Great areas of France for a first time visitor

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First time visiting France and no idea where to start? Our quick guide shows 'at a glance' which areas most visitors - both first-time visitors and others - are drawn to the most often.

As you can see this is hardly a detailed guide to all that France has to offer but should at least get you started with a few ideas and reminders of where to visit! Below the map are the links to the relevant sections of france This Way where you can find more details.

Popular areas of France for first time visitors

Overall the most popular areas of France with first time visitors are Paris, the Cote d'Azur, Provence, Brittany and the Dordogne. See details of all places shown and more below the map.

Where to visit in France for first time visitors

Where do you want to go in France?

Your ideal destination depends on what you like to see! Although we group things by interest below, of course many regions have lots to see, so scenic areas often have picturesque villages, beaches are often close to traditional harbour towns and so on.

Castles

Chateau ChantillyTwo areas in France are particularly visited for their castles. The Loire valley to the south-west of Paris is best known for its renaissance chateaux, built by rich noblemen and kings from Paris. See Loire castles.

Towards the south of France the Dordogne is famous for its medieval castles resulting from the regions role in the hundred years war. See Dordogne castles for details.

Family fun in the west

VendeeAmong the most popular regions with people visiting France with children are the beaches of the western coast such as those found in the Vendee department, which also has several large attractions and events for families.

Another popular destination here is the Ile-de-Ré, also with lots of beaches and well known for having loads of cycle paths to make it a pleasure to get around.

Beaches

Lacanau oceanWhere to start! France has thousands of beaches to meet every requirement. Among the most popular with both first time visitors and regular visitors are those along the sun-baked French riviera (see Cote d'Azur), the long sandy beaches of the Atlantic Coast north of Biarritz (see Atlantic beaches) and the very picturesque coast of Brittany (see Brittany seaside).

Our personal favourites are the Atlantic beaches around Biarritz.

Mountains

deux-AlpesPopular both summer and winter, it is the French Alps that will attract most first-time skiers to France.

See ski resorts in the Alps for an introduction to the most popular. Less visited by overseas visitors, the Pyrenees would make an interesting alternative - see ski resorts in the Pyrenees.

Villages

BelcastelThere are beautiful villages in most areas of France. If you are visiting France for a chance to explore some of these traditional villages I think that you will see the most 'beautiful villages per square kilometre' in the Luberon, central Alsace, the countryside of Normandy and along the river in the Dordogne.

If pushed I would say first-time visitors should head for the villages of the Dordogne. Others will certainly disagree, especially people loving in Brittany, Burgundy, Franch-Comté or the Atlantic-Pyrenees, just a few of the other regions with exceptional villages!

Paris

Montmartre region of ParisStill by far the most popular destination with first-time visitors to France, Paris is also guaranteed to exceed all your expectations of what it will be like!

It really is the most beautiful city in the world - see Paris guide for just a few of the many highlights.

First World War battlefields and Second World War landing beaches

Aisne in PicardyThese regions are both very popular with visitors interested in history, and with those who lost family members during one of the wars that raged in France during the 20th century.

See Aisne for details of the most visited war cemeteries or Normandy Landing beaches.

Scenery

Gorges du TarnLast but certainly not least is the chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery that France has to offer. The most popular and most visited areas with people who want to enjoy the natural beauty in France include Normandy (why not travel the Normandy cider route as a great introduction), the renowned Dordogne area of south-west France, the villages and vineyards along the Alsace wine route.

Our personal favourite among the scenic areas of France covers the broad area in southern France between the Dordogne and Provence that includes the Gorges du Tarn, the Gorges de l'Ardeche and the Gorges du Verdon. Stunning and highly recommended to anyone planning a first visit to France to enjoy the natural scenery!

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