Things to Do in France - page 4
The Petit Palais, as you can imagine, is the smaller of the two museums on Avenue Winston Churchill, between the Champs-Élysées and the Pont Alexandre III. Unlike many museums in Paris, it was built (in 1900) specifically as an exhibition space, as evidenced by its abundance of soft natural light and open spaces. It is now home to the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris.
Its collection covers a wide range of styles and eras, from medieval paintings to 19th-century sculpture. Fans of Monet and Cézanne will enjoy their lesser-known works, and there's plenty of Rubens, Rembrandt and Rodin to go around.
La Croisette Boulevard, or Boulevard de la Croisette, is the heart of Cannes, with luxury hotels, designer shops, and glittering nightlife spots lining the way along the curving coast. On the other side of the boulevard reside Cannes famous sandy beaches. It extends completely along the spectacular Cannes coastline. The boulevard overlooks the impressive harbor which is home to extravagant yachts and a pirate ship built for a film.
The eastern section of the boulevard extends south at the lovely Parc de la Roseraie, curves along the Port Pierre Canto and ends at the southern tip of the Pointe de la Croisette near the Port du Palm beach. On the east side of the cape lies the charming Boulevard Eugène- Gazagnaire and its lovely beach, which extends north to the Port du Moure Rouge. The Croisette is the main drag of Cannes and features many of its major attractions.
Pont de l’Alma is a Parisian bridge built in 1854 in commemoration of the Franco-British alliance’s victory over the Russian army during the Crimean War. The bridge underwent complete rebuilding in the 1970s in order to accommodate the rapidly increasing road and river traffic – only the statues were retained from the original structure. The arch bridge is now 42 meters large and 153 meters long, and links the right and left banks of the Seine River.
Pont de l’Alma offers splendid views of the Eiffel Tower and is often the go-to location for photographers wanting to capture Paris. What made the bridge a household name worldwide, however, is the role it played in Lady Diana’s death; indeed, she perished in a car crash at the entrance of the bridge’s tunnel in 1997. The Flame of Liberty at the bridge's north end has become an unofficial memorial to her memory.
Notre-Dame de Reims is known as the seat of the region’s archdiocese and also the location of coronations for kings of France. Built on the former site of a church that was destroyed by fire in 1211, the impressive portals, statues and spires of Notre Dame have become one of the most popular attractions in Reims.
After taking in the chevet’s ornate exterior and Notre Dame’s famous rose window, travelers can venture indoors where colorful stained glass dating back to the 13th and 20th centuries decorates the nave and altar. A vast collection of tapestries, including a series representing the life of the Virgin Mary, is also on display, and the church’s treasury, dating back some 800 years, showcases rare artifacts like a holy flask broken during the French Revolution.
If you're spending an even remotely significant amount of time in Nice, then you'll soon become familiar with Place Massena. It's the massive, open square at the bottom of L'avenue Jean-Médecin; just a little bit past it is Vieux Nice and the Mediterranean. Walk under the porticos in foul weather, or enjoy the sun on its wide walkways. It ends in a gorgeous fountain framed by faded cherry-red buildings, a favorite with photographers of any ability.
In the daytime, Place Massena is a busy pedestrian/tram intersection, and it can seem like barely controlled chaos as people scurry, stroll or simply hang out along its dizzyingly tiled surface. At night it's a bit less busy, but many are more distracted as the large human-like sculptures high atop poles change color like lava lamps! Place Massena is also the site for many of Nice's most popular events throughout the year, from Mardi Gras to Fete de la Musique concerts to summer outdoor markets.
Only one street back from the seafront, Cours Saleya is a mainly-pedestrianized street/square which hosts a daily market. It is split between its famous flower market selling bucketfuls of blooms in the western half, and a magnificent food market at the eastern end, with long trestle tables displaying exotic spices, shiny fruit and veg, pastries, fruits glacés (glazed or candied fruits such as figs, ginger, tangerine and pears) and more. On Mondays from 6am to 6pm, Cours Saleya also hosts an antiques market.
Lined by restaurants and cafes, it is the perfect place for breakfast, to sip coffee and people-watch, or for after dark, when the market is closed and the outdoor seating from the restaurants expands to fill the square.
The heart and soul of the Vieil Aix (Old Town) the historic Cours Mirabeau is the main thoroughfare of Aix en Provence, passing between the ring roads that mark the boundaries of the old medieval center and the new town. A broad tree-lined avenue crammed with shops, restaurants and cafés, Cours Mirabeau runs from the iconic statue of King Rene (Fontaine du Roi René) in Place Forbin, to the stately Place du General de Gaulle.
Simply strolling the wide avenue – a spacious 42 meters wide - is enough to unveil many of its charms. Elegant 17th-century mansions, walled gardens and ornamental fountains line the sidewalks and a pit stop at one of the many alfresco cafés is the perfect way to take in the scenery. Once home to the city’s elite, Cours Mirabeau boasts one-time residents like a young Cezanne and architectural highlights include the monumental entrance of Hotel de Villiers and the regal Hôtel d'Arbod Jouques.
Le Chateau, the shaded hill and park at the eastern end of Quai des États-Unis, is named after a 12th-century château that was razed by Louis XIV in a fit of pique in 1706 and never rebuilt. There are some ruins but not really a chateau to speak of. In the one remaining tower, the 16th century Tour Bellanda, is the Musée Naval. The cemetery where Garibaldi is buried covers the northwest of the park.
From this 300 ft (92 m) hilltop park aslo known as Castel Hill, the glittering views of Vieux Nice spires and the Baie des Anges are mesmerizing. It's worth the walk up - especially as you pass waterfalls, pools and gardens along the way. Once at the top, sit and have a coffee under the trees; the cafe offerings are very much kiosk style but the view makes up for everything.
Marseilles has grown from being a tiny trading port established by the Greeks in 600 BC to being France’s second largest city. Topped by the hilltop Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde cathedral, it rises from the lovely harbor front of the Vieux Port or Old Harbor out into a sprawling, modern metropolis.
Given its role as France’s major port and its proximity to Africa and the Mediterranean, it is not surprising that Marseilles is an extremely culturally diverse city with great transport links to most of the country. Marseilles is the gateway to Provence, an area famed for its cooking and its artists.
As well as being an important port and industrial city, Marseilles is also an important center for culture with the Opera de Marseille and the Ballet Nationale de Marseille housed in the historic Opera House. It has also attracted many famous artists over the years, including Renoir and Cezanne, and spawned much of France’s hip hop music.
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One of Paris’s most beloved cabarets, Au Lapin Agile has been delighting audiences in Montmartre for decades. The title translates to “The Nimble Rabbit” from French, originating from a painting of a rabbit jumping out of a hot frying pan. The small theater was once a hotspot for bohemian Parisian artists such as Picasso, Modigliani, Toulouse-Latrec, and Utrillo. Picasso helped to make the space famous with his 1905 painting of “At the Lapin Agile.”
The iconic pink cottage cabaret drew in some of Paris’s most eccentric characters, many of which carved their names into the original wooden tables that still remain today. Having opened in 1860, the Paris institution has long been a source of evening revelry, good food and drink, and French song and dance performance. It continues to be an authentic venue for all three today.
Calanques National Park (Parc national des Calanques) sits in the south of France between Marseille and Cassis. The area boasts dramatic rocky inlets, azure waters and pebble beaches, making it a popular destination for tourists looking to hike, swim and sail.
The park is relatively large and composed of nearly 20 acres (8,500 hectares) by land and more than 100 acres (42,000 hectares) by sea. Visitors can spend their time keeping an eye out for some of the 140 land animal species and 60 marine species that live here. These creatures are protected in the park, which is the only one in Europe to contain land, marine and semi-urban areas. The calanques themselves are also main attractions and include Calanque de Sormiou, Calanque de Morgiou, Calanque d'En-Vau, Calanque de Port-Pin and Calanque de Sugiton.
The Place de la Bourse (or Place Royale) faces onto the river Garonne. It was laid out in the 1700s by Louis XV's architect, Gabriel, to act as a dramatic frame for an equestrian statue of the monarch.
The Place de la Bourse is framed on one side by the Stock Exchange (the 'Bourse' that gives the square its name) and on the other side by a museum. In the center of the square is its chief beauty and attraction, the fountain of the Three Graces, built by Visconti in 1869. When it's lit at night it is highly photogenic.
Rising above the port in Nice is Mont Boron, a green wilderness with great views over Nice and beyond.From Mont Boron you can see over the port of Nice, Nice town and to Villefranche and Cap Ferrat. From this height you it’s easy to understand why this coastline is called the Cote d’Azur - the blue of the sea is simply amazing.
Since 1860, Mont Boron has been preserved as a nature retreat with trees native to the Mediterranean, including Holm Oak and Aleppo Pine. With 6 miles (11 km) of sign-posted trails, this has become a popular place for both locals and visitors to escape the narrow streets of the city and take in the fresh air. It's also good for mountain biking. You can catch the bus (number 14) to the top of Mont Boron and then walk back down.
Nearby Mont Albon has a 16th century military fort perched 720 feet (220m) above the sea. From here you get 360-degree views of the surrounding coastline and the Alpes-Maritimes.
As you exit onto the back terrace of the Palace of Versailles, the breathtaking view of the royal gardens is dominated by the Grand Canal, which leads your eye to the farthest perimeter of the grounds. But although it is a spectacular feature of the park, it was designed and is used today as a practical feature of the gardens.
Constructed over the course of a decade in the late 17th century under the reign of Louis the XIV, its original name – Little Venice – came from the canal's inaugural gifts from the Doge of Venice: a full set of gondolas, complete with Venetian gondoliers. Also moored there were various ships and yachts built to the scale of the canal and used in elaborate water shows and recreations of famous battles. But the canal is also the main feature of the irrigation systems for the gardens, used to drain off water from the higher elevations and pumped back uphill to re-water them – a genius move for its time.
If you were just walking by Clos Montmartre on a trip to the Sacre-Couer, you might assume it was just a particularly lovely community garden dotted with peach trees and vines. Actually, the Clos is the oldest working vineyard in Paris, and on clear days, from here you can see all the way out to the Eiffel Tower.
The best time to visit Clos Montmartre is during Fête des Vendanges — the harvest festival — when the grapes from the Clos are taken over to Montmartre town hall to be fermented and turned into around 1,500 bottles of gamay and pinot noir.
Bordeaux's Grand Theatre was built in the late 1700s during the reign of Louis XVI by architect Victor Louis. It is one of the most beautiful 18th-century concert halls in the world, with a facade adorned with 12 Corinthian columns, each topped with a statue. Nine statues represent the art muses, and the other three represent the Roman goddesses Juno, Venus and Minerva. Over the past few years, the theater has gone through restoration to repair damages from oil lamps and revive the 18th-century decor.
On three separate occasions the theater was the seat of the French parliament. In effect this made Bordeaux the capital of France in 1870, 1914, and 1941. Today the Grand Theatre is home to the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine, the Opera Ballet of Bordeaux, and the Chorus of the Opéra National de Bordeaux.
A monumental square made up of Baroque architecture, the late 18th century Place Garibaldi lies at the eastern end of the Old Town of Nice. Recent renovation has revitalized the beauty of the buildings.
Place Garibaldi has shops, bars and cafes including Grand Café de Turin, famous for its seafood and a great place to dine al fresco and people watch. On the weekends the square fills with stall holders selling antiques and bric-a-bracs. Many of the main streets of Nice cross the square: Avenue de la République, Boulevard Jean Jaurès, Rue Catherine Ségurane and the rue Cassini which leads to the old port. Tram No. 1 runs through Place Garibaldi and around the edge of the Old Town (Vieux Nice) and most of the square has now been pedestrianized. The square has a majestic fountain in its center with a statue of Italian hero Giuseppe Garibaldi who was responsible for unifying Italy in the late 19th century. He had hoped that Nice would become part of Italy.
Tucked behind the Bastille in Eastern Paris, the Marché d’Aligre is one of the capital’s liveliest markets, mixing the traditional and the bohemian with plenty of rustic French charm. The market is split into two parts: the Marche Beauvau, one of the few remaining covered markets in the capital, and an outdoor flea market where everything from antiques and crafts (including many African and Asia works), to clothes and fresh flowers, is on sale. Seasonal fruits, vegetables and meat line the indoor stalls, alongside huge slabs of local cheeses, fresh oysters and delicious baked goods, and there are plenty of free samples available to challenge your taste buds.
The market is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9am-4pm, as well as Sunday mornings; although many stallholders take a break for lunch around 1pm. The surrounding streets are packed with bijou cafes and charming eateries where you can watch the world go by while sampling some fine cuisine.
Things to do near France
- Things to do in Paris
- Things to do in Nice
- Things to do in Marseille
- Things to do in Cannes
- Things to do in Bordeaux
- Things to do in Arles
- Things to do in Marignane
- Things to do in Montpellier
- Things to do in Nîmes
- Things to do in Blois
- Things to do in Switzerland
- Things to do in Monaco
- Things to do in Burgundy
- Things to do in Rhône-Alpes
- Things to do in Languedoc-Roussillon