France- France, in Western Europe, encompasses medieval cities, alpine villages and Mediterranean beaches. Paris, its capital, is famed for its fashion houses, classical art museums including the Louvre and monuments like the Eiffel Tower. The country is also renowned for its wines and sophisticated cuisine. Lascaux’s ancient cave drawings, Lyon’s Roman theater and the vast Palace of Versailles attest to its rich history.
Switzerland-is a mountainous Central European country, home to numerous lakes, villages and the high peaks of the Alps. Its cities contain medieval quarters, with landmarks like capital Bern’s Zytglogge clock tower and Lucerne’s wooden chapel bridge. The country is also known for its ski resorts and hiking trails. Banking and finance are key industries, and Swiss watches and chocolate are world renowned.
Trip Planning: The planning stage of your trip can be instrumental in its success and an enjoyable part of the experience itself. You have a world of options...and plenty to consider.
Entry and Exit formalities: Visitors must hold a passport valid for at least six months & beyond at the time of entering the Schengen countries. Some nationalities can obtain visa on arrival and for nationalities who requires visa please refer to the respective consulate or through their respective website. When traveling to multiple Schengen countries it is best to apply in the country of the first entry or the country you will stay the most. France & Swiss are part of the 26 Schengen State Countries.
Transportation: Figuring out how to get around is one of your biggest pre-trip decisions. Get our holiday expert best advice on deciding between your options. Based on your trip itinerary, our experts will help you choose wisely. You'll also find a wealth of practical travel tips.
Money: Use your money wisely. Know the best time to use cash or card — and how to avoid unnecessary fees either way-as well as tipping etiquette, and how shoppers can take advantage of VAT refunds.
Phones and Technology: Phones and other smart devices can be huge time-savers...or expensive distractions. Get our tips for making the best use of technology during your trip, and for calling home with or without your own phone.
Packing Light: On your trip you'll meet two kinds of travelers: those who pack light and those who wish they had.
Sleeping and Eating: Your hotel and restaurant choices can be a matter-of-face chore…or they can provide rich opportunities to connect with locals and their culture.
Health & Hygiene: Take comfort: Doctors, hospitals, launderettes, and bathrooms aren’t that different. Dealing with them can even be part of the fun of travel.
Sightseeing & Activities: Once you're on the ground, the real fun begins…but it pays to have a thoughtful plan. Our experts will help you get oriented to your surroundings, use your sightseeing hours wisely, and find your way off the beaten path.
Things do & see:
Paris-France's capital, is a major European city and a global center for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture. Its 19th-century cityscape is crisscrossed by wide boulevards and the River Seine. Beyond such landmarks as the Eiffel Tower and the 12th-century, Gothic Notre-Dame cathedral, the city is known for its cafe culture and designer boutiques along the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
Marseille- a port city in southern France, has been a crossroads of immigration and trade since its founding by the Greeks circa 600 B.C. At its heart is the Vieux-Port (Old Port), where fishmongers sell their catch along the boat-lined quay. Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde is a Romanesque-Byzantine church. Modern landmarks include Le Corbusier’s influential Cité Radieuse complex and Zaha Hadid’s CMA CGM Tower.
Bordeaux- hub of the famed wine-growing region, is a port city on the Garonne River in southwestern France. It’s known for its Gothic Cathédrale Saint-André, 18th- to 19th-century mansions and notable art museums such as the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux. Public gardens line the curving river quays. The grand Place de la Bourse, centered on the Three Graces fountain, overlooks the Miroir d’Eau reflecting pool.
Nice- capital of the Alpes-Maritimes department on the French Riviera, sits on the pebbly shores of the Baie des Anges. Founded by the Greeks and later a retreat for 19th-century European elite, the city has also long attracted artists. Former resident Henri Matisse is honored with a career-spanning collection of paintings at Musée Matisse. Musée Marc Chagall features some of its namesake's major religious works.
Lyon- capital city in France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, sits at the junction of the Rhône and Saône rivers. Its center reflects 2,000 years of history from the Roman Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules, medieval and Renaissance architecture in Vieux (Old) Lyon, to the modern Confluence district on Presqu'île peninsula. Traboules, covered passageways between buildings, connect Vieux Lyon and La Croix-Rousse hill.
Toulouse- capital of France’s southern Occitanie region, is bisected by the Garonne River and sits near the Spanish border. It’s known as La Ville Rose (‘The Pink City’) due to the terra-cotta bricks used in many of its buildings. Its 17th-century Canal du Midi links the Garonne to the Mediterranean Sea, and can be traveled by boat, bike or on foot.
Cannes- a resort town on the French Riviera, is famed for its international film festival. Its Boulevard de la Croisette, curving along the coast, is lined with sandy beaches, upmarket boutiques and palatial hotels. It’s also home to the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, a modern building complete with red carpet and Allée des Étoiles – Cannes’ walk of fame.
Antibes-is a resort town between Cannes and Nice on the French Riviera (Côte d’Azur). It’s known for its old town enclosed by 16th-century ramparts with the star-shaped Fort Carré. This overlooks luxury yachts moored at the Port Vauban marina. The forested Cap d’Antibes peninsula, dotted with grand villas, separates Antibes from Juan-les-Pins, a chic resort with buzzing nightlife and the Jazz à Juan music festival.
Avignon- a city in southeastern France’s Provence region, is set on the Rhône River. From 1309 to 1377, it was the seat of the Catholic popes. It remained under papal rule until becoming part of France in 1791. This legacy can be seen in the massive Palais des Papes (Popes' Palace) in the city center, which is surrounded by medieval stone ramparts.
Aix-en-Provence- is a university city in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of southern France. It was the birthplace of Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne. A walking trail links sites including his childhood home, Jas de Bouffan, and his former studio, Atelier Cézanne. The white limestone mountain Sainte-Victoire overlooking the city as well as the surrounding countryside were frequent subjects of his works.
Montpellier- is a city in southern France, 10km inland from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The town's stately Gothic Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, distinguished by conical towers, dates to 1364. The city's Antigone district is a chic, modern development inspired by neoclassical motifs. Paintings from French and European Old Masters hang at the Musée Fabre.
Annecy- is an alpine town in southeastern France, where Lake Annecy feeds into the Thiou River. It’s known for its Vieille Ville (old town), with cobbled streets, winding canals and pastel-colored houses. Overlooking the city, the medieval Château d’Annecy, once home to the Counts of Geneva, contains a museum with regional artifacts such as Alpine furniture and religious art, plus a natural history exhibit.
Lourdes-is a town in southwestern France, in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. It’s known for the Sanctuaires Notre-Dame de Lourdes, or the Domain, a major Catholic pilgrimage site. Each year, millions visit the Grotto of Massabielle (Grotto of the Apparitions) where, in 1858, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a local woman. In the grotto, pilgrims can drink or bathe in water flowing from a spring.
Clermont-Ferrand- is a university city in central France, bordered by the volcanic Chaîne des Puys mountains. Near the fountains and statues of Place de Jaude square are the Gothic Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption Cathedral, constructed from lava stone, and the Romanesque Basilica of Notre-Dame du Port, with mosaics. Northwest of the city is the volcano-themed Vulcania amusement park and museum with interactive shows.
The D-Day beaches, Normandy – Learn about the WWII Allied forces D-Day landings along the beaches of northern France. There are memorials and museums detailing the history of the event. You can still see some of the old bunkers and fortifications.
The Palace of Versailles – Located very close to Paris, the old palace of the French kings was built by Louis XIV. This palace was constructed during the height of French power and seeks to show off the monarch’s tremendous wealth. It’s as awe-inspiring today as it was back then. It was used by the French Kings until the French Revolution in 1789.
Explore the Loire Valley – The Loire is lovely and picturesque, with tons of vineyards and chateaus. You will find some of the best wine in the world, beautiful small towns, and great food. It’s an area not to be missed (though often missed by solo travelers and backpackers. Tsk tsk.)
Drink wine in Bordeaux – Some of the best wine in the world is made here. It’s an expensive destination and not for someone on a tight budget, but it’s beautiful and worth all the Euros you will spend! Bordeaux has one of the longest shopping streets in Europe, amazing seafood (eat at Le Petit Commerce), seaside access, and of course, wine. It’s a magnificent place to diverge from your backpacking mentality. Next to Paris, it’s my favorite place in France.
Hang out in Nice – They say Nice is nice, but you’ll have to find out exactly how nice it is on your own. This seaside town in the south is a popular destination for budget travelers who want to soak up some sun in Southern France but might not be able to afford Cannes or Monaco. The beach here isn’t that great, but the central location makes it easy to explore the rest of the coast (and its better beaches).
Explore history in Lyon – The area around Lyon has wonderful castles and small villages. It’s great for those looking to explore the French countryside. If you want a look at medieval France, this is where you should go. The whole place is a UNESCO World Heritage site and truly feels like you have stepped back into the past.
Go to Marseille – It’s one of France’s largest cities – the second behind Paris. It is a metropolitan city that also has a rich history. Marseille is filled with nightlife, great restaurants, theaters, museums, and even an international soccer stadium. Many say that Marseille is not the kind of city you will fall in love with as it is too industrial, but, while the city is a bit gritty, it’s worth a visit for its beautiful waterfront.
Zurich-Zurich (spelled Zürich) is also set on a beautiful lake, near the mountains, and is close to a lot of other cities. It’s a very international city and you’ll find expats and students from all around the world living and working here. The city is also very arty and full of street art and exhibitions. The city of Zurich, a global center for banking and finance, lies at the north end of Lake Zurich in northern Switzerland. The picturesque lanes of the central Altstadt (Old Town), on either side of the Limmat River, reflect its pre-medieval history. Waterfront promenades like the Limmatquai follow the river toward the 17th-century Rathaus (town hall).
Geneva- a city in Switzerland that lies at the southern tip of expansive Lac Léman (Lake Geneva). Surrounded by the Alps and Jura mountains, the city has views of dramatic Mont Blanc. Headquarters of Europe’s United Nations and the Red Cross, it’s a global hub for diplomacy and banking. French influence is widespread, from the language to gastronomy and bohemian districts like Carouge.
Lucerne- a compact city in Switzerland known for its preserved medieval architecture, sits amid snowcapped mountains on Lake Lucerne. Its colorful Altstadt (Old Town) is bordered on the north by 870m Museggmauer (Musegg Wall), a 14-century rampart. The covered Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), built in 1333, links the Aldstadt to the Reuss River's right bank.
Interlaken- is a traditional resort town in the mountainous Bernese Oberland region of central Switzerland. Built on a narrow stretch of valley, between the emerald-colored waters of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, it has old timber houses and parkland on either side of the Aare River. Its surrounding mountains, with dense forests, alpine meadows and glaciers, has numerous hiking and skiing trails. There is a lot to do here for the adrenaline-seeker: skydiving over the Swiss glacier, water-skiing, skiing, hiking, etc.
Basel- a city on the Rhine River in northwest Switzerland, close to the country’s borders with France and Germany. Its medieval old town centers around Marktplatz, dominated by the 16th-century, red-sandstone Town Hall. Its 12th-century Gothic cathedral has city views, and contains the tomb of the 16th-century Dutch scholar, Erasmus. The city’s university houses some of Erasmus’ works.
Bern- the capital city of Switzerland, is built around a crook in the Aare River. It traces its origins back to the 12th century, with medieval architecture preserved in the Altstadt (Old Town). The Swiss Parliament and diplomats meet in the Neo-Renaissance Bundeshaus (Federal Palace). The Französische Kirche (French Church) and the nearby medieval tower known as the Zytglogge both date to the 13th century.
Lausanne- a city on Lake Geneva, in the French-speaking region of Vaud, Switzerland. It’s home to the International Olympic Committee headquarters, as well as the Olympic Museum and lakeshore Olympic Park. Away from the lake, the hilly old city has medieval, shop-lined streets and a 12th-century Gothic cathedral with an ornate facade. The 19th-century Palais de Rumine houses fine art and science museums.
Lucerne-a compact city in Switzerland known for its preserved medieval architecture, sits amid snowcapped mountains on Lake Lucerne. Its colorful Altstadt (Old Town) is bordered on the north by 870m Museggmauer (Musegg Wall), a 14-century rampart. The covered Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), built in 1333, links the Aldstadt to the Reuss River's right bank.
Interlaken- a traditional resort town in the mountainous Bernese Oberland region of central Switzerland. Built on a narrow stretch of valley, between the emerald-colored waters of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, it has old timber houses and parkland on either side of the Aare River. Its surrounding mountains, with dense forests, alpine meadows and glaciers, has numerous hiking and skiing trails.
Lugano-a city in southern Switzerland’s Italian-speaking Ticino region. Its Swiss-Mediterranean mix of cultures is closely related to that of Italy’s northern Lombardy region. This mix is reflected in its architecture and cuisine. The city stands on the northern shore of glacial Lake Lugano, surrounded by mountains. Its main square, Piazza della Riforma, is ringed with pastel-colored, neoclassical palazzi.
Montreux- a traditional resort town on Lake Geneva. Nestled between steep hills and the lakeside, it's known for its mild microclimate and the Montreux Jazz Festival, held in July. The town's promenade is lined with flowers, sculptures, Mediterranean trees and grand Belle Époque buildings. Offshore is a medieval island castle, Château de Chillon, with ramparts, formal halls and a chapel with 14th-century murals.
Zermatt-southern Switzerland’s Valais canton, is a mountain resort renowned for skiing, climbing and hiking. The town, at an elevation of around 1,600m, lies below the iconic, pyramid-shaped Matterhorn peak. Its main street, Bahnhofstrasse is lined with boutique shops, hotels and restaurants, and also has a lively après-ski scene. There are public outdoor rinks for ice-skating and curling.
Chur- an Alpine city and the capital of the Graubünden canton in eastern Switzerland. Winding streets in the car-free old town lead to the 13th-century, three-naved Cathedral of the Assumption, in the courtyard of the Bishop's Palace. The Brambrüesch aerial cableway ascends to a plateau with trails, panoramic views and winter ski slopes. From Chur, the Bernina Express train crosses the Alps into Italy.
St. Moritz- a luxury alpine resort town in Switzerland’s Engadin valley. It has hosted the Winter Olympics twice, has the Cresta Run, a world-championship bobsled run made of natural ice, and an outdoor Olympic ice rink. Its frozen lake hosts polo, cricket and even horse racing on ice. Ski and snowboard areas include Corviglia, Diavolezza and Corvatsch, and there are well-groomed cross-country ski trails.
Graubünden- a canton in eastern Switzerland, is known for its dramatic Alpine scenery and winter sports. St. Moritz, an upscale resort town and Winter Olympics host in 1928 and 1948, offers ski runs, an outdoor ice rink and ski jumping. Davos, home to the annual World Economic Forum, is also popular for skiing and hiking. The Engadin Valley has traditional whitewashed houses decorated with sgraffito plasterwork.
Davos- a town in the Swiss Alps, within the canton of Graubünden. It’s a popular ski resort with a conference center that hosts the annual World Economic Forum. Downhill and cross-country ski areas include Jakobshorn, Pischa, Rinerhorn and Parsenn. Summer activities include swimming and sailing on Lake Davos, hiking and mountain biking. The Glacier Express, a scenic train ride, connects Davos to the Matterhorn.
Grindelwald- a village in Switzerland’s Bernese Alps, is a popular gateway for the Jungfrau Region, with skiing in winter and hiking in summer. It's also a base for mountain-climbing ascents up the iconic north face of Eiger Mountain. Gletscherschlucht, a glacial gorge just outside Grindelwald, features paths with interpretive signage, waterfalls and striated limestone walls.
Matterhorn- Switzerland offers the best skiing in the world, and the Matterhorn is the epitome of it all. You’ll have to take a train or bus into the area as cars aren’t allowed. Not only do you need to ski here, but you can come to admire what’s truly a pollutant-free area. And, if you miss ski season, come hike the mountain in the summer. It’s not easy but the views of the surrounding countryside are some of the best I’ve seen in Switzerland.
Jungfraujoch- is a saddle connecting two major 4000ers of the Bernese Alps: the Jungfrau and the Mönch. It lies at an elevation of 3,463 metres above sea level and is directly overlooked by the rocky prominence of the Sphinx.
Mt. Titlis- is a mountain of the Uri Alps, located on the border between the cantons of Obwalden and Bern. At 3,238 metres above sea level, it is the highest summit of the range north of the Susten Pass, between the Bernese Oberland and Central Switzerland.
Weisshorn- is a major peak of Switzerland and the Alps, culminating at 4,506 metres above sea level. It is part of the Pennine Alps and is located between the valleys of Anniviers and Zermatt in the canton of Valais.
Fasnacht Spring Carnival in Basel — This three-day festival is a three day long party that welcomes in the warm weather. Nothing in the town shuts down. It’s something that’s highly anticipated by both tourists and locals. Everyone here is in a good move!
Mt. Pilatus — Located right outside the city of Lucerne, this beautiful mountain has breathtaking views of the alps. From the city, you can take a cable car to the top or (better yet) hike its trails to the top to look out over the Swiss Alps.
Schilthorn- is a summit in Europe, in the Bernese Alps of Switzerland. It overlooks the valley of Lauterbrunnen in the Bernese Oberland, and is the highest mountain in the range lying north of the Sefinenfurgge Pass. The Schilthorn lies above the village of Mürren, from where a cable car leads to its summit.
Rhine Falls — Pack a picnic lunch and look out at your view of Europe’s largest waterfall. Nearby in the town of Schaffhausen, you’ll find a medieval castle which also houses a hostel for cheap but interesting accommodations.
Rigi- is a mountain massif of the Alps, located in Central Switzerland. The whole massif is almost entirely surrounded by the water of three different bodies of water: Lake Lucerne, Lake Zug and Lake Lauerz
Eiger- is a 3,967-metre mountain of the Bernese Alps, overlooking Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen in the Bernese Oberland of Switzerland, just north of the main watershed and border with Valais
Mönch- at 4,107 metres is a mountain in the Bernese Alps, in Switzerland. Together with the Eiger and the Jungfrau, it forms a highly recognisable group of mountains, visible from far away.
Explore St. Gallen — The seventh largest city in Switzerland, St. Gallen boasts beautiful museums, colorful murals, and one-of-a-kind architecture.
The old Villages — Visit the Graubunden area of the country, where you’ll find villages with houses dating back to the 13th century. Here they also speak an ancient language called Romanch, which has died out everywhere else in the country and take great pride in keeping the tradition alive.
Swiss Riviera — The “Swiss Riviera” is situated in Lavaux (Cantan of Vaud) and goes along Lake Geneva. You can visit vineyards that overlook the lake, the castle Château de Chillon, and the town of Montreux, which is famous for its annual jazz festival. It’s where you can hob knob with the well heeled jet set of the region!
Culture in Appenzell — This small village of 7,000 lies in the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden. There are no cars and the village has upheld much of its local traditions and culture. Its location near the foot of the Alpstein mountains makes it a great gateway for participating in summer and winter outdoor activities.