If you have a week and want to explore western France, this quick road trip is perfect. Begin your journey in Paris, where you'll spend equal amounts of time exploring the city's history and savoring pastries. Continue to Normandy to visit the preserved city of Bayeux and see D-Day sites. End the trip in the Loire Valley to discover its famed castles and châteaus.

Highlights

  • Spend the afternoon exploring art at the Louvre
  • Vacation like the French on the Normandy seaside
  • Immerse yourself in history on the D-Day beaches
  • See the resplendent Châteaus de Chambord and Chenonceau
  • Sample the best of France’s wine and cuisine

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
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 Ile de la Cité & Paris Catacombs Paris
Day 4 Drive from Paris to Bayeux & City Tour Bayeux
Day 5 Tour of D-Day Sites & Drive to Loire Valley Tours
Day 6 Day Trip to Châteaus de Chambord & Chenonceau Tours
Day 7 Au Revoir, France  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to France! Arrive in Paris & Evening Eiffel Tower Tour

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. 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

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: Ile de la Cité & Paris Catacombs

French market
French market

Spend the morning exploring the heart of Paris: the Ile de la Cité, located on an island in the middle of the Seine River. Start the tour at the world-famous Notre Dame Cathedral, a 12th-century masterpiece of architecture and home of the infamous Hunchback. Unfortunately, due to the April 2019 fire, the cathedral is closed until further notice for repairs and restoration. But even from the outside, the building's grandeur and history inspire a sense of awe. 

From here cross over the Seine to explore the northern edge of the vibrant Latin Quarter, including Paris's oldest streets. End your tour with a visit to the iconic Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, whose colorful history includes acting as a meeting place for the greatest Beatnik minds in Europe and hosting generations of weary writers among its bookshelves in exchange for a day's work. 

In the afternoon head underground to discover the city's shadowy depths and explore its darkest secrets. Hidden deep inside within the maze of underground tunnels you'll find spine-tingling discoveries: millions of skeletons arranged in bizarre configurations, hidden doors, and more. This tour will peel back the layers of the Catacombs to reveal bone-chilling tales of murder, massacre, revolution, and a few ghost stories to boot!

Day 4: Drive from Paris to Bayeux & City Tour

Water mill in the Old Town
Water mill in the Old Town

In the morning, drive from Paris towards the city of Bayeux, a 3-hour (160 miles/ 260 km) drive. 

After checking in to your hotel, meet your guide for a walking tour of the city. One of today's highlights includes a visit to the famous Tapestry Museum, which houses some of the world's finest works. 

As the first town to be liberated after D-Day and one of the only places to have emerged from WWII nearly unscathed, Bayeux retains much of its old architecture. 

Spend the day exploring the city’s narrow streets, which are lined with traditional wooden-framed Norman houses, and admire the gothic cathedral. In the afternoon, visit the Museum of Art and History Baron Gerard to learn about the lace and porcelain that made Bayeux so rich.

Day 5: Tour of D-Day Sites & Drive to Loire Valley

Celebration of 75 year anniversary of D-Day in Sainte Mere
Celebration of 75 year anniversary of D-Day in Sainte Mere

Today is a full day to discover the powerful legacy of D-Day on Normandy's landscape, as well as its effect on the world. Your local specialist, an expert on the Battle of Normandy and the five landing areas (Utah, Omaha, Gold, Sword, and Juno), will walk you through an emotional day. You'll navigate famous scenes of war, memorialized by the films "The Longest Day" from Darryl Zanuck or "Saving Private Ryan" from Steven Spielberg. 

Pay tribute to the armed forces who fought to end the war on this day as you visit Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery, and D-Day Experience (an interactive 3D movie theater which chronicles the day's events.) ]

After the tour, leave Normandy behind today and head toward inland France. Your destination is the city of Tours in the Loire Valley, located a 2.5-hour (180 miles/ 290 km) drive away. 

Tours was once the capital of the Kingdom of France, and its old town is one of the oldest preserved urban areas in Europe. Romanesque and Renaissance façades, half-timbered houses, and shops line the streets. In the city center, Place Plumereau is full of locals and visitors enjoying the ambiance and watching the world go by. 

In the evening, explore Tours on your own to see some of the city's biggest sights, like Les Halles, Place du Grand Marché, the Church Sainte Croix, Place de Chateauneuf, Church Saint Pierre, and more. 

Day 6: Day Trip to Châteaus de Chambord & Chenonceau

Chenonceau at sunset
Chenonceau at sunset
Start the morning with a private hotel pickup for your full-day tour.
 
Your first stop is Chambord, whose French-Renaissance construction dates back to the early 16th century. This extravagant chateau is one of France's most famous and recognizable, thanks to its stately facade and sprawling grounds. 

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. 
 
Stop for lunch, then continue to Château de Chenonceau—a building whose history is defined by a nearly uninterrupted succession of women. The first chateau was built on this location in the 12th and 13th centuries, although it was burned down in the 14th century. Only the medieval dungeon—Tour des Marque—remains from this construction. 

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 full day, return to your hotel in Tours.

Day 7: 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 Road Trip through Western France: Paris, Normandy, & the Loire Valley - 7 Days
Map of Road Trip through Western France: Paris, Normandy, & the Loire Valley - 7 Days