Where to Vacation Like the French
The French do a lot of things right: Eat croissants without gaining weight, dress with an effortless cool and vacation like they mean it. Summer holidays are essential in France, particularly in August when much of the country shuts down to take a break, but that sensibility continues throughout the year, encouraging people to ensure they actually use all their vacation days.
This often means taking two-week vacations and completely unplugging from work emails to ensure no stress. During the summer French people usually keep things close-ish to home, opting to vacation in the countryside of France or in a nearby European destination. It’s all about being relaxed, skipping the jet lag and hassle of long flights, and keeping things simple. That doesn’t mean that international travel is off the table, though. Here, 11 places to travel that have the French seal of approval.
Location: Basque Coast, southwestern France
The seaside town of Biarritz, located on the Atlantic coast of France, is a popular vacation spot for the French, particularly those who live in cities. It’s known for its vast, sandy beaches and burgeoning restaurant scene, as well as lively nightlife during the warmer months. Pick between the ritzy beach resorts of the low-key vacation rentals, which draw surfers to the area every year. Splurge on the Hôtel du Palais Biarritz, which is nestled right up against the water on La Grande Plage.
Location: Haute-Savoi, eastern France
Camping is a popular summer pastime for the French, particularly in mountainous areas like Lake Annecy. Tons of campsites, most of which involve sleeping in small cabins or caravans, dot the edges of the picturesque lake. Book a mobile home, cabin or tent at Camping La Ravoire, a four-star campsite with a swimming pool, playground and store, as well as bikes for rent. Don’t miss the hike to the peak of La Tournette, a mountain that offers insane views from the top.
The French Riviera (or Côte d'Azur)
Location: Mediterranean coast, southeastern France
Mediterranean coastal cities like Cannes, Nice and Saint-Tropez draw visitors with their luxurious hotels and glamorous beaches. Skip the crowds by booking a hotel or vacation home in smaller resort towns like Fréjus or Sainte-Maxime, which offer the same beachside relaxation with less tourists. If you want to really go all-in on the French Riviera vacation experience, book into La Réserve Ramatuelle, an insanely luxurious resort and spa with sea views and private villas that cost more than your car.
Location: Basque Country, southwest France
Bayonne, in the Basque Country region of France, is popular with French people looking for a relaxing holiday with the amenities of a city. It’s not far from Biarritz, making the beach an option for a day trip, and the quaint, riverside town has a lot of history and culture to enjoy. Skip the chain hotels and opt for a bed and breakfast or an Airbnb. Independent property Hotel de la Gare, which is well-situated near the train station, offers a local experience and reasonable rates.
Location: Southeastern France
Ah, the French countryside. Perfect for getting away from the stress of work (and for eating endless amounts of delicious food). There are opportunities to camp throughout the region, or you can settle down for a week or two in one of the picturesque small villages, like Roussillon or Gordes. The island of Porquerolles, which boasts only 200 inhabitants, is another popular holiday destination. There, book a stay in Le Mas du Langoustier, a four-star hotel with an outdoor pool and beach access.
San Sebastian, Spain
Location: Basque Country, northeastern Spain (near the French border)
Because it can be stressful to deal with the airport, many French people elect to drive when heading out on vacation. That makes Spain an ideal choice, especially its northern-most destinations like San Sebastian and Girona. San Sebastian, located just over the French border, is known as a foodie spot, boasting many renowned restaurants and bars. The Pyrenees, which span Spain and France, also welcome holiday makers looking for nature—Camping Gavín S.L. is a particularly popular campsite with comfortable bungalows for rent.
The Greek Islands
The Greek Islands have become a recent bucket list spot for French travelers, particularly the islands with luxury resorts and beach access. Mykonos and Santorini are perennial favorites (and not just with the French), but nearby islands like Naxos, Tinos and Syros are good options if you want to avoid the crowds. To fully take advantage of the seaside sunsets—and a much-needed peaceful vacation atmosphere—book into Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa on Santorini.
French-speaking African country Morocco is an easy flight from France, making cities like Marrakech and Rabat ideal destinations. There are also some great beach resorts along the Atlantic coast, particularly in Tangiers. Look for the Hôtel Nord-Pinus Tanger, from French hotelier Anne Igou, in Tangiers, or head south to Oualidia, where La Sultana is an ideal hotel for unwinding and reconnecting.
The Caribbean island Martinique, another French-speaking destination, may require getting on a plane, but its white sand beaches and mountainous views are worth the journey. Most travelers opt for a resort along the beach, like Le Cap Est Lagoon Resort & Spa, but you can also spend your holiday in a vacation rental in Les Trois-Îlets or Le Diamant (VRBO is a good place to look). Be sure to visit the Jardin de Balata, a beautiful botanical garden in the heart of the island.
Seychelles, an archipelago country in the Indian Ocean, draws travelers from around the world, but particularly the French, who are drawn in by the exotic location and history of France in the region. It’s a trek to get there, but if you’re taking two weeks off work why don’t spend the time? For something extra special, reserve a room (or suite) at the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles, which will wow you with its views of the turquoise water and lush jungle.
New York City
For Europeans, the Big Apple is a bucket-list destination. Experience the city with new eyes by taking in a off-Broadway show, exploring cool museums like MOMA PS1 and diving into a lesser discovered borough like Queens. Try the Ace’s new property Sister City, located on the Lower East Side, or book into the trendy Paper Factory Hotel in Long Island City.