Seventeen days of stellar sights await you with this excursion through Eastern France. Gaze at the artworks of the Louvre, vineyards of Epernay and Alsace, and charming village pathways. Make your way to the lakeside and mountain views surrounding Annecy before you head off on a quick getaway to the beaches of the Riviera.

Highlights

  • Sample in style at the Taittinger, Moët & Chandon, and Perrier Jouët Champagne houses
  • Ride the Ridge Road to the vineyards between Alsace and Lorraine
  • Follow a guided tour through the picturesque villages of Alsace
  • Cycle around the shores and towns of Lake Annecy
  • Luxuriate in a private tour of Monaco and Monte Carlo

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Paris & Cruise on the Seine Paris
Day 2 Pastry Tour of Le Marais & Afternoon at the Louvre Paris
Day 3 Paris to Reims & Cultural Exploration with Tastings in Champagne Reims
Day 4 Champagne Tasting and Olfactory Workshop in Epernay Reims
Day 5 Reims to Strasbourg & Discover Petit France Strasbourg
Day 6 Exploring the Wine Route on a VW Kombi Strasbourg
Day 7 Train to Colmar & River Cruise of the Canals Colmar
Day 8 The Ridge Road in Alsace & Haut Kœnigsbourg Colmar
Day 9 Villages of Alsace Tour Colmar
Day 10 Drive from Colmar to Annecy Annecy
Day 11 Cycle Around Lake Annecy Annecy
Day 12 Guided Nature Hike from Annecy Annecy
Day 13 Alpine Cheese & Savoie Wine Annecy
Day 14 Transfer to Geneva & Flight to Nice Nice
Day 15 Full Day on the Coast: Cannes, Antibes, & Saint-Paul de Vence Nice
Day 16 Private Tour of Monaco, Monte Carlo, & Eze Nice
Day 17 Au Revoir, France  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Paris & Cruise on the Seine

Welcome to Paris!
Welcome to Paris!

Welcome to Paris, the City of Lights! This elegant capital boasts centuries of history, art, fashion and, of course, romance. Upon arrival, you'll be picked up from the airport and transferred to your hotel by private car. 

Paris is alive with activity day and night. It's the perfect city to indulge in a little shopping, with department stores like Lafayette and Printemps housing some of the best local designers around, and small boutique shops filled with unique high-quality wares. 

Colorful streets and historic monuments invite visitors to stroll downtown, while narrow streets and cozy coffee shops create a romantic atmosphere. For art lovers, spending time at Paris' smaller museums is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, as the city has one of the most impressive art collections in the world. Alternatively, lazing around in the parks or at a sidewalk cafe on a sunny day is equally blissful. 

Settle in and explore the streets near your accommodation. Enjoy a pre-dinner aperitif along the Rives de Seine while you enjoy the sunset. Take in the city views of the Pont Neuf, the tip of Île de la Cité, and the Pont des Arts as you watch the people and boats going by. 

A great alternative option for your first day is a riverboat cruise along the River Seine, which drops you off in front of the Eiffel Tower. 

After drinks, make your way to a local French restaurant for a three-course dinner next to your hotel.

Day 2: Pastry Tour of Le Marais & Afternoon at the Louvre

The perfect way to start your day
The perfect way to start your day

Eating pastries and enjoying art is synonymous with French culture, and you'll get to do plenty of both today. Start your day with a tour of the Le Marais neighborhood with a hyper-local guide (a neighborhood resident, in fact!) to explore the secret cafes and taste the best baked goods in the city. Spend two hours sampling crépes, crème brûlée, pain au chocolat, espresso, chocolates, macarons, and more.

Visit the city's oldest food market, the Marché des Enfants Rouges, and try your hand at haggling for your favorite treat. As you walk, learn about world-famous pastry chefs: Poîlane, Jean-Paul Hévin, Jacques Genin, Pierre Hermé, and others. 

In the afternoon, it's time to explore the Louvre, the world's largest art museum. Skip the lines and head right to the classics, as well as your personal favorites. Get up close to Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa, then get some fresh air at the Tuileries Garden. In the evening, explore the Champs Elysees and the majestic Arc de Triomphe

Day 3: Paris to Reims & Cultural Exploration with Tastings in Champagne

Autumn in the Reims countryside
Autumn in the Reims countryside

Depart Paris this morning on a train to Reims (pronounced "Rance," rhyming with how a French speaker says "France").

Once you've dropped your bags at your hotel, you'll meet a local guide for an afternoon Segway tour through the Reims historic center, scoping out the main attractions of the city.

Switch off your wheels and stroll to Taittinger, through the ruins of the 13th-century Saint-Nicaise Abbey, which welcomes more than 70,000 visitors per year. Go 59 feet (18 meters) below ground into the Gallo-Roman chalk quarries, part of the "Coteaux, Maisons, et Caves de Champagne’ (Hillsides, Champagne Houses, and Cellars in Champagne) included on UNESCO's World Heritage list as one of the best examples of the Gothic style in the region. The abbey was destroyed during the French Revolution, but its cellars remain intact and under the purview of the Taittinger Champagne House. You'll see bottles of the Comtes de Champagne maturing throughout the cellar as you take your tour

After the cellars, you'll ascend for a tasting session to sample the Taittinger style during a customized tasting session. A champagne expert will explain the history and production of each cuvée as you sample in their tasting room.

The evening is then yours to spend as you will on a bubbly Champagne cloud.

Day 4: Champagne Tasting and Olfactory Workshop in Epernay

Champagne house Moet Chandon at the Avenue de Champagn
Champagne house Moet Chandon at the Avenue de Champagn

Your morning agenda is up to you. If you're an early riser, scope out the interior of Notre-Dame de Reims, the city cathedral and traditional coronation place of the French kings.

In the afternoon, you'll hop in a minivan for a tour through some of the famous Champagne vineyards around Epernay. Start through the “Montagne de Reims," the natural dividing line between Reims and Epernay, before you reach the Avenue of Champagne. Famed Champagne houses such as Moët & Chandon, Perrier Jouët, Pol Roger, and De Venoge all reside here, and you'll hear about their stories and successes from your guide.

You'll stop in a restored Champagne house for an olfactory workshop and tasting, introducing you to more of the beverage's complex aromas and flavors. Follow it with a regional lunch, with, of course, Champagne pairings.

Make one more stop at a family-run boutique winery, where you can see behind the scenes into the traditional vat room, press, and cellar. You'll stroll past the maturing bottles in the cellar before sampling some of their bestsellers. Return to Reims in the early evening, with time for a stroll before dinner or an early turn-in.

Day 5: Reims to Strasbourg & Discover Petit France

Traditional houses in La Petite France, Strasbourg
Traditional houses in La Petite France, Strasbourg

Transfer to one of Paris's central stations with a private driver, then take the high-speed train to Strasbourg. On arrival, you'll be greeted by your private driver. 

Check in to your hotel, then enjoy a private walking tour of Old Strasbourg. The city is an old university town, famous for its gastronomy and its architecture. Located just a few miles away from the German border the city has, for centuries, swung between French and German sovereignty, giving the city a charming bi-cultural atmosphere. 

See the city's famous astronomical clock, then continue your tour to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Several of Strasbourg's medieval churches, like Église Saint-Thomas or Église Saint-Guillaume, are worth spending time in this afternoon. End your tour at the Janus Fountain, then enjoy a free evening in the city.

Day 6: Exploring the Wine Route on a VW Kombi

Vintage 1959 Volkswagen Kombi
Vintage 1959 Volkswagen Kombi

Today you'll have the opportunity to discover Alsatian specialties on your gourmet day out. Start the day with a kougelopf tasting (traditional Alsatian cake), then load up into your private VW Kombi for a seventies-themed wine tasting. 

Your first stop is to the village of Ribeauvillé, known for its medieval old town and the fortified castles that surround the city. During the Middle Ages, the Lords of Ribeaupierre built three fortified castles, the ruins of which still dominate the town and surrounding hills to this day. You can access all three by a short hiking footpath up the mountainside.

In the afternoon, visit the Hôtel de Ville, or town hall (18th siècle), to see the city's prestigious collection of silver goblets, which were given to the town by the Comtes de Ribeaupierre. Continue to the 13th-century Butchers’ Tower and the House of the Fiddlers, famous for its 17th-century decorated façade. 

Afterward, return to Strasbourg to enjoy the evening in the heart of the city.

Day 7: Train to Colmar & River Cruise of the Canals

Canal in Colmar
Canal in Colmar

After breakfast, take the regional train south to Colmar. Check in to the hotel and relax a bit, then head out to explore the city. 

Colmar's half-timbered houses and peaceful canals are fairytale-like, especially in spring when foliage and flowers drape over the streets. Walk around the weaving cobblestone lanes of the Old Town and the cheerfully-painted houses in Little Venice, Colmar's loveliest neighborhood. The narrow Lauch River flows through here, alongside colorful buildings and impeccably restored homes. The best way to see this part of town is by a short river cruise—today's afternoon activity. It's part of the city tour, and takes you under several of the Old Town's arching bridges. 

In the later afternoon, explore the city's restaurants and cafes before one last evening stroll around the river. G'sundheit!

Day 8: The Ridge Road in Alsace & Haut Kœnigsbourg

Unterlinden Museum
Unterlinden Museum

Start with a leisurely morning lie-in or visit the Unterlinden Museum, one of the oldest museums in France. The collection is housed in a former convent, with cloister archways soaring overhead.

In the afternoon, meet your driver and guide near your hotel to set off down the wine route, with a stop for a tasting. Keep going to make your way up the Ridge Road, part of the boundary between the Alsace and Lorraine regions along the Vosges mountain range. You'll stop at the red sandstone turrets of the Château du Haut Kœnigsbourg. From atop its ramparts, you can take in the views of the Vosges, the Black Forest, and even the Alps on a clear day.

Day 9: Villages of Alsace Tour

Historic town of Eguisheim
Historic town of Eguisheim

Set out today for a tour of some of the quaint villages of the region. You'll start in Hunawihr, best known for its 16th-century fortified church that has been serving both the Catholic and Protestant communities since 1687, followed by Riquewihr to try some of the wines from its hillside vineyards. Visit Eguisheim next, full of pink buildings, flowers, and flowing wines.

The afternoon takes you to Turckheim, home of a famous night watchman whose calls in Alsatian of "take care of fire and light" echo through the streets to prevent house fires. It's the only place in Alsace that preserves the important 13th-century tradition, which is maintained primarily for touristic reasons. Nightly tours with the watchman are available at 10 PM each night from May to October.

Continue with a trip within the walls and narrow streets of Kientzheim, known for its half-timbered houses and privately owned castles. End your tour in Kaysersberg, voted the favorite French village of 2017 for its beauty. There will be plenty of wine tastings, history, architecture, and much more over the course of your outing.

Day 10: Drive from Colmar to Annecy

Winter in Annecy
Winter in Annecy

Pick up a rental car this morning to make your way to Annecy. The drive takes roughly 4 hours along any of the multiple routes you can choose to deliver you to the picturesque blue lake and surrounding city.

As you approach the city, you'll pass locals and travelers alike enjoying the towns stunning natural surroundings by bike, canoe, and even parapentes. After checking in to your hotel, leave your car to explore the Old Town on foot. The colorful 16th- and 17th-century buildings are home to restaurants, bakeries, and boutiques, and as you wander past the many canals running through the streets, you'll see why the town is called the Venice of the Alps.

Walk along the lakefront or pick up a bicycle, electric scooter, or pair of rollerblades to propel you along before you choose from one of the many restaurants for dinner.

Day 11: Cycle Around Lake Annecy

Cycling around Lake Annecy
Cycling around Lake Annecy

The morning's activities are up to you. Should you wish to explore the lake, scope out a lakeside yoga group or hop on a pedal boat, skippered jet boat, or wakeboard to rent by the hour. If you'd rather travel under someone else's steam, a traditional ferry known as the Omnibus does a 2-hour loop around the lake.

In the afternoon, you'll make your way to the bike rental agency to pick up your choice of bike, either electric or manual, for a self-guided loop of the lake. You'll start on a bike path along an old train line as you enjoy the views over the water, with some of the nicest spots saved for the end near the villages of Talloires and Chateau Menthon St Bernard. There are plenty of restaurants, cafes, and chic hotel bars along your route, with just a few hills near the end of the 28-mile (45 km) route. If you prefer, extend your bike rental for the duration of your stay.

Day 12: Guided Nature Hike from Annecy

Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc

With the help of your local guide, choose from one of many hiking options to fill your day today. For an easier option, try out the trail to the Angon waterfall or through the Roc de Chere nature reserve.

If you're up for a bit more of a challenge, trek up to the Tournette and Parmelan mountain hut on a 5-hour, 5-mile (8 km) trail.  From the Tournette, you can see all the summits above Lake Annecy along with the Aravis range and Mont Blanc. There are many ibexes on this trek that you can easily approach and photograph. Be careful however as you reach the summit: these same ibexes can trigger rockfalls.

Day 13: Alpine Cheese & Savoie Wine

Tomme, a French goat cheese
Tomme, a French goat cheese

Meet your guide in the center of town, then take off for a day of exploring the alpine region and its products. You'll taste local cheeses, like Tomme and Reblochon, as well as several white wines on the lower slopes. 

Enjoy the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and glimmering Lake Bourget below you. Head into the seemingly infinite rows of wine grapes to explore four historic vineyards—Parc de Chartreuse, the Chaîne de l'Epine, the Parc des Bauges, and the Combe de Savoie. You'll get to taste rare varieties of grapes, such as Chignin Bergeron, the Mondeuse Rouge de Savoie, and the Marestel.

After the wine tasting, meet the cows who make the milk for the iconic cheeses, then try some cheese yourself to round out the tour. After the half-day experience, return to your hotel.

Enjoy a quiet evening in Annecy, or head to the nearby village of Talloires for dinner. The area has an abundance of restaurants, from Michelin-starred dining to neighborhood favorites with a relaxed atmosphere.

Day 14: Transfer to Geneva & Flight to Nice

Nice port
Nice port

Drive to Geneva, then drop off your car on the French side and fly to Nice International Airport. 

Nice sits at the northern end of the French Riviera, near the border with Italy. Nicknamed Nissa La Bella ("Nice the Beautiful") for its artistic spirit, grand plazas, and crescent-shaped pebble beaches. Nice is inarguably the French Riviera's most popular city. The narrow cobbled streets of its old town, Vieille Ville,  are lined with pastel-colored buildings and a plethora of shops selling everything from soap to wine. 

Spend the day exploring the city on your own. Pick from the following options to make the most of your time in the coastal town: 

  • Explore the Greek quarter, which dates back to the time of the Ancient Greeks of the Massalia region around 350 BCE
  • See remains of the Roman amphitheater and area in the historic Cimiez neighborhood 
  • While in the Cimiez neighborhood, visit two other notable landmarks: the opulent Excelsior Régina Palace, where Queen Victoria of England used to spend her summers, and the Musée Matisse, a museum showcasing the works of the expressionist master Henri Matisse
  • Visit the ornate 20th-century St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral, which was built by the Royal Family for the Russian community of the French Riviera
  • Go for a stroll along the quays of Port Lympia and take in views of the water
  • End your day with a stop at the historic Negresco Hotel, where you can enjoy an aperitif in style and make a toast to your very own slice of the Belle Époque.

Day 15: Full Day on the Coast: Cannes, Antibes, & Saint-Paul de Vence

Cap d’Antibes
Cap d’Antibes

Start your full-day tour of the coast with a drive to Cannes. Spend the morning exploring the city, starting at the Old Port in the heart of the city. Although it lost some of its nautical importance following the construction of the new and bigger Port Canto, the old port still welcomes yachts and boats with traditional rigging.

The port marks the entrance to the Suquet, the oldest quarter, and the historic center of Cannes. Built on a hill, the Suquet invites you for a stroll along its steep medieval streets as you wander to the top viewpoints.

Continue to Antibes, where you'll visit a typical provençal market and wander the streets of the old town. The town is also famous for the Picasso Museum, which chronicles Picasso's 1946 stay in the Château Grimaldi and features the paintings, drawings, and ceramics which he produced during his time there. 

Other stops today include the hill-top villages of Provence and Saint-Paul de Vence. Both towns boast exceptional culinary treats: Provençal stew, aioli, anchoïade, herbes de Provence, garlic, basil, olive oil, truffle, figs, honey, and of course the ever-present wine. 

In Saint-Paul de Vence, choose from one of two tour options: a wine tasting with experts or a private guided tour of the Folon Chapel and the Maeght Foundation. Visit the keep, collegiate church, and ramparts, then head to the Matisse Chapel in Vence. 

Return to Nice in the evening.

Day 16: Private Tour of Monaco, Monte Carlo, & Eze

Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo

In the morning make your way to Monaco, a 12-mile (20 km) drive from Nice, for a guided tour. Monaco is one of the world's smallest countries and is considered a city-state.

Visit the famous Monte Carlo district with its legendary casino and see Prince Rainier's car collection, then continue to the Rock of Monaco (Rocher de Monaco in French.) This is the location of the town's oldest neighborhood, the medieval Old Town. From here, the views of the sunny coast are unparalleled. Learn about this community's history and anecdotes about the dynasty which has reigned there for decades. 

From here continue to the medieval village of Eze, which perches high above the Mediterranean sea. Thanks to its location and history, it's a popular destination with painters and artists. Explore the famous Chapelle Sainte-Croix and the ruins of the ancient castle, which allude to the city's strategic location on the coast. Stroll through the town's peaceful gardens and soak in the sunshine. 

At the end of the day, return to Nice. 

Day 17: Au Revoir, France

French Riviera by night
French Riviera by night

After breakfast, take a private car or train transfer to the airport to catch your flight home. A bientôt!


Map

Map of Highlights of Eastern France: Paris, Strasbourg, Colmar, Annecy, Nice, & More - 17 Days
Map of Highlights of Eastern France: Paris, Strasbourg, Colmar, Annecy, Nice, & More - 17 Days