Planning Your Ultimate Trip to France
There are countless reasons that France is the world’s number one destination, from the sun-kissed beaches and snow-capped Alps to the chateaux, museums and, of course, the food and wine. The itineraries below factor in France's diversity and size, combining areas and sights that are in close proximity and easy to travel between, permitting you to see the most with the time you have. With a core itinerary, you can build on this with extra days, adding other regions to the shorter program.
Our recommendation for a five-day itinerary is to pick one region. Choosing either Provence or the French Riviera are great options because they combine a fabulous range of attractions within a small compass. Our samples below focus on self-drive adventures the that soak up either the delights of Provence (from Marseilles, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence to a wine tour of the Rhône Valley) or those of the sun-blessed French Riviera (from Nice and Cannes to Gourdon and other lofty villages inland). For more 5-day trip ideas, see this article.
There are plenty of ways to build on this foundation. With a full week in France, for example, you can combine the highlights of Paris with the quintessential enticements of Provence or the French Riviera. For more 7-day itineraries, see this article.
With three more days (making it a 10-day trip), you now have sufficient time to combine the three regions, exploring Paris, Provence and the sun-drenched French Riviera. For more on 10-days in France, see this article.
With yet more days at your disposal (making it a 14-day trip), you can add an extra day or two in Paris, Provence or the French Riviera, plus an exploration of the French Alps, including a hike of Mont Blanc, for an absolutely stupendous, well-rounded itinerary. For more on the two-week trip idea, see this article.
In 5 Days: Pick One Region - Provence or the French Riviera
- A perfect cocktail of history, culture, and wine-tasting, plus sunset by the sea
- Combine the top towns, from Aix-en-Provence and Avignon to Marseilles
- Add a Rhône Valley wine tour, including renowned Châteauneuf du Pape
- Enjoy scenic drives, gourmet meals, and fabulous 'Impressionist' landscapes
The highlights of this five-day self-drive tour include the Marseilles waterfront, the lavender fields around Aix-en-Provence, the famous vineyards of Châteauneuf du Pape, plus medieval Avignon.
You’ll spend your first day in Marseilles—the oldest and second-largest city in France—including exploring the "old Marseilles" district of Le Panier, the fascinating Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations, and Vieux-Port for a sundowner sip of pastis (an anise-flavored apéritif).
On day two, drive to Aix-en-Provence, a quintessential Provençal town surrounded by lavender fields, vineyards, and limestone cliffs. Then discover the city's rich heritage, art, and culture as you stroll a labyrinth of narrow streets with an expert guide.
On day three, head to tiny Les Baux de Provence, one of the most beautiful and well-preserved medieval villages in France, clinging precariously to a dramatic limestone outcrop. Visit its 10th-century fortified castle, Château des Baux de Provence, and experience the unforgettable Les Carrières de Lumières multimedia art show projecting images of famous French painters onto cavernous limestone walls. Then drive to the dramatically sculpted Val d'Enfer and on to Saint Remy de Provence for overnight.
Your last full day, take a scenic drive through the area's lavender fields en route to Avignon to explore the Popes' Palace and the Pont Bezenet. In the afternoon, you'll join a half-day wine tour of the southern Côtes du Rhône crus of the Rhône Valley, including a memorable tasting in the famous vineyards of Châteauneuf du Pape. Finish this exciting day in Avignon, with its many bistros and gourmet restaurants.
Day five is time to say goodbye to Provence as you transfer to the Marseilles airport or TGV station to board an aircraft or high-speed train to Paris or Nice and beyond. Learn more
- An ideal blend of coast, countryside, culture and cuisine
- Experience the top seaside resorts, from Port Grimaud to Monaco
- Add medieval mountain villages, with their castles and hiking trails
- Sample wineries, savor gourmet experiences, and enjoy visits to top museums
This relaxed five-day road adventure journeys along the Mediterranean shore and into the nearby mountains, visiting such highlights as Nice, Cannes, lofty Gourdon and the perfume capital of Grasse, plus Port Grimaud—the “Venice of Provence.”
Arrive Nice, pick up your rental car, and head to Eze—a tiny medieval hilltop village called the jewel in the French Riviera's crown—and Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, with its 10th-century castle overlooking the Mediterranean. End you day in picturesque Menton, nestling up to the Italian border.
Day two, explore the morning markets of Menton, then drive via Tourette-Levens to the medieval fortress-villages of Gourdon and Saint Paul de Vence, with their panoramic views over the entire Riviera. Next morning explore Saint Paul de Vence, including biking or hiking the serene foothills. Then drive to the "perfume capital” of Grasse, surrounded by mountains and flower-filled forests at 1312 feet (400 m) elevation. Here, visit the perfumeries and the castle of Mouans Sartoux, now hosting the Museum of Concrete Art. Continue to charming Port Grimaud, nicknamed the "Venice of Provence" for its quaint canals.
On day five, relax in Port Grimaud, follow hiking and biking trails into the Massif des Maures, or visit the "chestnut capital" of Collobrières, with its restaurants specializing in game dishes paired with chestnuts and local wines. Then return to Nice via Villeneuve Loubet, with a magnificent 13th-century castle.
Next day depart Nice for elsewhere in France, or for home. Learn more.
In 7 Days: Pick One Region - Plus 2 Days in Paris
Paris and Provence
- A sublime mix of history, culture, and wine-tasting in Paris and the countryside
- Immerse yourself in the Parisian highlights, from Le Louvre to the Eiffel Tower
- Add the medieval villages and vineyards of the Rhône Valley and the Alpilles
- Enjoy hiking, bicycling, a boat ride, and memorable fine-dining experiences
With 7 days in France, you can sample the quintessential sites of Paris, plus such highlights of Provence as Avignon, the vineyards of the Alpille by bicycle, and the pine-strewn promontories and jade waters of Calanques National Park.
Welcome to Paris, the City of Lights! After settling in to your hotel, dedicate the balance of day one to visiting the Eiffel Tower, then relaxing over a fine meal and wine in the evening. On day two, explore the trendy Le Marais neighborhood, renowned for its boutique gourmet shops, which you’ll visit in the company of a food-connoisseur. Next day, spend your morning in awe at Le Louvre Museum, with skip-the-line-access tickets. Then explore Paris at leisure before savor a dinner cruise on the Seine, with romantic musical entertainment included!
On day four, transfer to Gare de Lyon and thrill to a ride on the high-speed (TGV) train to Avignon, in Provence. Here, pick up your rental car and drive to Fontaine de Vaucluse for a canoeing excursion on the River Sorgue; and to such historic hilltop villages as Bonnieux, Lacoste, and Menerbes, setting for author Peter Mayle’s book A Year in Provence. Your evening is in romantic Avignon.
More delightful medieval villages await on day five on an easy bicycling excursion from Saint Rémy de Provence through the vineyards of the Alpilles. Then drive to Les Baux de Provence for an incomparable vista; plus the unforgettable Les Carrières de Lumières multimedia art show projecting images of famous French painters onto cavernous limestone walls.
Day six, drive to the Mediterranean port town of Cassis for a boat tour of the jade-colored inlets of Calanques National Park—a chance to swim and soak up some sun. Return to Avignon to enjoy your last night of the trip before departing for Paris by TGV train next day. Learn more.
Paris and French Riviera
- A great fusion of resorts, mountain villages and cosmopolitan cities
- Experience the Riviera’s architectural gems, beaches, and seafood restaurants
- Add the iconic neighborhoods and sites of the ‘City of Light’
- Enjoy scenic drives, guided tours, and memorable dining experiences
This weeklong itinerary combines the French Riviera and the ‘City of Lights’ for a great introduction to France. You’ll begin in Nice, then visit such Riviera highlights as Monaco, Cannes, and Antibes before flying to Paris, where your in-depth immersion includes a cruise along the Seine.
Begin in Nice, pick up your rental car, and spend the day exploring this unofficial capital of the Côte d'Azur, including its bayfront Promenade des Anglais. After next morning enjoying Nice at leisure, pick up your local guide for a tour of the medieval village of Eze and the perfumery Fragonard; then continue to Monaco to drive the Grand Prix circuit, admire the megayachts, and perhaps visit such sites as the Cousteau Oceanographic Museum. Then return to Nice via the spectacular Lower Corniche, and Bay of Villefranche.
Day three, add more French Riviera highlights, including Cannes, medieval ramparted port city of Antibes, and the magnificent fortified village of Saint Paul de Vence—once home to Chagall, Matisse, and Picasso.
Next day fly to Paris for three days exploring the ‘City of Light.’ Your first day’s highlights include a cruise on the Seine and not-to-miss museums such as Le Louvre. Then add a day-trip to Versailles for a guided skip-the-line ‘Chateau and Gardens’ tour; back in Paris, end your day with a thrilling sunset from atop the Eiffel Tower. On day six, a full-day gourmand’s experience focuses on exploring the food-rich Le Marais neighborhood in the company of a food-connoisseur. Depart Paris next day. Learn more.
In 10 Days: Provence, French Riviera, & Paris
- A perfect cocktail of historical, cultural and culinary treats in three regions
- Begin by experiencing the top attractions of the ‘City of Light’
- Add the medieval villages, vineyards and cuisine of Provence
- Round out with a chauffeur-driven tour of the French Riviera
Ten days lets you check off a trio of must-see regions, from the highlight sites and magic of Paris, to three nights exploring in and around Aix-en-Provence, pus Cassis, Nice, Cannes and more on the French Riviera.
On day one, bienvenue to Paris. You’ll spend your first three days exploring the city with a private guide, taking in such must-sees as Notre Dame, the Champs Elysees, the Eiffel Tower, and Le Louvre, and the trendy Le Marais district. Plus, you’ll end with a romantic boat cruise along the Seine. Day three reveals a completely different side of Paris as you focus on the city’s many 19th-century covered passageways–a prelude to an afternoon exploring Paris at leisure.
Day four, thrill to a ride on the TGV (high-speed train) from Paris to Aix-en-Provence, where you’ll enjoy a guided afternoon walking tour of the labyrinth and charming narrow streets. Next day, experience Provençal cuisine with a foodie tour, including shopping in Aix's Old Town food markets, a stop at a local chateau to select some great wine, plus a cooking class and rewarding meal with other culinary enthusiasts on a country estate. On day six, a chauffeured drive includes the small port of Cassis and nearby Calanques National Park; then the afternoon exploring Marseilles. You'll return to Aix-en-Provence for one last dinner.
Days 7, 8 and 9 immerse you in the sun-drenched French Riviera. Your chauffeur will follow scenic roads to St Tropez—a favorite of beach-loving celebrities—and other popular resorts before arriving in Cannes. From here, spend a full day exploring the charming hilltop village of Grasse, perfume capital of the world (you’ll visit a premier perfumerie); and the third day with an expert local guide in the chic Mediterranean metropolis of Nice, with its landmark sites spanning Greek ruins to the Musée Matisse.
You’ll depart Nice for home or elsewhere on day 10. Learn more.
In 2 Weeks: More Time in Each Place, Plus the French Alps
- An ideal amalgam combining the best of four of France’s top regions
- Start with a full week exploring Provence and the French Riviera
- Add 3 days in the French Alps, including two for hiking Mont Blanc
- End with 3 days experiencing the top sights and attractions of Paris
This two-week adventure covers four of France’s most popular districts, and offers an immersion in culture, cuisine, and scenery as you explore the French Riviera, Provence, and French Alps, ending in Paris.
Begin with your arrival in Nice, with time to explore the unofficial capital of the Côte d'Azur at leisure. Day two, you’ll learn the art of French cooking, including preparing a fabulous three-course meal, eaten accompanied by fine wines. Day 3 you’ll take a guided excursion to medieval hilltop Eze, and to its chic Mediterannean counterpoint, Monaco and Monte-Carlo, including driving the Grand Prix circuit.
On day 4, pick up your rental car and explore languid Provence. First stop is exquisite Aix en Provence, where the many cultural attractions include Cézanne's art studio. Then head to nearby Saint Remy de Provence to soak in its charms and typical Provençal way of life. Next day add the fortified castle at Les Baux de Provence, and the unforgettable Les Carrières de Lumières multimedia art show projecting images of famous French painters onto cavernous limestone walls. On day 6, enjoy a full-day exploring the beautiful hilltop villages of the Luberon with a private guide.
Day 7, you'll depart Provence and drive to Annecy, in the French Alps, to explore its 16th-century castle and other attractions at leisure. Then spend two days hiking at the foot of Mont Blanc—the highest peak in France—with a night in a mountain hut, surrounded by breathtaking panoramas. On day 10, head to nearby Savoy to visit a cheese cooperative and help prepare one of Savoy’s famous tartiflettes (made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, and onions).
Finally, on day 11, thrill to a TGV high-speed train to Paris, for three days exploring the ‘City of Lights.’ You’ll experience the top sights, such as Notre Dame, and lesser-known gems, such as the Musée Victor Hugo, with an expert local guide. You’ll depart Paris for home on day 14. Learn more.