It has been said that:

no other nation on the planet approaches France in its subtle and seamless blend of the old and the new; the industrial and the pastoral

Odyssey Traveller’s guided tours for mature and senior travellers explore France’s varied scenery and sights. Our experienced guides share their knowledge of things to do in France, exploring the county’s rich history and culture. We experience its regional cuisine and wines. Our hope is that travellers return home with a better understanding of the people, their heritage and the reasons for their ability to blend the customs and ways of traditional village life with the challenges of one of the world’s more advanced urban economies. And perhaps, a few words of French too!

We hope the following information  about the top things to do in France will be useful and may well stimulate you to search more widely and cultivate particular interests in France. Odyssey aims to turn tourists into travellers. Book your France tour with the specialists in educational travel. For all Odyssey’s French tour packages click here. If you’re keen to experience our guided tours of France, please call or send an email. We’d love to hear from you!

Read on for our Top 10 Things To Do in France, and be sure to share your own suggestions in our comments section!

1. Taste le champagne

For many, France is synonymous with good taste and regional delicacies. Perhaps the most world-renowned of all is their champagne. The region of la Champagne lies to the east of the Île de France. The dry, chalky soil to its West provides excellent drainage. Its mild winters and long hours of sunshine combine to provide the perfect conditions for vines to flourish on its sunny slopes.

The actual area of wine-growing in Champagne extends over a narrow hilly strip some 150 kilometres long by 2,000 metres wide. Cellars used for the making and storage of champagne are artificial caves. Dug out of the local chalk, some of these date from Roman times. The caves are often 25 to 30 metres deep. They tend to be bottle-shaped, with a narrow opening at the top and widening out at the bottom. The total length of these caves is estimated to be in excess of 200 kilometres. They maintain a constant temperature, ideal for the maturing of fine wines.

The méthode champagnoise

No wine can be called champagne unless it comes from statutorily-defined growing areas with a particular quality of soil.  Sparkling wines from other parts of France may only be designated vins mousseux, and then only if they are produced in strict accordance with the champagne method – méthode champagnoise.

The vineyards and cellars of the Champagne region are a must-see on your tour of France. Be sure to stop in for a tasting, and pick up a bottle or two while you’re there!

2. Visit Avignon, a medieval walled city

Avignon was a thriving town in the Roman times. Subsequent invasions from the Burgundians and Franks led to its impressive fortifications. The whole of the old town is surrounded by a complete circuit of walls. These span 4.8 kilometres, and feature 8 gates and 39 towers.  The walls, built between 1350 and 1368, have been heavily restored, meaning travellers can experience this medieval city in its imposing glory. Located in Provence, Avignon is a picturesque stop on your South of France tour.

3. Walk the chalky cliffs and learn history in Normandy

Normandy, in north-western France, features steep, 100-metre high cliffs (falaises) of the Pays de Caux (the “land of chalk”). These abruptly halt the land at the English Channel. Normandy can be divided into upper and lower regions, each with its distinctive landscape and topography. Acting almost as an intermediate region between Upper and Lower Normandy is the département of Calvados. Here, the valleys seem gentler and fields are delineated with neat hedges.

Lower Normandy has two distinct parts. The Cotentin Peninsula is part of the ancient Armorican rock massif which forms the backbone of both Normandy and Brittany. It is very different from the rest of Normandy and both physically and topographically more in character with Brittany or Cornwall than with the pastoral and wooded countryside of much of Normandy. It is wilder, bleaker and starker and has fewer trees but more heath-land.  The coastline of north-west Normandy is much indented with rocky inlets; in the east it is flat and sandy with the world-famous tides experienced at places like Mont St-Michel. While exploring diverse Normandy, be sure to visit its rugged and distinctive coastline.

Normandy’s dramatic history

Conquered by Julius Caesar in 52 BC, Normandy became a Roman province. During the 4th century AD, the raiding Germanic tribes from the north-east eventually overcame the Roman legions. They incorporated the area into the Merovingian kingdom of Neustria.

Clovis, King of the Franks, came to power, introducing Christianity to the region. During the 9th century the Norsemen (Vikings) led annual raids to rape, pillage and destroy. In 911 one of their leaders, Rollo, signed a treaty with the French King, Charles the Simple, founding a Norman duchy. After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William the Conqueror (Duke William of Normandy) became King of England and Normandy became part of a larger Norman/English Domain. It reverted to France in 1204 when it was re-taken by Philippe Auguste.

The Hundred Years War gave the English brief possession at various times. However, in 1450 Normandy finally returned to France and the Dukedom ceased in 1469. The 17th century saw much of the exploration to the New World depart from the ports of Normandy.

Although it escaped the ravages of the First World War, Normandy did not fare well during the Second. As the Germans advanced to the coast in 1940, much was bombed or burnt to the ground.  It was also the scene of the Allied Landings in 1944 when very few towns in Lower Normandy were left intact. Normandy is a fascinating part of France for history buffs.

4. Visit Carcassonne at the foot of the Pyrenees

Carcassonne lies in the foothills of the Pyrénées. In fact, it is two towns, divided by the River Aude. The Upper City (La Cité), the more famous part, is a walled city with a fairytale collection of towers, drawbridges and winding medieval cobbled streets. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Tourism and wine trade form the basis of Carcassonne’s economy.

Carcassonne’s position, on an ancient route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, ensured its early importance. Built and fortified originally by the Romans in 1st century BC, it was progressively taken by the Visigoths (6th century AD), the Saracens (7th century), and the Franks (8th century). Then, during the Albigensian Wars of the 12th and 13th centuries, it was conquered by Simon de Montfort and the Crusaders.  It became a seat of the dreaded Inquisition.

In 1229 the town fell to the French Crown, remaining unscathed until the French Revolution. Restoration by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century has been the subject of much controversy, as we will learn on our guided tour of the city in La Belle France. Make sure you see the fortress within the fortress: the Castle of Carcassonne.

Packages for tours of France
Odyssey Traveller Australia’s all inclusive French vacation packages provide unique experiences for senior travellers. Our La Belle France small group escorted history tours for seniors is perfect for singles and couples seeking a trip to France that takes you off the beaten track. Learn about the country’s history from an experienced guide. Book your France tour with the specialists in educational travel. If you’re keen to experience our guided tours of France, please call or send an email. We’d love to hear from you! For all Odyssey’s French travel packages click here.

French Tours

mount of Mont Saint Michel, France
Guaranteed

Our 21 night program explores the north-west corner of France before hopping across the English Channel to the tiny autonomous islands of Jersey, Guernsey and Sark as well as the historic Isle of Wight. The tour combines the dramatic scenery of Normandy and Brittany with the quirky history and natural beauty of the Channel Islands together with the natural and historic splendour of the Isle of Wight in the English Channel.

22 days
British Isles, Europe
Level 2 - Moderate

La Belle France explores beneath the surface of many French institutions and household names. Our program visits Chateauneuf du Pape to sample its wines and Cognac Hennessy. We cruise the Burgundy Canal and visit Dijon to assure ourselves that the mustard is actually made there. Our program concludes with an in-depth tour of the Normandy Landing Beaches. Here we inspect the old emplacements, the museums and the memorials to the Allied soldiers whose bravery and sacrifice made this tour possible.

24 days
Europe
Level 1 - Introductory to Moderate

The Loire Valley is the largest site ever registered in France as World Heritage site by UNESCO. This walk crosses a multitude of historic towns and villages. Many of these places are explored on this walking tour.

18 days
Europe
Level 3 - Moderate to Challenging

This program is centred on the North West corner of France: Normandy, where the peaceful landscape belies a turbulent past; Brittany, where a strongly separate Celtic culture is still evident; Poitou, famous for its rich farmlands and historic ports; and the Loire Valley, replete with royal châteaux.

22 days
Europe
Level 2 - Moderate

On this small group Paris tour, we take the time to get to know the Paris beyond the tourist centres. Staying in apartments, we  immerse ourselves in the city’s history, art, and culture, with a mixture of guided tours, day trips, and time to enjoy the city at leisure

21 days
Europe
Level 2 - Moderate

The villages of Alsace provide an introduction to the diversity which is France. In Burgundy we explore the local villages. Then onto the Jura Mountains, a region rarely visited by tourists. Finally, Provence and the Côte d’Azur, regions of inspiration for artists such as Van Gogh, Cézanne and Picasso. This program explores the remote mountain plateaux, perched villages and dramatic gorges as well as the Mediterranean coastline.

23 days
Europe
Level 2 - Moderate

Roman Gaul occupied France, Belgium, Luxembourg and South-west Germany. To this region the Romans brought roads, bridges, education, cities and, perhaps, above all the Peace of Rome. It was the freedom from pirates, bandits and other invaders which allowed the area to prosper. The remains of the Roman Gaul is explored today, 2000 years later.

20 days
Europe
Level 2 - Moderate
Secret France small group tour
Pre-guaranteed

The mountainous regions of France, the French Alps and the Pyrenees, are as much part of France as they are of the countries with which they are most associated, Spain and Switzerland. Perhaps because of this the France of the Alps and of the Pyrenees is often by-passed by travellers as they hasten on their way to these other nations to experience them. Our program will take our group deep into the villages, valleys, shrines and ski resorts of these high regions which for other tourists will always remain unvisited, hidden in plain sight.

25 days
Europe
Level 1 - Introductory to Moderate

Paris’ insistence that its rural villages and towns resist the dual siege of the automobile and the property developer has long protected France from the incursions that laid waste to so many provincial centres in many other European nations. The result is that France’s villages and towns remain untouched by the depredations of the last century and within their walls the villagers conduct their daily lives much as they have done since Napoleonic times.

24 days
Europe
Level 1 - Introductory to Moderate