Famed for its agricultural heritage, outstanding restaurant scene and world class wines, France is heaven on Earth for the food and drink enthusiast.
Consistently ranked amongst the world’s most popular travel destinations, the European Union’s largest country by area is a captivating mixture of opposites: vibrant and cosmopolitan on the one hand, laid back and rustic on the other. With a fascinating history, some of the world’s most iconic landmarks and an abundance of natural riches, it’s no surprise that France has been seducing travellers for centuries.
Sometimes referred to as L’hexagone on account of its shape, France boasts a wide range of scenery from snowy peaks to white sandy beaches and vast swathes of rolling country hills carpeted with the world’s most revered vineyards. This stunning natural beauty serves as a perfect compliment to the nation’s urban areas which are almost as diverse as its landscape. From the amazing architecture and art galleries of Paris to the brasseries and bookshops of Bordeaux, from elegant and enchanting Nice to wonderfully quirky Nantes, from the famous gourmet restaurants of Lyon to the historic port cities of Marseille and La Rochelle, each French city has its own distinct personality and its own unique interpretation of the country’s rich culture.
With almost 20,000 hotels, finding somewhere to stay in France should not be difficult irrespective of budget or style preference. It’s definitely worth remembering to book ahead though, especially during high season and / or if you want to stay in one of the most popular places. From a Château in the Dordogne to a converted mansion in the centre of Paris, the luxury end of the French accommodation market is stacked with truly incredible hotels. However, if you’re looking to travel the country with a little more financial restraint, mid-range and even budget accommodations abound in all of the major destinations.
French cuisine is justly renowned as amongst the best in the world, and food and wine are deeply embedded in the national culture. Food markets are part and parcel of the French culinary experience with many cities holding one at least two or three times per week, and some of the most famous markets dating back centuries. The philosophy here is simple and reigns across all formats from al fresco dinner with the family to fine dining in the capital’s best restaurants: that is fresh local ingredients cooked with skill and creativity then elegantly presented. Given its longstanding culinary heritage it’s hardly surprising to learn that France has more Michelin star restaurants than any other nation. In fact its sum of 600 plus starred eateries - including 29 coveted three star establishments - is 50% greater than its nearest rival Japan. But it’s not only at the top end of the market that France excels. Simple bistros, brasseries and wine bars across the country have the same commitment to quality as those Michelin chefs, and the various regional specialities - dishes conjured from locally available ingredients - are a wonderful introduction to French food culture. Try Poulet Vallée d’Auge in Normandy, Quenelles or Coq au Vin in Lyon, and no trip to Marseille would be complete without sampling the city’s famous Bouillabaisse fish stew!
Just like its cuisine, the nation’s wine is an integral part of the French national identity. A world leader in production and consumption, French wines are regularly heralded as the world’s best and the surrounding culture is often cited as a key reason for visiting the country. Tours and tastings are available across almost all French regions from Bordeaux to Burgundy, Alsace to the Rhône Valley. So whether you’re looking for a guided trip through the vineyards of UNESCO classified Saint-Emilion or a cellar tour with a famous Burgundian winemaker, a prestigious Champagne tasting package in Reims or a simple glass of Sauvignon Blanc in a Parisian side street bar, France’s well-oiled and welcoming wine tourism industry has you covered.
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