FRANCE

The largest country in the European Union by area, France is well-known around the globe for a culture which celebrates everyday luxuries. Whether you’re admiring world-class art and architecture in Paris, watching chic passersby at a quaint village bistro, sunning yourself on the Riviera or wandering through fields of lavender  in Provence, an undeniable joie de vivre will permeate your stay in France. 
BASICS /// Flag: 🇫🇷 // Capital: Paris // Currency: euro // Languages: French (and regional languages)

 


ITINERARIES

Capital "city of lights" filled with art, architecture, fashion, food and other delights.
SEE
The greatest hits of Parisian arts and architecture: The Eiffel Tower, of course, particularly when it's night and it's twinkling. You don't need to go to the top; you can get great views of Paris from the Arc de Triomphe, Sacré Coeur or Notre Dame, which you should also see. Must see museums: Musée du Louvre and Musée d'Orsay - go more than once if you can, both are much more rewarding when you can wander and discover at a relaxed pace.
Musée National Picasso: Housed in a beautiful old building in the Marais; home to an extensive collection of Picasso paintings and sculptures.
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris / Palais de Tokyo: Neo-classical looking buildings housing modern and contemporary art. Head here for a shot of the new and a break from all the historic sites. 
Centre Pompidou: Fantastic modern art collection and often puts on blockbuster exhibitions. Side notes: the building itself is worth seeing - its insides are on the outside - and the view from the top floor is wonderful.
Musée Rodin: A quiet oasis of a museum featuring sculptures by Rodin.
Musée de l’Orangerie: A small museum of impressionist works. Worth a visit for the room of Monet's monumental Water Lilies canvases.
Espace Dali: Small museum featuring sculptures and engravings made by Dali.
Grand Palais: Enormous, glass-ceilinged exhibition space. Check to see what events are on in advance.
Sainte-Chapelle: A gothic chapel featuring stunning wall-to-wall stained glass. 
DO
Take a stroll. Paris is the home of the flâneur, after all; it is best experienced by walking and wandering. A few ideas: 
  • Promenade Plantée: A glorious urban oasis; Paris's version of NYC's High Line (i.e. a garden built on an old railroad track). Walk back along the Viaduc des Arts to window shop at artisan workshops.
  • The Seine: Admire the view from its countless bridges.
  • Passages Couverts: Covered passages scattered throughout the city with bars, restaurants and shops.
  • Canal St. Martin: Aka the other body of water in Paris that’s not the Seine. Take a stroll here for a glimpse of Paris off the tourist trail.
  • La Défense: Largely a business district, but an interesting stroll to see the modernist counterpart to the Arc de Triomphe. 

EAT
Angelina: A teahouse and patisserie renowned for its hot chocolate.
Pink Flamingo: Pizzeria with unusual creations. Grab a pie and eat it along Canal St. Martin. 
L’Epigramme: Classic French cuisine from a daily blackboard menu in a cozy, romantic setting.
Candelaria: Taqueria in the Marais by day; bar at night.
L’As du Fallafel: The best falafel in Paris. Don’t worry, the permanent line outside moves quickly. Get yours to go and eat it while strolling around the Marais. 
SHOP
Shakespeare & Company: Independent bookstore along the Seine with extensive English titles.
MerciConcept store with clothing, homewares, books, etc. A place to get lost in. Try the adjoining café while you're there. 
Centre Commercial: Outpost for great independent brands. 
Frenchtrotters: Stocks a good selection of independent brands; has a house line which captures the elusive French-girl-cool.


CULTURE FILE

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
An epic (and seven-book-long) collection which defies narrative convention and explores the nature of time and existence.
Nana by Émile Zola
Novel about a courtesan who rises to become a member of the French elite.
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
A novel with a complex female protagonist who yearns to escape her provincial married life.

The Stranger by Albert Camus
An novel about the absurdity of existence and whether it is possible to find meaning in such a world.
The Human Comedy by Honoré de Balzac
Epic series of novels exploring all of post-Napoleonic French society.
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
An novel about big themes - politics, justice and love - as told through the story of ex-convict Jean Valjean.
Candide by Voltaire
An 18th-century satire with a withering take-down of optimism.
Jean-Paul Sartre
Philosopher who was a key member of the Existentialists; was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964 but refused it because “a writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution.”
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
Seminal text about women and contemporary feminism.
André Gide
Winner of the 1947 Nobel Prize in Literature for his works “in which human problems and conditions have been presented with a fearless love of truth and keen philosophical insight.”
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The story of a young prince who falls to Earth, but moreover, a meditation on loneliness, friendship and love.
Count of Monte Cristo; The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Pioneering works in the adventure and swashbuckling genres.
Breathless, Band of Outsiders, Contempt (films)
This trio of films by Jean-Luc Godard are perhaps the best examples of French New Wave cinema, which took an experimental and radical approach to filmmaking (sudden cuts and music cues; filming in natural environments with natural lighting) and focused on existential themes (the disintegration of a marriage; the lives of criminals on the run).
The 400 Blows (film)
A defining film of the French New Wave, telling a coming-of-age story about a young, misunderstood boy in Paris.
Les Enfants du Paradis (film)
Often called the French answer to “Gone with the Wind”, this film depicts the Parisian theatre scene of the 1820s and a courtesan torn between four men.
A Prophet (film)
A gritty film telling the story of a French man of Algerian descent who winds up in prison and must reckon with the Corsican and Muslim mafias which control inmates’ lives there.
Amélie (film)
The story of a waitress who seeks to better the lives of those around her, told with a sense of whimsy and everyday magic.
The Returned (TV)
A series with an unusual premise: long-dead people return to a remote French village as if they’d never been gone.
Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingres
A neoclassical painter famous for his portraits.
Jacques-Louis David
A neoclassical painter who depicted historical scenes.
Gustave Courbet
A Realist painter who inspired later Impressionists and Cubists with his desire to include social statements in his works.
Edouard Manet
A transitional painter bridging the Realists and the Impressionists; one of the first to paint figures from modern life.
Claude Monet
A founder of French impressionism, best known for rejecting realist depictions in favor of plein air, impressionistic landscapes.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
An Impressionist famous for his paintings of people - primarily women - rather than landscapes.
Edgar Degas
Categorized as an Impressionist, though he considered himself a Realist; most famous for his portraits of dancers.
Henri Matisse
An artist best known for his use of vibrant color; a painter as well as a collagist, printmaker, and sculptor.
Paul Cézanne
A Post-Impressionist who used clear brushstrokes in his work; a bridge between Impressionism and Cubism (i.e. a continuation of the trend towards greater abstraction).
Paul Gauguin
A Post-Impressionist artist inspired by his time in Polynesia to use bold colors in his works.
Georges Seurat
A Post-Impressionist painter known for the painting technique pointillism (i.e. the use of small dots to create a larger scene).
Marcel Duchamp
An early Cubist who later founded the Dada movement, an avant-garde, conceptual art movement which questioned the nature of art. Perhaps best known for his work “Fountain,” which was a urinal.
Édith Piaf
Cabaret singer turned national icon; listen to “La Vie en rose” or “Non, je ne regret rien.”
Serge Gainsbourg
Songwriter with provocative works in a wide range of genres.
Noir Désir
French rock band most famous in the 80/90s.
Manu Chao
Rock/reggae artist who sings in a variety of languages.
Coquilles Saint-Jacques
Scallops on the half-shell.
Soupe à l’oignon
French onion soup - hearty, like bread pudding.
Steak tartare
The most primal of dishes: raw beef.
Magret de canard
Seared duck breast.
Boeuf Bourguignon
Red wine beef stew.
Bouillabaisse
Seafood stew from Marseille with saffron flavor.
Ratatouille
Long before the Pixar movie, there was this classic dish: colorful vegetables in tomato sauce.
Gratin Dauphinois
Sliced potatoes layered with cream and baked.
Coq au vin
Braised chicken with red wine.
Quiche lorraine
Savory custard-like dish with eggs, cheese, and often bacon.
Escargots
Snails with butter, garlic and parsley.
Croque Monsieur
Grilled cheese with ham. With an egg on top, becomes a Croque Madame. Bistro staples.
Boulangerie/Patisserie fare
Ah, French baked goods: croissants, pain au chocolat; baguettes; mille feuilles; macarons, éclairs, tarte tatins…