France is a unitary
semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories
and islands. Metropolitan France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the
English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean.
With millions and millions foreign tourists each year, France is ranked as the
first tourist destination in the world.
France has 37 sites inscribed in UNESCO's World Heritage List and features
cities of high cultural interest, beaches and seaside resorts, ski resorts, and
rural regions that many enjoy for their beauty and tranquillity (green tourism).
Small and picturesque French villages of quality heritage (such as Collonges-la-Rouge
or Locronan) are promoted through the association Les Plus Beaux Villages de
France. The "Remarkable Gardens" label is a list of the over two hundred gardens
classified by the French Ministry of Culture. This label is intended to protect
and promote remarkable gardens and parks. France also attracts many religious
pilgrims on their way to St. James, or to Lourdes, a town in the Hautes-Pyrénées
that hosts a few million visitors a year.
France, and especially Paris, have some of the world's largest and renowned
museums, including the Louvre, which is the most visited art museum in the
world, but also the Musée d'Orsay, mostly devoted to impressionism, and
Beaubourg, dedicated to Contemporary art.
Disneyland Paris is France's and indeed Europe's most popular theme park. The
historical theme park Puy du Fou in Vendée is the second most visited park of
France. Other popular theme parks are the Futuroscope of Poitiers and the Parc
Astérix. With more than 10 millions tourists a year, the French Riviera (or Côte
d'Azur), in south-eastern France, is the second leading tourist destination in
the country, after the Parisian region. An other major destination are the
Châteaux of the Loire Valley, this World Heritage Site is noteworthy for the
quality of its architectural heritage, in its historic towns such as Amboise,
Angers, Blois, Chinon, Nantes, Orléans, Saumur, and Tours, but in particular for
its castles (châteaux), such as the Châteaux d'Amboise, de Chambord, d'Ussé, de
Villandry and Chenonceau, which illustrate to an exceptional degree the ideals
of the French Renaissance.
The most popular tourist sites include: Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Palace of
Versailles, Musée d'Orsay, Arc de Triomphe, Centre Pompidou, Mont Saint-Michel,
Château de Chambord, Sainte-Chapelle, Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg, Puy de Dôme,
Musée Picasso, Carcassonne.