Southern France is a dream. From the rolling lavender fields of Provence, up to the snowy peaks of the French Alps, and down to the pristine blue waters of the Riviera, the south of France is packed with beauty and charm. While living in Paris, I was lucky enough to explore the area on a Southern France road trip, and now, I want to share it with you. This is the perfect Southern France itinerary, complete with amazing day trips and one-of-a-kind experiences you can only have in France.
Check out my guide visiting France for the first time, which includes information about customs, travel, and more, that will be very helpful when following this Southern France itinerary!
Southern France Itinerary Overview
My Southern France itinerary is 10 days long, and it focuses on three main cities- Nice, Avignon, and Annecy. At each of these stops, you’ll find unique experiences that give you a taste of the region. Soak up the sun on the beach in Nice, and enjoy the luxe life with day trips to world-famous Cannes and nearby Monaco. Experience the Provencal countryside on day trips while using Avignon, a historically significant city, as your home base for a few days. Finally, explore the winding streets of Annecy’s quaint old town amidst the backdrop of the French Alps. I fell in love with every village, town, and city we visited on this trip, and I’m sure you will too.
Southern France Road Trip Tips
This itinerary is best experienced as a road trip during the summer. Having a car makes the day trips, especially those throughout the countryside, much easier and more efficient as you can come and go as you please. When my family and I took this trip, we flew in and out of Paris, bookending this trip with a few days in the French capital for a perfect 2-week vacation. We took the train from Paris to Nice and picked up our rental car there, driving from city to city until we went back to Paris. If you don’t want to drive, you can still follow this itinerary, for the most part, using public transportation. However, some of the day trips, like the trip to Les Baux-de-Provence, would be near impossible unless you found a private driver or tour to join.
Southern France Road Trip Itinerary
Days 1-4: Nice, France
Day One: Arrive in Nice
Our train arrived in Nice in the afternoon, so we immediately started our Southern France road trip and picked up our rental car before heading to the hotel. After that, we spent the afternoon wandering along the famous beachfront Promenade des Anglais and exploring the winding streets of the old town, called Vieux Nice. While the promenade is lined with big, beautiful hotels, the old town is full of brightly colored, rustic homes that look like they’ve been there for hundreds of years. Make sure to try some classic southern French cuisine for dinner!
Day Two: Art and Sun
In the morning of our second day in Nice, we visited the Chapelle du Rosaire, a church designed by famous artist Henri Matisse. The church is located in nearby Vence, and although it appears unassuming from the outside, the inside features art and stained glass windows by the expressionist artist. After that, we headed to one of Nice’s many private beaches for lunch and sunbathing. Nice has a few public beaches, but there are also private beaches where you can rent a chair and get food and drinks delivered to you. Visiting the beach in Nice is a must-do if you’re visiting the Riviera in the summer.
Day Three: Day Trip to Eze and Monaco
On the third day of our Southern France road trip, we visited Eze, a hilltop village located less than a 30-minute drive from Nice. We spent some time wandering the old, cobbled streets of the city before heading to the Jardin Exotique, a garden located at the very top of the village. Through the cacti and succulents, you can find stunning views of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea and nearby towns. After that, we grabbed a quick lunch in Eze before heading to Monaco, located just 20 minutes from Eze.
The Grand Prix course was still up when we visited Monaco, so we spent time checking that out before also visiting the famous Monte Carlo Casino and window shopping at all the nearby designer stores. That evening, we headed back to Nice for dinner and a sunset walk down the Promenade.
Day Four: Day Trip to Cannes
For our final full day in Nice, we took a day trip to Cannes, a city famous for its international film festival! We visited the famous spot where the stars walk the red carpet for the event and then wandered through the city, taking a break to enjoy a few pastries and coffee. In the afternoon, we headed back to Nice, and we visited the Florian Candy Factory, where we found regional sweets like candied clementines.
Days 5-6: Avignon, France
Day Five: Arrive in Avignon
We left Nice in the morning of the fifth day of our trip and headed to Avignon, located about a 3-hour drive away. After arriving in Avignon, we explored the old, walled city. Avignon was home to the papacy during the 1300s, so there are several historically significant structures to visit, including the Papal Palace and the Pont d’Avignon, a 12th-century bridge with remains still standing today. We took a tram ride through the walled city to get a better feel for the town before grabbing dinner in one of the main squares. There’s so much Roman and medieval history in Avignon, so I’d recommend taking a tour if you want to learn more.
Day Six: Day trip to Les Baux and Pont du Gard
Day six was the most surprising day of our Southern France road trip. We considered visiting the Roman ruins in nearby Nimes, but our hotel concierge recommended that we visit Les Baux de Provence during the day and Pont du Gard in the evening. We started our day by driving to Les Baux, a hilltop village dating back hundreds of years in the Provencal countryside. Throughout the village, you can find cute shops and cafes alongside medieval ruins. My favorite attraction in Les Baux isn’t its adorable old town- it’s the immersive art display located below inside of an old quarry. The Carrières de Lumières is a multimedia art show that projects famous works of art set to music on the huge walls of the quarry. Check out my full guide to Les Baux for more information about this amazing art experience.
That evening, we went to Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site itself is impressive to behold as it towers over the river today after being built thousands of years ago. Near the aqueduct, you can also find archeological cave sites that show humans lived in this area tens of thousands of years ago. In addition to these historical sites, the Pont du Gard is also home to the Féeries du Pont, an incredible nighttime show projected on the Pont du Gard. This show combines projections, pyrotechnics, and live actors and acrobats to create a truly incredible show on the ancient structure. This show and the Carrières de Lumières made day six my favorite day of this Southern France itinerary. Unfortunately, this show only occurs a few times during the summer, so check out the website to see if you’ll be able to experience it!
Days 7-10: Annecy, France
Day Seven: Arrive in Annecy
After exploring Avignon, we were excited to head to Annecy, a beautiful town in the French Alps. It takes about three hours to get to Annecy from Avignon by car. After getting to Annecy, we spent some time wandering around Lake Annecy, a stunning blue lake surrounded by mountains. After enjoying the sunset over the lake, we ate dinner at a classic fondue restaurant in the Old Town and wandered through its cobbled streets after dinner. Check out my full list of things to do in Annecy for more trip inspiration!
Day Eight: Day Trip to Chamonix
We woke up early on day eight to get to Chamonix, a skiing town near the Italian border that was about an hour away by car. Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is famous for its winter sports and for having the tallest mountain peak in Europe, Mont Blanc. In Chamonix, you can visit the Mer de Glace, a giant glacier, or take a gondola up to the Aiguille du Midi. Once you’ve taken the gondola up the mountain, you can see amazing views of the Alps, and you can even stand in a glass box thousands of meters in the air! If you’re sensitive to major changes in altitude, you might get a little lightheaded and dizzy, so take a break in the cafe to relax if you need to! I’ve written a full guide to Chamonix, so check it out if you want more information to plan your trip!
Day Nine: Day Trip to Geneva
As if this Southern France itinerary wasn’t full of day trips, here’s one last stop! On the final full day of our Southern France road trip, we drove to Geneva for lunch! We walked along Lake Geneva, through the main streets of the old town, and then grabbed a quick lunch before heading back to Annecy. When we got back to Annecy, we rented a boat and cruised around the lake for a while before enjoying one last dinner in the charming town.
Day Ten: Back to Paris
Enjoy one last breakfast before your Southern France road trip finally comes to an end. We drove back to Paris and spent a few more days there before flying home.
Southern France Itinerary: Experience the Best of France
My trip through Southern France was absolutely incredible, and if you follow this itinerary, I’m sure you’ll fall in love with the region just like I did. There’s so much to see, from the ancient Pont du Gard to the iconic beaches of the French Riviera. As I noted before, this itinerary works best as a road trip, but most of the destinations are reachable using public transportation. Are you ready for your Southern France road trip?