on September 25, 2004
I've made >20 visits to France all together. Here are my reviews of the best guides....to meet you r exact needs.....I hope these are helpful and that you have a great visit! I always gauge the quality of my visit by how much I remember a year later......this review is designed to help you get the guide that will be sure YOU remember your trip many years into the future. Travel Safe and enjoy yourself to the max!
Lonely Planet has City and Out To Eat Guides. They are all about the experience so they focus on doing, being, getting there, and this means they have the best detailed information, including both inexpensive and really spectacular restaurants and hotels, out-of-the-way places, weird things to see and do, the list is endless.
These are time tested guides that pride themselves on being updated annually. Although I think the guides below provide information that is in more depth or more concise (depending on what the guide is known for), if your main concern is that the guide has very little old or outdated information, then this would be a good guide for you.
Famous for their quality reviews, the Red Michelin Guides are for hotels & Restaurants, the Green Michelin Guides are for main tourist destinations. However, the English language Green guide is the one most people use and it has now been supplemented with hotel and restaurant information. These are the serious review guides as the famous Michelin ratings are issued via these books.
Fodor's is the best selling guide among Americans. They have a bewildering array of different guides. Here's which is what:
The Gold Guide is the main book with good reviews of everything and lots of tours, walks, and just about everything else you could think of. It's not called the Gold guide for nothing though....it assumes you have money and are willing to spend it.
SeeIt! is a concise guide that extracts the most popular items from the Gold Guide
PocketGuide is designed for a quick first visit
UpCLOSE for independent travel that is cheap and well thought out
CityPack is a plastic pocket map with some guide information
Exploring is for cultural interests, lots of photos and designed to supplement the Gold guide
MapGuide is very easy to use and has the best location information for hotels, tourist attractions, museums, churches etc. that they manage to keep fairly up to date. It's great for teaching you how to use the Metro. The text sections are quick overviews, not reviews, but the strong suite here is brevity, not depth. I strongly recommend this for your first few times learning your way around the classic tourist sites and experiences. MapGuide is excellent as long as you are staying pretty much in the center of the city.
The Time Out guides are very good. Easy reading, short reviews of restaurants, hotels, and other sites, with good public transport maps that go beyond the city centre. Many people who buy more than one guidebook end up liking this one best!
Without doubt, the best of the walks guides.... the Blue Guide has been around since 1918 and has extremely well designed walks with lots of unique little side stops to hit on just about any interest you have. If you want to pick up the feel of the city, this is the best book to do that for you. This is one that you end up packing on your 10th trip, by which time it is well worn.
Let's Go is a great guide series that specializes in the niche interest details that turn a trip into a great and memorable experience. Started by and for college students, these guides are famous for the details provided by people who used the book the previous year. They continue to focus on providing a great experience inexpensively. If you want to know about the top restaurants, this is not for you (use Fodor's or Michelin). Let's Go does have a bewildering array of different guides though. Here's which is what:
Budget Guide is the main guide with incredibly detailed information and reviews on everything you can think of.
City Guide is just as intense but restricted to the single city.
PocketGuide is even smaller and features condensed information
MapGuide's are very good maps with public transportation and some other information (like museum hours, etc.)
Rick Steves' books are not recommended. They may be an interesting read but their helpfulness is very poor. They don't do well on updates, transportation details, or anything but the first-time-tourist routine and even that is somewhat superficial on anything but the mega-major sites.
on August 17, 1997
Lonely Planet's "France: Travel Survival Kit" was essential to the success of our 21 day journey in France. My boyfriend and I did know where we were headed or what we wanted to do. Using this well organized, percise guide we found ourselves hikeing cliffs in Brittany and wondering backroads in Cote D'Azur.
We were new to the country and traveling by train. The first 160 pages of the guide were packed with all the many essentials of travel -- trains, monetary system, telephone cards -- the little things that make a huge difference. Who wants to spend the first few hours in France trying to figure out how the phones works?
We wanted to see France, not a heap of tourist attraction wizzing by us. Everywhere we went, this guide showed us the not so traveled places. Even in busy Paris, with help from our trusty guide, we visited flea markets and neighborhoods where tourists don't often venture. These were the places that gave us the real flavor of France.
I loved my trip to France. I can honestly say, due to this guide I was able to relax and enjoy the visit more. We relied upon it for finding accomidations and entertainment. It never failed us. We love you, Lonely Planet
on August 12, 2005
If you're traveling to different regions and cities within France via train, bus, or plane, I'd definitely recommend this book. It offers very useful getting-to and getting-away options. For instance, if you want to travel between Normandy and Etretat, it requires a rather complex series of transfers using buses and possibly some trains - there is no direct train route (as I assumed before reading up on it in this book). This book alerts you to issues and offers alternative solutions. (Benefit: avoid unexpected, time-consuming problems and enjoy your trip more).
Lonely Planet Guides are not pretty, but they are useful when traveling around a country. I usually leave them back in the hotel room for consultation as needed. I've also carried photo copies of portions of them when I've been certain that's all I'd need. I would not be as likely to carry one if I was sure I was only going to stay in one city. They make it easy to take a sidetrip on the spur of the moment --especially when you're on a budget and traveling sans computer and Internet connection. (They also list cybercafes.) And, finally, I've found a few intriguing tidbits and advice not offered elsewhere.
If only staying in Paris, and it's your first visit, I recommend also carrying the AAA Spiral Paris Guide and the National Geographic Paris DestinationMap as they are pocket-sized. If you have more to spend, I'd also research using other books ahead of time and make hotel reservations based on other books, e.g., Michelin Green Guides, Fodor's Guides, etc. If you're on a budget and back-packing, make reservations using this guide. (Important to make reservations in Paris.)
on March 4, 2001
I like the Lonely Planet guides, and I owe much of the pleasures I've experienced while traveling to them. But this one is lacking.
OK, it is young in spirit, and it does read like a book about France (i.e. high on atmosphere). And unlike most of the other guides of this series, it does cater for those who are not on a shoestring, as well as its regular low budgeted audiences.
However, when it comes to descriptions, it is simply beaten by the opposition, mainly the Eyesight guides. When it comes to France, the Lonely Planet's cheap format of black & white paper, without too many pictures, maps and photos, cannot stand up and face more modern competition.
As France is expensive anyway, you're better of with one of the alternatives even if you are on a shoestring; use other resources, like the web, for the kind of help you usually rely on Lonely Planet to supply you.
on July 21, 1998
It's very simple. You could be dropped into France with this book and the clothes on your back and you'd be completely fine. This is the one indispensable book for travel in France. I spent almost a month running around France with this book, and it's the best. It will get you closer to the stuff that is not mentioned in *any* guidebook than any other travel guide.
on May 19, 2005
First, I have to say that I bought a Lonely Planet France in 2002; it was in Francs, not Euros, even though Euros were the main currency AND they were so annoying as to put the currency conversion on every page but not convert within the text. That forced me to buy the next edition, which was not really much different except prices were in Euros.
France is a fantastic country, with enough sites to see in several lifetimes. So I approach my assessment with an understanding that the book can't include anything - just a sample from each area.
Some people don't like the textual basis of the book, but I do. It is good to get an impression and judgment, though usually when it says "too touristy" to me that means most interesting, as I am, after all, a tourist. For example, Lonely Planet is critical of Mont Saint Michel, which is the nicest place I've ever been to in my life (I recommend staying during the night when it is much more peaceful).
I have found that the diagrams and picture-heavy guides such as eyewitness are less useful - why do i need a map of the louvre? You get one when you enter! I do wish Lonely Planet had more photos, however; and I think that it has too much text about stupid things such as net cafes, laundry, etc. that you can more easily find out about by asking someone at the tourist office. I think of all the things i want to know when i go to some nice provence village, the laundromat is not one of them.
I still use my Lonely Planets (one at work, one at home) to think about places to go because Lonely Planet France has MORE destinations and descriptions than any other guide (thanks to its wordiness). HOWEVER when i actually travel i leave the Lonely Planets at home and bring my regional GUIDE VERT / GREEN GUIDE, which is much better for its relevant locale.
I notably do not use the restaurant guide - i just look at the menus when im walking around (or just eat at McDonald's!); and as for the hotels, the guide is fine or use the internet or just show up and book yourself in.
on May 11, 2011
We used the Kindle edition of Lonely Planet France on a month-long trip and found it really frustrating. It is an excellent way to waste large amounts of time on your vacation.
We used it on three devices - Kindle, iPad, and iPhone. Key problems:
- There is no map of France in the Kindle edition. This is bizzare! It would have been really helpful.
- The maps are chopped into tiny little fragments. You can zoom in on the fragments but moving between them is really frustrating. This is especially bad in cities like Avignon, Lyon, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, or Paris where the map is cut right in the center of the old parts of town.
- Listings do not include links to map page, the listing number on the map, the map fragment number, or coordinates (except in Paris, where there is at least a link to the map). Initially, this didn't seem like a big deal, but what it means in practice is that if you find a restaurant you want to visit, you need to follow many steps to find it:
1. First, find the restaurant section and look up the name of the restaurant
2. Scroll back 20 pages to the map legend, one page at a time. In a big city it can take a minute or so to scroll on a mobile device.
3. Note down the number that represents your restaurant on the map, and the coordinates (i.e. 45, F-2)
4. Locate the fragment of the map that has the square F-2 on it. Not all fragments have both letter and number sides.
5. Locate the number of your restaurant
6. Find the fragment of map where you currently are
7. Scroll back and forth between the two fragments of map to figure out how they connect. Locate any intermediate map sections you need to cross
8. Scroll back 20 pages to the restaurant listing to look up its address because the map is vague about exactly which street the restaurant is on.
9. Start walking until you get to the restaurant
10. There is no restaurant by that name at that location
11. Look up the address in a separate directory
12. Realize that the dot was on the wrong part of the map (this happened to us only once, to be fair, in Strasbourg, but the restaurant was a half mile walk from the dot on the map).
Seriously, the maps are horribly hard to use. I don't think anyone at Lonely Planet has tried to take a trip using the Kindle editions.
Plus, some of the listings are out of date. We spent a week in Avignon and went to most of the restaurants listed in the Avignon section. All were significantly more expensive (i.e. 35 lunch menus instead of 10 lunch menus).
Over the course of our month in France, we spent countless hours struggling with the maps and then walking to restaurants that turned out to be massively more expensive than expected. We've used LP guides for 10 years, and this was by far the worst experience.
Do not buy the Kindle version at all.
on December 23, 2002
We used Lonely Planets for holiday travel in southern France for the first (and possible last) time. The recommended restaurant of Peter Mayle fame, Gu et Fils, on Frederick Mistral in Aix was either a typo or non-existent as we located the street but no restaurant to be found. Restaurant Le Merou Bleu of Marsailles was a mediocre tourist trap with despicable service. The impersonal nature of the LP recommendations for hotels merely define the facilities, but do not say enough about the character or level of cleanliness. We checked in (and out of) one of Lonely Planet's recommended two star hotels in Avignon and for about five euros more per night, found a potential three star hotel that was much better siutated, cleaner, bigger and quieter.
on August 13, 2000
This book is fine for nuts and bolts "how to use the phone in France" type information, and it may be ok for travellers on a rock bottom budget. However, my travelling companion and I were not satisfied with the quality of information provided in the book. For example, descriptions of directions to different attractions were frequently available only from metro and train stations instead of from major highways. In addition, it seemed as though the reviewers had not eaten at most of the restaurants they recommended. Finally, there was no mention whatsoever of several of the towns we visited, such as Vitre and Fougeres, both of which are reasonably large towns in Brittany. I know a guide can't include every city, but I later found these two were included in most other guides available. Next time I go to France, I will be using a different guide.
on September 15, 2002
Boy was this book a disappointment. Other LP guides weren't this bad. It seems this book only tries to get you to those places every other tourist is at, and only by public transportation. It skips out-of-the-way places that locals know and love, chooses hotels in noisy central sections of larger towns only. Worse, my 2002 edition still didn't give costs in Euro! Thanks to friends living in various areas of France, I was able to visit wonderful places that aren't even mentioned in the book. Restaurants were poorly chosen, and almost always tourist traps. If you rented a car (which is a really smart way as a group) you won't find any info in this book about getting around, or doing such duh! activities as wine-tasting routes, swimming holes, you-pick farms, sound-and-light shows. LP, if you're reading this: ever heard of the Puy-du-Fou? Everyone in Europe seems to have been there!