Famous for its wines and cheeses, France is the world’s most popular tourist destination receiving 82 million foreign tourists annual. Visitors are attracted by historic cities, a beautiful countryside, the castles of the Loire Valley, and Brittany and Normandy. In addition, France offers an agreeable climate, some excellent beaches on the French Riviera, the Atlantic coast and the island of Corsica, wide possibilities for winter sports, most notably in the Alps and the Pyrenees, and a rich culture with food and wines that are among the most celebrated in the world.
The top tourist attractions in France:
The Chartres Cathedral is located in a small city near Paris that seems too small to fit the Cathedral. The vast nave, the porches adorned with fine sculptures and the magnificent 12th- and 13th-century stained-glass windows, all in remarkable condition, make it one of the finest examples of the French High Gothic style.
Located in the Arcachon Bay area, the Dune of Pyla is the tallest sand dune in Europe. Its growing eastwards at about 4.5 meter a year – it has swallowed trees, a road junction and even a hotel. At the summit of the dune the view is spectacular with the Atlantic coast and the inlet of the bay on one side and a large pine forest on another.
The star attraction of Avignon, the Palais des Papes is one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. This is the palace where the Popes of Avignon ruled, during a period when the Papacy was divided, with a Pope in Rome and another in Avignon. The 3 meter (10 feet) thick walls, portcullises and watchtowers emphasize the castle-like look of the palace.
The château to end all châteaux, the Chateau de Chambord is a masterpiece of the French Renaissance. Construction of the Chateau de Chambord started in 1519 by King François I so he could hunt in the nearby forests. The cold and massive 440 rooms of the Château made it unpopular as an actual residence and François I himself stayed here for less than 40 days in total.
The Gorge du Verdon, located in southeastern France, is considered one of Europe’s most beautiful river canyons. It’s at its deepest (almost 2,300 feet or 700 meters deep) between Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, an area that offers the best views as the green emerald Verdon River winds its way through the canyon.
Mont Saint Michel is a small tidal island located just off the coast of Normandy. A spectacular and well-preserved Norman Benedictine Abbey of St Michel stands at the peak of the rocky island, surrounded by the winding streets and convoluted architecture of the medieval town. A causeway connects the mainland with the island.
The Palace of Versailles is frequently associated with Marie Antoinette, the French queen who was beheaded during the French Revolution. The royal palace started out as a hunting lodge in 1624 and became more ornate over the years. Located outside of Paris, Versailles is known for the Hall of Mirrors and beautiful gardens.
Chamonix Valley is one of the oldest ski resorts in France. The first Winter Olympics was held here in 1924. It is located near Mont Blanc in the French Alps. In winter world-class skiers and boarders push themselves to extremes on Europe’s most challenging slopes while in the summer months Chamonix is a mecca for alpine mountaineers and mountain bikers. Riding a cable car through the mountains is popular in the summer as well.
St Tropez is a resort community on the French Riviera. Once a military stronghold, fishing village and artist colony, it is now a playground for the jetset, fashion models, and millionaires. The beaches are popular with scantily clad sunbathers, while others come for windsurfing, sailing, motorized water sports and yachting. Outside peak summer there are less celebrities to spot but you’ll also instantly appreciate what lured artists, writers and film makers to this picturesque village.
The Eiffel Tower is the symbol of Paris and one of the top tourist attractions in France. The tower was built by Gustave Eiffel as the entrance arch for the International Exhibition of Paris of 1889. At 324 meters (1,063 feet) tall, it is still the highest building in Paris, offering stunning vistas of the city below. Since its construction more than 200,000,000 people have visited the Eiffel Tower making it the most visited paid tourist attraction in the world.