Spread out across its various constituent countries, Western Europe is a treasure trove of ancient monuments from fabulous palaces and imposing castles to heart-stoppingly beautiful churches and timeless historic quarters.

But Western Europe could never be described as living in the past. It remains a vibrant center of modern culture and its cities are overflowing with examples of some of the latest architecture, music and art.

Like Italy, France is part of the old guard of European travel. The beaches of the south of France, the fabulous skiing in the Alps and the countless landscapes of rare natural beauty across the country have attracted almost as many travelers down through the years as its dreamy capital, Paris.