France is the most visited country in the world for literally hundreds of reasons, which doesn’t make it easier to plan a vacation there. Of course – of course – if you wanted to, you could spend a week just touring Paris alone. If you literally did nothing but wake up in the morning for a café au lait and croissant (the best in the city, according to French newspaper le Figaro? Pierre Hermé), and stroll the streets until dusk, you’d still come back completely enamored. But if you’re looking to get a bit more out of your trip, even if you’re not sure where to start, an escorted tour can point you in the right direction.
Most tours will include at the very least one full day in Paris so you can see some combination of Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Élysées , the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre. The best idea is to decide what landmarks you absolutely have to see before you go, and compare itineraries to make sure you find the tour that hits most of them.
You can also find tours that include nearly a day of completely free time, like Trafalgar’s Best of France, so you can explore on your own. One of our favorite spots? The Musée d’Orsay, which is home to the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the entire world. Just make sure you don’t go on a Tuesday, which is when the Louvre is closed, unless you like standing in crowds. And speaking of crowds, we’ll just say it – go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Just do it. It’ll be crowded, and there’ll be a wait, but it’ll be worth it.
But beyond even Paris is an entire country to discover – the vineyards of Burgundy and castles of Loire, the sleepy towns of Provence and sun-drenched decadence of the French Riviera. The history of France’s occupation during World War II colors entire towns and countrysides, and there are a multitude of tours that will take you to the beaches of Omaha or the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.
Others, like Back-Roads Touring’s D-Day Battle of France tour, explore lesser known historic sites like Pegasus Bridge and Café Gondrée – home to the first house liberated by Allied troops on D-Day. Still open to the public, it’s now owned by Madame Arlette Gondrée, who was six years old on the night the liberation was literally brought to her family’s doorstep. You can sip a hot bowl of her homemade soup or fresh-made espresso while you explore the memorabilia and photographs decorating the walls, and if you’re lucky you can even meet Madame Gondrée herself.
So what are some of your favorite spots in France? Any insider tips you want to share? Let us know in the comments!
By Megan Ranney