What makes the perfect France bucket list? You’ll need a combination of iconic destinations and hidden gems, as well as a range of different categories. From landmarks to theme parks, the ultimate bucket list should provide you with a broad spectrum of cultural experiences. And that’s exactly what you’ll get!
The 27 destinations listed below were hand-picked based on consumer data (with over 750,000 reviews scanned as part of the Remarkable Venue Awards), as well as recommendations by French culture lovers. Once you’ve crossed all of these off your France bucket list, you’ll basically be a French icon yourself.
France bucket list destinations: the fan favourites
Each year we look to our reviews to uncover the world’s favourite museums and attractions. This year we combed through over 750,000 customer experiences to find the best of the best, as presented in the 2020 Remarkable Venue Awards. Here are the top-rated destinations in France – the perfect additions to your France bucket list in 2021.
Most Remarkable Venues in France
While all of the locations on this list are remarkable in some way, those specifically nominated for the ‘Most Remarkable Venue’ category are limited to top venues who consistently balance immense popularity (in terms of visitor numbers) with near-unanimous glowing reviews.
1. Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac | An anthropological treasure trove
“… a stunning collection of art from around the world that will make your eyes pop out of your head. It makes you see how formulaic much of Western art is, and why Picasso was so excited to discover the masks of West Africa.” – Philip, United Kingdom, on Tiqets.com.
A visit to the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac takes you on an anthropological journey around the world via art and artifacts, full of masks, musical instruments, weapons, ceremonial artifacts, paintings, tapestries and more. Discover art and artifacts from civilizations around the world, with a particular focus on lesser-known civilizations spanning Oceania, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. As former French President Jacques Chirac said during the museum’s dedication: “May the visitors who pass through the doors of the Musée du quai Branly be filled with emotion and wonderment.” Couldn’t have said it better ourselves!
2. Arc de Triomphe | A monument fit for an emperor
“… really impressed with the relaxed atmosphere – we were able to sit and take our time as we enjoyed the stunning views over Paris.” – Ryan, United Kingdom.
The Arc de Triomphe is one of France’s most iconic landmarks, and is a must-see for anyone visiting the city of lights and love. Commissioned in 1806 by – who else – Emperor Napoleon, this iconic monument honours the soldiers who fought and died for France over the centuries. Visitors can pay their respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and get rooftop access that will let them admire the city that some paid the ultimate price to protect.
3. Fondation Louis Vuitton | A modern marvel
“Excellent. Fascinating to any fan of Gehry or to anyone with any interest in contemporary architecture. The scale, precision and quality of craftsmanship is outstanding and mind boggling.” – Liz, United Kingdom.
With a shape inspired by billowing sails, architect Frank Gehry certainly followed the brief to “astound visitors by offering […] an exceptional space”. The exterior of the Fondation Louis Vutton is visually stunning, and well on its way to becoming an international icon similar to the Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triomphe. Inside, the museum’s collection includes works by artists including Jeff Koons, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Gilbert & George.
4. Château de Chambord | A picture-perfect fairytale castle
“Better and better. This was the 6th time I visited the castle, the first being in 1998. The grounds are superb.” – Hubert, France.
One of France’s most instantly recognizable châteaux, if you ask someone to picture one in their head, there’s a good chance they’ll be imagining something that looks like the Château de Chambord. Its architecture seamlessly blends French medieval style with classical Renaissance design, culminating in a visual feast. The largest of the Loire Valley châteaux, it remains a bit of a mystery who actually designed it – with scholars continuing to debate the involvement of Leonardo da Vinci. What we do know is that construction began around 1519, and that the building was originally intended as a hunting lodge for King Francis I.
Best Attractions in France
This section covers some of France’s top things to do on a day out, with a particular focus on things that are fun for all ages. Give yourself a firm pat on the back if ‘watching medieval knights jousting’ was already on your France bucket list.
5. Puy du Fou | A journey through history
“I can say that we are in love with what we saw, felt and discovered this day in this magical place with careful attention to detail. Amazing from start to finish. Olé for the actors, sets, environments and music.”‘ – Gentius, Spain.
You’ll find knights, gladiators, vikings, and flamenco dancers at Puy du Fou, one of France’s most popular theme parks. In non-pandemic times, Puy du Fou welcomes over two million visitors per year, inviting them to witness some of history’s most dramatic and exciting moments. Wander through a beautiful rose garden, watch birds of prey swooping majestically, see valiant knights taking part in a medieval jousting tournament, and more. Each show is historically accurate, jaw-dropping in scale, and pretty spectacular to watch.
6. Disneyland Paris | A childhood dream come true
“[once it was] just a childhood dream when I looked at all these heroes on the other side of the screen, and today I stood next to them!” – Viktor, Poland.
If you’re a kid, it doesn’t get any better than this. Disneyland Paris has been a Mecca for fun-loving children (and adults, let’s face it) since 1992, providing visitors with the opportunity to meet all of their favourite Disney characters in person. From gentle, family-friendly fun to adrenaline-pumping rollercoasters, there’s something for everyone here. Highlights include the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups (fun and inclusive for all ages) and, of course, seeing the stunning fairytale towers of Sleeping Beauty Castle. If you make a France bucket list for your family and don’t put Disneyland on there, it’s safe to say your kids might never forgive you.
7. ZooParc de Beauval | A unique perspective on giraffes, pandas, and more
“… by a distance the best zoo I’ve ever seen – you can tell the animals are happy and the conservation aspect is second to none.” – Gavin, United Kingdom
One of the most beautiful zoos in the world, ZooParc de Beauval offers a unique view of some of the world’s rarest and most wonderful animals – literally. Jump on board of a cable car and soar 35 metres above the park, looking down at giant pandas (found nowhere else in France), big cats, primates, and mighty manatees. The zoo is dedicated strongly to conservation, and features wide-open habitats for the animals to safely and happily roam around in. A must-do if you’re looking to add some animal magic to your France bucket list.
8. Bioparc de Doué-la-Fontaine | A zoo focused on conservation and education
“A simply unique setting and a park that contributes greatly to conservation. Well worth a visit for the aviary alone.” – Huw, United Kingdom.
Another one of the top wildlife attractions in France, this venue features over 1,000 animals roaming freely in environments designed to mimic their natural habitats. Bioparc de Doué-la-Fontaine has a focus on conservation and education, and is home to rare creatures like Javan and Sri Lankan leopards, lemurs, giraffes, and tigers. The park is divided into themed zones based on the Himalayan mountains, Asian rainforests, Madagascar’s jungles, African savannah, and more.
Best Museums in France
France is blessed with some of the world’s greatest museums, and you could spend a lifetime losing yourself in everything from Impressionist treasure troves to modern art masterpieces. Based on our reviews, here are the top museums (that aren’t the Louvre) to add to your France bucket list.
9. Musée des Confluences | A merging point for art, science, and history
“If I had kids, I would take them here to learn about life.” – Nicolas, Switzerland.
This cutting-edge museum in Lyon features a 155-million-year-old dinosaur skeleton, Egyptian mummies, fossils, a Sputnik 2 replica, and more. Dedicated to anthropology, zoology, and palaeontology, the museum is not only the geographical merging point of the Rhône and Saône, but also representative of the confluence between art and science. The Musée des Confluences tells the story of humanity, and its four permanent exhibits help unravel our understanding of life. If that sounds ambitious… well, it is, and it’s executed spectacularly.
10. Musée Rodin | A peaceful museum devoted to France’s most famous sculptor
“Very emotionally-moving sculptures in a beautiful garden. A lot less crowded than other Paris tourist sites.” – Samer, United States.
You’ll never believe you’re still in the heart of Paris as you explore the tranquil Sculpture Garden at the Musée Rodin, full of flourishing flowers and trees that hide various bronze and marble statues. Not only does the museum contain some of Rodin’s most famous statues – including The Thinker – visitors are also able to admire the artist’s own personal collection, including paintings by Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Edvard Munch.
11. Musée de l’Armée | A highlight for military history enthusiasts
“Absolutely fantastic! We spent about 3 hours there or more … my boys were so excited and loved every “salle” plus the temporary exposition of the cannons was a fantastic bonus.” – Lucille, Romania.
Paris’s Army Museum (Musée de l’Armée) is one of the three largest museums of its kind in the world, and home to one of the biggest military history collections on the planet. None other than Napoleon Bonaparte has been resting here since 1861, with his tomb featuring a 110-metre golden dome stretching up into the Parisian sky. Relive the political, military, social and industrial history of France with several exhibitions in various themed rooms putting you at the heart of the historical action. Get up close to real-life cannons and imagine what it was like to be a soldier throughout the ages.
12. Petit Palais | A wide range of Renaissance art
“Wonderful, great experience! The building is magnificent and the garden with the exhibition is unique.” – Dietmar, Germany.
Originally built for the purpose of hosting the 1900 Exposition Universelle, the unique Petit Palais was renovated in 2005 and fully restored to its former glory. When visiting, you’ll notice that it does indeed look like a small palace – complete with a cute little dome and triumphant golden angels welcoming you. Once inside, you’ll find priceless art from the French and Italian Renaissance and a variety of items ranging from antiquity through to modernity.
Best Landmarks in France
Landmarks come in many shapes and sizes – though admittedly in France, the most prominent shape seems to be something resembling a beautiful centuries-old castle with spires. The following buildings are all iconic landmarks in their local area, and in the nation as a whole.
13. Château Royal d’Amboise | The former home of history’s greatest artists
“Very pretty place steeped in history and the castle park is worth the detour, as well as the panoramic view of the Loire!” – Baudoin, France.
The Château Royal d’Amboise took out the ‘Best Landmark’ prize during the 2020 Remarkable Venue Awards in France, and for good reason. This enchanting structure, formerly a royal residence, towers over the Loire River and once served as a stomping ground for some of the Renaissance period’s greatest artists. One of those artists, Leonardo da Vinci, actually chose this to be his final resting place. Aside from great artists, this scenic château has played host to countless political machinations and was the setting for the events now known as the Amboise conspiracy – culminating in a scene that could have been taken directly from Game of Thrones.
14. Sainte-Chapelle | A centuries-old site of religious beauty
“Even if you have a limited time in Paris, this place is a must.” – Koichi, France.
If you’ve ever looked at a stained-glass window and thought it looked quite pretty, it’s time to add Sainte-Chapelle to your France bucket list. The name translates to ‘Holy Chapel’, referring to its original reason for construction: to host King Louis IX’s collection of relics of Christ. Sometimes it’s best to leave descriptions to the experts; in this case, 14th-century Parisian scholar Jean de Jandun:
‘…’that most beautiful of chapels, the chapel of the king, most decently situated within the walls of the king’s house, enjoys a complete and indissoluble structure of the most solid stone. The most excellent colors of the pictures, the precious gilding of the images, the beautiful transparence of the ruddy windows on all sides, the most beautiful cloths of the altars, the wondrous merits of the sanctuary, the figures of the reliquaries externally adorned with dazzling gems, bestow such a hyperbolic beauty on that house of prayer, that, in going into it below, one understandably believes oneself, as if rapt to heaven, to enter one of the best chambers of Paradise.’’
15. Domaine de Chantilly | Artistic treasures in a fairytale setting
“The chateau is a gem. It’s beautifully maintained with some real treasures.” – Lance, France.
The Domaine de Chantilly is a haven of peace and tranquility just outside of Paris, featuring one of the biggest forests in the area as well as a castle fit for a prince. Roam around the French flower garden, designed in the 17th century by Le Nôtre, the 18th-century Anglo-Chinese garden, and the 19th-century English garden while admiring the impeccable flora – and don’t miss the masterpieces by Poussin, Delacroix, Botticelli, and Raphael found inside of the building. Horse lovers will also get a kick out of the museum dedicated to all things equestrian!
16. Abbaye du Mont Saint-Michel | A site full of mystique and history
“It’s one of the most wonderful places I have ever seen.” – Cathia, France.
One of the most fascinating French locations, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is known all over the world for its iconic architecture and unique location. Built on a tidal island full of history and strategic importance, the abbey itself began around the 9th century as the Church of Saint Michel, and was known as a place of prayer and study. Later in its life, the abbey would serve as a prison during the days of the Ancien Régime, before officially becoming a historical monument in 1874.
Best Onsite Experience in France
The point of creating a France bucket list isn’t just to see famous buildings, photograph them, and leave – it’s about the experiences that you’ll have along the way. This category focuses on destinations and venues that provide visitors with an A+ experience, going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure a memorable visit.
17. Dalí Paris | A glimpse of the surreal
“A wonderful exhibition of some of this remarkable artist’s work. Mainly sculptures – exquisite!” – Amanda, Australia.
Dalí Paris provides its guests with a fascinating time for anyone interested in the life and work of one of the 20th century’s most talented artists.This huge private collection was amassed by Beniamino Levi, one of Salvador Dalí’s greatest collectors and art dealers, and features over 300 original artworks by the king of Surrealism. Find out how Dalí’s passions were brought to life in his work, and explore themes ranging from atomic science to antiquity, the Renaissance, alchemy, religion, and more.
18. Terra Botanica | A natural journey for the whole family
“Everything is immaculate, beautifully planted, the staff was very friendly. We had a wonderful, fun day with our son, daughter-in-law and 3 grandchildren.”
– If, Belgium.
Terra Botanica puts the ‘park’ in ‘theme park’; a lush expanse of creatively themed botanical gardens blooming with fun activities. Witness hundreds of colorful butterflies fluttering around you in the butterfly greenhouse, catch an exciting film in the 4D cinema, explore ancient jungles (or at least something designed to look strikingly similar to an ancient jungle), and look down on this natural wonderland from a hot air balloon 150 metres above the ground. Nature lovers, add this one to your France bucket list.
19. Parc Astérix | Comic-inspired fun with a historical theme
“Absolutely lovely, exceeded my expectations in every way.” – Amarilis, United Kingdom.
Astérix and Obelix have been delighting readers with their exploits for decades, and in 1989 everyone’s favourite Gauls got the theme park they deserved. The rides and attractions found here are all based on historic legends from antiquity – you’ll find Gauls, Romans, as well as plenty of references to Ancient Greece and Egypt. The park’s kid-friendly attractions include a wooden rollercoaster, magic shows, and a ghost train, as well as the chance to get a photo with your favourite character (it’s gotta be Obelix).
20. Stade de France | A must-do for sports fans
“We had a good impression of the stadium. The guide was enthusiastic, thorough and knowledgeable.” – Want, the Netherlands.
Going behind the scenes at the Stade de France is a unique experience for hardcore sports fans and casual enthusiasts alike. Considered as France’s national stadium (as the name might have given away), it’s hosted some of the biggest games in sport. Originally built for the 1998 World Cup, which France won, it’s gone on to host the Rugby World Cup final as well as the UEFA Euro 2016 final. In other words, history was – and continues to be – made here. See jerseys and sporting memorabilia from France’s top sporting legends like Zidane, Henry, Platini and more in the Stade de France museum, and explore parts of the stadium that only professional athletes would usually get to experience!
Award-winning venues to add to your bucket list
In addition to rounding up the best-rated museums and attractions, we also went on the hunt for the best hidden gems and the most innovative venues of 2020. Judged by a panel of tourism experts, here are the winners of Best Hidden Gem in France and Most Innovative Venue in France.
Best Hidden Gem in France
21. Paris Musées: Musée de la vie romantique
“The museum provides an exquisite setting for Scheffer’s paintings and those of his contemporaries, as well as memorabilia from George Sand (furniture, paintings, curios and jewellery). In 1987, the museum took the name of “museum of romantic life, and that what makes our experience unique.”
Enter the Musee de la Vie Romantique for a look at bourgeois life in 19th-century Paris. Even the cotton-candy colored house with its faded green shutters is romantic! Located in the romantic La Nouvelle Athènes neighborhood in Paris, this manor with a courtyard, garden and two artist’s studios has kept its timeless charm. Here, the painter Ary Scheffer hosted Parisian celebrities of the July Monarchy, such as Delacroix, Rossini, Sand, Chopin, Gounod, Turgenev and Dickens.
Most Innovative Venue in France
22. Crazy Horse Paris
“We aim to ensure that you spend a relaxed evening watching a spectacular show in the best possible conditions.”
The famous cabaret venue Crazy Horse Paris did its very best to make sure spectators could take in their spectacular show comfortably, safely and confidently. From strict social distancing rules, dedicated routes and compulsory masks to capacity restrictions and plenty of hand sanitiser, your safety is the star of the show. Make sure you show 2020’s Most Innovative Venue in France some love when you see them in 2021.
France bucket list staples
Let’s start with some heavy hitters. These first recommendations consist mostly of locations you’ll find on Parisian postcards and in the backdrop of famous films; they represent the well-known ‘best of the best’ that you’ll find on every France bucket list. Not seeing these would be like visiting the Louvre and not seeing the Mona Lisa.
Speaking of the Louvre…
23. Louvre Museum | The world’s most iconic art museum
What is there left to say about this magnificent museum that hasn’t already been said? Even the most comprehensive guide to visiting the Louvre won’t be able to fully prepare you for the amount of amazing art found in the world’s most famous museum. A trip here will let you gaze at the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and some of the most opulent French interior design in existence. It’s absolutely worth it, and no France bucket list would be complete without the addition of the Louvre.
24. Eiffel Tower | An international symbol of France
The Beatles once said ‘All You Need is Louvre’ – and were obviously terrible at making comprehensive France bucket lists. Undoubtedly the most well-known French landmark around the world (perhaps even the most well-known landmark in the world, regardless of location), this famous Parisian icon has been a romantic backdrop for decades of films, series, novels, and daydreams. You could also drive underneath it in the video game Midtown Madness 3, in case you were a teenager around 2003.
25. Notre-Dame Cathedral | A ravaged icon being rebuilt
The fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral was one of 2019’s most shocking events, an event that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in 2020. This medieval cathedral is a French icon, in no small part due to Victor Hugo’s novel and its subsequent Disney adaptation featuring the mighty Quasimodo. Reconstruction of the cathedral is expected to last until 2024, but even in its fire-damaged form, the Notre-Dame retains a certain mystique and allure that can’t be denied. Worth putting on your France bucket list, even when it’s hidden behind scaffolding.
26. Seine | The historic heart of Paris
In the year 845, an army of Vikings led by ‘Reginherus’ (potentially known better by a modern audience as Ragnar Lothbrok), sailed up the River Seine and besieged Paris. In 1431, the ashes of Joan of Arc – having been burned at the stake – were disposed of in the Seine. When Napoleon died in 1821, his unfulfilled wish was for his remains to be thrown in Paris’s lifeblood river. The Seine has been one of the few constant presences throughout the history of Paris, offering drama, romance, and strategic importance in equal measure. Cruising on one of the world’s most famous waterways is a must-do while you’re in Paris, and will give you the chance to see many of the city’s other top landmarks from a unique vantage point.
27. Palace of Versailles | A celebration of royal opulence
Visiting Versailles is another staple for any respectable France bucket list follower. From famous depictions of Napoleon to the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles offers you a shimmering reflection of France’s historical wealth, as well as some of the nation’s most valuable cultural treasures. It doesn’t end at the Hall of Mirrors, however. One of Versailles’ hidden gems is Marie Antoinette’s private estate, a recreation of a traditional ‘peasant’ way of life where the ill-fated royal would immerse herself in the villager lifestyle. Looking for a bucket list item within a bucket list item? Rent a rowboat and float romantically down the Grand Canal.
28. Mémorial de Caen | A sober reminder of 20th-century history
The Caen Memorial & Museum is not a cheerful place, but it’s an important one. It captures a crucial part of modern European history, and showcases the details of the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy; some of the most decisive and significant events in World War Two. Its interactive rooms feature shocking statistics and real-life stories of wartime Europe, and the events that followed the Nazi defeat in 1945. It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the atrocities and sacrifices that took place during this crucial junction in the 20th century.
29. Musée d’Orsay | The world’s top Impressionist museum
The Musée d’Orsay contains the single-largest collection of Impressionist artworks on the planet, making it quite realistically the best place in existence to visit if you’re into artists like Monet, Seurat, Van Gogh, Degas, and more. Its majestic collection of artworks from the Belle Epoque and beyond, coupled with its beautiful location in a former railway station on the banks of the Seine, make it one of the most stunning museums in the world. No exaggeration! If any of the above artists sounded a bit familiar to you, it’s worth adding this one to your France bucket list.