France is home to some of the most iconic monuments in the world. In Paris alone, you can see Le Pantheon, L’Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the ultimate symbol of France, the Eiffel Tower. Stop at Le Pantheon, an 18th century Gothic cathedral turned mausoleum, to visit Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, Emile Zola, and other great French citizens buried there. Drive past L’Arc de Triomphe, a famous monument honoring French veterans killed in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, at the equally well-known Champs-Élysées avenue. The Notre Dame Cathedral, a 13th century architectural masterpiece and the inspiration for Victor Hugo’s Hunchback novel, welcomes you to admire its stained-glass windows and hear the ringing of its bells. Snap a photo of yourself with new friends next to the one-of-a-kind Eiffel Tower or better yet, climb to the top of it for a view of the French capital that can’t be beat.
You can find just as much French history beyond Paris as in it. The extravagant Palace of Versailles, once the home of Queen Marie Antoinette, looks much the same as it did in the 18th century. Walk through its Hall of Mirrors and around the ever-beautiful gardens on the palace grounds, in the footsteps of French royalty. To go all the way back to ancient times, picnic on the riverbank next to the Pont du Gard Roman Aqueduct outside Avignon. Visit the beaches in Normandy where a decisive World War II battle took place.
France gave the world some of history’s most influential painters, including Renoir, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Manet, Cezanne, and Gauguin. Many of their works are exhibited at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, often regarded as the best museum in the world. The Louvre, another world-famous art museum, houses great works such Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo statue, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, and other historically significant paintings and sculptures from throughout continental Europe. When you’re finished browsing Paris’ art museums, make sure to see Rodin’s most recognized sculpture, “The Thinker,” outside the Varenne metro station. Go to Giverny to visit Claude Monet’s lovely home and gardens, where the genre-defining painter once lived and worked. The Water Garden, with its Japanese bridge and lily pond, looks just as charming in person as it does in his paintings. Stop in Aix-en-Provence to see Cezanne’s old studio and his beloved subject, Mount Saint Victoire.
Outdoor enthusiasts have an endless number of idyllic landscapes to explore in France. Go skiing or snowboarding in the majestic French Alps near Grenoble, where the miles of soaring, snowy peaks provide some of the best terrain for winter sports. Sunbathe on the luxurious beaches of the French Riviera and swim in the sparkling blue, Mediterranean waters. Breathe in the soothing scent of the lavender fields in Provence, as you stroll through the rows of radiant purple flowers. In Paris, look no further than the Jardin du Luxembourg for a slice of nature. These gardens surrounding the Palace of Luxembourg make for an enchanting oasis in the midst of the city, where you can find apple and pear orchards, an orangery, a vintage carousel, fountains, statues, and a pond where children sail toy boats. Take a walk along the charming canals in Annecy and rent a paddleboat to spend the day on the town’s resplendent lake. Kayak through the unbelievably teal waters of the Verdon Gorges, a stunning river canyon. Explore the magical Côte de Granit Rose in Brittany, one of only three places in the world where pink granite naturally occurs. Visit the Camargue Salt Flats to step into a mystical environment of red and pink lagoons where flamingoes, wild white horses, black bulls, and French cowboys live in harmony.