In the movie Sabrina, Audrey Hepburn insists that “Paris is always a good idea.” Though Ms. Hepburn isn’t wrong, there’s more to French travel than its capital city. C’est vrai! From beach towns to vineyards to ancient architecture, France has incredible variety to offer. It’s no surprise that France, with 80 million visitors a year, is the most popular tourist destination in the world.
History buff? France has 38,879 historic monuments, including Mont Saint-Michel, the D-Day Beaches of Normandy, and the Pont du Gard. Mad about museums? There are approximately 3,900 to choose from throughout the country (with dozens in Paris alone, from the famous Louvre to the offbeat Museum of the Sewers).
Shopaholic? Don’t worry, you’re covered—from big-hitters on the Champs-Élysées to lovely boutiques within the luxurious seaside town of Biarritz. And, of course, you can’t consider traveling to France without planning for fabulous food and wine. Wherever you go—from rich Burgundy cuisine to fresh fish in the South to the perfect offerings of local boulangeries and pâtisseries—you’ll find something to savor for years to come.
With so much to choose from, forming an itinerary for a trip to France can be daunting. There are many ways to organize your trip. You can base your travels around one city (Paris is the obvious choice). Even when based in one city, you can easily plan a few days to branch out to surrounding areas (i.e., venturing from Paris to visit Versailles or Fontainebleau). You can also plan travels around a specific region, such as wine country or the Riviera.
However, no matter how well you plan, you simply will not be able to see everything you want (or even everything on your itinerary) in one trip. Make a hit list of your essential attractions, then relax. Explore and immerse yourself in your travels. Don’t spend your time with your nose in a guidebook, planning for what’s around the corner. Look around. You’ll find amazing things at every turn.
Of course, as with any overseas adventure, prep work is necessary. To get into France, you must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond your date of departure from the States. Visas aren’t required unless you plan to stay more than 90 days. Make sure you keep copies of all important documents (passports, identification, etc.) separate from the originals, in case they’re stolen or misplaced.
Like most countries (including the U.S.), France is relatively safe. Your biggest risks—pickpocketing, theft, and occasional political unrest—aren’t so different from the States. Use common sense and you’ll be fine. To be extra-prepared, brush up on the information provided by the U.S. Department of State. In case of emergency, you’ll be covered in terms of American embassies or consulates. There’s an embassy in Paris and consulates in Marseille, Strasbourg, Lyon, and Nice (and the Nice consulate can also provide emergency help for Americans in Monaco).
Balancing the preservation of the past with thoroughly modern traditions, traveling to France can be life-changing. Relish every moment – from scheduling your trip to seeing the sights. Bon voyage!
This article was produced by Mahee Ferlini who writes about music and travel on her website.