France is renowned for its remarkable scenery, delicious cuisine, and rich cultural heritage. But with the growing issue of over-tourism, it’s important to find alternative ways to enjoy this beautiful country.

Sustainable travel in France is becoming increasingly popular. Tourism boards, cities, and travelers are all looking for eco-friendly options. And the more people who take part in this form of travel the more it encourages others to do so as well.

From staying in eco-friendly hotels to exploring cities by bike, there are tons of ways to visit France without harming its future.

So, to help you plan your trip, here’s how you can discover France sustainably.

Getting Around France Sustainably

France is a large country, so it’s important to consider how you will get around while reducing your carbon footprint.

The most sustainable way to travel is by train, and there are three types.

High-speed TGV trains offer connections between major cities and are one of the most reliable forms of transportation. If, for example, you want to travel from Paris to Strasbourg, this would be the best option. OUIGO trains are slower than TGV trains, but they are also cheaper. Finally, TER regional trains are an option when you want to visit cities within the same region.

Other ways to travel sustainably include taking a bus or renting a bike. 

Flixbus and BlaBlaCar are the two main bus companies. Both offer a variety of long and short-distance travel options.

Then, most places have cycling paths and cities like Paris are becoming more bike-friendly. It’s the perfect opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of local communities while reducing your impact on the environment.

15 Sustainable Things to Do in France

1. Shop at Local Markets

Shopping at local markets in France is a great way to support the local economy and promote sustainable tourism. Markets are full of fresh produce, crafts, and other products that support small businesses and farmers.

You’ll find almost every city in France has some type of market.

In big cities like Paris, Lyon, and Marseille, markets rotate around. And there’s usually one every day!

Just be sure to bring your own bags. As of 2021, France banned a lot of plastic-based products, including plastic bags. What a great step towards zero-waste shopping.

2. Choose Eco-friendly Accommodation

There are tons of sustainable accommodation options available in France. But you have to know what to look for.

The most common organization used to find eco-friendly places to stay is called Gîtes de France. From cottages to campsites, they have tons of options throughout the country. 

If you see an accommodation labeled with either Gîtes Panda or ÉcoGîte, you can be sure they are committed to reducing their environmental impact.

Another organization dedicated to sustainable accommodation in France is Clef Verte. 

Before an establishment can display its logo, it must first qualify. And there’s a list of strict criteria. As an example, it can’t offer any activity that harms the natural environment. Then, it must show what efforts are being done to minimize the use of water and electricity.

Hotel recommendations:

Les Echasses France

Les Échasses Eco Lodge

Located in Saubion, close to the Atlantic coast and surf paradise Biarritz, Les Échasses Eco Lodge offers a paradise for nature lovers. A stunning place with everything you could wish for in a hotel – led with so much love in every detail from the rooms, the meals and of course their sustainability efforts.

Souki Lodges & Spa

An exceptional stay awaits you at Souki Lodges & Spa. Everything from their sustainable design, meals prepared with passion and the breathtaking surroundings will make you never want to leave again. You can enjoy a view over the treetops from their wooden bathrooms and be at one with nature in Occitanie.

Maison Aribert

Will you believe me, if I tell you that this gorgeous gem used to be an abandoned building in the Uriage-Les-Bain park? This stunning project resulted in an energy-efficient bio-climatic hotel with only local, sustainably sourced materials with even a green-starred chef (and 2 Michelin stars). A dream for foodies close to Grenoble!

3. Rent a Bike in Strasbourg

France is home to thousands of bike trails. From Wine Routes to cross-country paths, there are so many options.

And what better city to rent a bike in than Strasbourg?

As France’s most bike-friendly city, you’ll find over 600 kilometers of biking trails here. It’s actually one of the most popular things to do in Strasbourg!

Rent a bike and explore the city, follow the EuroVelo 15, or visit the Alsace Wine Route. Whether you’re looking for a city excursion or what to visit the French countryside, there’s a biking itinerary for you.

4. Visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Visiting a UNESCO World Heritage Site is an excellent way to explore France sustainably. These sites are protected for their outstanding cultural and natural significance. By visiting, you’re contributing to the preservation efforts.

Some must-visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France include the Loire Valley, Mont Saint-Michel, and the historic site of Lyon. In fact, there are so many sites to see in Lyon that no matter where you go in town you’ll be donating to the effort.

Sustainable Travel in Lyon, France

Lyon’s Old Town at Sunrise

5. Go Hiking in the Pyrenees

The Pyrenees is a mountain range that forms a natural border between France and Spain. It stretches a whopping 800 kilometers and is known for its stunning landscapes and abundant wildlife.

It’s also home to some of the best hiking trails in the country. From beginner-level day hikes to more challenging multi-day treks, there is something for everyone. Some of the most spectacular hikes include the Ayous Lakes Circuit, Lac de Gaube, and Mont Valier.

If you choose to do one of the multi-day hikes, you’ll be happy to know that there are eco-friendly lodges along the way. You can even camp. But remember to practice Leave No Trace principles.

6. Eat at Environmentally Conscience Restaurants

Eating sustainably while traveling in France is easy to do when you know where to go. In fact, many restaurants practice eco-friendly principles such as using locally sourced ingredients.

While there are no labels that identify restaurants that are eco-conscience, there are a few things you can look for.

First, if they are using locally produced products their menus will have one of two labels.

  • AB, which stands for Agriculture Biologique. This label guarantees that the products are organic.
  • AOC or Controlled Designation of Origin guarantees that the products are locally produced.

Second, look for vegetarian and vegan restaurants. There’s no denying that France isn’t known for either of these, but they do exist. And, by choosing to eat at these establishments you’re helping promote them.

7. Walk around Paris

Paris is one of the most iconic cities in France, but most people take some form of transport to get around.

So, why not choose a more sustainable option and take in the sights by walking?

You can explore narrow lanes, wander through the lavish parks, or tour one of the less-visited neighborhoods. Either way, it’s a low-carbon way to get to know Paris.

Plus, there are a ton of travel apps for France and Paris that can help you get around. Google Maps and Citymapper work well in Paris, but you’ll need internet access. Otherwise, is a great offline option.

Paris Coulee Verte Rene Dumont

Going for a Stroll in Paris along the Coulée Verte René-Dumont

8. Drink from a Reusable Water Bottle

One of the most effective things you can do to decrease your environmental impact while traveling is to bring a reusable water bottle. Not only will this help reduce plastic waste, but you’ll also be saving money.

In general, tap water in France is safe to drink, which makes it easy to bring a reusable water bottle. 

If you plan on hiking in a remote place, it’s best to bring a bottle that has a filter like the Grayl water bottle. While natural sources might look clean, if there are animals nearby, you can’t guarantee that the water is free of animal waste.

8. Go Camping in the Vosges Mountains

The Vosges Mountains are one of the most overlooked mountain ranges in France. Most travelers jet off to the Alps, never giving this pristine area a thought.

With beautiful vistas and picturesque villages, there’s something for everyone here.

And what better way to appreciate this vast mountain range than to go camping? Not only is it a low-impact way to visit the area, but you’ll also be supporting local tourism initiatives. It’s the perfect way to enjoy all that this natural landscape has to offer. 

While there are tons of places to camp, some of the best sites include Camping Mettey, Camping du Lac, and La Bresse Campground.

Vosges Mountains Francec

Vosges Mountains in France

10. Visit Lesser-Known Cities

Traveling sustainably in France doesn’t have to mean foregoing big cities. But if you want to reduce your carbon footprint, consider visiting some lesser-known places. From quaint villages in Burgundy and Provence to small towns tucked away on the coast, France has plenty of hidden gems that are worth exploring.

Some of the most overlooked places include Metz, Munster, Le Puy-en-Velay, Troyes, and Nantes. Visiting these places not only helps the local economy but also reduces overcrowding in popular cities like Paris and Nice. As a bonus, it’s a great way to get off the beaten path and experience authentic French culture!

11. Use the Right Trash Bins

When it comes to sustainable travel in France, one of the most important things you can do is use the right trash bins and recycle. This ensures that resources are used as efficiently as possible. It also reduces waste and helps protect the environment.

In France, there are different categories of trash bins. Most bins are labeled and color-coded, making it very difficult to make a mistake.

If you see a yellow lid, this is for paper, cardboard, and plastics. Glass bins are green and have a round slot. Sometimes these can be hard to find, so make sure to ask if you don’t see one nearby. General trash bins usually have a green or grey lid but be careful. It changes for each region.

Keep in mind that batteries and electronics should not be discarded in the general trash bins. If you need to throw out one of these items, head to a grocery store. Most have a dedicated repository.

12. Discover France in Autumn

Summers in France are overcrowded with tourists. It’s the most popular time of the year to visit. But it’s also the most expensive.

So, why not travel during the off-season?
Autumn in particular is a great time to visit France.

The air is crisp, the sun is almost always shining, and the fall colors are spectacular. Go apple picking in Normandy, hike through the vineyards of Provence, or admire the fall colors in the Vosges.

There is an endless list of things to do this time of year. Not only that but there are far fewer people, so you’ll be helping to reduce mass tourism.

Sustainable Travel in France

France in Autumn

13. Travel Slowly

There are so many things to see and do in France, it’s tempting to try to fit everything into one trip or itinerary. But it’s far better for the environment to travel slowly.

By focusing on one area, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the culture. You’ll have more time to explore small towns, visit local markets, and savor the little things.

And since France is divided into regions, it’s very easy to plan a trip that emphasizes slow travel.

As an example, the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes has so many wonderful places to visit like Lyon, Grenoble, and Chambéry. You could easily spend a week or two exploring these cities alone.

14. Try Eco-Friendly Wine

France is known for having the best wine in the world, especially from regions like Bordeaux. And, in recent years, eco-friendly wine has grown in popularity. More and more vineyards are improving their production methods and looking to reduce their impact. 

There are three types of eco-friendly wine in France – organic wine, natural wine, and biodynamic wine.

Organic wines are made with grapes that are grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. 

Natural wines are organic, but they are also free of any additives, like sulfates. 

Biodynamic wine is a process of growing grapes that takes into account the entire ecosystem of the vineyard. It’s organic wine on a whole new level. From the soil to the animals grazing next to the vineyard, it’s one of the strictest production methods.

You can find eco-friendly wines in any grocery store, market, or restaurant. Wines that fit into these categories are labeled with an AB (Agriculture Biologique).

Wine Route in France

A Cycling Path on the Alsace Wine Route in France

15. Explore the Camargue Nature Reserve

The Camargue Nature Reserve in southeastern France is a beautiful and ecologically diverse area. Covering over 800 square kilometers of wild wetlands, it’s home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. There’s also an impressive amount of wildlife. From pink flamingos to white horses, there’s no shortage of amazing things to see.

It’s a great place for birdwatchers, as well as hikers and cyclists looking for a peaceful outdoor adventure. No matter what you choose to do, your visit will contribute to the ongoing conservation efforts.

Sustainable Travel in France Wrap-Up

France is a wonderful country that offers travelers an amazing variety of experiences. From its rich history to its breathtaking natural beauty, there’s something for everyone. But it’s important to travel responsibly. Consider booking an eco-friendly hotel, carrying a reusable water bottle, or traveling in the off-season. Every effort you make will go to protecting and preserving this beautiful destination.

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