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Provence, Bordeaux, Burgundy…

...simply their names conjure up images of sun-drenched vineyards and starched white tablecloths set for dinner. And well they might - from morning croissants to the after-dinner cheese plate, France's palette is so finely tuned that any holiday here will largely be about the food and wine.

Come to think of it, that doesn't leave half enough space for the rest of France's charms...; What about meandering through the streets of Paris, uncovering the rich blend of cultural influences in Marseille or soaking up the sun on the beaches of the French Riviera? Well, there's nothing for it, you'll just have to stay twice as long!

 

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Top holidays in France

Culture and history

French cuisine is world-renowned, and in 2010 was added to UNESCO's list of the world's intangible cultural heritage. Food and wine play an important part in French culture, and you can't visit without getting a taste for the region – whether it's biting into a crumbly croissant or a sitting down to a hearty bouillabaisse. Dishes and specialities are diverse, and influenced by the ingredients available in each region.

When visiting shops in France it is customary to say good morning or evening ('bonjour' or 'bonsoir') to the assistant or owner and say good bye ('au revoir') when you leave. Handshaking is a customary greeting between strangers, while friends will lightly kiss on the cheeks, once on the left cheek and once on the right.

The famous sons and daughters of France are, frankly, a colourful bunch and include Napoleon Bonaparte, Brigitte Bardot, Claude Monet, Joan of Arc, Louis Pasteur, Nostradamus, Charles Aznavour, Marie Antoinette, Marcel Marceau, Andre the Giant, Cyrano de Bergerac, Catherine Deneuve, Raymond Blanc, Edith Piaf, Eric Cantona, Louis Braille, Jules Verne, Jacques Clouseau and Athos, Portos, Aramis and D’Artangnan. Who would you invite to a dinner party?

History-wise, France has lots. It began with the homo sapiens some 42,000 years ago, of which we know very little, and then the Celts, of which we know marginally more. But things really got interesting when Julius Cesar conquered the territory known as Gaul in 51BC. Next came the Franks, who formed West Francia in the 900s, followed by lots of land-grabs by English monarchs and the Habsburgs in the ensuing centuries. By the 17th century, French culture was de rigueur in Europe thanks to larger-than-life Louis XIV who kept the throne for a remarkable 72 years. The royals didn't last long though - a messy revolution succeeded in overthrowing the monarch and in 1789 France became a republic. Napoleon took his turn next, then it was back and forth between a monarchy and republic for a few more centuries.

The First World War saw France join sides with the British to fight the Germans. It was also an ally in the Second World War until the Nazis took control. Thankfully the Resistance retaliated and helped smooth a path for the Allies through France following the invasion of Normandy in 1944. In 1958 it became a key member of the European Economic Community which, in 1993, was superseded by the European Union.

Things to do

Whether you'd like to try wine tasting in the Dordogne or take a river cruise along the Rhone, we're bound to have a holiday in France to suit you. Ramble through fields of lavender in the rural south, discover Monet's garden in Giverny or travel to the unique island of Corsica.

For those who would like to explore 20th century history, take in the war museums of Europe or the sites of the battle of the Somme and the D-Day landings. Our tours and cruises visit the country's most fascinating sights while we've handpicked France's best hotels for a relaxed holiday.

Provence and the Côte d'Azur

Luxuriating in the balmy climes of Southern France, the region of Provence and the Côte d'Azur offers a real variety of landscapes. There is eye candy a plenty here, from hazy fields of lavender to cliff top roads and the sparkling French Riviera. Along the Mediterranean Coast are the sun-drenched towns of Nice, Cannes, St Tropez and Marseille, whilst inland you can explore the ancient walled city of Avignon.

The Dordogne

This cultured region lies between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenees. It is here that you will find the famous wine-growing region of Bergerac, as well as many a grand chateaux set amidst vivid green woodland and picturesque hillside villages.

The Alsace

This lovely northeast region of France stretches along the border with Germany and Switzerland and has changed hands several times over the years. It encompasses the Rhine River valley and the charming waterside town of Strasbourg with its Gothic Notre-Dame cathedral.

Paris

This most famous of European cities hardly needs an introduction. Stroll along the Champs-Élysées, visit the Louvre, the Pompidou, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. Linger over lunch in one of the capital’s many outstanding restaurants… oh come on, this is Paris – you know what to do.

Corsica

Although this Mediterranean island has been part of France for several hundred years, it has a distinctly Italian feel to it. On a holiday in Corsica you'll find pristine beaches, such as Palombaggia and Santa Giulia, stunning national parks and the stylish coastal cities of Ajaccio and Bonifacio.

Languedoc

Extending from Provence to the Pyrenees Mountains, Languedoc produces much of France’s wine, as well as offering a whole swathe of sandy beaches to enjoy.  Montpelier’s medieval quarter is a must-see, while along the coast sits Perpignan with its distinctly Spanish feel and labyrinth streets.

Normandy

This green and pleasant region of northern France has often been a battleground over the centuries - from Viking times to the D-Day landings. The lovely island commune of Mont St-Michel is perched just off of the coast and the D-Day memorials and cemeteries, as well as the Bayeux Tapestry, offer a sobering insight into times gone by.

Burgundy

This east-central region of France is another big-hitter in the wine world with its idyllic vineyards producing Pinot Noirs, Chablis and Beaujolais. The countryside here is beautiful, the medieval villages a treat and the capital, Dijon, a masterpiece of classic French charm.

Flight time

From London to Marseille it takes approximately one hour 45 minutes.

If you’re travelling to Paris by Eurostar it’ll take approximately two hours 20 minutes.

Currency

Euro - The official currency is the euro. One euro is divided into 100 cents.

Passports and visas

British citizens don't require a visa, but you will need a current passport that is valid for the duration of your holiday.

Phrases

Here are a few handy words and phrases:

Je ne parle pas français – I don't speak French

Parlez-vous anglais? – Do you speak English?

Bonjour – Hello

Au revoir – Goodbye

S'il vous plaît – Please

Merci – Thank you

Oui – Yes

Non – No

Excusez-moi – Excuse me

Timezone

France is one hour ahead of GMT.

Electricity

The mains voltage is 220 volts AC (50 cycles). Sockets take small round two-pin plugs, so most British appliances will require an adaptor.

It’s best to take one with you, as it can be hard to track down shops that sell them when you are on your travels.

Language

French - The language spoken throughout France is, of course, French. You'll find English is widely understood in most tourist areas, but it’s always worth learning a few handy phrases as a courtesy.

Tipping

In restaurants a service charge is included, but it is customary to leave small change with your payment. Taxi drivers will expect a 10-15% tip on top of your fare.

Climate

You'll find the climate in northern France is similar to that of the UK. As you travel south, sunshine increases and the temperature rises until you reach Provence with its long, hot summers and cooler but bright winters.

Health

Mosquitoes can be a problem in southern France during the summer, especially in the evening when you simply want to watch the sun set with a vin blanc in hand! You may find it helpful to wear long sleeves and trousers, and to use mosquito repellents on exposed areas of skin.

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and The British Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice Unit provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad.

Population and size

France has a slightly larger population than the UK, with approximately 65.8 million.

At 674,843 square kilometres, France is more than two-and-a-half times the size of the UK.

Smoking

As in all EU countries, smoking is banned on public transport and in public places, including bars, restaurants and hotels.


Places in France

Corsica

Welcome to the French island off the coast of Italy…


Climate