If you have already decided to go on a trip to France, the next decision to be made is which region of France you would like to explore.
In a country where there are tourist attractions, monuments, and historical buildings as far as the eye can see, it is impossible to explore everything during only one holiday. Even choosing merely a region can be challenging. City breaks also sound attractive - why not escape for a weekend to Marseille, Lyon or Nice?
Throughout the country there are exactly 41 UNESCO World Heritage appointed Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites. In addition to the famous highlights such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre-Dame, plan for other not so well-known sites for the ultimate holiday experience. This is precisely why Auto Europe have taken the time and compiled a detailed selection of different routes in France for a multi-day trip. This time we focus on suggestions for a road trip to Paris and the surrounding area.
For all those who travel in France for the first time, getting to know Paris and the surrounding area is a must. The capital Paris offers a cultural experience of a special kind and the Champagne region is rich in famous vineyards, numerous wineries, and culinary highlights. Let us not forget the breathtaking scenery that will accompany you all along your journey. Book a car hire in Paris and stay flexible during your trip!
The Paris region road trip guide starts with a road trip in Picardy, approximately 1.5 hours drive north of Paris. The entire area consists almost exclusively of small, picturesque villages, and forms an excellent starting point for exploring the region around Paris and Champagne, which has given the world-famous, eponymous sparkling wine its name. There are many excellent places to begin the expedition, such as Amiens, Beauvais and Saint Quentin. In this road trip guide, however, we will restrict ourselves to Amiens for space reasons.
In the Picardy region the bloodiest battles of the First World War took place. The Battle of the Somme contributed to the number of killed and wounded soldiers and was one of the costliest battles of the First World War. After the battle, many war memorials were built to commemorate the French, British, Scottish, Canadian, Australian and South African soldiers. Beyond the war past, Picardy is also regarded as the birthplace of Gothic architecture. Here you can marvel at six of the most famous and powerful original Gothic cathedrals.
Tourists who have a great interest in history and culture will be able to satisfy their hunger in this region, not only with tours of the Cathedral of Amiens and Saint-Pierre in Beauvais, but also with other architectural gems in the area. Picardy is is unfortunately often overlooked as a tourist destination. However, the region has a historic influence on art and architecture around the world and offers its visitors a wealth of fascinating attractions.
France's culinary scene is also reflected in the food choice in Amiens, with the main focus being on traditional French cuisine, rich in cream, poultry meat and superb pies. The exceptional cuisine of Amiens and surrounding towns has reached worldwide popularity with its exquisite pastries. The best known are, of course, Macarons d'Amiens - almond dough cookies filled with different creams, and Tuiles Amienoises, chocolate and orange covered biscuits. In addition, a speciality that you should not miss is duck pâté wrapped in puff. Should you be looking for the ultimate taste experience during your stay in Amiens, we recommend a visit to the rustic home-style restaurant, Le Tassigny, where unique traditional cuisine is presented in a small intimate setting.
The night life on offer in smaller towns usually stays within limits and there is not much going on at bars and clubs. Quite surprisingly, Amiens, with its appearance of a dreamy, picturesque village, awakens in daylight and in the late evening hours, and is home to exciting nightlife. A variety of bars and clubs are hidden in a small, cobblestone, typical French quarter, not far from the cathedral. It does not matter if you'd like a relaxing evening in a cocktail lounge or a rustic Irish pub-environment. All night life locations are just a few minutes walk away from each other and easily accessible when planning a varied evening.
Popular accommodation options in Picardy are the hotels in Amiens or Beauvais further south. If you are looking for luxury accommodation where you can enjoy the comfort and service at a higher level, then you should stay at Hotel Ibis Styles, located just one thousand feet from the cathedral in the district of St. Leu. Pay attention to the beautiful 18th century facade that gives the hotel a very special flair. Guests who opt for this hotel will be not only quite close to popular Amiens sites, but also only a stone's throw away from bars, cafés and restaurants.
Beauvais Mercure lends itself for stays in Beauvais. This hotel is also within walking distance from the famous Gothic cathedral and a plethora of other amenities. This mainly includes the indoor pool, the rooftop, the outdoor fireplace and stylishly furnished rooms with satellite TV and Wi-Fi.
A car hire in Picardy is recommended for more independent, individual and customized itineraries. We have put together a route suggestion you may follow. The journey begins in Amiens. Take the A16 motorway and drive about 84 miles towards Paris. This is a beautiful one-day trip and you will only need between one hour and forty to fifty minutes to arrive in Paris. The toll fees aren't high. We also recommend you to stop in Beauvais!
As the most popular destination in the world, Paris is already in the spotlight for good reason. Most people already know about the City of Light and its numerous attractions. If this is your first visit to the city of love, the mandatory stops are the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Sainte Chapelle, Notre Dame and the Palace of Versailles. But what about the less travelled, often overlooked streets and its attractions, which also contribute to the enormous energy of Paris? Using this detailed guide, you can also find the most hidden corners in Paris easily and explore the incredible locations within the city, sometimes visible on postcards.
Obtain a Paris Museum Pass, which allows you to gain access to more than 70 museums and attractions throughout the city and bypass long queues for tickets. You will also save a lot of money that you will surely be able to invest otherwise during your stay in Paris. A car hire in Paris will quickly take you from one destination to another . We also recommend visiting the newly built Louis Vuitton Foundation, not only due to its stunning art collection, but also for its creatively styled architecture. The facade consists of steel, wood and glass, and is reminiscent of a sailing ship. Immerse yourself in history and visit Napoleon's tomb and the nearby War Museum.
If you visit Paris in the month of March, you will be in for the celebration of Fashion Week throughout the city including the highly stylized evening theme park "Nuit Blanche" in the city centre.
Many flea markets can be found throughout Paris and there is simply no better way to get to know the real Paris than by taking a stroll among the most diverse knick-knacks and possibly getting a bargain at a valuable antique art collection.
Paris has something for everyone, be it the highly acclaimed world-famous restaurants, or the exquisite night scene. Thanks to its sheer wealth of catering and entertainment venues, sometimes it can be quite difficult to find the right spot for you. Paris first-time bona fide visitors could quickly get lost in the great diversity and very easily fall into a tourist trap where they would be required to pay extremely high prices for food and drinks. These locations are usually located in the immediate vicinity of the main attractions of the city. Therefore you should always comply with the rule, stay away from the restaurants and bars in the high traffic areas such around Notre-Dame or the Eiffel Tower.
It is virtually impossible to identify the best restaurants in Paris, because the number of possibilities, is almost immeasurable in this city. For obvious space limitations in our guide book, we limit ourselves to only one restaurant that we do not want you to miss. We recommend booking a table in Ribouldingue.
Don't be fooled by the outer appearance of the restaurant, as the food served will give you a culinary world class experience of five-star restaurants. The chef, Nadège Varigny, worked for many years under the famous French chef Yves Camdeborde before she opened her own bistro-style restaurant, where traditional "French Cuisine" is served. Ribouldingue is frequently visited by food critics and their colleagues from the competition when looking for culinary inspiration.
Choosing a hotel is similar to choosing a restaurant - you are spoiled for choice! Attractive accommodation options range from the presidential suite in luxury hotels to popular hostels. Those who want to indulge in pure luxury and can afford to pay a four-figure sum for one night are more than welcome in Le Bristol and Westminster hotels. Travellers on budget needn't worry either as Paris has appropriate lodging for everyone. You don't need to dig too deep into your pocket to afford yourself a reasonably priced hotel or a hostel. We recommend Royal Saint Honore or Belmont Hotel as only a tiny fraction of a seemingly endless list of great hotels in Paris.
Leave Paris and follow the signs to the A4/E50 eastwards. Although not the fastest way to Chalons en Champagne, this is the most beautiful scenic drive. On this section of your road trip in Paris you will see numerous splendid vineyards and wineries which make perfect background for nice family photos. Stop for a lunch, wine tasting or a romantic picnic on the route. Continue your journey via Reims, where you can visit a small number of architectural monuments and museums.
In Chalons en Champagne you have just reached the official capital of the Champagne region. Vineyards and wineries stretch as far as the eye can see and so does the impressive architecture and historic past, highly influential on modern French culture.
The first item on the checklist is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Notre-Dame de Vaux. The cathedral was built in the 12th century and combines both Gothic and Baroque architecture. Other notable architectural highlights are the Saint Etienne Cathedral and the St. Alpine Church, the oldest Gothic style church originating from the year 1170. A little further outside of Châlons en Champagne there are numerous, historical battlefields from the Roman Empire and the Battle of Chalons.
For a really authentic road trip to Châlons en Champagne, you should definitely book a kayak tour on the Marne river, which runs right through the city centre. Alongside the fantastic panorama with enormous monuments and magnificent vineyards, you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city for some time here.
When it comes to culinary delights, Chalons en Champagne deserves a separate chapter in a cookbook. As the centre of the Champagne-Ardenne region, Châlons en Champagne is home to some of the most famous vineyards and wineries in the world. No trip to Châlons en Champagne would be complete without at least one wine tasting. Wine lovers should visit the Joseph Perrier Fils et Cie Champagne House, founded by Joseph Perrier in 1825, and is an absolute must.
A large number of other champagne houses offer tasting for a small fee. In the large collection of various fine vintages, it will not be easy to choose the right drop of "liquid gold". Although the selection of places to eat in Châlons en Champagne is not half as large and diverse as in Paris or other major cities in France, the city still has an excellent reputation for its traditional cuisine in a charming rustic atmosphere. There are many who swear that the world's best cuisine is offered in the small bistros of the smaller French towns, which are unfortunately often overlooked in favour of Michelin-star restaurants. A little tip, if you are looking for an authentic restaurant, ask the locals what they would recommend. We are confident that first-hand recommendations will not disappoint you.
If Paris is the place to squander your money in luxury hotels with VIP service, then Châlons en Champagne is the best place to get the balance back in charming B & B's. Although in a B & B you must renounce on certain services and comfort, you have the opportunity to talk with your host and make friends that can last a lifetime. Not only do you get a home to spend the night in cozy accommodation, it also enables you to look at its surroundings from a different perspective, namely that of a local resident.
The journey with your car hire in Chalons en Champagne continues to Chaumont. Drive on the A26 southbound and follow it until the N67 in Semoutiers-Montsaon. Then, take the A5 and take the exit 24, follow the road down to the D619 which takes you to Chaumont N67. On this route you can look forward to not only idyllic, typical French villages, but also to the regional nature park Forêt d'Orient, with its breathtaking scenery. The park covers 70,000 hectares and consists of 50 municipalities. There are numerous hiking trails, viewpoints and swimming at one of the three artificial lakes. This park is ideal for a break on your way to Chaumont.
Your journey through Paris and Champagne-Ardenne region is now slowly coming to an end. A car hire in Chaumont is an excellent way to end your trip with good food and interesting sights. On your road trip to Chaumont, let yourself be infected by the glowing energy of the city, while strolling down the old cobblestone streets and alleys. The architecture is masterful and they are loaded full of historical stories. Chaumont is no exception to the rest of the country. The chapel of the Jesuits and the Basilica of St. Jean Baptiste near the centre of Chaumont are an architectural wonder. The high relief in the interior was crafted by the famous French sculptor Jean-Baptiste Bouchardon.
Chaumont is also known for its book and poster art. A collection of over 20,000 posters for theatre, opera and music performances from around the world are located in a former grain silo, the Maison du Livre et de l'Affiche. The Poster and Graphic Design Festival, where international artists gather to present their work and to hold workshops, takes place here every summer. In addition, you should also visit the Musée d'Art et Histoire, to get a deeper insight into the art and history of the city.
The local cuisine in Chaumont is very varied like the rest of France and in Chaumont you can get a taste of traditional French and fusion cuisine. Chaumont's size allows visitors to embark on a search for a restaurant on foot and we can guarantee you, no matter which direction you go, you will be able to find. Top restaurant. Le Grain de Sel is worth a visit with its quite affordable classic French cuisine, served in a rustic atmosphere and so is Bouddha Zen Sushi for sushi of high quality and other Japanese delicacies. The nightlife in Chaumont is somewhat on the quieter side, especially if you draw up a comparison with the trendy clubs in Paris. A small selection of pubs, wineries and clubs are there for you to have a pleasant night out.
Naturally, you will want to relax after your round trip in Paris and the Champagne region in Chaumont and you are looking for accommodation where you can spend a restful night, and review the highlights of your trip. Where could you do this better than at a luxurious hotel such as Hotel de France, Hotel de Remparts or the Hotel Le Grand Val Terrace?
Our Road Trip Guide through Paris and the Champagne region comes to the end here. That does not have to mean the same thing for your trip. The possibilities for further road trips in the area are almost limitless. You could, of course, pack your bags and go back to Paris and fly home from there. However, this would mean the end of your holiday and how much fun would this be? Continue your road trip in France and no matter what direction your journey takes, we have put together some France Road Trip guides to accompany you on your trip. Pack your luggage in your rental car and hit the road!
After so much culture and history, do you fancy a beach holiday? Head south to Côte d'Azur, Montecarlo or St. Tropez and recharge your batteries with the abundant sunshine on one of the white sandy beaches. Or have you not had enough of exploring yet and would still want to delve deeper into the history of France? Continue your journey further into the north of the country to the Brittany region. Whatever you choose, Auto Europe covers almost all your wishes and ideas. With Auto Europe, your dream holiday can be a reality.
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