France seduces travellers with its unfalteringly familiar culture, woven around cafe terraces, village-square markets and lace-curtained bistros with their plat du jour (dish of the day) chalked on the board.
France is about world-class art and architecture. It seduces with iconic landmarks known the world over and rising stars yet to be discovered. This country's cultural repertoire is staggering – in volume and diversity. And this is where the beauty of la belle France lies: when superstars such as Mademoiselle Eiffel, royal Versailles and the celebrity-ridden French Riviera have been ticked off, there’s ample more to thrill. France is, after all, the world's top tourism destination with some 89 million visitors each year who flock to the land of the Gauls to feast on its extraordinary wealth of museums, galleries, ateliers (artist workshops) and hands-on cultural experiences.
Food is of enormous importance to the French and the daily culinary agenda takes no prisoners: breakfasting on warm croissants from the boulangerie (bakery), stopping off at Parisian bistros, and market shopping are second nature to the French – and it would be rude to refuse. But French gastronomy goes far deeper than just eating exceedingly well. Its experiential nature means there is always something tasty to observe, learn and try. Be it flipping crêpes in Brittany or clinking champagne flutes in ancient Reims cellars, the culinary opportunities are endless.
undeniably artistic in the way Germany's scenery unfolds; the corrugated, dune-fringed coasts of the north; the moody forests, romantic river valleys and vast vineyards of the centre; and the off-the-charts splendour of the Alps, carved into rugged glory by glaciers and the elements. All of these are integral parts of a magical natural matrix that's bound to give your camera batteries a good workout. Get off the highway and into the great outdoors to soak up the epic landscapes that make each delicious, slow, winding mile so precious.
You'll encounter history in towns where streets were laid out long before Columbus set sail, and in castles that loom above prim, half-timbered villages where flower boxes billow with crimson geraniums. The great cities – including Berlin, Munich and Hamburg – come in more flavours than a jar of jelly beans but all will wow you with a cultural kaleidoscope that spans the arc from art museums and high-brow opera to naughty cabaret and underground clubs. And wherever you go, Romanesque, Gothic and baroque classics rub rafters with architectural creations from modern masters such as Daniel Libeskind, David Chipperfield and Frank Gehry.