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Ile-de-France is an historical region of north central France, surrounding the French capital, Paris. It is one of the smallest regions, geographically, but also the most densely populated. Paris, billed as the most romantic city in the world, has an enchanting, old world ambiance and is, of course, home to some major tourist attractions. Architectural and cultural highlights include the iconic Eiffel Tower, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, situated on the Ile de la Cite in the historical heart of the city, and the Louvre Museum, which houses the Mona Lisa and Venus De Milo among other masterpieces. Fashion-conscious visitors may find the presence of Chanel, Dior, Hermes and other premium fashion houses another reason to linger a little longer in the so-called ‘City of Light’.
Of course, Ile de France is not just about the French capital; the entire region is major tourist destination for international visitors. The Yvelines department, to the east of the capital city, is home to the Château de Versailles, or Palace of Versailles, while the Seine-et-Marne department, to the west, is the location of another royal residence, the Chateau de Fontainebleau, or Palace of Fontainebleau.
The region typically enjoys a mild, temperate climate with an average temperature of 20ºC (68ºF) during the summer and 5ºC (41ºF) during the winter. The region experiences 1,798 hours of sunshine each year, on average, which adds to the attraction of the diverse countryside, which includes four regional national parks. The Foret de Fontainebleau, or Forest of Fontainebleau, for example, covers an area of 28,000 hectares in the southwest of the Seine-et-Marne department. A former royal hunting ground, the Forest of Fontainebleau is rich in fauna and flora and a popular destination for outdoor leisure activities, such as hiking, horse riding and mountain biking. For visitors with young families, Disneyland Paris, situated approximately 20 miles east of the capital city, in Marne-la-Vallee, is a major attraction.
Eating and drinking well is part of the French tradition and nowhere more so than Ile-de-France. The region produces a huge variety of gourmet specialities, such as Houdan poultry, Mereville salad and Brie cheese, which are served at a vast number of prestigious establishments, including many Michelin-starred restaurants, throughout the capital city and the region as whole.