If you've only got a week to visit France, you'll have to plan your trip carefully. How to cover plenty of ground while still enjoying the country's diverse regions and popular attractions? This guide is designed to help you just do that.
Your week in France begins in Paris, then gives you options for day trips to Normandy and Champagne, making it unnecessary to change hotels every day. This also gives you a base in the capital so you can take full advantage of its charms. We then head south to the French Riviera and Provence, before moving north to Lyon. On your last day, return to the French capital to explore it further before concluding your adventure.
Day 1: Paris
Welcome to France! After arriving at Charles de Gaulle or Orly airport and arriving in the city, drop off your bags at your hotel and grab some breakfast or lunch from a French bakery. It's then time to start your adventure. Buy some Paris metro tickets, and make sure you have a map or access to online directions.
Your first day begins with a sightseeing cruise of Paris that takes you along the Seine River, giving you a first glimpse of some of the city's big-ticket attractions and an educational audio tour. Choose a cruise that suits your tastes and budget.
Next, take the metro or walk to the Latin Quarter and wander its centuries-old streets, famous for their photogenic details and long history. We recommend wandering at a leisurely pace and stumbling upon quiet corners to explore at random, in addition to seeing the area's main attractions.
Cap off your day with dinner at one of the city's historic brasseries, sitting out on the terrace if the weather permits. Make a reservation during high season.
Day 2: Day Trip to Mont St-Michel or Giverny
It's time to take advantage of the capital's easy access to other, equally fascinating regions.
Since you only have a day to explore highlights in Normandy, we recommend choosing between two options: a whirl through Monet's Gardens at Giverny or a guided bus tour to Mont St-Michel. Giverny is recommended in spring and early summer, while Mont St-Michel is superb year-round.
Giverny: Located at the edge of Normandy and just over an hour from Paris by train and a quick shuttle, Giverny was long home to French impressionist master Claude Monet. It was here that he painted his famous "Waterlilies" series, inspired by his own Japanese-style gardens. Make sure you arrive by late morning to fully enjoy the site. Stroll through the gardens, explore the house, and have lunch at one of the village's charming local restaurants.
See our full guide to Giverny and Monet's gardens for more info on getting there, highlights to see, and tips on how to make the most of your visit.
Mont St-Michel: Unless you prefer to rent a car, the best way to visit Mont-St-Michel in a day is to take a bus tour, such as the ones offered by Viator. Tours generally leave early in the morning and include round-trip transportation to the UNESCO World Heritage site and medieval abbey, as well as lunch. Explore the centuries-old site and the natural wonders of the surrounding Bay, before returning to Paris.
Day 3: Day Trip to Champagne
On day three, you'll once again hop on a train for a short day trip eastward, to the Champagne region. Inexpensive trains to the region depart nearly every hour from the Gare de l'Est, to hub cities including Reims and Troyes.
While it's best known for its world-famous sparkling wines, Champagne also has much to offer by way of architecture, history, food, and contemporary life. It's difficult to see all of the region's highlights in just a day, so we recommend focusing on the cathedral city of Reims and nearby Epernay. You can travel between the two via a short train, bus, or taxi ride (about 30 minutes).
Both are home to some of the region's most famous champagne makers, from Taittinger to Veuve-Cliquot, Dom Perignon, and Mercier. They also house picturesque, rolling vineyards, and fascinating networks of underground cellars, some dating back hundreds of years.
In Reims, after visiting the breathtaking Notre-Dame Cathedral, make sure to see les crayeres, an extensive network of chalk quarries that partly serve as cellars for several champagne producers. These are so historically important that they were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 4: Nice
Head to the south of France to see a different side of the country. Nice, a centuries-old city on the Mediterranean and the French Riviera, is your first destination. We recommend boarding a short, direct flight from Paris to save time. Air France, Easyjet, and Lufthansa offer daily flights.
Drop off your bags and go explore the Promenade des Anglais, a 2.5-mile boardwalk stretching along the coast from the Old Town in the east to the airport in the west. Admire the azure-blue sea water and buildings that exemplify 18th-century Belle-Epoque architecture, including the famous Le Negresco hotel.
Take the boardwalk to Nice's Old Town (Vieux Nice), whose highlights include 17th-century squares such as the Place Rossetti, winding cobblestone streets, the Opéra de Nice, and an array of shops selling traditional Provencal products and souvenirs. There, browse locally made goods such as olive-oil and lavender-scented soaps.
Next, take the stairs (or Art Deco elevator) at the end of the Quai des États-Unis to reach the Colline du Château, or Castle Hill. The original, medieval city of Nice was located here within a citadel that has since been dismantled. From here, enjoy fantastic views over Old Town and the Baie des Anges (Angel Bay).
Day 5: Aix-en-Provence
It's your second day in the south, and it's time to head a bit inland to Aix-en-Provence. You can catch a train from Nice to Aix; the trip takes around three hours and 30 minutes, so we recommend that you leave early in the morning to make the most of your destination.
Aix was beloved by resident Paul Cézanne, who remains deeply associated with the town. He painted numerous landscapes of Aix and its surrounding natural scenery, famously capturing what many say is incomparable light. Start your visit of the town by taking a walk along a route known as the Cézanne Trail, allowing you both to get acquainted with some of Aix's most-iconic sites and learn a bit of art history. You can also take a guided tour if preferred.
Next, visit the town's beloved market square at Place Richelme, a food market open daily. Take in the busy-yet-relaxed scenes of Provencal life on the square, browse the market stalls, and enjoy dappled light playing on the warm stone buildings.
You can have lunch (al fresco, if weather permits) at one of the traditional restaurants or brasseries lining the square.
Wondering what else to do in town? See this page for a complete guide to enjoying Aix to the fullest.
Day 6: Lyon
Grab an early breakfast, then hop on the high-speed TGV train from Aix-en-Provence to Lyon. The journey takes about an hour and 10 minutes.
Lyon, nestled in the Rhone Valley and surrounded by spectacular vineyards, is one of France's most-important cities in terms of both population and cultural history. It's a culinary capital, home to legendary chefs such as the late Paul Bocuse. It also boasts thousands of years of history, having served as the Roman capital of Gaul.
After checking into your hotel, explore the city by foot, local bus or metro. We especially recommend exploring Old Lyon (Vieux Lyon) around the banks of the Saone river. See the breathtaking St-Jean Cathedral and wander through the medieval and Renaissance-era streets, before taking a guided tour of the area's "traboules," passageways between buildings once used by silk workers to transport textiles. During World War II, French resistance fighters used them to hide from the Gestapo.
If time allows, visit the Museum of Gallo-Roman Civilization and see two well-preserved Roman theaters that crown the hill at Fourvière; one dates to 15 BC. From here, you can enjoy spectacular views over the city. For dinner, enjoy typical regional dishes and wines at a bouchon, one of Lyon's traditional eateries.
Day 7: Return to Paris
On your final day, head back to Paris for a last chance to explore the city during this trip. You'll take the TGV train from Lyon to Paris (taking around two and a half hours) and arrive at Gare de Lyon.
It may be close to lunchtime when you arrive. If so, we recommend having lunch at Le Train Bleu, a grand restaurant situated on the second floor of the Gare de Lyon station. Its ornate, sprawling dining room and traditional menu offer a memorable, old-world Parisian experience.
Next, it's time to explore the right bank a bit. Take the metro (line 1) to Hotel de Ville. Get off and admire Paris City Hall before exploring the Marais district, with its well-preserved Renaissance mansions, picturesque squares, fashionable boutiques and delicious street food.
Around sunset, head south from the Marais back to the banks of the Seine and enjoy picturesque views of the water and Ile St-Louis from the Pont Marie, one of the city's loveliest bridges. If time allows, take a stroll on the natural island that connects to it across the river.