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Regions of France - Ile-de-France

Ile-de-France is the wealthiest and most populated region of France. With 11.7 million inhabitants, Ile-de-France has more residents than Austria, Belgium, Greece, Portugal or Sweden. The name, Ile-de-France, is thought to come from the rivers that form its boundaries.

Paris is just one small département in the heart of the region, surrounded by seven others: Essonne, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-et-Marne, Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne, Val-d'Oise and Yvelines.

Through this area travelled Charlemagne, Saint-Louis, Joan of Arc, Louis the XIV and all the kings of France, as well as Napoleon, all leaving their marks on the region. The magnificent cathedrals, beautifully preserved medieval abbeys and splendid châteaux architecture are unsurpassed anywhere in France.

The area surrounding Paris features fields and forests dotted with grand hunting lodges and châteaux, the most famous being the château de Versailles, built for Louis XIV and located within 815 hectares of beautiful parkland.

On route to Versailles, you enter the prettiest countryside in Ile-de-France, the Vallée de Chevreuse. Picturesque villages abound, Châteaufort with its 12th century fortress, Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuse, Saint-Lambert, Dampierre, the site of a 16th century château, and Les Vaux de Cernay, one of the loveliest valleys in France.

Other popular spots are the upmarket former royal towns of Fontainebleau, Rambouillet and Vaux-Le-Vicomte, all very green, pleasant and located within a 50 mile radius of Paris.

Paris is undeniably the jewel in the Ile-de-France crown. With its legendary monuments, sweeping boulevards, buzzing brasseries and oodles of romance, it's a major tourist attraction as well as a bustling business district. Visitors to Paris can enjoy a leisurely stroll, drink in the atmosphere, and take in the famous sights. The Eiffel tower is a "must-see" and the art galleries are simply sublime.

At night, the "city of lights" as it is known, comes alive. Whatever your style, there's something for you - clubs, restaurants, cinemas, theatre and people-watching from bars and cafés. In and around Paris, whatever the season, there's something to delight young and old.

Weather: Cool winters and mild summers mean that there are no extremes of climate. Average temperatures range from 7 °C in February to 25.6 °C in August, and it rains here roughly one day in three.

Gastronomy: The gastronomy of this region has been watered down by centuries of foreign influence, from abroad and from other areas of France. What you will find is plenty of choice, competitively high quality, and the comparatively high prices which are expected in one of the world's most iconic regions, but there are always great value bargains to be discovered. The fun is in seeking them out.