The landscapes, the market towns, the culture, the history, the food… oh the food… and let’s not forget the wine! France is a truly unique country with so much to explore and discover. For as long as I can remember, we’ve kept some kind of bucket list of places and experiences we’d love to try out in France. If you’re a fellow Francophile looking for some travel inspiration, then go ahead and check out our epic bucket list of ideas for visiting France. This list will no doubt keep growing so keep checking back as we work our way through it and as we write up the ones we’ve already done!
Click on the links below so that you have all the information at your fingertips to get the best out of YOUR experience.
FRANCE BUCKET LIST:
BUCKET LIST ACTION EXPERIENCES IN FRANCE
Walk the Calanques de Cassis
There are a number of ‘calanques’ in the south of France including the famous ‘Calanques de Cassis’. If you haven’t visited this pretty seaside town, you’re missing out! Located a short 20 minute drive from Marseille, this picturesque fishing village is a world away from the busy metropolis. It will enchant you with its pastel coloured houses, winding streets and port. The nearby Calanques de Cassis are beautiful rocky inlets featuring the most stunning turquoise waters. The Calanques are spread across 20kms between les Goudes (south-west of Marseilles) to Cassis.
Climb La Dune du Pilat, the largest sand dune in Europe
Did you know that the tallest sand dune in Europe was located in France? It’s called la Dune du Pilat and is situated in the town of La Teste de Buch. It measures 107m in height, almost 3kms in length and attracts in excess of 1 million visitors a year! Climb to the top – either using the stairs or ascend directly in the sand – and enjoy the amazing panoramic view of Arcachon Bay. It makes for a great day trip from Bordeaux (60kms away) or alternatively, enjoy a stay in the nearby attractive seaside town of Arcachon.
Go canoeing on the Dordogne river
What better way to discover the Dordogne than from the river? You get an amazing view of villages, castles and sweeping landscapes from the comfort of your canoe.
Bike ride from Bordeaux to Biarritz
300kms of bike trails, one sore bottom and lots of laughs… this what the hubby did a couple of years ago. It was a challenge set up by fellow expat. Yes, let’s ride 300kms in 3 days during the month of November. Fun right? Well, apparently it was rather a lot of fun (in spite of a number of punctures, getting lost, poor French sign posts almost missing a boat across from Cap Ferret).
• Take a surf lesson in Biarritz
• Hire bikes and explore l’Ile de Ré and l’Ile d’Oléron
• Walk the GR20 in Corsica
• Discover the family-friendly ski resort of Avoriaz
• Go kayaking in the Ardèche
• Go snow-shoeing in the Pyrenees
BUCKET LIST FOOD & DRINK EXPERIENCES IN FRANCE
Have a glass of champagne at the legendary Co’orniche bar overlooking the bassin d’Arcachon
Two for the price of one! Stunning views + champagne + UNESCO listed sand dunes. How about enjoying a gorgeous view on the Archachon basin while sipping on a glass of champagne at the legendary Co’orniche bar? This funky, trendy bar is located at the Dune du Pilat about 45 minutes from Bordeaux. This coastline is gorgeous and well worth the detour plus you’ll get to enjoy the challenge of climbing the tallest sand dune in Europe!
Improve my culinary skills by taking part in a cookery course
Have a hot chocolate at Angelina’s in Paris
Now this is something for your Paris Bucket list! Angelina’s patisserie and tearoom in Paris is something of an institution and should definitely feature on your Paris itinerary. Located on the Rue Rivoli, across from the Tuilerie Gardens and a stone’s throw from the Louvre, this quintessentially Parisian tearoom has been around since 1903. We strongly suggest you indulge in one of their delicious, creamy hot chocolate’s accompaned by their signature Mont Blanc cake. This iconic tearoom, with its Belle Epoque interior, is believed to have attracted the likes of Proust, Coco Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld.
• Learn about wine at la Cité du Vin in Bordeaux
• Visit the world renowned vineyards around Bordeaux
• Sample the best food market stalls in France
• Visit a ‘Bouchon’ restaurant in Lyon
• Learn about cheesemaking in St Nectaire
Eat oysters in Arcachon
We’ve visited the attractive seaside resort of Arcachon on a number of occasions and have noticed that oysters feature rather prominently on their local menus. The area around the Bay of Arcachon is famous for oyster farming so we feel that Arcachon would be the perfect place to indulge in this delicacy. I’ll actually be completely honest and admit that I’m not entirely sold on the whole slimy, gluey slurping down of oysters but the hubby is actually a numero uno fan of said delicacy. My lovely French neighbour introduced me to a slight variant on oysters – cooked oysters! Yum! Much more up my alley J So here’s to those of you who are into the slurping down of oysters – Archachon OR Bordeaux is the place to indulge. And let’s not forget the accompanying crisp white wine.
Be brave and try snails (unlikely!)
Snails, frogs’ leg, baguette and a garland of garlic … and there you have it – the epitome of the French stereotype. So have you ever tried snails or frogs’ legs? When we first moved to France back in 2012, our kids were young uninhibited 3 and 5 year olds and thought nothing of munching on chewy, garlickey mollusk! I once had a go at munching on a snail but I remain unconvinced…
• Eat an authentic tartiflette in Annecy
• Go on a champagne tasting tour *without* the kiddos
• Indulge in a foodie tour in one of France’s gastronomic capital’s, the Dordogne
• Discover how rosé from Provence is produced (might involve some wine tasting!)
BUCKET LIST ART EXPERIENCES IN FRANCE
• Go on Van Gogh’s trail in Arles
• Check out the views that Matisse painted in Collioure
• Spot Cocteau’s work in Menton
• Photograph the iconic Mont St Michel at dawn.
• Visit the Picasso museum, photograph his statue of l’homme et le mouton in the main square of Vallauris
Visit Matisse’s chapel
Stand on *that* bridge in Monet’s Gardens in Giverny
Indulge in my love of impressionism by visiting l’Orangerie and Le Musée d’Orsay in Paris
• Marvel at Da Vinci’s lifesize recreations in the Chateau Clos Lucé
• Follow in Van Gogh’s footsteps in St Rémy de Provence
• Visit the setting of the Count Monte Cristo
BUCKET LIST HISTORICAL EXPERIENCES IN FRANCE
• Visit the top chateaux in the Dordogne
• Walk across the 2000 year old Pont du Gard
• Visit 18,000 year old caves paintings at Lascaux IV and Font de Gaume
• Learn about Roman history in Nimes and Orange
• Marvel at the Chateau Versailles
• Discover the Chateaux of the Loire Valley & Fontainebleau
• Walk in the steps of the pilgrims at Rocamadour
• Visit the Pope’s Palace and THE famous bridge in Avignon
• Visit the cathedral of Orleans, Joan’s of Arc’s resting place
• Pay our respects at the battlefields of Somme & Oradour-sur-Glane
• Learn about the Knight’s Templar’s history at the Cathar Castles
• Visit Carcassonne
BUCKET LIST EXPERIENCES IN FRANCE
• Admire the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower
• Mingle with Asterix and Obelix at the Parc Astérix
• Attend a night show at Le Puy du Fou
• Relax and rejuvenate at the Caudalie spa.
• Visit the largest private aquarium in Europe at La Rochelle
• Experience a hot air balloon festival in Rocamadour
• Take a hot air balloon ride – any suggestions as to where we should do this?
• Stay in a tree house
• Take the kids to Eurodisney
• Go on the scariest ride at Futuroscope
• Take a trip on a barge on the Canal du Midi
• Visit the Zoo de Beauval
• Do some wild camping
• Check out some of the best campsites in France
• Experience the carnaval in Nice
• Explore the garden exhibition at Chaumont-sur-Loire
• Take boat trip into the Gouffre de Padirac in the Lot
• Road trip through the Gorges du Verdon
• Drive around the F1 racetrack in Monaco
• Experience the citrussy scent of Menton’s Lemon Festival
• Admire the views of the French Riviera from the picturesque hilltop town of Eze-Village
• Experience the Lights Festival in Lyon
• Take in the heady smell from the Lavender fields in Provence
• Ride on the famous Large Elephant in Nantes
• Take a boat trip to St Cirq Lapopie
• Sleep under the stars
• Sunbathe on the Parisians’ favourite beach at Le Touquet
So have you booked your flights yet? What’s on YOUR France bucket list? Please let me know in the comments if I’ve missed anything and provide me with some more wanderlust inspiration.