48 Hours in France

February 17, 2017

The prospect of a short break in France presents you with a huge array of possibilities. However, as the world’s number one tourist destination, with chic metropolis’, to quaint hamlets, to gorgeous beaches, it can make choosing where to spend your time difficult.

Hopefully, our speedy guide to 48 hours in northern France may help make your decision easier.

Paris 

It’s hard to think of a better place to spend two days than Paris. This famous city has endless delights, from stunning architecture to galleries, restaurants, shops and more.

A visit to the Louvre is a must if at all possible. As the world’s biggest museum, you could quite easily spend the entire two days wandering around the world-famous of galleries. You can choose which pieces and exhibitions you want to see by visiting their website. Visit during the week for a quieter experience, though many of the most famous works always attract a crowd.

While you’re in the area, stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries to the famous Place de la Concorde, enjoy the pristine beauty of the Champs-Elysees, lined with outstanding buildings and designer shops, to the Arc de Triomphe. Look out for the Eiffel Tower from behind the perfectly pruned Parisian trees.

In the opposite direction, along the Siene, is the Ile de la Cite, the old heart of the Paris, and home to the Notre Dame cathedral. This sublime Gothic structure is even more imposing up-close, inspiring awe to those beneath it. After visiting the cathedral, head to the impressive Palais de Justice and the Saint Chapelle at the other end of the island.

To get a really stunning view of Paris, choose Tour Montparnasse over the Eiffel Tower. This often forgotten about, and therefore quiet, skyscraper affords amazing views of the city, including the Eiffel tower, from its 56th floor observation deck.

Devote an afternoon to exploring the urban village of Montmartre in the north of the city, a charming area full of boutiques, bars, and cafés, and famously home to the Moulin Rouge. An uphill climb through cobbled streets lined with quaint shops and restaurants, will bring you to the soaring white dome of the Sacre-Coeur, rewarding you with fantastic panoramic views of Paris.

Rouen

Joan of Arc is eternalised in this French city; wherever you venture in Rouen you’ll find reminders of the Medieval Saint, from street names and historical sites. It was here in 1431 that she was burned at the stake in the Place du Vieux Marche, memorialised with a striking modern church.

Though the city is one of France’s busiest commercial ports, it retains much of its medieval heart, with beautiful timbered buildings and grand Gothic cathedrals. The Rue du Gros-Horloge, rich with heritage, is one of Rouen’s oldest streets, and provides fantastic shopping as well as some historical treasures.

Stroll down this ancient street to see the city’s famous 16th century clock bridge, and at its end the Notre-Dame cathedral of Rouen with its unusually uneven spires. From here find yourself lost amongst narrow streets and delightful medieval domains.

There’s also the Musee des Beaux-Arts, with one of the best collections outside of Paris, including works by Monet, Caravaggio, and Rubens. Speaking of Monet, take a great day trip from Rouen to Giverny, a picturesque village that Monet called home. Here you can see the inspiration for his artwork in the serene lily ponds with their quaint wooden bridges and the fields filled with flowers that coloured his Impressionist paintings.

Normandy 

Steeped in centuries of history and culture, the French region is the birthplace of William the Conqueror and home to the D-Day beaches of World War 2. Choose from either city or countryside as a base, from classic seaside towns to the medieval sites of Caen and Bayeux.

Smaller than Rouen, Caen’s vast Norman castle and medieval abbeys, built by William the Conqueror himself, are outstanding to behold. You can see more of William’s in nearby Bayeux, a prepossessing town, famous for its ornate tapestry. This 70 metre-long tapestry (technically an embroidery, if you worry about that sort of thing) is housed in a very fine museum. It charts the entire Norman invasion of England in 1066. Made in England in the 1070s, the tapestry provides an unparalleled historical record, and is one of the very best examples of Anglo-Saxon art.

In the west of Normandy is one of the region’s most famous attractions, and is worth a day trip in itself. Mont Saint-Michel rises up on a solitary tidal island, as if a fairy tale castle, with a town nestled around its feet. Built as a monastery, as well as a fortified castle, it survived repeated invasions thanks to its natural tidal defences. In the evening it is lit up warmly against the darkness of the night sky, creating a distorted yet captivating reflection in the ocean below.

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