From world-class art at Paris's Louvre to Brittany’s windswept sandy beaches, France is a feast for the senses. Medieval history comes alive along Strasbourg’s cobblestoned lanes, while sporty types head to Chamonix for skiing. Lavender-hued Provence was Cézanne’s inspiration, and in Amiens, the bells ring out from its gothic cathedral.
Paris is romance; from gazing wistfully at Rodin’s marble sculpture The Kiss, to hand-in-hand walks up to multi-domed Sacré Coeur basilica. In Lyon, lose yourself in traboules alleyways in the silk-workers' old quarter. For isolated bliss, wander through Provence’s olive groves and dine in Les Baux’s romantic restaurants.
Family holidays in France
At larger-than-life Disneyland Paris, the kids will love dressing up as a fairytale princess or swashbuckling pirate, then saying hi to Mickey and Goofy. Try your hand at water sports, or let the kids loose at play areas on Marseille’s shingle beaches. In pink-hued Toulouse, step into the future at the interactive Cité de l'espace to see the Mir Space Station.
Things to do in France
In Toulouse, enter through the pink marble columns to watch opera at 19th-century Théâtre du Capitole. Wander around Marseille’s Italianate Old Port to hear live world music, or to sip on a post-dinner pastis. Nice's glamorous beaches are perfect for a promenade to people-watch. For glittery Paris nightlife, catch a cabaret show in Pigalle to relive the 1920s.
Skiing in France
France is home to one of the best ski areas in the world, great cuisine, some epic après ski, and high altitude snow-sure conditions. A lot of the resorts were purpose-built in the 60s and 70s, giving them a high altitude and fast-moving modern lift systems. Add to this beautiful scenery and you have a perfect place to ski.
Also known as the ‘Island in the Sun’, Alpe d’Huez normally gets around 300 days of sun throughout the year, making it a perfect ski spot. The pistes range from easy greens to extreme blacks up to 3330 metres, but the real draw is La Sarenne – which is the longest black run in the world stretching 16km. You’ll have as much fun off the pistes too as Alpe d’Huez is one of the liveliest resorts in the Alps, so you’ll find plenty of opportunity to have a few drinks after your long day of skiing.
Avoriaz is smack in the centre of the vast Portes du Soleil ski area, one of the biggest in the world. The combined pistes stretch a total of 650 kilometres, covering both France and Switzerland, and offers everything you could dream of ski-wise. Avoriaz’s own slopes are a bit more conservative in number, but equal in quality. The resort is purpose-built and there are no cars, meaning it really is a ski-in ski-out location. The après ski is varied and you will find some fantastic restaurants serving classic Savoyard cuisine, like the mouth-wateringly creamy Tartiflette, alongside more modern French dishes.
Sitting just below the majestic Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain, the charming town of Chamonix will cater to your every skiing need. During the summer it is a haven for climbers and bikers, but it comes alive for advanced free skiers and snowboarders around November. Despite its relatively low altitude, most of the lifts head up to above 2000 metres, with the most famous off-piste runs in the world. A bustling town, you will find shops, bars and restaurants to suit any evening – and of course some great après ski too.
Part of the wider Serre Chevalier valley, this Alpine village is classically French with 250 kilometres of skiable pistes at your fingertips. The varied and quiet slopes will be perfect for beginners and those a bit more competent, especially through the stunning Parc National des Ecrins – where you will see some truly magnificent scenery. Snowboarders will fall in love with Serre Chevalier for its natural off-piste landscapes. The après ski here is fairly relaxed, so don’t expect a raucous time, but you will find some delicious restaurants.
Courchevel is one of several resorts in the massive Les Trois Vallées ski area, and garners an affluent crowd due to its brilliant restaurants and luxury chalets. Couchevel has some great pistes too, ranging from long greens perfect for newcomers to runs more suited to seasoned skiers. You’ll find some steep blacks at the top of the Saulire lift, which your group can race down into the centre. Those wanting a bit more should head over into Meribel or Val Thorens, where you’ll find 600 kilometres of pistes waiting for you to explore. World-class après ski can be found in 1850’s Tremplin bar.
Flaine is part of the Grand Massif ski area, which also includes Les Carroz and Samoëns. The Flaine ski bowl itself is a brilliant area for beginners and intermediates, with some superb black routes for the fearless. It is great for freestyle skiers and snowboarders too, with one of the biggest snow parks in Europe, the Jam Park, stretching down the mountain for almost a mile. Flaine was purpose-built, so you won’t find too much in the way of entertainment, but there is such good skiing that you’ll be too tired to party.
La Plagne is a beautiful series of villages, all with their own advantages, sitting within the huge Paradiski area. La Plagne’s skiing covers a large area, but for those looking for a bit more, Paradiski covers almost 450 kilometres of pristine slopes. The big, wide runs are perfect for those new to snow sports and those who like to carve at high speeds. La Plagne is suited best to competent skiers, with around 70% of the runs being blue or easy reds. Off the piste, you’ll find over 50 restaurants catering for your every need.
Built above Bourg St. Moritz in the 1960s, Les Arcs is now one of the most respected resorts in the world. The great thing about Les Arcs is that 70% of the pistes are above 2000 metres, making it a very snow-sure mountain, even late in the season. Also connected to the Paradiski area and La Plagne, the slopes are more suited to proficient skiers but there are some amazing routes for the more advanced. Try the Aiguille Rouge peak, which drops 2000m vertically and is 7km long. Les Arcs is not well known for nightlife, but you’ll find some fun après ski in Les Arcs 1800.
Les Deux Alpes is superb for those who are past the beginner stage and happy on easy reds. Most of the pistes are blue or red, but those willing will find some brilliant powder-filled off-piste and a spectacular snow park. Les Deux Alpes comes into its own when it comes to après ski, with two kilometres of bars, shops and restaurants along the main strip. There is a young, lively crowd here and when not jumping off kickers at the snow park, you’ll find them sinking shots at the bar until late into the night.
Nestled below Val Thorens in the epic Les Trois Vallées ski area, Les Menuires is a recently refurbished resort, perfect for family trips to the mountains. With lots of green and blue pistes it is ideal for those with children, but is also good for the more advanced skier. Seen as an alternative to the more expensive Val Thorens and Meribel in the next valley, you’ll find some fantastic bars, restaurants and shops to get the essentials. There are classical music concerts in the town of an evening, so it’s good for a bit of culture too.
A traditionally French Alpine village waits for your arrival in La Rosiere, with a family-friendly atmosphere and long quiet pistes. Sat on the border of Italy, in the Espace San Bernardo ski area, the French southern-facing slopes are a sun trap, while the Italian northern slopes of La Thuile get fantastic snow. Enjoy perfect conditions for skiing in the morning, then enjoy a sunny afternoon of après ski as your reward. New skiers will enjoy the local pistes but more advanced skiers may choose to venture into the Espace San Bernardo area proper, as it will prove more of a challenge.
Megève is a beautiful medieval town dating back to the 13th century, with an age-old church in the pedestrianised central square. Seen as the French version of St Moritz, you will find fantastic shops and boutiques, and plenty of gourmet restaurants including the only three Michelin-starred chef in the Alps. Located in the Mont Blanc massif, the skiing is incredible, with more than 300 kilometres of piste available – you are sure to find the perfect run for your level. Advanced skiers will find off-piste more challenging, or could head over to nearby Chamonix for a serious test of their skills.
Meribel is a British favourite in the central valley of the sprawling 3 Valleys ski area, while its satellite resort Mottaret has a much more Gallic flair. Renowned for its picturesque village centres and long tree-lined slopes, Meribel is great for beginners and intermediates. Those looking for more difficult routes can head to the top of Mt Vallon above Mottaret to check out the exciting off-piste. Meribel is famous for its après ski, with the ‘Rond Point’ being a local landmark – check out the delicious barbecue and toffee vodka on offer, before heading down to the town’s many restaurants.
Nestled on the border between France and Italy, Montgenèvre combines a traditional Alpine village with a modern ski resort. Linked to the Milky Way ski area, Montgenèvre has an excellent snow record, fast lifts and well-groomed pistes up to 2700 metres. It is ideal for newcomers and competent skiers because of its wide, quiet slopes which are perfect for cruising. That said, you’ll find some world-class off-piste and freeride skiing in the bowls, and an exciting well made snow park. Après ski is varied, with lots of cool bars and an abundance of restaurants offering Franco-Italian fare.
Morzine is one of the 14 resorts that make up the Portes du Soleil ski area, which is absolutely huge at 650 kilometres of skiable pistes. Morzine’s local slopes are more modest, but still offer excellent skiing for newcomers and experts alike. From sweeping blues to difficult blacks and some of the best off-piste in France, your level of skiing is catered for. Endurance skiers should try the Portes du Soleil circuit, which covers 80km of pistes without ever using the same lift twice. Morzine is also a lively resort après, so let your hair down after an energetic day on the mountain.
Being on a glacier guarantees snow in Tignes, and allows for a long season which runs, normally, from October to May. As part of the enormous Espace Killy ski area, you’ll have more than 300 kilometres of skiable terrain at your ski tips. Tignes has a smaller area surrounding it, but no less impressive – with two brilliant snow parks, wide sweeping pistes and some of the best off-piste in the French Alps. As a purpose-built resort, it may lack the traditional Alpine village charm, but it makes up for it with its superb skiing conditions, affordable prices and lively après ski.
Val d’Isere is arguably one of the world’s best ski resorts, with spectacular skiing at a high altitude, brilliant après ski and lift links to the huge Espace Killy ski area. Predominantly built for intermediate and advanced skiers, this is a veritable playground for the experienced – with some incredible free skiing available to those able. The famous Oakley ValPark will have snowboarders jumping for joy, as will the resort’s cosmopolitan après ski bars and modern restaurants. Those looking for more traditional fare will find some great taverns serving Savoyard specialities too – like a delicious cheese fondue.
Europe’s highest and most snow sure resort, Val Thoren ticks all the boxes when looking for a high altitude ski holiday. As a purpose-built resort, it is not the most beautiful, but you will forgive that when you ski straight to the door of your accommodation. The well-groomed pistes cater for the more advanced skier at the top of the mountain, but beginners will find some exhilarating runs too. The off-piste here is also superb, with powder snow galore on the Peclet and Chavière glaciers. After skiing, head down to the town to find great bars – including the breathtaking views from the panoramic Bar 360.
Villeneuve is one of the string of villages that make up the Serre Chevalier resort, just above Chantemerle. A pretty and classic alpine hamlet which offers skiers and snowboarders a quiet time away from the activity of the main resort. The best thing about Serre Chevalier is the quiet slopes, winding down the mountain in elegant tree-lined routes. Catering for beginners and those a bit more qualified, there is also plenty of opportunity for more advanced skiers. The local bars and restaurants serve up traditional cuisine and the après ski is subdued but entertaining, definitely better for the quieter crowd.