Reasons why you should visit France in 2024

With Olympic mania, major artistic anniversaries, and new UNESCO-approved sites and cities, 2024 is shaping up to be an unbeatable year to explore France…

Jessica Reid
16 January 2024

France is always an appealing European getaway option. Brimming with heritage attractions, glorious natural landscapes, walkable cities and world-famous cuisine, there’s something to entice every type of traveller. But if you ever needed a reason to visit, 2024 offers irresistible opportunities. From the buzz of the biggest multi-sport event in the world, to a World Book Capital and a new cycling trail, here’s six new reasons to plan your next French escape.

The buzz from the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be felt across the country

Visit Nantes for the Olympic buzz, and then explore the region’s incredible cycle trails (Shutterstock)

You may have heard already, but in 2024 Paris will be hosting the Olympic (26 July-11 August) and Paralympic Games (28 August-8 September). But you don’t have to visit the overcrowded capital to get a taste of the action and feel the exciting atmosphere surrounding the world’s largest multi-sport event.

Beyond Paris, the cities of Lyon, Saint-Etienne, Nice, Bordeaux, Nantes and Marseille will also host Olympic events. For example, sailing will take place in Marseille, an area known for its incredible beaches and coastline, and therefore brilliant water-related activities such as kayaking, paddleboarding and diving, especially surrounding the rugged Massif des Calanques. Nearby Saint-Etienne, where some of the Olympic football games will be held, Pilat Natural Park is a hiker’s paradise, whereas Nantes, also hosting the football, and its surrounding region of Pays de la Loire is heralded for its kilometres of pristine, well-signed cycle routes. Be inspired by the sport, and then get active yourself!

As ever, all these French cities are also cultural marvels, with history dating back thousands of years showcased in their architecture and world-class museums.

Artists and art movements will celebrate milestone anniversaries

The house of Monet in Giverny (Shutterstock)

It was in the 19th century that Impressionism was born, and France is the country of its origin. Paris-based artists including Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne were among 31 ‘outcast’ artists who held the first Impressionist exhibition in the capital in 1874, changing the course of art history forever. In celebration of its 150th anniversary year, special exhibitions and events are being held across the country. Normandy’s Impressionist Festival (Mar-Sep) will host events in Rouen, Dieppe and Giverny (Monet’s adopted home), while Paris’ Musée d’Orsay will display Inventing Impressionism, an exhibition of 130 works that bring a fresh perspective to the artistic movement.

But this isn’t the only major artistic anniversary in 2024. It has also been 70 years since 20th-century master painter Henri Matisse died, an artist best known for his use of expressive colour and draughtsmanship. He lived in a suburb of Nice, the French City now home to the Musée Matisse, which displays the largest collection of the artist’s work. The museum is currently closed, but reopening on 14 March 2024, providing the perfect reason to visit.

It’s 80 years since D-Day and the Battle of Normandy

Omaha Beach, with this permanent sculpture representing the Normandy Landings, will play a key part in anniversary events in 2024 (Alamy)

This year marks the 80th anniversary of D-Day (6 June 1944) and the Battle of Normandy, when soldiers from all over the world came to fight for freedom and defeat Nazism. This milestone provides opportunity to pay tribute to the fallen and the veterans who liberated us, leading to a programme of events planned for 2024 across the region. The annual D-Day Festival (1-16 June 2024) in Normandy promises to be bigger than ever before, with more than 100 cultural events – from historic re-enactments to exhibitions – happening along the coastline, from Pegasus Bridge to Sainte-Mère-Eglise. A moving installation of 1,475 silhouettes will be on display at British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-Mer from spring 2024, commemorating the fatalities under British command on 6 June 1844. For those who just want to visit in order learn and remember, visitors can discover memorial sites, cemeteries, museums and key sites year-round, that honour this tragic period of history.

A new cycling route makes Brittany’s heritage more accessible

Château de Fougères can be found along the new La Régalante trail (Shutterstock)

Those who love to explore on two wheels will rejoice at the launch of La Régalante trail in Brittany. Connecting Mont-Saint-Michel to Nantes via the country of Fougères, the 275km route is expected to have its official inauguration in March, where two weekends of biking events will celebrate the arrival of the new greenway. Largely following an old railway line, the route will provide better access to the exceptional heritage of Marches de Bretagne, with highlights such as the imposing Château de Fougères en route.

Tour the history and production of a 300-year-old cognac

Take a tour of the historic house of Maison Remy Martin (Maison Remy Martin/Stephane Carbeau)

In 2024, French brand Maison Rémy Martin will celebrate its 300th anniversary. Founded in 1724 and based in the commune of Cognac, it is one of the oldest cognac producers still to exist. Drink enthusiasts wanting to learn about the three centuries of history behind the beloved tipple can walk in the footsteps of founders and cellar masters who shaped the brand by booking a tour of the historic house. Alternatively, those who want to delve into the production side of things can walk among the Grande Champagne vineyards or take a train ride around Merpins Estate, before learning the art of the distillation and ageing in the cellars.

World Book Capital puts a spotlight on Strasbourg’s culture

Petite-France in Strasbourg is home to well-preserved architecture (Shutterstock)

From 23 April 2024 (World Book Day), Strasbourg will become the 24th UNESCO World Book Capital. The French city was selected for the title partially due to its literary heritage. Firstly, Strasbourg is where German inventor Johannes Gutenberg lived for a decade, and during this time he developed letterpress printing. Strasbourg is also considered to be the birthplace of one of the first modern newspapers, Revival, first coming out of the presses in 1605. A number of leading book figures, such as Sébastien Brant and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, also have connections to the city. During its year-long reign, Strasbourg will be committed to promoting books and reading through a programme of events. But there’s plenty of cultural highlights already waiting to be discovered in this German-influenced city, such as the UNESCO World Heritage site of Grande Île, Strasbourg’s historic centre, as well as the new town of Neustadt, designed and constructed under German administration in the late 19th century.

A new UNESCO World Heritage Site brings attention to Nîmes

Maison Carrée of Nîmes joined the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2023 (Shutterstock)

In 2023, UNESCO designated the Maison Carrée of Nîmes a World Heritage Site. This immaculately preserved temple was modelled after Rome’s Temple of Apollo and dates back to the years 5-7 AD. It went through three-years of restoration work, completed in 2010, allowing the white Corinthian columns to shine brightly once again, making it worthy of World Heritage status. But there’s plenty more heritage treasures to discover in Nîmes beyond the Maison Carrée, such as the ruins of Roman Nymphaeum, which were rediscovered in the 18th-century and incorporated into Jardins de la Fontaine, a beautiful public garden. Let’s not forget the Arènes de Nîmes, the 20th-largest Roman amphitheatre in the world, and again, one of the best preserved.

To celebrate the memory of the world’s most iconic female scientist

Inside Musée Curie (Shutterstock)

An icon in the world of modern science, Marie Curie is remembered today for the discovery of radium and polonium, and her incredible contribution in finding treatments for cancer. Polish-born with the name Maria, she moved to France in 1891 where she eventually spent most of her life. She studied at university in Paris where she also met her husband, Pierre Curie, and even she eventually adopted the French version of her name, Marie.

This year marks 90 years since Marie Curie’s death. The celebrate her memory, a visit to Paris’ secret gem of a museum allows you to follow in the footsteps of the historic icon. Hidden in the Latin Quarter is Curie’s laboratory and offices, now transformed into Musée Curie highlighting the history and remarkable work of Marie and her family. Everything, from the tools, the research, and the furniture, have been well-preserved, with photographs and archives providing a glimpse of what her life was like studying radioactivity. Not far from the workspace is the Pantheon, where Curie and her husband are buried.

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