How to visit Paris during the 2024 Olympic Games

How to visit Paris during the 2024 Olympic Games

2024 is Paris’s year as the biggest sporting event in the world comes to the city: the Olympic Games. What a thrill! Over 15 million visitors are expected to descend on the French capital during the Games, with the opening ceremony on July 26th. Security, transport, access… with so much going on, how do you make the most of your time in Paris? Vacances Actives Linguistiques has brought you a helpful guide to help you enjoy your trip to Paris during the Olympics.

How to plan your stay in Paris during the Olympics

Be prepared! Plan everything in advance from your trip and travel to any bookings or tickets you need. As a travel agency, we understand the importance of forward planning and how it can make or break a trip. Here are some websites to visit, key figures and top tips to help you plan your time in Paris during the Olympics.

2024 Olympic Games schedule

The Paris Olympics will take place between July 26th and August 11th 2024 with over 300 events and 10,500 athletes at 35 Olympic venues. View the full schedule here:

Getting around Paris during the Olympics

Avoid taking your car !

Traffic is always tricky in Paris, so the Olympics aren’t going to help! With crowds, road and subway line closures, whether you drive or use public transport, traffic is going to be heavy. 

What’s the best way to get around Paris? A good walk to stretch the legs and get up close to the capital’s wonders. 

What’s the second-best option? Hire a bike or scooter (you’ll have to hire one from a shop because there are no self-service scooters in central Paris anymore). That means you can zip through the security areas without aggravating the traffic.

Prefer public transport

Last but not least: public transport. The Métro, RER, buses and trams are the best alternative to cars but some subway stations will be closed.  

  • Métro and RER: more services to meet demand. View live travel information for times and disruption.
  • Bus and Tram: more services available but some bus routes will be diverted subject to events.
  • Pick up a special pass like the “Pass JO 2024” for unlimited travel in Paris and Île-de-France. Book early: the price of tickets and passes is going up on July 20th! You can view ticket/pass prices here!

Use the interactive map to get around

A must-have interactive transport map covering all transport methods is available so you can plan how you get around Ile de France. Bookmark the website during your trip to Paris!

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a flying taxi! 

We’re not joking: there will be taxis flying over Paris during the Olympics to trial a new form of transport! Air taxis or VTOLs (vertical take-off and landing aircrafts) are a hybrid between a helicopter and drone which can transport a driver and passenger. Is this the future of Parisian taxis? 

Security and crowd control

The Paris police force has established several security perimeters around the Olympic sites with traffic restrictions. There are several levels of security with red, blue and grey zones. Traffic and crowd control applies to these zones and you need a pass to get in.

Black perimeter – SILT (anti-terrorism)

This perimeter covers the competition venues and opening ceremony. Only people with tickets or approved by Paris 2024 can enter this perimeter. You can only attend the opening ceremony on July 26th if you have a ticket or invitation.

Red perimeter: no vehicles allowed

No cars, buses or motor vehicles are allowed in this perimeter. It covers the area around competition venues, the Olympic and Paralympic marathon route, cycling events and along the Seine during the opening ceremony (and several days beforehand). It comes into force 2.5 hours before the first event begins and ends when the last event finishes. No restrictions apply to pedestrians or cyclists, so visit on foot or by bike! 

Blue perimeter: traffic control

The blue perimeter covers the area outside the red perimeter with the same traffic and enforcement requirements as the red perimeter.  

Find out all the information you need about passes, proof of ID, QR codes and how to access the security perimeters here: 

Beat the crowd

Now here’s a handy website for visiting Paris without battling the crowds during the Olympics!! provides real-time or estimated information about attendance at all the cultural and visitor attractions during the milestone event. Some of the biggest landmarks in Paris are going to be packed with tourists. It’s best to explore lesser-known but equally fascinating places in Paris to avoid the crowds. You’ll enjoy your time in Paris far more if you visit the city’s quieter museums, little-known parks and pretty neighbourhoods!


Museums and cultural sites

New exhibitions for the Olympics

Paris’s museums and landmarks are open during the Olympics… just with higher prices and bigger queues. 

Exhibitions exploring the Olympics, art and sport are on show throughout the capital all summer. 

  • The Louvre: the Richelieu Gallery at the Louvre is hosting an exhibition called “Olympism: Modern Invention, Ancient Legacy” until September 16th to celebrate the Olympic Games. 
  • There are Olympic art installations at several visitor attractions in Paris, including sculptures by Laurent Perbos in front of the Assemblée Nationale and the 4 Cardinals of Sport by Gad Weil and Alexandra Castaing at Belvédère Claude-Gérard Marcus on Canal Saint-Martin. 

Emblematic locations welcome medal winners

How about the Eiffel Tower? 

The Iron Lady is open during the Olympics! Admission costs a little extra… 

Otherwise, it’s just as amazing to see it from the ground or one of the Olympic sites: Champ-de-Mars. The pop-up stadium is hosting the beach volleyball and blind football events. Visitors can congratulate the previous day’s medallists at Parc des Champions, at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower on Place du Trocadéro

The Jardin des Tuileries

It plays host to the Olympic torch throughout the event. The park is an idyllic place for a walk in the shade of its paths, fountains and sculptures. Take some time out to unwind on one of the iconic green chairs and soak up the Olympic atmosphere as you feast your eyes on the capital’s historical beauty.

The Parc de la Villette

It is where it’s all happening: its Grande Halle is hosting Club France and French sporting federations. The Olympic Village is on the Seine riverbanks, between Saint-Denis, Saint-Ouen-Sur-Seine and Île-Saint-Denis.

It’s best to get off the beaten track. That way your trip to Paris won’t turn into an Olympic battle with crowds and soaring costs. Paris is as beautiful and spellbinding as ever, the buzzing atmosphere of the event is the cherry on the cake!

Anniversary: OUR top 7 language stay memories

Anniversary: OUR top 7 language stay memories

Vacances Actives Linguistiques is turning 7! 

Vacances Actives Linguistiques would like to share 7 travel memories to celebrate this milestone moment – with the emphasis on mile! Join your favourite study abroad agency on an adventure visiting all our top destinations for cultural experiences jam-packed with excitement and surprises! 

1. Cheese fondue in the middle of June…

This group of American visitors will never forget their light lunch in the Lausanne peaks in June 2023… The French students were on a language stay between Lyon and Switzerland and it was time to refuel after spending the morning in French class. They needed a high-calorie meal to prepare them for their busy afternoon in the bright summer sunshine! The perfect excuse for the delicious and indulgent Franco-Swiss dish, Fondue Savoyarde!

2. Crossing quicksand in Mont Saint-Michel

This is no place to bury your head in the sand! Mont Saint-Michel Bay is home to quicksand or shifting sand, as our American explorers found out on its sprawling beach that’s nowhere near is calm as it looks. 

Our young French learners joined an expert guide on the legendary strand to follow in the footsteps of barefoot pilgrims who have been visiting Mont Saint-Michel for centuries. 

They rolled up their trousers, buttoned up their waterproofs and dug their feet into the ground to watch their guide slowly sink into the shifting sand. What a heart-stopping experience! The amazing natural phenomenon saw the soft sand give way underfoot and suck the tour guide into sand that reached up to his knees! No need to worry though, there is a limit to this quicksand and your body always ends up floating… You just need enough energy (or a good partner) to get out of the sand beneath Mont Saint-Michel.

3. A village cheese shop tour in Auteuil

We introduced our young travellers to French cheese with a tasting experience in 2024! There are so many to choose from and there’s a real art to enjoying them! That’s why we needed a specialist, a cheese expert to guide us as we tasted everything from the mildest to the wildest! Our American students visited this village cheese shop in Auteuil to sample classic camembert, goat’s cheese, comté, roquefort and even eye-watering époisse!

4. Perfume workshop in Grasse

We took our very first Uzbekistan group studying in Provence to the historical capital of French perfume: Grasse. Our young French students joined a workshop at one of the oldest French perfume brands to become apprentice perfume and fragrance blend experts known here as “nez” or “noses”. They dived into a treasure trove of aromas with over a hundred notes to conjure up their very own fragrance, pairing citrus, woody, fresh and floral families true to the fragrance pyramid: top, middle and base notes. 

Who can forget the delighted Uzbekistan students when they got to name their very own bottle of perfume in the beautiful Provençal village of Grasse. Scentsational!

Institut des Frères Lumière à Lyon<br />

5. Flammekueche cookery class in Strasbourg

College students came to Alsace from Gödöllö, near Budapest, to unleash their inner chefs during their stay and master the regional speciality. They came hungry from Hungary! Our visitors got their aprons on and set to work rolling out the dough to make their own tarte flambée: they were in charge of their signature dish’s crème fraîche, lardons and sliced onions! French culture and cuisine go hand in hand and saw the Hungarian students join forces around the worktop and dining table for a gourmet get-together in Strasbourg!

Institut des Frères Lumière à Lyon<br />

6. A photo challenge in the streets of Paris

Our French learners from the Netherlands know central Paris like the back of their hands now: the students went wild for our scavenger hunt-style quiz. They had to complete puzzles and challenges in iconic sites and shops, talk to locals and all in record time: they threw themselves into the fun and certainly rose to the occasion! Lots of running around, lots of belly laughs and lots of memorable photos to show off in their travel journals!

Institut des Frères Lumière à Lyon<br />

7. Council of Europe tour in Strasbourg

Our group of Maltese college students looked ahead to the future on a trip to the Council of Europe. They stepped inside the awe-inspiring Palais de l’Europe to learn all about the role and structure of the European Union. They had the opportunity to attend a presentation at the Strasbourg landmark and ask all kinds of questions about the organisation’s job opportunities and how it works. Is this where the next generation of the EU has begun?

Institut des Frères Lumière à Lyon<br />

Vacances Actives Linguistiques is proud to celebrate the 7th anniversary of its foundation and holds its 7 core values dearer than ever: providing a service that’s tailor-made, fast, relevant, creative, independent, original, reliable and trustworthy.

Here’s to another 7 years (and many more to come) of putting our all into promoting the French language and international travel for children and young adults with cultural activities in France’s best destinations.

Are you ready to join us on a cultural adventure and make memories?

Bordeaux travel diary: from Dordogne to Arcachon.

Bordeaux travel diary: from Dordogne to Arcachon.

Bordeaux is a hugely popular destination among French as a foreign language students. We have devoted an entire article to the capital of wine and vineyards, but that doesn’t stop you venturing out of the city! Bordeaux is surrounded by fantastic places to visit within a 2-hour radius.

Let’s join Taylor, a literature student from Hungary, as he explores the Nouvelle Aquitaine region during his French as a foreign language course. Here’s his travel diary visiting Gironde and Dordogne, the dunes, vineyards, forests and fortresses!


Following in the footsteps of Eleanor of Aquitaine

We say farewell to the “Sleeping Beauty” that is Bordeaux to meet a famous French queen: Eleanor of Aquitaine. What a rebel the Queen of France and England was! The female head of state was incredibly modern and independent given she lived in the 12th century. We experienced some of her journey and life story as Eleanor made her mark on some of Aquitaine’s greatest landmarks. She was born near Bordeaux and donated a lot of money to build the nave at Bordeaux Cathedral, which we visited when we first arrived. She had her first wedding there before they split up and she married the heir to the English crown, Henry II, in 1137. 

Blaye citadel

We followed Eleanor of Aquitaine’s path to Blaye, where she lived for years. The citadel was designed by Vauban (well after Eleanor’s time!) and it’s a sight for sore eyes: the star-shaped layout is home to impressive defensive architecture by the river. We met craftsmen working inside the citadel who told us what the structure was for: to monitor traffic and keep an eye on enemies between the river and Atlantic Ocean. How exciting!

Dordogne and its 1001 châteaux

We left Blaye for Périgord, a leafy region full of forests, rivers and châteaux! Take your pick from medieval fortresses and Renaissance châteaux, this place has them all! We visited the village of Beynac on the banks of the Dordogne. We picked up Eleanor’s story here: after marrying the future King of England, some of the land fell into English hands. The Dordogne River marked the border between the two enemy kingdoms: Château de Beynac stood on the French bank opposite the English Castelnaud Fortress. This is what we experienced when we visited both amazing castles with views overlooking the valley.

Turn back the clock: prehistoric caves in Lascaux

We got back in our time machine and travelled from the Middle Ages right back to Prehistory: it was time for a guided tour of Lascaux Cave! Well, not the original one. This one is the perfect copy of the original that was closed to the public for its protection. 

This world-famous cave is unique, as is the story of how it was discovered: 4 teenagers and their dog stumbled upon it in 1940! I’d have loved to be in their shoes… 

Our guide tells us all about the incredible cave art painted here over 17,000 years ago by cave men: horses, bears, bulls, birds and people to name but a few. They used colour pigments and the wall’s texture to bring their drawings to life and make them more realistic. 

From Dordogne to Gironde:
Saint Emilion and the fabulous vineyards

We learnt some essential vocabulary during our morning French class so we could soak up our tour of the region’s wineries. We went to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Saint Emilion on a journey over 2000 years back in time… The hilltop town stands in the middle of the vineyards with its towers and churches: it’s amazing! We loved the story behind it too: a monk from Brittany called Aemilian founded the town in the 8th century. He came to live as a hermit in a cave (which we visited!) and tended to the sick, performing miracles on the region’s inhabitants.

When he died, the monks wanted to pay tribute to him and built a church named after him: the Monolithic Church of Saint-Emilion. The entire church is carved into the rock in a single block of limestone. After visiting the mind-blowing crypt, we scaled up 200 steps to the bell tower and vineyard views. 

We then visited the Cordeliers Cloister and its underground cellars where they make and store sparkling wine.

Before heading back to Bordeaux, our bus took us through sprawling, straight and staggered vineyards past world-famous wineries including Angélus and Prince Noir!

Set sail for Pilat Dune and Arcachon Bay

From leafy vineyards to sandy dunes!

It was time for a change of scene: we swapped leafy vineyards for sandy dunes!

We came face to face with the highest dune in Europe: Pilat! Just take a look at the figures: it’s 100m tall, 3km long and began forming over 4000 years ago! 

The pine forest next to the dune was sadly destroyed by a fire that lasted weeks back in 2022. The exotic yet majestic dune really does stand tall: there’s nothing for it, you have to climb over it to see the ocean!  

It’s no mean feat climbing up the dune: it feels more like being on a mountain than on a beach! It’s hard to get a foothold in the soft sand, but once you get to the top, it’s worth it for the views. The ocean stretches as far as the eye can see…

We spot the nearby Banc D’Arguin, a nature reserve home to protected wildlife that is left to live in peace. 

At the top of Pilat Dune, we feel like nothing can stop us and we head down the dune to visit Cap Ferret. 

Institut des Frères Lumière à Lyon<br />
Institut des Frères Lumière à Lyon<br />
Institut des Frères Lumière à Lyon<br />
Institut des Frères Lumière à Lyon<br />

Boat trip to Cap Ferret 

Cap Ferret is famous for its beautiful villas (owned by celebs!), traditional oyster huts and Île aux Oiseaux. “Bird Island” is highly protected and you can only get there by boat. You tend to sail in pinasses, small wooden and flat-bottomed boats typical of Arcachon Bay. You can’t miss Île aux Oiseaux for its cabanes tchanquées, cute and colourful oyster huts that look like storks standing in the water. They are surrounded by countless species of protected migratory birds.


We began with a trip in Cap Ferret around the bay. We visited oyster farming districts with original names (L’Herbe, Le Canon etc.) home to colourful oyster huts. It was time for a tasting! We couldn’t come here without trying the local speciality: oysters. With or without sea water? With or without lemon juice? With or without buttered toast? What oysters lack in looks, they make up for in flavour! 

Then we went back to the Atlantic Ocean and walked along the coast where countless bunkers formed the Atlantic Wall during World War II. It reminded us that in 1940, the Germans occupied Arcachon Bay and ordered these concrete structures be built… now they’re half-buried in the sand. 

We ended the day on a high in Le Ferret with a sweet treat! “Dunes blanches” are a scrumptious speciality invented by a local baker: vanilla cream puffs. Delicious!

Institut des Frères Lumière à Lyon<br />

What a week we had in Aquitaine! We travelled back in time through the history of France, learning about landscapes, monuments and famous names including Eleanor of Aquitaine. 

Our guide and French lessons taught us so many new words and so much about French. It was a highlight of our French trip after our time in Paris!

Alsace visitor highlights in any seasons

Alsace visitor highlights in any seasons

Vacances Actives Linguistiques visited Alsace this summer and brings you its favourite things to see and do during a language stay in Alsace for our French students. Here’s a trip through both the region (north to south) and time as you travel back to the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Industrial Revolution. Autumn and its golden colours make Alsace one of our favourite destinations: half-timbered houses, fortresses standing on mountain roads and hillside vineyards, staggering views of the Ballons des Vosges and rib-sticking comfort food! 

1 : Craftsmanship and culture, Musée Lalique, Hochberg

You’re in for an exciting introduction to the art of glass and crystal at the Lalique Museum. The sheer variety of display pieces showcase the attention to detail and prestige of the work and expertise that go into making them.
The museum is named after a famous creative family and specifically René Lalique, the world-renowned glass designer who opened his glassworks on the Hochberg site in 1922. The museum displays fine jewellery, perfume bottles for luxury brands, chandeliers and beautifully crafted home accessories.
Get to grips with the extraordinary art of glass with films and sensory workshops where you can touch the material at each design stage.

2 : Strasbourg and flammekueche foodie workshop.

Strasbourg is a must-visit on this language stay in Alsace. The city and European district are worth spending a full week exploring (please see our first travel guide in Strasbourg).

After a walk around Petite France and a trip up the cathedral to say hello to the gargoyles, the students got stuck into a cookery workshop devoted to a local delicacy: flammekueche!

The wood-fired recipe has simple yet specific ingredients: smoked lardons, onion and cream. Once our aprons and worktops were completely covered in flour, the workshop turned into a tasting session to find out who had made the best flammekueche!

3 : Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg, Alsace’s iconic medieval fortress

It was time to visit Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg and tackle one of Alsace’s best-preserved and most iconic medieval fortresses. Sitting on a rocky headland at an altitude of 750m, the château is a blast from the past. Its uneven walls hug the mountain with views of the rolling Vosges, Black Forest and even the Alps on a good day! An essential geography break to reset your compass north!

The fortress trip was a chance to introduce our group of students to medieval architecture terms in French: donjon, pont-levis, chemin de ronde, mâchicoulis and more. From the weapons rooms and keep to the beautifully furnished reception rooms, Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg captures medieval everyday life and how weapons and warcraft have evolved. 

4. Humanist Library in Sélestat

Say goodbye to the Middle Ages and hello to the Renaissance as we follow in the footsteps of the humanist Beatus Rhenanus. He left his fantastic book collection to the Alsatian town of Sélestat where he was born and it is now listed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. 

As you flick through the books, manuscripts, leaflets and numbered schoolbooks, you experience the lives of great humanists and travellers like Beatus Rhenanus and his famous friend Erasmus. Discovering uncharted territory, meeting new cultures, making progress in science and technology, considering man’s place in the universe and more, a trip to the Humanist Library certainly got our French students and budding travellers thinking. 

5 : The Eagle Park at Château de Kintzheim

Do birds of prey make your heart soar? Then head to the Eagle Park for a show you’ll never forget! We took our French students out on an educational and exciting trip to meet the tawny eagle, spectacled owl and snowy owl (which Harry Potter fans loved for its Hedwig vibes).

Admiration and wonder were the keywords. We met as many as 30 lively, smart and remarkable birds of prey here. Our trip included an educational workshop to find out how the eagles are born in captivity here and live in their natural habitat.

6 : Charming little Alsatian towns: introducing Colmar, Eguisheim and Ribeauvillé

We simply had to spend a day visiting Alsace’s beautiful villages with their signature personality and romance. These towns are popular during the holiday season with their magical Christmas markets, but they’re just as lovely on a trip to explore and sample local produce! Feast on cured meat, bretzels and classic choucroute galore on the Wine Route! 

Ribeauvillé is a fine example of Alsatian village architecture with bright and colourful half-timbered houses. Our students’ favourites were Auberge de l’Éléphant and Maison des Ménétriers (meaning the House of Musicians) at the top of the Grand-Rue with its beautiful frontage dating back to 1683. We kept our energy topped up with a trip to a family-run Alsatian chocolate shop!

We did a little scavenger hunt in Eguisheim: our young visitors explored the village with spiral lanes and met locals and tourists to answer as many questions as they could in the shortest time. Mission accomplished! Half-timbered houses, high-pitched roofs, sculpted lintels and secret fountains… there were hidden clues everywhere! This colourful village is a favourite among French people (just ask TV presenter Stéphane Bern!) with its pretty labyrinth ideal for having fun and enjoying views of the Alsatian hills. 

Last stop: Colmar, the most magical and peaceful of the trio. The so-called Little Venice is home to half-timbered houses lining the canals and cobbled lanes. Since the Christmas market and its many craftsmen and traders weren’t here, we focused on the Ecomusée d’Alsace: a traditional Alsatian village brought to life to showcase bygone buildings, trades and costumes. We met the blacksmith, cooper, wheelwright and schoolteacher who held a class about Alsace’s history in the classroom! Listen up!

7. La Cité du Train, SNCF heritage in Mulhouse

A journey within a journey… La Cité du Train in Mulhouse whisked us away to the world of train travel as we explored rolling stock, all the items used on board and how they’ve changed over time.

As our visitors moved from one area to the next, they got a glimpse of the railway world in all its glory whether it be exciting (the train and holidays, paid leave in 1936), geographical (the train and mountain, a technical challenge!) or political and dramatic (the train and world wars).

The students were fascinated by the genuine steam trains from the 1850s, imperial carriages and luxurious Compagnie des Wagons-Lits restaurants used on the iconic Orient Express.

Let’s not forget France’s high-speed rail service: the TGV! The students were eager to find out more about the modern trains and may even have found their calling!

Our language stays in Alsace bring together the cool mountain nature of the Vosges with the fantastic local history and culture. They are easy to pair with trips to major cities such as Paris or Lyon, available all year round and are even more magical over the holiday season.

Baie de Somme travel diary

Baie de Somme travel diary

For this language stay diary, we’re going off the beaten track on a trip to the Baie de Somme. Our French teacher, Amelia, and her group of students from Malta were won over by the beautiful Baie and bring you their highlights. All the students reconnected with nature on this revitalising trip from Paris to the region between Picardy and Normandy.

Top 5 of the Baie de Somme 

Our language stay went in a whole new direction when my group of students, guide and I left the bright lights, museums and monuments of Paris for the Baie de Somme. Within just two hours we had a total change of scene and maybe even a trip back in time! White chalk cliffs, dunes and wetlands, Belle Epoque beach huts, sheep and kites, chic seafront villas…. My students soaked it all up and almost forgot about their smartphones! Here are our favourite experiences in a 5-stage travel diary. 

1. Le Crotoy and land sailing

The sandy beach stretches as far as the eye can see at low tide in Le Crotoy, so you realise how big it is as it wraps around the entire Somme estuary. We made the most of the open and sun-drenched (lucky us!) space to go land sailing with the students. After two hours of (intense!) exercise, we still had some gas in the tank for a spot of birdwatching. We asked our local guide for help spotting the birds living here… apparently it’s all in the beak. Look out for the petit gravelot (little ringed plover), avocette (avocet) and huitrier pie (oystercatcher) among others. 

The group were pleasantly surprised to see a steam train straight from the Belle Epoque. The sleek train travels slow and steady along the entire Baie de Somme to Saint Valéry. The train glided past us and certainly left a mark on the wide-eyed students. What a way to end the day!


2. Saint-Valery-sur-Somme: full of sheep and medieval charm

Saint Valéry is one of 3 ports in the Baie de Somme and its village is perched on a rocky headland. We visited the idyllic and romantic medieval town home to ramparts and two defensive towers. We really enjoyed exploring the fishing quarter, Courtgain, and its maze of narrow lanes lined with flowers, half-timbered houses and red and white checkerboard walls. 

After a pot of mussels and chips, we headed for the Herbarium des Remparts: a botanical garden dating back to the Middle Ages and home to countless rare plant species. 

From the top of Saint Valéry, students feasted their eyes on the fabulous scenery with a patchwork of sandy beaches and meadows: mollières (they have very specific terms to describe the landscape, flora and fauna here… it’s not easy!) where salt marsh sheep graze peacefully. The salty plants make the lamb taste like nothing you’ve tried before. 

Last but not least, we visited the flint and chalk so-called sailor’s chapel: the architecture is unique to say the least! There’s no cockerel or cross at the top of the spire; there’s a seagull! 

3. Cayeux sur Mer and Hourdel Lighthouse

The coastal landscape changes in Cayeux as sand is replaced by pebble beaches. Since pebbles are hard to walk on, Europe’s longest boardwalk stretches along the beach over 2km and we used it to stroll among the dunes and pebbles to the falaises vives (cliffs lapped by the waves).

It has such a romantic atmosphere with a retro feel: in the distance you can see the green and white Hourdel Lighthouse, colourful kites and rows of beach huts (there are over 400 in summer!). 

The blockhaus gave us the chance to discuss World War II with the students and we used it as a milestone as we explored the beach. 

The highlight of the day (of the trip actually) was meeting the seals! We were lucky enough to see them: there are a lot of them since they made the Baie de Somme their home decades ago. During high tide and from a distance (over 200m away) you can see the biggest colony of harbour seals in France and countless grey seals. 

4. Mers-les-Bains, a chic rock pooling village

Our trip back in time to the Belle Epoque continued in Mers les Bains, tucked into the white chalk cliff. The village is home to beautiful villas! Colourful houses with bow windows and beautifully decorated fronts form a picture-perfect setting. We spent the morning rock pooling with the guide and several keen amateurs during low tide. We actually gave them our catch at the end of the grey and windy morning… the sun can’t always shine at the Picardy seaside!

5. Parc du Marquenterre: nature break

Another great day reconnecting with Mother Nature: Parc de Marquenterre is a huge nature reserve where you can see the animals and plants native to the Baie de Somme. Especially the birds…

It’s time to zoom out of France for a geography lesson: the Baie de Somme is in a prime location between Mauritania and Scandinavia, making it a popular place among migratory birds in Europe. We joined a naturalist guide and held a treasure hunt for the students to encourage them to observe different species and understand their lifestyles. Very rewarding!

This language stay between the city and seaside was a wonderful surprise. After the pomp and glory of the French capital, we soaked up the great outdoors and magic of a region in touch with nature. Whilst in the Baie de Somme, the students switched off, recharged their batteries and learnt all kinds of things about coastal life, history and beauty in this unspoilt region. 

Marseille travel diary, a sing-song destination to learn French

Marseille travel diary, a sing-song destination to learn French

Thian, a French teacher from Argentina, shares highlights from his Marseille language stay with his Buenos Aires students and Vacances Actives Linguistiques agency. This travel journal is packed with flavour and sing-song accents that made the group very happy as they took a deep dive into French culture and language… Provençal style.

My Marseille travel diary

Marseille is a buzzing and bustling city whose locals are famous for speaking their mind! It’s the perfect destination for my group of French language students: it’s easy to get chatting with people, there are lots of places to interact with locals and the city’s residents talk a lot! The local accent may not make oral comprehension any easier but it certainly spices things up!

We had a fantastic schedule packed with Provençal history, architecture, stunning scenery, thrilling tales and delicious dishes. 

Two Marseille landmarks to visit with 800 years between them 

Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde or Bonne Mère to friends

This basilica started out as a humble chapel in the 13th century, sitting on the hill above Marseille. It became popular when sailors made it their place of worship after surviving a shipwreck. A huge bronze Virgin Mary was erected at the top of the monument in 19th century as it became a basilica, protector and emblem of the city which you can see wherever you are in Marseille.

I’ll never forget walking up a never-ending steep slope to it!! That was the workout of the day for the students! A deafening mistral whipped up when we reached the top… What with the 360° views, it was a breathtaking experience in every way! Inside the basilica, its mosaics were rich and opulent whilst the crypt was deep and serious. Notre Dame de la Garde is an absolute must-visit if you want to get to grips with the religion surrounding Bonne Mère!

MUCEM, a new beacon in Marseille Port

What a sight the MUCEM, Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée is… It’s not just the exhibitions that are fascinating here, it’s the architecture too. 

It’s a cube wrapped in beautiful latticework which visitors can see the surroundings through. It sits on the Marseille seafront so you can see the sea through the concrete net curtain as well as Fort Saint Jean and the city’s fantastic maritime heritage. 

It’s a feast for the eyes and the students went wild for selfies here!

Stunning scenery from a dreamworld

A hike out to the Marseille calanques

This was the one we’d been waiting for: the iconic calanques They’re partly why we picked Marseille as our language stay destination with the VAL agency: sun, sea and incredible beaches lapped by the bright blue waves. We decided to hike there to soak up the unspoilt natural surroundings. It took hours walking through the garrigue hills to reach the hotspot. We took a picnic break to explore the local flora and its magical names: chêne kermès, figuier de Barbarie, griffes de sorcières… It was a great way to work on specific French vocabulary and get an insight into the threats to the area: fire, drought, extinction etc.
Then all of a sudden, from the top of the hill we could see the calanque’s glittering water. After a dip to cool off, it was time to head back…

Château d’If, from a distance

We never get bored of the sea! The third day of our language stay in Marseille saw us set sail to the Frioul archipelago. The schedule included a stop at Château d’If standing on a rock. Unfortunately, the Mediterranean Sea’s swell didn’t let us dock so we listened to the story that made this place a legend: the Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. 

The royal fortress was built by King François I in the 16th century and was a state prison for over 300 years. This magical yet imposing historical landmark really inspired my French students. A few months before, we studied the legend of Monte Cristo in class, read part of the novel and did a creative writing contest based on the character. What if Edmond Dantès had an accomplice in Château d’If? 

That day in Marseille, the sea sealed our fate: we didn’t get to visit Château d’If and we reached the Frioul archipelago half-drowned by the splashing waves!

French treasure hunt on the Frioul archipelago

There’s nothing better than a treasure hunt to learn French through play. We planned a treasure hunt on Ratonneau, the main island in the archipelago, to explore the unspoilt setting full of rocks, sandy coves and crystal-clear water. The students had to answer a questionnaire in a set amount of time and gather information from locals (mainly shops) or use their sense of observation. No smartphones were allowed for this team activity so the students had to think and speak in French. The agency designed a treasure hunt that introduced them to the fascinating history of the Frioul archipelago: military adventures, quarantine site for foreign boats during the Great Plague, “Hôpital Caroline”, Ratonneau Fort and more. The students who got the right answers were allowed the first swim in the calanques! 

Exploring Cosquer Cave: the highlight of our Marseille language stay!

Our French students fell in love with Cosquer Cave, an underwater prehistoric cave (the original is protected so you can only visit the replica). It’s an otherworldly place. The story of when the cave was discovered is as unique and magical as the site itself. A passionate diver called Henri Cosquer was exploring the Marseille shores when he stumbled upon the underwater cave in 1985 and its cave art a few years later! Mankind visited the cave 33,000 years ago… The replica of the cave and its art is open to small groups at a “submarine base” 3 floors under the sea. The students loved the incredibly realistic dive into prehistory. 

Marseille, cinema city

Our students had already visited Marseille before coming here! Some of them had watched Stillwater, an American film from 2021 starring Matt Damon and Camille Cottin, shot entirely in Marseille’s streets and calanques.

Le Panier is a popular film location and we explored the neighbourhood’s sun-drenched and colourful lanes lined with artisans and bustling eateries. The guide told us that the district is where a famous soap opera is filmed and broadcast around the world in several languages: Plus Belle la Vie. Next, we visited the Belle de Mai Media Centre to tour the series’ film studios where everyday scenes are recreated from the famous Le Panier area. 

Experiencing Marseille food and drink at the Vieux Port!

No language stay in Marseille would be complete with some good food and Provençal classics. Apparently, it’s easier to learn French on a full stomach. We started with a dish whose name is very hard for foreigners to pronounce: bouillabaisse. We dived into the recipe with a trip to the Vieux Port in the morning as the fishing boats came in, to see which fish go into the local concoction. Our young foodies weren’t too fond of scorpion fish, but they did like chatting with the shop owners and gazing at the pretty boats… 

Pistou soup was far more popular at dinner time! The basil flavours made our palates sing, or “faire chanter les papilles” as the locals say! Last but not least, we tucked into navettes, crispy little boat-shaped biscuits scented with orange blossom. The shelves in the Les Navettes des Accoules shop in Le Panier were left bare!

A Marseille urban legend… 

Did you know that a long time ago, a giant sardine blocked the Vieux Port in Marseille so ships couldn’t sail into the port. No matter what they did, the sailors couldn’t move it! The giant sardine refused to budge. 

A little boy came up with the solution: he used a small mullet as bait to attract the giant sardine away from the port. He did it! The diversion tactic worked and the port was open again. This quirky little story says it all about Marseille’s storytelling legacy and the unbreakable bond between the city and the sea.

A language stay in Marseille means soaking up French culture and its bond with the sea. History (and prehistory), heritage, architecture, scenery, food and drink all rooted in the Mediterranean. Our week of morning French lessons and afternoon outings improved the entire group’s culture and personal development. A true blue adventure where the students got to chat with Marseille students, despite a few challenges understanding the sing-song Provençal accent!