Five Unique Summer Experiences in France: Part Two

With summer travel planning in full-swing, we’re excited to share part two of our list of five unique summer experiences in France. Read on to discover more about this year’s Tour de France and Tour des Femmes, Fête Nationale, and more.


Five Unique Summer Experiences in France: Part Two

Via Ferrata – Hiking and Rock Climbing with a View of Mont Blanc

via ferrata chamonix unique summer expriences in france

Beginners and experienced climbers, adults and children alike can enjoy the fun of the vertical world of via ferrata. This activity is a cross between hiking and rock climbing. Go along routes equipped with cables, ladders, and rope bridges and across rock faces and crags. This particular via ferrata route looks directly at the stunning Mont Blanc. The Chamonix Valley is a wonderful place to experience this unique activity, and the Evettes via ferrata guarantees enormous fun and adventure. You’ll safely push your limits on a varied route with a professional guide.

Celebrate La Fête Nationale – Bastille Day

fête nationale fireworks paris
Photo Courtesy of Groupe F


The French Fête Nationale marks the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on July 14th, 1789, a turning point in the French revolution. It also marks the Fête de la Fédération, which celebrates the unity of the French people on July 14th, 1790. Since 1880, July 14th has officially been the Fête Nationale. It symbolizes the end of the monarchy and the beginning of the French Republic. Celebrations are held throughout France. In major cities like Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux, and Toulouse, you’ll find military parades, games, shows and entertainment for the whole family. There are spectacular fireworks shows as well, especially in Paris at the Eiffel Tower.

Where to Stay in Paris
hotel la reserve paris

Hôtel La Réserve

This palace hotel is housed in a mansion dating from 1854, once owned by couturier Pierre Cardin.

Behind its ruby-red doors, it offers guests a world of Haussmann charm and rooms with stunning views of Paris’s finest landmarks. The elegant and stylish decoration was designed by Jacques Garcia.

Practical and aesthetically pleasing, the 26 suites and 14 rooms seamlessly combine tradition with modern technology. It is also worth noting that La Réserve Paris is the first palace hotel to offer a personal butler service for every room. There is special attention to make guests feel as though they are staying in a private home.

Away from the hustle and bustle of the world’s most beautiful avenue, this discrete and spacious establishment also has a private library and a smoking room.

Chef Jérôme Banctel oversees the kitchens at both Le Gabriel restaurant and La Pagode de Cos brasserie. The restaurant serves contemporary French cuisine with Asian influences.

Tour de France and Tour des Femmes

tour de france unique summer experiences in france
REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

The 109th edition of the Tour de France is back again this year from July 1st to July 24th. The race is set to depart in Denmark and also includes stops in Belgium and Switzerland. This year’s race will cover 2,067 miles of cycling and span four mountain ranges. If you happen to be in Paris on July 24th, don’t miss the final stage of the Tour de France. The finish line is on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. Spectators can cheer on the riders around Place de la Concorde and the Quai des Tuileries. The end of the Tour de France in Paris marks the beginning of the Tour des Femmes, the first women’s cycle stage race around France. The Tour des Femmes takes place from July 24th to July 31st.

Kayaking or Canoeing in the Dordogne

kayaking in the dordogne unique summer experiences in france

Begin your journey in either a kayak or canoe at Saint Vincent de Cosse, just next to Beynac-et-Cazenac, which many consider to be one of the most beautiful villages in France. Nestled between the Dordogne River and an immense rocky promontory, the village is not to be missed. With stone-paved streets, houses in light-colored stones, and a château, you’ll be in for a total immersion in medieval times. A shuttle will take you to your preferred starting point on the Dordogne River. From there, you’ll start discovering the amazing villages and châteaux on both sides of the river. You’ll have your pick between three different tours: a half day tour, a 4-5 hour tour, and a full day tour. A perfectly unique summer experience in France indeed!

Where to Stay in the Dordogne
chateau de la treyne

Château de la Treyne

The exceptionally located 4-star hotel is set on a rocky bluff and mirrored in the Dordogne, beneath a wooded hillside covered with boxwood and truffle oaks.

The hotel’s combination of authenticity and refinement is a perfect expression of contemporary luxury, in a sublime and relaxing setting. It offers guests the opportunity to step back in time with all of the comforts and amenities of modern life.

All Suites and deluxe rooms are equipped to the highest standard. A tempting menu of seasonal dishes, using only the best locally sourced ingredients, is served daily at their Michelin-starred restaurant.

Loire Valley Bike, Wine, and Châteaux Tour

loire valley cycling wine and biking

Join a licensed guide for an incredible private tour and day experiencing the best of the Loire Valley’s biking, wine, and châteaux. Stop at the Château de Villandry, one of the last châteaux built during the Renaissance period. There you’ll discover perhaps the most breathtaking example of Renaissance garden design in all of France. Afterwards, bike along the banks of the Loire River to an old fisherman’s village. You’ll stop for a picnic lunch on the riverside with local delicacies and wine.

Play amateur photographer in Rigny-Ussé where you can admire the exceptional exterior architecture of the Renaissance château. The view of the château from the bridge over the Indre is quite simply stunning. To finish the day, stop in the Vouvray vineyards to visit a cellar and taste the delicious local sparkling wine. A simply wonderful way to have a unique summer experience and experience some of the best of France all in a day!


We hope part two of five unique summer experiences in France helps inspire a trip later this year. We would love to help you plan a dream trip to France with a custom, completely tailor-made itinerary. Some of our favorite destinations in France include Paris, the South of France, Normandy, and Paris. Get in touch with a travel designer today to start the planning process!

Five Unique Summer Experiences in France: Part One

Visiting France in the summer is always a popular choice thanks to mild temperatures and an endless variety of activities, both outdoors and indoors. Every year there are numerous special events not to be missed. Read on to discover part one of French Side Travel’s list of five unique summer experiences in France.


Five Unique Summer Experiences in France: Part One

La Fête de la Musique

la fete de la musique france

Each June 21st in France is La Fête de la Musique, the same day as the summer solstice and longest day of the year. 2022 marks the 40th edition of this free event that takes part all across France – in both major cities and rural communities. La Fête de la Musique celebrates live music of all kinds and is open to both amateurs and professionals alike. People gather in the streets to enjoy concerts and performances that go well into the night. If you are in France on June 21st, celebrating La Fête de la Musique is a must!

Château de Versailles Gardens: Music, Fountains, and Fireworks

versailles musical gardens five unique summer experiences in france

The world-renowned gardens at the Château de Versailles take on another dimension during the warmer months. On almost every day of the week there is something special going on.

During the Musical Fountains Show, visitors can follow several paths to both masterpieces and secret spots in the gardens to see the fountains spouting water in sync with baroque music.

On Musical Gardens days, enjoy your walk through the garden to discover groves that are exceptionally open to the public, along with music.

On Saturday evenings, along with a few select dates, the Night Fountains Show is the main attraction in the gardens. This show of light and sound is accompanied by water features and ends with a dramatic firework show in front of the Grand Canal. If you happen to be visiting on a Saturday, the Royal Serenade might be of interest: a French-style ball in the golden Hall of Mirrors.

You can see the full schedule here.

Where to Stay in Arles
hotel particulier arles

Hôtel Particulier Arles

This intimate 5-star hotel is set in a historic mansion in central Arles. This is the perfect spot from which to discover the charming city and the Camargue National Park.

The hotel’s lush garden and terrace feels particularly Provençal, and is a shady oasis during the summer months. Relax in the heated outdoor pool or in the spa and fitness area.

The spacious rooms and suites evoke a bygone era. They are bright, decorated with white fabrics, and feature modern amenities.

Photography and Theater Festivals in Arles and Avignon

les rencontres d'arles five unique summer experiences in france

In 1970, Les Rencontres d’Arles was founded. It highlights eclectic and contemporary photography in Arles, the international capital of photography. Numerous exhibits take place throughout Arles in emblematic locations, many of which are usually closed to the public. A must-see is the Luma Museum, an architectural wonder designed by Frank Gehry and filled with contemporary art. This year, Les Rencontres d’Arles is from July 4th to September 25th.

Also in July, in neighboring Avignon, is the Festival d’Avignon. The city of Avignon transforms into a theater as a celebration of contemporary performing arts. Performances take place throughout the city in both iconic and unexpected locations. There is a focus on sharing contemporary and living culture, so along with the shows there are also readings, exhibits, films, and discussions. This year’s Festival d’Avignon runs from July 7th to July 26th.

Where to Stay in Avignon
la mirande avignon

Hôtel La Mirande

Built by one of Pope Clement V’s cardinals, this 5-star hotel dates back to 1309. It enjoys a privileged location in Avignon’s city center.

Rooms feature decorations like wall tapestries, oak-wood flooring, and silk-lined curtains. All rooms have a private bathroom featuring marble. Some offer a view of the Palais des Papes.

Enjoy gourmet cuisine at the in-house Michelin-star restaurant. Culinary enthusiasts will also want to book a cooking class in the hotel’s rustic kitchen. Spend a few hours around the vast, wood-burning oven and use local produce to craft a delicious meal. You’ll enjoy an aperitif in the cellar before sitting down for lunch.

See the Vibrant Lavender Fields in Provence

provence lavender fields

The world-famous lavender fields are among the most beautiful landscapes in all of France. Throughout the years, lavender has held a prominent place in the history and culture of Provence. The lavender fields start blooming in June each year and usually by mid-July reach peak bloom. By the middle of August the lavender is usually harvested. Some of the best places to see lavender include Valensole, Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque, Sault, and Drôme. Visit a distillery to bring some of the scents of Provence home with you in the form of essential oils, soaps, or honey.

Dinner Cruise with Fireworks on the Côte d’Azur

cannes firework show

For a special summer experience on the Côte d’Azur, consider taking a dinner cruise complete with a firework show. Cruises depart from Cannes and feature a cruise around the Îles des Lérins with a stop on Île Sainte Marguerite. Dinner will be served on board as the boat heads back towards the Croisette to watch the dazzling firework spectacle. It is also possible to go on a cruise to watch the fireworks without a meal from Nice.


We hope part one of this list of five unique summer experiences in France helps inspire a trip later this year. We would love to help you plan a dream trip to France with a custom, completely tailor-made itinerary. Some of our favorite destinations in France include Paris, the South of France, Normandy, and Paris. Get in touch with a travel designer today to start the planning process!

10 Essential Loire Valley Châteaux

Thanks to an abundance of vineyards, orchards, and artichoke and asparagus fields, the Loire Valley is often referred to as both the “Cradle of the French” and the “Garden of France.” It’s a region filled with charm and history as well as notable towns, wines, architecture, and over 300 châteaux. We’ve narrowed down our picks for 10 essential Loire Valley châteaux to visit.


10 Essential Loire Valley Châteaux

Château de Chambord

chateau de chambord 10 loire valley châteaux

Château de Chambord is an exceptional masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1965, François I built the Château de Chambord as a hunting lodge. It’s the largest château in the Loire Valley and most prestigious of the French Renaissance châteaux. Leonardo da Vinci inspired parts of the château, particularly the double-helix staircase.

From the terraces you’ll find incredible views of the fascinating architecture of the château and the entire estate. You could easily spend a day exploring the domaine on foot, by bike, or on horseback.

relais de chambord

Unique Stay: Relais de Chambord
Just a four minute walk from the castle, you’ll find this small and refined 4-star boutique hotel in an unrivaled location. With captivating views around every turn, you’ll get to know each turret and spire of the castle’s famous rooftop skyline.
Each room is unique and filled with natural light. Some rooms offer a view of the Château de Chambord, while others overlook the river, Place Saint-Louis or the forest. Guests can enjoy hot air balloon rides over the estate, boat tours along the Cosson River, 4×4 safari rides through Chambord’s reserve and more.

Château de Blois

The town of Blois is located in the heart of the Loire Valley. It’s home to one of the most iconic châteaux in the area and is also a recognized Ville d’Art et d’Histoire (Town of Art and History).

The Royal Château of Blois is a true synthesis of the art and history of the Loire Valley châteaux. The four distinct wings are a prime example of the diversity of styles and architecture over the centuries. Be sure to take a moment in the courtyard to admire the four architectural styles: the 13th century Medieval fortress, the Louis XII Gothic wing, the François I Renaissance wing, and the Gaston of Orleans Classical wing. Over time, seven French kings and 10 queens lived at this royal château.

Château d’Amboise and Château du Clos Lucé

chateau d'ambois chateau clos luce 10 loire valley châteaux

The Château d’Amboise has a picture-perfect setting overlooking the Loire River and the charming town of Amboise. It holds an impressive collection of medieval and Renaissance furniture. The council chamber and the royal chamber are absolute must-sees.

Amboise is also the location of Leonardo da Vinci’s last home, the Château du Clos Lucé. This relatively small 15th century palace was the childhood home of François I. The château is especially well-known because Leonardo da Vinci spent his final three years living here as a guest of the king. Today, the Château du Clos Lucé is a museum dedicated to the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci. You can see Leonardo da Vinci’s tomb on the grounds of the Saint-Hubert chapel at the Château d’Amboise.

Château de Beauregard

chateau de beauregard

One of our favorite smaller châteaux in the Loire Valley is the privately-owned Château de Beauregard. Built at the end of the 15th century and set on an expansive 173-acre estate, it houses an exceptional portrait gallery featuring 327 European monarchs, ministers, clergymen, and diplomats among others.

Want to Be King of the Castle?
Enjoy a private tour of the Château de Beauregard followed by a wine and cheese tasting with an oenologist. This exclusive experience takes place in the late afternoon on a château terrace. You’ll be able to watch the setting sun with a glass of local wine in hand. Truly an unforgettable moment!

Château Azay-le-Rideau

Château Azay-le-Rideau is perfectly set on an island in the middle of the Indre River. This 16th century is an early example of French Renaissance architecture blending French tradition with innovative Italian decorative arts. Thanks to both the beauty of the château and its sublime natural setting, Azay-le-Rideau is one of the most popular châteaux to visit in the Loire Valley.

Château de Chenonceau

10 loire valley châteaux

This prestigious château spans the River Cher. Château de Chenonceau is known as the Château des Dames because of the women who built, expanded, defended, restored and ultimately saved it. Built by Catherine Briçonnet in 1513, it was later embellished and transformed by the likes of Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de’ Medici.

Be sure to visit the garden of Diane de Poitiers, a “floating” parterre created in the Renaissance. You’ll also want to see Catherine de’ Medici’s Italian-style maze and separate smaller garden facing the lake and the park. To the north, there is an English-style Green Garden. Last but not least, visit the Flower Garden where you’ll find over 100 varieties of “cutting flowers” used for the château’s floral arrangements. Yes – the château does organize floral workshops!

Château Chaumont-sur-Loire

10 loire valley châteaux

Set the banks of the Loire River, Château Chaumont-sur-Loire blends defensive Gothic architecture with aesthetically pleasing Renaissance architecture. The landscaped English-style grounds offer a spectacular, unique vista of the untamed Loire.

Each year between the end of April and November, the Festival International des Jardins invites landscape artists from all over the world to dream up and create extraordinary gardens on a different theme each year. The theme this year is “Biomimicry in the Garden” which proposes ambitious and exemplary creations that feature fresh and contemporary scenes, aiming to surprise, give understanding and capture imaginations all at once. The festival goes through November 7th.

Château de Villandry

chateau de villandry garden

The Château de Villandry is one of the most impressive of the Loire Valley châteaux. While the château itself is beautiful, the extensive gardens are the highlight of any visit.

The château is best-known for its formal French-style garden. There are also several smaller gardens in various styles that are worth exploring. Our favorites include the vegetable garden, the ornamental garden, the water garden, the sun garden, and the herb garden.

Built in the early 16th-century, Château de Villandry was the last Renaissance-style castle constructed in the Loire Valley. The interior of the Château de Villandry, although less frequented than the gardens, is well worth a visit. Highlights include the kitchen, the main staircase and dining room (classified historical monuments), and the ceiling in the oriental drawing room.

Château de Brézé

Classified as a Historic Monument, Château de Brézé is unique because of its remarkably well-preserved troglodytic cave network, richly furnished rooms, and highly detailed neo-Gothic architecture. Many visitors come to see the “castle under a castle.” This nearly four kilometer underground route holds unexpected underground rooms including stables, kitchens, a bakery, and a wine cellar.

Stay in a Château at the Loire Valley: Château d’Artigny
An unmatched experience of living in a château and feeling the grandeur is what this 5-star hotel promises.
Located south of Tours, Château d’Artigny offers the best of comfort and opulence to its visitors. During your stay you’ll enjoy marble statues, a French garden, beautiful woodwork, and amazing views over the Indre Valley.


This majestic region of France begs exploring. Whether you want to spend a few days visiting from Paris or extend your stay to see all 10 essential Loire Valley châteaux, we can help you plan the perfect itinerary. Some of our Loire Valley favorites include A Loire Valley Road Trip, An Exclusive, Romantic Visit to the Loire Valley, and Loire Valley Wine and Châteaux. French Side Travel has something for everyone whether you’re interested in food and wine, history and culture, adventure, or romance and scenery.

Need some help planning your trip?

Classic Paris highlights: 10 things to do

Heading to Paris for the first time? It’s a big city that begs to be explored. Since there’s no way to fit everything into one visit, here is French Side Travel’s Top 10 list of highlights. Start you trip with these can’t-miss favorites. 


The Louvre Museum

Mona Lisa painting in Louvre Museum
Visitors admiring DaVinci’s masterpiece

The Louvre is the world’s most visited museum. Originally a medieval fortress it has lived many lives. It’s been a museum since 1793. It famously houses Leonardo DaVinci’s Mona Lisa and the ancient Winged Victory of Samothrace and Venus de Milo statues. It’s worth lingering here. The massive collection includes Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Near Eastern antiquities through 19th-century paintings. Avoid the crowds and wander in the lesser-frequented, but no-less-spectacular collections. Even the architecture is a draw. The medieval ramparts, Pavillon de l’Horloge, and the iconic Louvre Pyramid entrance impress.

If you love museums, you will love Paris. There are dozens of excellent museums to explore, but the Louvre is undoubtably la crème de la crème.

Head up the Eiffel Tower

silhouettes of two men eating over paris. view on Eiffel tower.
The Eiffel Tower seen from Montparnasse Tower

When the Eiffel Tower was built for the 1889 World’s Fair it became the tallest building in the world. It remained so until New York City’s Chrysler Building surpassed it in 1930. Today it’s France’s most famous building. When it was built, however, it was controversial, even offensive to 19th-century sensibilities. Some critics questioned whether it was even technically possible. The soaring wrought iron lattice tower was radically different from anything that came before it. 

You can take the elevator or walk up to the second level (380ft or 116m). The top floor at 905ft or 276m is accessible only by elevator. If you wish to stay a while, splurge on the Michelin-starred The Jules Verne on the second level or enjoy a glass of bubbly on the top level’s Champagne Bar.

Watch the Eiffel Tower twinkle
The one place you don’t see the Eiffel Tower in Paris is from the Eiffel Tower. For 5 minutes once per hour every hour from sunset until 1am, the Tower is lit up by more than 20,000 flashing bulbs. Enjoy the show from anywhere with a nice view. The Trocadéro is a favorite. From a boat on the water is even better.  

Cruise down the Seine 

Young woman enjoying beautiful landscape view on the riverside from the tourist ship during the sunset in Paris

A river cruise on the Seine is a classic way to visit Paris. Pass under the many ornate bridges, and float by Paris’s most famous sites – the Eiffel Tower, the Musée du Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Conciergerie, and Notre-Dame. We recommended a cruise at night. It’s pure magic after dark when the monuments are illuminated. You can even join a cruise with fine dining options. 

Go for a walk in the park

Jardin du Luxembourg with the Palace and statue. Few flowers are in front and blue sky behind.

The Tuileries and the Jardin du Luxembourg are two of the great green spaces in Paris. Either is perfect for a peaceful break after a long morning trekking through museums. Have some time? Try visiting both to compare the formal gardens, the palatial architecture, and statuary. Both are accessible for free. 

Try a real croissant and pain au chocolat 

pile of pain au chocolate pasteries in french bakery

Breakfast in Paris is one of life’s simple pleasures. Pop into a café with a nice terrace. Eat breakfast like the French – a simple croissant or pain au chocolat with your coffee. Take your time to enjoy it. Early on a weekend morning is a particularly tranquil time to watch the world pass. 

La Sainte-Chapelle

stained glass windows. interior of sainte-chapelle in paris.

Notre-Dame de Paris is closed for restoration following a fire in April 2019, but its little sister, La Sainte-Chapelle, remains open. It’s located just a couple minutes walk away on the Île de la Cité. It was once the royal chapel, reserved exclusively for the royal court and their guests. One step inside and you will know why they kept it to themselves. It’s a breathtaking site. The walls appear to be made almost entirely of intricate stained glass, a majority of which is original and dates to the 13th-century. It has survived floods, fires, the French Revolution, and wars. 

Visit Montmartre

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

Montmartre is like a small village in Paris with gardens, cobblestone streets, and an association with great 19th and 20th-century artists. These include Picasso, Degas, Renoir, and Toulouse-Lautrec, to name but a few. It even has its own tiny urban vineyard, the Clos Montmartre. This is a neighborhood to linger in and enjoy. Its Moulin Rouge cabaret is a perennial draw. Montmartre’s star attraction is, however, the Sacré-Coeur Basilica. It’s a masterpiece. It offers an impressive panorama from its perch at the highest point in the city. 

Visit the Palace of Versailles

chandelier and statue of woman in Versaille
A statue in Versailles’s Hall of Mirrors

Versailles is just outside of Paris. It became the royal residence and the seat of the French government in 1682. It remained so for more than a century until the French Revolution drove out Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette’s monarchy. Despite its reputation for opulence, nothing really prepares you for the monumental size. 2,300 rooms over 679,748ft2 (63,154m2) is incomprehensibly large. It’s opulent and refined, yet ostentatious. The grounds contain lush manicured gardens, statues, and fountains spread over 1,945 acres (787 hectares). 

Want to be treated like a royal? Sleep at Versailles
Following the opening of the Airelles Château de Versailles – Le Grand Contrôle in 2021 it is now possible to stay at Versailles yourself. The 5-star property is spectacular. Its complete with a spa, a restaurant from the celebrated Chef Alain Ducasse, unlimited access to the L’Orangerie, and exclusive before and after-hours tours. The hotel itself occupies a 17th-century palace building with views on the Château, the Orangerie, and the Pièce d’eau des Suisses.

Imagine having this view from your room

Take a guided tour!

Go for a tour of the Saint-Ouen
Flea Market © Paris Tourist Office – Photographer: Marc Bertrand

Seeing a place through the eyes of a local makes it all that much better. Hear the stories of the people who have lived there and better appreciate those little details. Need a tour idea? Our travel designers can help. Whatever your interest there’s almost certainly a tour to match. Some favorites include looking for the perfect antique or vintage wears at the Saint-Ouen flea market, gourmet walking tours of Saint-Germain des Prés, and exploring what makes the lively Latin Quarter tick. 

Eat well and learn to cook

a cooking class in paris
A tasting during a cooking class

France is famous for its food. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn a few tricks for yourself. Do the tasting menu at a Michelin-star restaurant or go on a guided market tour. If you like getting your hands dirty, there are cooking classes too. Learn to bake like the French do or to make your own macarons! It is sure to impress your dinner guests back home.


A few days in Paris and you’ll never want to leave. There is so much more to do. Get started with these suggestions. We bet you’ll love so much that you’ll be back next year too to explore even more deeply. A trip to Paris combines wonderfully with detours to Champagne, Normandy, and the Loire Valley.

France is famous for its food. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn a few tricks for yourself. Do the tasting menu at a Michelin-star restaurant or go on a guided market tour. If you like getting your hands dirty, there are cooking classes too. Learn to bake like the French do or to make your own macarons! It is sure to impress your dinner guests back home.

Need some help planning your trip?

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