People cycling along the Loire River in Chatilllon sur Loire, France.
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Sustainable and responsible travel in France

While nobody could claim that France is an off-the-beaten-track destination that desperately relies on tourist dollars, the country is a surprisingly green place to travel to.

With huge investments in rail travel, France has made it easier than ever to explore its time-honoured tourist routes with considerable reductions on our carbon footprints.

But there are new and exciting things to discover too. From hiking and cycling routes to sustainable food and farm-to-fork initiatives, France's developed tourism network makes it easy to seek out green experiences and plan eco-friendly trips - even if you are on a budget.

Sustainable travel in France

Travelling sustainably in France is easier than ever with the country's affordable and extensive 27,000km railway network. The country is leading the way in rail travel; in 2022, France banned short haul domestic flights between cities that are linked by a train journey of less than 2.5 hours.

Ditch the car and the domestic flights in favour of slow travel - in fact, sometimes it’s not slow at all as you can get from Paris to Marseille in just three hours (a journey that would take at least eight hours by car)!

Accommodation is another easy way in which you can make a difference. Look for the EU Ecolabel that’s been awarded to over 190 French hotels, hostels, Chambres d'hôte and gîtes, or try to opt for somewhere that’s a member of the Green Key initiative.

Overtourism and slow travel

Unfortunately, travelling in France's major tourist destinations in peak season only creates more overtourism issues. But avoid either, and you’re treated to fewer crowds, lower prices, and more unique experiences. Who really needs to see another picture of the Eiffel Tower anyway, right?

Discover rural France by exploring the ‘Plus Beaux Villages de France’ or the ‘Petites Cités de Caractère’; labels recognising villages and towns with historic significance, unparalleled beauty, or an intangible culture that’s worth preserving.

When it comes to slow tourism, France is perfectly suited for exploring on two wheels. With over 20,000 kilometres of cycle trails and greenways, the hardest part might just be picking a region.

Some of the best options for cycling holidays in France include the Vélodyssée, Vélomaritime, La Seine a Vélo, and Loire a Vélo.

In cities, bicycle-sharing schemes like Vélib’ in Paris provide access to thousands of bicycles and bike-rental stations throughout the city. This way, you can cut out the fossil fuels and travel by pedal power in Nice, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Rouen, Lyon, Bordeaux, and Marseille.

Another fantastic way of travelling slowly is by hiring a boat to explore one of France's many beautiful waterways.

A firm favourite is the Canal du Midi, which stretches over 240 km from Toulouse to Sete on the south coast of France. Or hit the trails by foot on one of the 369 Grande Randonnée hiking trails.

Sustainable trips and experiences in France

With 11 national parks and 54 regional parks, the country's commitment to protecting the environment means there are plenty of options for green places to visit in France.

If city hopping is on your list, head to the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France to visit Grenoble - named European Green Capital for 2022, or the long-celebrated sustainable city of Nantes.

The French Alps are best known for one thing: skiing and snowboarding power winters throughout the region. Look for the Green Snowflake or ‘Flocon Vert’ label at mountain tourist destinations to make sure that you are supporting the local environment that brings joy to so many.

In response to climate change, France has also invested heavily in summer activities in the Alps, including hiking and adventure sports, so you can make the most of this epic destination year-round.

Food and drink

Thoughts of food miles and seasonal produce have made their way into every corner of French cuisine, with the country recently even banning single-use tableware in fast food outlets.

Home of delectable cheeses, fine wines, and even finer patisseries, you can be sure of quality produce by looking for the red label and ‘Organic Agriculture’ stamp, as well as the AOP and AOC designations.

Urban farms and farm-to-fork dining is growing in popularity in France, with 82 restaurants that have now been awarded the Michelin Green Star - the most of any country in the world.

Events going green

Known for its sporting events, France is once again leading the way with an eco-conscious approach to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

By using 100% renewable energy and repurposing 95% of the venues for the games from existing sites, they are implementing standards that will be hard to keep up with.

Equestrian events will be held at the beautiful Versailles, while beach volleyball will play out on the Champ de Mars underneath the watchful eye of the Eiffel Tower.

Further reading

Learn more about France’s many sustainable labels and eco certifications on Explore France’s official website.

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Jo Williams

Author - Jo Williams

Jo Williams is a freelance writer with 10 years' experience working in travel and tourism. A Brit who got fed up with the 9 to 5 corporate life, she sold everything to become a full-time wanderer.

Jo has travelled to over 70 countries and worked throughout Europe for a major tour operator. She hopes to inspire you to work less and travel more.

Last Updated 14 December 2023

Lavender fields on the Plateau of Valensole, France


Hugely popular with tourists. France features on almost every bucket list. Just the mention of France evokes dreams of cobblestoned streets, rustic restaurants, charming villages and world-renowned food.