Being in social isolation doesn't stop us dreaming of all the places we'd like to visit; in fact now we've got even more time to daydream. Escape on a virtual vacation to bring a little piece of France to your living room.

Whether you’re after passion and fashion in the capital, picture-perfect rustic rural villages, or sweeping historical and gastronomic tours, France’s culture, countryside and cuisine make it one of the most visited countries in the world.

While you may not be able to hop on a plane for a romantic break, a week by the sea or a wine tour right now, luckily for us, there’s a huge choice available when it comes to French film and literature in particular. So start your French day off right: put a croissant in the oven (or some hot chocolate in a bowl) and curl up with one of our suggestions below.

LP Dordogne
Château de Castelnaud – built between the 13th and 17th centuries – looms over the Dordogne Valley ©Andrew Montgomery/Lonely Planet

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Best Movies

Light Relief
Amélie (2001): This French rom-com starring Audrey Tautou as a young Parisian is charming, emotional, and funny. Its message about taking joy from the simple things in life – popping bubble wrap being one example – is one we can all hopefully take something positive from at the moment.
A Good Year (2006): This Ridley Scott film staring Russell Crowe, is based on the book of the same name by Peter Mayle. The tagline is "Sometimes it takes a change of scenery to have a change of heart." And there’s no doubt that the scenery is beautiful. It will seduce you even if Russell doesn’t.
The Chorus (French: Les Choristes), (2004): This is a sweet and enjoyable film set in a French boarding school, whose story is inspired by the origin of the boys' choir The Little Singers of Paris. It may be a little predictable, but it’s definitely heart-warming and the soundtrack will make you feel like you’re the inhabitant of a small French village at a local choir recital.
I Lost My Body (2019): This French animated feature has an unusual plot: it’s the story of a disembodied hand trying to reunite with its body, traveling through Paris to find its owner. Based on Guillaume Laurant's book, Happy Hand, it’s an original and uplifting story that you won’t forget in a hurry.

Moulin Rouge in Paris, France at night
The Moulin Rouge by night in Paris ©MaxOzerov/Getty Images

Tear Jerkers
Moulin Rouge (2001): More than a vehicle for Ewan MacGregor’s singing voice, and set in a seedy cabaret (which you can still visit in Montmartre), this musical depicts a darker Paris, one of glamour but ultimately tragedy. With great performances from the stars and incredible costumes, this is everything you’d expect from a Baz Luhrmann film and more.
Untouchable (French: Intouchables) (2011): A huge box office hit in France, this film tells the tale of an unlikely friendship between a wealthy quadriplegic and his unconventional caregiver. Inspired by a true story, it tackles issues of race and disability, and it's firmly in the category of "feelgood."

Darker Viewing
Rust and Bone (French: De rouille et d'os) (2012): Set in Antibes and based on a short story collection of the same name by Craig Davidson, this is French-Belgian romantic drama film has a distressing storyline but is incredibly powerful. Marion Cotillard suffers a terrible accident in her workplace and the film charts her survival and her relationship with her friend, a single father played by Matthias Schoenaerts.
A Prophet (French: Un prophète) (2009): This hard-hitting French crime drama tells the story of a young Muslim man, incarcerated in a prison in Marseilles. Winner of the Grand Prix at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, this is a gritty look at the prison system in contemporary France, with a glimmer of hope contained in its illiterate but intelligent protagonist. If you like crime dramas and are looking for a bingeable TV series, we recommend Engrenages (Spiral), a French police drama set in Paris.

Listen

Edith Piaf

Edith Piaf is probably the most famous French singer of all time, and "Non, je ne regrette rien" is one of her most famous recordings. It’s a wonderfully melodramatic song to sing along to. You may be tempted to go down a Piaf rabbit hole and watch La Vie en rose (2007) which charts her life.

Christophe Maé

If you’re in the mood for something more modern and more uplifting, how about some French pop, courtesy of Christophe Maé’s Mon Paradis album? Imagine you’re sitting by a pool, Mediterranean sun on your face, sipping Provencal rose and it’s impossible not to feel cheered up. Or for something with more modern and electronic, try Christine and the Queens.

Best Reads

Classics
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo is the classic French masterpiece, telling the story of ex-convict Jean Valjean. Set in early 19th-century France, it contains stark portrayals of poverty and a memorable cast of characters. It is also one of the longest novels in history and if you’re not feeling strong enough to start it right now, you can also enjoy the 2012 epic film directed by Tom Hooper.
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway is a memoir of his time as a young writer in Paris in the 1920s while married to his first wife, where he socialized with figures such as Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and Pablo Picasso. Hemingway, a Nobel and Pulitzer prizewinner, paints a vivid picture of the people and places he discovered – many of the latter can still be visited in Paris. (For a more modern, female perspective on Hemingway’s marriage(s), try Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood).
Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a beautifully evocative novel, and Fitzgerald’s last. Often read as an insight into the author’s relationship with his wife Zelda, it’s set in the French Riviera, where glamorous couple Dick and Nicole Diver holiday. The Riviera, a playground for the rich and discontented, is a stylish backdrop to the disintegration of their marriage.
Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan, published when the author was just 18, is the sensuous story of a schoolgirl’s summer romance. It’s thought-provoking with a wonderful opening and caused a scandal when it first appeared.

Travel Writing
A Year In Provence is one of the most popular travel books of all time. Written by the author Peter Mayle who also wrote A Good Year, it’s a gently amusing memoir that became a bestseller, its depiction of life in rural Provence inspiring many people to follow in the writer’s example and up sticks to the south of France in search of a simpler life.
Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell features a gritty portrayal of the two cities. The half set in France will give you a very different perspective.

Historical Fiction
Pure by Andrew Miller tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young engineer who is ordered to exhume the vast Les Innocents cemetery in Paris. It’s slightly icky subject-matter makes for grisly reading but it’s a fascinating insight into an underside of historical Paris.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind, is also on the grisly side – a gripping thriller set in 18th century France.

Best Podcasts

Join Us in France: A Podcast About All Things French – does what it says on the tin! Episodes cover travel advice, itineraries, attractions, and much more.

The Earful Tower: Hosted by an Australian expat, will show you round the city and give insights into French life through interviews with inhabitants.

Learn the Local Language

  • Bonjour - Hello 
  • Oui, s’il vous plait – Yes, please
  • Non, nerci – No, thank you
  • Pardon, excusez-moi – Apologies, excuse me
  • Parlez vous anglais? – Do you speak English?
  • Je ne comprends pas – I don’t understand

French language resources
Duolingo: specializes in bite-size, quick lessons 
Lonely Planet French phrasebook:  a handy tool filled with popular slang and vocabulary

Food

If this has whet your appetite for a true taste of France, try perfecting the macaron using this recipe. They may require a bit of practice but could a snack be more chic?

Best Videos

Drinks

Though Ernest Hemingway wasn't himself a Parisian by birth, his passion for the city led him to invent Death in the Afternoon, a cocktail rooted in two of France's best libations – champagne and absinthe. You can learn how to make it at home, with this recipe amongst other classic travel-inspired cocktails.

Cultural Highlights

The Louvre

The Palace of Versailles

Epic Landscapes

Mont Blanc

Lavender fields, Provence

Shop Online

Louis Vuitton, Coco Chanel and Hermès are some of the most well-known French brands, but you can buy French fashion without breaking the bank. And as for French food and wine, there’s enough choice to keep even the fussiest gourmets very happy indeed. Do some online browsing with these French shops who ship internationally (please note there may be some delays or restrictions due to COVID-19).

Yse – Women’s lingerie and swimwear

Rive Droite – Sustainable fashion accessories

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Rive Droite Paris (@rivedroite_paris) on

Your Sommelier – French wine

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Your Sommelier (@yoursommelier) on

You might also like: 

Driving in the footsteps of Napoleon in the south of France
Top 20 free things to do in Paris
Why you should pick Lille over Paris for your next city break

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