…a country that seduces travellers with its unfalteringly familiar culture woven around cafe terraces, village-square markets and lace-curtained bistros with their plat du jour (dish of the day) chalked on the board
France is all about world-class art and architecture, Roman temples and Renaissance châteaux, iconic landmarks known the world over, and rising stars few yet know. Stroll the lily-clad gardens Monet painted and savour un café at the Parisian cafe where Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir met to philosophise. See glorious pasts blaze forth and imagine the life of a French king at bourgeois Versailles. View tomorrow's art stars in squats secreted in abandoned 19th-century Haussmann mansions in Paris, or at new headline-grabbing museums up north. Drink cocktails in a shabby-chic Nantes warehouse. Listen to Marseille rap and Parisian jazz. Sense the subtle infusion of language, music and mythology in Brittany, brought by 5th-century Celtic invaders. Yes, French culture offers never-ending possibilities to fill any stay in France.
Gastronomic Art de Vivre
Or perhaps it is the French feast of fine food and wine that woos so many travellers. (This is, after all, the country that entices more than any other: with more than 80 million visitors a year, it ranks as the world's top tourist destination.) But know that gastronomic France goes far deeper than Parisian bistro dining, long lunches outside, shopping for fruit and veg at the market and wolfing down croissants hot from the boulangerie (bakery) for breakfast. Learn how to make petits fours with the kids in Paris or flip crêpes in Brittany; taste wine with one of the world's top sommeliers in Bordeaux; visit an Atlantic Coast oyster farm; drink Champagne in ancient cellars in Reims; tour a Provençal melon farm; harvest olives, peaches and cherries in the hot south… and understand that food is as much an art de vivre (art of living) for the French as an essential to survive.
Then there is the terroir (land) and the startlingly varied journey it weaves from northern France's cliffs and sand dunes to the bright-blue sea of the French Riviera and Corsica's green oak forests. Outdoor action is what this lyrical landscape calls for, be it fast-paced and pulse-racing, slow and relaxed, solo or en famille. Walk barefoot across wave-rippled sand to Mont St-Michel; ride the cable car to mind-blowing glacial panoramas above mountaineering mecca Chamonix; cartwheel down Europe's highest sand dune; surf in Biarritz; ski the Alps; hike from one extinct volcano to another in the Massif Central; float between locks or pedal the towpath along the Canal du Midi. The action is endless and the next adventure just begging to be had.
Best places to stay in France
Walking in a wacky wonderland… nine remarkable winter celebrations of the world
Who says Christmas has to be conventional? Pudding races, turkey parades and encounters with birch rod-lashing Alpine devils should all be on your calendar this festive season. Read on to unwrap some of the world's craziest Christmas and New Year events.
Best chateaux in France
Best places to eat in France
France destination guides
In the springtime, the autumn, the winter (when it drizzles) or the summer (when it sizzles!), this romantic city seduces every moment of the year.
The calm before (and during) the holiday storm
If when people sing 'Oh ho, the mistletoe…' you hear 'uh oh, the stress and woe…', then you need an injection of calm this holiday season. Stress and anxiety can ruin yuletide festivities, but rest assured, there are ways to embrace the insanity – in fact, every global culture has methods of keeping cool in tense times.
Best French mountains
Moulin Rouge Show Paris
The Moulin Rouge is the number one show in Paris, if not the whole of Europe. No wonder it sells out quickly! Don't miss your chance to see the world-renowned showgirls and French Cancan dancers strut their stuff on the Moulin Rouge's historic stage. Moulin Rouge Paris sells out months in advance.
Moulin Rouge Paris Dinner and Show
Enjoy an evening dinner show at the Moulin Rouge the number one show in Paris. With a choice of three different dinner menus, don't miss your chance to see the world-renowned showgirls and French Cancan dancers strut their stuff on the Moulin Rouge's historic stage. Moulin Rouge Paris sells out months in advance, so book ahead to avoid disappointment.
Best beginners' climbs
Lace up your boots and slip on a harness as we bring you 10 beginners’ climbs to blow your mind. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures. Imja Tse (Island Peak), Nepal Trekkers on Island Peak. Image by Christian Kober / Robert Harding World Imagery / Getty Images.