One of the best ways to explore France is by car and this 30 day self-drive tour itinerary visits many of the most popular regions of this beautiful country.
A self-drive holiday in France gives you the freedom to travel at your own pace and to visit some of the off-the-beaten-path villages, too.
The following French road trip itinerary showcases some of the loveliest regions, each of which is unique in its own way. In all but one instance, I’ve recommended a minimum stay of three nights to allow you to have at least two full days at your destination.
If you can afford more time, you might like to stay longer in each place or perhaps add the Dordogne, the Rhone Alpes or Burgundy to your itinerary.
Although I mostly mention larger cities as the main destinations in this itinerary, you could easily stay outside the city limits if you prefer a more rural base.
Whilst I’ve based this itinerary on renting a car for your journey, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t also suit if you plan to go motorhome touring in France.
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PARIS – COLMAR – REIMS – BAYEUX – LOIRE VALLEY – BORDEAUX – CARCASSONNE – AVIGNON – NICE – PARIS
1 month (30 day) self-drive tour itinerary of France
Day 1 – Arrive Paris
(Alternatively, you could start your self-drive holiday in Frankfurt, Germany)
Day 2 – Paris (or Frankfurt) to Colmar
Collect your hire car this morning before heading to the lovely Alsace region in France’s north-west. (*I always recommend collecting your hire car from the airport. Read why here. ) Driving time from Paris’ Orly airport to Colmar is just over five hours. From Frankfurt, you’ll reach Colmar in just under three hours.
During your stay in Colmar (which has a gorgeous town centre complete with gondola rides on the canal), head to the nearby Alsace Wine Route and the villages of Riquewihr, Hunawihr, Ribeauville, to name a few. Strasbourg (around 80 kilometres away) is also worth a visit.
Day 5 – Colmar to Reims
If you set off just after breakfast this morning you’ll be in Reims by early afternoon. Reims is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the impressive Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Palace of Tau, and Saint-Remi Basilica and Museum – as well as being the most important Art Deco city in France.
The following day, head to the Champagne houses (do the names Mumm, Taittinger or Veuve Clicquot sound familiar?) for tastings and to learn more about the history of this famous beverage.
Day 7 – Reims to Bayeux
Enroute from Reims to Bayeux today, I suggest you travel via the pretty fishing village of Honfleur where you can enjoy a delicious lunch of fresh seafood at one of the harbourside cafes. In Bayeux, you’ll want to visit the Cathedral and the Bayeux Tapestry as well as the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy.
Allow time to wander the narrow streets lined with honey-coloured buildings with black slate roofs before visiting the Commonwealth War Cemetery and the US Cemetery at Omaha Beach – both will move even the most hard-hearted soul.
The following day, the two hour drive west to Mont St. Michel is highly recommended. Spend the day exploring the medieval Abbey perched on its own island before returning to Bayeux for the night.
Day 10 – Bayeux to Amboise
Today’s journey to Amboise in the Loire Valley takes you via Le Mans where motor racing fans will want to stop and visit the famous racing track.
With two full days in the Loire Valley you have time to visit some of the most beautiful Chateaux in the Loire Valley. Chaumont, Chenonceau, Chambered and Cheverny are all popular choices, as is the royal castle of Villandry, with its impressive gardens.
Day 13 – Amboise to Bordeaux
In just under four hours today, you’ll reach the classy city of Bordeaux, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is situated on the River Garonne.
Enjoy a walking tour of city to admire its stunning architecture and marvel at the impressive water mirror, before taking a stroll through the Saint Pierre district, the historic heart of Bordeaux.
The next day, visit one of the Bordeaux region’s famous wineries. Sauternes and Saint-Emilion are just two of the names you’ll hear around here.
Day 16 – Bordeaux to Carcassonne
From Bordeaux, head south east to the Langeudoc-Roussillon department and the city of Carcassonne. High on your sightseeing list should be a visit to the Cite de Carcassonne, one of the most popular tourist attractions in France.
Other sites well worth visiting in the area include the medieval village of Minerve (make sure you visit the Museum), Albi, and the Canal du Midi.
Day 19 – Carcassonne to Avignon
On your drive today towards Avignon, allow time to stop at the Mediterranean port of Sete and the Roman aqueduct, le Pont du Gard, near Nimes.
With three full days in Avignon you’ll have plenty of time to explore the city’s gems which include the Papal Palace, Pont d’Avignon and the old city ramparts, and spend a day or two visiting some of the local Provencal villages.
My favourites include Menerbes, Roussillon and Lourmarin. Nimes, Arles and Orange are all close enough for a day trip, too.
Day 23 – Avignon to Nice
An easy drive along the motorway this morning will have you in Nice in time for lunch. First up should be a leisurely stroll along the Promenade des Anglais before you explore the old town and visit the flower market in Cours Saleya.
Easy day trips from Nice include Monaco, and the perched hilltop villages of Eze and St Paul-de-Vence.
Garden lovers should make time to visit Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild at St. Jean Cap Ferrat and end the day with a stroll around the pretty waterfront at Villefranche-sur-Mer just across the bay.
Day 26 – Nice to Paris
Your road trip around France is now complete (unless you fancy a 900 kilometre drive back to Paris!) so, after returning your hire car, the quickest and most relaxing way to return to Paris is to fly or catch the TGV fast train.
Must-visit sites in Paris include the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Notre Dame Cathedral, St-Chappelle, Sacre-Coeur, Luxembourg and Tuileries gardens, to name just a few. There are also some fantastic opportunities for day tours from Paris.
Day 30 – Depart Paris
Today it’s time to head for home or to continue your European travels.
Things to Know
- Driving times mentioned above are via the most direct route without stops which often means you’ll be travelling on toll roads. Tolls and fuel prices can vary significantly across France.
- France requires that all vehicles carry a number of safety items including reflective safety vests so you should check with your car hire provider to ensure the equipment will be supplied with your vehicle. The Automobile Association of the UK has prepared this list of all items you are required to carry when driving in France.
This post is part of the All about France monthly link up. Read more great articles about France here.
Top image: © Alexi Tauzin / Dollar Photo Club