How much time do you need to explore Paris and Northern France? If you come to terms with the fact that you will see just the major attractions, a 9 day road trip from Paris will leave you satisfied. Traveling by car is the best way to enjoy the region. After a few days in Paris, you will welcome a slower pace in the country roads of Champagne and Normandy while touring the area’s world known destinations.
I was very excited about my road trip to Northern France, especially Paris. I spent time researching the destination, making reservations, and just dreaming about visiting France. Then, a few weeks before scheduled departure, I realized I was seriously ill. I did not have a confirmed diagnosis yet but I knew it was not going to be good. So what do you do? Do you go or cancel the trip?
Even though I did not feel like myself, I decided to take the trip thinking that it could be my last chance to see Paris. So I went, and I am glad I did. I pushed away my worries and I truly enjoyed the experience. Allow me to share my suggested 9-day itinerary in Northern France.
Paris Days 1-3
You do not need a car in Paris. Like any major city, the traffic is heavy and parking is elusive and expensive. If possible, stay in the central location, then walking would the best way of moving around.
You can spend months exploring Paris, but in three days, you can see its major attractions. I suggest saving time and money by purchasing the Paris Pass prior to departure, which is mailed to you.
What to do in Paris
The Louvre Museum is the largest art museum in the world and home to one of the finest art collections, including the most famous painting, the Mona Lisa.
The Orsay Museum is the second most visited museum in Paris after the Louvre. This beautifully renovated former train station holds the world-famous collection of Impressionist and Post-impressionist.
The Rodin Museum
Your pass ticket will give you access to the famous sculptor’s masterpieces as well as works by his mistress Camille Claudel.
The Arc de Triomphe
Located in the world’s largest traffic roundabout, the 161-foot Arc de Triomphe is the biggest and tallest triumphal arch in the world. Commissioned by Napoleon in 1806, it was built to honor his imperial victories but not completed until 20 years after his death.
The Notre Dame Cathedral
This UNESCO World Heritage site is a masterpiece of medieval architecture, immortalized in Victor Hugo’s classic novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Seine River Cruise
That was the best part of my visit. With the city slowly falling into the night and beautiful scenery around me, I felt the romance of Paris, just like I imagined it. We were going under the famous bridges, watching people dancing along the river, and finally, we witnessed the Eiffel Tower coming alive with lights. Magnifique!
This cruise comes for free with the Paris Pass.
Eiffel Tower, Paris
The symbol of Paris was built by the French engineer Gustave Eiffel already famous before for building bridges. He spent several years building the Eiffel Tower as a monument for the World Exhibition in 1889. It’s a not-to-be-missed sight, whether your trip is adults-only or you’re touring Paris with kids.
The Montmartre District
Long known as the district of the arts, it was rather disappointing from that perspective. Its main square felt more like a food court than a mecca for the artists.
Still, the area is worth to visit for a great panoramic view of Paris from the steps of Basilica Sacre-Coeur. Also, just walking the charming narrow streets feels very Parisian.
Streets of Paris
Do not overload your itinerary. Take your time to stroll the streets of Paris. Wander off from tourist attractions without any particular destination.
Walk across the bridges to see the city from its different angles. Have a coffee at the small local cafe, do some people watching. This is what Paris is about, the feeling, not just checking off its attractions.
Road Trip from Paris
Reims, Champagne Region Day 4
Rent a car in Paris and start your Northern France road trip. Your first stop would be at the heart of Champagne, Reims. Enjoy your day relaxing with a glass of bubbly wine in your hand. Ready to explore the region more? Check out these beautiful champagne tasting places you can tour.
Reims, with its own beautiful cathedral, is a lovely town to take a stroll.
Driving around will let you explore country roads of the region — and discover more champagne tasting in the area. You may even stumble upon beautiful meadows!
Normandy Day 5-8
Your road trip from Paris will lead on the day # 5 to Normandy. There are a lot things to do in the region within relatively short driving distance. You will get to experience not only world famous attractions but you will fall in love with the overall charm of the region.
Monet’s Gardens in Giverny
Your first attractions in Normandy will be Monet’s Gardens. If you take a highway, you will go almost back to Paris and hit its traffic. I suggest continuing your journey on roads less traveled.
In 1883 Monet moved from Paris to Giverny, where he purchased a house and property. He designed his own landscaping which included garden and lily ponds. In 1899 he began painting the water lilies and continued it for the next 20 years of his life.
You do not have to be an art connoisseur to enjoy this destination. The gardens are gorgeous and Monet’s house is a perfect example of French country charm. (You can also visit Monet’s Gardens by train from Paris.)
White Cliffs of Normandy
This striking rock formation curved on the coast of The Atlantic Ocean will be the most spectacular natural attraction on your road trip. Claude Monet and other Impressionists painted the arches and cliffs in the nineteenth century. These natural wonders are freely accessible, as is the white pebble beach.
The D-Day landing was the largest seaborne invasion in history. Early on the morning of 6 June 1944, more than 6000 ships and boats and tens of thousands of Allied soldiers hit the beaches of northern Normandy.
The operation began the liberation of German-occupied northwestern Europe from Nazi control and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front. You need at least half a day to visit D-Day famous invasion beaches, historic sites, and war monuments.
Mont Saint Michel
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most visited attractions in France. In summer months expect long lines to park your car. The best time to visit is in the evening to witness a spectacular sunset.
Lodging part can be very tricky. For a smooth experience learn essential tips on visiting Mont Saint Michel.
Versailles Palace and Gardens Day 9
Close the circle of your road trip from Paris almost back to it, just 13 miles west of the city at the royal chateau in Versailles. Listed as a World Heritage Site for 30 years, the Palace is one of the greatest achievements in French 17th century art.
Explore the lavish palaces and grounds of what was the official residence of France’s kings during the 1700’s
Lines can be long, often exceeding two hours, so purchase a skip-the-line ticket to spend less time waiting and more time exploring.