Rick Steves' My Way® France in 13 Days, Day by Day
Turned off by group sightseeing, yet daunted by the idea of traveling through France entirely on your own? Our My Way® France vacation takes you on a route that connects France's must-see sights — from monumental Paris to sunny Nice, with the Loire Valley, Lyon, Annecy, the French Alps, the Pont du Gard, and Avignon in between. And we'll take care of the hotel and transportation hassles so you can focus on choosing your own sightseeing priorities and pace. Hop aboard this slideshow preview of our My Way France in 13 Days adventure!
Days 1 & 2: Welcome to Paris
Bienvenue à Paris! Known as the City of Light, Paris is blessed with more monuments and museums than anyone could ever hope to see in a single visit. Get a jump start on your sightseeing today by tackling some of the city's world-class museums, like the Orsay, Picasso, or Rodin. If jet lag has you yawning, take a promenade along the famous Champs-Elysées or through one of Paris' many attractive parks, such as the Tuileries or Luxembourg Gardens. This evening, we'll meet at our hotel at 5 p.m. for a group get-together. Your tour manager will give an overview of the days ahead, answer your questions, and offer a quick orientation to our neighborhood. Then you're free for dinner on your own and perhaps a twilight ride to the top of the brilliantly lit Eiffel Tower. Or enjoy the views from below, aboard a floodlit Seine River cruise.
The next day, Paris is all yours. With your Rick Steves guidebook and audio tours in hand, you might begin your day where Paris did — on the Ile de la Cité — visiting the exquisite Sainte-Chapelle and seeing the resilient and awe-inspiring Notre-Dame. Or, take all the time you want to explore the most famous museum in the world, the Louvre — home to the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and Venus de Milo. This evening, head up to Montmartre to savor the bohemian flair of Amélie's "village" Paris. Take in the breathtaking vistas from the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, and drop in to a lively café for a post-dinner drink. As with each day of this trip, everything is your choice!
Days 3 & 4: Loire Valley Châteaux
This morning we'll bid adieu to Paris. Meeting up with our bus and driver, we'll head to the château-rich Loire Valley, stopping en route to visit the immense Château of Chambord. Farther down the road, our home base of Blois looks and feels more important than other Loire towns…because it was. The Château Royal de Blois is the dominant must-see sight in town. However, don't miss out on the flying-buttressed St. Nicolas Church, the medieval warren of lanes below St. Louis Cathedral, or the traffic-free streets lined with colorful shops and cafés.
The next day is free for sightseeing in the Loire Valley — the land of a thousand châteaux. To help save you time and effort, our bus will make a morning run to the Château de Chenonceau (arguably the greatest, and hardest to reach château), continuing on to the town of Amboise in the afternoon, and returning to Blois in time for dinner. Many more châteaux are a convenient train, bus, taxi, bike, or rental car drive away from Blois. The choice is entirely yours (Blois is so charming, you could also stay in town all day)! Your guidebook and your tour manager will help you sort through all the happy possibilities this day has to offer.
Days 5 & 6: Lyon on the Saône
Today we'll drive across the center of France to Lyon, in many ways the country's cultural capital. This is a city where restaurants outnumber cars, chefs are more famous than soccer players, and residents live by the saying, "How well you eat determines how well you live." We'll arrive and get settled in our hotel with plenty of time for you to find your new favorite eatery. After dinner, once the sun has set, take in the view from the Bonaparte Bridge on the Saône. Lyon's riverfront walks and floodlit buildings make an evening stroll here an absolute must.
Lyon is France's most historic and culturally important city after Paris. You'll experience two different-as-night-and-day cities: Vieux Lyon's Old-World cobbled alleys, quaint shops, and pastel Renaissance mansions, and the Parisian-feeling shopping streets of the Presqu'île. Buy a one-day Lyon City Card to get into all the city's museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts and the Resistance and Deportation History Center. The pass also covers all public transportation, including the Fourvière Hill funiculars. Up on the hill you can tour the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fouvière, enjoy a panoramic city view, and visit the Lugdunum Gallo-Roman Museum and Roman Theaters.
Days 7 & 8: Annecy and the French Alps
After breakfast this morning, we'll drive straight to Annecy, so you can spend all afternoon and evening enjoying this sophisticated, outdoor-oriented — and absolutely bike-crazy — lakeside town. There's something for everyone here: mountain views, romantic canals, a hilltop château, and the irresistible urge to swim in, paddle on, or bicycle around the translucent lake (with cafés well-spaced along the way). Idyllic Annecy may very well end up being your favorite city on the tour.
The next morning you'll find that a thriving outdoor food market occupies much of Annecy's old town center until 12:30. With your market finds in hand, picnicking along the shores of the lake with the snow-dipped peaks in the distance is a wonderful way to spend your afternoon. But if getting up into the French Alps is your highest priority, our bus will take you to Chamonix and the base of snowy Mont Blanc, returning to Annecy in time for dinner. In Chamonix, you can hike the mountain trails, take a cogwheel train to Montenvers and the Mer de Glace, or ride a funicular to the dizzying height of 12,600 feet atop the famous Aiguille du Midi (weather permitting).
Days 9 & 10: Pont du Gard, Avignon, and Arles
Today's destination is Provence, with a stop along the way to savor one of Europe's most impressive Roman structures: the Pont du Gard. Set in a beautiful national park, this massive aqueduct spanning the Gardon River was constructed of locally quarried, golden limestone more than 2,000 years ago. The Pont and its setting have since become one of France's iconic sights. Spend time in the museum learning how and why the Pont was built. If the weather permits, take a swim, rent a canoe, or hike within the national park. Later this afternoon, we'll make our way to Avignon, the 14th-century home of the pope (or antipope, depending on where you stood).
Famous for its nursery rhyme, medieval bridge, and brooding Palace of the Popes, Avignon looks and feels like it's stepped out of a fairy tale. You'll have all day to explore this medieval walled city, wandering through the palace, strolling along the pedestrian streets, and quietly humming "Sur le Pont d'Avignon." A day-tripping alternative is to take a 20-minute train ride to the nearby city of Arles. Here you can walk in the footsteps of Vincent van Gogh, hang out at the lively Forum Square, and take in the impressive Roman Arena (still used for public events today) and Ancient History Museum.
Days 11 & 12: The French Riviera
This morning we'll make our way from Provence to the azure waters of the French Riviera, arriving in Nice by midday. You'll be set free to dive into your Riviera experience in Vieux Nice, starting with the lively Cours Saleya market square, getting lost in the maze of Italianate old city lanes, then breaking out onto the spacious boulevards and shopping promenades of the city's newer side. Chagall and Matisse both called Nice home, and the museums bearing their names are must-see sights. A dip into the sea or a stroll along the palm-tree-lined Promenade des Anglais (with a gelato in hand) are great ways to cap the day.
There is no better way to end your French adventure than with a day trip along the French Riviera. The only problem: there are so many dazzling destinations nearby! Cannes, Antibes, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Eze, and Monaco are all in easy reach by train or public bus. Will you stay in Nice? Or maybe go to Antibes for its Picasso museum? Or head east to Villefranche-sur-Mer for a hike around Cap Ferrat to visit Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild? Or travel up to Eze for spectacular views and a whiff of perfume? Or check out Monaco's yacht-filled harbor, historic casino, Royal Palace, and Oceanographic Museum? It's your final day in France, so get out and make it special.
Day 13: Tour Over After Breakfast
It's a breeze to reach Nice's airports and train station by bus or taxi. Your tour manager can help you with any post-tour planning, leaving you well prepared for the road ahead. Au revoir et merci!
(Itinerary specifics subject to change.)
Learn more about Rick Steves' My Way France in 13 Days.