If you have two weeks to explore France, you’ll have time to visit several regions—not only Paris, but also the best of the Loire Valley châteaux, the most history-rich town of Provence (Avignon), and several resorts on the Riviera, taking in the beaches, art galleries, and even the Principality of Monaco.
For days 1 through 7, follow the “In One Week in France” itinerary here.
Day 8: Orléans, gateway to the Loire Valley
Leave Paris on an early train to Orléans (trip time: 1 hr., 10 min.). Rent a car here and drive west to the Château de Chambord, the largest château in the Loire Valley, representing the apogee of the French Renaissance architectural style. Allow 2 hr. for a visit. Back on the road again, continue southwest to the Château de Blois, called “the Versailles of the Renaissance” and a virtual illustrated storybook of French architecture. Stay overnight in Blois.
In the morning, continue southeast from Blois to Amboise, where you can check into a hotel for the night. Visit the 15th-century Château d’Amboise, in the Italian Renaissance style, and also Clos-Lucé, last residence of Leonardo da Vinci. In the afternoon, drive southeast to the Château de Chenonceau, famous for the French dames who have occupied its precincts, including Diane de Poitiers (mistress of the king) and Catherine de Médicis (the jealous queen). You can spend a couple of hours at the château before driving back to Amboise for the night.
Day 10: Avignon, gateway to Provence
From Amboise, get an early start and drive east to Orléans to return your rental car. Then take an early train from Orléans to Paris’s Gare d’Austerlitz, then the Métro or a taxi to the Gare de Lyon, and hop on a TGV bound for Avignon (2.5 hr.).
Check into a hotel in Avignon, one of Europe’s most beautiful medieval cities. Before the day fades, you should have time to wander through the old city to get your bearings, shop for Provençal souvenirs, and see one of the smaller sights, such as the Pont St-Bénézet.
Day 11: Avignon to St-Tropez
In the morning, spend 2 hr. touring the Palais des Papes, the capital of Christendom during the 14th century. After lunch in one of Avignon’s cozy bistros or cobblestoned outdoor cafes, rent a car and drive to St-Tropez. Spend a good part of the early evening in one of the cafes along the harbor, indulging in that favorite French pastime of people-watching.
Day 12: Chic Cannes
Before leaving St-Tropez in the morning, check out the Impressionist paintings at Musée de l’Annonciade. Drive 50km (31 miles) east along the coast until you reach Cannes.
Assuming it’s summer, get in some time at the beach, notably at Plage de la Croisette, and feel free to wear your most revealing swimwear. In the afternoon, take the ferry to Ile Ste-Marguerite, where the “Man in the Iron Mask” was imprisoned. You can visit his cell. That evening, you may want to flirt with Lady Luck at one of the plush casinos.
Day 13: Nice, capital of the Riviera
It’s only a 32km (20-mile) drive east from Cannes to Nice, the Riviera’s largest city. After checking in to a hotel (the most affordable options along the Riviera), stroll through Vieille Ville, the Old Town. Enjoy a snack of socca, a round crepe made with chickpea flour that vendors sell steaming hot in the cours Saleya market. Then head for the promenade des Anglais, the wide boulevard along the waterfront. In the afternoon, head for the famed hill town of St-Paul-de-Vence, only 20km (12 miles; p. ###) to the north. You can wander its ramparts in about 30 min. before descending to the greatest modern-art museum in the Riviera, the Fondation Maeght.
Continue on to Vence for a visit to the great Henri Matisse’s artistic masterpiece, Chapelle du Rosaire. From there, it’s just 24km (15 miles) southeast back to Nice, where you can enjoy dinner at a typical Niçois bistro.
Day 14: Nice to Menton
While still overnighting in Nice, head east for the most thrilling drive in all of France, a trip along the Grande Corniche highway, which stretches 31km (19 miles) east from Nice to the little resort of Menton near the Italian border. Allow 3 hr. for this trip. Highlights along this road include Roquebrune-Cap Martin and La Turbie. The greatest view along the Riviera is at the Eze Belvedere, at 1,200m (3,936 ft.). Return to Nice by dinnertime and prepare for your flight home in the morning.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.