France is the third largest country by area and by far one of the most popular destinations in Europe. It can be quite daunting to find an itinerary that best suits your travel style, budget, and timeframe for a country this size, but do not sweat, I have all the information you need to have the perfect 2 weeks backpacking trip in France right here.
This itinerary will take you to some of the most beautiful cities in France like Lyon and Paris but also allow you to interact with the amazing nature France has to offer and have an adventure hiking through the French Alps. Needless to say, you will be experiencing the most you can in 2 weeks in France with my suggested itinerary.
France Itinerary Map
Why go to France?
France, the romantic country of numerous art and architectural wonders, excellent gastronomy and fine wine, seduces countless travelers from all walks of life for many generations.
With its iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, known even to children in countries at the opposite side of the world, the intriguing slow life of rural France, and the epic adventure that awaits you in the French Alps, you will be experiencing traveling in its raw, authentic and fullest potential from all aspects imaginable. For a single trip in one country, that is pretty much what you could ask for.
When to Go
April - June or August - September are the best time to be in France as these are the shoulder season periods, which still maintain a nice warm temperature with colorful nature all around you without having to deal with peak season crowds, ridiculously long queue and overpriced hotels and tours.
How to Get There
France is very well connected both within Europe and from everywhere else. If you are traveling from Asia or the middle east, I would recommend flying Emirates Airline as they are reasonably priced, connected midway through Dubai and they provide one of the best services out there. If your route isn't provided by Emirates, you can find more flight ticket discounts on Wego.
If you are traveling from within other European countries, the fastest way to get to France is via the European train system of your origin countries. Germany, Switzerland, and Spain have a very well connected train system that will allow you to travel through the border no problems. For more information about the train, visit Seat61.com
How to Get Around
Witin big cities like Paris, Lyon, and Bordeaux, you have quite a few options with their local transit systems. Metro and trams are perfect for short distances within the city.
For intercity travel, the most affordable and reliable way is to use bus companies like Flixbus which is much cheaper than other transportation options. If you are looking for the fastest way to get to places, the SNCF train is your best bet but it can get very expensive especially with their fast TGV lines.
Another cheap but less reliable option is to travel with Blablacars, a carpooling service that is significantly cheaper than the trains and buses but you will have to organize a pickup location with the driver yourself.
Where to Stay
Paris - Le Regent Montmartre Hostel - 34.36 USD/Night (Dorm) | 86.41/Night (Double Bed Private)
Rennes - Auberge de jeunesse HI Rennes - 27.44 USD/Night (Dorm)
Bordeaux - Scool Hostel Bordeaux - 32.39 USD/Night (Dorm) | 98.31/Night (3 Beds Private)
Avignon - HO36 Hostel - 27.47 USD/Night (Dorm) | 99.99/Night (Double Bed Private) - Bunk bed with curtains for privacy.
Lyon - Away Hostel & Coffee Shop - 29.61 USD/Night (Dorm) | 89.40/Night (Double Bed Private)
Chamonix - Chamonix Lodge - 34.70 USD/Night (Dorm) | 115.68/Night (Double Bed Private)
Or you can find more competitive room rates on Wego.
Traveling here is quite expensive and not very budget-friendly but there are options. You can expect to spend around 50 - 70 USD per day per person for food, accommodation and transportation.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
France Two Weeks Itinerary
Paris (3 nights)
More often than not, you will start off your trip in Paris where most flights fly into so our first destination for the itinerary in Paris. Although the city has been getting a bad rap for not being very welcoming, it is still a wonderful city to explore and you will need at least 2 full days to see them all.
First and foremost, begin your day with a stroll around the Eiffel Tower and its surrounding parks. The Palais de Chaillot has a platform where you will have a nice view of the Eiffel Tower. You can also go up the Eiffel tower but I would recommend against it because there are much better views of the city than from up there. Plus, you won't get to see the cityscape with its most iconic landmark, if you go up the Eiffel Tower.
A much better place, in my opinion, is to go up the Arc de Triomphe instead. From up there you will be able to get the view of the city with the Eiffel Tower. Also, it is less crowded up there and no need to stand in line.
Another great view of the city is from the Pont Alexandre III bridge where you can see both the Eiffel Tower and the Seine river together in one frame. Be sure to also walk a little bit south from the bridge where you will find the vast garden with a stunning architecture that is the Army Museum.
In the late afternoon, go for a walk along the Seine river where the famous architectural wonder of Notre Dame and the Sainte Chapelle are. Be sure to check out one of the oldest bookstores in Paris, the Shakespeare & Company bookstore nearby which is rather lively in the evening. You can also have to spend a night out around this area where you can enjoy excellent wine, delicious food, and the night vibe of Paris.
For the second day, you can spend a day shopping at the Champs Élysées street or if you are like me who are not so interested in shopping, visit the Catacomb instead. You might have to wait a while to get inside the catacomb as the queue can be quite long even at shoulder season but the experience will be worth it.
You can also spend a day like I did hitting up all the hipster places around the city, away from tourists, with my hipster guide in Paris here.
Rennes (2 nights)
Rennes does not have much going on for tourists like us but it is near one of the most popular attractions in France, the Mont Saint Michel and Rennes is the cheapest place to base yourself in while you spend a day in Mont Saint Michel. You can take the first train from Rennes train station at 9:45 AM and take the last one at 14:45 back to Rennes. The trip will take around 1 hour and 15 minutes each so you will have around 4 hours to spend which is quite enough to see Mont Saint Michel.
Mont Saint Michel (day trip)
Mont Saint Michel is quite a sight to behold. It is a fortified island located in Normandy with over 60 buildings in the commune which is one of the most visited tourist attraction in the country and for good reasons. Its fairy-tale like architecture, its unique location and its carefully constructed commune inside makes you feel like you just travel back in time in some fantasy novel.
The island also has 2 sides to it that travelers like us can enjoy. One during the low tide, and another during the high tide. If you align your visit during the low tide, you will be able to see vegetation, animals and a chance to walk on the muddy beach to see the island from different angles. On the other hand, if you aligned your visit during the high tide, you will be able to see a beautiful reflection of the island against the blue sky which makes the place even more photogenic than before.
Bordeaux (2 nights)
From Rennes, you can take a train down south to Bordeaux, the wine capital of France. If you enjoy good wine, there is no better place to be than here but if you are not interested in wine, Bordeaux's historical center is worth a visit all in itself. Bordeaux historical center consists of an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble from the 18th century with one of the highest number of preserved historical buildings in France only second to Paris.
One of my favorite architecture in Bordeaux is the Place de la Bourse and the iconic reflecting pool which makes it an amazing spot for photos. I would recommend you visiting the square twice, in the early morning when the light shines on the building and again, at sunset when the city started to light up. With a combination of the reflection pool, the artificial light, and calm wind, the square makes quite a memorable sight to behold.
There are also the Pont de Pierre stone bridge, the great bell of Bordeaux, and the Rue Ste Catherine street that you can explore when you are here. For a more detail look at Bordeaux, be sure to check out my one day itinerary in Bordeaux.
Avignon (3 nights)
Avignon is a stunning city full of antiquity, medieval castles and old towns to explore. Right out of the bat, you can see the stunning Palais des Papes fortress towering the city where you can stroll around on your first day in Avignon. You can also drop by Rocher des Doms and the Cathedral which is in the same area as the fortress.
At night in the summer, there will be an impressive light show explaining the history of Avignon that you can attend. They use the fortress courtyard to project colorful imagery that teaches you about how the city came to be and the bloodbath it had to go through to become the city that it is today. This is the best way to learn the history of Avignon in one go.
The second day, I would recommend you to leave early in the morning and take a bus to Arles, a beautiful Roman city located an hour away from Avignon. In this city, you can indulge yourself in the medieval history of France through the historical architecture that scattered around the city such as the Arles Amphitheatre, and the many buildings around the old square. Arles is also a good city for you to take it slow and explore on foot. Walk along the crisscrossing streets of Arles, visit the Roman monuments or check out all the Roman artifacts at the Musée de l'Arles Antique.
For more information about Avignon, check out my guide on how to 4 days in the city here.
Chamonix (3 nights)
After city-hopping for the longest time, it is time for you to go and explore the nature side of France. Chamonix is a mountain town in the Alps at the junction of Switzerland, Italy, and France. It is the perfect place to use as a base to launch yourself into the French Alps. One of the best hiking trails you can do here is to combine the Grand Balcon Sud trail with Lav Blanc trail to create a one-day epic hiking trail that will take you through one of the most stunning forests, grand viewpoints and a magnificent alpine lake.
The Grand Balcon Sud trail is a trail that goes along the side of a mountain above Chamonix. The view you get from this trail is one of the best you can get for a day hike in Chamonix. With its mostly exposed trail, you will be able to see Chamonix, the mountain range behind it and Mont Blanc all at the same time.
For the Lac Blanc trail, you will be able to see the alpine lake hidden in the French Alps and if you are there when the wind is calm, you might get to witness the beautiful reflection of the French Alps in the lake, creating the surreal symmetrical view of the mountain range.
On your second day, you can take it slow and instead of going for another hike, take a cable car up the Aiguille du Midi station and take a look at the French Alps from the other side. You will also be able to see the entire trail you did yesterday from up here.
For a more detail guide to hiking the french alps, click here.
Lyon (2 - 3 nights)
Last but not least, we are visiting the second largest city in France, Lyon. Lyon is best known for its cuisine, historical architecture and its vibrant creative scene. You can spend the first day exploring all the historical buildings of Lyon starting from a climb up the Fourvière hill and visit the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvièr. It is a little bit of a walk but it is worth it. From the top, you will be able to see one of the best views of the city from the platform near the Basilica. Be sure to also explore the Ancient Theatre, a remnant of the Roman times on the Fourvière hill behind the basilica.
After the basilica, you can stroll down the Fourvière hill and into the Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon), one of the oldest district in the city where you can find several old buildings from the 15th, 16th and 17th century which was erected during the silk industry boom in Lyon.
While at the Vieux Lyon, be sure to spend some time and explore the Traboules, a narrow passageway that was used by the silk workers to get access to the water of the river Saône. Some passageways are open for public for you to explore.
Lyon also played a great role in the cinema history with the invention of the cinematography by Auguste and Louis Lumière, so be sure to check out the Musée Miniature et Cinéma located in the 5 stories high 17th-century building in Vieux Lyon. The museum contains over 300 authentic props from movies in the last 50 years. They had a dinosaur used in the Jurassic Park, and the full-size Alien Queen prop from the movie Alien. It was a fun, interesting and unique experience that you can't get it anywhere else.
And that is it for 2 weeks itinerary in France. From Lyon, you can either go to Switzerland, Italy or Germany by land or if you are flying out from Paris, you can take a 2 hours train from the Lyon main station, maybe stay overnight in Paris and then take the metro to the airport you are flying off to. I hope you will find this itinerary useful, and if you do, do not hesitate to discuss it down in the comments below. Happy travels!
This post is created in collaboration with Wego.co.ae.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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