Like most European countries, France has an excellent public transport system that makes moving between the big, important cities really easy. Well-preserved autoroutes, high-speed trains and airports all contribute to a great travel experience. However, it’s a country that deserves to be explored on the open road. Its ever-changing landscape, picturesque towns and villages and delicious local cuisine just cry out for enough time to be explored in a leisurely way.
To make things easier for international travellers, an international driver’s permit is not required in France to rent a car or drive within the country’s geographical limits. As long as your drivers’ license is written in French or English, you’re good to go! Whichever the case, it’s always a good idea to be well covered against any inconvenience that may arise: investing in a good traveller’s medical policy and a complete insurance policy for your rental car that won’t break the bank are a must-have.
Follow the Route Napoleon and enjoy a road trip that combines equal doses of interesting history and great scenery. As you drive, you’ll follow Napoleon Bonaparte’s 1815 march from Elba to Grenoble on his way to overthrow Louis XVIII. It’s a particularly scenic road as the famous military man chose remote roads away from large cities so get ready to enjoy some of the most breathtaking views in France.
Route Napoleon is 350 kilometres long and it’s perfect for a weekend road trip. There are many interesting villages to be explored such as Cannes, Grasse, Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey, Seranon, Castellane, Digne, Sisteron, Gap, Corps, La Mure and Grenoble. Probably, the highlight of this trip is Grasse, an ancient Provencal town known as the perfume capital of the world.
You’ll be able to enjoy a meandering drive down the mountainside, admiring awe-inspiring cliffs and natural valleys. Make sure you stop off from time to time to enjoy a cup of coffee and a slice of cake en route. Punctuated by beautiful historic landmarks, it’s the perfect trip for those interested in stunning natural French scenery. It’s a very popular drive with tourists looking for a scenic drive to the south of France. The route begins or ends in Cannes and winds its way through towns and villages before climbing to the mountainous Prealps at Grenoble.
The Alsace Wine Route
Strasbourg is a great starting point to explore the Alsace Wine Route. It’s a beautiful border city that enjoys the French charm and the German joviality. Take your time to enjoy the districts of Place Kleber or Petite France and the delicious French-German cuisine. Then, drive south to Colmar and explore the south of Alsace. Visit Eguisheim, Riquewihr and Kaysersberg; they are all small-wine-growing towns where you can taste the world-class white wines that are so characteristic of this region. Walking through the vineyards and hiking to the old castles is a great plan. Get lost at the forest trails and enjoy spectacular views!
What makes the Alsace Wine Route so special is that it will take you through some of the most beautiful medieval towns you can ever see.
Explore the Historically Rich Normandy Region
Normandy is probably best explored and discovered on a road trip. Driving makes it easier for travellers to combine the famous D-Day beaches, colourful harbour towns and the striking white-cliff coastline with ease. Vierville-sur-Mer, where soldiers landed on Omaha Beach on 6 June 1944 is a good starting point. From there, it’s easy to explore other interesting historical stops along the coastline: the Musée du Débarquement at Utah Beach, Pointe du Hoc, the American Cemetery and Omaha Beach, Longues-sur-Mer battery and the Merville Battery Museum. If you keep travelling NE you’ll reach Honfleur, a picturesque town that was Monet’s favourite place.
Then, hope on the Route du Cidre to the east of the port city of Caen. The route winds through a series of charming towns and hits the best cider and Calvados producers along the way. There are plenty of apple orchards, fermentation and distilling cellars that are really worth exploring.
The Regal Route: Loire Valley and Its Castles
Drive along the picturesque D952 that hugs the Loire Valley and explore the region’s towns that are scattered with stunning castles _ or chateaux _ here and there. The Loire Valley was historically where the French aristocrats would retreat during the summer months so there are plenty of beautiful residences to see and admire.
The Regal Route will take you past all the highlights of the region: the pretty towns of Amboise and Saumur that overlook the Loire river, Angers, quaintest roadside picnic spots or the Loire-Anjou-Touraine Regional Nature Park.
It’s also an ideal road trip for those with a soft heart for history, architecture, food and wine. From Saumur drive to Chateau d’ Ussee (the castle that inspired Sleeping Beauty) after a stop at Chateau Miniere for a walk among the vines and some delicious wine tasting. The beautiful and sumptuous gardens at Chateau Villandry are also a highlight of this road trip and they are also within easy reach from Saumur.
Go on driving eastwards and head to Amboise. This town is home to the Chateau de Clos Luce, where Da Vinci spent his final years. From there, the most iconic Loire castles are easy to reach: Chateau Chenonceau and Chateau Chambord.
Languedoc and Provence: Lavender Fields
If you love nature and all things beautiful then this road trip will make your day. Languedoc and Provence are neighboring provinces that will have you swooning for dramatic bastides, embracing the sunshine, admiring stunning scenery and frolicking in flower fields. The charming town to Avignon and its stunning Palais de Papes should be your starting point. Take your time to explore it and see around and then drive to the romantic medieval town of Uzes; you’re in the gorgeous Languedoc region so take your time to take it in and admire it!
From Uzes drive south to Nimes. Nimes is a beautifully preserved city with vestiges of the Roman Empire, including the 2000-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 you’ll adore before entering the Provence region.
If you visit the Provence in June or July you’ll be awarded with the extensive lavender fields in full bloom. Besides, grapes are heavy on the vines and the beautiful colours make for an Instagrammable experience. There are many picturesque villages such as Gordes, Roussillon or Ménerbes just to mention a few of them that are delightful to visit. If you’re lucky to be around in their market day, don’t miss the chance to purchase fresh goat cheese or local lavender honey!
And while in Provence, if you’re interested in lavender, why don’t you explore the beautiful Lavender Road? Gordes is a great place to begin your journey. It’s a quiet village atop of a hill that looks onto the Luberon Valley. Stone paved homes and streets contrast against the bright flora and fauna that surround the city. From there, you’ll arrive at the lavender fields of Senanque Abbey. Sault is your next and final stop. Perched on a promontory, explore the remains of this feudal castle and enjoy a panoramic view of the lavender fields below.
La Route des Grandes Alpes: Take In The Mountains!
La Route des Grandes Alpes is stunning, dramatic, jaw-dropping and absolutely fascinating. It gives you the perfect opportunity to admire the alpine environment with its snow-capped peaks and rugged mountain terrain. Winter is probably the best time of the year for this road trip that starts out at Lake Geneva and stretches for over 425 miles crossing through forests and mountain passes.
Skiers are avid fans of La Route des Grandes Alpes as it gives them the perfect excuse to grab their skis and stop off at some of the most famous resort towns such as Chamonix or Morzine for a quick race down the slopes until you reach Nice via the French Alps. You’ll be able to see Alpine uplands, larch forests, glaciers and the foothills of Mont Blanc!
Hitting this road in the summer months also offer great perks for adrenaline seekers. You can rest assured that some of the best scenic walks and the most spectacular sights await you as you reach over 2300 meters at the Alps!
The Route des Grandes Alpes reopens every year at the end of Spring and it’s completely open from June to October. In the winter months, it can be too snowy and some of the 16 mountain passes may be close or too dangerous to drive through.
The Romantic Route
France is all about romance and what can be more romantic than a road trip through the vineyards of the famous Champagne region? From Troyes to St Etienne via Dijon, this route is packed with opportunities to explore: quaint towns, museums and galleries invite you to see some of the most classical French architecture.
It may not be the most appealing road trip for children but it’s definitely tailored for newly weds and couples on a romantic getaway!
Say Oui to the French Riviera
Amazing and glamorous, the road trip to the French Riviera is probably one of the top drives in France. To do it properly you’ll need around 10 days but it’s also possible to do it in less time. Nice is a great starting point for this road trip and you can even make it your base city as distances are not that long. Nice is a wonderful French city with a wonderful promenade where you can leisurely stroll in the evenings.
Cannes is another iconic destination you can’t miss. It’s not only where the Cannes Festival is held but also an elegant and lavish destination with amazing seafood restaurants. St Tropez, a lovely French village, is the place to see and be seen; expensive and glamorous, it’s where billionaires park their luxurious yachts.