Religion - 45% Christian (predominantly Catholic); 35% no religion; 3% Muslim; 1% Jewish; 1% Buddhist
Flight time - 1 hour 15 mins London to Paris; 2 hours London to Nice (Eurostar 2 hours 20 mins London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord; 6-7 hours London St Pancras to Avignon)
"To live is not to breathe but to act. It is to make use of our organs, our senses, our faculties, of all the parts of ourselves which give us the sentiment of our existence. The man who has lived the most is not he who has counted the most years but he who has most felt life."
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Émile
Nationwide and internationally famous celebrations and events include the Tour de France, the midsummer Fête de la Musique, Bastille Day, and the Cannes Film Festival but it's worth checking ahead of your stay for regional festivals with a distinct colour and character. July is by far the busiest month, and a good information source for festivals and other listings is www.viafrance.com.
La Folle Journée, Nantes. Five-day festival of classical music.
Fête du Citron, Menton (Alpes-Maritimes). Forty days before Easter, the 'city of lemons' hosts a traditional festival celebrating local produce and featuring giant sculptures and floats decorated with oranges and lemons.
Nice Carnival. Dazzling parades and a gastronomic celebration centring on the Promenade des Anglais.
Festival de Cannes. For twelve days from mid-May the influential international film industry event takes over the Riviera.
Fête de la Sainte Sarah, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (Camargue), 24 May. Romany festival commemorating the arrival of the Black Madonna in France.
Festival de St-Denis, Paris. Classical and world music festival.
Festival Furies, Châlons-en-Champagne. International circus and street theatre festival.
Festival de Musique de Strasbourg. Two-week festival of classical music.
Bordeaux Fête le Vin. Biennial wine festival (even-numbered years) involving tastings and events along a 2-km stretch of the Garonne.
Festival Django Reinhardt, Samois-sur-Seine (Île-de-France). Open-air jazz festival in honour of the guitar maestro.
Fête de la Musique. Country-wide night of free music concerts in streets, parks and public buildings on 21 June.
Marche des Fiertés LGBT. Gay Pride march from Montparnasse to Place de la Bastille, with parties, balls and other events spilling out into Le Marais and beyond.
Les Nuits de Fourvière, Lyon. Festival of performance arts embracing theatre, dance, music and cinema.
Montpellier Danse. International contemporary dance festival.
Jazz à Vienne. Two weeks of jazz in and around the city's famous Roman amphitheatre.
Eurockéennes, Belfort (Franche-Comté). Pun-friendly rock and indie music festival in a nature reserve beside Lac de Malsaucy.
Flâneries Musicales d'Été, Reims. A series of over 100 mostly free promenade concerts in the city's courtyards, gardens and other public spaces.
Tour de France, nationwide. Celebrations and special events mark each stage of the internationally famous bike race as it traverses the country's cities, countryside and mountains for three weeks and over 3,000km.
Bastille Day, 14 July. France's national day is celebrated throughout the country with fireworks and other festivities and civil ceremonies to mark the storming of the Bastille fortress and prison, an act that symbolises the uprising of modern France. A military parade takes place in the morning on the Champs-Élysées in front of the French president and other officials and guests.
Festival International d'Art Lyrique, Aix-en-Provence. Annual festival of opera, orchestral, chamber, vocal and solo instrumental music.
Cratère Surfaces, Alès (Languedoc-Rousillon). International festival of street theatre.
Les Tombées de la Nuit, Rennes. Eighteen nights of street concerts, cinema and performance arts.
Les Rencontres d'Arles international photography festival. A week of events in early July, with exhibitions continuing to September throughout the city.
Les Suds à Arles. World music festival.
Festival d'Avignon. Contemporary dance and theatre.
Festival International d'Opéra Baroque, Beaune. Baroque opera revivals, Mozart recitals on original instruments and other performances over four weekends.
Festival des Vieilles Charrues, Carhaix (Brittany). The small farming town hosts France's largest rock music festival with big-name international acts
Les Cultures du Monde, Gannat (Auvergne). International music, dance and folklore festival.
Rencontres du Jeune Théâtre Européen, Grenoble. Contemporary theatre performances and events.
Jazz à Juan, Juan-les-Pins, Antibes. Big-name classical and modern jazz performances in a forest setting.
Nice Jazz Festival. An important five days in the jazz calendar with a history dating back to a legendary 1948 programme featuring Louis Armstrong, Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt.
Festival de Saintes (Charente-Maritime). A programme of daytime and evening classical music concerts in the historic Abbaye aux Dames.
Festival Pablo Casals, Prades (Pyrénées-Orientales). A three-week programme of classic and contemporary chamber music.
Festival International de Piano, La Roque d'Anthéron (Provence). Month-long festival of classical and contemporary keyboard music.
Festival de Musique, Menton. The city of lemons becomes the city of chamber music for a fortnight, kicking off with an open-air concert in the forecourt of the Basilica of St Michael the Archangel.
Mimos, Périgueux (Dordogne). Six-day international mime festival also featuring clowning, circus, dance, puppetry and (wordless) music.
Festival International de Théâtre de Rue, Aurillac (Auvergne). For four days in late August Aurillac hosts a spectacular programme of street theatre, installations and circus acts.
Festival Interceltique, Lorient. A twelve-day Celtic folk festival takes over this corner of Brittany.
Festival Météo, Mulhouse (Alsace). Thirty jazz concerts in five days at venues across the city.
Rock en Seine, Haute de Seine. Three-day rock festival established in 2003, held in the garden of the Château de Saint-Cloud, west of Paris.
Semaines Musicales, Quimper (Finistères, Brittany). A classical and contemporary music festival with a rich and eclectic programme.
La Route du Rock, Saint-Malo. Popular four-day rock music festival in and around the walled Breton seaside city.
Jazz à la Villette, Paris. Two weeks of traditional and modern jazz concerts in the city's northeastern park.
Les Francophonies en Limousin, Limoges. Contemporary French-language theatre, dance and music from around the world.
Bienniale de la Danse, Lyon. Biennial festival (even years) featuring dance performances, events and a grand parade.
Biennale d'Art Contemporain, Lyon. Alternating with the dance festival, every other year the city plays host to international contemporary art.
Biennial des Antiquaires, Paris. Ten-day biennial antiques fair (even years) in the majestic Grand Palais.
Visa pour l'Image, Perpignan. International photojournalism festival with exhibitions and events throughout the city.
Fête Renaissance du Roi de l'Oiseau, Puy-en-Velay (Haute-Loire). Historical pageants, shows and re-enactments from the Renaissance era.
Musica, Strasbourg. Two-week festival of modern classical music performances.
September to December
Festival d'Automne, Paris. A wide-ranging seasonal festival of contemporary arts including theatre, concerts, dance, films and exhibitions.
Les Musicales, Bastia. Corsica's longest running music festival, embracing a wide range of musical styles.
Nancy Jazz Pulsations, Nancy (Lorraine). Eleven-day jazz and world music festival.
Foire International d'Art Contemporain, Paris. City-wide contemporary art fair, combined with a programme of musical, contemporary dance and theatre performances.
November - Jazz d'Or, Strasbourg. The final date in the jazz calendar offers a fortnight of contemporary jazz performances from around the world.
Rencontres Transmusicales Rennes. Three-day festival showcasing new trends in contemporary music.
Christmas markets, Alsace and beyond. Strasbourg has held a Christmas market around its cathedral since 1570, and they are a seasonal feature in other Alsatian towns as well as Angers, Grenoble, Lyon, Metz, Nantes and Reims.
Please note that entry requirements and visa regulations can change often and at short notice. We can provide general information about the passport and visa requirements for your trip and this information may be included after the itinerary section of your quotation. Your specific passport and visa requirements and other immigration requirements are your responsibility and you should confirm these with the relevant Embassies and/or Consulates. Neither we nor the principal(s) or supplier(s) accept any responsibility if you cannot travel because you have not complied with any passport, visa or immigration requirements. Please call your WEXAS specialist if you wish to discuss entry requirements.
Passports must be valid for the full duration of your stay. No additional period of validity is required.
Euro notes and coins from all issuing countries are accepted. Bank notes are printed in values of €5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500, and coins come in 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 and 50 cents and €1 and 2.
ATMs are easy to find in France in all but the smallest villages, and are mostly linked to the Cirrus and Maestro networks. Credit cards can also usually be used to withdraw a cash advance.
Cash and EFTPOS
Always keep some cash on you for small purchases. If you wish to withdraw or exchange money over the counter, banks are normally open from 10 am to 5 pm from Monday to Friday in Paris, and the same hours from Tuesday to Saturday in the rest of France, but with a two-hour break for lunch at 1 pm. Credit and debit cards are accepted in most shops and restaurants, but often with a minimum purchase of around €15.
The price of drinks in bars and cafés can seem a little high to visitors from Britain, especially in outdoor terrace seating in the main tourist areas, and when the pound is weak against the euro, but fresh produce and local wines can offer good value. Expect to pay around €2 for a coffee (espresso), and €4 for a café crème, a small beer or a soft drink, while a bottle of quaffable wine can be picked up in a supermarket for around €5. A meal for two in a mid-range restaurant is from around €50.