What better way to explore France than to rent a gite or villa for a week or two? There are lots of reasons why you might choose a holiday rental instead of a hotel...
You have the whole property to yourself to come and go as you please
You almost always have your own garden or outdoor area and sometimes even your own swimming pool
Some parts of France are quite rural and hotels in these areas can be few and far between so renting a villa might be the best option
Gites and villas can be excellent value for money, especially if you are travelling as a family or group of travellers
HomeAway has been operating for many years and features a very extensive range of villas and apartments in all parts of France and in a very wide range of prices, from the smallest cottage in the countryside to the largest luxury villa on the French Riviera.
You might associate Booking.com with hotels but in recent years they have started listing Holiday Rentals, and now have a very large selection available as well as one of the easiest sites to navigate and refine your search.
We recommend these two sites for finding the best Holiday Rentals in France because they are long established and successful, and each property features lots of photos, information and visitor reviews so you know exactly what you are booking!
Use the search below to find places in France - anywhere from the largest city to the smallest village!
Find French places
Places in France: decide where to visit
Almost every region in France has something interesting to discover - quiet villages, stunning scenery, historical buildings lost in the countryside, beaches...
...so before rushing to visit the most popular regions why not think about somewhere else for a change? You can avoid the crowds and still have a great time discovering the 'real' France!
Bring your car to France with Eurotunnel. Drive on at Folkestone, and off at Calais just 35 minutes later and straight on to the fast French autoroute system for your onward journey. Prices start from just £49 one way for a car with four passengers!
Rail Europe is the UK subsidiary of SNCF French railways and the leading supplier of rail travel to France. It is therefore the ideal place to organise your rail travel to and within France (or InterRail tickets for trains elsewhere in Europe). Start your train journey here:
Popular destinations with Rail Europe include Bordeaux, Provence, Paris and the east of France....and of course Disneyland Paris!
Cross-Channel Ferries to France: routes, timetables and booking ferries
If you are driving to your holiday in France from the UK you are going to need to book a cross channel ferry or channel tunnel crossing!
Further down this page we have summarised the principal driving times from some of the ferry ports to some of the most popular destinations in France
Search for best prices on your cross-channel ferry crossing
An alternative to the cross-channel ferry is to cross the channel by EuroTunnel - both quick and easy to use, and with very frequent trains running - up to five trains per hour, and no risk of delays due to bad weather. The crossing from Folkestone to Calais takes just 35 minutes, costs from only £49 one-way, and has direct access to the motorway network so you are soon on your way.
The more common ferry routes to France sometimes have more than one operator running ferries on the same route. The most popular routes are:
Dover - Boulogne or Calais
Plymouth - Roscoff (also Bilbao and Santander in Spain)
Poole - Cherbourg or Saint-Malo
Portsmouth - Caen, Cherbourg, Le Havre or Saint-Malo
Note that some of these crossings (those departing from Dover) only take about an hour, while others take several hours or sail overnight.
The longer crossings cost more, and cabin accommodation may also be needed. You will need to carefully balance the extra time spent on the crossing with the cost, the saving in driving time and expense, and the convenience of arriving after a night sleeping on a ferry.
The crossings from Plymouth to Santander and Bilbao are as much a mini-cruise as a ferry crossing, take more than 24 hours for the voyage, and are sometimes used by those visiting far south-west france eg Biarritz.
Driving times and distances in France from ferry ports to selected destinations
Distances in miles - see table below this one for distances in kilometres
We have carefully selected the companies offering the cheapest flights to France, car hire companies and cross channel ferries that we could find for your trip to France. Check out the travel pages above - we believe the companies we have identified offer the best value, reliability and quality of service.
Check out the prices for your cross-channel ferries, flights to France etc on these pages first - if you find cheaper travel prices anywhere else please let us know and we will consider adding them to the France travel info page.
Airport destinations and arrivals
Note: there are now more than 25 regional airports operating in France - to find flights, hotels or car hire for a specific airport location please use the list at French airports to find the destination airport you are interested in.
What is the cheapest way to travel to France?
This is a very popular question! Of course there is no single answer. If you are single or there are two of you travelling, flying and car hire is often cheaper than driving. But for those having to pay for flights for children - and children usually don't receive much discount on flights - it is often cheaper to drive.
But really so much depends on where you are going on France (petrol costs to reach the south of France are not negligible), how long you are staying (car hire will start to look expensive after two or three weeks), that there is no single cheapest way to travel.
More complications? Most holidays run Saturday to Saturday - so that is when flights are most expensive. If you can travel midweek you can often pay less for your travel, but will have less choice of where to stay when you get there!
You can't even assume that the cheap airlines are cheaper than the 'standard' airlines, so to be sure of spending as little as possible I'm afraid you need to do quite a bit of research first.
And lastly...time is valuable! Often by flying to France and hiring a car you can save 12-24 hours holiday time at either end of your stay.
Several budget airlines operate to France, and the number of flights and destinations is constantly increasing, especially during the summer months. See further down this page for detailed UK to France flight routes and details of airlines.
Flight search - find best value flights to France with Skyscanner
Please enter different or more specific start points and destinations to restrict your search results
Budget flights, UK - France
Flights to France from the UK are often with the 'low-cost airlines' although scheduled flights sometimes also offer competitive prices, and greater flexibility on flight times - so be sure to check all options if you are looking for prices of flights to France.
Skyscanner is very efficient at finding the best budget flights to and from any given French airport.
There has been a great increase in the number of airlines and routes available between the UK and France in recent years, and most French regions are now accessible with at least one of these new airports. Many of the main budget flight routes between the UK and France are shown below. (Note: we try to maintain this list but can offer no guarantees to its accuracy since new routes are frequently added and others removed.) See also our map of the main French airports.
*Note: all fights shown are direct (I think!) except some of the Air France flights that may have a stop en-route to your destination.
Leeds/Bradford - Angers : Eastern Airways
Newcastle - Angers : Eastern Airways
Southampton - Angers : Eastern Airways
See more details, hotels, car hire and cheap flights at Angers airport
See more details, hotels, car hire and cheap flights at Tours airport
Note: the cheap airlines operator is Ryanair (not Ryannair or Ryanaair and not Rayanair or Raynair - apparently all these versions are very common with people searching for cheap flights to France!!)
Choose a destination
Hotels in France
Very wide choice of Hotels in all regions of France
Reserve online now, pay later at the hotel
Thousands of Visitor Reviews - make your selection easier
best price guarantee
The hotel search will find numerous hotels in France to suit all tastes and budgets. The hotels feature reviews and ratings from previous customers and can be booked online immediately.
France Hotels search - how it works
Search from thousands of hotels in all regions and towns in France. The search above operates in collaboration with the popular hotel site booking.com to ensure you get the best possible deal for your hotels in France. They offer a very wide range of hotels across all parts of France, of all standards and facilities, and at very good prices - including a 'best price guarantee'. Of course, your hotels can be booked online immediately.
Guidance - booking hotels in France
Things to remember when booking your hotel:
- Check the hotel is in the right location! Often many hotels will be listed under your choice of French town...but some will be very centrally placed and others on the edge of town
- Parking can be important especially in cities and larger towns. Some hotels will have free parking, some paid parking, and some will direct you to a nearby car park. Free parking is worth a few euros a day on the price in a large town, and can reduce the hassle of finding a parking place
- Breakfast. Some hotels don't include breakfast in the price, most will include a continental style breakfast, and some will have a full self-service buffet. A continental style breakfast can be very minimalist - a couple of croissants, coffee and fruit juice will usually be the minimum provided
- Room size and facilities. If you have special requirements or limited mobility be sure the hotel can cater for your particular requirements
- be sure you have understood the price correctly and know exactly what is included or not included
- cancellation policy. Every hotel in France will have its own cancellation penalties - be sure you know what you are signing up for at the time of making your reservation. If there is a realistic possibility that you will need to cancel, or your travel insurance doesn't cover the cost, make sure you are clear about the policy for your particular choice of hotel
France is officially divided into 22 administrative regions (plus four overseas), then further divided into 96 departments.
Each French department falls entirely within one region, and has its own local 'capital' town - called a prefecture. Each department is further subdivided into 'communes' - locally administered areas (there are approximately 37,000 communes in France, approximately representing each place in France).
Confusingly some parts of France that you might visit are best known by their 'department' name e.g. Dordogne is a department forming part of the Aquitaine region, while others are better known under their region name eg Brittany (where the region includes several departments)
The departments below are listed by department number - these department numbers are very widely used, including being the first two digits of French postcodes. and the last two digits of a car registration number (until spring 2010).
* Note: these listings provide complete alphabetical list of all the communes in France, by department - which in turn will provide you with maps, tourist information, hotels and places of interest for each of these communes (Paris communes are grouped together).
The four overseas departments are Guadelope, Martinique, La Réunion and Guyane
See 'Places to visit in France' for a map of the regions of France. This list of departments in France should help if you know what department you want to visit e.g. Dordogne 24 but you don't know which region it forms part of.
Map of the departments of France.
Discover the communes of France
A commune in France is a local 'administrative unit' and can be as small as a few hectares - or as large as Paris! There are about 36,000 communes in total across the country.
Almost every town or village you have ever heard of in France is a commune, although occasionally very small places are part of an adjoining commune, or a cluster of scattered small villages might have different village names but share the same commune name (this will be marked on the village signpost as you enter).
Starting from the indexes below you can locate almost every place in France - and certain information - their position on a map, local places of interest, airports and hotels nearby etc. Either search by alphabetical order or see the communes listed by department.
Be sure to get a car hire quote from carhireengine before you book elsewhere...!
General Car Hire Advice and warnings
If you have never driven a car in France see driving in France for local rules and guidance. The comments below apply to anyone hiring and driving a car abroad, whichever country it is:
- Cheap is good, but cheapest is not always best! car hire companies vary in what is included in the price and have a tendency to try and add costs when you collect the car (e.g. overpriced children car seats, extra insurance) that you might not have needed with a different company. try and be clear what the price includes
- beware of petrol policy. Some car hire companies now supply a car on the basis that it is given you with a full tank of petrol but should be returned with an empty tank, and they will charge you for one tank of petrol as well as the rental cost. apart from the fact their petrol is unlikely to be competitively priced, if you don't drive much and only use half the tank of petrol you have still paid for a whole tank
- Size is important. We have hired a 'seats 4' car ourselves only to find it had literally no boot space at all. Changing to a larger car at the time of collection is a good way to ensure you are paying the highest possible price for your car rental! Much better to make sure the vehicle is big enough to travel around in comfort in the first place!
Extra rental costs
Additional charges are often levied by car rental companies for:
extra insurance such as collision damage waiver - you can typically buy a separate policy from insurance companies to cover this at much less cost
GPS systems are often available at an extra cost. Before you pay, make sure yours can be used in English if you don't speak French...
child seats can cost 10 euros a day each, roof racks a similar amount
air conditioning, which is usually a necessity in the south of France
most companies will charge for cleaning if you bring the car back in a poor state at the end of your stay. No eating in the car is a good rule!
hire cars typically have quite a generous milage allowance, but one might still apply. If it dies don't exceed it or the cost will likely by excessively expensive
Other information and suggestions
Check that you know where the petrol cap is and how to open it! Also be sure you know what kind of fuel (petrol or diesel) it uses - I was called over by a desperate driver in the motorway services recently, who had hired a car and had no idea whether it took diesel or petrol, and as far as we could see it didn't say anywhere at all in the documents...
In France your car will include an accident report form which must be filled in correctly in case of an incident
When you arrive to pick up your France rental car be sure you have checked it for every little dent, scratch or missing hubcap so that there is no dispute when you return the vehicle.
Paris city breaks
From cheap weekend Paris breaks to a fortnight in the city of romance, a visit is quick and easy to organise, and need not cost too much. There are hotels in Paris to suit all budgets, flights are available from all major cities, and combined flight-hotel deals also often offer great prices.
Stop Dreaming, Start Planning your Trips to Paris now!
Too complicated to plan it all yourself or simply don't have the time? See the 'flight + hotel' paris option. Everything you need for your perfect Paris break is included here - from hotels to prebooked guided tours, from Disneyland to cheap entry to all the major attractions - and all from leading suppliers at best prices.
To offer a very wide selection of hotels in Paris - you can choose from more than 950 hotels - we work with booking.com, one of the leading hotel suppliers in the world and with very competitive prices - including their best price guarantee (see their site for details). Book online, pay at the hotel.
Keycamp have two great Paris locations where you can stay with easy access to Paris and also Disneyland Paris, in the well-maintained family-orientated campsites for which they are known (and loved) across France. A Paris camping holiday is also one of the lowest cost ways to visit the city.
If you don't want the hassle of organising flights and hotels separately, we are pleased to recommend Expedia for complete combined packages ie hotels and flights booked together -they have a long track record of successfully organising city breaks at great prices. (see search box above)
The Paris Pass is a great idea for your visit. The price includes entrance to many of the highlights and attractions in Paris, free travel on the Metro and other public transport, and gives you the chance to avoid some of the queues as well. Save money, save time and save the hassle
No page about visiting Paris would be complete without including Disneyland Paris, and no mention of Disneyland Paris would be complete without a big colourful all-singing all-dancing advert. So here is one. Click on it and make your children very happy, Paris city breaks wouldn't be the same without a day out at Disneyland!
Travel to Paris: If you want to discover some of the Paris highlights before you book your city break, visit our Paris Travel guide - which includes some interesting articles for out of the way places, best vantage points, etc.
Eating in Paris: See Eat in Paris, the No. 1 Internet guide for restaurants to visit during your Paris break, where you can choose from an up-to-date selection of more than 2200 establishments.
Gardens to visit: Visit Paris Gardens for some of the most interesting gardens to enjoy during your stay.
This is an index for all the places reviewed on france this way. Please see explore France if you prefer to start exploring by French region. There are two indexes below:
1) Places of interest, tourist sites, and places that have been reviewed on francethisway
2) A list of all places (communes) in France. Since these are 36,000 of these the lists can be a little unwieldy, but are a useful way to quickly identify all the places of interest near a selected destination town or place, or to find hotels nearby - not every visit to France revolves around a tourist destination!.
Note: the indexed pages on the lower list include ALL communes in France - about 36,000 of them! There are many we have no information for (and many that are of no interest to tourists) but each has a page showing it's location, places of interest nearby, hotels in the region etc. So you can use these detailed lists of places to explore around a place, even if the place itself is very small!
Browse the letter of your choice for a particular place, or use the 'search site' at the top of each page to find a particular place in France, or use the menu options to explore France by region.
You know that you want to come to France...but don't yet know where, or what to do?
See below for some inspiration with ideas based on our own extensive travels in France, whatever type of visit you are searching for, from a fortnight on a beach in summer to a springtime tour of the best gardens in France - some are very well known, others a little off the beaten track...
The above are just a few suggestions and don't begin to cover the many beautiful places to be discovered in all regions of France. Be sure to explore the site to discover hundreds more options for your visit, and let us know if your 'inspiration' is somewhere else altogether different...
Holiday villages and holiday resorts are a very popular way to visit France, providing excellent value for money and great facilities.
According to the resort, you can expect outdoor and indoor swimming pools, tennis courts, free childrens' clubs, restaurants and bars on site, even golf...
Many of the villages are also in great locations near some of the most beautiful regions of France, including beach holidays in places such as the French Riviera, Vendee and the Atlantic Coast.
The locations of the main 'holiday villages' are shown on the map to the right - just choose your location to get started!
More holiday residences
As well as these popular holiday villages, Pierre and Vacances have a large number - almost 200 - of other holiday apartments and residences, offering slightly less facilities but still with all you need for the perfect trip.
Of course, many of these are near the coast and the most popular seaside towns such as Saint-Tropez and Cannes on the Riviera, Belle Dune in northern France (very convenient for those arriving in Calais) and Houlgate in Normandy.
Perhaps you associate holiday residences with the seaside but in fact Pierre et Vacances have apartments in the countryside as well, in locations including Pont Royal near Aix-en-Provence, Eguisheim in Alsace, the Ardeche, at Loches in the Loire valley and Argentat in the Limousin.
Tip: when travelling ourselves out of season we sometimes stay in one of the countryside holiday apartments ourselves because of their exceptional locations and value for money, and because they give us a bit more flexibility than we get from staying in a hotel (they are great for cyclists and hikers!)
Likewise, there is a wide choice of accommodation in the mountains for both winter sports and summer exploring in the most popular resorts such as Courchevel, Avoriaz and Belle Plagne.
We should also mention one other highlight for the budget-conscious! Over the years we have found that Pierre and Vacances are probably the company that has most consistently given good discounts on their prices, both for those who book early and for last-minute bookings, and also other occasional special offers e.g. during school holidays.
If you think you would like to stay in one of these holiday villages or apartments but it would be too expensive, and would be cheaper for you to book a holiday rental or hotel, we highly recommend that you check their website for any special offers, often at extremely good prices.
For example, at the time of writing you can book a week for 4 people in August at Cap Esterel, in an apartment with a sea view, for £775 / 1200 USD (I have stayed at Cap Esterel myself which is why it caught my attention).
This offer will have expired by the time you are reading this but there are always others - see current special offers.
A total of about 155 villages across mainland France and two in Corsica have been given the prestigious 'most beautiful villages of France' award. The villages are listed below by region and there is a map showing all the 'beautiful villages of France' to help you find those near your destination.
Which do we think is the 'most beautiful village in France'?
We haven't visited all of them yet, but of those we have (more than 100?) Conques (Midi-Pyrenees) and Monpazier (Dordogne) would rate very highly as my ideal 'most beautiful village', with Gordes (Provence) and Locronan (Brittany) as third place contenders.
Selected French villages to explore...by region
Alsace: Most Beautiful Villages
Of the many beautiful traditional villages in Alsace, Eguisheim is one of our favourites
We have visited and have detailed information pages and a photo gallery for many of the villages shown - see individual places for details. Remember: there are of course numerous villages that are very attractive but not classified!
Map showing the classified most beautiful villages in France
On the map showing all the villages you can see that although they are widely dispersed across France, there is also a significant amount of 'clustering' - with certain areas having more than their fair share of 'Most beautiful villages of France' - the Dordogne and Luberon areas in particular.
There are 85 designated national monuments in France, places of historical importance that are now looked after by the state for the benefit of all.
The national Monuments cover a wide range of buildings and structures, from archaeological sites and prehistoric caves to renaissance castles and buildings housing items relating to important people in France's history (eg the collection related to Marshall Foch).
This section is about the challenges and realities of moving to France, either to retire or to setup in business. All the common problems are examined - from getting a mortgage to buy a French property to learning the language and putting your children into a French school. Each section has several parts.
If you live in France and have experiences of French life to share, or you would like to live in France, please send us an article about yourself or your business. We would like to establish a series of 'real-life' stories for our site visitors. As well as the prestige (!) of seeing your article in print you will also gain a little publicity for your business!
Many of the topics on this page are also covered informally in our French life blog where descriptions of our day to day experiences are enhanced by comments from other experienced French expats.
Information within this section (and all the france this way site) is provided for guidance only and francethisway can in no circumstances be held liable for the information, which is supplied in good faith but should be verified with an appropriate legal adviser.
St-Ceneri-le-Gerei is a very pretty village in a lovely wooded setting on a bend in the River Sarthe in the heart of southern Normandy, in the Orne department to the south-west of Alencon, and officially classified as a 'most beautiful village of France'.
The history of the village dates from the 7th century when an Italian called Ceneri decided to settle here, having witnessed a miracle, and soon attracted a group of disciples who constructed a monastery (the original monastery was destroyed by the vikings in the early 10th century).
A bit more light-hearted, we have come up with some Top 10 lists for France, from the top French quotes and cheeses, to French popstars, and from French classic cars to the most infamous French criminals - see top 10 lists for these and more...
Through history, and perhaps above all during the 19th century, France has played a leading role in the arts and has been influential in their development both within France and elsewhere, especially across Europe.
The French artists, the poets and writers, the music and the architecture are perhaps the best known examples - think of the chateaux of the Loire Valley, or perhaps the Impressionist Art movement that largely originated in France, or the great novels by Victor Hugo or Marcel Proust.
The recipes here are those that best represent the food that French people eat day in and day out, with locally available ingredients, and are quick and easy to make at home, as well as being very tasty. Food is of great importance to the French, and forms a great part of the French tradition. See French food for general information about regional variations or French cuisine for a basic introduction.
You can also read about a traditional communal French meal - the menu for our local commune dinner: vermicelli soup, melon with port, venison...
I have not always bothered too much with quantities in the French recipes, since these depend on how many people there are and so on, and because the quantities are reasonably unimportant. If your cassoulet has more pork and less toulouse sausage, that is not a big problem! For critical recipes I have included quantities.
You will also see that I have included some of the more derided recipes, such as coq au vin and quiche lorraine. It's not my fault if 1000 pubs and restaurants have ruined them, try making them yourself!
Property renovation in France and barn renovation in France
Buying and renovating a property in France can be stressful, time-consuming and expensive - but get it right and it will be the most exciting decision you ever made, with a lovely home or a lifetime of great holidays to follow!
It isn't easy to know where to start when you are planning to visit France! We suggest you first select a region, then a department within that region, then an area within that department when deciding where to visit...to get you started, below we mention the main reasons each region attracts visitors
Our travel guides review each region of France, then each regional travel guide has more detailed department travel guides, each in turn with reviews and guides for many of the most popular places to visit throughout France. Start exploring here:
Northern France with Brittany, Normandy & Paris
The north-west is a very popular region of France with visitors, including the coastline and islands of Brittany, the popular family beaches of the Western Loire (Pays-de-la-Loire region) and the unspoiled countryside, gardens and traditional architecture of Normandy
See the Paris travel guide if you are planning a visit to the most famous city in the world!
Central France with the Loire Valley & Burgundy
The Burgundy region is best known for its scenery, historic towns and vineyards, while further west the Loire Valley (the Centre region) contains numerous world famous chateaux.
To the east of here are the attractive hills and countryside of the Franche Comte region, while the western coast and Poitou-Charentes includes highlights such as historic La Rochelle and the beaches of the Ile-de-Ré.
In the heart of France, the Limousin region includes some of the least visited but most attractive scenery in the country and you can enjoy the rugged beauty and unspoiled countryside of the Auvergne region, also part of the extensive Massif Central area.
Southern France with Provence and the Dordogne
The south-east attracts more visitors than any other region of France because of the many scenic highlights and extensive Mediterranean coast in Provence and along the Cote d'Azur (French Riviera). The very scenic Rhone Alpes region is to the north of here and Corsica, often referred to as the 'Island of Beauty', is off the coast to the south.
Travelling west from here it is the coast and scenery of Languedoc-Roussillon that attracts many visitors, while the Midi-Pyrenees extends northwards from the Pyrenees mountains along the Spanish border to the villages and gorges around Cahors and Figeac.
In south-west France the Aquitaine region is famous for its Atlantic beaches, 19th century resorts such as Biarritz, and the countryside and villages of the Dordogne department.
We can help you visit any town, village or region of France...