Planning a south of France itinerary is one of the highlights of visiting this incredible country. France is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe and, although many visitors will stay in Paris, plenty head down to spend 7 to 10 days in the south of France to soak up the sun on the pristine beaches, visit the stunning mountain ranges or learn about French culture on a city break.
A south of France itinerary can be extremely diverse, taking you to all of the above, or allowing you to pick and mix as you please. Whichever stops you end up choosing, you’re sure to have a fantastic holiday surrounded by lush natural areas, historic locations or beautiful city centres.
To explore the whole of the south of France, from the Atlantic coast of Bayonne to the Mediterranean principality of Monaco, you would need at least two weeks to freely explore each wonderful town and city en route without rushing. However, to enjoy the Mediterranean coastline and its neighbouring cities, towns and quaint villages, 10 days in the south of France is ideal.
Although, if you want to concentrate your stops in one area, such as Languedoc-Roussillon or Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, you can spend a very pleasant 7 days in the south of France, without spending too much time on the road.
Part of the fun of a south of France road trip is seeing the sights from a car window and stopping when your interest is piqued by a looming château or spectacular view. So it can be a great idea to plan a few days of activities but leave yourselves a day or at least an afternoon here and there for travelling and taking in the scenery.
Equally, if you prefer not to drive and would rather take trains or buses, you can pack picnics for your journeys and enjoy the views; you may still be on the move rather than on your feet or a sun lounger, but it’s a great way to make the most of every moment of your holiday.
The itinerary for the south of France outlined below covers a range of highlights to be found in the area. However, if you’re keen to dig deeper into various regions, make sure to check out our Provence itinerary or our French Riviera itinerary if you’ve already decided where you want to go.
Driving tends to be the best mode of transport to get around the south of France, as you’re then free to move around according to your own schedule, and there are many free (or at least cheap) places to park to be found in most cities and towns across the country.
All of the airports and city centres will have rental car companies where you can find various vehicles for reasonable prices, although it’s advisable to book in advance to guarantee you get the car of your choice.
The French have an expression that roughly translates to “there may not be work, but there are always roadworks”, so if you’re planning a south of France road trip itinerary outside of the summer months, it’s useful to have Google Maps open to have live traffic information for your journey so you can take alternative routes where necessary.
However, from June to September, as both French and foreign tourists travel around the country, there tend to be very few problems on the road, and you can almost guarantee excellent road surfaces to make your car journeys significantly more comfortable.
What’s more, the south of France has an excellent reputation for hitchhiking, so if you’re feeling adventurous and have a loose schedule for your trip to the south of France, this can be a great way of travelling around and getting some insider information about the hidden gems. Just make sure to follow safety precautions.
Getting to the south of France in the first place is also very simple as there are many airports located all along the south.
There are major airports in Toulouse, Montpellier, Marseille and Nice, so you can start your journey easily from any of these cities, although you can also arrive from the UK and other neighbouring European countries in the smaller cities of Carcassonne, Nîmes, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence and Toulon. You can book airport pickups here.
Each of these cities also has excellent public transportation, so you can visit much of the south of France by train. However, if you’d like to spend time in more rural villages and historic sites, there may not be trains and only a few buses each day, so having your own car is definitely advisable.
Most of the stops on our southern France itinerary will be well-known towns and cities that can easily be accessed by train or bus, but there are a couple of more out-of-the-way destinations that will be harder to reach without a car. So try to choose the best stops for your own south of France itinerary accordingly. You can view train and bus schedules here.
7 to 10 Day South of France Itinerary
From cities and towns to lakes and villages, our southern France itinerary will show you the best that France has to offer, without spending too long on the road so you can make the most of the bright sunshine, bustling streets and beautiful landscape.
Toulouse is a great place to start your 7 days in the south of France, as the airport has excellent connections to major European cities like London, Paris, Amsterdam and Munich, without being so busy that you spend your whole first day waiting at border control.
You can rent a car from the airport to start your road trip, or take the tram into the city for just a few euros and arrive in the centre ready to explore.
The centre of Toulouse has a wonderful large square lined on one side by the beautiful pink and white building Le Capitole that houses the town hall and the theatre of Toulouse.
This square is a great welcome into the city, leading off into winding streets full of boutiques and restaurants showing off the famous red brick of the region and the amazing cuisine.
You can wander around the city and discover the other incredible red brick structures like the Saint-Sernin Basilica and the Jacobins Convent with its enormous stained glass windows and occasional evening light show on the exterior façade. You can also organise a walking tour or a food tour if you want to learn more about the area from a guide.
The Canal du Midi also flows through Toulouse, as does the River Garonne, which provides a lovely place for an afternoon stroll, admiring the Occitan architecture, sunbathing on the steps leading to the river and sipping a cocktail on one of the floating bars. Plus, if you look closely under the Pont Neuf, you can spot one of James Colomina’s curious little red statues…
As a city, you can find plenty of places to stay within Toulouse from budget hotels and B&Bs to luxury apartments. Or, for a more rural gîte, you can head slightly further out of the city to enjoy nature, which is particularly beautiful around the Tarn and Garonne Rivers.
Where to Stay in Toulouse
Hôtel Héliot – Mid-range visitors to Toulouse will love this cool, 3-star hotel. Located in the centre of the city, they have a range of lovely rooms along with a great breakfast on offer in the morning.Click here to check availability
Boutique Hotel SOCLO – This boutique hotel is an excellent option for those after a luxury stay in Toulouse. They have a range of plush rooms to choose from along with an excellent location for exploring all the city has to offer. Click here to check availability
Appartements Design Hypercentre – If you’d prefer to have your own flat while in the South of France, then these apartments in Toulouse are a great choice. They come fully furnished and have a great, central location. Click here to check availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Toulouse hotels!
Moving further south from Toulouse, you come across the amazing walled city of Carcassonne – the perfect place for a day trip. You can visit independently or go on an organised trip such as this full-day tour or this full-day tour.
Having been occupied since 500 BCE, this land was transformed by the Romans into a walled city which was further enhanced in the 12th century to create the incredible 3 km of ramparts we see today.
You can see the 52 towers rising in the distance as you approach by car, train or plane and the inside of the city takes you back in time with its traditional French shops selling everything from sweets to swords.
In the summer, the city comes to life with jousting tournaments, battle reenactments, opportunities to learn how to write with a quill and ink and people dressed in traditional mediaeval clothing wandering around the city. It’s a great place to visit with the family, but equally interesting for anyone with an interest in history, architecture or French culture.
The highlight of Carcassonne is the mediaeval city, however, there is a more modern town on the other side of the river which has hotels, restaurants and some apartments to rent, so if you haven’t brought your campervan, this is an excellent place to stay.
Moving further south still, we get to the real entrance of the south of France: Montpellier. Located on the Mediterranean coast, the amazing city has everything, from Roman ruins and neoclassical architecture to beaches, parks and exquisite gastronomy.
Visitors can happily stroll around the streets of the city centre, coming across the main square La Comedie, named after the huge theatre on one end, where the locals gather for entertainment, or simply to pass through on their way to work.
A short walk will take you to the magnificent 17th-century Triumphal Arch and stunning 18th-century tiered aqueduct that’s still working to supply the city’s fountains with water.
If that’s not enough to entice you, Montpellier has a fantastic botanical garden, which is the oldest in France, as well as plenty of murals and trompe d’œils dotted around the city streets, making for a wonderful walking tour. You can also easily take the tram around the city if you don’t feel like walking too far, as well as to the enormous beach with wild flamingos nearby.
Montpellier is a large city and has a very popular university so you can find activities for young people around every corner, as well as cheap hotels and apartments so everyone can have the chance to explore this amazing coastal city. Even if you can only stay for 7 days in the south of France, make sure you stop by Montpellier – you won’t be disappointed!
Where to Stay in Montpellier
Hôtel Royal – This 3-star hotel in the centre of Montpellier is a fantastic choice for those looking for a central place to stay in this French city. They have a range of chic rooms to choose from along with breakfast on offer each morning. Click here to check availability
Hôtel Oceania Le Métropole – This chic hotel is an excellent choice for those after a luxury option while staying in Montpellier. They have an excellent, central location along with an array of plush rooms plus many other amenities available. Click here to check their availability
Appart’City Confort Montpellier Saint Roch – If you’re keen for a self-catering option while exploring the south of France, then these apartments are a great choice. They have an array of fully-furnished flats all within easy access of all Montpellier has to offer. Click here to check availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Montpellier hotels!
Carcassonne and Montpellier were simply appetisers for history buffs, who can now rub their hands in glee at our next destination, the fabulous city of Arles. Arles is a perfectly sized town to wander around the streets and get a glimpse of the Provençal architecture and Roman ruins, namely the spectacular amphitheatre, Arènes d’Arles.
This 20,000 seater, two-tiered arena was built in 90 CE for gladiator fights and chariot races to entertain the locals and had towers added during the mediaeval era and looks unbelievably incredible today.
You can easily spend a few hours learning about the history of the structure or even watching a performance as it now hosts live music, bullfighting and other events in Summer, before heading off to experience the city’s other claim to fame: van Gogh’s house.
Having lived in the city for just a year, Vincent van Gogh created hundreds of artworks during his stay, having been greatly inspired by the natural beauty and pastel colours of the houses. Unfortunately, the house where he resided (and cut off his ear) was destroyed during the Second World War, however, you can visit a museum dedicated to the artist nearby.
Don’t miss out on the amazing and spooky Alyscamps either, with its incredible Gothic sarcophagi on either side of the ancient road leading down to a 12th-century church.
There aren’t lots of hotels within Arles city centre, however, with the Rhône River flowing through the landscape, there are some wonderful campsites and gîtes surrounded by countryside just five minutes driving out of the city. It is also very feasible to continue onto Marseille for the next few nights.
Where to Stay in Marseille
Hôtel Life Marseille VP – Mid-range visitors to Marseille will love this cool 3-star hotel in the centre of the city. They have an array of wonderful rooms to choose from, a fantastic location and plenty of other perks to ensure you have an excellent stay. Click here to check availability
La Residence Du Vieux Port – This luxury hotel in the Old Port area of Marseille is perfect for those looking for a chic and romantic place to stay in this French city. There are plentiful rooms to choose from along with an excellent location for seeing the city. Located in the Old Port area of Marseille, those looking for luxury will love this opulent boutique hotel. Click here to check availability
Vertigo Vieux-Port – Those looking for a budget option or if you’re after a great social atmosphere will love this highly-rated hostel in the Old Port area of Marseille. They have great common areas and self-catering facilities along with both dorms and private rooms available. Click here to check availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Marseille hotels!
There’s not much to be said about the oldest and third-largest city in France that hasn’t already been said, and all of the great things you’ve heard about Marseille are true. Founded by the Greeks over 2600 years ago, the port city has seen a great deal of migration from all across the world making it a spectacularly diverse melting pot of architecture, cuisine, culture and religion.
The Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde is a must-see place within the city, and fortunately, you can see it from all around Marseille as it towers high above the otherwise quite flat city.
On the opposite side of Marseille, close to the train station is the equally spectacular but less well-known black and white striped Cathedrale La Major, which looks particularly magnificent at sunrise when the daylight causes the domed roof to glow orange.
A short distance away is the famous fish market and port of Marseille where you can see the fishermen selling their catches, as they’ve done for centuries, and take amazing photographs with the beautiful boats in the fore and the basilica in the background.
It’s possible to spend a few days in Marseille and not get the chance to see everything, so it’s a great destination for a weekend break, but even if you’ve got 10 days in the area, you’ve got to spare one for Marseille – even if it’s just to eat seafood (or take a food tour) and enjoy the views.
Similar to other cities in France, you can find many hotels across the city for all kinds of budgets, as well as smaller B&Bs in the suburbs.
But there’s great transportation in the city, so rather than driving in, it’s a good idea to leave your car parked by your accommodation and just take a bus in and out of the city when you need to.
So far each destination has been easily reachable by public transport, however, it’s more difficult to reach our next stop if you’re seeing the south of France by train. But, the Gorges du Verdon is one of the most breathtaking locations in the whole of France, so if possible, you have to include it on your southern France itinerary.
This 25 km long canyon has been cut out of limestone by the brilliant turquoise Verdon River that reaches down 700 metres at its deepest and is a popular place to take a pedalo or kayak, or go hiking and even rock climbing.
You can travel through the gorge into the Sainte-Croix Lake which was created in the 1970s by flooding the small village of Les Salles-sur-Verdon, later rebuilt on the banks of the lake. You can stop here for lunch in any number of delightful restaurants with mesmerising lakeside views, or bring a picnic with you to enjoy a full day out exploring the canyon and surrounding lakes.
There are several hotels in the village of Les Salles-sur-Verdon and near the small village of Boulogne, on the south side of the gorges, and you can find plenty of campsites surrounding the Sainte-Croix Lake, some with cabins that you can rent if you haven’t got your own tent.
But be wary that the Gorges du Verdon is a very popular place to stay in Summer, so you’ll need to book your accommodation well in advance. Alternatively, continue onto Cannes for the evening, where you can be based for the next few days of this itinerary. There are also a number of other places to stay on the French Riviera that are great choices.
For those who don’t want to make the drive out to the gorge, there are other great options available for this day. You could, for instance, spend another day exploring Marseille. You could also opt to take a day trip to the lavender fields and take in a hilltop village in Provence.
Another great option would be to visit the Calanques du Marseille and the village of Cassis for a gorgeous area very close to the city.
Where to Stay in Cannes
Villa Claudia Hotel Cannes – If you’re on a mid-range budget while in Cannes, then this hotel is a good choice. It has a good location for exploring the city, breakfast is available in the mornings and there is a great garden to enjoy. Click here to check availability
Hotel Splendid – This hotel is a fantastic luxury option for those looking to live the high life while on the French Riviera. They have a myriad of incredible rooms to choose from along with a great location for exploring the city and area. Click here to check availability
La Bastide de l’Oliveraie – Those after a bit of an alternative accommodation option will love these plush suites in Cannes. They have an excellent, central location and there are plenty of rooms and suites available to choose from. Click here to check availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Cannes hotels!
Back down to the Mediterranean coast, between the picturesque but incredibly busy town of St Tropez and the large and equally popular city of Cannes, is the small yet delightful town of Saint-Raphaël.
With a small harbour, a huge cathedral and beautiful beaches, this lovely little town is a great place to spend a relaxing final day of a south of France itinerary if you’re on a week-long holiday.
The charming town is a wonderful place to wander around, perusing the little shops and soaking up the sun, but during the Summer, the town really comes to life after 7.30 pm with its famous night market! This is much different than market day in other Provençal towns.
Stalls line the boardwalk all evening, selling local products from traditional Provençal soaps and perfumes to sweet treats and jewellery, so after you’ve had your traditional fish soup, anchovy paste, stuffed peppers or Bouillabaisse, you can’t miss out on a wander around the market to bring your 7 days in the south of France to a close.
If you’ve got time, you’ve also got to check out the superb amphitheatre of Fréjus, just a ten-minute drive from Saint-Raphaël centre.
Saint-Raphaël doesn’t have its own airport, however, it’s just a 45-minute drive from Cannes Airport, or 1 hour along the coastal road so you can say your farewells to the Côte d’Azur as you head home.
If you’re staying on, you can find many different hotels and apartments to stay in for the night all along the coast, although as we head into the more glamorous coastline, you’ll notice the prices can jump up quite a bit from other properties on our itinerary.
For your eighth day in the south of France, it’s time to head away from the coastal towns and cities to experience life in a small village, and there’s none better than Valbonne.
Just north of Cannes and Antibes, you can easily reach Valbonne by car from Saint-Raphaël, or if you’re travelling on public transport you can take a bus from Cannes to Valbonne for just a few euros.
This little village may lack big landmarks and resorts, but it’s bursting with character, with charming cobbled streets leading you around the village, from quaint squares to historic churches.
This style of architecture and tiny community nestled into a valley surrounded by wilderness is archetypal of the area, so a must-visit place for anyone looking to get away from the busy cities and tourist-filled beaches to get a glimpse into the real south of France.
There are a number of wonderful places to eat, including Auberges, serving traditional dishes using produce sourced directly from the surrounding countryside to heighten your experience of rural French life. You can stay in the village, but there are only two hotels, so you’ll want to book well in advance if you want to stay overnight.
However, the large city of Cannes is not far away so there will be much more choice of hotels, as well as gîtes and B&Bs dotted around the countryside if you prefer to stay in a more rural location.
After a day in the countryside, it’s time to get back into the city, and one of the French Riviera’s most unmissable cities has to be Nice.
With its bustling city centre full of designer shops, boutiques, restaurants, bars and nightclubs, you won’t be short of things to do as you walk from street to street, under the intriguing street lamps. But Nice isn’t your average city.
As you head out of the modern centre, you can come across the delightful old town, with more traditional boutiques and eateries, and you can even visit one of the first Russian Orthodox Cathedrals built in France, the beautiful Cathédrale Saint-Nicolas de Nice.
With its intriguing shape, red brick exterior, turquoise domed roofs and pointed turrets, it may be small but it’s well worth visiting while you’re in Nice – just remember to wear long sleeves and trousers to be allowed entry.
You can also walk up the Colline du Château to see the ruins of an old castle and a beautiful waterfall as well as have incredible views over the whole of Nice.
There’s plenty to do in the city for all ages and interests, as well as accommodation for all budgets in the city centre and further out in the suburbs. You can also organise a walking tour or food tour if you prefer to explore with a guide.
Where to Stay in Nice
Nice Garden Hotel – This is a great mid-range hotel in Nice to round out your south of France trip. They have a number of lovely rooms to choose from along with a great location within easy reach of the Promenade des Anglais. Click here to check availability
Palais Saleya Boutique hôtel – If you’re looking for a luxury hotel while in Nice, then you can’t go wrong with this lovely place. They have a number of delightful rooms to choose from along with plenty of amenities to ensure you have a great stay. Click here to check availability
Aparthotel AMMI Vieux Nice – Located in Old Nice, these apartments are a wonderful choice for those keen for their own space in this coastal metropolis. They have a number of great flats, all equipped with everything you may need for your stay. Click here to check availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Nice hotels!
Nice Airport is the best place to fly out of the south of France if you’ve come along the south coast from west to east, and fortunately, it’s not far from the wonderful village of Èze, which makes for a remarkably relaxing final day of your holiday.
Simply wander around the picturesque village with cobbled streets and stone houses, stunning views over the Mediterranean and the nearby millionaire’s playground that is Monaco.
Or, take a free tour of the renowned Fragonard perfume factory before heading to a cliffside restaurant to enjoy your final plat du jour and a crisp local vin blanc before heading home.
If you have more than 10 days , there are plenty of other highlights to stop in en route.
Stop in one of the only papal seats outside the Vatican in Avignon to explore the Pope’s Palace, the famous destroyed bridge Le Pont d’Avignon and the nearby Pont du Gard for a day before visiting Arles, or continue your journey along the French Riviera to the flash principality of Monaco to see how the other half live or try your luck in the famous casino.
Or if Roman history piques your interest, stop by the incredible city of Nîmes near Arles to see a 2,000-year-old Roman amphitheatre that gives Arles a run for its money, as well as its perfectly preserved white Roman temple La Maison Carrée.
En route from Carcassonne to Montpellier, you can also stop for a day of hiking and art in the community of Mayronnes to walk along the impressive 6 km long sculpture trail – but bring plenty of water with you as it can get very hot, especially in the height of summer.
Whether you take a south of France road trip or see the south of France by train, there is plenty to do across the whole region for all interests. Over a week or 10 days in the south, you’ll get to experience some amazing food, architecture and natural areas that will surely have you aching to get back as soon as your feet are off French soil.
Are you visiting the south of France? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!