Must-See Places to Visit in France
Just before COVID-19 took the world by storm, Lindsey and I took a Wintertime trip to France. We had been dying to visit for years and decided it was finally time to take the plunge. We made a list of must-see places to visit in France and spent ten days traveling around the country. My Rolleiflex came everywhere we went so I could document all of our experiences along the way. I even made it a point to wake up every day before sunrise. This allowed me the opportunity to enjoy the stillness of the morning and wander the streets before the hustle and bustle began.
We began our trip in Paris, where we spent six days exploring the city. Following Paris, we rented a car and took a day trip North to Normandy to visit Mont Saint Michel. The last three days of our stay were spent in the stunning countryside of Chambord.
Reading about Paris and seeing it in movies doesn’t come close to experiencing the real thing. This city is something that must be experienced by all of one’s senses. Walking by the cafes and brasseries, smelling fresh coffee and cheeses with bread stimulated all of our olfactory senses.
The Eiffel Tower
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Paris is the Eiffel Tower. This historic monument is without question a staple of France and shouldn’t be missed during your visit. There are even restaurants inside the tower you can enjoy a meal or cocktail along with a spectacular view. Just be sure to make a reservation in advance because they book out far in advance!
We recommend visiting early in the morning to get great photos of the tower without hoards of tourists obstructing your view. Because the tower can be seen from various locations around the city there are seemingly endless viewpoints it can be photographed from. We recommend scouting out your locations in advance if time permits. It’s also highly recommended to visit the tower at night at the top of the hour to view the spectacular light show.
Jardin des Tuileries
We stayed at Hotel Brighton just across the street from the Jardin De Tuileries. This beautiful and expansive garden is filled with beautiful views of the Louvre and the south side of the river Sienne. We walked through the garden daily on our way to and from our hotel just getting lost in the endless rows of trees and historic sculptures.
The Louvre was at the top of our list of places to visit in Paris. This historic museum filled with priceless art from around the world is an absolute must when visiting the city. I recommend arriving early in the morning to walk and explore the open courtyard as well as snag one of the first spots in line.
The Luxembourg Gardens are truly a sight to behold. Every flower and plant there is immaculately cared for alongside the palace itself. It dates back to 1620 and is a wonderful place to stop by for a picnic and enjoy some wine and cheese on the lawn.
If you’ve seen the movie Moulin Rouge then you’ve definitely heard of Montmartre. This hilltop neighborhood used to be the hangout for Paris’ Bohemian crowd and is now a destination hotspot. It’s filled with trendy cafes, the Sacre Coeur, colorful ivy-covered houses, and cobblestone streets. Definitely make sure to stop by this fun little town and grab a bite and cocktail while you’re there.
Paris is bubbling with a seemingly endless list of historic museums. We weren’t able to visit them all but we did spend an afternoon at the iconic Rodin Museum. It is located in the 7th Arrondissement and was by far one of the highlights of Paris. The gardens are filled with authentic sculptures including the infamous “Thinker”. Spend an afternoon wandering the gardens and then head inside for an in-depth tour of Auguste Rodin’s works.
Maison Sauvage is a beautiful little restaurant located in the 6th Arrondismont. We stopped off there one day for lunch and are so happy we did. I enjoyed one of the best burgers during my trip to France along with their signature “Pornstar Martini”. We knew as soon as the drink was suggested to us that we had to order the cocktail. It was served in a chilled martini glass with vanilla vodka and topped with a passionfruit alongside a shot of champagne. Trés magnifique! The restaurant even has a quaint little second floor that you can dine at an overlook the street.
There is a quaint little town located near Normandy called Giverny. Pronounced “G-ver-knee”. This town is special because it hosts Claude Monet’s home, gardens, and water garden. The beauty of this property is immediately apparent after stepping foot on the grounds. Every flower, tree, and plant is perfectly maintained. It’s no wonder Monet created work as beautiful as he did while being surrounded by such beauty. We were fortunate enough to visit during Fall when the leaves were turning to brilliant shades of yellow and orange.
Mont Saint Michel
Mont Saint Michel is a tidal island and historic abbey in Normandy. It’s about a two-hour drive from Paris but the trip is well worth it. You might or might not catch the island surrounded by water since the tide is always changing. If you do luck-out and get there during high tide you can take a long walk around the island for some truly unique photo perspectives. It boasts gothic architecture and has a quaint little town nestled inside that you can actually stay in if you choose.
Chateau De Chambord
Chateau De Chambord is another absolutely stunning destination located two hours south of Paris. It’s one of the most recognizable chateaus in the world and for good reason. In addition to it being absolutely massive, it has a very distinct French Renaissance architecture. We toured the property in a golf cart we rented because we knew walking would take us hours. Not to mention our feet were already so tired from the six prior days walking around Paris. It was affordable and well worth it. We would just pull over whenever we wanted to stop and take in the view or capture photos.
We chose to stay in the hotel just next door- the Relais de Chambord. This modern hotel was overflowing with amenities including a sauna, jacuzzi, spacious rooms, white-linen dining, and tennis courts.
Photography | Alex W Photography
Film Lab | Richard Photo Lab