The first two monuments visitors will picture in their head when thinking of Paris are unanimously the elegant Eiffel Tower and the world re-known Louvre museum with its unique pyramids.
La Tour Eiffel is an unmistakeable feature of the Paris skyline. Designed by Gustav Eiffel for the 1889 World Fair in the French capital, at 300 metres the tower was the tallest building in the world at the time of completion. It is no exaggeration to say that the Eiffel Tower is the symbol not only of Paris but of the entire country, and its iconic status is known the world over. Although of course no longer the tallest structure in the world it still offers the best vantage point from which to get your bearings in the City of Lights. Take the lift all the way up to level three to benefit from the spectacular views across Paris, encompassing an incredible 42 miles (26 km) on a clear day. To avoid the queues come early in the day – or visit at night when the tower is lit up spectacularly with over 10,000 lights, turning it into a beacon visible for miles.
Is The Louvre the best museum in the world? Possibly – but you will need plenty of time to decide for yourself as it is also one of the largest. The Louvre’s varied artefacts range from Egyptian art to the iconic and enigmatic Mona Lisa. Don’t miss the controversial glass pyramid entrance, which still causes contention over a decade after it was built.
The French Riviera may be a playground for the rich, but the region has enough sea and sand for mere mortals to enjoy as well, and make note that the beaches are as beautiful as the people that adorn them, with golden sand and azure seas.
The main centre Nice has a picturesque old town, plenty of places to stay and the famous Promenade des Anglais. Other slightly less glitzy resorts such as Antibes offer sandy beaches and fine harbours – and, many would argue, more character. Meanwhile, capital of chic Cannes simply oozes money and glamour. At the exclusive St Tropez the rich and glamorous party through the night on millionaires’ yachts moored in the harbour.
Disneyland Resort Paris
It doesn’t really need much introduction. Disney’s first theme park in Europe is just as impressive as the American equivalents, and just as packed with the usual Disney characters, rides and attractions. The trademark Disney Castle at the park was allegedly built bigger than any other in the world because of the competition of the real castles nearby.
Children and adults alike will love the parades and cartoon pageantry as much as ever and the French have even managed to instill the park with an air of Gallic chic that is quite palpable to the visitor. It is possible to get a good meal here rather than the usual limp hotdogs and flat soft drinks of theme park cuisine, and the mouse even keeps a pretty good selection of wines to accompany the fine food. Not quite as much kids’ stuff as you might think…
Lyon & the Bourgogne region
Renowned first and foremost as a gastronomic capital, France’s second city should be at the top of the list of travel destinations on any gourmet’s itinerary. From regional specialities in cosy, traditional restaurants to extravagant, modern cuisine in state-of-the-art eating emporiums Lyon offers something for everyone.
You don’t need to look too hard to find some of Lyon’s greatest facets, though as they are all around you once you step into the old town. In one of the most beautiful Renaissance towns of Europe, immaculately preserved houses and shops line quaint cobbled streets retaining much of the atmosphere of centuries past. It’s here that you are at the heart of the real Lyon, and where you can enjoy the city’s famous cuisine in the lively bouchons (traditional inns), where you can’t fail to be seduced by the city’s charms. Heading North is the renowned Burgundy region where some of the world’s finest wines can be discovered. From the Côte de Beaune to the unforgettable Pouilly-Fuissé, it will be a constant pleasure for your palate.
The pretty city of Bordeaux is a great base from which to explore Aquitaine, a lush and beautiful corner of France. The area is a mixture of scented pine forests and wild Atlantic beaches, perfect for the adventurous tourist to wander at will.
The aristocratic Bordeaux wines are unbeatable, with the Medoc and St Emilion areas producing some of the best reds in the world. Many of the wine-producing châteaux have free tasting sessions, although it is advisable to check first. Some, including the exclusive château Mouton-Rothschild, require appointments.
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