Beautifully historic and immaculately cosmopolitan, France is sure to make your jaw drop in whichever city you find yourself in.

Several centuries of history will be all around you, evident in the blend of architectural styles and the many monuments to some of France’s most important figures and historical moments. After walking through an art gallery, or shopping in boutiques along cobblestone streets, delectable sweets at a café are among the best ways to enjoy an afternoon in any French town. From the rolling plains lined with grape vines in Bordeaux, the aquamarine waters of the French Riviera, and to the architectural gems in Paris, France has a breathtaking sight for every traveller.

The need to know

Touring France

Getting around

Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. France has a centralised and impressively extensive rail network comprised by the TER, which links towns, and the TGV, which links major cities. Paris itself is home to one of the most extensive metro systems in the world, and a number of the stations are tourist attractions in their own right.

Accommodation

In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our longstay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.

Tour Guides

In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our longstay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.

Geography, Environment, & Weather

France is divided into 13 administrative regions, each with its distinct lifestyle and cuisine. The landscape of France is equally varied, with beaches along the north coast, to spectacular mountain ranges of the Pyrenees and the Alps.

In terms of climate, there is a lot of variety, but temperate winters and mild summers are typical, and especially in Paris. Conditions are wetter in the northwest (Brittany), and winters are often colder along the German border (Alsace). Along the Rhône Valley, occasional strong, cold, north-to northwesterly winds blow: this is known as the mistral. Snow reaches the Mountainous regions, including the Alps, the Pyrenees, and the Auvergne. So, do your research to discover what weather to expect at the time of your visit and in the area you’re visiting, but it is wise to prepare for all eventualities.

World Heritage sites

France has an impressive 42 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can view the official list of the sites here (https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/fr). While every site has something of value, here are a few highlights:
The Loire Valley, home to some of the world’s most stunning architecture and landscape.
The Chartres Cathedral, which was constructed throughout the 12th and 13th centuries and remains in excellent condition.
The Palace of Versailles, perhaps the world’s most renowned royal residence, home to French kings from the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI.

Festivals & Events

France has an extraordinary number of cultural, culinary, and sports events. From the Tour De France which treks across the country each July, to the many celebrations of Bastille Day, you will certainly be able to find something that suits your schedule and taste. Other events include The Cannes Film Festival, The Monaco Grand Prix, and one of the world’s biggest Mardi Gras festivals.

Reading List

My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme
The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography by Graham Robb
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
Cambridge Illustrated History of France by Colin Jones
The History of Modern France: From the Revolution to the War on Terror by Jonathan Fenby

Eating & Drinking

One of France’s primary attraction’s is its cuisine. Many people travel to France exclusively to experience its food and drink, and there are many good reasons for that. While foreigners often think of French food as one category, it actually varies widely based on the region. Some popular regional dishes include Champagne Ham, from Champagne, Boeuf Boirguignon, from Burgundy, and gratin dauphinois, from Dauphine. And of course, you can’t go past French wine. It’s estimated that France drinks around 43 litres of wine per capita per year and, just like the food, wine is regionally distinct, with globally famous varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, pinot noir, and Sauvignon blanc. What about tips for dining out? Here’s something not many tourists know. It’s often cheaper to stand at the bar and have a coffee or drink than it is to sit down! And see below for our advice on how to tip.

Health & Safety

As of writing, smarttraveller.gov recommends exercising a high degree of caution when travelling in France due to the risk of a terrorist attack. While much of France is usually safe to travel around, it’s important to stay alert to anything unusual. Also, you will often see signs warning of pickpockets in areas popular with tourists, so keep a close eye on your belongings at all times.

Electrical Supply

Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. Plugs in France have two round pins, so make sure to pick up the right adaptor before your trip.

Crafted Tours for Mature World Travellers

France Tours

Classical Music Small group tours
Pre-guaranteed

This is a round–the-world, 23 day program that visits two continents, staying in the major arts centres of Vienna, Paris, London and New York. For Odyssey Travellers, we have sought to assemble entry and show tickets to what many will consider the best arts experiences available in those cities during each program.

22 days
British Isles, Europe
Level 1 - Introductory to 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
Pre-guaranteed

Join Odyssey Traveller as we take a leisurely tour of the French countryside, travelling by train from Paris to Bordeaux to Provence and back, over the course of 20 days.

22 days
Europe
Level 2 - Moderate

This educational tour combines visits to France, Belgium, Luxemborg, the Netherlands, and Germany.

26 days
Europe
Level 1 - Introductory to Moderate

This educational tour combines visits to France, Belgium, Luxemborg, the Netherlands and Germany.

13 days
Europe
Level 1 - Introductory to Moderate

Join Odyssey Traveller as we follow French Impressionist master Claude Monet (1840-1926) through his beloved places in France on this 20-day tour.

21 days
Europe
Level 1 - Introductory to Moderate

Join us on our 17 day tour exploring the UNESCO-listed Canal du Midi.  The Canal was engineered by Pierre-Paul Riquet as a means to increase trade from Bordeaux and the Atlantic to Sète and the Mediterranean.  Taking approximately 14 years to complete, it is a feat of engineering ingenuity and artistic design, earning its title as one of the oldest operating canals in Europe and a treasure of world heritage that shaped the Industrial Revolution and modern technology.

19 days
Europe
Level 1 - Introductory to Moderate
rural France
On Sale

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

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

French History by Rail program is based on Ina Caro’s book of the same name. Participants live in central Paris, using apartments as a base, living as the locals do, whilst meeting each day as a small group to journey by rail and TGV to the beautiful medieval centres of France.

21 days
Europe
Level 2 - Moderate

Participants live for almost 3 weeks in one of the central arrondissements of Paris, using charming Paris apartments as a base, living as the locals do, and enjoying the charms of Parisian life.

11 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
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

This program examines some of the classic gardens of Italy and France that reflect changing fashions and garden designs throughout the ages. We will examine, discuss, compare and contrast the cultural and temporal similarities and diversities between the gardens of Italy and France and the historical influences on their design.

25 days
Europe
Level 1 - Introductory to 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

Our France on Foot program is designed for the active walker and extends from the scenic island of Noirmoutier on the Atlantic Coast via the Massif Central on the borders of Limousin and the Auvergne to the snow-tipped peaks of the Alps in Savoy.

21 days
Europe
Level 4 - Challenging
See All

Tour Reviews

Apart from meeting nice people, being well looked after and seeing wonderful places, one of the best aspects of Odyssey Tours is that we stay in one place for several days and do not have to pack and unpack very often.
Participant May 2014
The tour was compact, well planned and intense of course, having to include so much in a short space of time, compared with what we would do and see normally at home. A bit overwhelming, but wonderful for looking back, and a challenge to see how much one can remember.
Participant -17
I loved the rural France trip. It exceeded my expectations for sure. I saw so much and learnt many new things about French history and culture. Every guide we had was knowledgeable, friendly and each brought their own personality to the role. I am sure that I will reflect on this trip as a particular highlight in my travel agenda. Congratulations to Rouna for making a difficult job seem easy!
Participant May 2014
I was impressed by the number of places we visited. It was a very full itinerary which I like. We saw things of interest every day. I see no fault with the tour.
Participant 2017
This trip could have been planned for me as all my interests were included - ballet, theatre, concerts, opera and visits to magnificent museums and galleries.
Participant -17
These tours give the client a real learning experience, instead of going from market to market as some travel organizations do. Also, staying at least 3 nights or more in the one location one gets a feel for the area, and the memory of it is not ever forgotten.
Participant Sep 2014
Robert was an excellent leader who made things run smoothly. He had great knowledge about all aspects of the content of this expedition. He interacted with all members of the group. I would be very happy to go on another tour with Robert as leader.
Participant -17
Robert's knowledge and expertise was greatly appreciated especially as I was the least culturally aware of the group. I enjoyed every minute of the tour, and his cheerfulness even in times of trial ( the weather) and the usual small things that go wrong were met with enthusiasm and help.
Participant -17

FAQs

Responsible travel tips for France

  • Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although many locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
  • Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
  • Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
  • When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums and galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
  • Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
  • Before departing, make sure you have a number of euros in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.

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