The civilization and culture of France—not to mention the French way of life—makes the country easily the most visited in the world. The savoir-faire of its people lures travelers from across the globe to a country that covers an area smaller than Texas. Yet despite France’s size, each region is so intriguing and varied that you may immerse yourself in one province so deeply that you’ll never have time to see what’s on the other side. You’d be surprised how many people do just that. Perhaps more than any other country in the world, France is a land to be savored. Ideally, France is discovered slowly by car or along the country’s magnificent rail network, which lets you stop whenever and wherever you wish.
No European country, not even Britain, Italy, or Spain, can beat France in its pageantry of personalities. Its colorful characters range from Madame de Pompadour to Charles de Gaulle, from Jean-Luc Godard to Gustave Flaubert, from Catherine de Médici to Joan of Arc, from Emperor Napoleon to footballer Zinedine Zidane. You’ll be introduced to some of these figures in the pages ahead. Seeing where they lived, worked, loved, and became legends is part of the experience of visiting France.
This guide is meant to help you decide where to go in France, but ultimately the most gratifying experience will be your own serendipitous discoveries—sunflowers, a picnic in a poppy field, an hour spent chatting with a small winemaker—whatever it is that stays in your memory for years to come.