France is all about world-class art and architecture, Roman temples and renaissance châteaux, iconic landmarks known the world over, and rising stars few yet know.
Stroll the lily-clad gardens Monet painted, see the glorious past blaze forth and view tomorrow’s art stars in squats secreted in abandoned 19th-century Haussmann mansions in Paris or at new headline-grabbing museums up north. Drink cocktails in a shabby-chic Nantes warehouse. Listen to Marseille rap and Parisian jazz. Yes, French culture offers never-ending possibilities to fill any stay in France.
Savvy parents can find kid appeal in every sight in France, mustsees included. Skip the formal guided tour of Mont St-Michel, for example, and hook up with a walking guide to take you and the kids barefoot across the sand to the abbey; trade the daytime queues at the Eiffel Tower for a tour after dark with teens; don’t dismiss wine tasting in Provence or Burgundy outright – rent bicycles and turn it into a family bike ride instead.
When it comes to museums and monuments, it pays to pick the right one. Most Paris museums organise imaginative ateliers (workshops) for children and/or families. Workshops are themed, require advance booking, last 1½ to two hours, and cost €5 to €10 per child. French children have no school Wednesday, meaning most workshops happen Wednesday, weekends, and daily during school holidays. Most cater for kids aged seven to 14 years, although in Paris art tours at the Louvre start at four years and at the Musée d’Orsay, five years.
When to go
High season (Jul & Aug)
- Queues at big sights and on the road, especially August.
- Christmas, New Year and Easter equally busy.
- Late December to March is high season in French Alpine ski resorts.
Shoulder (Apr to Jun & Sep)
- Accommodation rates drop in southern France and other hot spots.
- Spring: warm weather, flowers, local produce.
- The vendange (grape harvest) is reason to visit in autumn.
Low season (Oct to Mar)
- Prices up to 50% less than high season.
- Sights, attractions and restaurants open fewer days and shorter hours.
Hints and tips from HBF
- Travel insurance is a must-have. In a large and popular destination like France, baggage loss and medical claims do happen. Also, buying travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked your flights means you’re covered if you have to unexpectedly cancel or reschedule your flights.
- Many people hire a car to get around the French countryside. You’ll be glad to know HBF travel insurance covers you for up to $3000 in hire-car excess waiver, so you may not need to buy the waiver through the car-hire company.
- You’ll probably be doing a lot of walking, so when you’re taking in the sights this is not the time for sky-high heels. Treat yourself to some stylish, comfortable walking shoes that will get you around much better.
- France is renowned for its haute cuisine, wines, patisseries and cheeses. Give your waist a fighting chance by getting into shape before you go.
- Evian may be the drink of choice, but plain old tap water is fine to drink also.
- Ask your pharmacist for the generic names of common drugs, such as antihistamines, headache tablets, bandaids, berocca, betadine and saline solution.
- Keep your HBF travel insurance card and contacts close at hand just in case you need to call. The HBF 24-hour travel emergency assistance hotline can give you information on local medical clinics, get messages to friends or loved ones if your travel is delayed and start the ball rolling if you do need to claim.
- HBF’s pocket health app lets you store important details like any vaccinations you’ve had, your blood type, allergies and medication so you have this important information at your fingertips. Download the app and update your health records before you leave – it’s available FREE on the iTunes and Google Play App Stores today.