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Henri Matisse: Life, Legacy and Love of Southern France

From the sea to flowers, animals to people, artists find their inspiration all around. For some artists, such as Henri Matisse, it’s a particular region that stirs their creativity. Born in the northern region of Picardy, Matisse blossomed artistically in southern France in the warm sunshine. We’re doing a deep dive into the life and inspiration of Henri Matisse as well as the best Matisse-inspired activities in France.


Henri Matisse: Life, Legacy and Love of Southern France

Matisse’s Biography

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Born in 1869, Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse didn’t grow up planning to be an artist; he studied law, per Biography.com. But in his 20s, he started painting and taking drawing classes. Like many artists, such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, he studied art in Paris

Looking at pieces from Matisse, you’ll notice his use of vibrant color and geometric shapes, such as in Icarus and Luxe, Calme et Volupté. He painted, sketched, sculpted, and even designed ballet costumes, according to Winged Canvas

“This 19th-century gospel of work, derived from a middle class, northern French upbringing, was to mark his entire career, and soon it was accompanied by a thoroughly bourgeois appearance—gold-rimmed spectacles; short, carefully trimmed beard; plump, feline body; conservative clothes—which was odd for a leading member of the Parisian avant-garde,” says Roy Donald McMullen in a Britannica article

From bronchitis to appendicitis, Matisse had various health problems but didn’t let them hold him back; he even attached a pencil to a long pole and thus continued to create art, according to Biography.com

In 1954, he died in Nice and was buried nearby.

Matisse’s Legacy

Kimberleyaeg, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Matisse’s art portfolio has a wide range of techniques, styles and subjects, but he is most often associated with Fauvism. After viewing some of Matisse’s work, “a contemporary art critic mentioned the bold, distorted images painted by certain artists he nicknamed ‘fauves,’ or ‘wild beasts,’” according to Biography.com. And now Matisse is considered the father of Fauvism, per Winged Canvas.

Inspired by artist Paul Signac, he also utilized the pointillism method, according to the Met. In short, this technique is using many dots of color to create the scene. Although he wasn’t an overnight success, Matisse did live to see his art succeed and traveled to showcase his work in New York, Berlin, Moscow and beyond, per Britannica. During his lifetime, Matisse even had a book published about him. Notable art collectors such as Gertrude Stein purchased Matisse’s work, per Biography.com.

Matisse and his Love of Southern France

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Photo by Round Trip Travel

Today many flock to southern France for its sun, sea and sights. Matisse wasn’t any different.

Not only did he come to enjoy its pleasant weather but also to find inspiration for his artwork. He spent time in Corsica, Saint Tropez and Collioure and found inspiration in these sunny destinations, according to Winged Canvas.

In an article for the Met, Magdalena Dabrowski writes, “In the summer of 1904, while visiting his artist friend Paul Signac at Saint-Tropez, a small fishing village in Provence, Matisse discovered the bright light of southern France, which contributed to a change to a much brighter palette.”

He fell in love with the bright hues of southern France so much so that he resettled in Nice in 1921, per Biography.com. Over the years, Matisse stayed in different areas of Nice, including Old Nice and the Cimiez district, according to Nice’s tourism site.

Matisse also had a stint in Vence, a town northwest of Nice. Here he lived in a villa with a large garden and created Nature Morte aux Grenades and the Rosary Chapel with stained glass windows, per Nice Tourism.


Interested in diving even deeper into the life and legacy of Henri Matisse, perhaps in southern France? We’ve rounded up some of our favorite Matisse-themed activities in Nice.

Visit the Matisse Museum in Nice

AlfromLig, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Located in the sunny city of Nice, the Matisse Museum pays homage to its namesake with hundreds of his pieces of artwork. Wander among his sculptures and admire his paintings, all just steps away from his source of inspiration. 

Cooking Class in Matisse’s Workshop

In the old town of Nice, start your day by exploring its markets. Then get to work during your private cooking lesson in Matisse’s workshop. Marvel at the sea view as you get inspired in the kitchen and enjoy your meal in the company of an international opera singer.


Where to Stay in Nice

Hotel du Couvent Nice
Photo courtesy of Hôtel du Couvent

Hôtel du Couvent
This brand new hotel opens in summer in 2024 and will charm you with its 88 rooms in the heart of Old Nice. Treat yourself to a visit to its Roman-inspired thermal spa. Stroll the hotel’s farmer’s market and nosh on the hotel’s farm-to-table dining.


Dreaming of being inspired by Matisse and the landscapes that sparked his creativity, too? You might be interested in: Nature and Culture in Southern France or The Highlights of Corsica in Comfort and Style. Need some help planning your trip?

Guide to Ajaccio: Home of Napoléon Bonaparte

Military commander, short man with his hand folded across his chest, dictator riding on a magnificent horse. Napoléon Bonaparte has many images and titles that precede his name. But beyond the pages of history textbooks, who was this Frenchman? Napoléon I certainly left his mark on French history, including in his hometown of Ajaccio on the island of Corsica. Here’s a brief history of Napoléon Bonaparte as well as a guide to Ajaccio.


Guide to Ajaccio: Home of Napoléon Bonaparte

Napoléon’s Early Life in Ajaccio

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1769, Napoléon was born in the town of Ajaccio on the French island of Corsica. It was just the year prior that France had annexed this Mediterranean island from the Italian city state of Genoa, according to History.com.  Napoléon attended elementary school in Ajaccio, and at age 9, he left for mainland France to improve his French, according to Napoleon.org. Corsica had its own dialect and had heavy Italian influence, per Napoleon.org. “He was however to keep his accent when speaking French, and his spelling was full of Italianisms, confusions and pure inventions,” says Thierry Lentz.

Napoléon’s Military Career

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Throughout his life, he would go between mainland France and his home island of Corsica. In 1784, Napoléon started at the École Militaire in Paris. The irony of his military achievements is that he finished 42nd out of 58 students at the Paris military academy, per Britannica. Nevertheless, Napoléon Bonaparte made a name for himself and France with his military achievements; out of the 60 battles fought, he only lost 7, according to the World History Encyclopedia

In 1804, he named himself emperor and continued his military campaigns. However, his defeat by Russia led him to exile to the island of Elba in 1814, according to History.com. Not one to give up too quickly, Napoléon escaped exile and came back to France to reclaim his throne. The following three months or so would be named Napoléon’s Hundred Days, as he sought to regain control of France but to no avail, per The Collector. His fate was determined with his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, which led to his exile once again. In 1821, he died in exile on the island of Saint Helena, and later his remains were transferred to Les Invalides in Paris, per Napoleon.org

Napoléon Bonaparte’s Legacy

Photo by JR Harris on Unsplash

It’s been hundreds of years since Napoléon Bonaparte lived, but you’ll still find his influence throughout France, including Ajaccio. Although his reputation includes military defeat, escaped exile and dictatorship, Napoléon Bonaparte managed to leave a positive legacy. Napoléon founded the Bank of France and the Napoleonic Code, which saw the end of feudalism, per PBS. “He is often ranked alongside Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar as one of history’s most brilliant generals,” according to the World History Encyclopedia. “He also implemented a set of civil laws, best known as the Napoleonic Code, that was adopted throughout much of continental Europe and influenced the judicial systems of many modern nations.”


Today you can explore Napoléon I’s heritage and legacy in Ajaccio. His family home has been turned into a museum that can be visited today. Admire the artwork at the Palais Fesch, an art museum with many pieces from Napoléon’s uncle. Several statues in his likeness can also be visited. Here are more activities to explore in Ajaccio and Corsica.

Morning Boat Cruise to Îles Sanguinaires and Gulf of Ajaccio

Discover the bright blue waters of the north shore of Ajaccio with a private boat tour. You’ll float past famed singer Tino Rossi’s home, the Chapel of the Greeks and the citadel. Your private boat tour includes a stop at the island Mezu Mare where you can take a swim or see the Alphonse Daudet lighthouse.

Discovery of Ajaccio in Napoléon Bonaparte’s Footsteps

Reading a history book just won’t suffice. If you’re a history buff wanting to trace the steps of Napoléon Bonaparte in Ajaccio, look no further. We’ll organize a private guided tour as you explore Napoléon’s birthplace of Ajaccio and see history for yourself.

Wine Tour to Sartène and Alta Rocca

Ajaccio sea view
Photo by Jon Amdall on Unsplash

Corsica’s crystal blue waters and Napoleonic history aren’t the island’s only assets. Dive headfirst into Corsican wine country with visits to the town of Sartène and the Alta Rocca region. Sip on one of Corsica’s famed wines such as Vermentino or Sciacarello. Your private chauffeur will take you to some of the region’s finest domains.


Where to Stay in Ajaccio

Les Mouettes
Indulge in a stay at this four-starred hotel nestled against the coast. This 19th century villa offers 27 unique rooms where you can rest your head after a full day at the beach and in the town of Ajaccio. At Les Mouettes, hotel guests may enjoy access to its private beach as well as snorkels and lounge chairs. Take a dip in the hotel’s saltwater pool and enjoy a glass of wine on its terrace.


Longing to see the legacy of Napoléon Bonaparte with your own eyes and feet? You might be interested in: Luxury Stay in Southern Corsica or The Highlights of Corsica in Comfort and Style. Need some help planning your trip?

Louis Vuitton and His Rise to LVMH Luxury

LV: Two small letters pack a lot of weight. It was nearly two centuries ago that Louis Vuitton launched his luggage brand. Since then, the Louis Vuitton name has only grown in prestige and has also acquired a swath of other brands along the way. Today this luxury goods conglomerate has become one of the leaders in its industry. We’re tracing the path of Louis Vuitton, the brand’s evolution over the centuries and best Louis Vuitton-themed activities in France.


Louis Vuitton and His Rise to LVMH Luxury

Louis Vuitton’s Beginnings

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Louis’ humble beginnings are a far cry from his brand renowned for its luxury. Louis Vuitton was born in eastern France, and following the death of Louis’ mother, his father remarried. The story goes that Louis and his new stepmother didn’t get along, according to Biography. At age 13, he escaped the tension and headed toward Paris on foot. Nearly 300 miles and a couple years later, he finally arrived at his destination after taking different jobs along the way, according to Biography.

Louis Vuitton’s Rise to Prestige

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Once in Paris he began to work as an apprentice under Romain Maréchal, per Britannica. Vuitton remarked that the typically dome-shaped trunks weren’t practical for stacking, per Vogue. Instead, he opted for flat trunks; later, he and his son created and patented their tumbler lock. His trunks were “stackable and far more convenient for shipping via new means of transport like the railroad and steamship,” according to a Biography article. “Most commentators consider Vuitton’s trunk the birth of modern luggage.”

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And for Louis, that made all the difference. In 1852 Napoleon III’s wife hired Louis Vuitton as her personal box-maker and packer, according to Biography.  In 1854, he opened his own workshop close to Place Vendôme, per the Louis Vuitton website

After Louis died, his son Georges took over the business. And we owe the iconic LV monogram design not to Louis but to his son, when he inaugurated this pattern in 1896, according to Vogue.

LVMH: The Growth of the Brand

In 1987, a new era began for Louis Vuitton when LVMH was born. This merger represents Louis Vuitton, Moët & Chandon champagne, and Hennessy cognac. Over the years, this luxury group acquired Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, Sephora, Hermès, La Samaritaine and many others, according to The Fashion Law. Even more than accessories and prêt-à-porter, LVMH has made its mark on the hospitality industry with its Cheval Blanc hotels. Even more, in 2026 Louis Vuitton plans to open its first hotel in Paris.

In 2023, the Louis Vuitton brand was valued at $23.6 billion, per Statista. With its 75 brands, LVMH garnered 86.2 billion euros in revenue, according to the group. And one-quarter of this revenue came from the United States, per Statista


If you’re looking to dive head first into the luxury world of Louis Vuitton and LVMH’s other brands during your trip to France, we have a plethora of activities to pique your interest in Paris and beyond.

Private Shopping Appointments at Louis Vuitton

On the hunt for the perfect piece at Louis Vuitton? We’ll book you a private appointment so that you can shop in tranquility and, of course, in style.

Guided Tour of the Louis Vuitton Foundation

Louis Vuitton Foundation

Nestled in the cush 16th arrondissement, the Louis Vuitton Foundation showcases nearly a dozen galleries of collections and exhibitions. French Side Travel will organize a private guided tour of the premises. You certainly can’t miss the building: in contrast to the traditional style of LV, the foundation is housed in a modern, geometric building.

Exclusive Shopping Experience with Stylist Advice

Louis Vuitton la Croisette
Photo by Jannis Lucas on Unsplash

Explore the luxury of the fashion capital with a private shopping experience. Spend the afternoon with a personal shopper who will assist you as you browse different Parisian fashion houses. From Louis Vuitton to Chanel, you can enjoy a private appointment at one of these prestigious French houses.

Private Tasting at Hennessy Cognac

Discover the roots of Hennessy Cognac, one of the LMVH’s brands. Wander this brand’s headquarters with a private visit and learn about cognac production. Your guide will explain the ins and outs of the vineyards and the history of the house’s founder Richard Hennessy. 

Your visit will include a private tasting of several eau de vie beverages and a visit to the cellar of various cognacs. If you visit the charming town of Cognac between April and October, your visit will also include a boat ride.

Champagne Tasting in a Secret Cellar

Moët & Chandon Champagne
Photo by Deleece Cook on Unsplash

Before those champagne bubbles ever meet your lips, it all must start in the vineyards of this French region. Wander the vineyards with your Moët & Chandon ambassador. Make a stop at Fort Chabrol’s private domain and later explore the underground tunnels as you learn about the centuries-old champagne-making process. You’ll also have the chance to better understand the manual disgorging of bottles and bien sûr will sip on several Grand Vintages.


Where to Stay in Paris

Le Ritz
Le Ritz Paris is sure to impress with its regal rooms marked by chandeliers, crown molding and luxurious fabrics. This five-star hotel offers several suites inspired by important figures including Coco Chanel, Marcel Proust and Ernest Hemingway. The hotel also offers cooking classes, spa services, Sunday brunch, and a gourmet menu under the direction of Chef Eugénie Béziat. 

Hôtel de Crillon 
Indulge in a stay fit for a queen at the Hôtel de Crillon. This elegant five-star hotel boasts 78 rooms and dozens of suites, including designs from Karl Lagerfeld. Treat yourself to a romantic dinner at l’Écrin, the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant. This hotel overlooks the historic Place de la Concorde.


Ready to discover the craftsmanship of Louis Vuitton and other fashion houses in France? French Side Travel is ready to plan your luxurious trip to Paris and beyond. You might be interested in: An unforgettable Fashion and Art Trip to the City of Light or A Historical and Cultural Escape to Paris. Need some help planning your trip?

From Albi to Paris: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

From Claude Monet’s water lilies to the grandeur of Versailles, France is an icon in the world of art. This country has produced or heavily influenced some of the world’s biggest names: Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Van Gogh and beyond. Even more, it’s home to the largest art museum in the world, the Louvre. Although lesser known, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec played an important role in French art history, namely the Art Nouveau and Post-Impressionist movements. From Albi to Paris, we’re exploring Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s roots and legacy, plus best activities inspired by this artist.


From Albi to Paris: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Toulouse-Lautrec Biography

Paul Sescau, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1864, Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa was born in Albi, a small town in southwestern France. (We can see why he shortened his name!) He left the small town of Albi for the big city of Paris in 1872. At the age of 8, Toulouse-Lautrec learned art from their family friend Réné Princeteau, according to France Today. He also studied under Léon Bonnat and Fernand Cormon, who also taught Van Gogh, per the Met.

From the get-go, Toulouse-Lautrec struggled with health problems, according to the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum. Most likely due to intermarriage, he suffered from a congenital bone disease. And in his mid 30s, he died due to alcoholism and syphilis, according to the Met.

Toulouse-Lautrec’s Art Career

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Creating lithography, posters, drawings and paintings, he was a jack-of-all-trades. Toulouse-Lautrec straddles the Art Nouveau and post-impressionist movements. Looking at his work, you’ll notice his raw, emotional perspective. With his unmistakable style, Toulouse-Lautrec often illustrated people in an accentuated, almost clownish manner. 

With many pieces relating to prostitution and brothels, there are dark undertones to Toulouse-Lautrec’s work. “His sympathetic fascination with the marginal in society, as well as his keen caricaturist’s eye, may be partly explained by his own physical handicap,” says Cora Michael in her essay for the Met. “The directness and honesty of the picture testify to Lautrec’s love of women, whether fabulous or fallen, and demonstrates his generosity and sympathy toward them.”

Plagued by the vices of this world and little appreciated in the art community at the time, Toulouse-Lautrec was a tragic hero. Yet his distinguished perspective, subject matter and Montmartre exposition chiseled a legacy on French art history.

Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre

Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Like many artists, Toulouse-Lautrec migrated to the bohemian Montmartre neighborhood and conveyed its aura in his art. “The raucous spirit of Montmartre — its unbridled energy, tawdry behavior, garish colors, and provocative celebrities — was both a way to live and a subject to depict,” according to the National Gallery of Art.

And one of his habitual hang-out spots was the Moulin Rouge. And in 1891, he designed his first poster for the cabaret, which still has a room named after him, according to the Moulin Rouge. Toulouse-Lautrec went on to design more posters such as Jane Avril – Jardin de Paris et Divan Japonais


Although he may receive less screen time than Monet and Van Gogh, you can still explore the wealth of art that Toulouse-Lautrec created during his short life. From Albi to Paris, we’re sharing some of our best activities to explore the legacy of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Private Walking Tour to Ancient, Unknown Paris

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Grab your walking shoes as you discover the different architecture styles of Paris for yourself. You’ll wander through Passy and Auteuil and admire the colors of Parisian architecture between 1850 and 1950. From Art Nouveau to Neo-Haussmannian movements, turn back the clock to the time of Toulouse-Lautrec and beyond. Your tour guide will introduce you to some of France’s top architects of the time, such as Le Corbusier and Hector Guimard.

Visit the Moulin Rouge

Discover the cabaret that inspired Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. This Montmartre landmark has been around since the 1800s and played an integral role in Toulouse-Lautrec’s art career and influence.

Take a Montmartre Painting Class

evening in the Place du Tertre and the Sacre-Coeur in Paris, France

Find inspiration and follow in the footsteps of Toulouse-Lautrec by picking up the paintbrush. Whether you’re a beginner or maestro, you can lose track of time as you learn how to paint with local artist Edwidge in the heart of Montmartre.

Visit the Montmartre Museum

Although the Montmartre Museum didn’t open until 1960, its building dates back to the 1600s. Get lost among the masterpieces of Auguste Renoir, Raoul Dufy and beyond. After you’ve admired the museum’s artwork and learned about the neighborhood’s history, take a stroll in its surrounding gardens.

Private Guided Tour through Albi and Cordes-sur-Ciel

Credit: Round Trip Travel

Far from the hustle and bustle of Paris rests the charming town of Albi in southwestern France. Marvel at the majestic Sainte Cécile Cathedral and make your way to the Berbie Palace. Its fairytale-like gardens are just a foretaste of what’s inside. The Berbie Palace is one of the best conserved episcopal palaces and is also home to the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum. Here, they celebrate this hometown artist with the largest public collection of Toulouse-Lautrec art.

After a short drive from Albi, you’ll fall in love with Cordes-sur-Ciel, named one of the most beautiful French villages. Wander its narrow streets and turn back the clock to a different century as you explore its shops and restaurants.


Where to Stay in Paris

Courtesy of Kimpton Saint Honoré

The Kimpton Saint Honoré Hotel
Be charmed by this five-star hotel’s 149 rooms in the heart of Paris. If you’re looking to stay in, nurse a cocktail at its rooftop bar or unwind at its spa. Looking to explore? You’re just a stone’s throw from the Opera and the Tuileries Gardens.

Courtesy of Château des Fleurs

Château des Fleurs 
Rewind to the Belle Époque with a stay at five-star hotel Château des Fleurs. Enjoy a stay in one of its 37 rooms and admire beautiful Parisian architecture from your bed. Nosh on the hotel’s Franco-Korean fusion menu. Treat yourself to a massage or a facial at its spa. This hotel is a short walk from rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. where Toulouse-Lautrec studied under Princeteau, per France Today.


The world of French art is best experienced first hand, not in a history book or online. French Side Travel is ready to design the perfect trip for any art aficionado. You might enjoy: A Journey Through History, Art, and Nature in Charming France or An unforgettable Fashion and Art Trip to the City of Light. Need some help planning your trip?

Your Guide to the Provence Wine Region

Bright blue waves and year-round sunshine draw many to Provence. But there’s much more to be explored and enjoyed in this region in southern France. This sun-drenched region is also well-known for its breathtaking vineyards and wine selections. With nearly 90% of its wine production being rosé, Provence is rather pink. We’ve curated a guide to the Provence wine region along with the best wine activities in the heart of southern France.


Your Guide to the Provence Wine Region

How to Get to Provence

Walking Tour of Aix-en-Provence

Provence is easily accessible by plane and train. You can fly into the Marseille airport, where our drivers can pick you up to whisk you off to a darling Provençal village or to bustling Marseille. It’s also possible to fly into Paris and then take the high-speed train to Provence destinations such as Avignon, Aix-en-Provence or Marseille. From Paris, reaching Provence takes around three hours in the TGV train.

Overview of the Provence Wine Region

Provençal vineyards are filled with white varieties such as Rolle, Ugni Blanc and Clairette grapes, per Wine Folly. Red grapes grown in Provence include Grenache Noir, Syrah and Cinsault. We owe much to the Phocaeans who founded Marseille around 2,600 years ago because they packed grapevines in their suitcases, according to Vins de Provence. So even before Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, the region of Provence was the first to produce wine, per Vins de Provence.

Out of all French AOP rosé wines, Provence produces nearly half of these pink wines, according to the Vins de Provence’s 2022 report. And these Provence rosé wines aren’t just for the French to enjoy. In 2022, more than 61 million bottles of Provence rosé were exported, per Vins de Provence. And one of the largest export markets for Provence rosés is the United States, which imported about 23.5 million bottles of rosé in 2022.

When it comes to top appellations in Provence, you must get acquainted with Côtes de Provence as it’s the region’s largest producer and is well-known for its rosé, per Wine Folly. Some of our other favorites are Bandol, which is particularly known for its reds, and Cassis, well-loved for its whites. 

Another hallmark name in southern France is Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Although not technically in the Provence wine region, this appellation is worth mentioning for its close proximity. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is on the southern end of the Rhône Valley and will charm you with its reds, per Wine Folly.  


Itching to discover the world-renowned wineries tucked between rows of lavender and olive orchards? We’ve rounded up some of our best Provence wine region activities that will have you begging for seconds.

Private Luxury Gourmet Tour to Aix Country

Begin your luxurious tour in the charming town of Aix-en-Provence, known for its moss-covered fountains. Wander its cobblestone streets on a private walking tour and discover the secrets of this city founded by the Romans in the second century B.C. You’ll also find yourself enchanted by its many markets, where your food expert will show you around. Indulge in Provence’s many specialities from its tapenade spreads to calisson candies, honey to cheeses.

After you’ve eaten like a true Aixois, our driver will introduce you to the romantic Luberon Valley, one of the top Provence wine region destinations. During the afternoon, you’ll enjoy a cellar visit of a local vineyard followed by a tasting of three wines. Sip on a glass of the Côtes de Provence appellation with a backdrop of rolling Provençal vineyards in quaint villages such as Lourmarin or Ménerbes. Oh là là !

Private Food and Wine Tour to Avignon Country

Turn back the clock with a visit to the medieval town of Avignon. This charming town is a destination in and of itself with its rich historical significance and ancient architecture. Even more, it’s only a stone’s throw away from some of Provence’s best wineries and vineyards. Admire the Gothic architecture of the Pope’s Palace and see the Pont d’Avignon, a bridge that inspired a children’s nursery rhyme any French child could croon with you. The city boasts exquisite restaurants, but for lunch, we recommend that you stroll its markets to taste the region’s best flavors. Following your authentic meal, our wine expert will meet you to sample several glasses of the famed Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. 

Guided Wine Tour of the Châteauneuf du Pape Appellation

Photo by Eric Masur on Unsplash

After just a short drive from the historically rich town of Avignon, you have some of the best Provençal wine appellations at your fingertips. Your day will begin with a visit to Gigondas as you wander vineyards in this famed appellation. After you sip on a flight of wine, nosh on an authentic dish at a French restaurant in the village. Later, our driver will guide you to another wine tasting with the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. Taste some of this region’s best red and white wines all with a postcard-worthy village backdrop.


Where to Stay in Provence

Domaine de Fontenille
This four-star hotel is located in the lush Luberon Valley and invites you in to a cozy stay in one of its 21 rooms. Savor an authentic French meal made with the freshest ingredients from the hotel’s vegetable garden. Unwind with a yoga class or explore the Luberon horseback during your stay at the Domaine de Fontenille.

Courtesy of Château de Fonscolombe

Château de Fonscolombe
After discovering the wealth of the Provence wine region, rest your head at this five-star hotel. The Château de Fonscolombe will woo you with its 50 elegantly decorated rooms and its manicured gardens just a hop, skip and a jump away from Aix-en-Provence.


Longing to taste the riches of the Provence wine region for yourself? French Side Travel is ready to help you organize a magical trip to savor the best of the Provençal wine. You might enjoy: A Perfect Cultural and Culinary Stay in the Beautiful Provence or Culture and Gastronomy in Provence. Need some help planning your trip?

Your Guide to the Loire Valley Wine Region

Somewhere in between bustling Paris and sun-drenched southern France lies the Loire Valley. This region of France is particularly known for its hundreds of castles. But its Renaissance architecture isn’t all this French region boasts. The Loire Valley is sprinkled with vineyards, which spread across 220 square miles, per Vins du Val de Loire. From Sauvignon Blanc to Muscadet, from Cabernet Franc to Vouvray, we’re exploring the best of the Loire Valley wine region.  


Your Guide to the Loire Valley Wine Region

How to Get to the Loire Valley

The Loire Valley spreads across a 170-mile stretch. This region is accessible by plane at the Tours Val de Loire Airport. But France’s robust train system is also a fantastic way to explore the Loire Valley. We recommend flying into Paris and then taking a train to one of the larger towns in the Loire Valley such as Tours, Orléans or Angers. If you’re looking to explore wine country, it’s best to have a vehicle in order to best discover the region and its terroir. French Side Travel is able to coordinate drivers and luxury transportation for you during your trip to the Loire Valley wine region. That means you can focus more on wine and less on logistics.

Overview of the Loire Valley Wine Region

Credit: DalGobboM via Wikimedia Commons

With around 50 appellations, the Loire Valley is one of France’s largest wine regions. Nearly half of the Loire Valley’s wine production is white wine; about one quarter of its production is rosé wine, according to Vins du Val de Loire. The Loire Valley also produces red wines and sparkling wines.

Within the Loire Valley wine region, there are several sub-regions: the Central Vineyards, Touraine, Anjou-Saumur, and the Pays Nantais, according to MasterClass

Loire Valley Grape Varieties and Wines

The main grape varieties grown in the Loire Valley wine region include: Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and Melon de Bourgogne, per Wine Folly.

When traveling to the Loire Valley wine region, be sure to sip on a glass of Vouvray. This white wine is made with Chenin Blanc grapes and can be found in different styles from sparkling to dry, according to Wine Folly.

If you have a hankering for even more white wine, look no further than a glass of Muscadet, which is made of Melon de Bourgogne grapes, per Divine Loire. This wine region produces more than 10 million bottles of this dry white wine each year, according to Vins du Val de Loire.

If you fancy reds, no need to fret. The Loire Valley will swoon with its Côt grapes in the Touraine sub-region.


Thirsty for more of the Loire Valley? French Side Travel offers many wine activities in this wine region. Whether you’re craving a glass of red Chinon or a flute of Vouvray, we have the perfect tour for you. Here are some of the best wine activities in the Loire Valley.

Full-Day Wine Tour of the Loire Valley

Spend the entire day immersing yourself in the enchanting Loire Valley wine region. Located near the Château de Chenonceau, this domain ferments its wines in troglodyte cellars, or underground caves. Later you’ll wander another winery not far from the Château Royal d’Amboise. Here you’ll stroll its vineyards and troglodytic cellars. Your wine-themed day will also include a deep dive into the Vouvray appellation known for its glossy hue. Speak with the winemakers themselves as you uncover their craft.

Private Domain Tour and Meal in a Troglodyte Cave 

Discover the charming town of Chinon and delve into the local culture in this Loire Valley village. You’ll begin your visit with a trip to a domain as you wander the estate and its wine cellar. Your day will include a wine tasting of two whites, one rosé and three red wines. Your wine tasting will be followed by a gourmet meal either in a troglodyte cave or, if the weather is on your side, along the Vienne river. 

Guided Tour of Vouvray, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and Chinon Appellations

With more than 50 appellations to explore in the Loire Valley, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Let us help by introducing you to three of our favorites: Vouvray, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and Chinon. Your personal guide will introduce you to three different wineries in the Loire where you’ll discover the winemaking journey. Then wander the underground cellars and sip on a variety of wines produced in the region.


Where to Stay in the Loire Valley

Relais de Chambord
A mere four minutes from the Château de Chambord, this hotel is at the heels of royalty. With 16th century roots, this four-star hotel offers 55 unique rooms, including a boat suite. After a day of castle exploration, you can dine at one of the hotel’s restaurants. We’re certain that you’ll be tempted by its herb-crusted venison at Le Grand Saint-Michel or a café gourmand at Les Armes du Château.

Les Sources de Cheverny
Settle in with a stay at this cozy chic five-star hotel. Nestled between Chambord and Chenonceau châteaux, les Sources de Cheverny will enchant you with its 49 rooms and suites. Be tempted by its wooded suite overlooking the lake and featuring a Nordic bath. After a full day of winery tours, unwind at the hotel’s thermal bath or hammam all with the perfect backdrop of the forest.


Enchanted by the Loire Valley wine region? French Side Travel is ready to help you plan a magical trip to experience the best of the French wine. You might enjoy: The Gorgeous Loire Valley by Bike or Luxury Trip to Paris, Normandy, and Loire Valley. Need some help planning your trip?

Your Guide to the Bordeaux Wine Region

The city of Bordeaux is known for its cannelé pastries and its regal Haussmanian-style architecture. But above all, Bordeaux is synonymous with wine. Named the wine capital of the world, this town is especially known for its red wines and boasts 53 appellations per Wine Folly. From the Left Bank Médoc to the Right Bank Libournais, from Bordeaux Blanc to Sauternais, we’re diving into the world of Bordeaux wines. And we’re breaking down the Bordeaux wine region with its classifications and terroir, plus the best wine activities in Bordeaux.


Your Guide to the Bordeaux Wine Region

How to Get to Bordeaux

Nicknamed “le petit Paris,” Bordeaux boasts beautiful architecture, exquisite restaurants and certainly quality wine. Located in western France near the Atlantic Coast, the city is accessible by plane and train. The Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport offers international flights, and the city is only a short 2-hour TGV train ride from Paris.

Grape Types and Classifications

wine producer | French Side Travel

The Bordeaux wine region utilizes six main grape varieties, per Vins de Bordeaux. The principal red grape varieties include Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. We recommend sipping on wines from the Left Bank Médoc and Right Bank Libournais regions. Bordeaux may be known for its reds, but don’t overlook its whites. The main white grape varieties are Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Be sure to taste some Bordeaux Blanc and Sauternais wines.

There are five established Bordeaux wine classifications such as the Grand Crus Classés en 1855 and the Grands Crus de Saint Émilion.  We owe the former to Napoleon III, who started this classification for Bordeaux wineries following the 1855 World’s Fair, per Wine Folly. Since the creation of this classification, the criteria has barely budged and still remains an important litmus test in the wine world. “One hundred and fifty years after its drafting it remains one of the most authoritative references in the world of wine,” says Dewey Markham Jr. on the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés en 1855 site.

What’s a Cru?

Credit: Photo by Maxime Kirschner on Unsplash

Cru refers to “a great or superior growing site or vineyard, a concept linked to the French notion of terroir,” writes Lauren Mowery in a Wine Enthusiast article. “Soil, climate, altitude, aspect and the right variety create a synergy recognized as a cru.”

Earning the Cru label varies throughout France, but in the Bordeaux wine region, it’s linked to a certain château or domain, not just the vineyard, according to Wine Enthusiast. Regardless of how the classifications define their tiers, the Grand Cru label establishes a mark of quality.


Whether you’re a red or white wine lover, the Bordeaux wine region awaits. We’ve rounded up some of the best wine activities in Bordeaux.

La Cité du Vin

You might be thinking, I’ve already been to dozens of museums. France abounds with museums of all types from art to history, culture to castles. La Cité du Vin isn’t like just any other museum. From its geography to grape varieties, its history to packaging, this wine museum dives into the oenological industry and culture. Whether it’s virtual grape-treading or sniffing different notes, the museum’s different rooms invite you into an immersive experience. Hear from winemakers from multiple continents and learn about the terroirs across the globe. Best of all, your visit ends with a complimentary glass of wine with a panoramic view of Bordeaux. French Side Travel can also secure private workshops for you and your group’s visit to the Cité du Vin.

Guided Visit of a Château in the Graves Appellation

Spend the afternoon exploring one of only a handful properties to be classified in both red and white wines according to the 1953 Graves classification. This domain dates back to the 1700s, and today you can admire its acres of vineyards, which are lined with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sémillon grapes.

Indulge in a private tour of this domain as you discover its history, winery and vineyards. After you’ve visited this elegant estate, the chef will prepare you a gourmet lunch with delectable wine pairings. 

Full-Day Visit to Saint-Émilion and Pomerol

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Delve into the rich wine region of Bordeaux with a private guided tour as you discover the Saint-Émilion, Fronsac, and Pomerol appellations. In addition to tasting the Saint Émilion appellation, you will discover the Saint Émilion terroir as your driver shows you the region and its vineyards. Begin your day with a visit to the château of a Saint-Émilion grand cru classé producer. Learn all about the six generations of this family-run business and explore the vineyards and underground cellars. Later, you’ll enjoy a private tasting featuring Saint-Émilion grand crus, reds from Pomerol, and even a white confidential cuvée.

Bordeaux Grand Crus Workshop

Delve into the world of Bordeaux wines and their gradation techniques. From Saint Émilion to Pomerol, you’ll learn the ins and outs of these world-renowned wines with an oenological expert. Your private workshop will include tastings of three Grand Crus. Santé !

Guided Tour of the Médoc Wine Region

Immerse yourself in the world of the Médoc appellation. Enjoy a drive through the vineyards before you visit two châteaux. The first domain on your itinerary produces Margaux deuxième grand crus and will charm you with its architecture dating back to the 1600s. After exploring this estate, you’ll enjoy lunch in charming town of Pauillac before visiting two more domains.

Wine and Cheese Pairing Workshop

Start your gastronomic adventure in the heart of Bordeaux. This sommelier-led workshop will introduce you to the theory and hands-on activities as you learn how to pair different wines and cheeses.


Where to Stay in Bordeaux

InterContinental Bordeaux
If you’re in search of a regal experience while in Bordeaux, look no further than a stay at the InterContinental. Their 130 rooms and suites could’ve jumped right out of a movie scene; its Opera views, crown moldings and thoughtful decoration are sure to delight. For true wine lovers, we must recommend booking a stay in the Wine Bar Suite. Yes, you read that right: a room with its own private wine bar with Grands Crus by the glass service. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant also has taken residence in the InterContinental. Book a romantic, chic dinner for two at Le Pressoir d’Argent Gordon Ramsay, where you can feast on a Michelin-decorated menu. You might want to start studying the menu as there are over 500 wines to choose from.

Hotel de Pavie
A bit outside of Bordeaux, Hotel de Pavie is worth the trek. This five-star hotel is located in Saint-Emilion and best be on every wine aficionado’s bucket list. Hotel de Pavie has worn many hats over the years: convent, dance hall and hotel restaurant. No matter your style, this hotel has a variety of rooms and suites located in their Bell Tower, Village and Suite houses. Enjoy a meal at Chef Yannick Alléno’s La Table de Pavie. This Michelin-awarded chef will tempt you with his caviar paired with a smoky eel sauce or roasted pigeon paired with a walnut purée. But the likelihood is that you came to Bordeaux for the wine. This hotel restaurant’s sommelier is here to help you. You can opt for a food and wine pairing with a variety of different wines.


Learning about the Bordeaux wine region making your thirsty for a glass of red? French Side Travel is ready to help you plan the perfect trip to experience the best of the French wine industry. Check out our Guide to French Wine. Here are some itineraries we think you might enjoy: A Road Trip Through Bordeaux and Dordogne’s Nature and Wine Country or The Essence of Bordeaux and it’s Region. Need some help planning your trip?

The Beginner’s Guide to French Wine

Rouge, rosé ou blanc — if only it were that simple! With more than 3,000 wines crafted in France, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. From sunlight to temperature, barrel storage to grape variety, there’s so much that goes into the creation of what goes into a wine glass. And within a country as diverse as France, each of its dozen or so wine regions offers a unique taste and perspective on this timeless beverage. We’re going back to the basics of winemaking with our beginner’s guide to French wine and our favorite wine activities.


The Beginner’s Guide to French Wine

History of Wine

wine cave | wine tasting | Wine Tour

Grape fermentation is nothing new; in fact, it can be traced all the way back to 4000 B.C. Along with many mentions of wine in the Bible, evidence has been found in Egyptian records mentioning winemaking from 2500 B.C., according to Britannica. Since then, wine has grown to many corners of the globe. In France, the retail wine industry generated 4.64 billion euros in 2021, according to Statista. On average, the French drink 47 liters of wine per capita.

Red, Rosé or White

The three main categories of wine are fairly straightforward and can be found across wine regions in France. But within these categories, the possibilities abound, considering that there are more than 10,000 existing grape varieties.

Several popular grape varieties often used in red wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah, per Food & Wine. Bordeaux is particularly known for its red wines.

Among many others, white wine grape varieties include Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat and Sauvignon Blanc, according to USA Wine Ratings. The wine regions of Alsace and Loire Valley are well-known for their white wines, per .

Unfortunately, pink grapes don’t exist yet! In order to achieve that gorgeous rosé color, winemakers must have the red grapes’ skins touch wine but not for long, per Wine Folly. “Where some red wines ferment for weeks at a time on red grape skins, rosé wines are stained red for just a few hours,” according to this Wine Folly article. For a crisp glass of rosé, we recommend heading to Provence or the Riviera.

AOP: Is This Wine Legit?

old cellar of winery, in Burgundy

Not all wines are created equal. And that’s why France and Europe have adopted the AOC and AOP labels respectively, according to the Ministry of Economy. In short, these labels are stamps of authenticity. So many foods, beverages and local products are based on tradition, geography and heritage. And this label seeks to protect the genuinity of these products. For example, a sparkling white wine cannot be called champagne unless it’s produced in the Champagne region of France.

In France, there are more than 400 registered AOP labeled wines. As you’re browsing wine labels, keep your eyes peeled for the AOC or AOP label to ensure that it’s legit.

French Wine Masters: Sommeliers

It’s clear that wine isn’t just any beverage. The wine industry demands expertise on many factors: grape varieties, tannins, age, region, climate. Enter sommeliers, or trained wine experts. The sommelier or sommelière is responsible for understanding the different types of wines and liquors. They often work in Michelin-starred restaurants or wine bars and guide diners in their wine choice and pairing, per Onisep. France has specific studies and diplomas based on sommellerie, but there are different levels of sommeliers, such as commis sommelier and chef sommelier. 

Within the global wine industry, there are several covetable certifications with two being: Master of Wine and Master Sommelier. “The Master of Wine program is more academic as compared to the Master Sommelier program,” says master sommelier Mathias Camilleri in a Michelin article. “The Master Sommelier program focuses on the dining experience in restaurants and trains sommeliers to understand, recommend and serve the guests in the most optimal conditions.” 

Regardless of the MW or MS titles, both require multiple exams, which prove to be no easy feat. It takes a minimum of three years to earn the Master of Wine certification, and only 417 people have earned this title since its inception in 1953, according to the organization’s site. There are four levels to becoming a master sommelier. Fewer than 300 people have earned the MS title since the creation of the Court of Master Sommeliers in 1969, per CMS.


With wine harvested all across France, there’s much to be explored and tasted in the French wine industry. French Side Travel offers a smorgasbord of wine-related activities and would be delighted to organize your trip. Here is just a smattering of our favorite wine activities in France:

An Evening of Rosé Tasting Paired with Nice Street Food 

Spend the soirée with a sommelier and cookbook author as you discover the refreshing rosé wines produced in Provence and the French Riviera. Taste several types of rosé and pair them with local street food. Bon appétit !

Wine Harvest Morning 

person cutting grapes from vineyard

Roll up your sleeves because this activity will put you to work as you discover the intricate wine-making process. Grab your boots and some pruning clippers, and head out to the vineyards where you’ll pick from the vines. Then return to the cellar and discover how they will be fermented and transformed.

Picnic at Château des Jacques 

Savor a glass of French wine in the midst of its terroir. Spend the afternoon over a picnic at the Château des Jacques, which is located in the Beaujolais region. Snack on sausages, bread, fruit and, of course, a bottle of Beaujolais.

Bordeaux Grand Crus Workshop

summer highlights in the bordeaux region

Delve into the world of Bordeaux wines and their gradation techniques. From Saint Émilion to Pomerol, you’ll learn the ins and outs of these world-renowned wines with an oenological expert. Your private workshop will include tastings of three Grand Crus. Santé ! Check out our Guide to the Bordeaux Wine Region.

Private tasting at Philippe Le Bon Tower 

city Dijon and its church

Located in the Burgundy wine region, Dijon is home to the Philippe le Bon tower. Enjoy the panoramic views of this town from this tower as you sip on a glass of white from the Domaine de la Cras. Your exclusive evening will also include a sampling of apéritifs and appetizers.

Where to Stay in France

Hotel Villa La Coste in Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade
Calling all wine lovers and art aficionados. Hotel Villa La Coste is a luxury hotel in Provence boasting five stars and 28 villa suites. You could spend hours wandering this luxury hotel grounds with its spa, library, vineyard, bar and restaurants. The hotel is situated in the Château La Coste domain, which also boasts various art exhibitions. We’re sure you’ll be tempted by its Pool Villa Suite, complete with a private patio and pool. This luxury hotel also offers an art and architecture tour and wine tasting during your stay.

Les Sources de Caudalie in Bordeaux
Tucked south of Bordeaux, les Sources de Caudalie is a five-star palace hotel located in the Château Smith Haut Lafitte vineyards. Escape from the city center with a stay in one of these 61 rooms and suites in Martillac. You can’t miss a visit to its Vinothérapie Spa where you can enjoy a Crushed Cabernet scrub. Not only will you drink well, but you’ll also dine well at its Michelin-starred restaurant La Grand’Vigne.


France’s various wine regions offer an array of activities to be savored and enjoyed. French Side Travel is ready to help you plan the perfect trip to experience the best of the French wine industry. You might enjoy: Burgundy’s VIP Wine Tour Experience or Luxury Gourmet & Oenological Trip to Beautiful Provence. Need some help planning your trip?

Marie Antoinette-Inspired Paris Itinerary

Among a history marked by kings and generals, few women have made their mark on French history quite like Marie Antoinette. Born in Vienna, Marie Antoinette married Louis XVI with luxury and infamy to follow closely behind. Although she died in the 18th century, you can still follow in her footsteps in Paris today. If you’re curious about French Revolution history and French royalty, we’ve curated our best Marie Antoinette-inspired Paris itinerary. 


Marie Antoinette-Inspired Paris Itinerary

Who was Marie Antoinette?

Jean-Baptiste Isabey via Wikimedia Commons

Although she played a major role in French history, Marie Antoinette wasn’t French. She was born to the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa in Austria, per Versailles. And by age 15, she was already married off to Louis XVI with the goal of improving Franco-Austrian relations. 

Marie Antoinette only lived to the age of 37, but these several decades proved to be eventful. She was rumored to have an affair with a Swedish diplomat; she had a gambling problem. She gave birth to four children, with two of them dying at a young age. In 1789, the French people stormed the Bastille, and three years later, monarchy was abolished, per History.com. And in 1793, she was sent to the guillotine at the Place de la Concorde in Paris, only a few months after her husband. In such a short time, Marie Antoinette made a name for herself.

Let Them Eat Cake (Or Not)

Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Although Marie Antoinette most likely never said “let them eat cake,” the public sentiment wasn’t far off. One major scandal that marked her time as queen was the Diamond Necklace Affair during the mid 1780s. 

This said necklace wasn’t just any type of jewelry; it had almost 650 diamonds and weighed nearly 2,800 carats, according to Versailles. A shady countess duped a cardinal into acting as a middle man to buy this expensive necklace supposedly on behalf of Marie Antoinette. Although she was known for her fashion tastes and luxury goods, Marie Antoinette had declined to purchase this necklace years prior for its outrageous price tag. The countess was found out and punished, but the queen’s reputation of excess still suffered. She even earned herself the nickname Madame Deficit, according to Biography.

Even more, Marie Antoinette didn’t fit too well into French royal life. “She found it difficult to adapt to French customs and when she became queen,” according to the Palace of Versailles. “She committed more and more blunders, often unwittingly, which gradually alienated public opinion, helping to tarnish her image in a most disastrous way.”

For better or for worse, Marie Antoinette left her mark on French history. There’s much to be discovered in Paris regarding her legacy. We’ve rounded up our favorite places to craft the ideal Marie Antoinette-inspired itinerary.

Take a VIP Visit of the Palace of Versailles

Versailles and its gardens, France

Turn back the clock to the era of Marie Antoinette with a private visit of her not-so humble abode, the Palace of Versailles. This isn’t just any palace: its grounds cover nearly 2000 acres and welcome 15 million guests annually, per Explore France. With French Side Travel, you can personalize your VIP guided visit by catering the tour to your interests. Whether you’d like to explore the palace or the king’s apartments, Marie Antoinette’s hamlet or her private quarters, the choice is yours.

Nosh on a Luxury Picnic in a Parisian Park

Bask in the beauty of the Jardin des Tuileries, which dates back to the 1500s, or the Jardin du Palais Royal over a gourmet picnic. We’ll take care of the logistics. Simply show up and your array of pastries, savory goods and champagne will be waiting for you. Admire the regal buildings lining these parks.

Stroll Château de Fontainebleau

Photo by Stefan K on Unsplash

South of Paris lies the majestic Château de Fontainebleau, boasting more than 800 years of history. With French Side Travel, you can discover this castle’s elegance with an exclusive after-hours visit. Learn about Marie-Antoinette’s mark on this castle, to where she and Louis XIV escaped. Your guide will share the ins and outs of this opulent castle. Finish the magical evening with a gourmet meal or cocktail.

Discover the Conciergerie and Sainte Chapelle 

stained glass windows in sainte-chapelle-paris

Named a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Conciergerie used to serve as a prison, where Marie Antoinette did time. During your private guided tour, you’ll discover where Marie Antoinette was held in isolation before going on trial for treason and misuse of national funds, per La Conciergerie. Take a quick walk to the nearby Sainte Chapelle, which was used as a flour warehouse during the Revolution, per Centre des Monuments Nationaux. Bask in the beauty of its colorful stained glass windows.

Where to Stay in France

Hôtel de Crillon in Paris
Indulge in a stay fit for a queen at the Hôtel de Crillon. This elegant five-star hotel boasts 78 rooms and dozens of suites, including designs from Karl Lagerfeld. Treat yourself to a romantic dinner at l’Écrin, the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant. This hotel overlooks the Place de la Concorde, where Marie Antoinette faced the guillotine hundreds of years ago.

Courtesy of Hotel Negresco

Hotel Negresco in Nice
Located in the sunny town of Nice, Hotel Negresco entices with its 102 rooms and 26 suites spanning five centuries of history. This hotel also offers a Marie Antoinette signature suite. From your opulently decorated suite, savor the Mediterranean Sea views and private terrace. Unwind at its recently opened N Le Spa with a revitalizing body scrub or soothing massage.


Feeling enchanted by this Marie Antoinette-inspired Paris itinerary? We get you. You might enjoy: A Historical and Cultural Escape to Paris or The Best of Paris in a Week. Need some help planning your trip?

Best Museums in France (Other than the Louvre)

From its rich gastronomy to its breathtaking landscapes, it’s no shock that France is one of the most visited countries in the world. Another big draw to France is also its vibrant museum selection. France’s capital is home to the Louvre, which is the most visited museum across the globe, according to Museums.eu. But the rest of France has much to offer in terms of art, culture and history. We certainly do recommend a visit to the Louvre, but beyond this classic, we wanted to share some of the best museums in all of France as well as exclusive experiences that we offer in these places.


Best Museums in France (Other than the Louvre)

Museum Culture in France

France is home to more than 1200 museums, according to the Ministry of Culture. The first French museums were opened in Paris and other big cities near the end of the 1700s. And since then, museums have become a hallmark of French heritage. Whether you’re interested in art or history, oceanography or wine, there’s a museum for you.

You can visit most museums year round, but there are several special days for the museum network each year. Since 2005, la Nuit Européenne des Musées, or the European Night of Museums, often takes place in May. On this Saturday evening, various museums offer free entrance and remain open past typical closing hours. Among the thousands of participating museums across Europe have included the Musée d’Orsay, the Château de Versailles and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon.

France also participates in the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine, or European Heritage Days. This annual weekend in September often includes free entrance to museums across the country. Many museums across France also offer free entrance on the first Sunday of each month. 

With more than one thousand museums, it can be hard to choose. But we’re sharing some of the best museums in France (other than the Louvre, of course!).

Musée d’Orsay in Paris

orsay museum paris

The Louvre gets ample screen time, as it should. But oftentimes, first-time visitors to Paris overlook other gems such as the Musée d’Orsay. This famed art museum sits on the Seine River and is home to a large collection of Impressionist art. In this museum also located along the Seine, you can see Claude Monet’s water lilies and Edgar Degas’ famed dancer statue.

Château de Chantilly near Paris

Credit: Unsplash

Just a short drive from Paris, the Château de Chantilly dates back to the Middle Ages. Today you can visit the majestic castle with its vast collection of antique paintings, private suites and the reception rooms of the princes of Bourbon-Condé. The Château de Chantilly also has its own stables, built for the prince Louis-Henri de Bourbon in the early 1700s.

Private Visit of the Horse Museum

Delve into the history and culture of horses over the centuries. With a private visit either before or after hours, you’ll discover the history, training and racing culture of horses. French Side Travel may also secure an after-hours private horse show at the Grand Stables.

Private Château Visit

Start your day with a helicopter ride from Paris. Your bird’s eye view will allow you to soak up the beautiful garden views of the Château de Chantilly before even stepping foot on land. Get the entire castle to yourself and a museum curator who will share the castle’s secrets.

Mucem in Marseille

marseilles-waterfront-view-mucum-musuem-fort

While in Provence, be sure to visit the Mucem, or the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations. From traditional fashion to coffee cultivation, collections vary depending on when you visit the museum. After you’ve brushed up on Mediterranean culture, head across the suspended bridge to enjoy the rooftop gardens overlooking the sea. You can wander Fort St. Jean and even dine at the Mucem’s restaurant Le Môle Passedat with Michelin-starred chef Gerald Passedat.

Cosquer in Marseille 

Credit: Kleber Rossillon & Région Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

You know Napoleon, you know Marie Antoinette. But what happened in France thousands of years ago, even long before Julius Caesar conquered Gaul in the 50s B.C.? Now underwater, a prehistoric cave was discovered in 1985 in Marseille, and the recently opened Cosquer Museum has created a replica for guests to admire.

Carrières des Lumières in les Baux-de-Provence

culture-art-history-tours-france

The quaint village of les Baux-de-Provence is home to the Carrières de Lumières art center. Here you can stroll through its “From Vermeer to Van Gogh,” a digital, immersive exhibition celebrating Dutch artists. The art center also proposes exhibitions on Mondrian and Tin Tin.

Hôtel de Caumont in Aix-en-Provence

Located in the posh town of Aix-en-Provence, Hôtel de Caumont used to be a private residence but was repurposed into an art center in 2015. You can stroll its regal rooms and wander through its temporary exhibitions. Be sure to enjoy the center’s film on Paul Cézanne, an artist born in Aix. Treat yourself to tea time in its manicured gardens.

Private guided visit to Hôtel de Caumont

Whether you’d like the museum all to yourself before opening or after closing, French Side Travel can make that happen. Meet an art lecturer who will give you the inside scoop on this former private mansion followed by a breakfast or cocktail hour in one of its salons.

Camp des Milles near Aix-en-Provence

Although less glamorous than other museum subjects, World War II played a major role in French history. Located outside of Aix-en-Provence sits the Camp des Milles, a former World War II internment camp.

During the war, this former tile factory became a holding spot for different groups. Before Nazi occupation in France, the internment camp was for “enemy subjects,” according to the camp’s site. From July 1940 to July 1942, Camp des Milles was used for transit and as a detention center for those deemed “undesirable.” And from August to September 1942, around 10,000 people were interned here — of which 2,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz from the Camp des Milles

Today you can visit the Camp des Milles and learn about the history of this internment site as well as the brave people who resisted against the Nazis and who fought to protect those targeted.

Cité du Vin in Bordeaux

Credit: Unsplash

Red, rosé or white, wine can be found on menus across the globe. But long before your glass is poured, this libation has endured various climates, aging processes and beyond. And the Cité du Vin in Bordeaux seeks to address to many facets of wine from grape varieties to geography, climate to packaging. After brushing up on winemaking, you can even finish off your visit to the Cité du Vin with a complimentary glass of wine.

Musée des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux

Credit: GFreihalter via Wikimedia Commons

Claiming the title of the city’s oldest public museum, the Musée des Beaux-Arts houses an array of European art with artists such as Rodin, Delacroix and Matisse.

Private guided visit at the Musée des Beaux-Arts

Perhaps you’d like to admire the works of artists such as Rubens and Picasso in exclusivity. With French Side Travel, you can secure a private after-hours visit at this museum to admire these world-renowned pieces with a guide. 

Oceanographic Museum in Monaco

Nice | French Side Travel | Monaco | monaco Oceanographic museum

Monaco offers much to be explored on land: palace, gardens, churches. But Monaco also boasts access to the Mediterranean Sea, which has even more to be discovered below water. More than a century ago, Prince Albert I commissioned the creation of the Oceanographic Museum, which celebrates the elaborate underwater ecosystem of the Mediterranean. If you’ve ever wanted to see a zebra shark or a fluorescent coral up close, you’re in luck. 

Private tour of the Oceanographic Museum

After the museum closes to the public, you can have private access to the museum, thanks to French Side Travel. Grab your flashlight as you discover the riches of Mediterranean flora and fauna with your guide by night.

Where to Stay in France

Yndō Hotel in Bordeaux
Make the most of your time in Bordeaux with a luxurious stay at this five-star hotel. Yndo Hotel was once a private mansion, and its cush velvet upholstery and chandeliers continue the ambiance. Choose from its 12 rooms, perhaps one of its Crazy Rooms marked by a “touch of eccentricity.” Sip on a cup of tea in its courtyard and nosh on its restaurant’s local dishes only available to hotel guests.

Courtesy of Villa Saint Ange

Villa Saint Ange in Aix-en-Provence
Once an 18th century villa, this five-star hotel now welcomes guests in its posh rooms in the heart of Provence. After a day of exploring Aix, spend the evening dining at its tastefully decorated restaurant Âma Terra. Unwind with a spa treatment or massage at Villa Saint Ange’s facilities. Dive into its outdoor pool or simply soak up the Provençal sun from a lounge chair.


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