France's Tourism Industry

France is the most popular tourist destination in the world, with around 79.5 million visitors every year, and tourism is France's third largest industry, with tourist spending of around 36 billion Euros accounting for over 6 percent of the country's income. Over 4% of the population work in the tourism sector; around 900,000 people. Tourism comes from within France as well as foreign visitors; a recent study of visitors to the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azure (PACA) region found that 80 percent of tourists visiting the area were French, with 20 percent from other countries.

France is a large country; the second biggest by area in Europe and its geography is extremely diverse, ranging from flat plains in the north, hills and valleys in the west and mountain ranges in the south and east. France has extensive coastlines on both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

Most visited attractions

The most popular sites visited by tourists are largely situated in Paris, which is the most visited city in the world, attracting around 30 million visitors every year. Of the ten top sites ordered by number of visitors, six are located in Paris. The Louvre Museum heads the list with 8.5 million visitors, while the Eiffel Tower, with 6.2 million visitors, is the second most visited site in France. The Palace of Versailles comes third, followed by the Pompidou Centre, Musee d'Orsay, Musee du quai Branley and the Arc de Triomphe, all located in Paris. The island of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy is the eighth most popular site, with a basilica in Marseille, the Notre-Dame de la Garde, ninth on the list. Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley is the tenth most visited tourist attraction in France, with 711,000 visitors.

The French Riviera

France's Mediterranean beaches on the south coast of the country, known as the Cote d'Azur or French Riviera, are the second most popular French destination for tourists after Paris, with around 10 million visitors a year. The climate is attractive and the scenery spectacular, particularly to the east where the Alps meet the sea. The Riviera has many resorts and towns that attract tourists, including Nice, Saint Tropez, Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, Antibes and Cannes. The Riviera has good transport links with the rest of France, and Nice Airport is one of the busiest in the country.

Loire Valley

Situated in the centre of France, the Loire Valley is an area full of history, and is designated a World Heritage Site. Tourists visit the region to see the well-preserved medieval cities such as Chartres and Orleans, and the numerous historic castles, or chateaux, with Chateau de Chambord attracting the most visitors. Many visitors to the Loire Valley come to tour the famous vineyards, such as Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre. Nature lovers are drawn to the vast forested area of La Sologne, popular with campers and hikers, and the Loire River, the longest in France, is a popular attraction with many companies providing cruises and boat trips along its length.


France's mountainous regions attract millions of visitors each year who come to enjoy skiing and other winter sports. There are four main mountain ranges within France: the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Massif and the Jura. The Alps, on the border between France and Italy, are the mountains most visited by tourists, although the Pyrenees is becoming increasingly popular. The Alps are Europe's highest mountain range, with many peaks covered in snow all year round, and contain the highest peak in Europe, Mont Blanc. The French Alps contain many famous ski resorts, including Chamonix, Val d'Isere, Morzine and Tignes. Though the majority of tourists visit the area to enjoy a ski break, many visitors go to enjoy the spectacular mountain scenery and explore cities such as Grenoble and stay in traditional mountain villages.


The main attractions in this area are the Normandy Beaches where the D-Day Landings of WWII took place, the Memorial for Peace in Caen and the many war graves and museums commemorating the event. Visitors also come to see the gardens of Giverny, immortalised by the artist, Monet, and Bayeux, where the famous tapestry is preserved. Mont Saint Michel, the eighth most visited attraction in France, is located in Normandy, and there are several notable cities including Rouen, Cherbourg and Le Havre.

Theme Parks

Disneyland Paris is a major tourist attraction, receiving 15 million visitors a year. Located only 20 miles away is the second most visited theme park in France, Parc Asterix, which draws around 2 million visitors a year. Futuroscope, a high-tech park built around 3D and 4D cinema, is situated near Poitiers in south-western France and attracts around 1.9 million visitors. Other parks that draw crowds are Vulcania and Puy du Fou.