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If you go to France for ten days, you probably wonder where you should go. Places are many, and time is limited. How about a road trip? A 10-day road trip is way too short to explore France, but with a well-planned itinerary, you can see a lot and avoid feeling stressed and rushed.
The itinerary for this road trip through France includes cities, mountains, lakes, castles, and lavender fields. Some places are widely known, while others are off the main road. We have visited all the places included in this 10-day road trip itinerary.
France! Taste the fizz of Crémant, dream about the history of the kings and queens, feel the warmth of the Mediterranean breeze on your skin, and enjoy beautiful sunsets by the sea.
A road trip is an amazing way to see a lot in a shorter amount of time. Main roads in France are good, but take a few detours on old highways, and you will discover some treasures you don’t have to plan for.
France is full of history, but as you will see, every region you pass will have different architecture and a different feel. Aix-en-Provence is terracotta, Loire Valley is majestic white, and Normandy is Gingerbread-ish.
10-day road trip in France – map
This 10-day road trip through France starts in Paris at the beginning of July. We planned to visit some known and a few less-known places. Suppose you use this itinerary for your road trip. In that case, you will visit Paris, the Palace of Versailles, Beaune in Burgundy, Annecy by the Lake Annecy and the Alps, lavender fields on Valensole plateau, Aix-en-Provence in Provence, Montpellier, Tours, Omaha Beach, and Deauville in Normandy.
The longest drive leg on this itinerary is Montpellier to Tours, approximately 6,5 hours.
Road trip day 1 – explore Paris
Start your road trip in Paris and stay here for at least one night. Suppose you haven’t been to Paris before you have to stay in the city for at least a few days. Be a tourist and explore all the famous attractions! You won’t regret it.
The traffic in Paris is crazy, and parking can be challenging, meaning you can’t just park in front of your hotel. I recommend renting and picking up your car at the airport on the day of your first drive. Alternatively, you can pick up a rented car in Paris.
We took the express train from the airport to the city, and since we didn’t need a hotel with a parking lot, we could stay very central, right next to Arch de Triomphe. If you haven’t been to Paris before or would love to explore other neighborhoods than you already have, I recommend reading my post on the best neighborhoods to stay in Paris.
To help you plan for the best time to go on a road trip in France, you can read my post on the best time to visit Paris. This will give you an idea of prices, weather, and how crowded the country gets during some months. If you plan to explore France for over 10 days, I recommend staying in Paris for three days, preferably off the Champs Elysee. The metro in Paris runs smoothly, but watch out for pickpockets.
Before you drive on, you must try at least one of my favorite restaurants in Paris.
Road trip day 2 – Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles was slightly off the road for the next stop on this road trip. The Palace of Versailles is the holy grail of French history. If you cannot return to Paris soon, I suggest you add the Palace of Versailles to your itinerary.
The Palace of Versailles is about 45 45-minute drive from Paris. Go early so you can be here just before they open. If you are here in July, bring water, wear sunscreen and a cap, or use an umbrella. It is super hot. Get skip-the-line tickets for the Palace of Versailles and set aside at least half a day to explore.
Road trip day 2/3 – indulge in Beaune, Burgundy
Are you a fan of red wine? Especially Burgundy? Well, Beaune is known to be the wine capital of France. This charming town is located between Lyon and Dijon. We chose where to spend our first night after leaving Paris by flipping a coin during road trip planning. The town is not very big, but the lack of size is compensated by the city’s charm and offers of great food. In addition to food, the area of Beaune provides a great selection of wine tours and beautiful castles.
If you are traveling in the middle of the summer, I recommend booking a hotel with a swimming pool. In Beaune, you can stay at Novotel Hotel, a pool and a central location just a few minutes walk from the city center.
It takes only 3 hours to drive from the Palace of Versailles to Beaune, leaving plenty of time to explore this charming city. You can also extend your stay by one night and go on a wine or castle tour.
Road trip day 3/5 – 2 nights in Annecy by the Alps and Lake Annecy
After a cultural and culinary stay in Beaune, I am sure you are ready for another adventure. Annecy, French Venice, offers you mountain activities, lake activities or relaxation, and wine.
Annecy has two advantages: the gorgeous Lake Annecy with its warm and crystal clear waters and the Alps. If you are going on a road trip, a hotel offering parking space is a must, and I recommend staying at Hotel Le Clos Marcel in Duingt, just outside of Annecy.
Whether looking for an active stay, hiking in the beautiful Alps, or chilling by the lake, I promise you you will find both in Annecy. It takes only 2,5 hours to drive from Beaune to Annecy.
Road trips are an amazing way to explore a country, and Southern Europe has more than enough to offer. High up on our bucket list is a road trip in Saõ Miguel, the largest island of the Azores archipelago off the coast of Portugal. The island seems to have just as much to offer (if not more) as the mainland. It’s time to plan another road trip 🙂
Road trip day 5 – see the beauty of lavender fields on Valensole
You can’t go on a road trip in Provence in France and not visit lavender fields. There are many lavender fields, and to find the right one, you can read my article on how to find them in France. If you want a photoshoot, pack your camera gear and clothes easily accessible in your luggage.
Lavender blossoms until the middle of July; after that, the harvest starts, and you will most likely miss the flowers. It takes about 2.5 hours to drive from Annecy to the Valensole Plateau on a scenic road through the Alps.
Road trip day 5 /6 – get Provence under your skin in Aix-an-Provence
By now, you have visited historical sites and famous attractions, explored a tiny piece of Burgundy, hiked the Alps, swam in the lake, seen the beautiful lavender fields, and drunk a lot of red wine. Provence is the next stop on the road trip in the beautiful country of France. It takes about an hour to drive from the Valensole plateau to Aix-en-Provence (depending on the field).
You can choose to stay in many other towns in Provence, but we stayed in Aix-an-Provence. The town has a great vibe, typical Provence colors, architecture, history, and food. Aix-an-Provence is a university town, but all the students go home during the summer, leaving the young vibe to natives and tourists.
Provence has a lot to offer, and you can easily stay here a few days longer if you have time. You can always shorten your stay in another place on this road trip. For a hotel stay, I can recommend the Odalys vacancy. They have rooms with a kitchenette, and the hotel has a pool. We stayed here for one night. The hotel also has a great location, just a few hundred meters from the old town. During our stay, the city had a siesta in the middle of the day, and the kitchenette and the pool were perfect for a few hours in the middle of the day.
Suggestion: Read my article for several things to do in Provence
Road trip day 6/8 – Montpellier
Montpellier is another “old meets new” city in France and the third-largest after Nice and Marseille on the coast of the Meditteranean. The charming old town, colorful tramps, Arc de Triomphe, architecture, and surrounding beaches. This is what you will see in Montpellier and the area around. But you will feel the constant but pleasant buzz of life in the streets, especially in the old town.
Did you know that Montpellier was founded already in 985 bc
We decided early on to stay somewhere for more than 1-2 nights at one point. We stayed in Montpellier for the whole four nights.
Montpellier lies between two rivers, a short drive from the Meditteranean, and surrounded by a few hills that will provide nice views of the city and area.
If you would rather visit museums, there are a few of those too. Montpellier is a diverse city that offers a lot and can satisfy almost any interest, even if you want to spend some time in a zoo or an aquarium. And you can always book a guided tour to a winery.
It takes about 2 hours to drive from Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier. For some strange reason, the water in the Meditteranean was ice cold in July, and I am glad we stayed in a hotel with a pool.
Road trip day 8/9 – Tours in Loire Valley – the Valley of the Kings
Who hasn’t seen the Leonardo Di Caprio movie “The Man with the Iron Mask”? The legend says that the king’s twin brother Louis was indeed real, and he was secretly sent to Loire Valley to live there. To avoid intrigues in court, of course. Choosing which of the boys would become the King of France was impossible. Since the boy was still royal, he would live like a royal, even in secret. And that is why there are so many castles in the Loire Valley.
Tours, the region’s capital, lies in the lower part of the river Loire banks. The two major attractions in the city center are the cathedral and Hotel de Ville (city hall). But like any respectable city in France, Tours has quite a few buildings of both historical and architectonic interest. If you stay here for a few days, you should visit some castles in the Loire Valley.
Have a burger and a beer at the Guingette sur Loire, the outdoor cafe on the left bank of the river. Enjoy your simple meal in the shadow of the riverbank while people watch.
It takes 6,5 hours to drive from Montpellier to Tours. We stayed near Hotel de Ville in a gorgeous hotel with a beautiful spa/pool.
Road trip day 9 – Omaha Beach in Normandy
Omaha Beach and its history doesn’t need further introduction. Since we are both WWII “fans,” we visited the museum instead of Mont-Saint-Michel. It can be quite foggy and very windy at the beach, so pack your windbreaker so it is easily accessible.
Visit the main memorial and the cemetery, but also a few small installations in the area. Take a stroll on the beach, and don’t forget to turn left to see the magnificent cliffs or, even better, take a slight detour to visit one of the hidden gems in France – the white cliffs of Etretat.
It takes 3 hours to drive from Tours to Omaha Beach. Check museum opening hours, so you don’t come too early.
Road trip day 9/10 – the gingerbread village of Normandy – Deauville
The last stop on this road trip in France is Deauville. The gingerbread village, as I like to call it. Deauville is known for several things, such as an international film festival, a racecourse, and a casino. According to Wikipedia, the village is regarded as “the queen of the Norman beaches.” If you stay here, which I recommend you do for at least one night, you will have an expensive ending to your road trip.
Deauville has been home to French high society’s seaside houses and is often called the Parisian Riviera. Since the 19th century, the town of Deauville has been a fashionable holiday resort for the international upper class. And this village is also a desirable family resort for the wealthy. So here you go!
Driving from Omaha Beach to Deauville takes a little longer than an hour. We stayed in the gorgeous but also most expensive hotel on this trip. Which I still recommend for at least one night. Upon your arrival, we were taken on a tour around the hotel and shown the photos of all the famous movie stars before us.
Your road trip in France can also start here in Normandy and go another way around. Getting to Airport Charles de Gaule from Deauville takes about 2 hours and 40 minutes.
When we planned this itinerary, we decided to stay in cheaper hotels where we stayed for one night and more expensive places where we spent two or more nights.
Highways in France are fine, but old highways and side roads are like any other European country. We took a sideroad between Aix-en-Provence and Montpellier and met Pont du Gard. This ancient Roman aqueduct is the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges and one of the best-preserved. Sometimes planning is overrated 🙂
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If you are into exploring small, colorful cities like Deauville, then you will love to spend 2-3 days in Venice