Things to Do in France - page 2
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.
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.
Located near the medieval village of Les Baux de Provence, the Quarries of Lights (Carrières de Lumières) is a multimedia art show projected onto massive limestone walls of a former quarry. Accompanied by music, this 40-minute light show mainly features works by famous artists.
Perched atop the city’s highest hill, the magnificent Notre-Dame de la Garde, which is visible from all over the Marseille, is one of the city’s most striking landmarks. The Romano-Byzantine basilica dates back to the 19th century and is best known for its grand bell tower, which is capped with a gleaming gold statue of the Virgin Mary.
The Palais du Pharo in Marseille was built for Napoleon III and was once home to the city’s medical school. The palace is now used for municipal events and conferences and is famous for great views over the Mediterranean Sea from the palace gardens.
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.
Perched high in the Vosges Mountains, overlooking the Alsatian plains, the striking pink sandstone towers of the Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg are an unmissable sight. Built in the 12th century and extensively renovated in the 19th century, the fairy-tale fortress is a popular attraction along the Alsace Wine Route.
Vieux-Lille—the city’s Old Town—is its most historic quarter, with notable Flemish-style architecture and major landmarks. The area, located just north of the city center, dates back centuries. Come for the history, architecture, and its gourmet food and drink offerings.
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 lifeblood of Paris, the River Seine plays many roles in the city: It separates the Right Bank from the Left Bank, acting as a dividing line between Paris’ historically sophisticated and bohemian halves; it provides transportation via riverboat and plenty of opportunity for romantic strolls; and its riverbanks are a UNESCO World Heritage Site lined with the city’s top landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Musée d’Orsay, Jardin des Tuileries, and the Louvre.
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Also known as Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune to locals, the Hospices de Beaune used to be an almshouse in the 15th century and was used as a hospital for the poor people of the region recovering from the Hundred Years’ War. It was actually used as a fully functioning hospital until the late 1970s; it now houses a museum and a major charity wine auction every November.
The building itself is now regarded as one of the finest architectural gems in France; it was designed by the Flemish architect Jacques Wiscrère, which explains the striking resemblances to architecture typically found in the Flanders region of Belgium. The hospices’ façade is an exceptional example of Northern Renaissance architecture and features an abundance of panel painting, long half-timber galleries and, of course, the signature gabled roof and its multi-colored and geometric tiles. There are also plenty of ironworks, carvings, and tapestries inside the hospices’ walls.
The colorful heart of Colmar earns its nickname from the canal-like Lauch River that divides its two banks, each lined with half-timbered fishermen’s homes that seem plucked straight from a fairytale. Soak up its quintessential Alsatian charm that's an easy day trip from Rhine River cruise ports.
Crowning the hilltopcité (citadel) of Carcassonne—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—the imposing Château Comtal dates back to the 12th century, although the site’s historic roots stretch back as far as Roman times. A classic medieval castle, with fairy-tale towers and dramatic ramparts, the restored château is now open to the public as a museum.
Built on the Var heights between Esterel and the Gulf of St Tropez, the Château Font du Broc is set amid lush vegetation overlooking the sea. The grounds of this impressive wine farm are sprawled out over 250 acres that encompass vineyards and olive trees – and even an Olympic-sized arena for horses.
Producing both wine and olive oil, the owner of Château Font du Broc, Sylvain Massa, insists on organic and traditional farming methods and restricts the volume of wine produced in order to ensure its quality.
Although the beautiful surroundings and the building’s architecture are high points for some visitors to Château Font du Broc, for others it’s simply all about sampling the delicious wines. The tasting room welcomes visitors and sampling the local vintage is positively encouraged, either on its own or with locally produced cheeses, meats and other delicacies.
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.
Located in southwest Provence, the Camargue is one of France’s wildest and most scenic landscapes. Protected as a regional natural park, the expanse of wetlands, beaches, salt pans, and rice paddies is known for its herds of white Camargue horses and Camargue bulls, all tended to by localgardians (cowboys).
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.
Lille's Fine Arts Museum (Palais des Beaux-Arts) is giant—only the Louvre tops its size among France's museums—and its collection is suitably illustrious. Instituted in 1801 as part of Napoleon's push to bring art to the masses, the museum is housed in a splendid Belle Époque building dating from the late 1890s.
Stroll through the rooms and you'll find all the stars: Rubens and van Dyck, Picasso and Redon, Corot, Delacroix and David. Additionally, there is a wonderful decorative arts collection and a special curio: a selection of 18th-century models of fortified cities.
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.
As the largest German WWII cemetery in France, the La Cambe German War Cemetery serves as a poignant reminder of the lives lost on both sides of the war. It’s a moving site, with its grey schist crosses and dark, flat headstones offering a more somber atmosphere than that of the American and Commonwealth cemeteries nearby.
Although initially serving as a temporary American cemetery, today 21,222 soldiers from the German Armed Forces are buried at La Cambe. At the center of the cemetery, a 6-meter-high grassy hillock is capped with a single cross and serves as a mass grave for 296 soldiers, many of which are unknown. Just outside of the cemetery, the La Cambe Peace Garden opened in 1996, and is home to 1,200 maple trees, each planted by an individual or organization to symbolize reconciliation and lasting peace. A visitor center is also located at the entrance to the cemetery and offers further insight into the soldiers buried on-site.
Set in the Luberon region of Provence, Fountain of Vaucluse (Fontaine-de-Vaucluse) is a small village famous for its hidden spring. The “fountain” feeds the Sorgue River and is a bit of a mystery, as the source of this underground spring is unknown. The Sorgue River is so crystal clear it appears emerald and is the area’s main attraction.
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.
The original Château de Pierrefonds dates to the 14th century, but the version that stands today is a more modern construction. Commissioned by Napoleon III and designed by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century, the Château de Pierrefonds is an impressive, medieval-inspired landmark, featuring crenellated towers and myriad turrets.
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.
- 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
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- Things to do in Burgundy
- Things to do in Rhône-Alpes
- Things to do in Languedoc-Roussillon