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Split into 95 départements and boasting some 37,000 villages, The Hexagon, as the French have nicknamed their country because of its six-sided shape, is packed with sites, activities and food for every taste and budget.

Only got a short amountof time? We tell you where to go and why...

Best for romance: Paris

The sultry, sexy city that inspired Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is the perfect place for lovers. Whether you dine by candlelight as you glide along the Seine river, hold hands as you stroll through the hip-and-happening Latin quarter, or lock eyes as you sip a cocktail at the top of the Eiffel Tower, romance is never far away. But love can’t survive on an empty stomach, so when you need to feed the flame pick up a snack at Bastille, the city’s best food market, or splurge on some creative cuisine at the achingly atmospheric, celebrity-loved gourmet restaurant Le Grand Vefour.

If you want to burn off some calories while sticking close to your date, hire a tandem from Paris Velo Sympa and do a tour of the city’s sights. Now it’s time to check out some of the Latin Quarter’s sizzling nightlife, so pick up some hip rags in Indie boutiques near Chatelet where Parisian rock royalty love to shop, then dance until dawn at Les Bains Douches, just one of the city’s glitterati-packed clubs where celebs from Jagger to DiCaprio come to let off steam.

What else?

Once you’ve checked out Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile, pretended to be a millionaire along the glittering Champs Elysees and ‘done’ the art-packed Musee d’Orsay, sashay over to the newly renovated St Martin canal area where you can paddle around on the water, browse designer stores or catch a gig in one of the trendy cafes.

Best for activities: The Alps

With those amazing snow-capped peaks, mountain chalets, icy rivers to kayak down, lakes to swim in, paths to hike, tracks to bike along and countless crags to climb, the French Alps is an ideal destination for adrenalin freaks.

Europe’s highest summit and home to the winter Olympics, Mont Blanc towers above some of the world’s most famous ski resorts. After snowboarding in Tignes and skiing in Les Arcs, enjoy a raft of après-ski activities in the lively, student-packed town of Grenoble. If the cold stuff isn’t for you, head for La Clusaz where you can hike the spectacular Via Ferrata - the alpine route once used by partisans to carry munitions, or try white water rafting in the Giffre River, which fumes and foams its way through the narrow Tines gorge.

Europe’s highest town, Briançon, is a great destination for cyclists seeking a challenge. A Unesco world heritage site since 2008, this high-flung town, conceived by engineering wizard Vauban, is an amazing labyrinth of 17th- and 18th-century forts and star-shaped fortifications where you can wander a while before whizzing through breathtaking scenery to the panoramic Col Du Lautaret.

If you want to get higher still, head for Annecy, where you can glide over this stunning medieval town known as the region’s paragliding capital, before hiring a canoe and paddling around this pretty city’s vast lake.

What else?

When those lonely peaks get too much for you, discover Chagall, Matisse and more at Grenoble’s fabulous Muséedes Beaux-Arts, or soothe those bumps and bruises in one of Courchevel’s sumptuous spas.


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Destination guide: France
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