Paris to The French Alps: 7 Day Itinerary
Tailor your week-long itinerary to suit you
The French Alps are home to some of the most stunning scenery and natural landscapes in the country. Our 7-day itinerary begins in Paris, travels through Lyon, and culminates with private tours of Alps Aix -Les-Bains to Annecy, Chambery, and other iconic destinations from the Alps.
What is included:
Day 1: Paris Sainte Chapelle
Usually, the Gothic cathedral of Notre Dame is at the top of everyone’s ‘must see’ list in Paris. Unfortunately for the next few years, tourists will not be allowed inside the cathedral until the renovations are completed following the disastrous fire.
If you are looking to see impressive Gothic architecture look no further than the Sainte Chapelle, built by Louis IX to house Christian relics including Christ’s crown of thorns. This stunning gothic building was built in only 7 years and cost almost a tenth of the cost of the relics housed there.
The chapel is made up of 2 parts – the Upper Chapel – for the king and his family and the lower chapel for servants of the king. As you would expect the upper chapel really has to be seen to be believed, such is the opulence and extravagance of the decorations which include exquisitely carved statues of the 12 apostles and beautifully painted ceilings. The main feature of this stunning building is the stained glass windows – the world’s largest display of Medieval glass with over 600 m 2 of stained glass.
Situated close to the Chappelle is the Conciergerie, a stunning Medieval building with a dark history. The building was used as a prison during the revolution and many famous prisoners were held here until their fates including Marie Antoinette.
The building has 4 main towers, one of which is the 47 M Tour d’Horloge which is home to the oldest working public clock in Paris. This heavily decorated gilt clock was commissioned by Charles V in 1371 and was created by Henry de Vic, one of France’s most reputable clock designers.
In the afternoon we head to the Pompidou Center which is universally recognized as Europe’s most important center for Modern Art. The building itself is steeped in controversy due to its polarizing very modern design and huge bill – It cost almost £60 Million and that was in 1977 when it was completed! Inside the building, there is also a library housing over half a million books as well as the main gallery itself that has 200,00 modern art exhibits. Your guide will plan your visit with you to ensure that your tour takes in all the works you want to see.
Day 2: Paris to Lyon
Today your chauffeur will collect you and take you directly to the Gare de Lyon so that you can get the TGV (high-speed train) to Lyon for the Alpine leg of your tour. Lyon is France’s 3rd city and has been an important city across the ages from Roman times through to today. During World War II Lyon was the command center for the South of France as well as home to the Gestapo. Ironically Lyon was also a stronghold for the Resistance during this period with many of the freedom fighters using the city’s secret underground tunnels to move about.
Spend the afternoon in the Vieux Ville and explore the magnificent cathedral that has both Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The cathedral of Saint Jean took almost 300 years to complete and is famous for its amazing lamb rose stained glass windows created in the 12th Century. Enter through the huge oak doors and marvel at the incredible 16th Century astrological clock which features the automation of animals and people. Your guide will take you on a private tour of this wonderful building before visiting the archaeological gardens adjacent that contains remnants of a 4th-century church that was originally built on this site.
Finish the day in one of the bustling bars in the piazza and watch the world go round.
Day 3: Lyon
Today we spend exploring Lyon and its gastronomic heritage. Since 1935 Lyon has been recognized as the gastronomic capital of the world and today it has over 4000 restaurants, of which 20 have one or more Michelin stars. Your tour starts with a private tour of Les Halles de Lyon, a covered market with over 50 artisan farmers and producers.
Learn why Lyon is a culinary capital and sample local delicacies paired with wines from the region.
In the afternoon visit, one of the local award-winning wine farms and have a private tour of the estate. Learn from your specialist guide about the wines from the region and what makes this area so perfect for wine growing. Learn about pairing wine and taste exquisite vintage wine paired with local cheeses and charcuterie.
In the evening have dinner at one of the many Michelin-starred restaurants and taste the finest Lyon has to offer.
Day 4: Lyon to Aix-Les-Bains
Aix Les Bains is a thermal spa town situated on the Eastern shores of France’s largest lake, Lac du Bourget. This spa town was hugely popular in the 19th Century – royalty and noblemen were frequent visitors to the town in order to bathe in the restorative waters and are often called the Riviera of the Alps. Famous visitors include Queen Victoria who legend has it saw a donkey being mistreated and was so shocked she bought the donkey and sent it to live in Buckingham Palace.
Today we start our tour at this beautiful lake, with its clear turquoise waters and where the mountains literally seem to fall into the lake. Your guide will point out all the local flowers and fauna. For those more adventurous, have a kitesurfing lesson with an expert coach or hire a kayak to explore remote coves and beaches. Or simply have a ‘creme’ (this is what the locals call a white coffee) at one of the beach-fronted cafes and people watch.
In the afternoon we head into town and our first stop is the Temple of Diana – the historic Roman ruins located right in the town center within the town hall.
Your guide will share with you the secrets and mysteries surrounding this 1st Century temple. The next stop is the Musee Faure, a wonderful museum filled with artworks by artists such as Cézanne, Sisley, Degas, and Pissarro. This museum also has the second largest collection of Rodin sculptures in France.
In the evening enjoy a tasting menu at one of the stunning restaurants situated on the shores of this magical lake.
Day 5: Aix-les-Bains to Annecy
Today we head towards Annecy, known as the Venice of the Alps. This is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful towns in the whole of France nestled on the shores of Lake Annecy surrounded by snow-capped mountains. The old town is picture perfect, cobbled narrow streets and brightly colored houses line the canals of this pretty town.
Your private tour starts at the Palais de l’isle which is located on the Thiou canal and was built in the 12th Century. The building was originally built as a grand private house, then converted into a courthouse, and prison. Today it is a museum that charts the history of Annecy throughout the last centuries. Your guide will then lead you through the old town lined with art galleries, artisanal craft shops as well as lively bars and restaurants. Stop for lunch and have one of the local delicacies – tartiflette, fondue, or raclette, whatever you choose they are all delicious!
In the afternoon we head to Les Jardins de l’Europe, a beautiful park located in the town center – look out for the statue of the famous French chemist Claude – Louis Berthollet which has an English garden designed around planted in the 19th Century with over 600 deciduous trees planted.
Your day continues with a visit to the Pont d’Amour – let your guide tell you about the mysterious legend that surrounds this bridge. Our chauffeur will be waiting for us and he will drive us on the short trip to see the magnificent Gorges de Fier. Your guide will explain how the gorge was created and point out the various misshaped rock formations that overhang the path. Walk along the walkways through the narrow and deep gorge that leads to a freshwater pool and maybe have a swim in the crystal clear lake.
In the evening, dine at one of the sophisticated restaurants overlooking the lake.
Day 6: Annecy to Chambery
Chambery is the capital of Savoie, a department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, and this city is nestled in the heart of the Alps. The city has a very checkered past, switching hands between Italy and France, and even occupied by Spain. It was not until 1861 that Chambery was permanently ceded to France.
We start our tour of this beautiful city at the Cathédrale Saint Francois de Sales, famed for having one of the largest collections of trompe l’oeil paintings in France and your guide will explain the significance of each painting.
Your private tour continues to the Elephant Fountain, a strange site indeed in the middle of the French Alps. The Fontaines des Éléphants is a 17.6-meter high fountain featuring the front of four elephants, known affectionately by the locals as “quatre sans cul”.
The fountains were made in honor of Général de Boigne who donated some of the wealth that he accrues in the East Indies in Chambery.
Lunch in one of the many charming restaurants on the piazza and watch the locals play petanque.
In the afternoon your guide will take you on a tour of the old town with its narrow cobbled streets lined with bars and cafes as well as art galleries and artisanal bakeries and fromageries.
Day 7: Chambery to Lyon
Your chauffeur will be waiting for you at your hotel and take care of all your luggage before setting off back to Lyon. Enjoy the beautiful Alpine scenery and views en route to Lyon – time permitting your chauffeur will take you on the scenic route rather than the motorway, it does take longer but it is worth it for the magnificent views across the countryside and mountains.
On arrival in Lyon, your chauffeur will assist you with your luggage for the next part of your travel adventure.
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Salut from France! I’m Debbie, founder of Luxury France Tours.
Having developed into a Francophile on a trip to the French Alps many years ago while still in school, I moved to France after a career traveling the world led to me meeting my (now) French Husband in Johannesburg. I created Luxury France Tours as a way of sharing my love of France & igniting this passion in others.