Thanks to SNCF, French train travel is quick, convenient and offers views of beautiful scenery as you travel between destinations. The rail network has been designed so that many of the must-see cities and towns are well connected. Travelling around France by train offers a stress-free way to see the country and get the most out your 10-day excursion.
Our 10-day France itinerary has been designed to make the best possible use of the national high-speed rail network and popular commuter trains across the country, so you’ll visit many amazing destinations. We’ve put together what we consider to be the best way to spend 10 days, including a memorable tour of some to the top destinations within the country, with a few ideas of our favourite attractions to visit within those towns and cities.
Days 1 to 3 – Paris
It’s possible to see the main attractions in Paris in a day or two, so you can then use the third day for shopping or even a day trip to the Sun Kings Versailles Palace via the Metro. The most common attractions are the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Louvre. If you’re planning to visit these places, then get there early to reduce queuing times. Other great places to see that are often less crowded are the Rodin Museum, the Palace Opera house and any part of the vast River Seine.
If you have chosen to view some of Paris on foot, remember to look up at the roofs, windows and general building architecture. Paris has often been described as a ‘living museum’, this is because of its rather magnificent buildings with their intricate stonework of gargoyles, lions and even fish. Each of these buildings offers a lovely glimpse into the past and the glory of Paris then, and now.
For something a little more modern, then shopping in one of the many designer outlets on the Champ-Elysees should be considered. The Champ-Elysees starts with the Arch de Triumph and pretty much ends with the Tuileries Gardens. From these gardens, you can wander into the Louvre. In the middle of these two world-famous attractions is one very long street – this Parisian road is home to Zara, the Disney Store, Louis Vuitton and the flagship stores of Chanel and Dior. Don’t forget to pepper your shopping trip with a visit to any one of the bakeries and cafes that you’ll walk past.
To ease aching feet and legs, take the Metro. The French Metro system is an underground and over-ground rail network that can transport you to, or near a host of places to visit. You can purchase Metro tickets from inside the stations in multiples of five. They look like miniature raffle tickets that you feed into the gate/ticket machines. Try to remember that one ticket equals one journey, in other words, it’s not possible to get a return journey with one ticket.
If you’re visiting the exquisite hilltop Montmarte district for the day, and don’t fancy climbing to the top, take the mini carriage. The trip to the top will cost you one of your Metro tickets and to save you using another, the stairs aren’t bad going down. Once you get to the top of Montmarte, you can capture amazing panoramic shots of most of Paris. There are also telescopes to see a little further. Stroll around the market square in the area to have a talented artist recreate your image in their chosen medium.
Days 4 and 5 – Bordeaux
A port-based city, Bordeaux is located on the Garonne River. It’s believed that wine growing began here during the Roman era and has been growing strongly ever since. Today the area is renowned for its high quality red and white wines, as well as being one of the largest distributors of this alcoholic beverage. Wine tasting excursions to the areas many vineyards are plentiful and offer the best opportunities to purchase exclusive wine-based gifts.
If wine isn’t for you, then take a stroll along the river bank with its many impressive buildings with the beautifully sculptured stonework exteriors. Bordeaux also offers two charming galleries, the Musée des Beaux Art for traditional paintings and the CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art for the modern sculpture and canvas works.
Day 6 – Toulouse
The next part of our itinerary starts by boarding a train from Bordeaux to Toulouse. The average journey time is around 2h 53m, although you can jump on a fast train that takes 2h 4m instead.
Toulouse is also known as the La Ville Rose or the Pink City because of the terracotta bricks that have been used to construct many of its building. This city is best known for being the capital city of France’s southwest region. As part of your 10-day itinerary of France, Toulouse offers many beautiful sites to fill up your day.
You can walk around the Capitole de Toulouse, which is a lively market square that’s often filled with exhibitions and farmers markets, as well as cafés to relax in. Walk a little further out of the main square, and you’ll discover the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle de Toulouse, the Natural History Museum which is filled with plenty of historical artefacts and artworks from the city and the world.
If you’re spending the night in Toulouse, then Pont Neuf – the cities bridge over the River Garonne – can be enjoyed any time of day, but at night it’s often illuminated to create a more magical ambience for this 16th-Century construction.
Day 7 – Montpellier
Montpellier is just down the road from Toulouse and on the same Intercités network line, with the fast train from Toulouse to Montpellier taking 2h 8m.
The city is part of the South West region of France and located just next to the infamous South of France region. Montpellier was once a rival wine producer for Bordeaux, but after disease struck in the 1890s, its wine production floundered. More recently, the coastal city has become a mecca for students and those with a thirst for knowledge. Montpellier is home to several top-rated universities, which also includes the University of Montpellier. This university is a public research library and was founded in 1289, making it one of the world’s oldest higher education establishments.
Montpellier is also well known for its large port and handling of many of France’s imports and exports. This is also a city that has welcomed immigration over the years, which can be seen in the delicious integrations of foods on offer – the perfect destination for foodies!
Day 8 – Marseille
Start your day by taking the train from Montpellier to Marseille, a quick service will get you there in 1h 24m.
Marseille is the third biggest city in France, after Paris and Lyon. The city is located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, more commonly referred to as the South of France. Although Marseille isn’t one of the most popular beach destinations in the South of France, it remains a significant stop with beautiful sites to see.
Crowned the European Capital of Culture in 2013, Marseille remains proud of its opera house, galleries and maritime museum. By making Marseille part of your 10 days in France, you can visit the City Hall which dates to the 17th-Century and the Porte d’Aix, an arch the commemorates French victories from 1823.
Day 9 – Lyon
Next, head back up north to the city of Lyon. A train from Marseille to Lyon takes 1h 27m, with 14 direct trains running daily.
Lyon was once one of Europe’s most substantial silk and textile producers and attracted merchants from across the globe. Nowadays, you can wander around the massive renaissance old quarters with its traboules or passageways. These passageways were built to provide the silk workers quick access to the riverbank and can be found beneath many of the buildings.
The city is also home to France’s second-biggest fine art museum – the Musée des Beaux-Arts. If you’re looking for something a little smaller, the Musée Miniature et Cinéma can also be found in Vieux-Lyon. This museum houses many of the world’s best miniatures, showcasing the immense detail that the craftsman went into to create such wonders.
If you walk around Lyon’s less touristy areas, you’ll discover hundreds of stunning murals created to depict city life. Around 25 of the murals were painted in the 1980s, but many are a mixture of the old and new lives of the area.
Day 10 – Paris
On your final day in France, you can take the TGV train from Lyon to Paris, in 1h 53m. Once back in the capital, drop your luggage off at the luggage storage facilities in Gare du Nord station for one final trip around the city. If you have time, the Metro will help support an excursion to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, which is the final resting place for Oscar Wilde, Chopin and Jim Morrison. There’s even a Grim Reaper tomb.
If you want your last venture to be a little closer, then the stunning Saint Vincent de Paul Catholic church is a five-minute walk away. A 10-minutes’ walk will bring you to Le Manoir de Paris, the city’s very own haunted house experience. The themes of the rooms within the house are based on famous Parisian legends.