Get to know France beyond the glitz and glamor of its cities!
Go for a road trip and get acquainted with its fragrant fields, cliffside castles, and vibrant vineyards. Here are 5 amazing road trips to take in France.
5 amazing road trips to take in France
Here are 5 amazing road trips to take in France. You’ll find more details, itinerary recommendations, and road trip tips below.
- Alsace wine route
- Route Napoleon
- Normandy and the Loire Valley
- Bordeaux to Biarritz
- Languedoc and Provence
Use this Google map to plan your fabulous French road trip.
Begin your road trip in Strasbourg, a beautiful border city that enjoys both the French finesse and the German joviality. Stay in the gorgeous Cour du Corbeau and take your time exploring the storybook districts of Petite France and Place Kleber, eating tarte flambée and choucroute, and taking road trips to the northern Vosges natural park.
After 3-4 days of dining, hiking, and shopping, drive south to Colmar and make the charming Le Colombier your base as you explore the south of Alsace. Visit Eguisheim, Riquewihr, and Kaysersberg, Alsace’s small wine-growing towns, and taste the region’s world-class white wines. Walk through vineyards and hike to old castles and ruins, then end your days with hearty food and great wine. Unwind with a trip to Lac du Ballon and the Grand Ballon and enjoy the forest trails and spectacular views. On your way back to Strasbourg, stop by the medieval chateau of Haut-Koenigsbourg.
Top tips for your Alsace road trip
- Fly to Strasbourg (buses and trains from elsewhere are also doable)
- Reserve your car online in advance and pick it up either from the Strasbourg airport or from Gare Centrale
- Divide your stay between Strasbourg and Colmar. Stay in Strasbourg to explore northern Alsace, then move to Colmar to explore the southern parts.
- Don’t drink and drive! Have a designated driver or bring home a bottle of wine to enjoy at the hotel at the end of the day.
Combine sight-seeing with history in this road trip that follows Napoleon Bonaparte’s 1815 march from Elba to Grenoble on his way to overthrow Louis the 18th. This road trip route is especially scenic, as Napoleon chose remote roads that avoid large cities and pass through beautiful countryside.
Fly to and get your car in Cannes, then head straight to Grasse, the center of the French perfume industry. Check in to the quaint Aux charmes de grasse and explore the hilly medieval town for a day or two.
Head next to the mountains for a stunning view of the Mediterranean coast, and keep your eyes peeled for signs and plaques commemorating Napoleon’s march along the mountain roads. Drive to the Col de Valferriere, the ruins of Chateau de Broundet at Seranon, and the pretty town of Castellane. This is one of the most scenic segments of the trip, as well as the most exhilarating with its hairpin turns and cliffside views. Make a short detour to the Verdon Gorge before continuing on to stay the night at the elegant La Bonne Étape where you can celebrate your mountain driving feats with haute cuisine and an extensive wine collection.
After your restful pitstop, continue your drive to Grenoble, making sure to stop by Grand lac de Laffrey to marvel at the bright blue lake. Finally in Grenoble, check in to Le Grand Hotel Grenoble and spend the next couple of days enjoying crozets and foie gras and gorgeous mountain views at every turn.
Top tips for your Route Napoleon road trip
- Fly to Cannes or Nice
- Take advantage of one-way car rentals – get your car from Cannes (or Nice) and return it in Grenoble
- Book your hotels in advance – perfect stopovers are: Grasse, La Bonne Étape, and Grenoble
- A wild road follows a wild river – here’s one more road trip itinerary off the Route Napoleon
History buffs will love this road trip through the historic Normandy and Loire Valley. If you’re visiting Paris, it’s one of the best road trips to take after you’ve had your fill of the French capital. You can make a nice loop and explore the regions west of Paris to see the French countryside beyond its flashy cities.
From Paris, drive to Rouen, a historic medieval town that inspired many Impressionist painters, including Claude Monet. Walk around to see the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Gros Horloge, and the charming half-timbered houses. Continue your drive to Honfleur, a harbor town with picturesque streets, which is also the perfect place to stop for lunch.
Next up, visit the historic beaches of Normandy, where the Allies landed in 1944. Take a day or two to visit the World War 2 sites and tributes, making the lovely port city of Caen your base. Hotel La Fontaine is the perfect place to stay while in Normandy.
While you’re in Normandy, explore the neighboring Brittany region. Visit the fortified city of Saint-Malo, then head to Mont Saint-Michel, an impressive island commune perched on a rocky peak.
Head next to Loire Valley, making Tours your base (Hotel Val De Loire is our top pick). Spend the next few days time-traveling to medieval towns and chateaux. Don’t miss the beautiful Chateau de Cheverny and Chateau de Chambord!
From Tours, a scenic drive northeast brings you right back to Paris.
Top tips for your Normandy road trip
- Fly to Paris
- After a couple of days exploring the capital city, pick up your rental car in Paris and start your drive to Normandy
- Book your hotels in advance – perfect stopovers are: Caen and Tours.
Life getting too real and you need to just kick it and clear your mind? This road trip that goes from countryside to coast is the perfect antidote.
Begin your holiday in Bordeaux. Get a car and spend a couple of days driving around the wine region, making sure to make your way to the beautiful medieval village of Saint-Emilion. Go on hikes, fuel up on the region’s amazing cuisine, and see the city on bikes. Stay at Yndo Hotel to get the best of Bordeaux. Once you’ve had your fill of this scrumptious city, pack your car and head south.
Break up your drive with a quick stop at Domaine de Laas to enjoy the chateau’s vast gardens and artworks. Have lunch at Navarrenx, crowned France’s most beautiful village in 2014, and take a stroll around the markets. Finally, drive into Barcus and spend a day or two relaxing in the serene Hotel Restaurant Chilo, while you go for hikes and drives to the surrounding mountains.
From Barcus, it’s time to make your way to the coast. Stop by Saint Jean Pied de Port for breathtaking views of the Pyrenees and a walk around the walled town, then proceed to Saint Jean de Luz for a wonderful Basque meal by the bay.
Top tips for your Bordeaux to Biarritz road trip
- Fly in to Bordeaux, fly out from Biarritz
- Reserve your rental car for pick-up in Bordeaux and drop-off in Biarritz
- Book your hotels in advance – perfect stopovers are: Bordeaux, Barcus, and Biarritz
Nature-lovers and beauty connoisseurs, this road trip’s for you. The neighboring provinces of Languedoc and Provence will have you swooning for dramatic bastides, frolicking in flower fields, and embracing the sunshine and stunning sceneries.
Fly to Avignon and, unless you’re arriving on an evening trip, pick up your rental car and drive to the romantic medieval town of Uzes. Make the lovely L’Albiousse your base for the first half of this road trip as you take your time exploring the gorgeous region of Languedoc.
From Uzes, drive south to visit Nimes, a beautiful well-preserved city with vestiges of the Roman Empire, including the 2,000-year-old Pont du Gard aqueduct and the Maison Carree. Go further south through Arles and Camargue, and all the way to Aigues Mortes, a medieval walled French commune with plenty of stories to tell.
After exploring east of Languedoc, it’s time to cross over to Provence. Move to Hotel Chateau Des Alpilles in Saint Remy, and relax as you get ready for a drive across the bendy yet oh-so-breathtaking roads of Provence. Start at the postcard-perfect L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and make your way east, through the Luberon to Gordes and Roussillion. Take some time to stroll around each of these old towns and take hikes around the surrounding forest trails. If you’re traveling from late June to early August, it’s worth driving all the way to Valensole to see – and whiff and frolic in – the copious lavender fields.
Once you’ve breathed in all the beauty of Southern France, return your car and fly out of Avignon.
Top tips for your Languedoc and Provence road trip
- Fly in and out of Avignon
- Reserve your rental car for pick-up and drop-off at Avignon
- Book your hotels in advance – Uzes and Saint-Remy are perfect bases, but if you prefer to stay in one place, Avignon is a great central location
Ready to go on your fabulous French road trip?
Here are helpful links to help you plan your road trip:
Includes requirements for driving, options for renting a car, road rules and driving safety, as well as estimated costs.
Got other road trip itineraries in mind? Check the list of car hire locations in France and take advantage of one-way rentals. You can also input your travel dates and locations below for a quick free quote and instant reservation.
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I hope this gives you fantastic ideas for your road trip in France! Have a fun holiday!
First published – 8 September 2018
Last updated – 5 December 2019 – fixed format and updated information