The landscapes of France are extremely diverse ranging from high, craggy mountains to low-lying sandy coastal plains. The diversity of France is one of the reasons why it is the most popular tourist destination in the world.
With its majestic rivers and natural glacial lakes, soaring mountains and the bountiful beaches, France is an ideal destination for lovers of the outdoors. Combine this with its sprawling vineyards, exquisite regional cuisine, world-renowned cultural centres and historic villages, and you’ve got something for everyone.
Renting a car in France is the best way to see all that this fascinating country has to offer. It is a great way to see places that are difficult to get to using public transport and it is far more convenient too. It gives greater freedom to get off the main tourist trails and you can take things at your own pace and not be tied to strict schedules.
With many different regions in France and plenty of tourist attractions too, you are spoilt for choice. Do you want to drive winding roads through the rolling countryside or follow the glittering coastline of the Riviera? Do you want to tackle the highest through road in Europe or experience the vineyards?
Need help deciding? We’ve got some destination inspiration for you. Here are some of the best road trips and driving routes in France. Bon voyage!
While renting a car in France is pretty straightforward, here’s some helpful tips:
1. Rent a car with a large boot so you can stock up on French wine and cheese, and ship it home!
2. If you have a lot of equipment or luggage, save space by renting a car with a roof rack or roof box.
3. If you are planning on driving in mountainous regions in winter, ask if your rental car comes with snow chains.
4. The number of emergency services in France is 112.
This iconic 200km road zigzags along the Mediterranean coastline of the southeast corner of France. The French Riviera route takes you through glamorous seaside towns scattered along the coastline. The route takes you from sensational Saint-Tropez up to Menton at the France–Italy border. As you enjoy la joie de vivre along the Côte d’Azur keep an eye out for the rich and famous as you pass though Nice and Monaco.
Driving along the motorway isn’t usually the most exciting or scenic, but this route from Clermont-Ferrand to Montpellier cuts through the spectacular scenery of the Massif Central. It also takes you to The Millau viaduct, the world’s highest multi-span bridge and one of the must-see modern monuments in France. There is a toll to drive over the Millau viaduct, but the A75 itself is toll-free! That’s a big deal in France. It is also a great road to take as an alternative to the busy A6/A7 Rhone Valley route south.
This twisty, turny 150km road follows the route taken by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815 when he marched from Elba to Grenoble. This road is very popular with driving enthusiasts due to its lovely smooth surface and cambered corners. You’ll see plenty of supercars whizzing by. This road, however, is best enjoyed at a more leisurely pace so you can soak up the scenery as you drive through both the Alpes-Maritimes and the Alps. For the best views and a more thrilling drive, start at Grenoble and drive downhill towards the coast.
Also known as Route de Thorenc, this route is short in miles but not short in views. Beginning in the picturesque town of Vence in the Alpes-Maritimes, the 19.3km road continues through to Gréolières and you pass underneath incredible carved rock tunnels. Behind every bend on this balcony road in the mountains is a breathtaking vista. High natural rock formations and arches soar out of the deep lush mountain valley. There are vantage points along the road so you can safely pull in and take in the views.
From the coast to the countryside, this 371km road trip is a laid back route with plenty to see and do along the way. Starting in Biarritz, hang out in this seaside town and learn how to surf. Once you’ve hit the beach it is time to hit the road and make your way inland to the walled town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port with its wonderful views of the Pyrenees. Onwards to Navarrenx, one of the prettiest villages in France, where you can stretch your legs walking around the markets.
From here it is on to Bordeaux where you should park up your car (France has very strict drink driving laws) and explore the beautiful wineries and vineyards of this world-famous wine region.
At 2,802 metres (9,193 feet), Col de la Bonette is the highest paved mountain pass in the Alps. But don’t let that put you off! This is quite a pleasant road to drive due to its smooth surface and, of course, magnificent scenery. Located within the Mercantour National Park, the route begins in the lush green commune of Saint Etienne de Tinée. This scenery is in stark contrast to the barren, volcanic-like scenery of the top. When you reach the summit, your effort is rewarded with a stunning panorama. There’s also a photo op with a plaque confirming your altitudinous adventure.
If you are beginning your road trip from Paris, this route is an easy drive and one history buffs and wine lovers will enjoy. Head west out of the City of Lights, and make your way to Rouen. This historic medieval town inspired many Impressionist painters, including Claude Monet. You can see a superb collection of Impressionist painters in the Museum of Fine Arts in Rouen.
From here, drive to Normandy and visit the historic beaches where the Allies landed in 1944. There are plenty of other World War 2 sites and tributes to check out too. Driving south towards the Loire Valley you’ll pass through some beautiful rural scenery. Motorsports fans will get a kick out of stopping in Le Mans, which is en route.
Once you reach Tours you can spend some time exploring the Loire Valley. This region is famous for its wines, medieval towns and chateaux.