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Meet France

The unique guide

If there’s one country to reckon with - poised with grace and sophistication in the fabric of its nation, that is La République Française, known as France. It’s a country that almost needs no introduction when it comes to what makes it so emblematic. There’s an effortless facade that’s backed by craftsmanship that the French have perfected, and that can be seen in a cuisine that has influenced global gastronomy itself, a language that is ever so debonair as it is romantically resonating, an awe-inspiring fashion industry, to an identity engrained in passionate revolutions. Simply put, France and the French are grand maestros as one of the oldest nations on Earth, standing as an influential leaders throughout the ages in well-nigh every aspect of culture.

Fable-like scenery upon a diverse landscape

France as a country is like a superlative: It’s the largest country in Western Europe, bordering six other nations. It’s also the oldest country in Europe, existing in its present form since the 15th century. Gracing its long-standing honoured status is the land on which the nation was built on itself. Across the country, the terroir makes for heavenly wine and agricultural harvest, lending to charming farmer markets all over the country. The northern lowlands of France lead into hills and then magnify into the French Alps in the east. In the south, the Mediterranean Sea hugs the coastal shores. And that’s just Metropolitan France - which is in continental Europe. The French overseas territories are additional vivid terrains that make up the complete French Republic - from islands off the coast of Africa to the Caribbean, lands stretching out to South America and French Polynesia.

Of art and architecture

Monet, Cézanne, Degas, Renoir, Matisse, Gaugin, Manet, Rodin, Duchamp - that’s only a handful of legendary French artists that have created pieces inspired by French society and landscapes. This is a country that supports and celebrates the beauty in life - the aesthetics that make the regular mundane routine of the everyday worth it. In turn, that joie de vivre is essential to French living. It’s no wonder why there are so many famed French artists and pieces. The Lourve Museum amongst Musée d’Orsay and Center Georges Pompidou in Paris are some of the major cultural spots that house these greats, and ones that you’ll find going to visit time and again. Those places are beautiful architectural institutions themselves - shimmering amongst other landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Palace of Versailles, and Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel.

A dance for the tastebuds

France doesn’t shy or compromise when it comes to food. Is there anything more beautiful than waking up to a fresh-out-of-oven baguette at a local independent boulangerie? Marie Antoinette may not have infamously said “Let them eat cake” but the selection of desserts in France ranging from macrons, and crème brûlée to the more artful patisserie is sweet-tooth heaven. Food is a huge part of the culture in France - like having a rendezvous for coffee at a cafe, where societal discussions on philosophy and politics have been happening at since the 17th century. Or perhaps you’re strolling through the many town square markets, sampling artisanal cheeses, wines, and produces that were all proudly harvest and grown in France. From wholesome home-cooked meals using a generous amount of butter, cosy bistros with woven wicker chairs, to the finer dining experience, whatever you fancy - food is life, and life is food in France. After all, French gastronomy itself was awarded a whole UNESCO World Heritage Status in 2010.

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Meet France

La belle France is a nation that has long been influential around the world - leaving top marks and legacies in whichever cultural aspect the country dabbles in. Perhaps that’s why it’s always been an enticing country for travellers - everything can be an indulgence as it is a sensation. From the arts, gastronomy, fashion, dance, films, and luxury, the French have not only been renowned for it, but continue to be masters and leaders in their craft. It’s in this appreciation for the finer things in life, as well as the simple pleasures that make what the country is today. That, and “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” - French for "liberty, equality, fraternity", the principles that the French Republic was founded on, of course.

As one of the world’s oldest nations, France goes way back to the Iron Age. The Celtic territory was known to the Romans, led by Julius Caesar, as Gaul. The Romans then took over, conquering most of what is now modern-day France, until the Franks began to settle in the region. The Franks, is also where the name of France came from. Since then from the 4th century - the country has seen a rotation on the French throne, leading up to the French revolution, the first republic and then Napoleon Bonaparte’s French Empire. As you explore and walk around France of today, you’ll see how proud the country is of its history and heritage.

France is made up of 13 administrative regions

1

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

2

Bourgogne-Franche-Comté

3

Brittany

4

Centre-Val de Loire

5

Corsica

6

Grand Est

7

Hauts-de-France

8

Île-de-France

9

Normandie

10

Nouvelle-Aquitaine

11

Occitanie

12

Pays de la Loire

13

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

France is also home to 5 overseas regions. These regions also use the euro as their currency, have representation in the French Senate, and National Assembly and are essential facets of the French Republic.

1

Guadeloupe

2

French Guiana

3

Martinique

4

Mayotte

5

Réunion

Cultural catch-up

The well-preserved architecture like the gloriously-built cathedrals, majestic châteaus dotted all over the countryside, and medieval towns, all are treasures that stand for the French’s architectural feat as well as their living history. With such beautiful places to explore and see, it’s no wonder that France is the world’s most visited destination in the world. The capital, Paris, is the third most visited city in the world - just behind Bangkok and London. If you’re exploring the cobblestone streets of Paris, you’ll understand why the capital is like a whole world within a city… This is probably why the say goes, Paris belongs to France.

This is a country where you will want to come back time and again - because Paris is its own entity, while the rest of France spans into so depths too. As the third largest country in Europe (After Russia and Ukraine), the many regions of France have their own dialects, customs and traditions that differ from each other, yet all unite under the French nationality. In northeastern France, the region of Alsace holds very strong Germanic ties - in their cuisine, and their timber-wood architecture, while the island of Réunion is literally in the Indian Ocean, drawing influence from nearby Madagascar.

Take a walk on the wild side

The hexagonal landscape of France is manifold - with an array of beauty imprinted in this part of continental Europe. This is what makes doing any outdoor activity in France so fun! In the South of France, you can sunbathe and swim in the French Riviera, or explore the unique rocky coves of the Calanques. The beaches here are basically like a national treasure. To the east of the country, you can marvel at the Pyrenees and French alps. In the alpine mountain range that spans several countries (with Mont Blanc being the second-highest mountain in Europe at the height of 4,807m), you can can have your thrill with winter sports like skiing and snowboarding at the various slopes. Or, during the summer and off-season, the trails are seemingly endless for scenic hikes. Also during this time, the most watched cycling race - the Tour de France embarks around the country. With such a range of topography that goes from lavender fields to forested plateaus, and then everything else in-between, it’s no wonder this country’s nature is seen as the belle of the ball.

When to go

France is a country that’s truly for every single season - during wintertime, Strasbourg is famous world-wide for its all-out festive Christmas Markets. You can have your pick of ski resorts in the French alps, where doing winter sports here is adrenaline-fuelled and addictive. The in-between seasons are a true delight in France. Autumn is a barrage of colours and foliage, where most of the country’s forests go through a transformation while in the city, everyone is cosying up. Spring - everything awakens again all over the country - especially small town’s local businesses start to open up after hibernation. While summers, most locals leave the city for the French coast or the countryside, where swimming in the Mediterranean or enjoying a more provincial way of living last late until the solstice sun goes down.

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Tourist Season: Jun - Sep
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Best Weather: Apr - Oct

Essentials

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Time-Zone: Central European Standard Time (CET)
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Currency: Euro
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Currency: Euro Cost/Expense: $$$$
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Languages: French
Dates for your calendar
Jan - New Year’s Day
Apr - Easter, Easter Monday
May - Labour Day, Victory in Europe Day, Ascension Day
Jun - Whit Monday
Jul - Bastille Day
Aug - Assumption of Mary
Nov - All Saints’ Day, Armistice day
Dec - Christmas Day

Languages 101

Ah, romance is in the air. Or is that just the flowing, flirty resonance of the French language? It’s true that different regions of the French Republic have different dialects and accents. But the language itself is a descendant of Latin, one of the five main romance languages. Outside of France, French is also the official language in 4 continents and in over 30 countries including Canada, Senegal, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Switzerland, Monaco, Haiti and Luxembourg. While in France itself, there’s a hierarchy for the language, with ‘Parisian French’ put on top of a pedestal as exemplary of what the French language should be. This is mostly because of the capital’s far-reaching influence in media, culture and politics. But hey, French is still a beautiful language - no matter which vowel is more enunciated!

Essential French phrases

For most travellers, you’ll find the hard stereotype that the French are reluctant and even resistant to speak English is true. But this depends on which area and the generation. Nevertheless, communicating in French while you’re in France will make your trip even more fulfilling. To help you get started, here are some phrases.

Speak the local language
Englisharrow
Hello
Bonjour
Thank you
Merci
Please
S'il vous plait
Excuse me
Pardon
I am looking for
Je cherche
Can you show me on a map?
Pouvez-vous me montrer sur une carte?
What is this?
Qu'est-ce que c'est?
How do you say...?
Comment dit-on...?
How much?
Combien?
My name is...
Mon nom est...
I’m lost
Je suis perdu
Do you speak English?
Parlez vous anglais?
I don’t understand
Je ne comprends pas
What does that mean?
Qu'est-ce que cela signifie?

Transport

Getting There

By Plane

There are several international airports throughout France serving flights coming in from Continental Europe and all over the world. The biggest and busiest airports are the ones in Paris (Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly), Nice and Lyon.

By Train

All major towns have train stations. Smaller towns often have one too.

By Bus

Getting to France via bus or coach is a super affordable option.

Getting Around

By Car

In France, people drive on the right side of the road and overtake the left. Visitors driving in France have to be aged 18 and older, holding a full valid driving licence.

By Public Transport

France has a solid public transport system. For travel within the country, France has a well-connected railway system and you can get to pretty much anywhere by just a few connections. In the cities, you can stick to the buses and for bigger cities like Paris, Lyon, Marseille, and Lille to name a few - there are metro systems as an option too.

On Foot

Going on foot is the easiest way to get around the cities. Use our map to find out what’s near you and walk or combine it with the tram or metro for an easy, hassle-free day out.

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