Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Alps and Pyrénées, France, located in the northwest of Europe, is rich geographically as well as culturally. Capital city Paris boasts world-class art museums like the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay and has inspired generations of poets, authors, painters, and writers from across Europe. Provence is a region just as renowned for its creative spirit, captured by Van Gogh in Arles and Matisse in Nice. Part of the Alpine EU macro-regional strategy, the Alps cover 35,000 square kilometres in France and include famous peaks like Mont Blanc in the north and resorts like the Trois Vallées of Courchevel, Méribel and Les Ménuires. Follow the paths of famous Impressionist painters like Renoir or Monet on Impressionisms Routes, stopping at landmarks like Paris’s Musée du Louvre, Musée Claude Monet in Giverny and Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon. In the Aquitaine region, considered the “land of water” of the Roman Empire, the Pyrénées are home to prehistoric cave art, medieval castles and villages, and churches, which have sheltered pilgrims following the Santiago de Compostela since the 11th century and now welcome travellers on trails like The Santiago De Compostela Pilgrim Routes, Iter Vitis, and the Cluniac Sites in Europe.

How to get there?

Fly into Lyon’s St Exupery international airport or Geneva’s international airport to reach the Alpine region’s part of France. The Eurolines bus network runs to 224 destinations in France, as well as from many major European capitals to Paris. Many cities have their own metro or tram lines, such as Nice, Marseille, Toulouse, Lyon and Grenoble, and some offer bike sharing programs like the Vélib’ in Paris.

  • Time Zone
    GMT +1
  • Population
    67 million
  • Capital
  • Official language
  • Currency
    € or EUR

EU citizens (and members of the Schengen Area) do not need a visa to visit France.

Cultural Routes in France

In France, which is part of the Alpine EU macro-regional strategy, more than 25 Cultural Routes cross through the country. Here are a few of the highlighted routes which cross the Alpine macro-region.

European Route of Historic Thermal Towns

Thermalism in Europe dates back to Roman times, but some of the continent’s most famous towns reached their height in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the railway encouraged travellers to journey to medical and health spas like Vichy, whose history started when Romans first settled in the ancient Aquis Calidis.

Iter Vitis Route

Wine production is one of the key symbols of identity in Europe, and this route preserves the heritage of wine biodiversity in the capital city of Paris, as well as the Champagne capital of Reims.

Cluniac Sites in Europe

Stemming from the French region where Cluny was seen in medieval times as “the second Rome,” Cluny Abbey’s influence touches over 1,800 monasteries, castles, colleges and villages across Europe, highlighted on a number of Cluny Routes through France.

European Route of Cistercian abbeys

Since its birth in 1098 in Burgundy, the Cistercian Order has grown across Europe to encompass 1,000 monasteries and 750 abbeys, with over 100 sites in France alone.

The Huguenot and Waldensian trail

The 2,000-km hiking trail follows the path that nearly 200,000 Huguenots took during the 17th century. In France, the 360-kilometre path features 29 segments and stretches up to the Swiss border in Chancy.

Via Charlemagne

Charlemagne was considered the father of Europe, and the Via Charlemagne aims to “promote the chivalrous and humanistic values specific to the Carolingian legends.” The route follows along in the footsteps of the western emperor of the first unified Europe.

Routes of the Olive Tree

A universal symbol of peace, olive trees date back millions of years, with the dedicated “olive tree civilization” extending from Greece throughout Euro-Mediterranean countries. These routes celebrate all of the players involved in olive tree production (artists, farmers, small producers), and, according to the website: “These routes are a gateway to new cooperation between remote areas that would otherwise be condemned to isolation.”

Destination Napoleon

This route spans from Portugal to Russia, encompassing 60 cities in 13 countries where you can still see signs of Napoleon’s historical heritage, including Ajaccio, Montpellier and Paris.

Impressionnisms Routes

Six routes trace the footsteps of influential Impressionist painters like Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir through regions in France like Normandy and Brittany.

Prehistoric Rock Art Trails

Prehistoric rock art in Europe dates back 42,000 years and continued through the Early Iron Age. This association has mapped out over 200 rock art sites that are open to the public, such as the Isturiz-Oxocelhaya caves in the Pyrénées.

Via Francigena

The former pilgrimage route helped contribute to the cultural unity of Europe in the Middle Ages, with 1,800 kilometres of paths throughout England, France, Italy and Switzerland that travellers once took en route to Rome before heading to Jerusalem or Santiago de Compostela. In France, the path is marked as GR145 and runs from Calais to Reims and the Swiss border near Jougne.

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