Things to Do in France - page 2
Found in the sandy flatlands of the Médoc region in southwest France, Château Margaux is today known for producing some of the finest – and most expensive – Premier Grand Cru Classé Bordeaux wines in the world. Unusually for Bordeaux, the Margaux estate produces whites as well as rich, spicy world-renowned reds, and sells around 30,000 cases per year. All Margaux wines are produced organically and the average age of the vines is 36 years old, forming from a mixture of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc grapes.
Although wines have been produced on the estate since the 1580s, it was confiscated from its aristocratic owners in the French Revolution of 1789–99 and its fortunes were only revived with the advent of the Marquis de la Colonilla in 1810. He built the elegant Palladian mansion, to a design by Louis Combes, which still stands at the heart of the estate; since 1977 it has been the home of the Mentzelopoulos family, who are credited with restoring the reputation of Margaux wines and consistently improving their quality. In 2010 an upgrade of the cellars was undertaken by British mega-architect Lord Norman Foster; a new cooperage, visitor center and tasting rooms were added at the same time.
At just 658 meters high, it might be surprising to learn that Pic St-Loup is one of the most beloved emblems of the city of Montpellier. After all, the Alps are not that far away. But thanks to low vegetation, impressive 300-meter-high cliffs, and a surrounding relief of just 150 meters, Pic St-Loup is very prominent and can be seen from just about everywhere in the Hérault department. It is, by definition, part of the lower end of Massif Central.
Because of its micro-climate and unique flora, the mountain is a protected site and houses a thriving population of prey birds. The mountain is a very popular day trip from Montpellier for both curious tourists and serious hikers; there is an old chapel, castle ruins, a hermitage, and a symbolic cross atop the mountain. Not to mention the unobstructed panoramas, which stretch all the way from the Mediterranean Sea to the south to the Cevennes Mountains to the north. The wine produced on the low slopes of Pic St-Loup is some of the most highly-regarded terroirs in the Languedoc-Roussillon region.
The pink-colonnaded Grand Trianon was built in 1687 by the famous architect Mansart, as a tranquil getaway from court life for Louis XIV.
Setting the benchmark for Italianate garden conservatory design, the elegantly long and low palace of pink marble and porphyry features geometrically ordered rows of columns and windows, topped by a balustrade roof.
The original furnishings were plundered during the Revolution. Today, the palace is furnished in Empire style, reflecting the decoration installed by Napoleon, who was particularly enamored of the building. Surrounding the palace is a lovely flower garden.
While the Grand Trianon is open to the public, it is also an official residence of the French President.
Most visitors to Disneyland® Paris—Europe’s biggest theme park—make a beeline for the Disneyland®Park, but the adjoining Walt Disney Studios® Park offers even more shows, rides, and Disney®-themed fun, especially for movie fans. Designed like a Hollywood movie studio, the park has four distinct areas—Front Lot, Toon Studios, Production Courtyard, and Backlot.
Though Saint-Tropez is famous for its glamour and glitz, the city also has a rich and eventful past. The St-Tropez Citadel (Citadelle de Saint-Tropez) is a prime example, having been the town’s crown jewels since the 17th century, and one of the few monuments of its magnitude to still stand today on France’s southern coastline. In fact, the Saint-Tropez Citadel is one of the city’s most visited historical and cultural sites, both for its history and its panoramic views over the Bay. The Citadel was built between 1602 and 1608, based on the drawings of engineer Raymond de Bonnefons. The building, composed of a thick-walled hexagonal tower, a concealed interior courtyard, towers with cannon openings, and a bastioned outer wall, was used to defend the strategic port of St-Tropez, the most important strongholds between Antibes and Toulon for centuries. Its location on a hill with slopes bare of vegetation helped the military spot and bomb all vessels that came too close to the walls of the city.
Rouen’s Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts) was created in 1801 by Napoleon I. It features a collection of over 8000 paintings, sculptures, drawings and decorative art collections from the Renaissance to the present age, including household names like Renoir, Degas, Fragonard, and many more. The museum also has an exceptional Depeaux collection, and is considered one of the most outstanding public collections in France. Visitors can also enjoy sought-after temporary exhibitions and occasional contemporary art exhibitions.
Notre Dame de la Treille Cathedral in Lille is a Roman Catholic church that took almost 150 years to complete. The building is known for its modern stained glass panels and impressive organ.
The largest and most-visited castle among the 300 found in the Loire Valley, Château de Chambord is a grandiose example of French Renaissance architecture. Commissioned by King Francis I in 1519, and part of the region’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 426-room castle includes a moat and French formal garden.
Winding its way through the Burgundy wine appellations, the scenic Route des Grands Crus (translated as Road of the Great Wines) is the region’s main tourist route, linking together more than 30 wine-growing villages and dotted with grand châteaux and historic wine caves. Possible by car or bike, the route follows mostly quiet country lanes through the heart of wine country, taking in all the wineries of the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune wine districts, famed for their pinot noir and chardonnay grapes.
Highlights of the Route des Grands Crus include the striking Burgundy wine capital of Beaune, home to the flamboyant 15th-century Hospices de Beaune (Hôtel-Dieu); the grand Château Clos de Vougeot; and picturesque wine-making villages like Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey St Denis, Vosne-Romanée, and Chambolle-Musigny, where it’s possible to stop off for tastings and winery tours.
As one of Normandy’s D-Day landing beaches, Omaha Beach was the backdrop to one of the most significant events of World War II, immortalized in the movie Saving Private Ryan and forever etched into history. Today, visitors to Omaha Beach can follow in the footsteps of the Allied soldiers and pay their respects at the American Cemetery.
More Things to Do in France
The opulence of the Palace of Versailles reaches its peak in the Hall of Mirrors (Galerie des Glaces)—a 240-foot-long (73-meter-long) ballroom with 357 mirrors adorning 17 huge arches on one side and 17 arcaded windows overlooking the formal gardens on the other. It was also the location of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended World War I.
Take your place alongside royalty with a visit to Chateau Gaillard, one of the Loire Valley’s most celebrated palaces, commissioned by Charles VIII in 1496. The chateau is known for having some of the first Renaissance-style gardens in France, and today both its interior and grounds are open to visitors.
With its twisting cobblestone lanes, jumble of medieval houses, and shady courtyards lined with traditional cafés, Eze is a tranquil village high above the glamorous resorts and golden beaches of the Cote d’Azur. The hilltop town, traditionally written Èze, is undeniably picturesque, affording panoramic views over the Mediterranean, and its timeless charm has made it a firm favorite on French Riviera itineraries.
Towering 15,531 feet (4,734 meters) above sea level, Mont Blanc is Europe’s highest peak and a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. Straddling the border of France and Italy, this iconic peak is considered the birthplace of modern mountaineering. Enjoy the endless hiking and mountaineering opportunities and the thrilling views from the heights.
The Place de la Bourse (or Place Royale) faces onto the river Garonne. It was laid out in the 1700s by Louis XV's architect, Gabriel, to act as a dramatic frame for an equestrian statue of the monarch.
The Place de la Bourse is framed on one side by the Stock Exchange (the 'Bourse' that gives the square its name) and on the other side by a museum. In the center of the square is its chief beauty and attraction, the fountain of the Three Graces, built by Visconti in 1869. When it's lit at night it is highly photogenic.
Famously painted by artists, such as Claude Monet, Gustave Courbet, and Eugene Boudin, the picturesque waterfront and colorful harbor of Honfleur are among the most memorable in Normandy. The historic port is renowned for its architecture, especially Vieux Bassin harbor’s 16th-century buildings and the wooden church of Sainte Catherine.
At the center of picturesque Aix-en-Provence is Cours Mirabeau, a plane tree–shaded avenue lined with chic stores, patisseries, and restaurants. Marked along its length by fountains, this street is the most popular place in town for a pre- or postlunch stroll and a must-visit stop on guided tours of the town.
A honeycomb of narrow streets dotted with baroque churches, lively markets, bustling squares, and a thriving nightlife scene, Nice’s Old Town (Vieux Nice) remains the buzzing heart the modern French city. This seafront historic center offers an atmospheric introduction to Nice.
One of the few Reims Champagne houses to have retained its independence, Taittinger is a popular stop for bubbly enthusiasts. With origins dating to 1734, the family-run winery stores and ages its Champagnes in chaulk vaults that date back to Roman times.
The Moët & Chandon Champagne brand was once a favorite of King Louis XV and is still toast-worthy today, with some 30 million bottles produced annually. Visit the brand’s headquarters in Epernay, France, to tour the vast Moët & Chandon Champagne cellars (Les Caves Moët & Chandon), learn how Champagne is made, and taste a selection of Moët & Chandon products.
Made famous by Peter Mayle’s bookA Year in Provence, the Provençal village of Gordes boasts an idyllic setting atop the Vaucluse plateau. With its maze of cobbled lanes, honey-colored stone buildings, and medieval chateau, it’s easy to see why Gordes is hailed as one of France’s most beautiful villages.
Reaching a height of almost 160 feet (49 meters), the three-tiered Pont du Gard bridge was part of a 31-mile (50-kilometer) Roman aqueduct network that carried water from a source at Eure to bathhouses, fountains, and patrician villas in Nîmes. Constructed in the first century, the ancient engineering marvel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On the coast of Normandy, Arromanches 360 is a circular cinema with nine screens that work together to create an immersive cinematic experience. Here, visitors can watch an HD film that tells the story of the 100-day Battle of Normandy during World War II, complete with archival footage from France, Germany, the UK, Canada, and the US.
Perched on a hilltop looking down over the Cote d’Azur and just minutes from the border of Monaco, La Turbie makes a worthwhile detour for those en-route to Monte Carlo. With its narrow paved streets and stone-brick archways, the small village offers an authentic slice of old Provence, and its baroque church and medieval buildings make for a pleasant walking tour.
The undisputed star attraction of La Turbie is the striking Tropaeum Alpium or ‘Trophy of the Alps’, a grand 35-meter-tall monument that looms over the town and was built by the Romans in 7 BC. North of the Tropaeum, walking trails run up into the surrounding hills and offer impressive lookouts over the Mediterranean coast below, with views spanning Cap Ferrat, Antibes and as far as Vintimille bay in Italy.
- Things to do in Paris
- Things to do in Nice
- Things to do in Marseille
- Things to do in Cannes
- Things to do in Avignon
- Things to do in Arles
- Things to do in Marignane
- Things to do in Nîmes
- Things to do in Montpellier
- Things to do in Blois
- Things to do in Switzerland
- Things to do in Monaco
- Things to do in Burgundy
- Things to do in Rhône-Alpes
- Things to do in Languedoc-Roussillon