France is one of the most visited countries in the world, attracting far flung travellers to its medieval villages with small winding roads to explore, to the different wine regions that offer the finest tastings in the most lush vineyards. Don’t overlook France’s unique landscapes, including seemingly never-ending sand dunes, impressive mountain ranges, and breathtaking Calanques. A country with over 45,000 castles and city-breaks with impressive gastronomy, art, and architecture scenes makes it a trip that shouldn’t be missed.
From paradisiacal beaches to UNESCO World-Heritage Sites protecting the incredible French history, France is a diverse destination. With a surplus of irresistible locations and regions, it can be hard to plan your perfect trip in France. Here are our picks of some of the most enthralling things to do in 2023 to help you plan your perfect France trip.
1. Surfing in Biarritz
Looking to ride some waves? No matter your level, Biarritz is a great option for experienced surfers or for those who have never stepped foot on a board before. The French-Basque city is right near the France-Spain border and is known for its amazing surfing. For beginners, April through October is a bit calmer, and is a great time of year for visitors who are just starting out surfing. If you consider yourself intermediate or advanced in surfing, feel free to plan your trip any time of the year! Although don’t forget, winter surfing means colder waters and a wetsuit! For beginners, there’s a multitude of surf schools in Biarritz that offer both group and private lessons, which is a great chance to get some professional tips.
Le Grande Plage is the most famous beach in Biarritz, lined with luxury hotels and right in front of the city centre. Biarritz’s main beach has consistent waves and soft sand, making it a great location for surfers to gather. While Le Grande Plage is incredibly popular with surfers, it also attracts tourists looking to catch a tan and enjoy the beach. Plage Côte des Basques maybe your average surfer’s top spot in the city to surf at. Maybe it’s because of the long, wide beach, or because of the history of the beach, often credited as the birthplace of surfing in France. The surfing history and tradition of these beaches make Biarritz France’s best destination to practise or learn the sport.
Where to Stay in Biarritz
Clean, cosy, and a great place to meet adventurous folk exploring Biarritz.
A charming, old-style villa located in a calm residential area of Biarritz.
Staying a bit out of the city centre is worth it to stay in this 19th-century manor house with its own Michelin-starred restaurant.
2. Go on a Vespa road trip through Provence
The Provence region in the South of France is one of the most incredible places in the country, and tourists flock to discover its enchanting villages and history. Discover Provence in a unique way with this Vespa tour by TravelBase. Starting around €490 per person, this trip includes a 4-night stay at a hotel including breakfast in the beautiful Avignon, a charming small city in the South of France, a Vespa rental with helmets and locks, and a GPS, as well as recommended daily itineraries to explore with your Vespa.
What’s so special about this Vespa road trip is that you’ll see the nooks and crannies of Provence that you’d miss when travelling by train, or even by car as the winding roads are difficult to access from some vehicles, between these idyllic locations. You’ll also have the Vespa Trip team to assist you with anything you may need while in Provence, while still having the luxury of travelling on your own time without having to worry about following a strict routine that a lot of tour groups have in place. This experience gives you the flexibility to curate your Provence trip however you may like it, while also giving you resources and inspiration for your itineraries. The Vespa tour allows you to discover Provence’s beautiful culture in a different way than your typical road trip.
3. Dine completely in the dark in Paris at Dans le Noir
For foodies looking for a one-of-a-kind dining experience, Dans le Noir in Paris is the place to experience a sensory-invoking meal! Dans le Noir was ranked one of the 10 most original restaurants in the world, and their unique concept has been popping up at dining experiences throughout the world. But nothing beats the original! Scientists say when you lose one sense, your other 4 senses are more intensified to make up for the loss. In Dans le Noir, you lose your ability to see, in order to heighten the flavours you’re tasting.
Dans le Noir can accompany any dietary restrictions for your meal, but you won’t know what you’re eating until you’ve tasted it! While this isn’t for everyone, the staff is trained to make this an accommodating, comfortable experience for all their guests, so don’t be afraid to let them know your specific needs before and during your meal!
4. Be in a Real Life Fairytale at Mont St. Michel
Want to live your personal Disney fairytale? Mont St. Michel has been suspected to be the inspiration for Rapunzel’s castle, making every step in this UNESCO World Heritage Site feel like you’re in your own majestic castle. Besides its picturesque views, Mont St. Michel has a fascinating history. It is a commune built on a tidal island, and its geographical position gives a ton of character. Up some stairs, you’ll find the Mont St. Michel Abbey, which tourists flock to to learn about the interesting history of the island. Don’t forget to buy your tickets in advance to the abbey, allowing you to skip the crazy lines!
Mont St. Michel Village is located at the bottom of the commune, and the medieval streets only make you feel like you’re in an enchanting movie come to life even more. With artisan gift shops and quaint restaurants, there’s plenty to do despite the town being tiny. This iconic landmark and its historical village will leave you stunned every step of the way.
Where to Stay in Mont St. Michel
This cute and modern hostel is located right next to the train station, offering access to Mont St. Michel
Pastel-coloured rooms attract guests hoping to stay nearby to the tidal island for a reasonable price.
Stay on the actual Mont St. Michel island in this 14th-century house, with charming rooms.
5. Explore the Calanques National Park
Don’t miss out on the hiking and nature of the country, and visit the Calanques National Park. Located in the south of France, near the seaside town of Cassis, this National Park has an abundance of hiking trails of different difficulty levels that you can embark on to enjoy the wild, rocky sights in the park.
For beginners or travellers with small children, Sentier du Petit Prince is a short hike that takes about a half hour, and offers beautiful views of Cassis and the Calanques of Port Miou. For a medium-difficulty hike, you should not miss Calanques de Cassis. You can start this hike from the town of Cassis, and it offers the best views of the three different Calanques, Port Miou, Port Pin, and En-Vau. If you have the physical capacity, this should be the first hike on your list to discover this national park. For a real challenge, Falaises du Devenson offers panoramic views of the National Park and the sea. The dramatic cliffs offer spectacular views, and this trek is a bit more empty than the other ones, due to its difficulty level.
6. Cruise down Bordeaux’s river while sipping wine
Bordeaux is world-renowned for its wine production, but don’t overlook the ornate architecture that overlooks the Garonne River. You can enjoy both the beauty of the city, and its delicacy: the wine, all in one. Take a sightseeing cruise down the Garonne River. But the best part of this cruise? Wine is available! A glass of Bordeaux wine will be served alongside a traditional piece of cake, called canelé, a very typical pastry of this region.
The cruise takes place on a vintage post-war yacht, so you’ll be living history during the whole tour. Throughout your journey down the Garonne River, you’ll learn about the history of Bordeaux from experts, and specifically about some of the most famous landmarks of the city, such as the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Gothic Cathedral.
Where to Stay in Bordeaux
Shared, stylish rooms right in the heart of the city.
This 18th-century mansion was named after 200 year old growth of ivy covering the terrace.
A luxurious 5-star hotel that boasts its world-class service and elegant rooms.
7. Take a Food Tour in Lyon’s Old Town
Lyon has been named the gastronomical capital of the world, and chefs from all over France are opening their most innovative restaurant ideas in the city. Lyon has also become a hub for culinary students looking to learn and perfect their skills, so there is no better place to go on a food tour.
While there is an influx in new, experimental cuisine in Lyon, the city is also known for having the perfect geography to grow amazingly fresh agricultural produce, so its traditional French cuisine tends to excel. Awaken your taste buds and discover the traditional flavours of the city on this 4 hour food tasting tour. You’ll learn on this tour each restaurant and chef's unique, agricultural products that help create the delicious dishes, and you’ll get to explore Lyon’s old town while doing so. You’ll taste 14 local dishes at 5 different famous spots in the city, all while learning about the highlights of the city’s history. There is no better destination in the world for foodies in this day and age, and this tour emphasises Lyon’s authentic gastronomy.
Where to Stay in Lyon
Located in a historical building, this hostel organises daily group activities for its guests.
This centrally-located, 19th century residence serves breakfast in a former vaulted cellar.
A former convent with sophisticated guest rooms and panoramic views of Lyon.
8. Explore off-the-beaten track in Paris: Petite Ceinture, an abandoned railway line
This railway line circles around the city of Paris, and provided important connectivity throughout the city, designed during the Empire of Napoléon III. If you’ve travelled at all in Paris, you may have taken the Métro, but you’ve for sure seen the signs for it around the city. Well, this was the version of the Métro for travellers between 1862 to 1934. This was the main way that Parisians back in the day would get around the city quickly and efficiently. Once the current day Métro was installed, the Petite Ceinture was no longer used by residents, and it became abandoned.
You can walk through parts of the abandoned rail line, which are now overrun with many different species of greenery and flowers. In the 15th arrondissement, you can find the entrance to walk through the abandoned track. Don’t forget your camera! The overrun look makes for cool pictures that’ll make your Instagram posts stand out from other tourists posting in Paris.
9. Wine Tasting at a Chateau
Some of the things France is most well known for are their Chateau and their wine, so why not get the full French experience and combine both of these lovely things? Head to the Burgundy region of the country, and taste wine at Chateau de Pommard.
This Chateau is known for having some of the region’s best wines, and the vineyard is actually a UNESCO World Heritage-listed vineyard.
On this tour, you won’t just have a great time trying the delicious wines, but you’ll also learn a lot of information about how the wines are produced, how this region creates wine differently from other regions, and even how to taste the wine like a professional. For families, there is an optional addition, called the Jeunesse Experience, which teaches your kids about grapes while you enjoy your wine tasting. Perfect so it keeps them occupied and interested along the journey!
10. Venture into the Catacombs of Paris
Discover the Catacombs of Paris beneath the beautiful Parisian streets, and uncover the dark secrets of the Catacombs, which were used for the burial of the dead when cemeteries of Paris were overflowing. The Catacombs of Paris are quite creepy, but also extremely informative as it recounts the real history of the city at the time, and the history of those buried in the Catacombs. The Catacombs of Paris are literally a preservation of history in a unique, somewhat unsettling way,
There are two great options for discovering the Catacombs of Paris, either on this self-guided tour which includes a skip-the-line ticket and an audioguide, or on a 2 hour small-group guided tour. Whether you decide to discover the catacombs on your own or with a guide, keep in mind that the site is very limited, as only 200 people are let in at a time. Because of this, lines can be hours long to enter the Catacombs of Paris, so to avoid this it is super beneficial and a time-saver to book those tickets in advance to get the skip-the-line entry!
Where to stay in Paris
Modern shared rooms near the artsy neighbourhood of Montmartre.
Stay in the heart of Paris without overspending at this charming hotel.
This boutique hotel's rooms were decorated by designer Christian Lacroix, each room different from the next.
11. Stroll through the Lavender Fields of Provence
When you think of Lavender, you think of Provence, and vice-versa. The Valensole Plateau lavender fields are probably the most photographed lavender fields in the entire world. At its peak, the fields are completely purple. If you want to visit a less popular spot, there are smaller lavender farms that are less extensive, but beautiful as well. Vallon des Lavandes has quaint lavender fields, and its own boutique shop where you can purchase a range of different lavender products.
When planning your journey to see these lavender fields, make sure to keep in mind that the lavender is only in season during a few short months. At the beginning of June, the lavender begins to flower, and towards the middle of July, the lavender fields flower to their greatest capacity. Since the season is June through the beginning of August, make sure if you’re coming for lavender that you’re booking during the summer months. Curious about how to plan your South of France trip to see the lavender fields? Check out our premade itinerary here, that you can adjust to fit your own trip.
12. Embark on a Catamaran Cruise at La Rochelle
La Rochelle has been a hub of trade for France for centuries now. The Old Port of the town has inspired many famous artists throughout the years, and is a heavily photographed location on France’s west coast. Get the best views of this mediaeval and renaissance city from the harbour, by taking a Catamaran Cruise.
This Catamaran cruise is informative, with a knowledgeable crew who are there to answer any questions you may have about the city’s history and architecture. Once the boat has ventured out a bit to the sea, the engine will turn off so that you can enjoy the stunning sights of La Rochelle and the ocean. If you want to have a drink or a bite to eat while admiring the historic centre, this tour encourages you to BYOB and food to have an apéritif on the Catamaran.
13. Design your own fragrance at a perfume factory in Grasse
Grasse was one of the first places in France that started designing perfumes, and is known as the world’s capital of perfume. There are plenty of factories in Grasse, and as a 14 year old visiting the South of France with my family, this town was the first place that I ever bought a bottle of perfume before.
Since perfumes have a variety of different notes that make each one unique, everyone is bound to have their own tastes. At the historic family-run Molinard perfume factory, founded in 1849, you can create your own perfect scent with the help of experts. During this hour tour, you’ll learn about how the perfume is distilled and about the historical importance of perfume in Grasse. Then, with the help of one of the perfume factory’s workers, you’ll curate your own perfect scent from a selection of over 90 possible scents. This is a personal experience that really allows you to feel like the scent you're wearing is special to you, and nowhere else is better to do it than Grasse, a town that prides itself on its excellent perfumes.
14.Venice in France? See the canals of L'Isle sur la Sorgue.
This little Provencal hidden gem, also called the Venice of Comtadine, owes its reputation to its charming streets and canals. As a part of the Vespa Trip’s 4 day itinerary by TravelBase, you can hop on the Vespa to take a road trip to visit this picturesque village. With adorable, winding streets to stroll down, and an abundance of authentic culture, like art galleries, and the bi-weekly flea market that takes place every Thursday and Sunday, l’Isle sur la Sorgue gives you a taste of the typical Mediterranean lifestyle.
Emerald green waters make up the canals, making it a photogenic little village, and one that you should definitely take some time out to visit during your Provence road trip.
15. Explore Europe’s Largest Sand Dune at Dune du Pilat
Just about an hour’s drive away from Bordeaux, you’ll stumble across this natural phenomenon along the Arcachon Bay. Dune du Pilat is worth a visit when in France, and is situated between amazing nature, surrounded by the Atlantic ocean and a pine forest on the other side. The sand is soft, white sand that stretches for about 2,900 metres, can you believe that?
Walk along the dune’s edges and take in the panoramic views of the area. During the high season, there are stairs to the top, otherwise, you’ve got a bit of a sandy hike in store for you! To get the most out of your visit to the dune, we recommend packing a towel or blanket, so you can lay at the top and take in the beautiful landscape. For a real special experience, come during sunrise or sunset and enjoy it perched overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. You can also choose to walk down to the beach, Plage de la Corniche, which is widely considered the safest part to swim in at the Dune.
16. Feel like a French Aristocrat at the Chateaux of the Loire Valley
The Loire Valley is home to hundreds of Chateaux, the majority of which are constructed in a Renaissance style. The impressive numbers of Chateaux has led this region of the Loire Valley to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to its intricate history. Each of the chateaux has its own, interesting history, but over 300 chateaux makes it near impossible to visit them all.
Château de Chambord is the chateau you should visit if you only can fit in one. It is the most famous in the region, with distinctive architecture, and has an impressive, elaborate rooftop. Inside, speculated to be designed by Leonardo da Vinci, is the famous double-spiral staircase, an architectural development that draws tourism to this chateau. Another influential one is the Château de Chenonceau. The beautiful arches spread over the river, unlike any other castle seen before. The unique design has made this the one of the most visited chateaux in France, just second to Versailles. Don’t skip out on the beautiful gardens, strolling through them will make you feel like royalty getting some fresh air in your backyard. While these are the 2 of the most popular of the Chateaux of the Loire Valley, you could spend weeks in this region and still not have discovered all of the beautiful castles.
17. Bordeaux: St-Emilion Vineyards e-Bike Tour with Wine and Lunch
The UNESCO-listed village of St-Emilion offers the opportunity to travel through its gorgeous vineyards by bike. Give your legs a break and switch on the electric bike, keeping the relaxation of your vacation going, while also getting the best panoramic perspective of the region.
After a short drive from Bordeaux, you’ll have reached the St-Emilion region, where wine is abundant and distinctive to the region. Your e-bike tour will take you to see famous wineries of the area, and you’ll pedal through a short tour of the mediaeval village until you arrive at a family-run vineyard. There you’ll learn about the vineyard’s special way of crafting its wine, from vine to bottle. This tour includes a tasting of the estate’s speciality wine and a delicious lunch.
18. See palaeolithic cave paintings in the Lascaux Cave
Once you enter the Lascaux Cave, you’ll be transported back in time to the Paleolithic area, as you discover some of the world’s oldest drawings. This UNESCO World Heritage site estimates that their paintings are over 19,000 years old, and it is captivating to see how this prehistoric art represented the lives during the unknown ages.
The discovery of these caves in 1940 changed the studies of Prehistoric times significantly. The caves were discovered by accident by 4 teenagers, with only a lamp, and that discovery forever changed history. Now, due to the fact that the original caves were deteriorating due to too many visitors, the prehistoric paintings were recreated exactly the same, with the same technique, materials and pigments, to recreate the original paintings while also helping to preserve them.
19. Kayak down the Gorges du Verdon
The Gorges du Verdon are some of the most turquoise-green waters you’ll see, situated right between limestone cliffs. Many people accredit this gorge as being the most beautiful on the continent, and it's hard to argue against that. While it is a popular destination and can be quite busy during summertime, something about the gorge makes it feel tranquil and relaxing.
Rent a Kayak, a canoe, or a paddleboard to travel down the Gorges du Verdon. You’ll hardly be able to focus on your rowing because the surrounding views are so captivating! Pull over your kayak or method of transport to a secluded area of the Gorges, and hop out and take a swim in the canyon. Don’t rush your day at the Gorges du Verdon, let yourself relax and take your time floating down the river and taking in the scenery. You can even pack a picnic for when you park your kayak to have lunch within the gorge.
20. Take a refreshing dip in the Gardon river by a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the highest-known bridge-aqueduct in the Roman world: the Pont du Gard
Pont du Gard is one of the most impressive Roman ruins left behind by the former empire. Reachable by Vespa, and included as a part of the Vespa Trip itinerary by TravelBase, this road trip stop in Provence is an impressive sight that surprises its visitors. It is the tallest of the Roman aqueduct bridges known, and is incredibly well preserved. Supplying water to Nimes, this was one of the most important bridges during the Roman times, and it's incredible how something as impressive as this aqueduct was built so long ago.
Admire the incredible history from the pathway, or fancy a swim? The Pont du Gard can be seen while swimming in the Gardon river. This popular summer swim spot is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, because how often can you swim right next to some of the most well-kept Roman ruins?
21. Go to Menton’s Lemon Festival
Menton has a Fête du Citron, or in English known as a Lemon Festival, every year in February. This festival celebrates the production of lemons and other citrus fruits, specifically oranges in obscure ways. For example, at the carnival, there are floats and sculptures made completely out of lemons and oranges. There is even a castle made out of lemons and oranges… I bet you’ve never seen anything like that before!
The festival in 2023 is from February 11th to February 26th, so there are more than 15 days to join in on the festivities. There are many parades that employ the citrus floats, and other cool exhibitions like the Festival of Orchids. The festival is very kid-friendly as well, as there is a separate children’s carnival that has a bunch of fun activities daily. Our personal favourite of the festival is the Arts and Craft show. You can buy local artisan products such as ceramics, pottery, and wooden sculptures. Besides the art, you can also purchase local products made from citrus, and take some home in your luggage! What better way to remember the festival than that?
Where to Stay
This one-bedroom holiday home is fully furnished and comes at a great price for what it offers.
A fitting name for the town, this eco-friendly hotel is decorated in pastel colours and modern furniture.
This beachfront room is equipped with a 24-hour bar and an outdoor pool.