Day 1: Paris
The capital is a must for any French getaway and when it comes to trains in France, it’s also the biggest transport hub to effortlessly send you off in any direction in search of your next destination, i.e. A great starting point for your trip. You could easily spend a week or more in Paris and never get bored, but as this is your grand tour de France, we’ve narrowed it down to the best bits.
Visiting the top of the 324m-high Eiffel Tower should probably be top of your list of things to do in Paris. The perfect start to the day as the city wakes up, find yourself a boulangerie afterwards and tuck into a delicious pastry for breakfast. The Louvre Museum is must-visit for any lovers of art – gaze into the eyes of Mona Lisa or explore amazing ancient artefacts sourced from all over the globe, and of course, take a photo in front of its famed glass pyramid for a killer new display pic.
Spare an hour or two to really appreciate your lunch, after all, Paris has the most Michelin stars of any European city. That doesn’t mean you have to splash out on premium fare though - culinary prowess is a hallmark of the capital’s endless dining establishments whether they’re serving up the Parisian creations of a humble Croque Monsieur, the ever so indulgent Paris-Brest or, that most essential French food to try, escargot.
For the more intrepid explorer, the Paris catacombs await, a winding subterranean maze that once served as the city’s mass grave – make sure to follow your guide though, getting lost in the endless corridors is unlikely to end well. Of course, if your tastes are all a bit more whimsical, you can spend the day where magic comes alive – Disneyland Paris, for a cuddle from Mickey.
Day 2: Bordeaux
After the hustle and bustle of the capital, it’s time to down-size and head to Bordeaux. France’s sixth largest city, its larger than life reputation comes from its famed wines. Rise early to have breakfast in Paris before boarding a train. With a journey time of just 2.5 hours, the train from Paris to Bordeaux will get you to the city with a whole day of exploration to enjoy.
Luckily, the best things to do in Bordeaux are also conveniently close together! From Bordeaux St. Jean Station you can walk to the downtown area (an ideal place to find accommodation in too) and here is where all the essential Bordeaux attractions lie. The Place de la Bourse is an icon of the city, with a stunning ‘water mirror’ reflecting its stunning architecture and inspiring your inner photographer. Cathedrale Saint-Andre is close by, with its awe-inspiring spires and a regular schedule of organ recitals that allow you to truly appreciate the immense scale of its echoing halls.
With all the hipster charm of London’s Shoreditch or New York’s Williamsburg, the Chartrons neighbourhood is an artsy and vibrant area to stop for a mid-morning cup of fresh, organic coffee or delicious lunch (the local oysters are among some of the best in the world). Now, to get down to Bardoux business. Inject some modern pizazz into your day at Cité du Vin, a stunning contemporary building that boasts curving architecture, inside you can become acquainted with the city’s most famous export with all sorts of informative (and delicious) exhibitions about wine.
End the day with a dinner to remember – a waterfront restaurant on the River Garonne is a winning option for the romantic in you. The region is well known for its beef as well as its duck confit, both a richly delicious complement to another glass of fine wine.
Day 3: Biarritz
Two big cities down, devote day 3 to some maritime merriment in the stunning resort town of Biarritz. An elegant destination for any France holiday, here is where you can spend a day enjoying the finer things. From some of the best surfing in the country (the town’s Cité de l’Océan has a simulator if you don’t want to get wet!) to one of the grandest stays around at the town’s Hôtel du Palais, you won’t be bored.
Treat yourself to a few hours on the beach, or at least a coastal walk, with the scenic route along the town’s promenade effortlessly guiding you through all the best things to do in Biarritz, including seeing the Phare de Biarritz lighthouse and walking over the waves on the lookout point of the Rocher de la Vierge. Part of the French Basque region, cuisine has a Spanish flair, so expect tasty tapas to be firmly on the menu.
The train from Bordeaux to Biarritz takes approximately 2 hours, which makes it a quick and easy trip for a day at the beach before returning to Bordeaux (just in case that souvenir bottle of wine didn’t survive your beach lounging) to transfer to your next destination. A touch ritzy, a touch hipster, this coastal town is the perfect place to celebrate the half-way point of your week in France.
Day 4: Toulouse
Bordeaux to Toulouse is another easy 2-hour journey by train and the perfect way to ease you back into the urban sprawl. This city is a relaxed spot that still offers plenty of attractions. A university town, things to do in Toulouse can be happily balanced between touristic historical charm and the young and hip.
Place du Capitole is a great place to start your city exploration, set in its own square, this historical marvel houses the national theatre as well as the town hall. You’ll not be surprised to learn that Toulouse is known as La Ville Rose or ‘The Pink City’ as many of its buildings share the distinctive rosy hue of the town hall. The Place du Capitole is perfectly placed to deliver you to Toulouse Old Town where medieval buildings and winding streets beg to be photographed. From old to new, Cité de l’Espace is an excellent way to appreciate the city’s ties to French aerospace achievements and adds some high-tech excitement to the day – space shuttle simulator, anyone?
Toulouse (much like every destination on our list!) is known for its food, so start the day right with a yummy brunch of the local speciality Saucisse de Toulouse aka. Toulouse sausage. Not your average banger, these sausages are made with pork, wine, herbs and garlic before being grilled to meaty perfection. We recommend re-visiting this tasty creation for lunch, this time in the form of the famed cassoulet which sees the meat slowly stewed with duck and beans in a clay pot – delish. Sweet treats like Fénétra cake, made with almonds and apricots, prove a yummy afternoon indulgence to fuel the latter part of your day. Les Halles Victor Hugo, a busy covered market and food hall, is the perfect place to experience it all.
Day 5: Marseille
Time to head back to the coast, trains to Marseille from Toulouse take approximately 4 hours, so an early start or a late departure from the pink city is advised. A stunning port town, things to do in Marseille revolve around its beautiful seafront location. An absolute must-see is the Old Port of Marseille, which is the epicentre of all the city’s most exciting attractions and a lovely spot to treat yourself to brunch.
If by Day 5, you’re looking for a more relaxed approach then La Corniche is a road that hugs the coastline and makes for the perfect walking, cycling or driving route and passes by lots of fantastic sights both old and new. Another must-see is the Frioul Archipelago, a collection of four islands just off the coast of Marseille which can be reached by a scenic ferry trip. An icon of the city, you should also make sure to visit the beautiful Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde which you can spot towering above the city even from the Old Port.
Marseille food is rooted in its ties to the sea, so we highly recommend tucking into sea bream, mussels, octopus – whatever takes your fancy, or enjoy them all at once with the signature dish of the city Bouillabaisse, a stew that simmers seafood together and is then served with broth and the fish separated, perfect eaten with crusty bread.
Day 6: Saint Tropez
What better way to spend your penultimate day of French leisure than in the company of palm trees, sandy beaches and (seasonal) sunshine? Travel into the heart of the French Riviera by taking the train from Marseille to St-Raphaël, a 1.5-hour journey. Unfortunately, this is where the train line stops, and St Tropez is still across the bay! Not to worry, in suitably fabulous fashion you can arrive at the gorgeous St Tropez by taking a shuttle boat over the waves. It takes approximately an hour to arrive, plenty of time to admire the sea views and enjoy your unique journey across the coast.
We shouldn’t really have to tell you what to do in Saint Tropez; we’re pretty sure sunbathing is the winning priority. Saint Tropez enjoys a lovely Mediterranean climate that makes the Cote d'Azur such a draw for tourists, and while prime bronzing weather is from May – September, you can still expect a pleasant temperature as late as October (which is also when the spectacular Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez racing regatta takes place). Saint Tropez Old Port is the perfect spot to refuel between beach lounging. Grab a coffee at one of the stylish coffee houses and enjoy a spot of people watching, or super-yacht-envying.
Day 7: Nice
As you arrived is also how you leave, and the boat from Saint Tropez to Nice is a scenic end to a sunny stay. Not that Nice is lacking in sunshine itself! The 2.5-hour journey down the coast will give you one last chance to enjoy France from the sea before you arrive for your final day.
As the largest city in the French Riviera, things to do in Nice go much further than sunbathing, although the long sandy beach is hard to resist. Cours Saleya Market is a great place to find a souvenir of your journey or take in some culture at Musee de l’Annonciade.
For lunch you have to try Salade niçoise in the city of its birth or sample Pissaladière, a type of French pizza also originating in Nice and which, like its famed salad, champions the anchovy.
A walk along the Promenade des Anglais is a great way to end the day, letting you admire the sunset before you spend one last night in France, head to Nice Côte d'Azur Airport and your flight home or hop on a train from Nice to your next adventure.