I started last year by listing the top 10 reasons why you should visit Paris. While I certainly stand by them, I decided to broaden my horizon for 2020. I still think you should visit Paris, but maybe you’ve already seen the city and you want to explore more of this beautiful country. Maybe you’re looking for some sights that are not the Eiffel Tower. If you’re on the fence at all about taking a French vacation, I’m here to help. Below are my top 10 reasons why you should visit France this year.
Wine, Bread, and Cheese
Let’s just dive right in. France is renowned for its wine, bread, and cheese, and you don’t have to be in Paris to partake. Wherever you are in the country, take a moment to enjoy these classics of the French diet. You will not regret it.
Once you’ve moved beyond those classics, there’s a whole palate of incredible food just waiting for you to try. Every region of France has its own specialty, so whether you’re having Tarte Flambée in Alsace or Gratin Dauphinois in the Alps, you can eat your way through this country and never get bored.
Tour de France
The Tour de France is one of the most well known sporting events in the world. The most famous images of this cycling race may be of the finish line down the Champs-Élysées, but the race happens all over France during a three week period every summer. If you want to avoid the crowds in Paris, head into the countryside to see the cyclists up close as they compete in this gruelling race. Just not too close.
Were you a fan of the film Ford v Ferrari? Even if you missed the movie, this 24 hour endurance race in Le Mans is a thrilling event. It takes place every June in the Loire Valley, so if you need a break from all the castles and wine, definitely check this one out.
If sports and car races aren’t your thing, head down to the medieval town of Avignon to experience one of the most prestigious theatre festivals in the world. Over three weeks in July, the Avignon Festival produces 60 shows across 40 venues, and boasts an average attendance rate of 95%. If you are a fan of theatre, this is the place to be every summer.
The Great Roman Games
Now, if traditional theatre isn’t your thing, how does the largest re-enactment of medieval history in Europe sound? In May every year, over 500 performers gather in the historic amphitheatre of Nîmes to re-enact the traditional public games of ancient Rome. Nearly 20,000 spectators come to watch the Great Roman Games every year, so why not you?
Are you looking for something a bit more interactive? Why not tackle the Marathon du Medoc? Don’t be scared off by the word “marathon”. This race has been dubbed “the longest marathon in the world” simply because of how long participants take to make their way through the course. Instead of water stations, this marathon famously has wine tastings, oyster bars, and steak stations interspersed throughout the route. Believe me when I say that this race is not about setting a personal best finishing time.
Cannes International Fireworks Festival
The seaside city of Cannes may be more famous for the film festival that happens every spring, but once Hollywood has gone home, Cannes plays host to another festival that is far more explosive. For six weeks in July and August, the International Fireworks Festival lights up the sky above the Bay of Cannes. Countries from around the world come to compete in this prestigious event, so if you find yourself in the south of France in the summer, this is not a spectacle you want to miss.
Alsace Christmas Markets
Yes, yes, I know. We just
survived finished the holiday season. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start thinking about next year. If you’re planning on coming to France over the holidays, definitely consider a trip to Alsace to visit the famous Christmas markets. The largest and most well known are in Strasbourg, but the entire region is dotted with the famous chalet market stalls.
Finally, this list would not be complete without mentioning the biggest day of the year on the French calendar: Bastille Day. Taking place on July 14th, Bastille Day is France’s national holiday, and let me tell you, this country goes all out in its celebrations. The biggest festivities may happen in Paris, but there are parties, fireworks displays, and parades all throughout the country, so wherever you are, get those tricolours ready. It’s time to celebrate.
France is Waiting For You
There are countless reasons to visit France this year, so I hope this list has inspired you to start your travel planning. And if it’s not possible for you to visit in person, I hope I can bring the magic of France to you over the coming year. In the meantime, Happy New Year and Bonne Année!
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.