Holidays in France

A guide to the kinds of holidays you can go on in France

Holidays in France for everyone

When it comes to holidays, everybody loves La Belle France. It seems, of all the popular holiday destinations, France has that little bit more to offer, and really can find something to suit every taste. If Italy does food and art, Holland does canals and cafés, South Africa does wine and rugby, Greece does history and islands, England does city breaks and tradition, Portugal does sun, sea and sand and Spain does sun, sea and sand on a budget, then France does all the forgoing... and with a typically Gallic flair that has us coming back for more, year after year, after year.

Holidays in France - for sunshine

Now it has to be admitted that if hot, hot, hot is what you are after, then France may not completely tick the boxes. Southern Spain has hotter temperatures and more guaranteed sunshine for most of the year, for example, but, arguably, there is little else to do once you have become bored with basting yourself on the beach or drinking with hordes of other English tourists in the bars. Pretty much all of France has generally warmer and sunnier summer weather than the UK, even in the north. In the south of France, the summers are long and hot, with temperatures that regularly climb into the thirties and beyond, and even in the winter time the south and the west in particular enjoy lots of blue skies and sunshine during the days to soften the blow of colder nights. (Weather in France.)

Holidays in France - for beaches

If, like many sun-starved Brits who are fed up with cold, grey skies and dirty seas, your idea of a perfect holiday involves lots of lying around on beaches and gently floating in warm, blue salt waters, then France has the answers for you. France has no shortage of wonderful beaches, with some of the most beautiful to be found in Brittany (Brittany Property Guide), in the north-west of the country. Here it really is possible to enjoy fantastic beaches without the ugly concrete backdrop so common in many European seaside resorts.

Seascapes to dream of...

Brittany has seascapes to dream of, with dramatic cliffs, romantic islands and nature reserves (Brittany Property - Top 10). The region is steeped in history too, and its gentle way of life means that it really is the perfect beach holiday location for families (Brittany Property - an insider's guide). Brittany has long been a popular holiday destination for the Brits, as it is so easily accessible from the UK (French Connections - Travel to North-West France).

Holiday on the Atlantic coast of France - for water sports

The Atlantic coast (The French Atlantic Coast from Biarritz to Southern Brittany) is also superb for water sports, especially in the south and around the famous surfing resort of Biarritz (Biarritz Property Guide). If your holidays have to take in the whims and wants of the terrible teens or the easily bored twenty somethings, make Biarritz your destination. Cool meets super cool here, yet without creating an atmosphere that excludes other age groups from the fun.

Holiday on the French Riviera - for weather, seas and glamour and glitz

Then, of course, France glories in the famous Azure coast, that lovely stretch of the Mediterranean made famous by Brigitte Bardot and other illustrious names from stage and screen, favoured playground of the rich and royal. For glamour and glitz coupled with fantastic weather, warm blue seas and a hectic social whirl with a touch of class, you just can't beat France's fabulous Riviera. (French Riviera Property - an insider's guide.)

Holiday at France's inland lakes - for water sports

You don't even have to go to the seaside in France to enjoy swimming and sunbathing on the beaches, because all over inland France there are beautiful leisure lakes, some natural and many man made, which offer clean sandy beaches, safe swimming and many other water sports such as sailing and windsurfing. Even if your holiday is based in a city, chances are that there will be a lake nearby where you can go to unwind and take a breath of fresh country air. The summer season is a very busy time for these lakes, and it is usually possible to book courses in sailing, windsurfing, water skiing and whatever activities are offered, so that even if you are not an expert you will be able to try the sports and enjoy the superb sporting and social facilities offered by these lakes. (French Properties with Lakes.)

Lakes in France usually have stunning surroundings

The surroundings of these lakes are frequently stunning, with backdrops of pine forests and mountains the norm in many areas, and almost all will have picnic areas, tennis courts, dog walking areas and places where you can try your hand at the great national game of petanque. If you haven't played before, give it a go... it's more fun than it looks! Although there are lakes almost anywhere in France, if it is specifically a lake based holiday that appeals to you, a great region to try is Limousin (Limousin Property Guide), where the lakes are an essential part of life and the scenery surrounding them is particularly verdant.

Gite holidays in France

When most people think of having a holiday in France, they think of renting a gite. A gite is essentially a holiday cottage, traditionally attached to or close to a farm or other larger residence. The essence of a gite holiday is relaxed, small and friendly rather than grand or sophisticated. This type of holiday is ideal for families, or for anyone who wants to enjoy everything that France has to offer at their own pace. When it comes to choice, the gite market has plenty of it. The internet is bursting with adverts for gites to rent, as are the magazines and newspapers. Personal recommendation is always a good way to be sure of satisfaction, but there are so many lovely properties to rent in all parts of France that you are unlikely to be disappointed. (Gites for sale, Owning Gites and Chambres D'Hotes (B&Bs) in France.)

Farm holidays in France

Staying in the homely surroundings of a pretty farm in the lovely French countryside is some people's idea of perfection. Certainly if the small and friendly approach suits you, a gite attached to a farm run by a friendly local farming family can be a perfect solution, especially for families with young children, or for couples who relish a bit of peace. Usually you will find that this sort of holiday is great for getting to know the real France with opportunities to meet local people, attend village fêtes and to try local delicacies, straight from the farm. Interestingly, this is the original idea behind the term "Gite Holiday" as a true gite is a dependent cottage to a farm.

Camping and caravanning holidays in France

France is a country that loves camping and caravanning, and wherever it is that you want to go you will find a great choice of campsites. There are small and friendly campsites where you can book a pitch for your own tent or van, or even, if you are lucky, turn up unannounced and set up for the night. Then there are the big holiday sites, usually run in association with the big name, holiday companies such as French Life, Eurocamp or Key Camp, which provide budget package holidays under canvas or in static caravans. Facilities offered vary considerably, with the big holiday sites providing swimming pools, restaurants, bars, entertainment, children's clubs, tennis courts and often much more. The smaller sites may have little other than a toilet and laundry block, but these are often set in lovely countryside and can offer more peace and tranquillity. It pays to decide exactly what you are looking for and do your research first. Many of these campsites and holiday companies have websites, so the Internet is always a good place to start your search. (Buying a campsite in France.)

Cycling holidays in France

I have to admit, for me, cycling uphill is just a little too much like hard work, but there are many for whom this wonderful sport not only keeps them fit, but also provides the best possible way to enjoy France and her spectacular scenery and to experience the legendary warmth of her hospitality. Cycling teachers, Paul and Debbie Tyler, from Co. Durham in England, cycle the mountains of the Pyrénées every summer, and have also travelled around many other areas of the country on two wheels. They say not only does France provide the perfect climate and terrain for cycling, but also has the best attitude to cyclists, making the sport safer and more enjoyable in France than anywhere else in Europe. (Cycling and motorcycling in France.)

France is cycle friendly

Certainly, France has the terrain to cater for all levels of cyclists, with gentle flat areas such as canal tow-paths being ideal for beginners, and the rugged, breath-taking climbs of the mountains as seen in the Tour de France, where experts can test themselves to the limit. The country also boasts hundreds of cycle hire shops and is bike friendly in terms of storage, rail transport and road safety. Specialist holidays are easily arranged, with everything from gentle sightseeing day trips to demanding mountain and camping tours available from all kinds of suppliers. DIY cycling holidays are also simple to arrange, as France offers a fantastic choice of gites for holiday renting, many of which are based in perfect cycling areas. Check with the owners, which have facilities for safe storage of cycles, or have cycle shops nearby.

Walking and riding holidays in France

It goes without saying that France is a walker's paradise, with so many miles of footpaths and trails to discover, far away from the roar of traffic and the smell of the city. These same attributes, of course, make it also perfect for horse riders, who are hard pressed to get off the busy and frequently dangerous tarmacked roads in the over populated UK. Another huge boon for walkers and riders is that France has so much more open land than England does, with fences only used to keep livestock in place rather than edging fields that are lying fallow or with crops growing. Therefore the times you have to stop to negotiate gates and fences are minimal, allowing freedom to roam and really enjoy the stunning landscapes that unfold before you. France's many little country inns (auberges) and bed and breakfast establishments (Chambres d'Hôtes) offer the perfect refuge for walkers and pony trekkers too, with a warm welcome guaranteed and no need to dress for dinner! (Finding property in the best walking areas of France.) Campsites are also frequent and usually of good quality.

Carp fishing holidays in France

France is a country of lakes and rivers, and these are stocked for the most part with an amazing variety of fish, including carp. Fishing holidays are big news in France, and a quick glance through the facilities offered by gites and hotels will reassure the newcomer that fishing is accessible almost anywhere in France. Commonly permits are required, but these are easily obtained at local Tabacs and are not usually expensive.

Skiing holidays and winter sports holidays in France

The skiing offered by France ranks as some of the best in the world, and the country has hosted many top winter sports events, including the Olympic Games, to prove it. Skiers can choose from the Alps (Alps property), where the biggest and best of the downhill runs and skiing facilities can be found, to the little known slopes of the Massif Central and the small and friendly resorts of the Pyrénées, which are becoming ever more popular with those wishing to escape the crowds and still enjoy excellent skiing. There are many companies who offer package skiing holidays in France, as well as a multitude of possibilities for arranging such holidays yourself. France has moved with the times too, as regards snow sports, and the resorts now offer snow parks and other facilities for snowboarders and freestyle skiers, as well as for those of a more traditional nature. Choose your resort according to your tastes... France caters for the young (and young at heart) who want plenty of loud and lively aprés ski as well as for those who prefer a quiet meal in a traditional restaurant after a day on the slopes. (Ski property, Ski Chalets for Sale in France.)

History and culture holidays in France

When it comes to history and culture there is nowhere quite like France. If history is your bag, the choices are vast. It pays to do your research before you book, as your holiday could take you anywhere from the beaches of Normandy (Lower-Normandy Property Guide, Upper-Normandy Property Guide), to the ravaged castles of the Cathars in the Languedoc (Languedoc-Roussillon Property Guide, Languedoc-Roussillon Property - an insider's guide, Languedoc Property - Top 10) in the south. Visit the grand chateaux of the Loire (The Central Loire Valley Property Guide), or go to Versailles (Versailles Property Guide) to see the palace to end all palaces. You want museums and art galleries? No problem, almost every town worth the name has at least one or the other, and there are frequent exhibitions held all over the country to celebrate the work of particular artists. Then of course, there's Paris. Most romantic city in the world... and bursting with culture and art. It deserves a paragraph to itself.

Holidays in France - Paris

If you want to go to Paris (Paris Property Guide) you will be spoiled for choice for a place to stay as well as for things to do, places to eat and ways to spend your money. Take some stout and comfortable shoes, however, because without doubt, the best way to experience the wonderful city that is the French capital, is to walk, and walk, and walk. That way you will miss nothing. It goes without saying that in Paris you can visit some of the world's finest art galleries and museums, see some of the world's most fabulous sights and experience the most incredible atmosphere to be found anywhere. You can also eat some of the best food you will find anywhere, in some of the most exquisite surroundings. Before I went to Paris, I did wonder, I must admit, just what all the fuss was about. Having been, I now know, without doubt, that everybody should have at least one Parisian holiday. To describe it as wonderful doesn't begin to do it justice. To describe it as romantic is a hopeless understatement. My feet still hurt though.

Wine and food holidays in France

Having mentioned Paris in the preceding paragraph, it seems a logical step to move onto gourmet and wine holidays, another area of the holiday industry in which France excels. The popularity of French wine may be being challenged, these days, by the easy drinking varieties from the new world, but there is still a place in the hearts and minds of the true wine lovers for good French wines. The grand vineyards of Bordeaux (Bordeaux Property Guide) and Burgundy (Burgundy Property Guide) welcome visitors and run guided tours and tastings. Then there are specialist wine courses that you can take, usually staying in good hotels close to the vineyards and perhaps travelling around the different wine producing areas of the country to sample and learn about the different wines produced. (French properties with vineyards.) Likewise, with food. Gourmet holidays are another very popular holiday genre in France, and where better to taste the best that a Michelin starred restaurant can offer, than in the home country of great cuisine. (Buying and cooking French food.)

Golfing holidays in France

Golf is so popular these days that any talk of activity holidays would not be complete without a mention of the sport. France may have been slower than neighbour Spain to cotton onto the holiday potential of golf, but things are a changing, and new courses, dedicated golf hotels and specialist golfers' accommodation are appearing all over the country. If you are going it alone and booking a private gite for your holiday, but want to be sure that you can chase that little white ball up a fairway or two, check out the information given at the end of most of the gite websites... they will usually give helpful and accurate information about the courses in the area.

Canals in France - boating holidays

If you like the thought of spending a restful holiday floating down one of France's many beautiful and serene inland waterways, you will be spoiled for choice. Highly recommended is the trip from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, as immortalised by celebrity chef Rick Stein, involving that beautiful and incredible feat of 17th century engineering, the Canal du Midi. If you aren't lucky enough to have your own narrow-boat (who is?), you can hire a boat from a company such as Crown Blue Line, and sit back and relax. The most stressful thing you will have to do in the next week or so is negotiate the locks... and decide where to moor up for dinner!

Family holidays in France

Finally, a brief word for those who travel with children in tow. With its variety of landscapes, sports and activities, France is the perfect holiday destination for families. Take, for example, the theme parks. There is Euro Disney, The Valley of the Monkeys, Futuroscope, Space City, and many, many more that are guaranteed to keep the kids happy... and more often than not, the parents too! France's excellent railways and motorways mean that travelling with kids isn't the hassle that it can be in the UK (Travel France), and almost without exception, you will find that hotels and restaurants are child and family friendly. The seaside, the lakes, the mountains with their ski schools and crèches, the campsites and the climate... all tailor made for families. So. Anyone for a holiday in France?

Additional articles which may be of interest:

Sport in France
Ferries to France
Brittany Ferries
French Connections

About the author

Joanna Simm moved to the Languedoc area of south-west France in October 2004 having found her property through French Property Links.

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