Dream Vacations: France, a country of rich history, art, culture
Gallery photos by Allison Pariso.
Most people have a dream vacation destination. Maybe your desktop background is of a tropical beach in the Bahamas, or you have a Pinterest board full of tips for touring Europe. If you love to travel, our “Dream Vacations” series will help you pick the perfect location for your next trip (if you can convince your parents to take you).
Located in western Europe, France is a country filled with history and art going back centuries. With everything from castles to museums to cafes, France has something for everyone.
Must Sees/Must Dos in Paris
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower–perhaps the most famous French monument. You can pay to walk up the stairs or to take the elevator to the top. While there are a lot of stairs, I recommend walking so you can stop on different levels to take photos and take in the view instead of just going straight to the top. The stairs are also cheaper than the elevator ride. Make sure to plan time to go through security before you can enter the tower. Also, get there early in order to buy tickets to the top of the tower once you reach the final landing, as they may sell out during the day.
Boat on the Seine River at night
This is a perfect way to take in some of the most famous sights of France up close without dealing with traffic or having to look out a window. Additionally, many of the sights are lit up at night, like the Eiffel Tower. This is also a great time to get good pictures and relax with friends. I recommend doing this at the end of your trip because it is a great way to get last-minute photos and revisit all the sights you saw.
This museum is great for art lovers, but still neat for casual observers. You can see works by Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci. I recommend taking a guided tour since the museum is very large, and it would be hard to see everything in one trip. A tour allows you to see some of the most famous pieces, including The Mona Lisa. There is usually a large crowd around it, so don’t be afraid to make your way to front to see it up close or to get a good photo of it.
Different places have different specialties, and France specializes in macarons, croque monsieurs, and crepes. Many local cafes or stands sell these items, which helps to keep the price affordable.
Macarons are small, light cookies made with egg white, sugar, and ground almond paste or coconut. They come in many different colors and flavors such as chocolate, pistachio, strawberry, and coconut. I recommend shopping around for these because macaroons can get expensive (anywhere from $2-$5 per cookie), so it’s helpful to find them for the cheapest price.
Croque Monsieur is like a French version of a grilled cheese sandwich. It is a baked ham and cheese sandwich covered with a layer of melted cheese on top. This is a quick snack or lunch that is cheap and usually served warm.
Crepes are like thin pancakes folded over with filling inside. There are many different flavors like Nutella, chocolate, and banana. I recommend buying them from one of the many stands on the street corners, as they are made to order. Make sure to have napkins with you, as they can be messy.
Make sure to convert some of your money to euros before arriving in France. While airport exchange rates can be expensive, it is good to bring some money with you for food, transportation, and anything else you might need before being able to exchange more money.
Pickpockets are an issue in France. The walkways and tourist attractions are often very crowded, so it is important to keep an eye in your belongings at all times. I recommend buying a hidden pocket to hang around your neck or the belt loop of your pants. You can also bring a locked suitcase to put valuables in to make sure they stay safe while you are not in your hotel room.
Places in France are more spread out, and the roads are often busy, so make sure to plan time to travel to each place you want to visit. Public transportation like buses and trains can help you get to place to place easily and cheaply.
I would recommend spending at least a week in France to visit as many destinations as possible and appreciate all that the country has to offer.
Things to Consider:
Still not sure if France is the right place for you? Consider the following to help you decide:
- Do you mind small hotels? Cheaper hotels in France tend to be smaller and can get cramped, especially if you are sharing a room. Make sure to pack your belongings in accordingly, by bringing less or using one suitcase, to conserve space. Or you can pay more for more space.
- Do you like castles? France has multiple castles both in the city and countryside. I suggest visiting Versailles and taking a day to visit the Lorraine Valley where you can see the Château de Chenonceau and the Château de Chambord. You can take guided tours of these castles and see what life was like for French royals.
- What kind of weather do you prefer? France tends to be cooler, with an average summer temperature of 68. Be sure to pack a sweatshirt or warmer clothing if you go.