You could spend a whole lifetime in France. Heck, some French people do! But if you have a busy gap year instead of a lifetime, here are a few things that you absolutely must do in France before your backpacking itinerary forces you to travel elsewhere.
Top of the to-do list for France has to be to taste some authentic French food! Whether it's nibbling on crackers and Camembert in Normandy, enjoying the fresh seafood on the French Riviera or going out of your comfort zone and ordering snails, you'll certainly satisfy that appetite. Obviously a glass of French wine is an obligatory accompaniment to those meals!
France is full of wonderful gardens which are perfect for picnics and people watching. Take a walk around Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris which is mentioned in Les Misérables. Or if you're a picnic lover head to Jardins d’Eyrignac in the Dordogne and take part in the ‘picnic in white’ in the white rose garden with live music.
The French know a thing or two about great markets. If you're a sucker for a good flea market then Lille is home to the biggest market in Europe – Grand Braderie. Just be sure to make room in your suitcase before you go buying up the whole place! Paris also has a large flea market, Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt, which is great news for those of you who don’t wish to venture far from the city.
If you're in the UK you have it made as you can literally drive down to areas such as Lyon and Grenoble and through the gateway to the Northern Alps, which is said to be where the best skiing is found. You also don’t have the issue of long airport transfers which is an added bonus. The dividing point between the north and south Alps are also worth your time as they have hidden gems such as Alpe d'Huez and La Grave which are not to be missed!
First on your to-do list will most likely be landmarks in Paris such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Arc de Triomphe and the Sacre Coeur. These are pretty stunning, without doubt, but if you venture out of Paris you will discover some beautiful fairytale buildings. Le Mont Saint-Michel is a great example of this; a little island in Normandy, it looks like it's been plucked straight from Disneyland Paris.