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Travel Guide: From Paris to the South of France

From endless lavender fields and picturesque vineyards to the azure-blue Mediterranean Sea, France is home to a variety of exceptional landscapes and charming villages. We’ve created a travel guide for you with our tips on how to plan a trip from Paris to the South of France.

Èze, a picturesque hilltop village near Nice.
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Emmanuel Lefèvre

Emmanuel is part of our travel consultant team. His love for France has taken him on thrilling adventures across the country, from its top to its southernmost corners, either by train or on his trusty bicycle.

Interested in visiting Paris & the South of France?

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Article highlights:

 

street view in montmartres with cobble stones, tourist walking down the street, painting on the left side, and a quaint restaurant called le Consulat in the background.
Montmartres in Paris. Photo: David Henry viacanva.com

 

How to get from Paris to the South of France

Discover three ways to travel from Paris to the South of France: by train, car, or plane. Choose the option that suits your preferences for speed, convenience, or countryside exploration.

High Speed Train along the mediterranean sea.
High-speed train along the coast. Photo: Enzojz via canva.com

Travelling by train

Travelling by train from Paris to the south of France is probably the most convenient and comfortable way to travel. High speed trains (TGV) depart from the centre of Paris (Gare de Lyon), heading directly to Marseille, Montpellier, or Nice.

Along the way, you can stop at visit charming towns like Beaune, Lyon, Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, and explore iconic regions like Burgundy, Provence and more.

The train from Paris to Nice takes around 6 hours and offers picturesque views along the coast between Marseille and Nice in the last 2 hours of the journey.

Taking the train is also not only convenient but also environmentally friendly. With lower carbon emissions and efficient use of energy, it's a sustainable choice for travel. Additionally, train travel reduces traffic congestion and promotes public transportation infrastructure.🌿 

Purchase your tickets on the SNCF booking platform, keeping in mind that booking generally opens no more than 3 months in advance. Pay attention to ticket types and refund policies when making your selection.

Related: Rail Tours in France

Travelling by car

Driving from Paris to the South of France is an excellent option, offering flexibility and a chance to explore at your own pace. The journey takes approximately 9 hours via major highways, but keep in mind that these routes may not provide the most picturesque views, and expensive tolls are involved.

For a more scenic experience, consider taking countryside roads, allowing for multiple photo stops along the way. Unlike train travel, driving allows you to decide when and where to stop, giving you the freedom to explore charming towns and landmarks without being tied to a set schedule.

Travelling by plane

The quickest way to get from Paris to the South of France is by flying. Charles de Gaulle AirportOrly Airport and Beauvais Airport are the three airports close to Paris from where you can catch a flight to the South.

Most travellers choose to fly to Nice, France's third most popular airport. Its strategic location allows quick and easy access to the French Riviera, taking only 1.5 hours from Paris. Marseille, Toulouse and even Montpellier also have direct flights from Paris.

The airline companies Air France, Transavia, and Easyjet offer daily direct flights between Paris and the South of France, with multiple departures each day.

The main airports in the South of France are: 

 

Where to stop between Paris and the French Riviera?

Now that you know how to get from Paris to the South of France, let's explore the regions and best places to visit.

Map - Paris to South of France

Paris the iconic French capital

Paris. Bridge crossing the Seine river with the Eiffel tower in the background.
The Seine River in Paris. Photo: InspiredVisionStudios via canva.com

 

Discover the city of love and lights. Whether you’re an art lover, a foodie looking for the perfect pastry, a history buff, or simply looking to snap memorable holiday snaps – you will find it all in Paris. Here are our must-sees in Paris:

  • The Eiffel Tower

  • Art Museums: Louvre, Museée D’Orsay

  • Notre-Dame Cathedral

  • Arc de Triomphe

  • Sacré-Cœur Cathedral & Montmartre Neighbourhood

  • Luxembourg Gardens & Tuileries Garden

  • Champs-Elysées Avenue

  • Seine River Cruise

 

Explore Burgundy's villages and vineyards

Auxerre Cathedral in France with the Yonne River flowing beside it. A boat can be seen on the river.
Saint-Étienne Cathedral in Auxerre. Photo: Lucentius via canva.com

 

In Burgundy or 'Bourgogne' as the French say, you will get your first glimpse of the French countryside and its winding rivers and canals, dense forests, lakes, and hillsides.

Here are our must-sees in Bourgogne:

  • Dijon, the capital city of Burgundy

  • Auxerre, the entry door to Burgundy from Paris

  • Beaune, the 'wine capital' of Burgundy

  • Famous vineyards (Côte d'Or, Côte de Nuits, Cote de Beaune...)

  • Morvan Regional National Park


Burgundy is also renowned for its gastronomy, featuring famous regional specialties like coq au vin, beef bourguignon, fondue bourguignonne, escargots de Bourgogne, la matelote d'anguille à la bourguignonne (eels stewed in wine sauce), and gougères (cheese puffs), and more. 

Experience Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes' powerful nature

breathtaking view from the top of a mountain, located in Auvergne Rhône Alpes, France.
The French Alpes. Photo: Welcomia via canva.com

 

In Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes you'll find some of the most stunning mountain ranges, charming medieval villages, and scenic lakes, all waiting to be explored. But that's not all; the region is renowned for its world-class skiing, delicious local cuisine, and world-famous vineyards.

Here are our must-sees in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes:

  • Lyon, the third largest city in France and capital of gastronomy

  • The Alps and Mont Blanc

  • Auvergne and the Puy de Dôme volcano

  • Ardèche, the gorge and the caverns

  • The charming city of Annecy and its lake


The cuisine of the Rhône-Alpes region is centered around cheese, featuring dishes like fondue Savoyarde, Rhône-Alpes raclette, tartiflette, and more. Renowned French cheeses such as Reblochon, Tomme de Savoie, Saint-Marcellin, and Emmental de Savoie are all specialties of this area.

Explore Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur's hidden gems

A beautiful beach with palm trees and a clear blue sky at Promenade des Anglais, Nice.
Promenade des Anglais in Nice. Photo: Master2 via canva.com

 

As you approach the French Riviera, you'll reach the region of Provence-Alpes- Côte d’Azur. This southern gem is famous for its vast lavender fields, rugged maquis-covered cliffs, and picture-perfect Mediterranean beaches.

Here are our must-sees in Provence-Alpes- Côte d’Azur:

  • Avignon, a historic city in Provence known for the Palace of the Popes

  • Luberon Regional National Park and villages

  • Aix-en-Provence and Cassis with a boat cruise of Clanques National Park

  • Marseille, the third-largest city in France

  • Antibes, a picturesque town on the Riviera

  • Saint-Tropez a glamorous coastal town 

  • Cannes, a resort town on the Riviera famous for its film festival

  • Nice, the capital of the French Riviera


Some of the most renowned specialties from Provence and the South of France include aïoli garni, bouillabaisse, codfish brandade, daube à la provençale, pumpkin gratin, panisse (fried chickpea cakes), pissaladière, ratatouille niçoise, rouille, salade niçoise, soupe au pistou (soup with basil and garlic), tapenade, sauté of veal aux olives, tians de légumes (vegetable gratin), and calissons d'Aix en Provence (almond candies), and much more...

When is the best time of the year to visit France?

France offers a year-round destination that caters to all types of travellers. Whether you're interested in exploring museums, hiking, relaxing on the beach, or hitting the slopes, there's something for everyone.

Each season has its unique advantages and drawbacks. So, let's explore the seasons and their benefits to help you plan your ideal France vacation.

Lavender field in Provence. Hilltop village in the background.
Lavender fields in Provence. Photo: StevanZZ via canva.com

Summer (June, July, August & September)

The peak season for tourism in France runs from June to August, so if you're ready to brave the crowds, summer is a great time to soak up the sun and experience all the region has to offer. The weather in the South of France during summer is unbeatable. Expect plenty of sunshine, with temperatures often reaching up to 30-40°C.

Mid-June to mid-July is the lavender season in Provence when the fields turn a picturesque shade of purple. Summer is also the perfect season to enjoy outdoor activities such as lounging on Mediterranean beaches or strolling through one of the many charming summer markets.

Autumn (October & November)

The temperatures in autumn are cooler than in summer, ranging from around 8-15°C, but you can still expect plenty of sunshine. You might experience a bit more rain than in the summer, but it won't spoil your trip. One of the best things about travelling to France in the autumn is that there are fewer crowds.

Autumn is also the perfect time for outdoor activities like hiking or biking in the mountains, where you can enjoy the stunning autumn foliage. It's also a great time to explore vineyards and taste some delicious French wines.

You'll find that the cooler temperatures make it more comfortable to go on long walks and indulge in the local cuisine. However, one of the downsides of visiting the South of France in the autumn is that the sea might be a bit too cold for swimming, so you won't be able to enjoy the Mediterranean waters as you would in the summer. But don't worry; there are plenty of other activities to keep you entertained.

Winter (December, January, February)

Winter in France is peaceful and quiet, which means you can enjoy a more relaxed and laid-back atmosphere. December is the perfect time to immerse yourself in traditional Provençal Christmas markets and festivities, with charming villages and towns decorated in sparkling lights and decorations especially in Alsace.

If you're lucky enough to be in Nice in February, you can experience the vibrant and colourful Nice Carnaval or the Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival) in Menton. Winter is also the ideal season for sports enthusiasts, with skiing and snowboarding opportunities in the stunning French Alps.

Spring (March, April & May)

Temperatures in spring range from 8-20°C and there are plenty of sunny days. Although there might be some rain in March and April, the rest of the season is usually dry and bright. Historic cities are at their best during springtime, adorned with colourful flowers. Even though lavender isn't in bloom, you'll be able to see the magnificent wisteria.

If you're looking for a quieter vacation, spring is the perfect time to visit France, as it's less crowded than the peak season in summer. In May, the glamorous Cannes Film Festival takes place, and it's a must-see event for movie lovers.

7, 10 and 15-day itinerary suggestions

Retsaurant-in-Aix-en-Provence-CREDITS--Atout-FranceAlizØe-Palomba.jpg
A terrace restaurant in Aix-en-Provence.


Option 1: Paris and South of France Itinerary in 7 Days
 

Day 1-3: Paris - Explore iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Montmartre. Enjoy leisurely strolls along the Seine River and indulge in delicious French cuisine.

Day 4-7: Nice - Take a train to Nice and spend the next days exploring the French Riviera. Relax on the beautiful beaches of Nice, wander through the colorful Old Town, and enjoy panoramic views from Castle Hill. Take day trips to nearby attractions like Monaco, Cannes, and Antibes to experience the glamour of the Côte d'Azur.

Related: Paris & the French Riviera


Option 2: Paris and South of France Itinerary in 10 Days
 

Day 1-2: Paris - Explore iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Notre-Dame Cathedral. Enjoy leisurely strolls along the Seine River and indulge in delicious French cuisine.

Day 3-4: Beaune - Travel to Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy. Explore its charming medieval streets, visit the Hospices de Beaune, and taste exquisite Burgundy wines at local cellars.

Day 5-6: Lyon - Take a train to Lyon and spend two days exploring its UNESCO-listed Old Town, Renaissance architecture, and vibrant food scene. Don't miss the traboules (hidden passageways) and the views from Fourvière Hill.

Day 7-8: Aix-en-Provence -  Travel to Aix-en-Provence, known for its elegant boulevards, fountains, and lively markets. Explore the historic center, visit the Cours Mirabeau, and immerse yourself in the works of Cézanne.

Day 9-10: Nice - Arrive in Nice and spend your final days relaxing on its beautiful beaches, wandering through the colorful Old Town, and exploring nearby attractions like the Promenade des Anglais and Castle Hill. Don't miss day trips to Monaco, Cannes, and Antibes for a taste of the French Riviera's glamour.

Related: Paris, Burgundy & the South of France


Option 3: Paris and South of France Itinerary in 15 Days
 

Day 1-3: Paris - Explore iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Montmartre. Wander through charming neighborhoods and indulge in French cuisine at local bistros.

Day 4-5: Beaune - Travel to Beaune and spend the day exploring the historic town center. Visit the Hospices de Beaune, stroll through vineyards, and sample Burgundy wines.

Day 6-7: Lyon - Take a train to Lyon and spend two days discovering its rich history and gastronomic delights. Explore Old Lyon, visit the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, and savor traditional Lyonnaise cuisine.

Day 8-9: Aix-en-Provence - Travel to Aix-en-Provence and immerse yourself in its Provençal charm. Explore the elegant Cours Mirabeau, wander through colorful markets, and visit the Atelier Cézanne.

Day 10-11: Marseille - Head to Marseille and explore its vibrant Vieux Port, historic neighborhoods, and cultural attractions. Don't miss the iconic Notre-Dame de la Garde and take a boat tour of the Calanques.

Day 12-15: Nice - Take a train to Nice and spend the remainder of your trip relaxing on the stunning beaches of the French Riviera. Explore the Old Town, stroll along the Promenade des Anglais, and day trip to nearby destinations like Monaco, Cannes, and Antibes.

By Emmanuel Lefèvre / Apr 18 2023

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