Probably the first stop for most travelers, considering the country's main airport, Charles De Gaulle, is located here. Obvious stops certainly include the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomph, and the world-famous Louvre museum and the bold Gothic church, Notre Dame, which is the backdrop for Victor Hugo's infamous tale of the hunchback. Also be sure to stroll through the arrondissement, or neighborhoods, to discover cafes, bakeries, and world-class eating. For an unusual angle (and occasionally tricky stair climbing) try touring the catacombs and sewers of the city. These medieval structures are no picnic to walk through---and you'll get a truly alternative history lesson. The Bois du Boulogne offers a variety of outdoor activities on the western side of the city, or hit the historic tennis stadium, le Stade Roland Garros, the home of the French Open.
Just outside Paris is the great Palace of Versailles. The home of King Louis XIV and his wife, Marie Antoinette, before their demise, this opulent palace holds treasures beyond the wildest dreams of modern consumers. Must-sees include the hall of mirrors, Marie Antoinette's separate estate, and of course, the estate's elaborate gardens. Versailles sits atop a vast natural spring, and its fountains are the center of an elaborate display. And, believe it or not, you can rent bikes to tour the grounds. This is a less-strenuous bike tour, but travelers will be able to cover the vast gardens better on bike than on foot. If booked through the Fat Tire tour company, the tour can last more than eight hours.
The site of the horrific D-Day battle of World War II, Normandy and its beaches are held in reverence for many world travelers. Museums, cemeteries and monuments dapple the landscape and offer a bold reminder of some of civilization's darkest days. But on top of these historic reminders, Normandy holds a rich artistic history. The town of Giverny was the home to renowned impressionist painter, Claude Monet. Walking through the picturesque area will give art lovers a thrill as they recognize visages from some of the world's most famous paintings. Le Centre Equestre de la Tani offers horseback riding in nearby Pontorson, as well, and try hiking through the Roumare Forest in Rouen to experience France in all of its natural glory.
Obviously, the world-famous mountain range that edges France will be a stop for the more athletic traveler. One highly regarded ski area is the Vallee Blanche in the Chamonix region. Peaks in the area can top 13,000 feet. If you're interested in exploring France's natural habitats, try le Parc de Oiseaux. Literally "Bird Park," this forest will provide a relaxing atmosphere for exploring the outdoors. If you're interested in hiking, explore Le Semnoz in Annecy. It's a lovely hiking trail by a lake with varying levels of difficulty---great for families. If you're looking for a tougher route, try le Tour de Mont Blanc. This multi-day trail will bring you through France, Italy and Switzerland.
The French Riviera
The beautiful Côte d'Azur is one of the more varied regions of France. Located on the Mediterranean, the cultures of this area are varied and lively. Home to rolling hills and glamorous beaches, the area in southern France is a hot spot for nightlife in towns such as Cannes, which hosts the international film festival every year. In towns such as Langes, travelers can learn the daring art of trapeze. If traveling to France in winter, be sure to explore Isola's ski resort, Isola 2000. But the south of France can also be a place to relax and unwind, in more agricultural areas such as Provence. The area is well-known for its lavender fields, and during harvesting, the air is rich and perfumed with the relaxing scent.