What do you picture when you hear the word France? Eiffel Tower?
While the best known sites in France are in Paris, there is so much more to see in France! In this 10 day France Itinerary, you will get to see the bustling city of Paris, drink authentic champagne where champagne was born, ride a boat through the Gorges du Verdon, run through the rolling lavender fields of Valensole, see the rich and famous in Monaco, and relax in the quaint beach town of Nice.
This guide will hit the best of France but also the hidden gems that are still untouched by tourism. I am truly SO proud of this itinerary and can’t wait to share it with you!
I want to fair warn you.. this itinerary is long and incredibly detailed. But if you are planning (or thinking about planning) a trip to France, I really encourage you to grab a cup of coffee and focus for this wordy guide. I dive into the details of my first-hand experience, tried and tested tips, what is & isn’t worth seeing, and SO much more.
Please keep in mind that this is a very active itinerary for people who like to cram in as much as possible to see. I have always believed there is a big difference between a vacation and traveling – and this is definitely not a relaxing, laying on the beach for ten days type of guide!
Are you ready for an epic summer in France?!
TIP: Best places to stay in each city are listed at the bottom of the guide! I did a lot of research on best locations to stay in and I highly recommend all of my choices!
There’s a chance that this post contains affiliate links. I may receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you), that goes directly towards little Rosie’s dog treats!
Day 0: Flight
If you are flying from the United States (like me), you loose an entire day due to travel time and the time change. The first day I don’t even count because you are taking a Melatonin and sleeping for as long as humanly possible!
Day 1: Check into hotel and explore your Arrondissement.
Once you finally get off that darn plane, check into your hotel and grab some dinner at a local cafe!
I go into the detail of best places to stay at the bottom of this guide, but I decided to stay in Le Marais district (3rd & 4th arrondissement) after much research. I couldn’t be happier with that decision!
For dinner, head along Rue Des Archives (if you are also staying in Le Marais district) where you will find tons of restaurants and bars to choose from for dinner. I would highly recommend sitting on the patio at Le Ju’ to enjoy their amazing crispy chicken salad and a glass of chardonnay!
Day 2: Best of Paris
This guide only includes 2 full days in Paris, so that means cramming in all the famous sites! Paris has SO much to see and do, so this is more for the first time visitor who hasn’t seen all the highlights of Paris yet.
Start your morning with a croissant and cappuccino at one of Paris’s many cafes. This is my favorite memory of Paris, getting a new pastry to try every day at a new cafe! There are endless to choose from on almost every corner.
After you’re fueled and ready to fight jet lag, it’s time to head outside of the city to see the massive and impressive Palace of Versailles. You can take the train directly to it, and it takes roughly one hour and costs only 7 euros to get there.
The Palace of Versailles is rated the #1 day trip from Paris from many travel sites!
The Palace of Versailles is open everyday except Monday, as early as 9am. This is an extremely popular site, for good reason, so with that comes tour buses. To avoid “cues” (AKA lines), I would try to get there as close to opening time as possible. I got VERY lost on the metro/train getting there, and had to stand in a cue for over an hour, not fun!
Some backstory on The Palace of Versailles, it was the royal residence of King Louis XIV who previously lived in the Louvre but decided it was too small… Yes, TOO. SMALL. That should paint a pretty picture of how enormous this place is!
While the inside of the castle is beautiful and well-kept, the gardens are what truly made my jaw drop. On the backside of the castle, there are gardens that go for miles and miles. It holds a vast forest, large lake where you can rent boats, fountains, and garden mazes that hold beautiful sculptures. If the weather permits, you can spend at least an hour exploring the gardens alone.
When it’s time for lunch, get back on the train and head towards the Eiffel Tower. If you are traveling to France in the summer and the weather is good, I would recommend going into markets to get food for a picnic. You can picnic at the Champ De Mars (the large park located in front of the Eiffel Tower), and even though this is a popular thing to do, there’s plenty of room for everyone!
TIP: I’ve read mixed reviews about if you can drink wine at the Champ De Mars, and I did not have a problem. People are literally walking around selling bottles of wine to people picnicking. I doubt you will run into any problems, but if you do, just be respectful and put the wine away.
If you’re not a picnic fan, or the weather just isn’t good, head over to a cafe to get steak and frites, escargot, and a glass of wine!
From here you can spend some time exploring the area and shops. Some notable things around here are the Trocardero (photogenic area that gives a great view of the Eiffel Tower), Jardins du Trocadéro, Arc de Triomphe, or going to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
If you’re still kicking after all that sight seeing, I would recommend hanging out in that area for dinner so you get the chance to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle after the sunsets. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see it on this trip because the thunderstorms were horrible (look how dark the sky is in the picture below), but it it truly beautiful!
I know this sounds like a lot on the first day when you are jet-lagged, but the best way to fight jet lag is to keep yourself as busy as possible so you aren’t tempted to nap. Plus you’ll be so exhausted from all your activities that it will be a lot easier to fall asleep when night time rolls around!
TIP: ALWAYS bring light sleeping medication to get you through the first few nights. My go-to is Melatonin, which is an all-natural vitamin that is actually good for you! You won’t wake up groggy like NyQuil or something too strong.
Day 3: Champagne tasting in Champagne, France
I have SO much to tell you about Champagne tasting in Champagne that writing a small, daily excerpt wouldn’t do it justice. I decided to create a separate guide for you! I will go into the two regions to choose from here, but if you plan to go champagne tasting in Epernay, don’t forget to check out this guide!
If you don’t like champagne (which, I can’t trust you if you don’t), there are plenty of other day trips from Paris you could swap this day out with.
There are two main regions of Champagne: Epernay and Reims. These two regions hold the most famous champagne houses and so much history!
Reims is home to the popular champagne brand, Veuve Cliquot. It also has a lot of history and an adorable village. This is the more popular of the two regions, based on what I saw online. The only reason I decided against Reims was because I love to see the actual vineyards when I am wine/champagne tasting. Reims did not offer that!
Epernay is home to the world famous Moet and Chandon / Dom Perignon champagne house. The tours are long and affordable and teach you SO much about champagne. Most champagne houses are along one road, but if you travel just 10 minutes outside of the downtown area, you will find the beautiful views of the vineyards. I chose Epernay because I felt it gave me more of a variety to see!
Day 4: Visiting the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, & Montmarte
On the map, these seems incredibly far away from each other, but thanks to the Metro, this is all easily doable in a day!
Stop 1: The Louvre Museum
Due to the protests in May 2019, The Louvre now requires that you buy tickets in advance to secure a time slot. Reason is to minimize the number of people who are in the Louvre at a time, but don’t let that fool you because it will still be extremely busy, ha!
I would recommend buying the earliest possible time-slot, for many reasons: One, because you only have two days in Paris and you want to start your day as early as possible. Two, if you want pictures in front of the Louvre you should aim to get there before the crowds begin to roll in. And three, it is so empty the first hour the Louvre opens because the time slots begin to overlap.
Let me explain: The 11am time slot will most likely have people from the 9am and 10am time slot still. So if you chose the 11am slot, you have to share the space with your time slot, the time slots before you and guess what? In an hour… another time slot is going to be funneling in. So the earlier you go = less people to share the Mona Lisa with!
I chose the earliest time to go in the Louvre and the first hour was wonderful. We stayed about 3 hours, and I honestly would have stayed longer but the field trips and tour buses were taking over to the point where it was hard to walk through the exhibits.
After your brain is overwhelmed by all the history of The Louvre, walk through the beautiful Tuilieres Gardens to see all the kids playing in the park, couples picnicking, and people relaxing by the fountains. The metro station to get to The Arc de Triomphe is located just outside the Tuilieres Gardens and is only a 15 minute ride.
Stop 2: Arc de Triomphe
The metro will spit you out directly in front of the Arc de Triomphe. You will immediately see crowds of people surrounding the famous architecture trying get their perfect picture. The most popular spot being the circle that is located in the middle of the street where you can fit the entire Arc de Triomphe in your backdrop.
I highly recommend NOT waiting in a long line to get that picture, because why would you want to re-create the same exact picture thousands of people are taking every day? There are so many good photo ops, just like the one pictured above!
You can take the stairs to the top of the Arc de Triomphe that will give you one of the best views of Paris, because the best view (in my opinion) includes seeing the Eiffel Tower in the view! To get to the Arc de Triomphe, you first take an underground tunnel located on the north side of the Champs Elysees. To get to the top, you will have to pay roughly 10 euros to climb the stairs.
Stop 3: Montmarte
Head back to the same metro station to go up to Montmarte. Expect about a 20 minute metro ride, but if you think of it as your break from walking it won’t be too bad!
Montmarte is an art district that is filled with so much history. Perched on top of the hill, this picturesque area is where famous artists, like Picasso and Van Gogh, practiced their craft. Today, artists still gather in this district and are inspired by the beautiful views of Paris.
Some notable sights to see in Montmarte are:
- Sacre Couer
- The church that is nestled on the top of the hill. This is where you can work off some of those croissants and climb the stairs to the top. When you get to the church, you will see the expansive views of Paris and artists painting along the street.
- Moulin Rouge
- This famous theater is known for the birth of the can-can dance. If you have the time and money to see a show, I would highly recommend it!
- Vignes du Clos
- Did you know Paris has a vineyard? Most people don’t, and lucky for you one of them is located right in Montmarte! You can see this quaint vineyard tucked between old Parisian buildings and cobblestone streets. Talk about a contrast!
- La Maison Rose
- This adorable pink cafe is located on the most picturesque street of Montmarte. Rumors are, the owners of this cafe hate tourists and will threaten to call the police for taking pictures in front of their cafe. So visit at your own risk, ha!
- Le Mur des Je T’aime
- This art wall is composed of over 600 navy blue tiles that read “I love you” in over 250 different languages.
You could easily spend an entire day exploring Montmarte, so if you do have an extra day in Paris, I would recommend splitting this up into a full day.
Day 5: Provence here we come!
The train ride from Paris to Marseille is only 3 hours and runs constantly throughout the day. This is the easiest, cheapest and least stressful way of getting to the south of France from Paris. You will need to reserve train tickets in advance using one of the train sites, I used RailEurope!
Once you arrive in Marseille, it’s time to pick up your rental car.
TIP: I would HIGHLY recommend picking up your rental car at a location a little bit out of the city. Marseille is very scary to drive in, especially right by the train station. Once you get just 10-15 minutes inland, the roads are very open, much like the USA. You also save a lot of money on the rental car itself by doing this, so win-win!
I used the rental company Europcar and didn’t run into any problems. The agents spoke great English and were extremely helpful. The location that I picked up the car from was “Europcar Valentine,” located at 6 Av. de Saint Menet.
TIP: When reserving your rental car, make sure you look for unlimited mileage and automatic (if you can’t drive manual). Most European cars are manual and there will be an additional fee for automatic.
After you get your rental car, it’s time to head inland to Valensole to see the lavender fields! If you are not coming during the blooming season, I would skip right to Moustiers St Marie, because there’s truly no point to go to Valensole if the fields aren’t in bloom.
Lavender blooming season is literally only two weeks. Whatever you read differently is simply not true. I read online that fields bloom in June and July, but what they didn’t tell me is they only bloom END of June and BEGINNING of July. I went in the beginning of June and all the fields were still green.
Driving through Valensole and seeing miles of rolling fields, I could only imagine how breathtaking it would have been. People travel from all over the world to see this beautiful sight! Luckily, I was extremely determined and drove around for over an hour to find a small field of bloomed lavender.
TIP: If you are allergic to bees, DO NOT GO IN THE FIELDS. There are hundreds of bees in the fields and they will be buzzing all around you. If you are terrified of bees, I would just stay in the car or on the outskirts of the fields.
After you got your lavender fix, it’s time to drive to Moustiers St Marie. The drive will be winding and narrow, but if you drive slow I promise you will be okay!
Moustiers St Marie is the most beautiful town I have ever been to. If I didn’t have a boyfriend and adorable puppy waiting for me at home, I really think I could’ve stayed there forever!
This quaint village is nestled on top of the mountain with beautiful views of the surrounding farm town. Walking around the village you will find locals selling lavender, a waterfall centering the town, and a narrow creek lining all the restaurants.
What makes this town so important on this perfect itinerary is the contrast between the bustling city of Paris and this quiet, homey and authentic French village. This is your time to unwind and appreciate the French culture!
My best memory of this town is the strong aroma of flowers everywhere you go and sound of birds chirping at all hours of the day. I did not see a single american tourist while I was there, which made the time I spent there all the more magical! This place still feels so untouched from tourism, I was hesitant to even put this on the itinerary.
Again, I put a “where to stay” section at the bottom of this guide, but I really want to emphasize how much Hotel Le Colombier made my stay! The family-owned hotel had outstanding views, perfect location, and the friendliest staff. Plus, they have a hot tub with a view, so need I say more?!
Day 6: Gorges du Verdon
This was by far my favorite day of the entire trip. Actually, I would go as far to say my favorite place I have ever been to.
The Gorges du Verdon, also known as the Verdon Gorge, is located in the Provence region less than three hours from Nice. It’s home to towering green cliffs with vibrant turquoise water.
The gorge is only a ten minute drive from Moustiers St Marie, and you can park your car for free at the boat rental shop on Lac St Croix. After you park your car, I would first walk over to the bridge to see the famous lookout point that has the view of the entire gorge and lake. I am not kidding you, real tears were coming out of my eyes looking at this view.
Next up, time to rent a paddle boat to explore the gorge! You can rent a boat that fits up to five people for only $20 euros an hour. They recommend only two hours, but I extended to four hours and honestly could have spent longer on the boat.
The boats are rumored to sell out in the summer months, but I went down to the boat dock around 10:30 and there were plenty left. I assume if you show up around 12-1pm, they might sell out.
TIP: Pack a wireless speaker, bottle of wine and picnic to enjoy on the boat!
I have an incredibly long and detailed guide that is dedicated to the Gorges du Verdon. Click here to read the ultimate guide to traveling to the Verdon Gorge!
Day 7: Drive to Nice
The drive from Moustiers Sainte Marie to Nice is a little scary for the timid driver! You will be winding down a mountain on narrow roads, but the upside is you will be on the inward side of the cliff.
My only recommendation is to go earlier in the day so the roads are not as crowded and to drive slowly.
Once you drive into Nice, you will drop off the rental car right away. Remember that most places in France close between lunch and dinner times, so make sure you don’t plan to drop off the rental car during closed hours!
TIP: There are a lot of one-way roads in Nice with some beach traffic. I would look into exactly where the rental car drop off garage is BEFORE driving into the city center to avoid getting lost.
The best way to describe Nice would be a perfect mix of Paris and Moustiers Sainte Marie. It is touristy and crowded, but has a very relaxing atmosphere. After checking into your hotel, spend the remainder of the day strolling along the Promenade De Anglais (Nice boardwalk), sipping on an aperol spritz, and soaking in the views of the French Riviera!
Day 8: Free day in Nice
Nice is not extremely large, but you would be surprised on how much there is to do there! It’s always nice to have a free day with no appointments to make. Some recommendations to choose from are:
- Hike Castle Hill
- Great view of the Promenade des Anglais and a great way to work off all those croissants!
- Party at the beach clubs
- Along the Promenade des Anglais, there are many beach clubs that you can go to. The one I went to (mainly because it was closest to my hotel) was the Beau Rivage Plage. You can rent beach chairs for roughly 20 euros a day or you can hang out at their lounge that is situated right on the beach for free (with purchase of food/drinks of course).
- Shopping for souvenirs
- Stores in Nice have really cute things! Of course, they have the standard tourist shops with “I <3 France” shot glasses, but they also have a great selection of things your friends and family would ACTUALLY want!
- Renting bikes and riding along the Promenade des Anglais
- Attend a market
- Markets of all types are constantly happening all throughout the city. Ask the front desk of your hotel if there are any markets going on that day!
- Nice Cathedral
Due to rainy weather during the daytime, I chose to do my souvenir shopping and then hang out at the beach clubs after the rain subsided.
Day 9: Day trip to Monaco
Monaco is known for it’s yacht-lined harbor, Monte Carlo gambling scene, the Grand Prix race, and being a great day trip from Nice.
There are two ways to get to Monaco (other than driving yourself): Taking the bus and the train. They take roughly the same amount of time, the only difference is the bus is extremely inexpensive (less than 2 euros each way).
I know what you’re thinking, taking the public bus to Monaco, one of the most luxurious cities in the world? Oh how the mighty have fallen…
Once you arrive in Monaco, you will immediately see the ragged coastline dotted with yachts the size of hotels. I recommend stopping for lunch at Cafe Milano that overlooks Port Hercule.
Everyone at this restaurant was so friendly and a BIG budget tip: They serve bottomless wine with your meal! If you order a glass and food, they keep refilling your glass of wine until you’re done with your food.
The main attraction to see in Monaco is the Monte Carlo Casino. When you arrive there, you will see the richest cars parked out front with security guards lining the entrance. You can walk into the main lobby free of charge, but to enter into the gambling area, you will need to pay 17 euros… just to get in. I couldn’t tell you what it looks like past the (free) lobby, because I am from Las Vegas, how impressed would I really be?!
Day 10: Fly back home!
The flight back is brutal and depressing, because who wants to ever leave the French Riviera?!
You can take the bus to the Nice airport for roughly six euros per person (check with the front desk of your hotel for current bus pricing). It will be far less expensive to fly into Paris before flying home, especially considering you will unlikely find direct flights from Nice anyways. Leave yourself about 3 hours in between your flight landing and leaving Paris.
That’s a wrap! This was truly the perfect 10 days in France. You will get to see a little bit of everything, giving you so many different experiences in one trip. It will honestly make you feel like you traveled to three different countries since these cities were all so different from each other.
Pssst… Don’t forget to check out my full guide to champagne tasting in champagne where I dive into all the details of which region to choose, exact train time recommendations, best champagne houses, and Instagram spots in Hautvillers! Read more here.
Where to stay in Paris?
Paris is huge, and there are endless areas to choose from that will give you completely different experiences. After a ton of research, I decided to stay in Le Marais district (3rd & 4th arrondissement) because of the local community, trendy shopping, and nightlife! This is known to be a gay district though, so if you have issues with that then I would pick a different arrondissement (but does anyone still have issues with that? I hope not, it’s 2019 people!).
To get specific with the hotel I chose, Hotel Duo is located in Le Marais district and I seriously could not recommend this hotel enough! It had a beautiful design and spot-on location, surrounded by great shopping, restaurants and bars, and we were extremely close to the metro for anything farther. The design of the hotel was modern and had more amenities than I ever thought a Parisian hotel could hold! They had a bar, breakfast, fitness gym, AND sauna. Need I say more? You can browse pricing and availability here.
Not sure which arrondissement is best for you? I found this article by Solo Sophie to be extremely helpful when picking an arrondissement to stay in!
Where to stay to see the Gorges du Verdon?
The closest town to Gorges du Verdon is Moustiers St Marie, being only 10-15 minutes away. This town is absolutely adorable and feels like an authentic french village you would see in movies.
The village is very small, so wherever you stay within the city should be fine. I stayed at Hotel Le Colombier and truly could not recommend it enough. I would go as far to say I wouldn’t have loved the experience I had in this city as much if I didn’t stay at this hotel.
It’s located right outside the Moustiers St Marie city limits (and when I say that, I mean a 10 minute walk outside the village), but the good thing about that is if you rented a car, you won’t have to worry about driving through the narrow streets of the village.
The hotel had a friendly staff that hosted a big buffet breakfast every morning. They had a gorgeous deck that had a wonderful view of the valley and pool/hot tub that was open daily. This hotel felt so homey, I did not want to leave!
Where to stay in Nice, France?
There are endless options to stay in Nice, but I ended up choosing the Beau Rivage. This beautiful and modern hotel is located right on the beach and had it’s own beach club connected to it.
It was located extremely close to the tram station, bus station, train station, shopping areas and restaurants. Nothing was ever more than a 10 minute walk away! They offered free breakfast, but I personally felt it was overpriced, especially considering all the amazing cafe options right around the hotel.
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