Visiting France? Take a virtual tour

Busy shopping street is popular with tourists in the Montmartre district of Paris. (Larry Luxner)

To be in Paris is to be in love, yes. With the city, with life…perhaps even with your traveling companion as well! I’ve never known to anyone to come away from a trip to the City of Light not thoroughly captivated by the experience — and thoroughly certain they’ll return.

If you’re  sitting at home, surrounded by these grey winter skies, who can blame you if your mind wanders back through streets of Paris? And, even if you’ve only visited France in your dreams, there is no time like the present to begin planning your journey there.

Good thing there is a special Internet site, one that not only helps you get started on your next trip, but encourages you to linger, read about, and enjoy the sights waiting for you to see in person. Even better, this guide is a goldmine of practical and cultural information of not just Paris, but the entire country of France, region by region.

From planning a tour of Paris via Citroën 2CV to visiting the impressive hillside fortresses of the Cathars in Languedoc, can take you there. Specializing in French tourism since 2003 and available in six languages, is visited by more than 18 million vacation planners annually. And, with the assistance of French tourist offices and local authorities, is able to keep its information updated and relevant.


This free Internet service enables you to design your own personalized, printable guidebook, according to your interests, arrival and departure locations, the duration of your stay, and the desired pace of your visit. Your custom itinerary includes maps with GPS coordinates as well as tourist information, a program showing how much time you should allow for walks and tours, and lists of accommodations and restaurants along your way.

What You’ll Find

The guide takes you to each region of France, cross-referenced by its main attractions such as landscapes, castles, historic sites, major vineyards, beautiful villages, arts, and traditions. Or, you can navigate the regions by events and celebrations. Also, why just stay on the beaten path? Discover France’s lesser-known, though no less amazing, sites by region as well.

For example, consider the castles of France. According to the website, “Since they first appeared in the 10th century, over 10,000 castles have now been built in our country, from warrior fortresses to royal palaces, through manor houses and aristocratic residences…The most beautiful gems of this exceptional heritage are open to visitors. Others, no less charming, host receptions and events, are run as hotels, or are simply home to men and women who love old buildings.”

Versailles Palace of King Louis XIV, just outside of Paris, is the most popular French castle, welcoming more than 6 million visitors each year. Then, traveling south, through the Loire Valley, there is Chambord, the largest castle in Loire, with 440 rooms, 800 sculpted capitals, and 282 fireplaces.

Yet, venturing on, less famous but equally captivating is Virieu, a remarkable medieval fortress overlooking the Bourbre Valley. At, discover these castles and many more, reading their histories and enjoying the  panoramic photos of the fortresses.

But, in general, do you feel slightly overwhelmed by all that there is to see and do in France? provides ideas for travel itineraries. For instance, it suggests discovering the Great Alps Road, the wonders of Provence, the D-Day beaches, and the Breton coast. Starting from a preset base, you can fine-tune and personalize your travel route.

In addition, has recently added a new section highlighting leisure activities to enjoy on your next stay in France, with suggestions for all tastes and budgets. The activity ideas are divided into categories such as Well-Being, Culture and Education, and Local Flavours. Each activity is described in detail, including prices, locations, and other practical information.

According to, “To find a list of leisure activities near you, just type in the place name in the guide’s search engine. It’s even easier on a smart phone as the mobile guide locates the user automatically. You can then book free of charge, in direct contact with the service provider.”

Yes, speaking of smart phones, you can download to your iPhone or Android device by going to on your phone.

So, whether you are dreaming of your return or your first-time visit to France or you simply wish to read about all it has to offer, visiting is time well-spent. Not to mention a great way to help cure these winter doldrums.

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