- Explore Paris through the medium of pastries
- Wonder at the splendor of the Versailles estate
- Stop by Aix en Provence for coffee and people watching on the plaza
- Take in the views of the Dombes Plains and Alps
- Stroll through historic Lyon, France’s third-most populous city
|Day 1||Welcome to France! Arrive in Paris & Evening Eiffel Tower Tour||Paris|
|Day 2||Pastry Tour of Le Marais & Afternoon at the Louvre||Paris|
|Day 3||Day Trip to Versailles||Paris|
|Day 4||Paris to Amboise & Full Day in the Loire Valley||Amboise|
|Day 5||Loire Valley: Châteaus de Chambord & Chenonceau||Amboise|
|Day 6||Loire Valley: Châteaux & Wine||Amboise|
|Day 7||Transfer from Amboise to Lyon & City Tour||Lyon|
|Day 8||Dombes Plain & Alps||Lyon|
|Day 9||Beaujolais Tour & Wine Tasting||Lyon|
|Day 10||Train from Lyon to Avignon & Afternoon in the City||Avignon|
|Day 11||Hilltop Villages & Wine in the Luberon: Full Day Tour||Avignon|
|Day 12||Châteauneuf du Pape Tour & Wine Tasting||Avignon|
|Day 13||Avignon to Nice, Tour of Aix-en-Provence en Route||Nice|
|Day 14||Full Day on the Coast: Cannes, Antibes, & Saint-Paul de Vence||Nice|
|Day 15||Private Tour of Monaco, Monte Carlo, & Eze||Nice|
|Day 16||Au revoir, France!|
Day 1: Welcome to France! Arrive in Paris & Evening Eiffel Tower Tour
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. Take some time to settle in and relax before heading out to explore the streets near your accommodation before dinner.
Paris is alive and thriving 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 offering unique high-quality wares.
Colorful boulevards and historic monuments invite visitors to stroll through the downtown, while narrow alleys and cozy cafes 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 simply blissful.
After settling into your hotel, head out for your first look at the city. Spend some time walking around downtown and enjoying the sights. In the evening, meet with your private guide for a 3.5-hour exploration of the Trocadero Esplanade and Eiffel Tower. Start at the Trocadero to see its statues, monuments, and city views. Continue to the Iron Lady herself with skip-the-line tickets, giving you the most time to visit both floors and take in the incredible views from the top.
Day 2: Pastry Tour of Le Marais & Afternoon at the Louvre
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: Day Trip to Versailles
In the morning, head outside of the big city to the resplendent Versaille Estate. Take the train there, then head directly inside with your skip-the-line access to spend a few hours exploring the palace and grounds. Travel back in time to past centuries as you discover what life was like living in the splendor of the court of the kings and queens of France. Your historian guide will walk you from hall to gilded hall, pointing out ornately painted ceilings, the Hall of Mirrors, and the private royal quarters.
After touring the castle head outside to the manicured gardens and lawns, where a dazzling display of flowers and exotic plants delight visitors of all ages.
Enjoy lunch near the castle, then take the train back to Paris for a free afternoon in the city. Shop, enjoy the sunshine in one of the city's parks, or explore one of the city's many art museums.
Day 4: Paris to Amboise & Full Day in the Loire Valley
In the morning, take a private car to the train station in Paris, then catch a high-speed regional train to Amboise where a driver will transfer you to the hotel. Check in, then head out for a day in the valley.
Brimming over with fairytale charm and character, the six towns of the Loire Valley are full of architecture and quiet country roads. Four of them—Orléans, Blois, Amboise, and Tours—sit on the banks of Europe's last untamed river, listed by UNESCO. Their architecture reflects their ties to the kings of France and with the Loire, which was for a long time France's leading economic artery.
Spend the day exploring the villages and quiet roads that connect them. Take in the landscape views from the top of Chartres and Bourges Cathedrals. Take a riverboat cruise on the famous Briare Canal through the Loire, then head to Nohant to soak up the atmosphere of George Sand's novels.
Day 5: Loire Valley: Châteaus de Chambord & Chenonceau
Take the grand double spiral staircase to the second floor to see the royal apartments of François I and Louis XIV. During its heyday, the chateau and nearby forests were used for royal hunts and other pleasure activities. Continue up to the terraces, where views of the surrounding landscape offer a glimpse into the charmed lives of the castle's royals. From here you can also get a good look at the roofing and chimneys of the chateau, which rises magnificently above the wide moat.
The chateau in its current form was built between 1513 and 1517 by Thomas Bohier and his wife Catherine Briçonnet, who oversaw and directed most of the construction. Since then, there has been a long and dramatic line of women who have owned, loved, repaired, expanded on, and restored the chateau. It's so well-loved, in fact, that it's the second-most visited chateau in France, after Versaille.
After the tour, return to your hotel.
Day 6: Loire Valley: Châteaux & Wine
Today is a free day to enjoy the Loire Valley on your own.
Visit a few of the many magnificent castles in the Loire Valley. With over 300 unique chateaus, the Loire Valley castles are as diverse as they are numerous. Tour the Azay-le Rideau, which seemingly floats on the river Indre, see Cande where Edward Prince of Wales married Wallis Simpson, and stroll through the gardens of Villandry and Chaumont-sur-Loire. A few of the chateaus, like Le Grand Pressigny and Oiron, house museums and galleries.
From Nantes to Sancerre, the Loire Valley vineyards stretch along the river of the same name. Follow it along the longest wine route in France as you visit villages, gardens, and royal abbeys in a landscape of hills and plains. Hidden behind each renowned wine district is a famous Loire chateau: Chenonceau, Chambord, Brissac, Saumur, and Chinon. More than one thousand vineyards are open to the public, including 400 specially accredited wine cellars, where you can meet the winemakers and taste their unique Loire Valley wines. From massive wine cellars to wine-tasting walks in the vineyards, there's no shortage of ways to experience the valley.
Day 7: Transfer from Amboise to Lyon & City Tour
In the morning, make your way to the train station to take the train to Lyon, a 5-hour trip to the southeast.
Lyon is France's third most populous city—behind Paris and Marseille—and is more compact, allowing visitors to explore easily by foot. An excellent place to start is the city's UNESCO-listed Old Town and the Presque Ile—a piece of land surrounded by the Saône and Rhône Rivers. Here you can wander the narrow cobblestoned streets in search of the famous traboules (hidden passageways). Get a view of it all with a walk up to the Fourviere Basilica for a panorama of the whole city.
In the afternoon, take a private walking tour to explore the city center. Start at the gothic Saint-Jean cathedral to discover a cobblestone labyrinth of courtyards, passageways, gothic staircases, and Italian galleries.
For dinner, choose from hundreds of restaurants, from family-owned restaurants serving traditional Lyonnaise cuisine, informal brasseries, to Michelin-starred restaurants like the iconic Auberge de Collonges, founded by the famous chef Paul Bocuse.
Day 8: Dombes Plain & Alps
Hit the road for your full-day driving tour of the Dombes Plains and the Alps. Head northeast of Lyons, making your way first to the plains of the Dombes Lakes, a landscape that's characterized by its horse farms.
After an hour of driving, your first stop is the medieval town of Place des Tilleuls, where 15th-century homes line the narrow streets, and 13th-century walls still stand. After a tour of the Old Town, head to the Hostellerie du Vieux Pérouges for warm Pérouges galettes served with a glass of cider.
From here, continue on the road to the French Alps, arriving in Annecy two hours later in time for lunch. Choose from a selection of restaurants, with options ranging from traditional Alps cuisine to crossover Italian specialties.
After your meal, spend the afternoon exploring the town, which nestled between two mountains on the shores of Lake Annecy. Learn about the area's history, which the earls of Savoy and Switzerland used as their residence for many years. For a different perspective of the town, take a cruise on the lake and enjoy views of the mountains. Alternately, tour a cheese factory and try some of the regional mountain specialties.
In the evening, drive the 1.5 hours back to Lyon.
Day 9: Beaujolais Tour & Wine Tasting
In the morning, enjoy your tour of Beaujolais, a historic province and wine-growing region just north of Lyon.
Often compared to Tuscany, this beautiful countryside dotted with hilltop villages offers a gentle pace of life. Your cultural and gourmet itinerary leads you around the southern part of Beaujolais, which is famous for its Beaujolais Nouveau and golden stone, which lends a unique charm to the surrounding villages.
Along the route, your knowledgable driver-guide will pass on his or her passion for the region to you during this rural excursion. You'll also get an introduction to wine and meet with a winemaker who will invite you to enjoy a tasting experience.
Rest of the day at leisure to explore Lyon at your own pace.
Day 10: Train from Lyon to Avignon & Afternoon in the City
After a last stroll in the city of Lyon, take a train to the beautiful city of Avignon in the heart of Provence.
You'll have the rest of the day to explore this medieval city that housed the Pope in the 14th century. While here you can visit the soaring Palais des Papes—the largest Gothic palace in history and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A tour of the palace, which includes the popes' private apartments with their fabulous frescoes, is a must.
You'll also have time to explore the city's pretty squares and the medieval bridge along the Rhone River. Head to Place de l'Horlog, the city's historic heart, to see the City Hall, the 15th-century belfry, the theater, and the still-functioning Belle Époque style carousel. During the 1st century BCE, the plaza was used as Avenio's (then-Avignon) by the Romans as a forum. It's a great place to sit at a cafe and spend the afternoon people watching and enjoying various street performers.
Keep in mind that during July, thousands of visitors flock to Avignon for France's largest art festival.
Day 11: Hilltop Villages & Wine in the Luberon: Full Day Tour
In the morning, embark for the surrounding Luberon Region, an area known for its countryside vineyards, orchards, and postcard-worthy hilltop villages. Travel at a leisurely pace as your guide takes you to the village of l'Isle Sur la Sorgue, famous for its outdoor weekend markets, antique stores, and old wooden waterwheels churning over the Sorgue River, which bisects the town. There are few better spots to enjoy a relaxing lunch than here in town, which is precisely what you'll do.
After eating, head to Gordes. This is arguably the most beautiful of all the hilltop villages in the Luberon. Its fortified castle dominates the skyline of Gordes, and from its winding, cobbled streets, you can look out to wide views over the valley and surrounding hills. From Gordes, it's just a few kilometers to the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Sénanque, a Cistercian abbey founded in the 12th century. Nearby is the village of Roussillon, famous for its colorful ochre. Hike on the Ochre Trail to a former quarry before heading to another hilltop village, Bonnieux.
Drive to Lacoste for panoramic photo stops, then head to Menerbes—your last stop of the day. It's famous thanks to the author Peter Mayle, who chronicled his year in the south of France in his book "A Year in Provence." End the day with wine tasting at a local winery before returning to Avignon for the night.
Day 12: Châteauneuf du Pape Tour & Wine Tasting
Enjoy a free morning exploring the French countryside
In the afternoon, you'll get a chance to tour another world-renowned wine-growing region in France—this time in the southern Rhône Valley, particularly a sun-drenched Provence appellation called Châteauneuf du Pape. The region makes both red and white wines with up to 13 different grapes and is especially known for its bold Grenache-based blends.
During this excursion, you'll walk through a vineyard with an expert to learn more about the grape's specific terroir, including characteristics and the origin of the formation of soils, as well as the connection between the climate and the grape varieties. You will also take part in tasting sessions at two family-run wineries before returning to Avignon for the evening.
Day 13: Avignon to Nice, Tour of Aix-en-Provence en Route
On your way to Nice, stop to discover the slow-paced lifestyle and the Provençal charm of Aix-en-Provence.
Spend the morning exploring Aix on a two-hour guided walking tour and uncover the rich heritage, art, and culture that defines the city. Stroll a labyrinth of narrow streets, passing historic churches and squares as your guide points out famous and hidden gems.
Visit the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral, a Romanesque/Gothic church built on the site of an ancient Greek temple to Apollo. Stop and see the Town Hall (known locally as the Hotel de Ville), which dates to the 14th century and sits on an equally old plaza. The tour includes a walk along the Cours Mirabeau, a busy thoroughfare lined with leafy trees and full of markets and cafés—perfect for people watching. Search around to find ruins dating back to the days of the Roman Empire.
At the end of your city tour, continue to Nice.
Day 14: Full Day on the Coast: Cannes, Antibes, & Saint-Paul de Vence
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 15: Private Tour of Monaco, Monte Carlo, & Eze
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 16: Au revoir, France!
After breakfast, take a private car or train transfer to the airport to catch your flight home. A bientôt!