Mistakes to Avoid When Travelling to France for the First Time

Traveling to France can be such an exhilarating experience. Some people save up their whole lives just to get the chance to visit this amazing country. It is among the most visited countries in the world even though it is not always renowned for offering the warmest of welcomes.

Because of this, being a first timer in France can be challenging in more ways than one, especially if you are not from Europe. Here are some tips to take note of to make that trip more enjoyable and less stressful.

Not Studying Up on French Culture before Visiting

Let us face it, English is the world language as it is spoken almost everywhere and by almost everyone. However, that is not the case in France. Yes, most French people speak English, but some are quite taciturn when it comes to communicating in another language.   

It is highly recommended to learn a few essential words or phrases or bring a French-English dictionary. Basic knowledge of the French language can greatly help you along your shopping, dining, and your overall travel experience. Plus, the locals will love you for it.

Know when to shake hands or greet with a kiss. Friends are expected to greet each other with a double kiss on both cheeks. You may think this is the norm, but it is not. A handshake is enough or better yet, a simple “Bonjour!” will do.

You will rarely see French people wearing gym outfits on the streets, nor do they wear overly extravagant attires when uncalled for. They love being stylish and donning sensible clothes and shoes. This means you have to take your fashion sense a notch higher, especially when dining out.

Rick Steves France Travel Guide is a great resource to learn more about France before visiting.

Visiting Paris and Only Paris

Visiting Paris is a must for everyone traveling to France, after all, you have never been to France if you have not visited the Eiffel Tower. That would somehow be a bit dismal as there are a lot of beautiful and breathtaking cities the country has to offer. However majestic the City of Lights can be, it is a huge mistake not to visit the other cities as well.

Not Travelling by Public Transport

Taxis are expensive in France, so going by bus or train would be the way to go. They can take you anywhere, are reliable, and much cheaper. Makes for an even greater adventure, too.

Spending More Money than You Should

You can enjoy a marvelous vacation in France without breaking the bank. You just need to know how to do it. For example, try the smaller hotels that would provide you with more warmth than the international ones.

There are a lot more you need to know, so it is a very good idea to stock up on these tips. Think of your trip to France as going to any other country, even your own. Be polite, curious, open, and courteous. These are not harsh rules, just reminders on how to make that trip to France more memorable and enjoyable without looking like a rookie.



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Museums and Galleries in France

France is brimming with museums and galleries that have attracted artists from all over the world for centuries. From Cezanne to Degas, from prehistoric cave paintings to contemporary art, tourists flock to this country that is rich in art and have produced the best artists in history. Here are a few tourist favorites:

The Louvre

The world’s most visited art museum in the world, The Louvre contains a wealth of art treasures ranging from ancient civilizations to the 19th century. No trip to Paris is complete if you have not visited this museum that boasts of around 35,000 exquisite treasures from all around the world. Masterpieces such as Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Hellenistic sculpture known as The Winged Victory of Samothrace, and the Ancient Greek statue of Venus de Milo are on display and is open for public viewing.

Musée d’Orsay

Renowned for its prestigious collection of Impressionist art, the Musée d’Orsay is a national museum devoted to painting, architecture, sculpture, decorative arts, and photography from 1848 until 1914. It houses a wide variety of artistic movements that include Realism, Academism, Symbolism, and Impressionism among others. You can find the works of some of the best artists in history such as Renoir, Manet, Bonnard, Cézanne, van Gogh and many others.

The Centre Pompidou

The Centre Pompidou is one of the best-known sites in Paris because of its exterior escalators and immense colored tubing. It houses the National Museum of Modern Art and is the only museum that displays a comprehensive view of 20th and 21st-century art collections. It is divided into two sections: the modern period from 1905 to 1960 which includes the works of Matisse, Picasso, and others, and the contemporary period from 1960 to the present day (Andy Warhol, Niki de Saint Phalle, Anish Kapoor among others).

Musée du Petit Palais

Elegantly featuring the architecture of “La Belle Epoque,” the Musée du Petit Palais has an impressive collection of Renaissance paintings of the Avignon school. It contains precious art objects from the French and Italian Renaissance, ancient and medieval collections, and Flemish and Dutch paintings among the 1,300 works of art from the Antiquity throughout the early 20th century. Best of all, it is open to the public absolutely free of charge!

Musée Rodin

Built by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin in 1916 and opened in 1919, the Musée Rodin is a museum solely dedicated to his sculpture as well as the works of his muse and mistress Camille Claudel. Also a painter, sketcher, engraver, and collector, Rodin created such masterpieces as The Thinker, The Burghers of Calais and The Gates of Hell. This majestic mansion is surrounded by 3 hectares of serene and romantic French-style gardens that are abundantly planted with trees and shrubs and has the master’s sculpture spread all over.

France is home to thousands of museums and art galleries that welcome millions of tourists annually. Whether collections of the old masters or modern art, France has the top quality galleries, and are all worth a visit.



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Famous Monuments of France

France is known internationally for its fine cuisine, romantic cities, and overwhelming art collections. But the country has more to offer, and its historical monuments should not be missed by serious Francophiles. And since it is practically impossible to make a list of all those monuments, much less visit them all, we have chosen a few favorites, in and out of Paris where most of them are located.

Eiffel Tower

When you think of France, the Eiffel Tower comes up on your mind instantly, and no trip to France can be complete without visiting the country’s most popular and most visited landmark. The Eiffel tower was built by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World’s Fair to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Republic. There can be a long wait to explore the attractions within, but it is well worth it especially when you go there at night.

Cité of Carcassonne

Located in the French city of Carcassonne in the Occitanie region, the Cité of Carcassonne is a medieval village that has 52 towers and two massive walls that surround the buildings, streets, and a Gothic cathedral. As early as the 6th century BC, this village has been an important Roman town up until the Middle Ages. It has a very long history that made it one of France’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, welcoming more than 4 million visitors a year.

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is a symbolic landmark for the French people erected to honor the soldiers who died in the Napoleonic Wars and the French Revolution. Underneath the world’s biggest arch is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, whose flame is rekindled every day at 6:30 in the evening. Visitors can get a panoramic view over the whole of Paris when reaching the top terrace.

Notre Dame de Paris

Arguably the most famous church in the world, the Notre Dame de Paris is a Gothic masterpiece that has become the stuff of legends because of Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, published in 1831. Its construction started in the 12th century and finished 300 years later with the bourdon or tenor bell called Emmanuel, the biggest bell of Notre-Dame, housed in the cathedral’s biggest belfry. The panoramic terrace lets visitors get a 360-degree view over Paris.

Palace of the Popes

Palace of the Popes or Palais des Papes is a 14th-century symbol of the influence of Western Christianity. As the name suggests, this has been the home of Catholic popes for most of its 1,500-year history. Located in Avignon, it has 15,000 square meters of living space and rooms, one of which is adorned by a painting by the Italian artist Matteo Giovannetti.

France has more than 40,000 officially classified historical monuments, and these are the more popular ones and listed by many travelers as must-see sites. Iconic and stunning, these monuments represent France’s long history that is filled with art, religion, battlefields, and are a big part of the French national heritage.


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Historic Sites in France

France has a wealth of fantastic historical sites, you would not know in an instant where to go first. From Ancient Roman ruins to World War battlefields, the list is staggeringly long you would not be able to cover them all in a short period. For those interested in the historical attractions of France, here are our recommended picks:

Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy is a rocky outcrop in the middle of the bay where Normandy and Brittany merge. It is an awe-inspiring site with the Benedictine Abbey and Parish Church dominating the skyline, which draws eyes from a great distance. It is rich in history that can be seen in its stunning buildings and ancient streets that attract both pilgrims and tourists.

The Palace of Versailles

One of the largest and most luxurious castles in the world, The Palace of Versailles has been declared as a World Heritage Site for 30 years. A very fine model of 18th-century French art and architecture where generations of royalty resided up until the French Revolution. Today, this is one of the most visited palaces in France, drawing tourists with its opulence and magnificence that represented France’s power in the days of yore.

The Arena of Nîmes

Also known as Nimes Amphitheatre, it was originally built by Emperor Augustus in the first century AD to host gladiator events and then, later on, was converted into a military base. It has a resplendent façade complete with ornate archways and intricate decorations. It can seat up to 24,000 spectators as it is still used today to host events, though mostly it serves as a tourist attraction.

Somme Battlefields

Located in the charming, rural landscape of the region of Picardy and the Département de la Somme, the battlefields of Somme were the scenes of one of the most savage battles of the Great War. One of the most tragic historical sites in France, many tourists take a hiking or biking trip to pay their respects to the fallen soldiers of World War I. There are trails and corresponding itineraries that were created to let you explore the pleasant region through hiking, biking, or walking tours.

Grotte de Font de Gaume

If you’re interested in seeing prehistoric paintings and engraving that dates back to the Stone Age, Grotte de Font de Gaume is a must go for you. Located in Les Eyzies south-west of France, it is a prehistoric cave that holds more than 200 polychrome paintings of bison, horses, mammoths, and reindeer. It is also listed as a World Heritage with UNESCO since 1979 and is open to the public, but the daily number of visitors is limited.

These historical sites are but a few of the array of sites that France has to offer. A country steeped in captivating history filled with ostentatious architecture and bloody conquests, France is home to magnificent Gothic cathedrals, grandiose royal residences, prehistoric sites and many others. It is one of a lifetime experience to see these unique historical treasures first-hand.



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Things You Should Not Miss While in France

It is quite expected for people traveling to France to visit its main attractions such as the Eiffel Tower or the Mont Saint-Michel, but there are a lot more destinations you can go to in France that will still give you that French experience. These attractions may be well hidden or simply not popular enough to catch the attention of most tourists. Let us look at some of the things you should not miss when you are in France.

Les Gorges du Verdon

The Les Gorges du Verdon is located in the southeast part of France and is considered Europe’s deepest and most beautiful river canyon. The hiking trails are exhilarating, and the views are stunning. You can bird-watch, kayak or hike, this is nature tripping at its best.

D-Day Beaches

On the early morning of June 6, 1944, this wide stretch of fine sand beaches in Northern Normandy has become a bloodbath, and the harsh noise of gunfire has replaced the peaceful breeze of winds. The sands are now back in their pristine state, and the winds are blowing serene whiffs again, this is the most emotional journey you can have in the whole of France.


Chamonix-Mont-Blanc shortened to just Chamonix, is a ski resort area in southeastern France that is near the borders of Switzerland and Italy. Having the Mont Blanc massif as its backdrop, you can have your adventure skiing, parasailing or paragliding, a few of the many things you can do in Chamonix.


Dordogne is a region on south-west France that is home to beautiful medieval towns and villages, unspoiled countryside, and its most famous attraction, the prehistoric caves. The famous Lascaux cave in the Vézère valley contains some of the oldest artworks known to man, dating from roughly 12,000 years ago.

Loire Valley

The Loire Valley is located in central France and offers plenty of great sites to explore such as Tours, Saumur, Orléans, and Angers, all sophisticated cities that give you food and style with all the splendor. You can go for fine dining or wine tasting or just experiencing the French high society.

Carnac Megaliths

The Carnac Megaliths are a dense collection of megalithic sites located in the French village of Carnac, in Brittany. It is a moving reminder of ancient human habitation, although it is still unclear why these stones were built. These are composed of more than 3,000 aligned megaliths, which date back from 4,000BC.

The GR20

Located in the southeast of the French mainland, the GR20 is a breathtaking trail along the jagged spine of Corsica’s central mountains. Most backpackers will enjoy this hiking trail that offers dramatic sights and some fantastic swimming holes if the weather is right.

Definitely, there is more to France than just the usual tourist attractions of museums, towers, art galleries, or castles. The country has more than enough to offer those searching for the off-the-beaten-track destinations that will surely satisfy your craving for an awe-inspiring travel experience.



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Tips for Travelling to France

From romantic châteaux to a fantastic array of French cheeses, France has gained the title of being the world’s cultural capital, and for good reason. Traveling to France is almost on everyone’s bucket list, and nobody is surprised. However, travelling surely has its ups and downs, so it is a good idea to stock up on information to help you get the best of your trip and avoid undue embarrassment.

When to Go

Depending on what your plans are, the best time to travel to France is during the spring months, between April and June, or autumn, which is anytime from September to November. The weather in France varies from region to region, but generally, the French enjoy temperate weather all year-round. July and August should be avoided as the main holidays of France fall during these months, and most locals spend their holidays in their own country.


The French are known to be quite passionate when it comes to food. Before eating a meal, it is considered polite to say “Bon Appetit.” What is not appreciated is eating on the go, the French are proud of their food and prefer that they savor every bite and take their own sweet time when dining. Also, this may come as a surprise in a country that is known for its gastronomic delights; it is always proper not to overeat.

Shop at the Local Markets

Whether you want to shop for food, clothes or bric-à-brac (knick-knacks), France has a superabundance of indoor and outdoor markets where you can find your every heart’s desire. Most towns have “marché en plein air,” or outdoor market that sells their region’s best at very reasonable prices. It is always recommended to try local delicacies wherever you may be in the country.

Culture shock

Aside from the wine, cheese, and the Eiffel Tower, the French are also known for being snooty to strangers. No matter how friendly you may think you are, the French are not the type to get comfortable with you. However, this seems to be gradually changing, so a simple “Bonjour” is sufficient enough. But if you really want to get the best side of the French, it would not hurt you to pay them a compliment. They love hearing wonderful things about them and their country.


As with any other country, France is not free from a few scrupulous souls, and it is always recommended to be on your guard. Always keep your valuables close to your body, ignore people on the streets asking you to sign a petition or give something to you that you know is not yours, these tricks usually end up in them asking you for money. Although these are very isolated incidents, it is still better to be informed. The key here is to avoid being a target.

These are not rigid rules, and it is more than recommended to loosen up and free your adventurous spirit. Enjoy the food, the fashion, the art and always remember to cherish every moment.


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Train Travel in France

Traveling by train in France is an excellent way to get around and experience more of this country blessed with beautiful landscapes. This is a cheaper and more sustainable way to see the more scenic parts of France that you would not normally have the chance to if you rent a car or take the bus. France has a fast and efficient train system, but train travel can still pose some tricky challenges that first-time tourists may find frustrating.

France is linked by the rail system with every country in Europe usually via Paris or Lille. Trains also connect over 150 cities and towns in France making it easier for you to go around rather than going by bus. Inter-regional bus services in France are extremely limited, especially in rural areas where there are only a few, and they travel far between.

Going to the south of France from Paris will only take you three hours as opposed to the eight hours you would spend if you were driving. Traveling more than 200 mph, the trains can whisk passengers from Paris to Lyon in just under two hours. Taking the rail rockets can be more expensive, but it will surely save you time and in the long run, money as well.

Booking and buying tickets can be simple enough if you do a little research. It is essential that you pre-book tickets online, by phone, or at the train station by making a reservation. Getting your tickets through the French national train agency, the Sociète Nationale de Chemins de Fer, or SNCF is a cheaper alternative.

Paris has six international rail stations, each serving a different part of Europe. France has this centuries-old Paris-centered nature, so the majority of the main railway lines radiate from Paris, which makes services between provincial towns infrequent and slow. Also, many train stations have car renting agencies allowing you a combination of car exploration and train travel easily.

It is highly recommended to do a little research on when’s the best time to travel. Train travel is popular not only for the tourists but also for the locals as well, so be prepared and plan ahead as most train seats can be quickly filled during weekends and holidays.

Boarding the train half an hour before departure guarantees that you will get a good seat, depending on which rail system you are using, some have pre-booked seats, and some will let you choose. One very important thing you should remember before boarding that train is to have your ticket validated at one of the SNCF validating machines to avoid paying a steep fine.

France has a very efficient railway system, but train travel can still be somewhat exasperating if you do not know what to do. But overall, train travel is one of the best ways to see more of the country easily, and comfortably. If you equip yourself with the right information, traveling around the rural side of France can be an exciting and ultimately rewarding experience.


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