Irrepressible romance, exceptional cuisine and incredible cultural riches, no wonder France is the world’s number one tourist destination.

“How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 varieties of cheese?” Charles de Gaulle once asked. At PTG Tours, our expertise isn’t in politic, but we sure know how to take our rail tour groups to sample some of the best gastronomical delights while travelling through different parts of France.

France is a country that you can visit many times and still find something new to discover, for each region is unique and offers a myriad of compelling attractions that suit every taste and budget. When you throw in Eurostar, high-speed TGVs, heritage railways (steam and diesel), and charming city trams into the mix, suddenly you have appealing rail-base tours that can elevate your holiday experience to a different level. Perhaps this is why our rail customers choose to return to France with us time and again.

France at a glance

Capital: Paris
Language: French
Money: Euro
Travel advice:

Restaurants in France usually include a 15% service compris in the bill, so tipping is not expected but some customers still leave loose change or round the change up to the nearest euro. In other words, tipping is not expected but it is appreciated.

  • New Year’s Day (January 1)
  • Good Friday (date varies)
  • Easter Monday (date varies)
  • Labour Day (May 1)
  • Victory Day (May 8)
  • Ascension Day (date varies)
  • Bastille Day (July 14)
  • Assumption Day (August 15)
  • All Saints’ Day (November 1)
  • Armistice Day (November 11)
  • Christmas Day (December 25)
  • St Stephen’s Day (December 26)
  • Bonjour! (Good morning, hello)
  • S’il vous plait (Please)
  • Comment allez-vous? (How are you?)
  • Je ne comprends pas (I don’t understand)
  • C’est combien? (How much is it?)
  • Merci beaucoup (Thank you very much)

Exploring France

France has 45 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Some of which are magnificent buildings like the Versailles and Cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens, but many on the list are destinations that allow you to immerse in nature or have an adventure. For example, the 280km (174m) stretch of the Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire (Loiret) and Chalonnes-sur-Loire (Anjou), accredited in 2000, attract visitors who are after a good life in one of the majestic châteaux. On the other side of the spectrum, the routes of Santiago de Compostela, inscribed in 1998, are trekked by pilgrims with sturdy boots and sizeable backpacks.

French cuisine is varied and developed, with each region championing its seasonal produce and cooking techniques crafted through centuries of social and political movements. For instance, the Normandy coast is famous for fresh seafood, apples and milk, so Marmite Dieppoise (fish stew made with cider) reigns supreme, while regions further from the sea make good use of wild game, poultry and ham.

France is famously one of the world’s leading wine producers and its main wine-producing regions include Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, the Loire Valley and the Rhône Valley. Each region has its own grape varieties that allow winemakers to create distinct products adored by novices and connoisseurs alike.

France is a country where food is celebrated, wine is treasured, and the art of living is marked by families and friends gather around traditional meals, eating, sharing and lingering. Join them – because by choosing to holiday in France, you’ve given yourself carte blanche to have a great time.

France is the third-largest country in Europe, covering an area of 551,500km² (213,000m²). Naturally, its climate is diverse: oceanic in western France, continental in central and eastern France, the Mediterranean along the southern coast, and a mixture of oceanic and continental depending on altitude across the mountainous regions.

When is the best time to visit France depends on the regions you’re going to and the activities you intend to partake. If you’re joining one of our escorted rail tours through the stunning Loire Valley, for instance, you may find that we tend to organise the trips in May or September, when temperatures averaging 15-16°C.

Heading south towards Corsica the Island of Beauty (l’île de beauté), you can expect sizzling temperatures during summer months on the coasts but a cooler and wetter climate in the mountainous interior.

If you’re visiting French cities in mid-July to late August, you’ll notice a calmer atmosphere. During this period, French people take their grandes vacances (the big holidays) and the sun-soaked southern coast is often crowded as a result.

For the hotter months: light cotton or linen clothing, sunglasses, a sun hat and walking shoes. However, don’t forget to pack some warm layers for the cooler evenings. A rain jacket or an umbrella is also a good idea, in case the sky chooses to open up.

For the colder months: warm clothes, a hat, a scarf, gloves and waterproofs.

  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  • Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  • My Life in France by Julia Child
  • A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

Why choose PTG Tour’s escorted rail tours through France

  • Be it journeying through the scenic Loire Valley, the hills of Provence, the sun-soaked Mediterranean coast, or the blissful Corsica, our escorted rail tours are developed specially for rail enthusiasts.
  • Established in 1998, we’ve become a leading company offering rail-based holidays with a focus on culture and heritage.
  • You can choose from a diverse product range, based on your preference and budget.
  • Your escorted tour comes with a professional tour leader who will take great care of you, plus local guides when applicable.
  • All hotels and restaurants included in your package are vetted and approved by the local teams.
  • You can travel in confidence as all of our tours are ATOL and ABTA protected.