With everything from gastronomic wonders, fairy-tale castles and stunning vistas, we steer you through the best ways to enjoy France.

Best rail travel

London to Bordeaux

In the time it takes to get from London to Dundee, you could be sipping a glass of vino on a sunny cafe terrace in the scenic town of Bordeaux. With a journey time of six hours from London, and a brief change in Paris onto the super-smooth TGV, the relaxed journey takes in France's spectacular countryside - a far cry from the cramped leg-room and airport chaos of plane travel. 

With neoclassical architecture, tree-flanked boulevards and gothic churches, La Belle Bordeaux offers a charming alternative to France's capital. In 2007 Bordeaux was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and with over 350 historic monuments, narrow cobbled streets and architectural beauty, it's easy to see why.

Return tickets to Bordeaux cost from £99 per person with Eurostar (tel: 0870 518 6186, in the UK; website: www.eurostar.com).

Best gastronomic experience

A vineyard tour of Champagne

France is home to many a gastronomic great, with taste-bud tempting markets and culinary prowess displayed everywhere from the Michelin-starred eateries of Paris to local village fare. However, it is the nation's famed tipple that attracts a swathe of visitors to the country's vineyards each year, all looking to sample the finest bubbly France has to offer.

A vineyard tour of the Champagne region gives visitors a great insight into some of the world's leading producers, including Bollinger, Moet & Chandon and Taittinger. As well as tasting sessions to impress the most hardened champagne aficionados, the tours take in some of the France's most stunning chateaux - home to the nation's illustrious producers for hundreds of years.

With a wine and champagne expert on hand at each vineyard, guests can improve their tasting technique as well as gain fascinating insights into the region's rich history. 

Although the established producers add a splash of glamour to any visit, the Champagne region also benefits from an olde-world charm, as found in the medieval city of Troyes.

Just a short drive into the countryside, visitors can follow the 217km (136-mile) champagne route that takes in sleepy villages and fairy-tale forests. Scattered along the route are the smaller producers, run by families who still employ the traditional Champagne methods.

Tour the vineyards of Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin, Taittinger, Bollinger and other leading champagne houses on a trip to Champagne with Arblaster and Clarke Wine Tours (tel: 01730 263111, in the UK; website: www.winetours.co.uk).

For those looking to stock up, it's best to drive from the UK with Eurotunnel (tel: 0870 535 3535, in the UK; website: www.eurotunnel.com) whose regular 35-minute crossings cost from £49 per car one way.

Best for activity

Canal Boat Holidays

Although the image of floating along a meandering river through France may conjure images of retired couples, canal holidays are barging back into fashion for young and old alike.

Those looking for the traditional take can jump aboard a beautifully hand-painted narrow boat, reminiscent of river dwellers from a bygone era. Alternatively, those looking for a faster paced trip might like to steer a sleek river cruiser, complete with sun deck and glamour factor.

Either way, the canals of France offer a fun-packed, alternative route into the heart of the country. Burgundy and the Loire are the best loved and most beautiful boating regions of France, through which visitors can hop and off their chosen vessel at leisure. 

The Canal Lateral á la Loire will take you thorough fields full of wavering sunflowers, huge stone aqueducts and the stunning hilltop town of Sancerre, whilst Canal de Bourgogne will take you to historic chateaux and the vineyards of Tonnerre.

Boating holidays can be booked through France Afloat (tel: 0870 011 0538, in the UK; website: www.franceafloat.com).

Best city


Southern France is synonymous with the sun-soaked terraces and high fashion of St Tropez, but the vibrant colours and picture-perfect setting of Marseille add a dash of culture to the region. 

Sitting at the heart of Marseille life is the elegant Vieux Port, housing a bustling fishing market and 12th-century Fort that hark back to the city's naval roots. Merging old and new, the nearby Theatre National de lá Criee (website: www.theatre-lacriee.com) is made up of converted fish auction rooms. The area is also home to some of the city's trendiest restaurants, clubs and bars.

The Cathedrale de lá Major is one of Marseille's most noteworthy attractions and one of the largest cathedrals built in Europe during the 19th century. For those still craving a taste of Hollywood glamour, head to the filmic white turrets of Château d'if, the 16th-century island prison as made famous in The Count of Monte Cristo.

Further information

Visit the French Government Tourist Office at www.franceguide.com.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.