Embrace "la belle vie" on this relaxed, two-week French itinerary. After five dreamy days in Paris—pastry tasting in the Marais, touring the Louvre, and boating down the Seine—you'll strike out towards Provence and the sun-soaked Riviera. Stroll the colorful streets of Aix-en-Provence, sail to hidden coves and beaches in Marseille, and taste your way through Nice on a foodie's tour of the city's bustling markets.

Highlights

  • Embark on a pastry tour of Le Marais
  • Discover the wonders of the Louvre & Opéra Garnier
  • Tour the hilltop villages of the Luberon
  • Explore Marseille's glittering coastline by boat
  • Taste your way through Nice's vibrant food markets

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Paris! Paris
Day 2 Free Day in Paris Paris
Day 3 Pastry Tour of Le Marais, Afternoon at the Louvre Paris
Day 4 Shopping Time in Paris Paris
Day 5 French Baking Class, Tour of Opéra Garnier Paris
Day 6 Train to Aix-en-Provence, Guided Walking Tour  Aix-en-Provence
Day 7 Avignon & Hilltop Villages of the Luberon Region Aix-en-Provence
Day 8 Free Day in Aix-en-Provence Aix-en-Provence
Day 9 Transfer to Marseille, France's Oldest City Marseille
Day 10 Marseille Private Boat Cruise Marseille
Day 11 Train to Nice: Welcome to the Riviera Nice
Day 12 Gourmet Foodie Tour of Nice Nice
Day 13 Monaco, Monte Carlo & Eze Guided Tour Nice
Day 14 Depart Nice  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Paris!

Summit the Eiffel Tower today
Welcome to the City of Light
Bienvenue à Paris! 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 for your first look at the city. Spend some time walking around downtown and enjoying the sights. 

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. 

Day 2: Free Day in Paris

Notre Dame in spring
Notre Dame in spring
Paris is an inexhaustible source of culture and leisure, from incredible monuments to gastronomy. Beyond traditional tours, new ways to visit the capital have emerged in recent years. Pick from the following unique options to make the most of your time in the French capital: 

  • Walk along the Seine riverbanks between the Musée d’Orsay and the Pont d’Alma.

  • Visit the Grande Mosque de Paris, then rejuvenate on the patio among the wisteria and rosettes of mosaics with a mint green tea.

  • Sample village life at the Butte aux Cailles, a ten minutes walk south of busy Place d'Italie, where you'll find a slightly counter-cultural enclave with cobbled streets and laidback bars.

  • See street art in Belleville, from the Rue Sainte-Marthe and its candy-colored shop fronts to the Rue Denoyez with an ever-changing array of tags and artwork.

  • Engage in a sensory experience at the Atelier des Lumières, a former foundry reinvented in a space of digital art that offers a striking immersive exhibition.

  • Walk along the Canal Saint-Martin past art galleries and peaceful shaded banks.

  • Escape the crowds in Buttes-Chaumont, one of the city's loveliest green spaces.

  • Take a stroll along Petite Ceinture, a disused railway line that runs for miles around the inner city. Several of its stretches are now urban bio-diversity trails.

  • For lunch, there's nothing better than the warm atmosphere of the Belleville neighborhood.

  • On a rainy day, visit the Catacombs and explore the seedy underbelly of Paris.

  • For a tropical getaway in the city visit the greenhouses of the Jardin des Plantes.

As evening falls, head to the Palais de Tokyo (an art museum) for a drink at Les Grands Verres before viewing art until well past midnight, or see the lights of Paris at night with a flight on the Ballon de Paris, one of the world's largest air balloons. 

Day 3: Pastry Tour of Le Marais, Afternoon at the Louvre

Parisian Pastries
Sample the best Parisian pastries on today's tour

Eating pastries and enjoying art is synonymous with French culture, and you'll get to do plenty of both today! Start your morning with a tour of the beloved Le Marais neighborhood with a local guide (a neighborhood resident) 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.

Then, 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. 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 4: Shopping Time in Paris

A covered shopping passageway in Paris
Take advantage of another free day in Paris to enjoy some window shopping (or indulge in a shopping spree) as you explore some of the city's loveliest neighborhoods. Suggestions include: 

  • The boutiques of the Golden Triangle: from the Porte Maillot to the Champs-Élysées traffic circle, via the avenues George-V and Montaigne, Paris offers the best in haute couture, ready-to-wear and luxury. Prestigious brands like Louis Vuitton, Dior, Hugo Boss, Chanel, Kenzo, and Ralph Lauren make their home here, but you'll also find many other ready-to-wear brands.

  • Hausmann-Opéra, the heart of Parisian shopping: the Haussmann-Saint-Lazare-Opéra square is one of the very first urban shopping centers. A true commercial heart of the capital, it houses the main department stores of the city.

  • Le Marais: a trendy, avant-garde district full of independent boutiques and galleries.

  • Martyrs-Pigalle: a popular bobo (bourgeoise-bohemian) atmosphere and lots of vintage stores.

  • The famous Montmartre: a village atmosphere with charming alleys full of fashions, art, and homewares.

Day 5: French Baking Class, Tour of Opéra Garnier

Fresh-baked French baguette
Learn to bake your own Parisian-style baguette
Today you'll step behind the counter of a French bakery to learn how to bake your own traditional bread and viennoiseries. The bakery owner themselves will instruct you on the methods behind baguettes, puff pastries such as croissants and pains au chocolat, and sourdough loaves. Show off your newfound skills by bringing home your own baguette.
 
Afterward, follow your guide to the impressive Opéra Garnier, where famous painters like Degas used to visit to paint the ballerinas. You'll learn about the history of this sumptuous building along your tour, including the Grand Escalier main staircase, glittering foyer, and the Chagall-painted ceiling of the main room.

Day 6: Train to Aix-en-Provence, Guided Walking Tour 

Aix town hall
Blue skies over Aix's Town Hall
Your journey to the South of France starts this morning, with a 3.5-hour TGV (high-speed train) ride from Paris to Aix-en-Provence. Upon arrival at the station, you'll be picked up by a private driver and transferred to your hotel in town.
 
After settling in, it's time to explore "Aix" on a two-hour guided walking tour, uncovering the rich heritage, art, and culture that defines this famous city. Stroll through 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. Then, stop and see the Town Hall (known locally as the Hotel de Ville), which dates to the 14th century and sits on a plaza from the same era. The tour also includes a walk along the Cours Mirabeau, a busy thoroughfare lined with leafy trees, markets, and cafés—perfect for people watching. And keep your eyes peeled for ruins dating back to the days of the Roman Empire!

Day 7: Avignon & Hilltop Villages of the Luberon Region

Aerial view of Avignon and Pont Saint-Bénézet
Aerial view of Avignon and Pont Saint-Bénézet

 After breakfast, travel about an hour northwest of Aix-en-Provence to the medieval city of Avignon. You'll find centuries' worth of fascinating history here, as this is where Pope Clemente V moved his court in the 14th century. For several decades after that, it was the seat of the Catholic popes.

Spend the day exploring the city on a guided walking tour. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Le Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) and the Pont Saint-Bénézet medieval bridge, subject of the famous 15th-century song Sur le Pont d’Avignon. You'll also visit Avignon Cathedral, Doms Garden, Saint Pierre Basilica, and the Place de l'Horloge, Avignon's main square. 

Next, explore the surrounding Luberon region, known for its countryside vineyards, orchards, and postcard-worthy hilltop villages. Then, travel at a leisurely pace as your guide takes you to the town 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 exactly what you'll do!

After eating, head to Gordes, arguably the most beautiful of all the hilltop villages in the Luberon. Its fortified castle dominates the skyline, 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 short drive to the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Sénanque, a Cistercian abbey founded in the 12th century. 

At the end of this full-day tour, you'll head back to Aix for the night.

Day 8: Free Day in Aix-en-Provence

Browse the local markets of Aix
Today is free time to explore the small city of Aix-en-Provence. Pick from the following options to make the most of your time in the historic capital of Provence: 

  • Take a walk on the famous Cours Mirabeau, with its archway of sycamores shading sidewalk cafes and terraces.

  • Every day of the year, it's possible to stock up regional specialties in the city's markets. The larger markets happen three times a week (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings, at Place des Prêcheurs, Place de la Madeleine, and in the Encagnane and Jas de Bouffan neighborhoods), as well as the flower markets (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday across from the Town Hall).

  • Visit Cezanne's studio and garden where he painted some of his greatest masterpieces.

  • Spend some time visiting the Caumont Art Centre, a cultural institution devoted to the Fine Arts. It's located in the former Hôtel de Caumont Mansion, a remarkable 17th-century building.

  • Visit the Granet Museum, which displays more than 12,000 works and masterpieces of 17th to 21st-century paintings from the French School, 10 paintings by Cézanne, a sculpture gallery, and rooms devoted to archaeology and the Celtic-Ligurian civilization.

  • Discover the Archbishops' Palace, adjoining to the St. Sauveur Cathedral, the former palace of the archbishops of Aix-en-Provence. It houses the Tapestry Museum on an upper floor (and during the month of July, the principal events of the Festival of Song).

  • Enter the Pavillon Vendôme with its magnificent French-style gardens. In addition to a beautiful collection of portraits and furnishings, the museum displays contemporary and modern art exhibitions.
In the evening, enjoy dinner at one of the city's farm-to-table restaurants.

Day 9: Transfer to Marseille, France's Oldest City

The district of Le Panier
Pastel shops in Marseille's Le Panier district

Today you'll depart Aix for the historic Mediterranean city of Marseille. "Historic" might even be an understatement—with 2,600 years of history, this is France’s oldest city, founded on the site of the ancient Greek colony of Massalia around 600 BCE.

Get settled into your hotel, then start your explorations in Marseille's most impressive and historic neighborhoods, like the colorful district of Le Panier. This is the "old Marseille," where the city was founded. It's a working-class enclave on 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 in the form of colorful frescoes. 

Other must-visit areas include the waterfront, the hilltop basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, and the Roman monastic foundation of Saint-Victor Abbey. You can also follow a walkway to Fort Saint-Jean, a fortification dominating the port that was built in 1660 by Louis XIV. Be sure to pay a visit to 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 Vieux 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.

Day 10: Marseille Private Boat Cruise

Malmousque
Turquoise waters at Malmousque

Spend the morning discovering the hidden gems of Marseille. Just a stone's throw from the tumult of the city center, you'll find one of the world's most beautiful coastal regions. Make your way to the port, then set sail on a private boat tour. Your personal skipper will navigate to the day's first stop: the Frioul Islands archipelago. With its little port and famous Château d'If, this neighborhood of Marseille includes four small islands with great views of little rocky coves and the ancient castle.

From here, continue your tour to Malmousque to explore hidden rocky inlets and turquoise water—perfect for a quick swim. Finish your trip at the beautiful Vallon des Auffes, an ancient fishing port located under a huge bridge. You'll have ample time for swimming in these hidden coves, which are difficult to access without a boat.

Day 11: Train to Nice: Welcome to the Riviera

Seaside in Nice
Nice's iconic Promenade des Anglaiss

Today you'll continue your journey with a three-hour train journey east along the coast to Nice. Sitting at the northern end of the French Riviera, near the border with Italy, Nice is known for its artistic spirit, grand plazas, and crescent-shaped pebble beaches. Inarguably the French Riviera's most popular city, the narrow cobblestone streets of its colorful old town, Vieille Ville, are lined with pastel-colored buildings and a plethora of shops selling everything from soap to wine. 

Get settled into your hotel then spend the rest of the day exploring the city on your own. As evening falls, enjoy a relaxing evening stroll along the shore on the famous Promenade des Anglais, then head to a local restaurant for a welcome dinner. 

Day 12: Gourmet Foodie Tour of Nice

Fresh olives at the markets in Nice
Fresh olives at the markets in Nice
Savor the sights and sounds of Nice's open-air markets with a guided walking tour that embarks in the morning and culminates around noon. Your local expert guide will lead 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. All the while, your guide will introduce you to purveyors and market vendors who will treat you like a local while offering sweet and savory symbolic treats as they explain the history of Nice and its gastronomy.
 
The rest of the day is at your leisure. You could explore the city's ancient Greek Quarter, which dates back to around 350 BCE, or visit the remains of the Roman amphitheater in the historic Cimiez neighborhood. Nearby you'll find 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. Head to the quays of Port Lympia to take in sweeping of Mediterranean, or 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 13: Monaco, Monte Carlo & Eze Guided Tour

Breathtaking views from the village of Eze

Today you'll join your private guide and travel 12 miles (20 km) along the coast to the city-state of Monaco, for a tour of one of the world's smallest countries. Visit the famous Monte Carlo district with its legendary casino and see Prince Rainier's car collection, then continue to the Rocher de Monaco (Rock of Monaco). 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. 

Proceed 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. After a stroll through the town's peaceful gardens, you'll be driven back to Nice for the evening. 

Day 14: Depart Nice

Take a sunset stroll in Nice
Sunset over Nice

Enjoy a final leisurely breakfast in the Riviera sunshine before transferring to the airport to catch your departing flight. A bientôt!

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