Paris is a hub for world-class art galleries and museums, as well as for famous landmarks interwoven with the city’s long history. The magical flowering of art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries brought forth the genius of Toulouse Lautrec, Degas, Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh and many more talents, and their finest works are displayed here. A visit to the Louvre is a must, if only to view the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa.

All popular things to do can be enjoyed in France, from skiing and snowboarding in the Alps and the Pyrenees, to extreme sports such as mountaineering and skydiving. The French Riviera offers a wide range of water sports, as well as stunning nightlife, and tours around France’s famous wine regions are a major visitor draw. The country’s history dates back 2,000-plus years, with fine examples of all periods, from prehistoric times to the early 20th century, easily explored.

The Louvre is the world’s most-visited museum, and for good reason. The building itself is of historic importance and its displays hold the finest examples of world culture and exquisite art, including the Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa, the Code of Hammurabi, Egyptian mummies, and artifacts and treasures of the Renaissance period. Private tours of its wonders can be had with Best Private Tours.

A symbol of absolute monarchy was built for Emperor Louis XIV in 1682 and remains one of the world’s most magnificent palaces today. The home of the French court for 100 years, the Chateau de Versailles features spectacular interiors including the king and queen’s private apartments, state rooms, and the Hall of Mirrors, all set in sumptuous splendor and surrounded by glorious gardens. Guided tours can be booked with Local Paris Tours.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the 175-mile long Loire Valley follows the twists and turns of the River Loire through some of France’s most spectacular scenery. It’s a land of vineyards, rolling hills, and rocky outcrops dotted with more than 1,000 ancient chateaux, picturesque medieval towns, and tiny villages. Hiking, walking and cycling tours with companies such as Loire Valley Breaks make sure you see all the famous sights, as well off-the-beaten-path treasures.

The city of Lyon in the Rhone-Alps region of France and was founded by the Romans 2,000 years ago. Its impressive old quarter is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Lyon’s cultural heritage takes in Roman landmarks, medieval architecture, Renaissance palaces, and the glorious Fourviere Basilica. The city is a center for theater from its 200-year old puppet theater tradition to the avant-garde. Tours by Locals takes visitors around the best known sights, as well as lesser-known delights.

Backed by the historic regions of Provence and Avignon, the Cote d’Azur is better known to visitors as the French Riviera. One of Europe’s most popular resort areas, it include the cities of Nice and Cannes, as well as many smaller seaside havens equipped with water sports facilities. Glitzy Cannes is a see-and-be-seen hub for celebrity-spotting around the time of the annual Cannes Film Festival (May), and its marina is crammed with the luxury yachts of the rich and famous. Away from the coast are wildernesses great for hiking, trekking, and birding, and winter visitors enjoy heading to the mountain ski resorts for skiing and snowboarding.

A lesser-known destination within France is the northwestern region of Brittany. Its history goes back to prehistoric times, as evidenced by the mysterious megalithic menhirs at Carnac and the dolmans around Morlaix Bay. The coastline, stretching from the old town of St Malo, is known as the Cote d’Emeraude and offers rugged cliffs, tiny bays, charming fishing villages, and great cliff top walks. The 10 Breton offshore islets are popular with birders and stunning Mont St Michel is just across the border in Normandy. Cycle tours of the coastline are popular, with Breton Bikes setting everything up for visiting cyclists.