The Wanderlust Guide to the best of France

Whether you want to be active or indulgent, isn't it time you added a little Gallic flair to your next adventure?

3 mins

Renowned the world over for its culture and its cuisine, France is also a land of spectacular and greatly diverse landscapes. In one day, you could drive from Brittany’s windswept coasts and medieval forests, past the verdant, flat pastures either side of the Loire, through the snow-flecked peaks of the Massif Central, the deep gorges of Languedoc-Rousillon and on to the sun-baked beaches of the Mediterranean.

France is also an ideal destination for green holidaymakers. Numerous ferries and a now even quicker Eurostar (just 2h 15m from London to Paris) connect Britain with France – great for those conscious of their carbon footprint. Once you're there, France is home to a wide range of eco-accommodation, from environmentally-friendly ski lodges to mountain retreats. Plus, a wide network of cycle paths and some 60,000km of long distance footpaths make this a ramblers' paradise.

Annecy (Wanderlust)

Looking for inspiration?

With a country as large and diverse as France, your biggest dilemma is deciding which part to visit. Old hands say that June is the perfect time to visit the Loire Valley – the sun is out, the river banks are blooming, and the local tourists won’t descend en masse until July.

For a thoroughly French experience, Piers Letcher recommends Annecy. An arresting little town perched on the edge of a flawless turquoise lake against a backdrop of frosted French Alps, it’s famous as the town that most French people, given the choice, would love to live in

If it’s romance you’re looking for, Kevin Pilley says you can’t beat Roquemaure, a small village in south-west France, not far from Avignon, where an annual kissing festival is held. Oh, and the local Lirac wines, pungent cheeses, truffles, speciality sausages and lavender honey are worth seeking out too.

Lizzie Matthews, on the other hand, plunges head first into the cellars of Champagne (quite literally), on an alternative tour of this most famous of wine growing regions.

Finally, for something a bit more edgy, Philip Sweeney suggests a short break in Marseille, France's most lively and cosmopolitan port town.

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Go now! Loire Valley – Wanderlust Team

A thoroughly French weekend in Annecy – Piers Letcher

A romantic weekend in Provence – Kevin Pilley

An alternative weekend in Champagne – Lizzie Matthews

Short break: Marseille, France – Philip Sweeney

Cycling in France (Wanderlust)

Getting active

Concerned about what the cheese, chocolate and croissants are doing to your waistline? Don’t be. France has any number of thrilling outdoor activities to burn off the extra calories.

You could climb Mount Blanc, for instance. It’s not easy, says Sarah Baxter, but with help of a sinewy Gallic guide anything is possible. Even reaching the 4,810m peak of Mont Blanc.

Or you could just cycle the Loire Valley. Lizzie Matthews says the cycle tracks are flat and picturesque, but warns that most seem to lead to wineries. Just make sure you’re not the designated rider.

Gavin Bell spent two days kayaking down the serpentine twists and turns of the Ardèche River in France through a canyon of towering limestone cliffs. It’s an idyllic and gentle workout. Just watch out for the local fishermen who stand on rocks fishing wearing a beard, a broad smile – and nothing else.

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A week scaling the heights of Mont Blanc – Sarah Baxter

Cycling around the Loire Valley – Lizzie Matthews

A kayaking weekend in The Ardèche, France – Gavin Bell

Poppy Fields (Rachel Khoo)

France’s secrets revealed

Think you know the south of France? Since moving to Côte d'Azure, novelist Hannah Fielding has uncovered the secret places the French would rather keep to themselves. Better still, she’s willing to share them with you.

70 years after D-Day, Helen Moat has put together an essential guide to the landing beaches of Normandy. And Daisy Cropper reveals 10 things to do for free in Paris, making your visit to the capital all the more sweeter.

Finally, the good folk at Cool Camping have put together a list of France’s coolest campsites. Affordable, quirky and very French. What more could you ask for?

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An Insider's Guide to the South of France – Hannah Fielding

Your essential guide to the Landing Beaches of Normandy – Helen Moat

10 things to do for free in Paris – Daisy Cropper

5 cool campsites in France – Cool Camping

French Food (Wanderlust)

Tantalize your tastebuds

Is there any other nation on earth so intimately associated with good food and fine dining as France? Celebrity chief, Rachel Khoo, travelled all over France in search of its provincial gastronomic delights and reveals where you can find the very best examples of each region’s specialty – and a few surprises too.

If you’d rather recreate a little bit of Provençal at home, get out the checked tablecloth and follow Sébastien Boudet’s instructions on how to make the perfect bouillabaisse. Serve with crusty bread and oursins (sea urchins) and you’ll think you're down by the docks in Marseille. Bon appétit!

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Rachel Khoo's regional French food adventure – Peter Moore

Recipe of the week: Bouillabaisse – Sébastien Boudet

Pont Alexandre III (Ulrich Lambert)

Capturing it all on film

A weathered bicycle leaning against a wall. A clutch of baguettes in a bakers window. France is full of rustic vignettes that you’ll feel compelled to capture. There is beauty in the minutiae, says Steve Davey, as he advises budding photographers to zoom in on the details.

Ulrich Lambert, on the other hand, took a familiar sight and turned it into something ethereal and beautiful. Find out how he took his award-winning shot of Pont Alexandre III and the Eiffel Tower.

Inspiration awaits too, in the magical photos of France taken by our readers.

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Photography tips: zoom in on detail – Steve Davey

Pont Alexandre III: Story behind the photo – Ulrich Lambert, winner of the Wanderlust Travel Photo of the Year 2013 Icon category

Readers' Photos

Normandy (Helen Moat)

Everything you need to know

Ready to start planning your trip? Our France Travel Guide is the perfect place to start. Make sure you drop by our France Essential Info page too, for more everyday (but equally vital) information.

If you have a particular question about France, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum, where our knowledgeable community our ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Or check out the questions people have already asked about France. The answer to yours might already be there.

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France Travel Guide – Wanderlust Team

France Essential Info – Wanderlust Team

myWanderlust Forum

France Q&A

Paris (Wanderlust)

Ready to go?

Here’s a selection of fantastic tours offered by our partners. From cycling tours in Provence and canal boat cruises along the Canal du Midi to elegant tours of the jewels of France by train, there’s something to suit every taste and budget.

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Our Trip Finder can help you find adventures in France

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