France is one of the world’s most visited destinations for a reason. From the dreamy cultural capital of Paris to the glitz and glam of the sun-soaked Cote d’Azur, France ticks off every box. History and culture? Food and wine? Natural beauty? Art and architecture? More wine? Check, check and check.
While it’s tempting to spend a whole vacation in Paris, there is more than the illustrious City of Light to experience. With easily navigable roads and a stellar train system, the options abound, and Cheapos will delight in the variety of budget-friendly experiences in store in every corner of “l’Hexagone.”
To see it all in 10 days, however, is impossible. Instead, consider following our advice, making some executive decisions to visit a few select destinations to get a feel for France’s diversity.
France itinerary: Where to go on a 10-day trip
This itinerary hits a few major sites of interest, mixing in some history and winemaking alongside some unexpected but welcomed discoveries in cities like Bordeaux and Marseille.
Day 1, 2, 3: Paris
It seems silly to devote so little time to the world’s most famous city (we say that subjectively, but just try to argue). Take a free tour, splurge on an affordable lunch prix fixe, skip the Eiffel Tower and head up to the roof of one of the city’s department stores, and browse the Louvre at night. And that’s just one day!
Paris is rife with free experiences, from the newly renovated Carnavalet Museum to the expansive Père Lachaise Cemetery. It’s easy to spend money, but just as easy to enjoy the city for the price of a baguette — about one euro, for your information.
On your final day, consider a cruise on the Seine for something touristy but rewarding, or perhaps plan a picnic on the water’s edge. A sunset over the river is not something you want to miss.
Sleeping in Paris: A large number of affordable properties in the center of the city are among our favorites in the world. Consider staying in the Marais or around Les Halles to avoid taking the Paris Metro as much as possible. Walking is a cheapo’s best mode of transportation.
Day 4: Tours
A stopover in the Loire Valley to see the famous Renaissance castles is next on the list. Join a group tour or rent a car in France from the quaint town of Tours to visit the mighty castles of Chambord and Chenonceau before turning in for the night. Expect a crush of tourists in the high season, but the monuments impress equally in the low season when crowds are thinner.
Getting there: Tours is a short train ride from Paris (under 2 hours) and everything is walkable once you arrive in the city. The Office of Tourism will have information about the trip to the castles, but book in advance or else rent a car or cycle to transport yourself there.
Sleeping: Don’t expect costs quite as high as Paris for hotels, but in the high season, rooms can get pricy, so book in advance. Search for hotels in Tours.
Days 5 and 6: Bordeaux
From Tours, head towards the Atlantic coast in Bordeaux. While the city is not necessarily a budget haven, it’s a great taste of French culture that’s not to be missed.
Wander the town, but beeline, if possible, to the Office of Tourism to grab a seat on one of their wine excursions. Guided bus tours take visitors to several wineries, allowing you to experience viticulture first-hand without worrying about getting lost in the vineyards. And did we mention there will be wine?
On your second day, take a short train trip to either Arcachon, a cute oceanfront town, or to Saint-Émilion, the historic winemaking town that makes Bordeaux’s best vintages.
Need more tips? Here’s how to visit Bordeaux without breaking the bank.
Getting there: The train to Bordeaux from Tours is about 2 hours, and the Bordeaux station is a decent walk or short cab right to the city center.
Sleeping: Bordeaux offers many budget-friendly options, from hostels to chain hotels and even apartments. Discover our favorite cheap hotels in Bordeaux.
Day 7: Carcassonne
Stop by the UNESCO heritage site, the Cité de Carcassonne, for a night of small-town French feels. The medieval fortress is a world unto itself with beautifully preserved towers and ramparts. Have some of the local specialty of southwestern France, cassoulet, while exploring its alleys.
Getting there: A train to Carcassonne is about 3 hours from Bordeaux
Sleeping: A number of hotels and gites (guesthouses) are found within the modern town of Carcassonne. Some are even found within the medieval walls of the Cité! Search for hotels and vacation rentals.
Days 8, 9, 10: Marseille
While the glitterati head to Saint-Tropez and Cannes, Cheapos may prefer the down-to-earth feel of Marseille. This bustling port town is vibrant and edgy, with a developing cultural scene and cute shops selling the city’s famous soap and cafés serving up refreshing pastis in the Panier district right by the port.
Spend a day soaking up the sun along one of the city’s beaches overlooking the impossibly blue water. Hop a boat ride out to the island off the coast or consider a tour of the Calanques, the stunning cliffs that jut out over the water.
You can also spend a day taking a trip to either Cassis, a swanky seaside town with pristine beaches, or head to the charming town of Aix-en-Provence, home to Cezanne’s studio that can still be visited today. So many choices! See our travel guide to Marseille for more tips.
Sleeping: Marseille is budget-friendly all around, but staying in the Panier is your best bet since it is tourist-friendly and full of great eateries and charming streets. See our top budget hotels in Marseille.
Getting there: The train to Marseille from Carcassonne is around 3 hours, and the main station is a short cab ride from the main port.
Getting home: From Marseille, either fly home or take a three-hour train to Paris or Nice to fly out from one of these airports.
Your France itinerary
How would you spend 10 days in France? Share your tips in the comments below.
Source: Euro Cheapo