France has enormous diversity in its regions from snow-peaked mountains to red hot beaches, glorious countryside, forests, lakes, rivers, canals and sand dunes. Here’s a look at some of Atout France’s favourite, gorgeous green bucket list places and activities…
Atlantic Loire Valley
Take a stroll around Angers, voted France’s greenest city in 2020 with its 1,500 acres of parks and green spaces. Follow the nature trails on Ile St-Aubin or visit Terra Botanica, the world’s first plant-themed amusement park. The town is investing €178m to become carbon- neutral within 12 years.
Brittany’s coastline, bays and archipelagos are a haven for many sea mammals and birds. Some, such as the common bottlenose dolphin, live there all year round. Head out to sea from Port-Mer with Gael from the Al-lark Association to catch sight of them from the water. Excursions last four hours
If you’re up for a real challenge, experience this Mediterranean island’s rugged beauty by tackling its GR20 hiking route or equivalent GT20 cycle route. These are some of the toughest treks in Europe so be prepared. France boasts around 370 GR (Sentier de Grande Randonnée) hiking trails in total, alongside nine (out of 15) trans-European cycle routes.
Canal du Midi, Occitanie
Cruise along the UNESCO-listed Canal du Midi, one of France’s mightiest waterways running 250km from Toulouse to Sète. Electric boats are available for hire. And, taking bikes on board allows exploration of the towpaths and pretty towns en route, including Castelnaudary and Carcassonne.
Visit the city of Grenoble in the heart of the mountains, awarded European Green Capital for 2022. France’s largest low emission zone and top city for bicycle commuting, it has addressed noise pollution with dedicated quiet areas and planted over 5,550 trees since 2014.
Burgundy & Jura Mountains
The Morvan regional park was one of the first to be created in France. It has a rich ecosystem, with three Natura 2000 sites and Natural Zones of Ecological Interest, Flora and Fauna. The Haut-Jura regional park boasts a further Natura 2000* site. This is an ideal place to spot endangered species such as the lynx and capercaillie.
‘En Roue Libre’ encourages green ways of visiting the Loire Valley’s colourful gems, including chateaux gardens such as Rivau, Chaumont-sur-Loire and La Javelière. There are 5,000km of cycle routes. Plus 20,000km of hiking paths are marked. Perfect for exploring the region at a slow pace.
A member of Eurovélo cycle routes since 2019, the Meuse à Vélo offers over 1,000km. Ride a mixture of cycle paths along the mighty river. Or take to the quiet roads from the city of Langres in Haute-Marne to the citadel of Givet in Ardennes. You’ll be surrounded by beautiful countryside.
Sealife centre Nausicaá in Boulogne-sur-Mer is Europe’s largest aquarium. But it also plays a pivotal role in educating visitors on the importance of the sea in our environment with regular exhibitions.
The French wine capital of Bordeaux has been named Capital of Smart Tourism for 2022. Look out for its eco-focused vineyards, accessible tram lines and the Darwin Ecosystem: former military barracks now home to an urban farm and France’s largest organic restaurant
France’s first underwater museum, the Musée Subaquatique in Marseille features a series of sculptures submerged in the Anse des Catalans bay. And you can only reach it by diving. The museum aims to raise public awareness of environmental issues and marine biology. All the sculptures are created with recycled, pH-neutral cement
Take kayaks out to sea and explore the Chausey Islands, a wild archipelago 17km off the port of Granville on the Normandy coast. The islands are home to abundant wildlife and stunning white sand beaches, cut off from the world with a castaway feel.
The world’s largest urban rooftop urban farm has opened at French capital’s Expo Porte de Versailles. It’s a fast developing trend in the city. NU-Paris aims to produce up to 1,000kg of organic fresh produce daily from its hydroponic fruit and vegetable beds. It also boasts beehives, a greenhouse event space and a restaurant and bar.
Picture-perfect towns and villages
The ‘Plus Beaux Villages de France’ association counts around 160 member villages. They aim to promote and protect the country’s most enchanting hamlets. Meanwhile, the ‘Petites Cités de Caractère’ label champions outstanding rural towns paving the way for sustainable tourism
Building on France’s existing accessibility by train, the French government is increasing inter-regional connections to favour train travel within the country. The advanced railway network in France currently makes it possible to travel from Paris to Marseille in just 3 hours. Enjoy a slower pace of travel and holidays that start from the moment you board.
Over 190 French hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses have been awarded the EU Ecolabel for environmental excellence to date. Over 640 are members of the Clef Verte (Green Key). Some 40 establishments have so far been recognised by the Green Globe association.
Protected natural habitat
Since the 1913 launch of its first national park in Isère – the Parc de la Bérarde – France now counts 11 national parks spanning 60,000km2. There are 54 natural regional parks. Nine natural marine parks. And 47 ‘Grands Sites’. These outstanding natural areas welcome a whopping 32 million visitors each year.
France by boat
Les voies navigables de France (VNF) offers the perfect way to explore the wonders of France by boat. France’s vast inland waterway network expands across the country from Calais to Carcassonne. Take a step back and enjoy the simple pleasures of slow travel on water…
Local produce and specialties
From the Label Rouge and ‘Organic Agriculture’ label to AOP and AOC appellations, countless designations ensure the protection of local products. It’s a way to guarantee the origin and traceability of France’s cheeses, renowned wines and other gourmet staples.
The Michelin Green Star
The Michelin Guide launched this new Sustainable Gastronomy label in 2020, singling out eateries with excellent environmental practices including reduced food miles and local, seasonal fare. Over 50 restaurants have been awarded the green-dining accolade to date.
Find more great green travel ideas for France at: www.france.fr/en