggestions, take a peek at these fabulous flavors of France


The best French souvenirs:

The best parts of your trip will be moments that are too big to fit in your suitcase. But these go-to picks will help you and your loved ones keep a little piece of France close by long after your vacation is over.

  • You’ll probably want to bring home a bottle or two of French wine (or more, we won’t judge!) so that you can pour a glass for your family, friends, and yourself to enjoy long after your trip has come to an end.
  • There are lots of perfumes you’ll find in France that aren’t available in the U.S. Take advantage of the opportunity to nab a unique scent for you or that special someone.
  • Take your wardrobe to the next level with some French clothing—whether you opt for something designer or locally made, you’re sure to find a one-of-a-kind piece that you won’t be able to get back home. Then when you get compliments, you’ll have the ultimate bragging rights—“Thanks, I got it on my tour in France!”
  • Stock up on all things lavender-scented—be it soaps, lotions, or candles. Anything to make you feel like you’re back in Provence, even when you’re just at home curled up on the couch watching your favorite film.

Explore all of our France tours today. Then, head to our Facebook page to talk travel with other France lovers.

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About the author | The Go Ahead Tours Team
We’re a team of passionate travel experts, dedicated to helping people explore the world. From inspiring stories to tips for an amazing trip, the topics we cover are all about getting you out there and making discoveries.

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