Statistics and surveys all agree upon one thing: France is the perfect holiday destination. Known for its incredible cultural riches and relentless pursuit of the good life, France has captured the imagination of the world.
Holidays in France have something for everyone – from hardworking parents after a wallet-friendly family package deal to France, to the sophisticated traveller looking for the height of luxury in an urban bolthole or a country château.
If you can afford a holiday anywhere in Europe, you can afford one in France, as long as you work within your budget. If in doubt, avoid expensive hotels and tourist traps, try alternative solutions. Here are our best ideas on enjoying France without breaking the bank.
Ride to Cap de la Hague, Normandy
Leaving the car in a safe residential area of Portsmouth, cycle to the terminal and take a ferry to Cherbourg, about £50 return. In Cherbourg, turn right and you’ll find a cycle path all the way to Querqueville, then quiet country lanes. The countryside is really beautiful, with great beaches. Stay at a cheap B&B in Auderville, and eat seafood at Goury.
The island of Houat, Brittany
This is an irresistible island of sweeping sandy beaches, a port, a restaurant and two cafes. Cross the channel on a car ferry with tent and bikes, leave the car in Quiberon and take the boat. Cycle to the tip of Houat and camp wild like the French do. There’s not a lot to do, just the beauty of nature, but that’s why you’re here.
Municipal campsite, Estaing, Aveyron
The best way to enjoy a budget holiday in France is to use the municipal campsites they have in most towns and larger villages. Good value and clean, with hot showers, these can be very cheap in out-of-the-way places, such as the picturesque town of Estaing at the eastern end of the Lot valley. For an easy-going holiday, just decide on a region and a rough route. Then choose somewhere to stop – look for small towns on rivers and you can’t go wrong. You only need book in touristy areas.
Tipis, Luz-Saint-Saveur, Hautes Pyrénées
On the edge of the French Pyrenees are four well-equipped tipis (sleeping four to six) with breathtaking views of the Cirque de Garvarnie. There are many reasons why this might be your best holiday ever: spectacular walks, singsongs round the campfire while pet goats roam around you, and it won’t cost the earth.
Le Port de Limeuil, Dordogne
This is a great campsite for families, couples and friends on a budget. At the confluence of the Dordogne and the Vézère, it’s wonderful for swimming, relaxing and fishing. You’re allowed to barbecue, but there is a great restaurant on site, and more restaurants and a few bars a short way away.
Camping in the Auvergne
Camping de la Filature is a small, tranquil site in an orchard beside the gentle Sioule river. This is outdoor life at its most peaceful, with plenty of opportunities for walking, cycling, fishing and wild swimming. The Auvergne is a beautiful, yet relatively undiscovered region of France and campsite fees are much lower than in more touristy destinations.