History & Culture Archives -

Your Guide to Nîmes: The French Rome

Imagine a place where ancient Roman stones whisper tales of gladiatorial combat, sunshine paints the cafes with a golden glow, and modern hospitality offers a touch of indulgence. This is Nîmes, a captivating city in southern France, waiting to unfold its magic before you.

Nicknamed “the French Rome,” Nîmes boasts a wealth of Roman ruins rivaling the Eternal City. Just as 19th-century poet Jean Reboul once declared, Nîmes, like Rome, is a city built upon seven hills, bathed in sunshine, and graced with the beauty of its historical legacy.

The city sits proudly along the Via Domitia, an ancient road that once linked Italy to Spain, a testament to its former strategic importance. Prepare to be transported through time as you explore Nîmes.

Things to See in Nîmes

The Roman legacy of Nîmes unfolds like an open-air museum, inviting you on a captivating journey through the ages. Prepare to be awestruck by:

Arena of Nîmes

This behemoth, remarkably well-preserved, rivals the Colosseum itself. While the Colosseum bears the scars of medieval quarrying, Nîmes’ inhabitants cleverly repurposed theirs as a residential area. This act of preservation allows us to witness the near-complete structure today, with its arena, tiered seating, galleries, and arches standing strong – a captivating testament to the city’s rich history of spectacles. Today, the Arena of Nîmes pulsates with a different kind of energy, hosting concerts and cultural events.

Pont du Gard:

© Aurelio Rodriguez

A short 30-minute drive beyond Nîmes lies the awe-inspiring Pont du Gard, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This three-tiered aqueduct, a masterpiece of Roman ingenuity, stretches majestically across the Gardon River. Take a moment to marvel at its intricate stonework and imagine the vital role it played in transporting water to ancient Nîmes. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even kayak here!

More Monuments, Maison Carrée and Temple de Diane:

© Olivier Maynard

Nîmes’ Roman treasures extend beyond the arena and aqueduct. Don’t miss the Maison Carrée, a perfectly proportioned temple recently added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s list. Other monuments include the Temple de Diane, Tour Magne, and Porte d’Auguste. These sites offer a glimpse into the daily life of the city’s Roman inhabitants and will spark your curiosity for exploration.

Things to Do in Nîmes

Nîmes isn’t just about reliving Roman history; it’s a city brimming with hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

Walk through the Jardins de la Fontaine

Courtesy of Nîmes Tourisme

Step away from the bustle of the city center and find serenity in the Jardins de la Fontaine. These beautifully landscaped gardens offer a peaceful oasis, adorned with classical statues, cascading waterfalls, and serene walking paths. Immerse yourself in the sweet scent of blooming flowers and the gentle sound of trickling water, a perfect escape for a moment of quiet reflection.

Immerse yourself in the city’s museums: Musée de la Romanité and Carré d’Art

Courtesy of Musée de la Romanité

For those who crave a deeper cultural experience, Nîmes offers an array of museums. Delve into the city’s rich Roman heritage at the Musée de la Romanité, where captivating exhibits bring the past to life. If contemporary art interests you, head to the Carré d’Art, a vibrant space showcasing modern and experimental works.

Participate in the city’s festivities: Feria de Nîmes & Roman Days of Nîmes

Nîmes comes alive throughout the year with a vibrant calendar of festivals and events. Immerse yourself in the city’s spirit by attending the annual Feria de Nîmes, a thrilling bullfighting festival (courses camarguaises) unique to the region.

Alternatively, watch history come alive during the Roman Days of Nîmes, where the city transforms into an ancient Roman spectacle complete with gladiatorial games and costumed actors. No matter the season, Nîmes offers a unique opportunity to connect with its local culture and traditions.

Planning Your Nîmes Getaway

Nîmes is effortlessly accessible, whether you journey directly from Paris by high-speed train (3 hours), incorporate it into your exploration of Provence as a day trip from Aix-en-Provence or Avignon, or add it as a stop on a multi-region itinerary. Learn more about Roman History in Provence.

Where to Stay in Nîmes

Maison Albar – L’Imperator

© K_Pictures

This 5-star urban resort exudes timeless elegance, having charmed icons like Hemingway and Picasso. Choose from luxurious rooms or private houses, ideal for families or groups seeking an exclusive escape.

“…the mistral was blowing so they rode with the mistral down to Nîmes and stayed there at the Imperator.”

The Garden of Eden, Ernest Hemingway
© Marco Strullu

Indulge your taste buds at DUENDE, the hotel’s 2-Michelin-starred restaurant led by culinary maestro Pierre Gagnaire. His creations are a testament to his innovative spirit and dedication to artistry. Unwind at the expansive Codage Spa, a sanctuary of pampering, or sip handcrafted cocktails at Bar Hemingway, a tribute to the famed writer who frequented this very spot. Maison Albar – L’Imperator allows you to experience Nîmes’ rich heritage in the lap of luxury.

Margaret – Hôtel Chouleur

Courtesy of Margaret – Hôtel Chouleur

For a stay that feels more like a private residence than a hotel, look no further than Margaret – Hôtel Chouleur. Nestled on a quiet street, this charming 4-star hotel boasts just 10 rooms and suites, designed with a blend of French tradition and modern flair. Relax in one of the hotel’s two courtyards, or lose yourself in a good book in the library. Here, you can pour yourself a drink and settle up at the end of your stay, fostering a relaxed and intimate atmosphere.

For a truly unforgettable experience don’t miss ROUGE, the on-site Michelin-starred restaurant. Chef Georgiana Viou’s culinary creations showcase the best of Mediterranean cuisine. Just steps from the Maison Carrée, Margaret – Hôtel Chouleur is perfect for those seeking a personalized experience in the heart of Nîmes.

Nîmes’ allure is derived from its blend of Roman heritage, sun-drenched charm, and contemporary elegance. Ancient stones whisper of the past, vibrant cafes hum with life, and unique experiences await around every corner.

Ready to explore? Let our Travel Designers curate your perfect French escape. Speak with an expert today to unveil the magic of Nîmes.

Uncover Canada’s World War History in France

Are you a Canadian World War history buff planning a trip to France? Immerse yourself in the rich legacy of Canadian bravery and sacrifice by following the Canadian Route of Remembrance. This unforgettable itinerary takes you to the very battlefields where Canadian soldiers played pivotal roles in both World Wars.

This historic route winds through northern France, encompassing poignant memorials, preserved trenches, and informative museums. Walk the same grounds where Canadian troops secured key victories, stood strong against overwhelming odds, and forever changed the course of history.

Join us as we delve into the details of this commemorative journey.

Canadian World War I Sites & Museums in Northern France

Canada played a pivotal role in the First World War, and Northern France bears witness to the courage and sacrifice of its soldiers. Here are some key sites you can visit to learn more about Canada’s WWI experience:

vimy ridge canada world war i

Vimy Ridge

Vimy Ridge offers a powerful experience for visitors seeking to learn about Canada’s role in World War I. The iconic Canadian National Vimy Memorial towers over the Lens Plain, marking the very site of the pivotal 1917 battle. Dedicated in 1936, it commemorates the over 66,000 Canadians who lost their lives in the war.

To delve deeper, the Visitor Education Centre, opened in 2017, utilizes multimedia exhibits to explore Canada’s involvement in the war, from its beginnings to its lasting impact. Finally, free guided tours led by Canadian university students bring the battlefield to life.

Explore the preserved trenches and underground tunnels that played a crucial role in the Canadian victory, and visit the military cemeteries to pay your respects to the fallen soldiers. Vimy Ridge offers a profound and moving tribute to Canadian bravery and sacrifice.

beaumont-hamel newfoundland memorial
© Carl Liversage

Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial

The Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial offers a poignant and immersive experience. Atop a hill overlooking a meticulously preserved trench network stands the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Memorial, a bronze caribou symbolizing the enduring spirit of its soldiers. This unique site allows visitors to walk through the very trenches where soldiers fought, providing a powerful and visceral connection to the realities of trench warfare.

Other WWI Sites

menin gate memorial ypres belgium
Courtesy of CWCG

For history buffs seeking a unique perspective, Wellington Quarry near Arras awaits. Descend into this “secret city” used by over 20,000 Commonwealth soldiers to prepare for the Battle of Arras, and imagine the immense undertaking that preceded the offensive.

Scattered throughout the region lie the Remembrance Trail a series of memorials honoring fallen soldiers. Pay your respects at the Monument of the 37th British Division, the Scottish Highlanders’ Cross, and the New Zealand Memorial, each a poignant reminder of the war’s global impact.

Just across the border in Belgium lies Ypres, a town forever etched in Canadian memory. Here, inexperienced Canadian troops faced a baptism by fire during the brutal battles of Ypres. Explore the Ypres Salient battlefield and the haunting Menin Gate Memorial, where every evening the Last Post is sounded in remembrance of the missing.

Where To Stay in Northern France

Hôtel Louvre-Lens 4*


Only a 15-minute drive away from Vimy Ridge, the Hôtel Louvre-Lens blends restored miners’ cottages with modern comfort. Located opposite the Louvre-Lens Museum, it’s a perfect base to explore WWI sites and regional heritage. After a day of exploration, relax and savor innovative regional cuisine by Chef Kasprik.

Canadian World War II Sites & Museums in Normandy

Normandy played a crucial role in the liberation of Europe during World War II, and Canadian troops were at the forefront of the Allied invasion. Here are some key sites you can visit to learn more about Canada’s contribution to D-Day and the Battle of Normandy:

Juno Beach: Canadian D-Day Glory

juno beach normandy wwII canada
Courtesy of Normandy Tourism

Juno Beach, on France’s northwest coast, signifies Canadian triumph in WWII. Here, Canadian troops were the first Allied forces to liberate a house on D-Day. This house, still standing as Canada House, marks the day’s significance. Dive deeper at the Juno Beach Centre, the only Canadian museum on the Normandy beaches. Explore Canada’s wartime efforts, both military and civilian, through interactive exhibits and artifacts.

Juno Park (Courseulles-sur-Mer) offers a glimpse into the D-Day defenses. Explore the remnants of the Atlantic Wall, including concrete fortifications and artillery, for a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by the Canadian troops.

Canadian War Cemetery Reviers/Bény-sur-Mer), a few kilometers inland, honors over 2,000 Canadians who fought for Juno Beach. A somber yet significant stop, it pays tribute to their sacrifice.

juno beach WWII canada
Courtesy of Juno Beach Centre

Dieppe: A Lesson Learned

dieppe normandy wwII canada
© Valentin Pacaut

Further up the coast of Normandy lies Dieppe, a location etched in Canadian memory for a different reason. The 1942 Dieppe Raid, though a tactical failure, proved a crucial learning experience. It exposed weaknesses in Allied planning, paving the way for the meticulous planning and overwhelming force used during D-Day. While resulting in heavy casualties, Dieppe also demonstrated Allied resolve and forced the Germans to divert resources. The Dieppe Raid Memorial honors the Canadians who participated in this pivotal operation.

wwII canada dieppe normandy memorial
Courtesy of Normandy Tourism

Vertus Canadian Military Cemetery (Hautot-sur-Mer) honors over 950 fallen soldiers, including 707 Canadians. Pay your respects to those who fought in Operation Jubilee.

Beaches of the Côte d’Albâtre (Puys, Pourville, Varengeville-sur-Mer): Take a boat trip and explore the scenic beaches where Operation Jubilee unfolded.

Where to Stay in Normandy

Château d’Audrieu

Château d’Audrieu, a luxurious 18th-century chateau 30 minutes from Juno Beach, beckons. Relax amidst 25 hectares of gardens, woodlands, and a pool. This meticulously restored historical monument offers a captivating blend of history and modern comfort.

French Side Travel promises an unforgettable journey, one that blends remembrance with cultural immersion. Speak with our experts today and let’s craft your perfect Canadian Remembrance Route itinerary. Walk in the footsteps of heroes, honor the past, and discover the enduring spirit of Canada’s brave soldiers.

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


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


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.

Ready to book your trip to visit one of these best museums in France other than the Louvre? We’re here to help. You might enjoy: A Historical and Cultural Escape to Paris or A Journey Through History, Art, and Nature in Charming France. Need some help planning your trip?

The Many Lives of the Louvre

Mona Lisa, Venus di Milo, Liberty Leading the People. The Louvre is home to thousands of precious art pieces, and books and guides abound on all the treasures to be found inside the museum. But the history of the Louvre building itself is arguably as fascinating as the many canvases and statues it stores. Today, the Louvre is one of the most famous art museums in the world, but these buildings didn’t always serve this purpose. The history of this iconic museum has seen and survived multiple wars and républiques. Here’s a brief history of the Louvre with its different eras and how best to enjoy a visit today.

The Many Lives of the Louvre

The Louvre Today

In 2022, the Louvre welcomed an average of 25,000 daily visitors, per Statista. For your visit to the Louvre, be sure to wear comfortable shoes because you have lots of ground to cover. “It would take you around 200 days to see each of the 35,000 works of art on display at the museum if you took 30 seconds to see each and every piece,” according to an article in Condé Nast Traveler.

The First Eras

Credit: Unsplash

We need to turn the clock back nearly a millennium to understand the origins of the Louvre. In 1190, it was originally built as a fortress under Philippe Auguste, according to the Louvre. In 1364, it became a royal residence. Over the years, the Louvre has evolved. “Almost every subsequent French monarch extended the Louvre and its grounds, and major additions were made by Louis XIII and Louis XIV in the 17th century,” according to History.com

The Museum Era

Credit: Unsplash

After wearing several hats, the Louvre eventually found its enduring purpose. In 1793, it was inaugurated as the Musée Central des Arts, according to a Louvre press release. In 1803, Napoleon so humbly changed the name to Musée Napoléon, according to his eponymous foundation. It was later changed to the Louvre, but you can still find mentions of Napoleon throughout the museum. 

World War II Era

Credit: Unsplash

Charles de Gaulle, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt. When studying World War II history at school, we learn about important names from this period, including these leaders. But one name you probably haven’t heard of — yet one who played an important role — is Jacques Jaujard. 

In summer 1940, the Germans began their occupation of Paris. But Jacques Jaujard, director of the Louvre, was already one step ahead. In 1939, in order to protect the masterpieces from the Nazis, Jaujard started the evacuation process of the Louvre to hiding places all across France, according to The Collector. “Between August and December 1939, two hundred trucks carried the treasures of the Louvre… nearly 1,900 boxes; 3,690 paintings, thousands of statues, antiquities and other priceless masterpieces,” writes Guillaume Deprez in the article. “Each truck had to be accompanied by a curator.”

It’s thanks to Monsieur Jaujard that we can appreciate the genius of da Vinci in the Mona Lisa. He, along with many others, coordinated the hiding of many pieces of artwork across France, even castles. Near the end of the war, the Nazi army started burning a castle, and the Venus di Milo and the Victory of Samothrace were on the other side of the flames, writes Deprez. At gunpoint, a curator named Gérald Van der Kamp begged the officers, and eventually the fire was put out. And since then, these masterpieces have returned home to the Louvre for millions to see today. Under the care and direction of Jaujard, not one piece of artwork was damaged or missing, according to Deprez’s article.

The Pyramid Era

When one thinks of the Louvre, its glass pyramid often comes to mind. But this iconic pyramid is a relatively recent addition as it wasn’t completed until 1989. During François Mitterand’s presidency, he appointed Emile Biasini to manage the construction project of the Louvre. Recruited by Biasini, Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei is the genius behind the elegant glass pyramids, which made him the first foreign architect to work on the Louvre, per Architectuul

From royals to war times, the history of the Louvre is an emblem of French heritage. Visiting the Louvre is an absolute must for your trip to Paris, and we’re sharing some of our favorite experiences at this museum.

Visit the Louvre with an Art Historian 

As you’ve read, you could spend entire days exploring the Louvre and not see it all. With a premium private tour, you can see the Louvre with an art historian as your guide. You’ll even have access to museum shortcuts and direct access to important pieces. Your guide will show you the most famed pieces of the museum and share its many tales, including the burglary of the Mona Lisa in the early 1900s. Your guide will tailor your exclusive visit to your likings; whether it’s Egyptian artifacts or Dutch paintings, the choice is yours. This exclusive visit includes a welcome in front of the glass pyramid by the museum department head as well as no queuing. 

After-Hours Private Guided Visit 

Not into crowds? We don’t blame you. With an after-hours visit, you’ll explore the treasures of the Louvre with room to spare. On this guided visit, you’ll have privileged access to the Louvre’s permanent collections.

Private Louvre Scavenger Hunt 

This world-renowned museum isn’t just for adults. With French Side Travel, children can delve into the world of art with a special treasure hunt. With their booklet, they’ll set out to discover the many gems of the museum and will be rewarded with a surprise gift at the conclusion of their scavenger hunt.

Where to Stay in Paris

Le Roch Hotel & Spa
This five-star boutique hotel not only offers 37 luxurious rooms but also close proximity to the Louvre. Retreat from the speed of the city in the hotel’s inner courtyard and treat yourself to a trip to its hammam. A stay in Le Roch also means access to its in-house restaurant, Maison 28, where you can feast on French classics. And best of all, you’re just a hop, skip and a jump from one of the best museums in the world. 

Courtesy of Hotel de la Place du Louvre

Hotel de la Place du Louvre
A day at the Louvre may just not suffice. Perhaps you crave proximity to and views of the Louvre; if that’s the case, the Hotel de la Place du Louvre has your name on it. This four-star hotel offers views of the museum as well as a history of its own. The building dates back to the 17th century and sits in a neighborhood frequented by names such as Victor Hugo and Balzac. Hotel de la Place du Louvre welcomes guests in its 20 rooms marked by chic decor and exquisite views.

Although it has thousands of pieces of artwork to explore, the history of the Louvre is also worth discovering, too. And we’re here to help. You might enjoy: A Historical and Cultural Escape to Paris or The Best of Paris in a Week. Need some help planning your trip?

Our Guide to the Principality of Monaco

From its captivating history to its opulent charm, Monaco beckons with a blend of luxury, culture, and mystique. Uncover the Grimaldi legacy, explore the exclusive resort life, and follow in the footsteps of icons like Grace Kelly. Whether you seek a yacht adventure, a cultural journey, or simply a taste of sophistication, this principality awaits your visit. Plan your escape today with our guide to the Principality of Monaco.

Our Guide to the Principality of Monaco

Unraveling the Allure of the Principality

Monaco does not disappoint. Only 30 minutes from Nice, nestled along the sun-kissed shores of the French Riviera, you will find Monaco. This destination that exudes elegance, charm, and an air of mystery. Known for its stunning coastline, star-studded affairs, and vibrant culture. If you desire to dive deep into the storied past of this highly contested city-state, see and be seen in the playground of the rich and famous, or simply searching an unforgettable escape, make your way to the Principality of Monaco.

Monaco Explained

Naturally, when thinking about Monaco many questions come to mind. Why is Monaco so small? Who are the Grimaldi’s? Soon you will be asking yourself, When can I visit? Monaco is only 520 acres, just to put into perspective, it fits inside New York’s Central Park (843 acres). While the Principality of Monaco has changed hands numerous times, the Grimaldi Family has remained at the helm since 1297. This is when Francesco Grimaldi seized control of the Rock of Monaco. According to the Ancient Greeks, Monaco may have a more mythical origin story as it is proclaimed that on Hercules’ journey back to Greece after his tenth labor, he built the Rock of Monaco.

Eventually with the opening of the renowned Casino de Monte-Carlo by the Société de Bains de Mer de Monaco in 1863 and the arrival of railway travel in 1868, Monaco established itself as a destination for distinguished travelers on the Côte d’Azur. From this point forward, the tourism infrastructure has continued to evolve. Rather than arriving by train, you can arrive in style with a Private Helicopter Transfer from the airport. This allows you to skip the traffic and take in panoramic views of the dazzling coast.

Helicopter to Monaco
Credit: Blade

History of Monaco

Evidently, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the Principality of Monaco. Beyond the exclusive resort for international jet-setters, there’s a fascinating story. Uncover the history of the nation founded by the Grimaldi’s that went from a perched village to a prosperous country hosting the world’s billionaires. Until 1848, the towns of Menton & Roquebrune were also a part of Monaco, so we recommend continuing down the coast for a visit.

Her Serene Highness, Princess Grace of Monaco

Follow in the footsteps of Grace Kelly who gave up her career as an actress in Hollywood to marry Prince Rainier III. Her legacy can be seen at the Monaco Cathedral and the filming locations from Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘To Catch a Thief’ in which she starred. For those truly enamored by the Monégasque Royal Family, opt for an exclusive, private visit to the Prince’s Palace after hours.

Your Stay in Monaco

Upon arriving to Monaco, make your way to the hotel of your choice: Hôtel de Paris, Hôtel Hermitage, Monte Carlo Bay, or Monte Carlo Beach. These properties represent the finest of Monégasque hospitality with impeccable service, exquisite interiors, and exclusive access to the principality.

During your time on “The Rock” take up the favored pastimes of shopping and yachting. Spend the afternoon with a personal stylist who will assist you in curating your wardrobe in the numerous boutiques found in Monaco. From luxury ready to wear & leather goods from houses such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermès, to fine jewellery and watches from Boucheron, Cartier, and Chopard. What better way to see Monaco than aboard a yacht? Make your way to the port and embark on a journey to take in the sunshine, sea, and stunning views.

Where to Stay in and near Monaco

Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo

Internationally renowned 5-star luxury hotel, enchants visitors with its iconic status and recent 2019 transformation, offering exquisite suites like the Princess Grace and Prince Rainier III suites. From the Louis XV-Alain Ducasse restaurant to the rooftop pool of the Wellness Sky Club, this Monaco gem provides an unparalleled experience.

Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo

This Belle Epoque palace and 5-star hotel is located in sparkling Monte-Carlo by its renowned casino. The Gustave Eiffel-designed glass dome, architectural details, and ornate decoration make this one of Monaco’s most romantic spots. The 277 rooms and suite feature Louis XV-style furnishings. The rooms with terraces offer views on the glistening sea.

Monte-Carlo Beach

This 5-star gem built in the 1930s, invites guests to indulge in the Dolce Vita. With a stunning seafront, terracotta façade, and stunning frescoes, the hotel offers the epitome of luxury. Highlights include the exclusive Diamond Suite, a cabana service by the water, an Olympic swimming pool, a spa, and an organic Michelin-star restaurant set in an exceptional natural site.

Monte-Carlo Bay

The sophisticated 4-star Hotel & Resort, redefines the legendary destination with its relaxed ambiance. Situated on its own picturesque peninsula east of Larvotto, the resort offers breathtaking views of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. Featuring a grand private residence entrance, solarium, terraces, and gardens by Jean Mus, this chic Garden of Eden promises a unique experience.

If you’re still asking yourself, “When can I visit?” speak with one of our experts who will curate your perfect stay.

Be inspired by one of our sample itineraries: Cultural Discovery of Monaco, Unforgettable Trip to Monaco, & Family Trip to Monaco.

Uncovering Roman History in Provence

From Marie Antoinette to Napoleon Bonaparte, you may have brushed up on French history. Perhaps you’ve watched Les Misérables and even celebrated Bastille Day. But what happened in France long before Louis XIV ruled, before the Enlightenment took place or before the Eiffel Tower was built? The country we know as France today has been inhabited for thousands of years. And the country is still filled with relics from these ancient periods, particularly from the Roman era. In the region of Provence, many Roman ruins can still be explored. We’re uncovering Roman history in Provence and sharing the best sites you can still visit today.

Uncovering Roman History in Provence

Ancient France

Credit: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The first farmers were believed to have arrived in present-day France around 5000 B.C., according to Archéologie Aérienne. It’s clear that the land, leaders and peoples have changed vastly over the past thousands of years. But one period that remains influential is the Roman era. The Roman Empire controlled the land where France stands today, but at that time, it was called Gaul. Under the reign of Julius Caesar, the Romans conquered Gaul during the years 58 and 51 B.C., per World History Encyclopedia.

“Never before had such a frenzy of construction taken place — cities were first, at the initiative of Augustus in 27 BCE, because for Rome, urbanization was the very symbol of civilization,” according to Archéologie Aérienne. And the fruit of the Roman Empire in Gaul can still be seen today in France.

Looking to uncover the best of Roman history in Provence? Here are some of our favorite experiences for history buffs:

Private Cultural Luxury Tour of Roman Provence

It’s one thing to read about Roman history in a textbook; it’s another thing to have a personal guide take you to the ruins. You’ll start in Nîmes. At first glance, this town may seem like any modernized French town. But upon closer look, you’ll discover the rich Roman history hidden here. Nîmes was founded by a Celtic tribe in the 6th century B.C., and Roman influence truly took root in the first century B.C., according to Nîmes Tourisme. Your guide will show you the Magne Tower with sweeping views of the town. As you climb up the 140 stairs, you can imagine what life was like thousands of years ago. Later you’ll wander the impressive Jardins de la Fontaine, which have been recognized as one of Europe’s first public gardens. Be sure to stop and poke around the Roman ruin, the Temple of Diane.

As you wander Nîmes, you might forget you’re even in France as its Roman characteristics still shine today. Your guide will lead you to the Maison Carrée, one of the best preserved temples from the former Roman Empire, according to UNESCO. Many have heard of the Colosseum in Italy, but Nîmes has a similar-looking amphitheater, which was built just 20 years after its Italian lookalike. Gladiators used to fight with an audience of 24,000 spectators in this very arena, per Arènes Nîmes.

After you’ve wandered Nîmes’ Roman ruins, your guide will drive you to the nearby Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct built during the reigns of Nero and Claudius. Built around 50 A.D., this aqueduct provided water for hundreds of years. Check out our Guide to Nîmes!

Private Visit and Wine Tasting at Mas des Tourelles

Courtesy of Mas des Tourelles

From smartphones to smart cars, the world is constantly innovating. But some things don’t change across the centuries, even millennia. One of those things is wine, which played an important role in Roman culture. Tucked in the Roman province of Beaucaire, this domain will transport you back to another era in its reconstruction of a Roman winery. Not only will you taste the domain’s wine crafted with ancient techniques, but you’ll also enjoy a workshop on how it’s made. As you sip on wine and nosh on tapenade, you’ll watch a film about the Roman grape harvest. 

After Hours Palais des Papes Visit

When imagining the history of the Roman Catholic church, we often think of, well, Rome and the Vatican. But from 1309 to 1377, the popes left Rome for a southern French town, per Britannica. Avignon became the papal residence for this period, and you can still visit the Palais des Papes today. This impressive 14th century palace has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. French Side Travel will secure an exclusive, after-hours visit for your group to explore at your own pace. 

Glanum Archeological Site 

Long before the Romans arrived, the Celto-Ligurian Salyens people built this ancient city just a stone’s throw away from Saint-Rémy-de-Provence starting in 6th century B.C. During the Roman Empire’s reign of Gaul, Glanum was developed, but around 270 A.D., the settlement was destroyed and abandoned, according to the Centre des Monuments Nationaux. It wasn’t until 1921 that archeologists rediscovered this former oppidum. French Side Travel will organize a private after-hours visit for your group. You’ll get to explore the temples, buildings and its underground fountain.

From the French Revolutions and the French Resistance, there’s much to be explored in modern history in France. But these events only scratch the surface. Roman history plays a large part in France’s ancient history, and we’d be delighted to help you plan your trip to see these spots.

Where to Stay in Provence

Hotel La Mirande in Avignon
Step into another era at Hotel La Mirande, a 5-star hotel fit for a queen and king. Its 26 rooms are tastefully decorated with cotton prints and each has their own name. Explore the hotel’s intimate garden, which is home to a wide array of plants and herbs picked by its chefs. The hotel also has its own cooking school where guests can book sessions to learn alongside decorated chefs. Try your hand at the pavlova pastry or perhaps sauteed squid. We’d be happy to book you a table at La Mirande’s Michelin-starred restaurant. Nosh on Chef Florent Pietravalle’s latest creations from black pear to meat paired with a rye-bread crust. Not only is this hotel rich with its cuisine but also its history.  In the 1300s, the popes came to dine in the oldest room of this hotel.

Hotel Imperator in Nîmes
This five-star boutique hotel in Nîmes is the perfect spot to rest your head after exploring Roman ruins in Provence. Delight yourself in one of its chic 54 rooms or 7 private houses. At the hotel’s restaurant l’Impé, you can savor dishes with local ingredients. Later, you can head to Bar Hemingway for some libations. Don’t just take our word for it; names such as Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso even stayed here.

Does this uncovering of Roman history in Provence make you want to delve even deeper into French culture? You might enjoy: Art, Culture and History trip to the French Riviera or Art, Culture and History trip to Provence. Need some help planning your trip?

Château-Inspired Stays in the Loire Valley

The perfect complement to a visit to the Loire Valley to see the incredible châteaux is a stay in one of the region’s fabulous castle hotels. The region, known as the Garden of France, was a retreat for French royalty during the 15th and 16th centuries. Read on to discover French Side Travel’s guide to château-inspired stays in the Loire Valley to live out the experience of your dreams.

Château-Inspired Stays in the Loire Valley

The Loire Valley is filled with fabulous châteaux that beg to be visited. To take the experience even further, consider an extended visit to the region that includes spending the night in a castle. There are a wide range of château-inspired stays in the Loire Valley from classic and traditional to modern and updated with all of the latest amenities. Discover the ultimate way to live like French royalty!

Les Sources de Cheverny

les sources de cheverny

Tucked away in a private compound, this 5-star hotel is the quintessential French château. Exuding 18th-century elegance, this striking hotel balances bygone grandeur with an inviting charm.

Beyond the twists and turrets of the building, beautiful lawns and gardens beg exploring. Soft light from tall, gothic windows creates a relaxing atmosphere. An open fire welcomes guests into the dramatic lobby. The historic building offers rooms with a classic château feel, whereas the cottages nearby offer more modern decor. The 26 rooms and 23 suites pair sumptuous fabrics with wood paneling to create a sense of contemporary luxury.

While staying on the property, enjoy the two restaurants that feature mouth-watering menus inspired by the season’s finest local produce. Spend the days relaxing by the pool or indulging at the Caudalie Spa. The surrounding forest is perfect for long walks in the nature. Private training and yoga classes are available on request.

Les Hauts de Loire

château-inspired stays loire valley les hauts de loire

Situated along the wine route in the heart of the Loire Valley château region, discover this former hunting lodge built in 1860. Sitting amongst the greenery and bordered by ponds surrounded by birds, this historic residence welcomes nature lovers. It is a true place where guests can withdraw to a haven of peace.

The cozy comfort of the rooms promises visitors enchanting awakenings. The Michelin-starred chef offers a reinterpreted take on the traditional Loire cuisine. To accompany your meal, choose from exceptional Loire Valley wines including the great whites of the Loire: Vouvray, Montlouis, and Touraine. For an additional moment to unwind, be sure to visit the Spa by Clarins.

Château d’Artigny

Château d'Artigny

This elegant château located south of Tours offers the best of comfort and opulence to its visitors. Guests enjoy an unmatched experience of living in a castle and feeling the grandeur surrounded by marble statues, beautiful woodworks, and a stunning French garden.

All the rooms are traditionally decorated in keeping with style of the château. They offer pleasant views over the Indre River and its valley, the French garden, the château or the park.

With a magnificent dining room and dignified eighteenth-century decor, the hotel restaurant treats the visitors to fabulous culinary delights made from local produce. Be sure to visit the cozy bar for a nightcap. The soothing spa allows visitors to relax in peace and tranquility.

Relais de Chambord

relais de chambord château-inspired stays loire valley

Located in Chambord just a four minute walk from Château de Chambord, this small and refined 4-star boutique hotel designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte enjoys a truly unrivaled setting. With captivating views around almost every corner, get to know each turret and spire of the château’s famous rooftop skyline from the hotel.

Every stylish room is unique: some rooms offer a view of the Château de Chambord, while others overlook the Cosson River, Place Saint-Louis or the forest. The gastronomic restaurant prepares modern French cuisine with a focus on local cuisine. The hotel’s wellness area is open every day and has a hammam, sauna, outdoor jacuzzi, and tea room.

Fleur de Loire

fleur de loire

This newly-opened prestigious 5-star hotel is located on the banks of the Loire River in Blois.

The Loire and its region inspired the decor of the hotel. Every element was chosen and placed carefully to create an atmosphere that is at once cozy, contemporary, and sophisticated. The historic building houses 44 rooms, including 11 suites, all of which open out to the Loire Valley’s magnificent landscape.

The hotel boasts Michelin star restaurants which use the products from its own garden. Be sure to stop and sample the gourmet and unique pastries in the pastry kiosk. Guests can unwind by going for a guided tour of the hotel’s garden which covers nearly four acres. The spa, an ideal retreat to reconnect body and mind, features a sauna, hammam, jacuzzi and several pools.

Château des Grotteaux

château des glottaux

Discover the Château des Grotteaux, a former castle converted into a luxurious bed and breakfast. Constructed in 1620, the foundation is still visible in the beautiful vaulted cellars.

The fully restored and decorated living and bedrooms create a welcoming, but authentic atmosphere. The bedding has been carefully chosen to provide the most restful experience.

A tennis court and a large heated pool are available. For guests who love to get outside, enjoy the banks of the Cosson River or a walk on the extensive forest grounds. The Blois, Chambord, and Cheverny Châteaux can all be reached by bicycle.

Does our guide to château-inspired stays in the Loire Valley have you ready to book a trip? French Side Travel 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 Bordeaux, the South of France, Normandy, and of course Paris. Get in touch with a travel designer today to start the planning process.

5 Famous Americans Who Lived in Paris

It’s no secret that Americans have long had a love affair with Paris. Over the years, artists and intellectuals have flocked to France’s capital city to be inspired. From dancers to writers, editors to painters, Paris has long been a haven for American expats. And decades, even centuries, later, they’ve left their mark on the City of Light. From the Lost Generation to the Jazz Age, we’re sharing the stories of several famous Americans who lived in Paris as well as how you can follow in their footsteps.

5 Famous Americans Who Lived in Paris

Josephine Baker (1906-1975)

Studio Harcourt via Wikimedia Commons

A St. Louis native, Josephine Baker made her name known far across the Atlantic. Her dancing and singing career took off and eventually led her to perform in La Revue Nègre in Paris in 1925. “Baker was soon among the most popular and highest-paid performers in Europe, having the admiration of cultural figures like Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and E. E. Cummings,” according to Biography. Not only did she shine on the stage, but she also fought in the Resistance and against racism, per the Smithsonian.

Visit the Pantheon

Dating back to the 1700s, the Panthéon has worn many hats over the centuries: church, necropolis, crypt. But today you can visit the Panthéon, where important figures such as Marie Curie and Victor Hugo in French history are buried. And in 2021, Josephine Baker was inducted into the Panthéon and thus the first black woman to have done so, per PBS

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)

Stein with Jack Hemingway in Paris; John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum via Wikimedia Commons

“America is my country and Paris is my hometown,” said Gertrude Stein, famous American writer. Born in Pennsylvania, Stein moved to Paris in 1903. Stein was well-known for the literary salons she hosted with a glamorous guest list, often including Picasso, Hemingway, Cézanne and Matisse, per Urban Insider. Inspired by Cubism, Stein struck up a friendship with Pablo Picasso, who even painted her portrait, and collected his artwork, according to Britannica.   

Explore the Musée de Luxembourg and Musée Picasso

Until January 28, 2024, Musée de Luxembourg is showing its exhibition, Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso. “Their friendship crystallized around their respective work, which laid the foundations for Cubism and the pictorial and literary avant-gardes of the 20th century,” according to the Musée de Luxembourg. Later, you can head across the Seine and visit the Picasso Museum to admire this famed Cubist painter.

Pay your respects at the Père Lachaise cemetery

With nearly 3 million annual visitors, the Père Lachaise cemetery has remained an important part of Parisian history since it was created in 1804. You can wander this greenery-filled cemetery and celebrate the many lives of those who shaped Paris culture and history. You can visit the graves of important figures, such as Gertrude Stein, Honoré de Balzac, Edith Piaf and Molière.

F. Scott (1896-1940) and Zelda Fitzgerald (1900-1948)

United States Government Printing Office, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Born in Minnesota, F. Scott Fitzgerald left his legacy on American literature and beyond. In 1920, he married Zelda, who was also a writer. And in 1924, the Fitzgeralds took a trip to the Côté d’Azur, where he penned one of his hallmark titles, The Great Gatsby. The protagonist’s opulent lifestyle wasn’t much different from the author’s rambunctious rhythm. Often moving between different cities and countries, the Fitzgerald family was nomadic. But in 1925, they moved to Paris, where they rubbed elbows with other writers and artists.

Take a Roaring Twenties Walking Tour

Turn back the clock to the Roaring Twenties and explore a world similar to one in Midnight in Paris. Enjoy a private walking tour as you stroll past several famed brasseries that welcomed jazz dancer Josephine Baker at one time. You’ll also discover Closerie des Lilas, where Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso partied back in the day. Your guide will invite you to imagine life in the Montparnasse neighborhood in the ’20s and revisit art history of the time.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast,” wrote Ernest Hemingway. Hailing from Illinois, this Nobel Prize-winning author started his career in the Midwest but moved to Paris in the 1920s. Gertrude Stein coined the phrase “the lost generation,” referring to those disillusioned following World War I; but it was Hemingway who popularized the term, per The Collector.

Find a good read at Shakespeare and Company

Credit: Round Trip Travel

A trip to this renowned English-language bookstore is an essential for your trip to Paris. Just steps from Notre Dame, this bookstore was started by an American named George Whitman in 1951. Before 1964, the store was called Le Mistral. But Whitman changed it to its current name after Sylvia Beach, who opened the original Shakespeare and Co., in 1919. Located at 12 rue de l’Odéon, Beach’s store welcomed writers such as James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, according to its site. You might even see the bookstore’s cat meander about the store. You can peruse the book selection and stop by its next-door café as you people watch along the Seine. 

Stay in themed suites at the Ritz

After walking the streets just as these famed authors did à l’époque, you can enjoy a stay in the Ritz suites dedicated to several American writers. Marked with rare photos of the author and a hearty book collection, the Hemingway suite overlooks the garden and offers its own bar, where you can sip on a Dry Martini like Ernie himself. The Ritz also will tempt you with its F. Scott Fitzgerald suite, where you can curl up with a good book in its reading nook. You’ll enjoy regal views over the Vendôme and can even enjoy the suite’s hammam.

Where to Stay in Paris

Hotel Montalembert 
This five-star B-Signature hotel is located in the historically rich Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood. Savor a stay in one of this boutique hotel’s 50 rooms, and indulge in one of its spa treatments. With its biodegradable cleaning products and plastic alternatives, Hotel Montalembert is committed to reducing its impact on the environment. After breakfast in bed (only if you’d like!), you can explore the Left Bank and the Louvre, which is a short walk away.

Photo courtesy of Hôtel des Académies et des Arts

Hôtel des Académies et des Arts
This four-star hotel on the Left Bank will inspire you with its art-centered space. Not only can you get some shut eye after a day of exploration but you can also visit its art exhibitions and create art yourself in the café atelier. When you’re not crafting your next chef d’oeuvre in the hotel’s workshop, you can enjoy some kombucha at L’Honesty Bar.  

Want to delve even deeper into France’s rich history? Take a look at some of our history-inspired tours: A Historical and Cultural Escape to Paris and Unique Experience of the Highlights of Paris. Need some help planning your trip?

French Christmas Traditions and Celebrations

Whether you’re spending the holidays in France or at home, bringing French Christmas traditions into your celebration will make it extra special. Learn about some of the typical ways French people celebrate Christmas including advent calendars, nativity scenes, Christmas trees, letters to Santa Claus, and the Christmas Eve dinner.

French Christmas Traditions and Celebrations

Festive Decorations

french christmas decorations

Starting in late November you’ll find streets, cafés, restaurants, hotels and boutiques adorned with festive décor. Many places participate from the local fromagerie (cheese shop) to corner cafés and the large grands magasins (department stores). Flower shops carry both plain and decorated wreaths, mini trees perfect for a tabletop or mantle, and of course Sapins de Noël (Christmas trees).

Fabulous decorations can be enjoyed in Paris in popular shopping areas like the Champs-Elysées and Avenue Montaigne, at Christmas Markets throughout France, and at many châteaux in the Loire Valley.

Christmas Markets

christmas markets france Alsace
Photo Courtesy of Noel en Alsace

Various marchés de Noël (Christmas markets) appear throughout France from late November until the end of December. Alsace is especially known for its Christmas markets and you’ll find multiple in Paris (read about them here). Other marchés de Noël worth visiting include Reims, Bordeaux, Dijon, Lyon and Honfleur.

habits de lumiere epernay 2023

Habits de Lumière in Épernay

If you’re thinking about a visit to the Marché de Noël in Reims consider a stop in Épernay. From December 8th to 10th see the Habits de Lumière, a joyful three-day celebration in the capital of Champagne!

Each day will be filled with luminous, interactive and immersive installations and animations, including fireworks! Enjoy cooking demonstrations from Michelin-starred chefs paired with champagnes, a pastry competition for young chefs aged 8-12, food and champagne pairing workshops, a silent disco, and an antique and classic car parade.

Calendriers de l’Avent — Advent Calendars

le chocolat Alain Ducasse advent calendar 2023
Photo Courtesy of Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse

Calendriers de l’Avent (Advent Calendars) are very popular in France. You’ll begin seeing them at the end of October (it’s best to buy them early before they sell out). You can find simple advent calendars filled with chocolates and candies at local grocery stores. You can also pick up a more elaborate calendar from renowned French chefs and brands like Alain Ducasse, Pierre Hermé, Mariage Frères, Laudrée, Dior and Angelina filled with skincare and beauty products, specialty chocolates, and teas. Even if you can’t make it to France, calendars are available online so you can partake in the fun.

Crèche — Nativity Scene

french christmas traditions and celebrations: santons in the crèche

Setting up the crèche (nativity scene) is also a very important part of French holiday décor. Many families collect the pieces over many years and have quite extensive crèches. In Provence, Santons are the little clay figurines found in nativity scenes. The literal translation of Santon is ‘little saint.’

There’s an entire Foire aux Santons dedicated to these collectables in Marseille in the Vieux-Port area from November 18th through December 31st. All of the Santons found at this fair carry a “Fabrication Provence” certification which means they are all created by artisans in workshops located in Provence. Don’t miss the special Santon fabrication workshops every weekend, music and dance on Wednesdays and weekends, daily donkey rides and cooking workshops on Sunday mornings!

Sapin de Noël — Christmas Tree

sapin de noël

You can purchase a sapin de Noël (Christmas tree) from florists, grocery stores, and tree farms in France. They are usually available at the end of November; however, many French people don’t purchase their trees until a week or so before Christmas. The tree stand is typically a cut log because French people don’t typically water their trees. Some French families wait until Christmas Eve to decorate their trees with lights, guirlande (tinsel) and ornaments. Many families keep their trees up through Epiphany on January 6th.

Le Secrétariat du Père Noël — Santa Claus’ Secretary

secretariat du pere noel
© Maxppp – Marc Ollivier

Children in France write letters to Père Noël, and thanks to Le Secrétariat du Père Noël (Santa Claus’ secretary) each letter has received a response for the last 61 years. The secrétariat is run by over 60 elves who respond to each letter from children all over the world (there were letters from 124 countries in 2021). Each year the secrétariat receives about 1,000,000 letters and 80,000 emails. Letters to Père Noël don’t even need a stamp – as long as the envelope says “Père Noël” the letters are sent to the secrétariat in Gironde.

In 2023, author Michel Bussi is assisting Père Noël in responding to letters. Be sure to mail your letter by December 20th in order to receive a response!

Réveillon de Noël – Christmas Eve

christmas eve dinner champagne

Perhaps one of the most anticipated French Christmas traditions comes on Christmas Eve with the Réveillon de Noël (the verb réveiller means to wake up or revive). Following La Messe de Minuit (the Midnight Mass) French families come home to open presents and enjoy a feast. Typically you’ll find champagne, wine, capon (turkey stuffed with chestnuts), oysters, foie gras, smoked salmon, scallops, and of course the decadent chocolate Bûche de Noël cake.

In Provence, there is a unique Christmas tradition to eat 13 desserts following the Christmas dinner: one for each Christ and his twelve apostles. Each of the desserts served varies a bit based on the region and particular family. Some common items include fougasse, the four beggars (almonds, raisins, dried figs and nuts), Cachat piquant, white and black nougat, calissons, pain d’épice, and of course, the Bûche de Noël.

Following the dinner, instead of leaving stockings, French children put their souliers (shoes) on the hearth of the fireplace for Père Noël to hopefully fill them with small presents and treats!

Christmas in Courchevel
les airelles christmas 2023

Christmas at Les Airelles in Courchevel

On December 24th Les Airelles has a special departure planned to the North Pole. Both young and old can embark on Les Airelles’ steam train to a magical world: travel through the impressive forest filled with firs, admire polar bears, and discover plenty of hidden surprises along the way.

The Christmas magic won’t stop there. On Christmas Eve there will be a gastronomic dinner at La Table des Airelles. Guests will taste the best of traditional French Christmas foods. It’s sure to be a French Christmas celebration to remember!

We hope you’ll be able to incorporate some French Christmas traditions into your holiday celebration. To give the gift of France, don’t hesitate to contact French Side Travel to create a custom itinerary to surprise your loved ones. Some of our favorite destinations include Paris, Bordeaux, Normandy, and Southern France.

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