With an almost unmatched combination of culture, history and natural appeal, France has long been a popular tourist destination, and new findings from The World Bank show just how true that is. Drawing on data from around the world, researchers found that France was the most-visited country on Earth, with approximately 81.5 million tourists visiting in 2011. The United States came in second with 62.7 million visitors, while China landed in third with 57.6 million tourists.
Where to go?
The study may have highlighted France as a popular destination among travelers, but it did not delve into what they do once they arrive. Of course, there are seemingly countless tourist draws in France, so it can seem nearly impossible to pare down your itinerary when planning your trip. However, there are a few spots in particular that can't be missed, and that includes the eastern town of Chamonix.
Home to around 9,800 residents, Chamonix may not have the big city appeal of France, Nice or Cannes, but it is home to some of the most picturesque views in Europe. The town hosted the first Winter Olympics in 1924, and remains a world class skiing destination. But even if you travel there during the warmer months, there is plenty to do, including taking a trip on the Montenvers Railway, which brings you up more than 6,200 feet into the mountains.
The rest of the study
France came in well ahead of the U.S. and China, but findings also revealed what some other popular destinations are. Specifically, Spain came in at fourth place, after enjoying a steady rise in visitors from 2009 through 2011. It's no surprise that Spain is such a large tourist draw, as it has much of the same appeal of its neighbor to the east. For instance, it is home to the Prado - one of the best art museums in the world. There are an estimated 4,000 pieces in the Madrid-institution, and many of them are from some of the most famous artists in the world.
Rounding out the top five was another European travel gem - Italy - which had more than 46.1 million visitors in 2011. Turkey, the UK, Germany and Russia also landed in the top 10.