The "Pays de l'Agenais" is the name given to the region around the town of Agen, the prefecture of Lot-et-Garonne. An almost undiscovered area of France, the adventurous traveller will find numerous villages and small towns.
The "Pays de l'Agenais" is the name given to the region around the town of Agen, the prefecture of Lot-et-Garonne. An almost undiscovered area of France, the adventurous traveller will find numerous villages and small towns.
There are thousands of tourist attractions in France, with historic monuments and beautiful gardens, abbeys and cathedrals, museums and islands to explore among the most popular.
France This Way have visited and reviewed hundreds of the most popular of these French attractions...below you can explore these by category, and we also recommend our favourites in each category:
Discover many of the cathedrals in all areas of France, with our detailed history and visitor guides
Discover many of the best known of the 1000 castles in France, with our guides to their history and visitor information
The abbeys and cloisters are among the most interesting and beautiful of the historic monuments in France. We have guides for many of the best known, with information about their histories and visitor guides.
You can find caves and prehistoric sites in all areas of France, dating back to the earliest civilisations in Europe. Here we explore some of the most famous and most visited of these cave and sites.
We realise that a cave is not always a prehistoric settlement and a prehistoric settlement is not always a cave...but the two are often the same so we include them all in this section...
France has a wide range of landscapes, from high mountains to cliffs on the coast. Here we suggest a few of our favourites...although there are many that we have not included, such as the beautiful countryside that covers large parts of the country, so where ever you visit you are sure to find beautiful scenery nearby!
Below you can find visitor information and reviews of some of the most popular gardens in France that are open to the public
There are hundreds of museums in France, from the small local museums celebrating local history that you will find in many small towns to the famous museums such as the Louvre in Paris. Here we suggest a few of our favourite museums in France...
Because we don’t live too far from Arcachon we have visited many times, and we are often asked for our advice about the unmissable highlights for a visitor spending a few days in this popular resort.
Before you start rushing through the list of activities below, our first suggestion is - take it easy! A lot of the pleasure of a visit comes from allowing yourself time to sit on the seafront or to look in some of the many shops in the town centre.
Provence is famous among other things for its exceptionally lovely villages, and in most parts of the region you can find an unspoiled village with a medieval historic centre to explore nearby, but as with all things, some are more lovely than others!
We have explored innumerable villages both in all parts of Provence and across the other regions of France, and believe that there are several among them that are 'the best of the best'.
If your tour of Provence includes the five villages below you really will have seen the best the region has to offer, although they are quite dispersed so you will certainly see lots of other villages and a great deal of lovely countryside as you explore: which can only be a good thing...
It is not easy to see all of the highlights in Corsica in less than three weeks and just to see the most important places and sights is a challenge in two weeks so it is easier to focus on selected highlights for shorter visits.
We also detail a three week tour that could also be the basis of a two week 'action packed' tour if you want to fit as much as possible in to your Corsica trip...
The peninsula at the northern end of Corsica, with the towns of Bastia and Saint-Florent at its base, is called Cap Corse. A driving tour of Cap Corse is a very popular excursion with visitors and there is an interesting variety of scenery, villages, ports and beaches to see.
Around 100 towns in France have been classified as attractive detours: towns that are small to medium in size and contain enough historical interest or character that they are recommended places to visit as you are exploring or as you are travelling around.
There are approximately 125 towns in France that have been officially classified as Towns of Art and History - "villes d'art et histoire". These towns are each notable because they have paid particular attention to preserving the heritage and architecture of their town centres
The 'cathar castles' is the name given to the 11th-12th century castles in the Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées regions of France that were either owned by or gave shelter to members of the religious group known as the cathars during the crusade against the cathars led by Simon de Montfort for the Catholic Church under Pope Innocent IV in the years 1209-1229.
France has almost limitless possibilities for visitors - which is why it is the most popular country in the world with overseas visitors! The only challenge is knowing where to start when planning your visit...
Despite its enormous variety of natural beauty, we don't perhaps usually associate France with lakes. But there are actually lakes in almost all regions of France that deserve exploring, from small mountain lakes in the Alps to the large leisure lakes near the Atlantic Coast of south-west France and from the many lakes of the Dombes Plateau to the quiet lakes of the high Limousin and Auvergne plateaux.
The Perigord-Limousin Regional Natural Park is in south-west France, between Angouleme to the west and Limoges to the east. The park is within two different French departments: the northern part of the Dordogne, between Nontron and Jumilhac-le-Grand, and the Haute-Vienne department of Limousin to the south of Rochechouart. It covers a region of almost 2000 square kilometres.
When you are exploring this area it is the diversity of the countryside that you will enjoy, with a large amount of woodlands and forests, lots of lakes and streams, and also a substantial amount of open moorland type scenery.
There are 35 villages in France that are designated as "villages etapes".
These villages are selected because they offer a good way of making your journey more interesting - instead of stopping at a boring motorway services you can stop at a village that has character and places of interest, and offers the facilities that you need.
These villages are a good option when you are travelling during day time and usual opening hours. A motorway services might stay open 24 hours a day but a cafe in a small village probably will not!
The Creuse river is very picturesque as it crosses the Indre department, and this is a very pleasant region to explore with an interesting mix of towns, villages and scenery to enjoy.
Do you think you have travelled a lot in France? Think there's not much left to see? Try our test! See how many of 50 of the most popular towns, villages and cities in France you have already visited - and get some inspiration for your next visit...
The Dordogne river crosses much of south-west France, a journey of almost 500 kilometres from its source in the mountains of the Massif Central to its final confluence with the Garonne River before entering the Atlantic Ocean near Bordeaux.
The river changes completely in character during its voyage to the sea but retains one very important characteristic wherever you are along its course - there are numerous towns and villages and a great deal of beautiful countryside to discover nearby.
The Gatinais is a region of forests, open fields, orchards and hedgerows about 120 kilometres to the south-east of Paris and 50 kilometres east of Orleans. The Gatinais falls within three separate regions: Paris-Ile-de-France (Essonne and Seine-et-Marne departments), Centre (Loiret department) and Burgundy (Yonne department).
You have perhaps never heard the name of the Causses du Quercy Regional Natural Park, but if you have visited the south of France you might have ventured in and across the park without realising it.
Among the famous places you may have visited without realising that you are within the Causses du Quercy are the pilgrimage village of Rocamadour, the picturesque village of Saint-Cirq Lapopie and the prehistoric caves at Pech Merle. Each of these sites is listed among the 'Grand Sites of the Midi-Pyrenees' and highly recommended.
The third weekend of September in Angouleme sees the race known as “Circuit des Ramparts’”, which has been held in Angoulême for more than 70 years.
The first ever Circuit des Ramparts was held in Angoulême in 1939.
Throughout France there are several hundred places of such beauty that they have been officially listed as 'Sites of Natural Beauty'.If you are staying in the region of one or more of these we strongly recommend you find the time to visit.
Of course, there are lots of other places to visit that you will consider to be very beautiful, but which aren't officially listed!
The Loire-Anjou-Touraine regional natural park is an extensive region covering approximately 100 kilometres east to west, centred around Montsoreau in the Maine-et-Loire department (with Chinon to the east and Saumur to the west). Angers represents the western border of the natural park, and Tours the eastern frontier.
The parc approximately follows the course of the Loire River between Angers and Langeais, and also the Vienne river between L'Ile Bouchard and Montsoreau (where it joins with the Loire).
If you are looking for an excuse to escape the winter weather for a while, and also see some extraordinary scenery and natural beauty at the same time, the Route du Mimosa could be just what you are looking for.
The 'Route du Mimosa' is a scenic route through south-east Provence, largely near the coast of the French Riviera, that is designed to show the countryside and towns of the region at their best during the early spring when the mimosas are in flower
In places it is exceptionally beautiful and there is a great deal to discover in the region - especially the colours, with the contrast between the yellow of the mimosas and the blue of the sea - and also the fragrant smell of the flowers.
One of the most interesting architectural highlights in the north-west of Brittany, mostly in the Finistere department, is the large number of so-called 'Enclos paroissial' churches to be found in small villages across the region.
With the advent of cheap flights, and the lower hotel prices available outside high season, a short break in France is both affordable and a great way to get away for a few days. We have visited and reviewed a few of the most popular options for you.
Our main criteria for recommending a particular destination are:
Most people need to plan an annual holiday that packs as much as possible into two weeks - while also allowing plenty of time to relax and perhaps spend time as a family, since that's probably the main purpose of the trip!
Luckily there are numerous places in France where a two week visit gives you plenty of opportunities to explore lots of new sights and places, as well taking part in a few entertainments and activities - and also spending time at the beach or around the pool.
The Roya Valley follows the French-Italian border near Tende and through the southern Alps from the Mediterranean at Ventimiglia (Italy), and a day following its course makes a very enjoyable day trip from Menton or Nice on the French Riviera.
For our visit we are starting at Breil-sur-Roya and following the Upper Roya Valley upstream as far as Tende - south of Breil the river is largely in Italy.
The French Riviera has many places of great beauty just waiting to be discovered but there is a problem, especially if you visit in the summer months - the roads can be very busy and parking is often a major challenge.
Luckily there is an exceptionally convenient train service that operates along the coast which is cheap to use, has a regular service and stops at all of the most important towns and villages.
Shopping in France means different things to different people! For some it simply means browsing the gift shops in their favourite village or seaside town, for others a visit to one of the (many) traditional local French markets is the highlight of a visit.
For foreign visitors to simply stroll through a French supermarket to see how it is different from those at home is an event in itself....
In 1814 Napoleon was sent into exile on the Island of Elba. The following year he returned from exile with a handful of followers, a small army of about 1200 soldiers, and a plan to overthrow the newly restored monarchy under King Louis XVIII. Napoleon landed at Golfe Juan on 1st March 1815.
From Golfe Juan he headed north, passing through the southern Alps to reach Grenoble. This route was chosen because of its remoteness, and therefore the chance that Napoleon's small army would avoid hostile royalists - in particular those around Marseille. Napoleon also moved very fast across the countryside in order to reduce the chances of meeting opposition.
The Lower Lot Valley here refers to the picturesque stretch of the Lot River between Figeac and Cahors. Along the course of the river there are numerous small villages to explore, several larger towns, castles and caves to visit.
There is also a great deal of beautiful scenery, with cliffs and wooded slopes rising either side of the broad river valley.The river here is passing through the Natural Regional Parc of the Causses de Quercy.
The eastern part of the Rhone Alpes contains some of the most dramatic scenery in France. This beautiful countryside in the Savoie and Haute Savoie departments includes mountains, lakes and verdant valleys.
This area contains a wealth of alpine towns, lake-side towns and villages and a number of spa towns as well as some really stunning scenery.
It contains a great deal of interesting sights and villages and a visit is highly recommended. We travelled from the east towards the west, starting on the main road west from Perpignan.
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.
The town of Biarritz and the surrounding region are ideal for a short break, with the town itself a pleasure to explore, the chance to stroll along the beach, and lots of interesting places nearby to visit.
Low price flights are also often available to get here from the UK, so it is quite easy and cheap to plan your off-season break.
The French riviera, with Nice and the surrounding coastal towns, is of course best known as a summer holiday destination and the region attracts many millions of visitors each year.
But this coastal part of south-east France also has the most consistently sunny and warm weather to be found in France even in the winter months, and a long weekend here in spring or autumn is sure to be a memorable experience - and a great way to shake off the winter blues until next summer!
There are cheap flights to Bergerac Roumanieres airport all year around, making it the perfect destination for an escape from the winter blues (or autum, summer and spring blues!)
You will also find that there is a lot to discover in the surrounding countryside, making it perfect to combine a stroll around an attractive historical town with meals in quality French restaurants and an excursion or two into the countryside of the Dordogne.
With the arrival of cheap flights to Carcassonne from the UK it is now very practical to visit for a long weekend and a have a great time at a very reasonable cost.
We stayed in Carcassonne itself as a base for our visit...
With cheap flights to Bordeaux from the UK it is now very practical to visit Bordeaux for a long weekend without breaking the bank.
Bordeaux centre has a wide range of hotels and an excellent tram-system making car hire unnecessary unless you want to explore the surrounding countryside.
Many of the most important historical town centres in France are now protected from further development with the 'secteur sauvegardé' classification, with the goal of preserving the appearance of the historical centre from any further development.
Any construction or renovation in these areas is closely monitored and controlled to ensure that the whole town centre remains unspoiled by new or inappropriate developments - for example, renovations are required to use the historical materials and techniques.
The River Vézère flows 190 kilometres from its source in the Massif Central to its confluence with the Dordogne River near Le Bugue (the confluence is in the village of Limeuil).
The Vézere Valley contains numerous traces of prehistoric and early settlement and according to UNESCO, who have the valley listed as a UNESCO French world Heritage sites, there are 147 prehistoric sites and 25 painted caves in the valley.
Roses are blooming ....... by Terry Burke
The Valley of the lower Somme is beautiful on a bright cold winter’s day when the snow lies deep and crisp and even over the Picardy countryside.
Rolling dark green tree clad hills lift over the black gently flowing streams. The roads on the map corresponded to the terrain, white. Villages hibernate more deeply in the winter snow than they will slumber in the summer sun. Nothing stirs, except a covey of ducks and a few new Eolions lazily turning in the light breeze. The sky above is a delicate light blue with high wispy clouds.
The cathar period lasted more or less a hundred years, from about 1165 - 1271, in the period of the violence of the Dark Ages.
A turbulent and oppressive period of crusades and battles for power, the cathar history is one of a much abused religion which dared to challenge the power of the catholic church and proposed a more 'basic' form of Christianity (see cathars for details).
The Church deemed that the religion should be dealt with using very severe repression - principally a crusade against the cathars with the sole goal of destroying them.
Some villages come back to haunt your memories for years after a visit - a scenic location, fine historical architecture, lovely gardens, traditional shops and cafes, all can play their part in creating these 'extra-special' places.
Lots of factors play their part in whether a village stands out as special - not just 'unchanging' features such as the landscape and the architecture but others that change with time:
The Medoc region produces many of the finest wines in the world (Margaux, Pauillac, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild...), has more than 100 kilometres of fine sandy beaches, and is just north of one of the most vibrant cities in France.
It sounds like the perfect destination for wine buffs and beach lovers alike - but I wonder how many visitors to France could point to it on a map?
The colourful character of the medieval 'Black Prince' perhaps owes as much to legend as to fact, and many places in France have a legacy to the English Prince who conquered so much of France in the early decades of the Hundred Years War.
In many places in France you are likely to come across mention of the Black Prince, from a quiet town in Gascony to the site of a battlefield in central France, and a little knowledge of the 'life and times' of the Black Prince makes a visit more interesting
There are 30 sites in France that are of such importance that UNESCO has designated them as World Heritage Sites.
Covering a wide range of sites and places, they all share one common feature: the offer something beyond the ordinary.
Most of the French heritage sites are covered in more detail this guide, see the list below to see if there are any to visit near your planned destination in France
The 'towns and villages in bloom' award (ville fleurie) is given to French places that make a special effort to create a pleasant natural environment for both residents and visitors by focussing on plants, flowers and open areas within the town.
Across France there are almost 20 aquariums open to the public and nearly 50 zoos, nature reserves and animal parks.
Of course, some are more exciting than others, and occasionally they are restricted in the type of wildlife you will see (e.g. vultures or monkeys).
While we can't claim to have visited most of the zoos and aquariums we suggest you use the list and map below to see if there are any to visit near you when you visit - and ideally leave a comment below if you have visited one of them!
One of the most popular ways to discover the vineyards and villages of southern Burgundy is to follow the 'route des Grands Crus'. This route follows a quiet road (the D122), largely between Beaune and Dijon but also continuing south to Santenay, that passes many of the most famous wine chateaux of the region.
Burgundy is a French Mecca for seekers of gourmet cuisine and devotees of wine.
The richness of the culture, history and visual splendor deserves leisurely exploration. Don't rush through the towns and vineyards with a checklist and camera. Instead, take the time to delve into one remarkable and distinctive department of Burgundy: the Cote d'Or.
There is a deep 600 foot drop from the cliff tops in Le Thord, commune of St Haon, to the river. The Gorges are only occasionally accessible by road. They are heavily wooded with deciduous and conifer trees, and in autumn very colourful. The woods abound with wildlife and many happy hours have been passed watching soaring buzzards and hovering birds of prey; rabbits and small cats beware!
Bird watchers frequently descend the paths below the cliffs, complete with binoculars, notebooks and cameras, ...... and twitch for an hour or so and leave as silently as they arrive.
Here on the 1000 metre contour, towards the southern edge of the Massif Central, the air is clear, the wind is fresh, the temperatures range from very hot, in excess of 40 degrees without any humidity, to minus 15; crisp, dry and exceedingly beautiful. There are few people about.
by Peter Saborowsky
I have been a serious cyclist most of my life. Almost 30 years ago I started cycling in South Western France. It's an idyllic region beginning on Atlantic beaches, winding through the Basque country, and climbing into the Pyrenees.
The area's lovely weather, famous sights, and varied terrains make cycling an inspirational affair. It was when I saw professional cyclists and national teams vacationing and training in this same area that I realized just how much magnificent scenery and enjoyable roads can improve one's competitive advantage.
There are numerous attractive villages to be found in the Ardeche department of the Rhone-Alpes, and exploring them adds to the pleasure of a visit to this scenic part of southern France.
Seventeen of these Ardeche villages have also been classified as 'villages of character', and these provide good examples of the villages across the department as a whole.
A holiday in the Lot Valley offers some fabulous scenery, beautiful medieval villages, historic monuments and a superb gastronomical experience.
The Lot river flows for 500km starting at Mont Lozere and flowing into the Garonne River before reaching the Atlantic Ocean. As it flows it passes through the fertile farming lands of Aquitaine, the high plateaux of the Aubrac and the beautiful wooded valleys of the Lozere.
The Dropt River runs from Capdrot, east of Monpazier, to La Reole near Langon where it meets the Garonne River.
It is close to the border between the Dordogne and Lot-et-Garonne departments for much of the journey westwards, before entering the Gironde between Duras and Monsegur.
Along the way it passes through and near several attractive villages and towns, and a great deal of attractive countryside, making it an interesting way to spend a few days exploring this region of south-west France.
So near but yet so far from the busy coastal strip, the rural way of life still prevails, eggs and goats' cheese are sold direct from the farm, roads are single track and you are very lightly to meet a flock of transhumance sheep coming the other way.
It is impossible to say which is the best French beach, because it depends, of course, on what you are looking for in a beach, and whether the beaches are the only priority on your visit or you want to also see countryside, attractions nd places of interest. But somewhere in France there is the perfect beach for you, whatever you are looking for.
There are many beautiful beaches around the French coastline, which is almost 3,500 kilometres long - and it is not practical to list (or visit) them all so here we simply try and show what you might expect of the most popular beaches in each region of France.
The comments describing the beaches for each region below are extremely broad and there are many exceptions!
Amusement parks are very popular in france - four of the theme parks below appear in the 'top places to visit in France' list (Disneyland, Puy de Fou, Asterix and Futuroscope) and no trip to France would be complete without a visit to one of the renowned theme parks
A total of 56 belfries across France and Belgium have together been listed as a 'combined' World Heritage Site because of their importance and unusual architectural style. 23 of these belfries are in northern France, in the Picardy and North Calais regions of northern France.
Originally these belfries were usually built either as independent towers or as part of a town hall.
There are seven National Parks in France, covering slightly over 2% of the land surface of the country. They are maintained by Parcs Nationaux de France:
The label 'Grand Site de France' has been granted to 33 locations in mainland France, which belong to the organisation known as the RGSF (Réseau des Grands Sites de France - network of Grand Sites of France).
All are listed sites, in attractive locations that attract large numbers of visitors each year. They each share the common challenges of meeting the conflicting needs of local residents, the environment, and exceptionally large numbers of visitors.