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Europe is an incredibly diverse continent when it comes to countries. Crossing borders can feel like a whole other world – even when the countries are next to each other!
While both France and Italy are popular destinations to visit, Italy overall gets a lot of attention outside of Paris in France.
After living in France and spending some time backpacking around Italy, it was easy to see why people travel far and wide to come to both places.
But if you have a short amount of time, which country should you visit?
The iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris, France
It is safe to say that you won’t be bored on a vacation to either country. As two of Europe’s most-visited destinations, they offer so much in terms of exciting cities and gorgeous countryside.
But for comparison’s sake, let’s take a look at some of the top (and hidden) destinations you’ll want to see. Top experiences in France include:
- Eiffel Tower in Paris
- All the museums (Louvre, D’Orsay, L’Orangerie) in Paris
- Palace of Versailles
- Notre Dame in Paris
- Lyon, known as the capital of gastronomy
- D-Day Beaches of Normandy
- Mont St. Michel
- The charming mountain town (known as the “Venice of France”) of Annecy
- French Alps
- Beaches of Nice and the Cote d’Azur
- Christmas Markets in Strasbourg (the oldest Christmas market in France)
- All the amazing wine regions: Loire Valley, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, Languedoc, Cotes du Rhone
- Chateaus in the Loire Valley
Duomo di Firenze (the Florence Cathedral) in Florence, Italy
Next door to France in Italy, there are so many incredible destinations and things to do including:
- Trevi Fountain in Rome
- Colosseum and the Roman Forum in Rome
- The Vatican in Rome
- Spanish Steps in Rome
- The David in Florence
- Ponte Vecchio in Florence
- Carnival in Venice
- Canals of Venice
- Delicious wine regions of Tuscany, Piedmont, Lombardy, and more
- Beaches of the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre
- Gorgeous islands like Sicily, Capri, Sardinia, and more
- Ruins of Pompeii
- Fashion capital Milan
This is a tough call. Both countries have the most amazing attractions and destinations, and it definitely depends on what type of vacation you’d like to have. However, if I had to choose, I would pick France.
While you could spend months in Paris and never scratch the surface of things to do, there are incredible places to visit that are far less crowded around the country.
Italy vs France Tourist Destinations Winner: France
Mararola, the most famous of the five towns that make up the Cinque Terre coastline in Italy
Maybe you don’t necessarily think about either country when you think of a beach vacation, however, both have incredible beaches. And having frolicked along both countries’ seashores, I definitely have some experience in determining where to soak up the sun.
Italy is all about islands. Seriously, did you know there are about 350 islands off the coast of Italy?!
There are so many islands that you could definitely find a beach all to yourself. And as for the popular islands, I went in April and had a large beach on Capri all to myself. They also have several seashores along the country – I mean it is a peninsula after all!
The Cinque Terre and the Amalfi coastlines are world-renown. Combined with the relaxed, Italian culture, it is easy to relax and enjoy your time on any beach.
France has coastlines along the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Normandy is probably the most popular spot for Atlantic Ocean beaches, with soft, powdery sand (a rarity in Europe) and beautiful towns. However, it can get very crowded with tourists in the summer.
The French Riviera is known as a place of opulence and celebrity spotting. But outside of the Cannes Film Festival, there are plenty of gorgeous places to catch some sun.
If you enjoy a good island as I do, you’ll have to award this to Italy. Both places have amazing beaches, but Italy has so many coastlines, that making a stop to at least one beach on your trip is absolutely necessary.
Italy vs France Beaches Winner: Italy
The Louvre Museum in Paris, France
France and Italy rank as some of the most visited countries in the world.
France takes the cake with the number of tourists. At 86.9 million visitors in 2017, France tops the list as the most visited country in the world… but most of the people visiting France are going to Paris. And while Lyon, the alps, and the French Riviera get plenty of visitors, once you get outside of Paris, chances are you’ll see fewer tourists.
And in my experience living and traveling around France, most places feel more local than touristy (outside of Paris, of course).
Italy, on the other hand, received 58.3 million visitors. While that is significantly lower than France, they are concentrated around Florence, Rome, Venice, and more cities. I remember visiting Florence in April a few years ago and didn’t meet any Italians. Tourists were everywhere-restaurants, bars, along the streets, etc.
And while I saw more locals in Milan or Naples, if you visit places like Venice or Florence, prepare to see way more tourists than people that actually live there.
In this case, while Italy receives fewer tourists overall, you can’t visit the main spots without a crowd of people. Outside of Paris, you’ve got a lot of the country to visit with fewer people.
Italy vs France Crowds Winner: France
French and Italians know how to throw a party. I’ve danced the night away in Milan and partied for so long that I took the tram home in the morning in France. Did I mention the tram closes between midnight and 6 AM?
Italy is full of exciting nightclubs. If you are looking to party, Italians are the ones to party with. Start with aperitivo, Italy’s better version of “happy hour,” where you are supplied with delicious snacks with your drink. Enjoy that before the great clubs, especially in Rome and Milan.
France is less about partying late and more about dinner parties, wine bars, and wine-filled picnics in a park.
Now that I’m getting older, I far more prefer France’s more relaxed nightlife, but for those wishing to party hard, Italy has France beat.
Italy vs France Nightlife Winner: Italy
Bread, wine, meat, and cheese – a typical meal in France!
Food & Drink
This may be the toughest category yet. How can one choose between popular and always-enjoyable Italian fare to delicious and intriguing French cuisine? And as for the drinks – it’s a tough call.
On one hand, you’ve got all the pizza, pasta, risotto, and more from Italy. I mean every region and city has something special to offer. From traditional Napoli pizza to the creamy risotto from Milan, if you love carbs, definitely go to Italy.
And when it comes to drinks, Italy makes some great wine. There are also delicious liquors like limoncello, grappa, amaretto, and more.
On the other hand, French cuisine is simple and amazing.
Sure, foie gras may be a bit complicated, but nothing is better than a simple, roasted chicken. And don’t forget the bakeries and pastry shops! Macaroons, baguettes, and all the sweets and treats are phenomenal in France.
A personal favorite of mine is definitely the cheese. Hearty, melty, and delicious fondue and raclette in the winter is the most beautiful thing. Brie or Camembert smeared on a baguette is truly a thing of wonder.
What is the absolute best thing to come from France? Wine! As an avid wine lover, and someone who has visited many wine destinations, French wine is still my favorite. From crisp Chardonnay to full-bodied and flavorful Cabernet Sauvignon, France takes wine seriously, and you can tell.
In this category, call this an unpopular opinion, but France has it hands down. You can get good Italian food everywhere, but you can’t beat French bread and wine.
Italy vs FranceFood & Drink Winner: France
Safety and Friendliness
As two of the most visited countries in the world, petty theft is an issue. Pickpocketing happens frequently in touristy areas of the cities, and I don’t travel without a cross-body bag that I watch like a hawk in either place.
In my experience, I’ve noticed that some Italian men are a bit more aggressive. Catcalling and attention-seeking, it can make a solo traveler very uncomfortable and worried about her safety.
However, the people of Italy are much more friendly than in France. Willing to strike up conversations and help out, Italy is known as a friendly country.
French people, while known as being more standoffish, are wonderful. While more reserved, they are more than willing to help you out if needed. However, most of the time, French people keep to themselves and typically won’t just come up to you for conversation.
In this case, I think Italy has safety and friendliness over France.
Italy vs FranceSafety and Friendliness Winner: Italy
St Peter’s Basilica in Rome
Italy vs France Travel Winner
Let me first say that I love both countries.
France and Italy are 100% worth a visit at least once in your lifetime. And while they are wonderful places to visit, France gets the vote for the amazing food and wine, diverse destinations, and is overall incredible.
So if you are short on time and can’t go to both, make France your pick. You won’t regret it.
Kat is the founder of World Wide Honeymoon, a travel blog and podcast that she co-hosts with her husband, Chris, dedicated to all things couples travel. She is a travel hacking addict who is passionate about helping other couples experience the world through travel and get there for less (and maybe in a little luxury too).
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This article is part of the EU Smackdown series. Read the rest below:
Then, check out the complete Country Comparison series for more showdowns from around the world!