East Side, Best Side: A quick guide for exploring Eastern France
Oh France, the land of cheese, wine, and baguettes. The food alone makes France feel like a dream but add the beautiful language, cozy villages, stunning mountain ranges, and a sparkling blue Mediterranean and you’ll realize that dreams really do come true!
When you only have a week in France, Paris definitely has its perks. One big, easily accessible, and diverse city that provides visitors with endless adventures, regardless of touristic preferences. While Paris should be on everyone’s bucket-list (definitely worth the hype), so should a road trip through Eastern France.
Here’s a route that will hopefully inspire you to jet-set to France, rent a car, and cruise through the beautiful French countryside to discover city after city of quintessential bliss—and of course amazing food!
Stop 1: Nice
Who knew that one of the most well connect airports in France (and possibly all of Europe) would be located in Nice?! Well, it’s not too surprising given that the funky Mediterranean city is so well connected to France’s biggest attractions: stunning beaches along the southern coast, ski resorts in the breathtaking French Alps, pizza and pasta on the Italian border, and dozens of iconic French cities like Marseille, Montpellier, and Lyon. Nice really does have the best of both worlds.
The best thing about this town is that you can experience it in so many different ways according to what fits your lifestyle and travel habits. You might spend your time riding bikes along the Promenade des Anglais and exploring the harbors filled with tiny, colorful fishing boats. Maybe your foodie side feels like feasting on seafood and attending wine tastings all day. Or maybe you spend all day on the beach and all night in the clubs! The great thing about this city is there is absolutely no pressure—no matter what kind of tourist you are, the only thing you have to do is relax!
Stop 2: Cannes
During your stay in Nice or on the tail end, jump on the local SNCF train and hop on over to Cannes (pronounced like soup can just FYI). Even though you’ll want to stay on the train all day, the five euro journey takes no more than thirty minutes and is a beautiful ride along the picturesque Mediterranean coast.
There is one rule of thumb when exploring these southern cities without a map: when it doubt, walk towards the ocean. You’ll discover all of Cannes magic along the ocean, whether it be in a beach side café, local artist market, or the climb up and through Le Suquet, the old quarter of Cannes that overlooks the beautiful bay, filled with boastful yachts and quaint fishing coats alike.
Don’t forget that this city is the sight of the famous Cannes Film Festival. Remnants of Hollywood royalty like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe can be found throughout the city, lending to a mystical, retro vibe. Be sure to walk along the path of celebrity handprints to see which celebs have dazzled the crowds at this world-renown festival.
Stop 3: Lyon
Hop on a train or rent a car and cruise your way to Lyon! This time, you’ll zoom through the French countryside: rolling, green hills, endless vineyards, and tucked away old towns. Again, you might never want the ride to end!
Once you arrive in Lyon, you might finally be able to detach from that train seat. If France were high school, this city would be the cool new kid in town. Over the past few years, it’s become a hot spot for French and international students. The city is almost like a low-key, hipper version of Paris with trendy restaurants, a thriving art scene, and quirky storefronts.
Like Nice, your time in Lyon can totally be tailored to personal preference, but no matter what type of tourist you are, you have to get in on this food scene. Lyon is known as the gastronomy capital of France and in a country known primarily for its mind-blowingly delicious cuisine, that is really saying something. For the full Lyonnais experience, pop into one of the city’s famous Bouchon’s for a slow and savory meal. Once again, you might be stuck to your seat (and this time not by choice)!
Stop 4: Annecy
Whether it’s a stop on your way to Paris or the final destination, Annecy is definitely worth a visit. Make your way to this alpine town from Lyon either by train or car and once again enjoy the stunning views of the countryside. In the spring and summer, you’ll see rolling hills of stunning, yellow flora and endless rows of grapevines.
Annecy is perfect for a day trip and probably one of the best cities to experience the French Alps due to its unique positioning on the lake. Gaze over the flat waters with a glass of rose and lay your eyes on one of the most impressive mountain ranges in the world. During the spring and summer, renting a bike and riding around Lake Annecy (or at least a part of it) is a must for active tourists!
Upon exploring the historical city, you’ll find that Annecy take on a bit of a Venice vibe with its curving canals and cobblestone streets. Wander along to discover cafes, bakeries, and on Saturdays, open air markets! If the weather is nice, which is usually is in the spring and summer months, enjoy a lengthy lunch (in true French style) somewhere that overlooks the lake!
So there you have it! Four stops in Eastern France that should give you a taste of all things French. By now, you can clearly see the recommendation trends in all four cities: food. When it comes down to it, a road trip through France really can be characterized by taste. Most other attractions and activities are cheap or free and lodging is more than affordable—so no matter the city, don’t skimp on food.
Feast your eyes and your taste buds for one week or more during this relaxing road trip. By the end, you’ll be floating on air (and probably plotting ways to marry a French man). Bon appétit et profitez bien !