Paris, France © Benh Lieu Song
France is, quite simply, the world's leading tourist destination. This is the country that inspired Monet's reinvention of colour and the haunting harmonies of Claude Debussy. It has tantalised the taste buds with foie gras and frog legs, and captured the imagination of the world's jet-set with the resorts of St Tropez and Port Grimaud.
France emerged as a power following the Hundred Years' War. The country flourished as a centre of culture in the renaissance period and became a dominant European force during the reign of King Louis XIV and later Napoleon. This long and storied history has left a huge cultural legacy for visitors to enjoy.
History has seen the rise of castles, Gothic churches, walled towns, modern skyscrapers, and iconic structures such as the Pont du Gard and Eiffel Tower. There are 1200 museums housing the works of Picasso, Degas and Van Gogh. Magnificent concert halls carry the sounds of French composers. Market stalls, Parisian bistros and Michelin star restaurants offer up unique French fare, accompanied by Champage and Bordeaux wine. Flagship fashion edifices carrying 'haute couture' line the cobbles of the Champs Elysees.
From the cliffs and sand dunes of the north to the castles of the Loire valley, the majestic peaks of the Alps and the Pyrenees, the endless Mediterranean coastline of the Cote d'Azur, the oak forests on Corsica, and the Vineyards of Burgundy, France is an endless labyrinth of treasures. Millions arrive each year to rediscover the meaning of joie de vivre.