In 2016 there were roughly 66 million people living in France, the biggest city by far being Paris with a population of just over 2 million people in the centre, but in greater Paris region there is a population of over 10 million people, not counting the numbers of tourists that arrive daily.
Paris is the centre of French Government and it is by far the most popular destination for tourists coming from all parts of the world to see the city, its history, architecture, the Eiffel Tower, the River Seine, museums, art galleries and all its attractions from food, wine, shopping and more.
Paris has to be one of the ‘must see’ cities of the world. See Paris on this website.
If coming to France, you could easily spend all of your time in Paris and there is no doubt that you could have a marvellous time. There are also trips out of Paris to see Versailles and the Versailles Palace and you could also head to Chartres to see the spectacular Chartres Cathedral, but there is also a lot more to see outside of Paris too.
France is surrounded by other countries – to the north by Belgium and Luxembourg; to the east by Germany and Switzerland; south-east by Italy; and to the south by Andorra and Spain, while across the English Channel there is Britain.
France also has a long coastline facing the Atlantic Ocean to the west and in the south it faces the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a big country.
From Paris in the north to Nice or Marseilles in the south it is around 780 kilometres (500 miles) by road or rail, and if you caught a TGV Fast Train from Paris to Nice – you could leave Paris just after 7am in the morning and arrive in Nice at around 1.30 in the afternoon. There are around 27 train departures from Paris to Nice roughly every half hour and by using the train system, you can get to the centre of the main cities without worrying about finding a place to park your car.
In the peak of summer and holiday periods, it is best to book ahead to secure your class of carriage and seat number.
France has a great railway system and a network of train lines that also radiate out from Paris. This includes the Cross Channel Eurostar train that will take you from Paris Gare du Nord station to London’s St Pancras station in about 2 hours journey time. You need to allow extra time to clear customs and security in both London and Paris.
If you intend to travel a lot by train and currently live outside the EU – check on this website under Trains to see if you qualify for a Eurail Pass. You can also buy other train tickets too on this website.
There are also Autoroutes/Motorways that also radiate out from Paris across France – many of these being Toll roads with Average Speed cameras (Radars Tronҫon) intended to stop people speeding. If you are hiring a car, check with the rental company about Tolls. You can book a Rental Car on this website.
The Tollways in France can be quite expensive if you travel on them a lot. There is an automatic Telepéage (T) sensor system that affixes to the top of a car windscreen that most regular tollway drivers will use. Otherwise, you can use a manual system, where you take a Card (Carte) when entering a Tollway, and then pay when you exit. Only head to the T if you have the Liber-T Telepéage, or head to the CB Toll Booth for credit card payment or Cash (make sure you have enough) or to the Blue sign with the Attendant Symbol – where you can pay the attendant there. Along the Tollways you may also see a sign saying ‘Airé de Souchez’ – this being a sign for the Rest Area. The great thing about the Tollways is that it will get you to a destination in fast time. The bad things are the cost and also the fact that you don’t slow down to see the real countryside or pass through the smaller towns and villages.
There are many smaller roads and highways which are free to drive on, and these lead to smaller towns and villages.
France is still a relatively rural country, with about 20% of the population being classed as Rural, compared to 17% in the UK and 18% in the USA – and the villages in France and rural lifestyle in some ways characterize French life.
France is divided in 21 Regions – some names that you would be very familiar with like Brittany (Bretagne), Normandy, Lorraine, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Provence… and within these 21 regions there are 96 Departments. Each of these regions are different and this is also part of the reason why travelling in France can be so interesting.
So, what do you want to see in France?
There are the 300 Châteaux in the Loire Valley, but also elsewhere too, with at least another 700 Châteaux dotted around France. There is also the French Alps where you can go skiing in the winter and the French Riviera on the Mediterranean, where the beaches and fashion chic are on display.
You could also head to the Champagne district or experience the wild coastline in Brittany and see Mont St Michel – and the 11th century Abbey that sits on its own island just off the coastline, or you could take a canal trip, or just wander and see where the road takes you and stop in a small village to head to a Boulangerie to pick up a Baguette (breadstick), some paté and cheese at the épicerie or charcuterie, or have a coffee, a class of wine (Vin de table) or some Ricard (the Aniseed drink) in a bar or coffee shop.
One of the best things to do in France is simply find a comfortable place to sit and just watch the world go by. You might even be lucky and see a game of Petanque (Boules) being played – a game of bowls played in an open relatively flat area. If you speak a little French, you might also get to play too. There’s a lot to be said about the French lifestyle.
In order to give you some more ideas about what to see in France, we have set down information on separate pages in the France section of this website. We hope you have a great time in France.