Hit all the essential sites and explore some lesser-known gems on this epic, three-week loop tour around France. Start in Paris for art, cuisine, and shopping. Eat your way through Lyon before wine tasting in Beaujolais and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Discover mountains and history among the olive groves of Provence, enjoy the sun-soaked coastal cities of Marseille and Nice, then return inland for more wine and gastronomy in Bordeaux.


  • Discover the major cities of Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, and Bordeaux
  • Eat your way through gastronomic neighborhood tours and cooking classes
  • Go wine tasting in Beaujolais, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and Saint-Émilion
  • Relax in the mountains of Provence and on the beaches of the Côte d'Azur

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Paris Paris
Day 2 Pastry & Chocolate Tour in the Marais, Afternoon at the Louvre Paris
Day 3 Sacré-Coeur & Montmartre Tour, Shopping in Paris Paris
Day 4 Optional Activities, Paris Dinner Cruise Paris
Day 5 Train to Lyon, Self-Guided City Tour of Lyon Lyon
Day 6 Wine Tasting in Beaujolais, Local Bouchon Lyonnais Dinner Lyon
Day 7 Train to Avignon, Drive to Châteauneuf-du-Pape Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Day 8 Wine Tasting in Châteauneuf-du-Pape Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Day 9 Drive to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence via Les Alpilles Natural Park Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
Day 10 Les Alpilles Natural Park, Olive Oil Tasting & Carrière de Lumières Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
Day 11 Excursion to Arles, Explore Roman History Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
Day 12 Drive to Marseille, Self-Guided Tour of Marseille Marseille
Day 13 Half-Day Gourmet & Walking Tour, Soap Atelier  Marseille
Day 14 Drive to Nice via Saint-Tropez & Cannes Nice
Day 15 Nice Self-Guided Walking Tour Nice
Day 16 Gourmet Foodie Tour, Optional Activities Nice
Day 17 Drive to Toulouse, Discover Toulouse Toulouse
Day 18 Drive to Bordeaux, Gourmet Dinner in Bordeaux Bordeaux
Day 19 Wine Tasting in Saint-Émilion Bordeaux
Day 20 Optional Activities in Bordeaux Bordeaux
Day 21 Transfer to Paris Montparnasse Station, Depart Paris  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Paris

Summit the Eiffel Tower today
Summit the Eiffel Tower today

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 by a private car to your hotel. After settling in, spend some time walking around and enjoying the sights. Paris is alive and thriving with activity day and night. It's the perfect city to indulge in shopping, with department stores like Lafayette and Printemps housing some of the best local designers and small boutiques offering unique, high-quality designs. 

Wander the colorful boulevards and historical monuments but don't forget the narrow alleys and cozy cafés that create a romantic atmosphere. For art lovers, spending time at Paris' smaller museums is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, as the city has some of the most impressive art collections in the world. Spend your day lingering in the parks, people-watching, or reading a magazine at a sidewalk café to channel your inner Parisien.

Day 2: Pastry & Chocolate Tour in the Marais, Afternoon at the Louvre

Parisian Pastries
Parisian pastries

Eating pastries and enjoying art is synonymous with French culture, and you'll do plenty of both today. Start your tour in the eclectic Le Marais neighborhood with a local guide to explore the secret cafés and taste the best-baked goods in the city. With a selection of tastings at some of Paris' most chic and reputed boutiques, you'll be able to sample macarons, pastries, and chocolates. Learn more about this district's diverse history, home to the city's historic Jewish quarter and a thriving LGBTQ scene.  

In the afternoon, it's time to explore the Louvre, the world's largest art museum. Head straight to the classics, as well as your personal favorites. Of course, you'll want to get close to Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa, but don't forget the Egyptian Antiquities room or the Decorative Arts and Sculptures rooms. If you need a break, there's always the option to get fresh air at the Tuileries Garden. In the evening, stroll along the Champs-Élysées and see the majestic Arc de Triomphe set alight by night.

Day 3: Sacré-Coeur & Montmartre Tour, Shopping in Paris

The quiet streets of Montmartre

Today's tour begins with a visit to the iconic Sacré-Coeur, or Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Learn about both the exterior and interior, and see the largest mosaic in the world, depicting the sacred heart of Jesus worshiped by the Virgin Mary and Jeanne d'Arc. Next, explore the village of Montmartre, which has always stood apart from the rest of Paris as home to artists, revolutionaries, and outsiders who played an essential part in the city's history. These streets hold wild stories at every corner, and the Place du Tertre is one of the most famous squares in Paris. 

After lunch, get some retail therapy in some of the best Parisian shopping districts. If you've got money to burn, try the boutiques of the Golden Triangle, from Porte Maillot to the Champs-Élysées and the avenues George-V and Montaigne, offering the best in haute couture. For a mid-range budget, try Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Sèvres-Babylone, Rue de Rennes, and Hausmann-Opéra, the heart of Parisian shopping. For more of a shabby chic visit, Le Marais, a trendy, avant-garde district, or Martyrs-Pigalle with its vintage stores. When in doubt, you can always lèche-vitrine (go window shopping).

Day 4: Optional Activities, Paris Dinner Cruise

Notre Dame in spring
Along the Seine River

You'll have the day free to explore, and as the possibilities are endless, here are a few suggestions. Walk along the Seine riverbanks between the Musée d'Orsay and the Pont d'Alma. Visit the grand Mosquée de Paris, then relax on the patio with mint green tea. View village life at the Butte-aux-Cailles, a 10-minute walk south of busy Place d'Italie, where you'll find an enclave with cobbled streets and laidback bars. Stroll along the canal Saint-Martin past art galleries and peaceful shaded banks. Escape the crowds to Buttes-Chaumont, one of the city's loveliest parks.

In the evening, embark on a Paris city tour while enjoying the best of French gastronomy. Have an unforgettable dinner while sailing along the Seine River. You'll have the pleasure of discovering outstanding Paris monuments passing before your eyes, such as the Louvre Museum, the Grand Palais, the French Statue of Liberty, and, of course, the sparkling Eiffel Tower. At night, the Paris lights reflect off the water offering a fantastic atmosphere as you enjoy a delicious meal. Taste innovative cuisine based on fresh, seasonal products and understand why French food is famous worldwide.

Day 5: Train to Lyon, Self-Guided City Tour of Lyon

Saint Georges church and footbridge across Saone river
Views across Lyon

In the morning, make your way to the train station to take the TGV (a high-speed train) to Lyon, a two-hour trip to the southeast. Once you've settled in at your hotel, take a self-guided tour of the city. Lyon is France's third most populous city. After Paris and Marseille, it is more compact, allowing you to explore easily on foot. An excellent place to start is the city's UNESCO-listed Old Town and the Presqu'île, a piece of land surrounded by the Saône and Rhône Rivers. Begin at the Gothic Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste and discover a labyrinth of courtyards and passageways.

Here you can wander the narrow cobblestoned streets in search of the famous traboules (hidden passageways). Get a view of it all by walking up to the Fourviere Basilica for a panorama of the whole city. Lyon is known for culinary excellence. The options are endless, from coq au vin (wine-braised chicken) to the city's most famous sausage rosette de Lyon. For dinner, choose among hundreds of restaurants, from family-owned bistros serving traditional Lyonnaise cuisine and informal brasseries to Michelin-starred restaurants like the iconic Auberge de Collonges, founded by chef Paul Bocuse.

Day 6: Wine Tasting in Beaujolais, Local Bouchon Lyonnais Dinner

Beaujolais region
The beautiful Beaujolais region

With your driver and guide, today's excursion takes you to the southern part of Beaujolais, a few miles north of Lyon. Known worldwide for its famous Beaujolais nouveau wine, it is also the "Land of the Golden Stones" because the village's limestone buildings turn a beautiful ochre color as the sun sets. Meet a winemaker for an introduction and tasting of the valley's best reds, then visit Oingt, a 12th-century village classified as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France. Discover the authentic charms of its medieval monuments. As you leave, enjoy exceptional landscapes that offer glimpses of the Alps.

Your last stop will be a visit to a family estate, where the host will be happy to reveal some of the secrets of winemaking. Of course, afterward, you'll taste some wines accompanied by a mâchon, a traditional Lyonnais snack of local cold meats and cheeses. When you've returned to Lyon, enjoy dinner at the Bistrot de Lyon, a gourmet brasserie in the Cordeliers neighborhood. There will be fresh products and traditional Lyonnaise cuisine in a magnificent setting. 

Day 7: Train to Avignon, Drive to Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The countryside near Châteauneuf-du-Pape
The remants of Châteauneuf-du-Pape

It's time to leave Lyon and head to Avignon in the heart of Provence, which is just a short train ride away. While there, you may want to visit Palais du Pape, home to the Pope during the Papal residence beginning in the 14th century and the seat for Western Christianity for six popes. Afterward, you'll pick up your rental car and head to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a small village just 30 minutes north.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape was constructed on a high hill and was the summer residence of the Pope. It enjoyed strong winds no matter how hot it was in the valley, so it remained cool at the château. Later, vineyards were planted and cultivated on the stone-covered land, and while the castle is now just a lone shell, the vineyards remain and produce some of the best wine in France. You'll spend the next two days tasting these fabulous and often rare wines. It's easy to taste wine in the village and at any of the surrounding estates without making appointments.

Day 8: Wine Tasting in Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The vineyards of Chateauneuf du Pape
The vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Châteauneuf-du-Pape spreads out at the foot of the remains of its fortress. This village is entirely devoted to the eponymous wine of the famous Côtes du Rhône appellation (wine categorization). While walking in the town, stop at the Place de la Fontaine, the center of the village, animated by the numerous tasting cellars of the different domains. You can also do tastings at the surrounding estates by car or electric bike rental.

Plan your trip to France
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Once you've had your fill of wine tasting, leave the village to find the Wine Museum Brotte, which houses a significant collection of tools used in the work of the vine and the wine. You can also taste and purchase chocolate not too far away at Chocolaterie Castelain. A little farther on, discover the Saint-Théodoric Chapel of the Romanesque period, which regularly hosts painting exhibitions.

Day 9: Drive to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence via Les Alpilles Natural Park

Mountain pass in Alpilles Nature Park
Les Baux-de-Provence nestled in Les Alpilles

Today you'll leave the vineyards of Châteauneuf for the mountain ranges surrounding Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Drive through the Alpilles Nature Park, which boasts an untamed natural environment. As you go, marvel at the mountains covered in scrubland, pine, and oak forests. Verdant plains will delight the eye as the sun moves across the landscape. Take the time to stop and explore by hiking or biking in the woods. Perched on a rocky plateau and surrounded by this beautiful scenery, you'll find Les Baux-de-Provence, an ideal base from which to discover this one-of-a-kind region.

Once you've reached Saint-Rémy, check in at your hotel and relax before exploring your new surroundings. This charming and typically Provençal village nestled at the foot of the mountains inspired the works of the famous painter Vincent van Gogh, and as you wander, you'll understand why. Stroll the narrow cobblestone streets as you discover boutiques and gurgling stone fountains. The only dilemma will be deciding where among the many restaurants you'll have dinner.

Day 10: Les Alpilles Natural Park, Olive Oil Tasting & Carrière de Lumières

The Carrière de Lumières

Many options are available today as you spend your second day in Les Alpilles. You could continue exploring the Nature Park or learn about olives and their production by visiting an olive mill nearby. Stop by a Provençal farmhouse for a guided mill tour and learn the traditional and modern methods to extract olive oil. Afterward, taste olive oils while you learn the nuances of various types and how to differentiate between them. A cooking workshop will follow with a demonstration of a recipe using mill oil or tapenade.

You could also return to Les Baux-de-Provence and discover its immense underground quarries converted into a sound and light show site. The Carrière de Lumières is a representation of masterpieces projected on the quarry's vast walls, pillars, and floors. They transport you through music into colorful images. Hundreds of illustrations are projected onto more than 23,000 square feet (7000 m²) of surface area. Discover the work of the greatest artists shown in one magical setting. Afterward, return to Saint-Rémy for another Provençal dinner.

Day 11: Excursion to Arles, Explore Roman History

The Roman amphitheater of Arles, which dates to the first century
The Roman amphitheater of Arles, which dates to the first century

It's a short 40-minute drive to Arles, a UNESCO World Heritage Site rich with culture and history. This ancient city is located between the Rhône River delta and the wetlands of Camargue Natural Park. It is defined as much by its historic Roman architecture as by its quintessentially French shady squares and café-lined streets. Arles is probably the most famous as the city that inspired Vincent Van Gogh. His celebrated 1888 oil painting Café Terrace at Night was done in Arles. It's possible to visit the spot where Van Gogh painted this masterpiece, Le Café Van Gogh, in the historic city center. 

On a self-guided tour, meander down the old streets to discover the historical legacy of this once-provincial capital of ancient Rome. The tour includes stops at some of the city's most famous Roman, Christian, and medieval sites and monuments, including the well-preserved amphitheater (which dates back to 90 ACE and still hosts bullfighting matches) and the 11th-century Church of Saint-Trophime

Day 12: Drive to Marseille, Self-Guided Tour of Marseille

The district of Le Panier
 Le Vieux Port in Marseille

Get ready for a change of scenery as you leave the calm of the mountains and head south toward the vibrant city of Marseille. Once you're squared away at your hotel, explore this historic Mediterranean city. Start with the colorful district of Le Panier. This is the "old Marseille," where the city was founded. It's a working-class enclave near the central port and is the picture of Mediterranean beauty, with old plazas, ancient churches, and brightly colored facades on tenement buildings. You'll also find street art on the walls as colorful frescoes. 

Other must-visit areas include the waterfront, the hilltop basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, and the fascinating Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MUCEM), which features permanent exhibits devoted to the history of these regional societies from ancient times to the present day. You'll want to end the excursion in the Vieux Port (the Old Port), in the heart of the city, where you can finish the day by enjoying a good pastis or beer as the sun goes down. For dinner, stay by the port and try a bouillabaisse (fish stew) that makes Marseille famous.

Day 13: Half-Day Gourmet & Walking Tour, Soap Atelier 

Marseille Food Tour
In Marseille, soap is an institution

Meet your guide in the center of this multicultural city and go from one neighborhood to another, discovering all the little Marseillais secrets. Start in the Old Port, where you'll find the daily fish market. Marseille's oldest district is a few steps away, where the Greeks began the city's foundation. Try the famous navettes (a regional cookie) and discover art galleries. Visit the ancient fort and gardens of Fort Saint-Jean, the Cathédrale Saint-Marie Majeure, and the Hotel Dieu. End the excursion back in the Vieux Port, where you can enjoy lunch in one of the many restaurants that line the waterfront.

In the afternoon, explore a different art form as you learn about the region's emblematic Savon de Marseille (Marseille soap). This traditional hard soap, typically made with vegetable oils, has been around for nearly 600 years, with the first record of soapmaking in Marseille from 1370. A master soapmaker will teach you about this famed soap's history, manufacturing process, and ancestral secrets. Today, only a handful of the original Marseille soap ateliers remain. After introducing you to the making and mixing procedures, you'll create and personalize your own soap. 

Day 14: Drive to Nice via Saint-Tropez & Cannes

Pampelonne beach, St Tropez
The Old Port, Saint-Tropez

Leave Marseille for the emblematic Saint-Tropez, beloved by the French artists of the 1960s. You'll find beautiful beaches such as the Plage de la Bouillabaisse or Pampelonne Beach. Finish your beach day on a high note, and enjoy an authentic picnic delivered by a local artisan and made with products of the region served in a basket. If you are not into lying on the beach, try snorkeling or scuba diving. Just a twenty-minute drive from Saint-Tropez, go to Cap Camarat to explore the natural coves and discover its crystal clear waters and typical Mediterranean flora and fauna. 

Next, head to Cannes. While it's more well-known as the host of the International Film Festival, the city has surprisingly humble roots as a modest fishing village. Spend the day exploring as you start at the Old Port in the heart of the city. This marks the entrance to the Suquet, the oldest quarter and historic center of Cannes. Built on a hill, the Suquet invites you to wander along its steep medieval streets as you climb to the top for views of the city. Discover the colorful streets of the city center before heading to your hotel in Nice, only 30 minutes away.

Day 15: Nice Self-Guided Walking Tour

The Excelsior Régina Palace, Nice
La Cours de Saleya Market, Nice

Nice is a historic city famous for its artistic spirit, grand plazas, crescent-shaped pebble beaches, and the narrow streets of its colorful old town, the Vieille Ville. A densely populated coastal metropolis, there are secrets to discover and adventures around every corner. On this self-guided tour, visit sites like the Greek quarter, and the Roman remains of an amphitheater and arena in the historic Cimiez neighborhood.

This is also the location of two other notable landmarks: the opulent Excelsior Régina Palace, where Queen Victoria of England used to summer on the French Riviera, and the Musée Matisse, a museum showcasing the works of Nice's most famous painter, the expressionist master Henri Matisse. Other highlights to be visited are the Promenade des Anglais, Port Lympia, the Vieille Ville, and the ornate Saint-Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral.

Day 16: Gourmet Foodie Tour, Optional Activities

Fresh olives at the markets in Nice
Fresh olives at the markets in Nice

Nice has an abundance of ancient buildings, expansive plazas, and long, inviting beaches with a historical legacy. This densely populated city overflows with the sights and smells of local open-air markets. This walking tour starts in the morning with your guide leading you through a gastronomic odyssey that will surprise and delight your palate with delicious flavors, both familiar and exotic. Much of this adventure is an off-the-beaten-path tour that follows the narrow streets of Nice's colorful old town, Vieille Ville.

This afternoon, enjoy a little getaway with some "chill" time at the beach. There's plenty of choice along the Promenade des Anglais. There are 14 private beaches dotting the Nice coast, which you can easily recognize by their colorful umbrellas. Along with the beach, you'll find restaurants and bars where you can eat lunch, have a cocktail, and sometimes have breakfast or dinner. Enjoy and relax on your final day on Le Côte d'Azur before your long journey tomorrow.

Day 17: Drive to Toulouse, Discover Toulouse

Wander the streets of Toulouse
It's a six-hour drive from Nice to Toulouse, La Ville Rose ("the Pink City"). Toulouse is a city of art and history with an important architectural and artistic heritage preserved over the centuries, with the distinctive pink color of its brick imbuing an undeniable charm. The Place du Capitole is the very heart of the city. Once you've settled, go for a stroll along the attractive banks of the Garonne River, in particular, the Henri Martin Promenade and the Daurade district. The lively streets of the historic center are dotted with cafés and shops. This evening, you'll have your choice of restaurants, bars, pubs, and nightclubs. 

Day 18: Drive to Bordeaux, Gourmet Dinner in Bordeaux

Chartrons in Bordeaux
Porte Cailhau in Bordeaux

This morning, take the two-and-a-half-hour drive to Bordeaux, a UNESCO World Heritage Site city. Spend the afternoon strolling the city at your leisure. Visit the former Royal Square, now known as the Place de la Bourse, with the Fountain of Three Graces and water mirror at its center. Stop at the Gothic 15th-century Saint-André Cathedral and neighboring Tour Pey-Berland to take in the history, then find a bakery to enjoy a sweet cannelé (a small pastry soaked in rum and vanilla)

In the evening, enjoy a quintessential Bordeaux tradition. In this region of wine and gastronomy, l'apéritif (the predinner drink) is an unmissable rendez-vous and the perfect way to start your visit to Bordeaux. Follow it up by heading to one of the city's elegant bistro restaurants. Feast on a dinner of local delicacies, such as duck breast fillet stuffed with foie gras, then follow up with the Arcachon Basin's famed oysters paired with a glass of chilled Entre-Deux-Mers wine. Savor desserts, each prettier than the last, as you take in the city's splendid atmosphere. 

Day 19: Wine Tasting in Saint-Émilion

Saint Emilion
Bird's eye view of Saint-Émilion

Enjoy a full day discovering wine by participating in a tasting class. Visit the medieval village of Saint-Émilion and two wine estates. It all starts this morning in Bordeaux, where you'll learn the art of wine by tasting wine from the region. Enjoy a blending workshop and understand the various grape varieties before composing some of your own. Don't worry; you'll have an assortment of bread and cheeses to line your stomach. After a picnic lunch, it's time to head out to the vineyards of Saint-Émilion to put the theory into practice.

In the afternoon, visit two family-run estates. Explore their vineyards and learn how they produce their wine. Of course, you'll be able to taste them properly using the methods of tasting wine that you learned from the morning session. Finally, take a guided tour of the village of Saint-Émilion, classified on UNESCO's World Heritage list. This typical charming French village dates back to medieval times and is surrounded by the vineyards that took its name. You'll then return to Bordeaux in the evening.

Day 20: Optional Activities in Bordeaux

Rue Sainte-Catherine
Wine tasting among the vines

This is the last full day of your tour, so choose how to spend your time. Start your day with a visit to Capucin Farmer's Market to feast your eyes on fresh local fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, cheese, bread, and pastries. Stroll by the stalls and vendors as you rub elbows with locals doing their morning shopping. Don't miss the Cité du Vin in the city center, where you'll follow immersive exhibits about wine culture through the ages. Afterward, perhaps take one of the many guided cruises through the Gironde estuary to discover the wines and heritage of the Haute-Gironde.

You could also arrange a guided wine tour of the Medoc or Cote du Blaye wine regions just north of the city. Driving along the "Château Route" is the opportunity to visit various estates and learn more about wine production in this region. Just a little farther afield, you could take an excursion to the Bay of Arcachon for its salt air sea breezes, laid-back atmosphere, and fresh seafood and shellfish. While there, check out Pyla's Sand Dune (the largest dune in Europe), and explore the area's beaches and forests. 

Day 21: Transfer to Paris Montparnasse Station, Depart Paris

Departing Europe
Au revoir, Paris!
Savor a final morning in Bordeaux. After breakfast, drop off your rental car. A driver will take you to the Bordeaux Saint-Jean train station, where you'll catch the TGV to the Paris Montparnasse station. From there, continue to your final destination. Bon voyage!

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Written by Ode Ledet, updated Nov 16, 2022