France is famous for so many beautiful things that it’s no wonder the country is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. With about 90 million tourists per year (before 2020 anyway), tourism significantly contributes to France’s economy — an 82-billion-euro direct contribution to France’s GDP. If you’re like me, you can’t wait to be able to get out and about again and support France via your vacation, so if you plan to visit France, what towns and attractions are at the top of your list? What is France known for? Let’s take a look at some of my favorites….
What is France known for? 11 Famous French things to see & do
France will make you fall in love with it even after just one trip. From the food and culture to the well-known tourist attractions and more, it would be hard for France to not to knock you over with charm and leave you in awe. While it would be nearly impossible to hit all of the places on my list in one short vacation, it’s the perfect excuse to come back to France to discover the rest.
What is France known for, and what do tourists like to see and do? Well, France has no shortage of incredibly well-known attractions that will interest even the most discerning tourist — Francophile or not. Here are 11 of the most famous things in France (and five other things that France is famous for). They are all worth your time!
Famous things in France: Iconic landmarks & attractions
These are the iconic buildings, places, and events that make France so popular among travelers, scholars, and romantics and top the list of what France is known for.
1. The Eiffel Tower
Let’s begin with the most well-known attraction France has to offer and a must-visit when in Paris. The Eiffel Tower, the iconic Paris landmark, is the most visited monument globally, so it’s rather obvious why I should have it at the top of this list of famous French things to see. Whenever you think of France, or Paris to be specific, the first thing that comes to mind is the Eiffel Tower and I first saw it in person during a high school trip at age 16. Designed by French engineer Gustave Eiffel as a temporary exhibit for the World Fair of 1889, the Eiffel Tower is part of what makes Paris, well, Paris and is not to be missed.
But simply knowing about this grand structure isn’t enough. Seeing it is oh-so-amazing and go at night for a real treat! Its sheer magnitude will blow your mind at 324 meters high. Did you know you can also splurge and enjoy a meal in the Eiffel Tower? The Michelin-starred Jules Verne restaurant is worth it for the views and experience if you’d like to celebrate the occasion with a very special meal. Check out the reviews on TripAdvisor here.
Yes, there are lots of crowds and crazy lines on your way to the top, but it’s all worth the breathtaking views and thrilling atmosphere you’ll enjoy from above.
Have you heard of the fairytale walled castle city in France? This is it — Carcassonne. This medieval walled city is quite something and in the Aude department not terribly far from Toulouse and Perpignan if you’re into road trips. With 53 towers, uneven stone buildings, gray cobblestone paths, and two massive walls, the spectacular fortress has an unmistakable enchanting beauty that’s worth exploring.
For all you history buffs, Carcassonne should be on your bucket list. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is rich in both architectural beauty and history. But being one of the famous French destinations, you’ll want to avoid it during the peak summer months if at all possible, which is when most tourists visit in droves.
3. Notre-Dame de Paris
Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris is the most famous of all Gothic-era cathedrals. Part of the building was gutted by a fire in 2019, but the building remains one of France’s most loved and cherished icons.
Notre Dame was officially the most visited monument in Europe before the fire and is a must-see once it reopens. Its architectural designs and rich history are why this ancient attraction attracts many tourists.
4. The Champs-Élysées
The Champs-Élysées, “the world’s most beautiful avenue,” was created in the 17th century. It runs for just over a mile and is 70m in width. This is a hub for luxury shopping and sightseeing, including the Lido cabaret. You can find both French and international brands here if shopping is on your agenda. Louis Vuitton, for example, has a huge store here in the French capital. And if you’re looking for jewelry and watches, Cartier is also located a few doors down.
This famous avenue is also known to offer several entertainment opportunities, whether cinemas, exhibition, or theater. There are many more things to see and do along Champ-Élysées, so do yourself a favor and plan to visit. Don’t miss the spectacular view of the Arc de Triomphe if you walk all the way to the end (and the crazy driving around the roundabout there!).
5. The Côte d’Azur
On the southeastern coast of France is the Côte d’Azur (aka the French Riviera). This stunning Mediterranean coastline is home to some of the most elegant resorts, breathtaking beaches, and glorious views and I can’t wait to visit one day.
With over 300 days of sunshine each year, you can be sure to enjoy cozy warm weather in Nice (one of the Riviera’s most beautiful cities and a retirement hotspot) or the extravagant towns of Cannes, St-Tropez, and Monte Carlo. And before you leave the area, treat your nose to the fragrant winds of the world’s perfume capital, Grasse, a short drive away.
Provence is another famous French destination where you should let your nose lead the way together with your eyes. Top on the list of amazing things you’ll find here are the lavender fields, seaside towns like Cassis, and a relaxed way of life. Not only are the lavender fields heavily scented, but they also make a drool-worthy view. The miles of vineyards, olive groves, and brilliant blue waters add to this picturesque region. Outside of Paris, it would be one of my top picks to visit if you have some extra time. Be sure to hit Avignon and Moulin Castelas for a proper olive oil tasting. I’ve been there twice and their olive oils do not disappoint.
7. The Louvre
OK, back to Paris. For art lovers, The Louvre is a must-visit French attraction. The world-famous museum has over 35,000 pieces of art by some of the most renowned artists in the world. The pieces are displayed in a massive exhibition area of over 652,300 ft2 (60,600 m2). You can spend the whole day marveling at the stunning creations and still not go through half of what there is to view, so start early!
The building itself is a grand architectural creation with a castle-like vibe that makes it just as attractive as the art pieces displayed inside. Even if you aren’t an art fan, the Louvre is worth a trip, at least once. Two things stand out the most at The Louvre: the glass pyramid and Mona Lisa. And if for nothing else, these are worth visiting The Louvre for so you can you’ve been there, at the very least.
8. Mont Blanc
France is a beautiful country with gorgeous natural features, including the famous Alps. Mont Blanc is the highest peak in the Alps and is legally shared by France and Italy, but the highest point on the mountain is on the French side, so we can consider it France.
This magnificent mountain is particularly famous for its splendid ski resorts. In winter, you’ll find the immaculate-white, snow-covered slopes dotted with skiers and snowboarders. In the summer, travelers can enjoy a refreshing hike up the mountain, not to mention biking is also common. No matter the year, the Alps are spectacular and it’s one area of France I’ve yet to visit.
9. Le Mont Saint-Michel
It’s hard to imagine any other historical site that beats Mont Saint Michel in terms of beauty and charm. It’s also the second most-visited place in France (after Paris). If you’ve not been here, you’ve probably seen some photos of this magical-like UNESCO World Heritage Site. I can only compare it to something out of a Harry Potter novel.
Le Mont Saint-Michel is a stunning island settlement in Normandy, less than a mile off the coast. Its narrow, cobbled streets are always bustling and crowded with tourists, and that makes it all the more exciting to tour. And once you get to the abbey and get a close view of its stunning architecture, you’ll be more than glad you visited. I went earlier this year when there were no crowds due to the pandemic. It was almost eerie but incredibly special. Check out my YouTube live stream from there and read up on my travel tips for Le Mont Saint-Michel in this post.
10. The Palace of Versailles
Until the French Revolution, the French kings lived in this magnificent palace in the suburbs of Paris. Today, you have the opportunity to walk where the French royalty walked and see the beauty of their luxury.
The gardens are one of the highlights of the Palace of Versailles. They are some of the swankiest and largest in the world. The Hall of Mirrors is another spectacle to behold in this ancient place. There are 357 mirrors in total. If you’d like to have a taste of what living in a royal homes, then visiting the Palace of Versailles should be on your travel list and is an easy RER ride from Paris.
11. Tour de France
France is famous for several sports, like soccer, rugby, and tennis. But the most popular sport has got to be cycling, with the Tour de France being the world’s largest annual sporting tournament. During the summer months, for three weeks straight, France is all abuzz with riders bringing their A-game to roads all around France as onlookers shout and cheer them on from the sidelines. It’s more than just a race. It’s a party and dominates the news cycle. The excitement of watching this world’s greatest race is out of this world and something you’d want to experience in person. The photo snapped above is when the Tour came to my area of France in the Maine-et-Loire in 2018.
What is France known for?
What is France famous for? Here are five more things associated with France that the world adores.
French wine, bread and cheese
France takes its wine seriously. And experts agree that bottle for bottle, France still makes the most outstanding wines in the world. The fromage is just as important. I did a French market video here so you can see for yourself some of what makes French food culture so special.
The French Revolution
The event that reshaped Europe into a democracy-driven ideology is also known for its gory dispatching of ‘enemies of the state’ by guillotine.
One of history’s most famous (or infamous) military leaders became Emperor of France and King of Italy. Under his leadership, France became a major European power.
French fine food is known for its particularly sophisticated method and taste. Some believe it is the foundation in the simplicity of and quality of the ingredients that sets it apart. Some say it’s a lifestyle. Most agree that it is among the best in the world.
The Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor was a gift from the people of France. Designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi with the iron framework built by Gustave Eiffel, the statue has stood tall in the New York Harbor since it was dedicated on October 28, 1886.
France’s history, buildings, museums, and natural beauty are iconic. There’s no shortage of things to answer the “What is France known for” question. As the country that inspired the Age of Enlightenment, it seems fitting that travelers regard France so highly and consider it to be among the top most desired countries to visit. France’s influence can be found all around the world. I’m grateful to live here.
Where are you going on your next trip to France?
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