One of the best ways to get to know France is to visit a local market. For visitors, all of France can seem like a market—it’s one of those rare countries where every region offers something worthwhile and distinctive.

Paris represents the height of fashion, art and food—its sense of style is so strong it intimidates some visitors, yet the city can also be remarkably comfortable and intimate.

Each of the French provinces offers its own landscape and culture: the glittering crowds of the Cote d’Azur, the elegant chateaus of the Loire Valley, the hospitable vineyards of Bordeaux, the rocky coasts of Brittany, the dramatic slopes of the Alps and the Pyrenees, and the charming farms and villages of Provence.

France can satisfy just about any traveler’s taste.


France is bounded on the south by the Pyrenees Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea; on the east by the Alps and the Rhine River; and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel. The countryside, relatively flat in the northwest, gives way to gently rolling hills in the north and west and the Massif Central (a plateau) in the center.

The regions of northern France include Brittany, which juts out of the country’s northwestern corner into the Atlantic; Normandy, which extends along much of the English Channel; Picardy; and Nord Pas de Calais, which lies in northeast France along the Belgian border.

The country’s interior contains such noted districts as the Loire Valley (a large swath southwest of Paris) and Burgundy (southeast of Paris). Along France’s eastern edge, butting up against Germany and Switzerland, are the regions of Alsace and Lorraine. Just to the south are the Alps, which share a border with Switzerland and Italy.

In southern France are the Basque region and the Pyrenees, which lie along the Spanish border; Languedoc-Roussillon and the Riviera (also called the Cote d’Azur), which includes much of the Mediterranean coast; and Provence, which stretches inland from a small part of the Mediterranean coast.