17 Cozy Things to Do in Colmar in Winter: An Alsatian Fairytale Town

Colmar, Alsace, France, medieval half-timbered houses in historical Old town colorful illuminated for Christmas celebrations

Colmar is possibly the most picturesque town in Alsace — a high distinction in a region that counts Riquewihr, Strasbourg, Kayserberg, Obernai, and Eguisheim amongst its neighbors.

With its half-timbered colorful houses, its labyrinth of alleyways, its canal, its artisan shops, not to mention its cute cafés and rustic eateries, Colmar really looks like a fairy-tale village straight out of a Disney movie!

For full transparency, visiting Colmar in winter is not warm — but that’s probably no surprise here. 

⌛ Planning your Colmar trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

❄️ Best Colmar Winter Experiences
1. Colmar Half-Day Winter Wine Tour (with Hunawihr & Riquewihr)
2. 3-Country Christmas Market Tour (with Germany & Switzerland)
3. 45-Minute Chocolate Making Workshop at Choco Story

🛏️ Best Colmar Hotels
1. Hotel Le Maréchal (4-star hotel in Little Venice, part of the city walls)
2. Mercure Colmar (boutique design hotel near Unterlinden Museum)
3. Hôtel Turenne (conveniently located budget option)

Not sure how to get to Colmar? Fly into Strasbourg and then take a train or an airport taxi with Welcome Pickups to avoid any headaches or scams. Alternately, renting a car may be helpful if you want to visit smaller villages in Alsace (I always use Discover Cars for the best price search functions!).
Christmas market in Colmar, the streets of the village

However, there is just something about Colmar that feels like a warm, cozy, comforting embrace — they’ve got the concept of hygge down, the same way Nordic capitals like Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Helsinki do.

And don’t underestimate this town! There are actually a lot of things to do in Colmar in the winter, beyond just its Christmas market.

Sophisticated art galleries, delicious cuisine, culture, history, shopping, the Statue of Liberty … Wait, what ? 

Read on to discover all the best activities to do in Colmar in winter!

Colmar in Winter: 17 of the Coziest Things to Do!

Explore the unique architecture (and the story it tells) in the Old Town.

the wintry display of christmas themed decorations in colmar france part of alsace region, three buildings with festive decorations

One reason that the look of Colmar and the Alsace region is so unique compared to the rest of France is that it has been subject to numerous territorial disputes between France and Germany.

The history of Alsace (and Lorraine as well) is a tumultuous one, marked by an ever-changing ruling and a struggle for identity. 

Today, Alsace, and especially Colmar, boasts a unique fusion of German and French influences, with many locals speaking both languages.

The power struggles in Colmar’s history have forged a prominent impact on the architecture, the cuisine, and the culture. 

As you’ll explore the Old Town of Colmar, called La Vieille Ville in French, you’ll quickly notice the German influence in the structure of the many timber-framed houses and buildings.

But it’s not all Germanic vibes: on the other hand, the squares and the overall layout carry that very distinctive French touch.

The half-timbered structures retrace their history all the way back to the medieval times, creating that dreamy fairytale mood that Colmar is famous for. 

The Old Town features a variety of lively market squares, most prominently the Place de l’Ancienne Douane and Place de la Cathédrale

Try the best of Alsatian cuisine.

A delicious type of Alsatian flatbread similar to pizza called flamkuchen with cheese, bacon, onion

Arguably, the best thing to do in Colmar on a cold winter day is to indulge in some delicious Alsatian cuisine… all in the name of research, of course. 

Just like its culture, traditions, and architecture, the cuisine in Alsace is a fusion of its influences: a mixture of pared-back, sophisticated French flavors and more hearty, rib-sticking German dishes. 

Flammkuchen is probably the most famous dish in Alsace, and definitely worth a try when you’re visiting Colmar (in any season, but it’s especially satisfying in winter).

Called Tarte Flambée in French, it is similar to a pizza, with a thin, crispy dough and crust, topped with bacon, onions, and crème fraîche in its original version.

Want a spin on the classic? It also comes in delicious variations with mushrooms and different cheeses. 

Different kind of meats served atop a bed of fermented cabbage

Sauerkraut, which is written as Choucroute in French, is widely used in Alsace and neighboring Germany.

It’s basically a salty, fermented cabbage, which can be accompanied by all sorts of meat (sausage shines especially bright here) and is typically also served with potatoes. 

Another thing you may want to try in Alsace that is lesser-known is Baeckeoffe, a traditional casserole with slow-cooked meat, marinated in spices, onions, and potatoes. Perfect to warm up on a cold day! 

Eat some tasty Alsatian sweets.

Sugar-dusted small alsatian bundt cakes wtih raisins inside

Got a sweet tooth? Kugelhupf is a typical Alsatian cake, baked in a special bundt-like mold which gives the cake its name.

Similar to French brioche, it has a soft texture, sometimes prepared hearty with raisins, and sometimes spiced up a little with some lemon zest and dusted in sugar.

Another treat, Bredele, are specifically made for the festive season in Alsace, similar to traditions in Germany, where they’re called ‘Plätzchen’.

Bredele are sweet biscuits or cookies, shaped in various forms, usually involving a lot of butter and sugar (like all the best cookies do!).

For even more sweet action, you can visit Choco Story Colmar, where you can visit the chocolate museum or even take a 45-minute chocolate-making class!

Go shopping at the Colmar Covered Market. 

An elegant building, known as the Covered Market in Colmar, stands beside calm waters. Its beige facade is adorned with bright red shutters and large arched windows, topped by ornate stonework and decorative pediments. Overflowing flower boxes with vibrant red blooms and cascading greenery are positioned along a balustrade, adding a touch of nature to the urban setting. An arching stone bridge spans the waterway in the foreground, reflecting the city's blend of architectural charm and functional design.

The Covered Market or Le Marché Couvert de Colmar is the heart and soul of Colmar’s food scene. If you are a foodie, this is your paradise! 

The market should be high on your list when visiting Colmar, especially in winter!

Whatever the weather is like, you can shop here all year round since the market is entirely covered from the outside elements. 

The endless variety of vendors assemble the best of authentic Alsatian products, all locally sourced.

Curated by the artisanal traditions and expertise of the local farmers, this market is a great emblem of Colmar’s heritage and culture. 

Aside from the obvious shopping you can do, you can just as well come here to have breakfast, lunch, or a snack.

The market hall is lined with restaurants and bars, inviting locals and tourists to come for a drink or a meal. 

Soak in the lively atmosphere, watch the locals go about their day, enjoy a coffee, do some shopping, try some new food — honestly, Colmar’s market is always worth a pause. 

Visit the stunning St. Martin’s Church.

A detailed view of a Gothic cathedral showcases its intricate stonework, ornate arches, and a prominent spire with a green finish. The structure's historical significance is highlighted by its impressive facade and tall windows. Surrounding the cathedral, modern life is evident with a variety of parked cars lining the street and a lamppost.

The stunning La Cathédrale Saint-Martin was originally built in the 13th and 14th century in the typical Gothic architecture of the time.

But in the 16th century, a fire destroyed parts of its structure, forcing consequential renovations and decades of restoration — creating a unique hybrid situation.

As you can see, the original built is still apparent today. From the outside, you can easily spot the typical arches and the sculptures adorning the cathedral, and the interior is rather impressive. 

The Saint Martin Cathedral is well worth a quick visit, and lucky for your wallet, entry is free! 

Wander around picture-perfect Little Venice

Colmar Old Town in Alsace, France on a cloudy day in winter with traditional colorful half-timbered houses in little Venice quarter, decorated for Christmas

If you’ve ever Googled Colmar before, Little Venice is usually the top search result when it comes to images.

This is where all the typical features of Colmar are most prominent — and it’s what makes the town feature so high on many people’s list of the top French towns and villages

With the crisscrossing canals and the colorful houses that date back to the Middle Ages, exploring Little Venice almost feels like walking through Cinderella’s hometown!

You’ll find an array of cozy cafés, bistrots and restaurants in this area. If it gets too cold, you can easily find a cute little coffee shop to hide from the chill outside!

It’s also the most photogenic part of Colmar, so make sure to have your camera ready for an unstoppable number of Instagram snaps!

Get in the festive spirit at the Christmas Market.

A bustling Christmas market in Colmar comes alive as night falls. Traditional half-timbered houses, adorned with twinkling fairy lights, create a warm and festive ambiance. One prominent building, illuminated in a radiant purple hue, stands out amidst the surrounding structures.

One of the perks of the German influence in Alsace is the amazing Christmas Markets.

You’ve probably heard of Strasbourg’s Christmas Market (or read about in our guide to Strasbourg in winter), which is amongst the oldest and most important in Europe. 

Colmar’s actually has several Christmas markets, spread across mainly the Old Town and Little Venice areas.

This makes for a more intimate, authentic atmosphere, compared to the bigger markets in Alsace. 

Colmar loves Christmas. It’s a serious affair!

The Old Town is positively beaming (almost blinding) with festive lights and Christmas decorations, while a seemingly-infinite stream of vendors and chalets selling their wares line the streets. 

Aside from the typical Christmas market shopping, you’ll find delicious Alsatian street food specialities to warm your heart from the cold.

Don’t miss the cookies, aromatic roasted almonds, and, of course, mulled wine (vin chaud in French, glühwein in German). 

There is also usually an ice skating rink set up on Place Rapp at the end of November. Prices vary, but shouldn’t exceed more than a few euros. 

Explore more Christmas markets on a day tour (of three countries!).

The city of Freiburg in Germany with all its Christmas market decorations around dusk when the lights are just starting to twinkle on.

Not enough Christmas market action?

This international Christmas market tour will bring you to three different Christmas markets… in three different countries (great for country counters — I see you, I am you!)

Start by visiting the fortified town of Neuf-Brisach in France, also part of the Alsace region. It’s a UNESCO site, plus its Christmas market is adorable!

You’ll cross your first border of the day to head into Germany, where you’ll visit the excellent Christmas market of Freiburg, a sight definitely worth seeing.

And then there’s one final border to hop — Basel in Switzerland, where you’ll see its dazzling Christmas market all lit up at night when it’s at its most festive.

Three countries and three Christmas markets all in one easy day — that’s what I call convenience!

Learn about the origins of the Statue of Liberty.

An intricate bronze statue stands prominently in the courtyard of the Bartholdi Museum. Two figures, draped in flowing robes, work in unison to support a large, tarnished sphere. The patina on the globe and figures speaks of age, adding a historical resonance to the scene. The woman on the right reaches upwards, her delicate fingers grasping a piece of the globe, while the other figure appears to be guiding or steadying it from the side.
One of Bartholdi’s sculptures at the Bartholdi Museum

Did you know that New York’s Statue of Liberty has its roots in Colmar?

In fact, Colmar is the birthplace of French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi! 

Bartholdi grew up in Alsace before moving to Paris to study.

He traveled to Egypt and Yemen, notably to pitch ideas for grand monuments at Port Said, all of which were declined — but that would later lead to his greater feats of architecture later in his life.

Eventually, in 1871, Bartholdi arrived in America and was quickly inspired.

The idea for the now-iconic New York monument was allegedly presented by a French historian (whose identity isn’t really clear) as a celebration of the first 100 years of American Independence.

This was partly to serve as a symbol of French-American friendship (and let’s be honest, probably partly a thumbing of the nose at England!). 

Eventually, the copper statue was gifted to the United States by the people of France in 1886.

Bartholdi created the design of the statue, while Gustave Eiffel (who also designed the Eiffel Tower) built the structure. 

In Colmar, you can visit the Bartholdi Museum, which retraces the life and work of the sculptor from Alsace, including his famous work Les grands Soutiens du monde from 1902, meaning “The Great Supporters of the World” in English.

Note that the museum is closed in January, so if you’re visiting Colmar in January, it’s a no-go.

That said, It’s open from 1st February to 31st December. Entry is around €5. 

Check out the Quartier des Tanneurs. 

White painted half-timbered houses in the Tanners Quarter area of Colmar, with lots of wood beams and geometrical lines in the old-fashioned architecture

In past centuries, the town of Colmar, as well as Strasbourg, was an important hub for leather production and refinement. 

The Quartier des Tanneurs is named after the leather artisans (tanners) who worked and lived here, laboriously dying and tanning leather for all sorts of pieces. 

Today, the cobblestones and historic streets offer a glimpse into Colmar’s past, preserving all its charm!

As you walk along the timbered houses, it’s easy to imagine what life must have been like hundreds of years ago – minus the tourists, of course. 

Le Quartier des Tanneurs spreads from Rue des Tanneurs to Place de l’Ancienne Douane and makes a lovely winter walk.

Stop at Koïfhus on Place de l’Ancienne Douane. 

A grand historical building, known as the Koïfhus, stands majestically in the heart of Colmar. Its distinct green and red patterned tile roof captures immediate attention. A central bronze statue, mounted atop a sturdy stone pedestal, dominates the courtyard. The figure, adorned in period attire, extends an arm forward.

As you’ll reach the very lively Place de l’Ancienne Douane, one landmark is bound to catch your eye: the Koïfhus, otherwise known as l’Ancienne Douane

This area used to be the business center of Colmar, with this particular building serving as the Chamber of Commerce and Industry — well, up until 1930.

Prior to that, it was a meeting point for the deputies of Alsace, a warehouse, a bank, and home to the Magistrate. 

Amongst its many purposes, Koïfhus was also used to handle customs (hence the word ‘douane’, which you may have noticed means ‘customs’ from visiting French airports!) — particularly as it enjoyed an ideal location at the junction of two main commerce streets. 

Today, it is the oldest public building in Colmar and still used for various events and town meetings!

Its surrounding vibrant square is lined with cafés, restaurants, and shops, placing it at the center of Colmar’s culture, and it’s extra cozy in the wintertime.

Hide from the cold at Unterlinden Museum.

The Unterlinden Museum in Colmar emerges as a splendid blend of medieval architecture and modern surroundings. The building's defining feature is its green and red patterned tile roof, reminiscent of traditional Alsatian design. A sturdy, well-preserved tower, constructed from brown and beige bricks, anchors the corner, with Gothic windows

The Unterlinden Fine Art Museum is built within a beautiful Dominican convent in the heart of Colmar.

Important recent renovation words have included the addition of a secondary building, connected to the main entrance via a submarine gallery, that runs underneath the canal – which is pretty cool if I do say so myself!

This new gallery has three exhibition spaces, which means more room for the rather extensive permanent collection of the museum (a win win!). 

For architecture geeks, you won’t be disappointed: the museum combines Gothic and Renaissance styles, reflecting the structure’s 13th-century roots as well as the subsequent renovations and modernization. 

The Unterlinden features an impressive collection of art works from various eras. The most prominent piece is the Altarpiece of the Dominicans, an important work by the German artist Matthias Grünewald. 

Completed in the late 15th century, the altarpiece was originally made for the Dominican Church, depicting a series of images from the Passion of Christ.

Unterlinden is also home to a myriad of archaeological and historical artifacts.

Combined with the masterful paintings, the Fine Art Museum pays homage to Colmar and Alsace, showing its multifaceted history through the lens of art. 

Entry is €13 or €15 with an audio guide — it’s definitely worth the extra two euros to have an understanding of what you’re seeing, according to me. 

Visit the Dominican Church of Colmar.

The facade of the orange/sand-colored Dominican church of colmar on a partly cloudy day.

While the 15th century Altarpiece of the Dominicans is on display at the Unterlinden Museum, there’s more to the history of this church than just that!

Other works of Grünewald are also exhibited in the Dominican Church of Colmar, another place worth a visit. 

Besides that, it’s also just a charming historic church that has a very different vibe than the other churches in Colmar.

And since the entry fee is a mere 2€, it’ll hardly put a dent in your holiday spending.

Admire Little Venice from the river. 

A boat going down one of the canals of Colmar in the winter, surrounded by leafless trees showing the season, yellow and pastel colored half-timbered houses.

Little Venice would not be Little Venice without the obligatory canal cruises — after all, can you say you went to Venice if you didn’t ride a gondola?

Traditionally called barques, the small boats take you on a short 25-minute cruise of the canal for about €10. 

Don’t worry about it being winter; the cruises run all year round. In fact, as a winter traveler, you get to skip the crowds!

However, the service is more limited in winter, so you’ll have to check the schedules when you’re there.

Highlights of a canal cruise include the Quai de la Poissonnerie and the gorgeous Turenne Bridge

Rest assured, if it’s too cold for a cruise, contrary to ‘real Venice’, you don’t miss anything if you don’t go.

You can easily explore Little Venice on foot, but if it’s warm enough, this short ride is well worth the experience (just bundle up!). 

Have fun at the Toy Museum. 

Horses, other rideable figures at the toy museum in Colmar, a beautiful town in Alsace
Toy Museum in Colmar | Photo Credit: Vincent Desjardins, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How else do we say it? Le Musée du Jouet is pure joy!

This museum features an extensive collection of toys dating from the 19th century to modern times.

Housed in a former cinema, giving it extra cool points, the museum is a great interlude away from the cold for kids and grown-ups alike.

The collection includes a variety of dolls, trains, battle games, different generations of robotic and mechanical toys — all very well-preserved throughout the ages!

This is a fun, unconventional way to learn about kids’ lives in the past… and reminiscence about your own childhood with just the right amount of nostalgia!

Entry is around €6 for adults and free for young children. 

Explore other towns of the Alsatian Wine Route.

White wine in turkheim area of alsace wine region

As mentioned above, Colmar isn’t the only scenic town that’s part of the Alsatian Wine Route — which also doubles as an epic list of Christmas markets worth visiting in December!

You could rent a car and explore parts of the Alsatian wine route independently,but then you can’t sample the famous wines of the region so freely!

This tour brings you to two of the most beautiful towns in Alsace — Riquewihr and Hunawihr — as well as straight to a winemakers’ cellar, when you can taste some of the best wines of the region.

With the option to taste up to six wines and visit two unique towns, this small group tour capped at eight people offers a great value for those who want to see a bit outside of Colmar but are limited on time, don’t want to rent a car, or want to imbibe to their heart’s content!

Take a day trip to the winter wonderland of Strasbourg.

the winter scenery of france strasbourg canal with some snow on the winter decorations and half-timbered houses along a canal at blue hour just after sunset

A mere 1-hour drive away from Colmar, Strasbourg is France’s most European city.

The city is home to the European Parliament and an overall mini-cosmos of modern Europe!

With its international institutions, Strasbourg attracts visitors from all corners of the globe and is home to a growing cosmopolitan community.

You could easily spend a couple of days here, especially in winter, but it’s also suitable as a day trip! 

If you are coming to Strasbourg in December, make sure to check out the famous Christmas Markets.

In the heart of Strasbourg, the historic Petite France district is a UNESCO Site and a must-visit for any first-time visitor. 

Strasbourg also has several museums, including the Fine Art Museum and the Contemporary Art Museum, which both rank amongst the best in France.

Similar to Colmar, Strasbourg’s districts are crisscrossed by a series of little rivers, and cruises are offered all year round.

If your time is limited, such as if you’re visiting from Colmar on a day trip, a river cruise is a great option to see all the major sites from the cozy comfort of the heated boat!

Where to Stay in Colmar in Winter

Maison Pfister, Traditional Alsatian half-timbered house Colmar

Luxury: Hotel Le Maréchal 

Part of the city’s original fortified walls, the 4-star Hotel Le Maréchal  stands the test of time.

Right in Little Venice — like, literally set right on the canal — it’s a short walk to the main Colmar Christmas Market in Place des Dominicains.

The tasty on-site restaurant, A l’Echevin, is a big hit for those seeking traditional Alsatian cuisine, too!

Mid-Range: Mercure Colmar Centre Unterlinden

The ultra-trendy Mercure located a two-minute walk from the Unterlinden Musuem is a great choice for something design-focused on a budget.

There’s a daily breakfast available, a bar with Alsatian wines called Les Cepages, and you can also use their sauna.

It’s about a 15-minute walk from Little Venice, but it’s still in a convenient part of town with a lot of shops, restaurants, sights, and attractions.

Budget: Hôtel Turenne

Conveniently located a 10-minute walk from the train station on the edge of the Old Town, Hôtel Turenne isn’t a bad option for those on a budget.

Its rooms are pretty spacious given the price and they’re also rather bright, letting in the little winter sunlight there is for a fresh-feeling room.

Overall, it’s not the most unique hotel you’ll find, but the combination of price, location, and comfort make it a great budget choice.

14 Magical Things to Do in Annecy in Winter

winter pathway in annecy in the winter

Annecy is called the Venice of the Alps. Why?

Picture a quaint old town crisscrossed by an intricate system of canals and colorful alleyways, looking out on a pristine turquoise blue lake surrounded by the snow-capped alpine mountains… welcome to Annecy in winter! 

The capital of Haute-Savoie is a picture-perfect dreamscape for winter lovers!

With its vibrant cultural and culinary scene, just an hour away from wintry Geneva and the prestigious ski resorts of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, Annecy combines the best of outdoor and urban adventures. 

Winter landscape around dusk in Annecy with lights coming on over the canal and illuminating the old town in a festive glow.
⌛ Planning your Annecy trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

🏰  Best Annecy Experiences
1. Annecy Traditional Food Group Walking Tour
2. Private Walking Tour of Annecy’s Historical Center
3. Annecy 1-Hour Small Group Segway Tour

🛏️ Best Annecy Hotels
1. Impérial Palace (lakefront luxury in a literal former palace)
2. Hôtel du Palais de l’Isle (balconies with iconic canal views)
3. Hôtel du Château (budget-friendly near the castle)

A breathtaking winter wonderland, Annecy truly comes alive in the winter months.

Delicious alpine hearty meals, sophisticated culture and just the right amount of outdoor adventure, a winter trip to Annecy is a vacation you won’t forget!

I’ve written before on how to spend two days in Annecy, but that post is more focused on the spring, summer, and early fall seasons.

Read on to discover my curated guide including all the best things to do in Annecy in winter. 

How to Get There

Annecy is conveniently connected to several major cities by TGV, the French high-speed train.

From Paris, you can reach Annecy in less than 4 hours!

Alternatively, you can fly in through Geneva (GVA) or Lyon (LYS).

Grenoble and Chambéry also both have regional airports operating throughout the winter months. 

Best Things to Do in Annecy in Winter

Explore the Old Town. 

A decorated Christmas tree with red baubles stands outside a cafe with wicker chairs. Behind, colorful European buildings line a street, and a chalkboard sign is visible near the seating area, typical seating of Annecy restaurants.

The historic heart of Annecy (Vieille Ville) is beautiful all year round. However… trust us when we say it is magical in the winter. Why? Snow, of course! 

Now, obviously, there is no guarantee it’ll snow when you’re visiting. But, you are very close to the Alps and therefore the chances are pretty high.

And while snow in Paris in winter is a messy disaster that can only be handled with the right Paris winter gear, snow in Annecy is pure delight.

Imagine walking through Venice in the snow — with a French accent, of course! 

As mentioned earlier, Annecy is intersected by an intricate canal system, namely the Thiou Canal, which runs right through the Old Town.

It goes right along the most beautiful sights, picturesque cobblestone streets and the many, many artisan shops and cafés — talk about picture perfect!

Start your winter walk at Palais de l’Île

A picturesque European canal scene with colorful buildings lining the water, a stone tower, and a bridge in the background. Outdoor cafes and bicycles can be seen along the canal's edge. The water reflects the surrounding structures. There is a light dusting of snow on the roofs and sidewalks, showing a winter scene.

 This picturesque building is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Annecy!

Its unique location on a small canal island means this landmark has served quite a few various purposes over the centuries. 

It was originally built in the 12th century as a castle and later transformed into a prison during the Middle Ages, a purpose it fulfilled until the 19th century. 

After a few renovations, the Palais de l’Île finally became a museum, which showcases the history and architecture of Annecy, offering visitors a glimpse into the town’s past.

If you want to learn more about the town’s fascinating history – this is the place to be. 

Visit Annecy’s most beautiful street.

Picturesque pastel colored medieval houses of Rue Ste Claire in Annecy in the winter on an overcast day with no snow

The lovely Rue Sainte Claire is undoubtedly one of the most enchanting and picturesque streets in Annecy, often acclaimed as the city’s most beautiful.

Packed with shops and restaurants, this street still preserves Annecy’s medieval architecture. 

As you’ll stroll along Rue Sainte Claire, you’ll come across the typical wooden structure of medieval housing, the balconies, and flower boxes, which feel even cozier in winter. 

Rue Sainte Claire is also the best spot to get your hands on some local souvenirs to bring home!

Here you’ll find a myriad of shops, galleries and art boutiques, all offering unique items reflecting the Savoyard culture. 

Journey through time at Château d’Annecy. 

The medieval French castle in small town among snowy mountains. Snow-sprinkled square with mountains view and large, puffy clouds in winter in Annecy.

Perched majestically upon a hill, Annecy’s castle is a living testament to time and a must-visit to take in the incredible view over the Old Town and the surrounding natural landscapes. 

The castle has witnessed centuries of history, holding endless chapters within its walls.

It was first built in the Middle Ages, serving as a fortress and strategic defense post.

Subsequently, it was so grand that the Counts of Geneva converted it into a luxurious residence. 

In the 16th century, the castle was transformed into a prison, a role it would serve for several centuries.

Today, the Château d’Annecy is a museum, inviting visitor’s to explore several rooms, notably the Countess’ Tower and several apartments. 

Book a cruise on the lake.

A serene winter lakeside view with a wooden dock in the foreground. A duck floats near the dock, and in the distance, snow-capped mountains give a serene winter view.

Lake activities are fun all year round in Annecy!

In fact, the boat cruises in Annecy are perfectly equipped to offer you a cozy winter experience, as the interiors are heated in winter.

If you are staying in the heart of Annecy, you’ll definitely come across Compagnie des Bateaux du Lac d’Annecy, the main tour operator.

They own the white and red boats lining the port!

As of 2023, you can book a 1-hour tour for €18 or a 1.5 hour tour for €21.

They also offer 2-hour dining cruises, lunch trips and cocktail receptions. 

Hang out at Le Pâquier. 

A picturesque scene of a calm canal or river, lined with tall, leafless trees. Moored boats rest along the bank, with covers protecting their interiors. In the background, an ornate bridge connects the two sides, with a couple pausing to enjoy the view in winter in Annecy.

The Pâquier is a promenade, which spans seven and a half hectares and offers a picturesque view of Lake Annecy and the nearby mountains.

Surrounded by beautiful gardens, including the Jardins d’Europe, Le Pâquier is the green lung of Annecy (well, white lung when it’s covered in snow!), a place where locals and tourists come to enjoy a picnic on a sunny day or a refreshing walk on a cold day. 

Pont des Amours, the love bridge, links Le Pâquier to Jardins d’Europe while also serving as every couple’s favorite photo spot, with its many padlocks and ribbons tied in the name of love. 

Make sure to spot the Île des Cygnes, Swan Island. Gifted by the Counts of Geneva in the 19th century, Annecy’s swans have called the lake their home for 150 years.

Their population has sadly shrunk over the last few decades, mainly due to urbanization.

Take full advantage of the Alps at your back door.

A breathtaking winter landscape featuring a snowy alpine village nestled in a valley. Snow-covered chalets dot the landscape, with ski slopes and cable cars in the background. Tall evergreen trees, dusted with snow, stand prominently in the foreground. A ski resort in France with lifts, chalets, and mountains.

Annecy is strategically located within easy reach of several world-class ski resorts.

Some of the most popular ones include La Clusaz and Le Grand-Bornand, each offering a range of skiing and snowboarding opportunities.

La Clusaz is slightly more expensive, attracting a rather wealthy clientele, while Le Grand-Bornand is more family-friendly. 

Generally speaking, the Annecy area has slopes and activities for all levels. Whether you are into skiing or snowboarding, whether you’re a hardcore professional or a complete beginner, there is snow and slopes for everyone. 

Most of the ski resorts around Annecy offer ski schools and lessons for beginners.

So, if you’re new to skiing, you can easily find instructors to help you get started.

The resorts are generally located 30 minutes to 1 hour outside of Annecy, so it’s best to rent a car to get there.

Spend a day at the spa.

a lovely relaxing indoor wood dry sauna with rocks

Sightseeing can be exhausting. Why not spend a relaxing afternoon at the spa in between all your busy activities?

Annecy is home to a few high-end wellness spots, with a few of them located right in the heart of the city. 

However, if you are in the mood to really treat yourself, check out the luxurious spas surrounding the Lake.

Just a few miles from Annecy, Le Palace awaits in Menthon-Saint-Bernard. 

Le Palace is a 5-star resort nestled in the beautiful hills for a 5-star view over the Annecy Lake.

The hotel spa boasts a sophisticated design with a modern Scandinavian touch, bay windows overlooking the lake from the interior pool, a sauna, a hammam and a variety of wellness treatments. 

Alight your festive spirits at Annecy’s Christmas Market.

A winter scene in a European town by a canal. The focal point is a grand historic church, its façade displaying intricate architectural details and its roof lightly dusted with snow. Adjacent to the church, a slender bell tower with a green spire rises against the sky. In the foreground, the calm waters of the canal reflect the buildings, while wooden Christmas market stalls with snow-covered roofs line the embankment

From the end of November to early January, Annecy transforms into not only a winter wonderland, but also a Christmas wonderland, embracing the festive season in all its splendor. 

The Christmas market is set around the colorful streets of the Old Town, which comes alive with a magical glow of lights.

There is usually also an ice-skating rink and several festive concerts and events throughout the month of December. 

December in Annecy is a delight. Seeing it decorated in festive and enchanting lights is a real treat!

Admire the festive light show projected on City Hall.

A vibrant and colorful light projection on a grand historic building during nighttime. The projection displays intricate patterns and designs, transforming the façade into a tapestry of vivid hues, primarily in red, blue, and green

The Christmas Markets aren’t the only festive spirit in Annecy in winter!

Every year, the City Hall joins in on the fun by projecting a vivid light show on its facade, reflecting a new theme each Christmas.

As soon as it gets dark enough for the light show to make its full spectacle, it does!

Typically, the light show (and accompanying soundscape) lasts for about 12 minutes and then has about an 8 minute pause — so it occurs about every 20 minutes.

It runs in tandem with the Christmas markets, from late November to early January.

Warm up with a delicious Alpine meal. 

Cheese fondue enjoyed in Switzerland in winter with a metal rod dunking some bread into a pot of melted cheese

The Savoie region in the French Alps is a haven for hearty comfort food.

Naturally, the mountainous terrain and cold winter months call for cheesy rib-sticking delights and heavy, flavorful dishes. 

Of course, you’ve probably already heard of Fondue, a traditional Savoyard dish, which involves dipping bread into a pot of melted, creamy, delicious cheese. 

But do you know about Raclette? It’s similar, but a slightly funkier cheese, and it’s all about melting cheese with your choice of vegetables, potatoes, ham, corn — really anything your heart desires. 

What makes Savoyard cuisine uniquely special is the social experience, as most traditional meals require to be shared and enjoyed with friends and family, hence warming up your heart and your soul. 

Another popular dish in the region is Tartiflette. It’s made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons (bacon), and onions. 

All of these delicious meals are served at L’Étage in the Old Town, a must-visit for anyone in search of an authentic experience.

The restaurant is located in a former residence dating back to the 16th century, providing a cozy, warm atmosphere around the crackling fireplace. 

Check out Annecy’s Carnival. 

A picturesque European town scene with historic buildings and a canal. In the foreground, two individuals are dressed in ornate Venetian-style carnival costumes with intricate masks and headdresses, showcasing golden hues and detailed patterns.

Annecy earns the nickname “Venice of the Alps” not only for its charming canals, but also for hosting its very own Venetian-style carnival!

The carnival usually takes place on the last weekend of February.

All participants are required to wear traditional Venetian masks, costumes, capes, and gowns.

The highlight of the carnival is the grand parade that winds its way through the picturesque streets and canals of Annecy.  

The parade is accompanied by street performers and entertainers, all dressed in Venetian style, roaming the streets, interacting with the crowd and providing a lively and immersive experience for everyone.

Take a trip to cheese heaven at La Coopérative du Reblochon.

The famed dairy products of Annecy and Savoie, several types of cheese including reblochon

La Coopérative du Reblochon is a local farmer’s union centered around the Savoyard cheese and meat production.

After all, Alpine dishes are all about dairy, and cheese is an essential part of the local heritage!

Hence, this Coopérative plays an important role in preserving Annecy’s and Savoie’s culture, expertise, and artisan tradition. 

The Coopérative runs two shops just outside of Annecy. If you love cheese, this is your paradise!

Coming here means you get the best cheese and charcuterie in the area, while simultaneously supporting the local economy. 

Enjoy a special dinner at Le 1903.

Annecy has a variety of great restaurants to offer — it’s hard to go wrong here.

However, if you are in the mood for a special dining experience or if you are celebrating an anniversary or a birthday, Jean Sulpice’s Le 1903 comes highly recommended. 

Le 1903 is part of l’Auberge du Père Bise in Talloires, a 5-star hotel on the shores of Lake Annecy.

The resort includes a spa, exclusives suites, a bar, and Le Bistrot 1903, which we’re talking about here! 

1903 pays homage to traditional Savoyard cuisine, refined by Jean Sulpice, in a magnificent setting on the edge of Lake Annecy.

Take a day trip to Chambéry.

A charming European town square adorned with colorful and historical buildings. The facades of the buildings showcase a mix of warm hues like orange, pink, and yellow, with wooden shutters on windows.

Chambéry is the historic capital of Savoie, standing as a testament to the heavy Italian influence in the region, as it was only annexed to France in 1871.

A day trip to Chambéry is the perfect opportunity to dive deeper into the region’s history, culture, and traditions. 

Wander around the Old Town and Place Saint-Léger, spot the Elephant Fountain and stop by the Fine Art Museum for a quick visit.

If you are a fan of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, make sure to visit Les Charmettes, a manor from the 18th century, where he lived with Madame de Warrens. 

Other fun day trips in the area include Evian-Les-Bains, Lyon and Geneva

Where to Stay in Annecy

A picturesque European town scene during twilight. The canal waters calmly reflect the warm glow of lights from the surrounding buildings. Historic structures, including a stone tower and various architectural styles, line the canal. These buildings are adorned with festive lights and decorations, adding to the ambiance.

Luxury: Impérial Palace

Quite literally palatial, the Impérial Palace is a lovely luxury hotel overlooking Lake Annecy.

You’ll especially love its spa in the winter, with a heated indoor swimming pool, sauna, hammam, and treatment rooms.

The rooms with balconies overlooking Lake Annecy are an extra-special treat!

Check availability and prices here!

Mid-Range: Hôtel du Palais de l’Isle

Want to see Annecy’s most iconic building right outside your balcony window?

Stay at Hôtel du Palais de l’Isle, and that’s exactly what you get!

Beyond that, the interiors are beautiful and modern, a bit small (normal for an Old Town hotel), but its location and views can’t be topped!

Check availability and prices here!

Budget: Hôtel du Château

For budget-friendly comfortable rooms at the foot of the castle, look no further than Hôtel du Château.

Its rooms are a bit basic, and it’s a short walk from the old town, but given the budget, you’ll likely hardly mind!

Check availability and prices here!

Annecy Itinerary: 2 Days to Discover the Venice of the French Alps

the palais dile area of annecy on a cloudy day

With its vibrant, colorful alleyways, pristine crystalline lake, and a picturesque backdrop of majestic mountains, Annecy, the capital of Haute-Savoie, is a testament to the modern art of living. 

If you’re looking for a scenic vacation destination, Annecy truly has it all: a picture-perfect setting surrounded by a stunning chain of mountains, historic neighborhoods crisscrossed by charming canals and, to top it all off, a truly impressive culinary scene. 

No wonder this gem has often been called the Venice of the Alps! 

⌛ Planning your Annecy trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

🏰  Best Annecy Experiences
1. Annecy Traditional Food Group Walking Tour
2. Private Walking Tour of Annecy’s Historical Center
3. Annecy 1-Hour Small Group Segway Tour

🛏️ Best Annecy Hotels
1. Impérial Palace (lakefront luxury in a literal former palace)
2. Hôtel du Palais de l’Isle (balconies with iconic canal views)
3. Hôtel du Château (budget-friendly near the castle)
A picturesque canal scene in a historic European town, bathed in sunlight. Quaint pastel-colored buildings with weathered facades and shuttered windows line the tranquil teal waters. Arched stone bridges connect the streets, and charming cafes spill out onto the canal's edge, offering waterside seating beneath large umbrellas. Bicycles, adorned with baskets of flowers, are casually parked along the iron railings

Nestled between the stunning Lake Annecy and the snow-capped French Alps, Annecy benefits from a breathtaking natural setting where life is sophisticated, elegant… and multifaceted!

You can immerse yourself in art and culture in the morning, and still have time to hit the slopes for an afternoon of skiing 

And, as if all that wasn’t enough, why not drive to a different country for a night out? The Swiss metropolis of Geneva is just 40 minutes away. 

Getting to Annecy

A vibrant European canal scene with colorful buildings, adorned with flags, overlooking clear blue waters. Elegant street lamps, blossoming flower boxes, and bicycles accent the tranquil walkway. In the distance, mountain peaks hint at the town's scenic location.

When traveling from Paris to Annecy, the TGV is unquestionably the best choice, providing a direct connection between the two cities multiple times a day with only 3 hours and 40 minutes of travel time. 

Alternatively, you can fly in through Geneva’s airport or just include Annecy on a day trip from Lyon or Grenoble

Two days in Annecy will give you just enough time to discover the best hidden gems and immerse yourself in the city’s uniquely sophisticated way of life.

Follow our Annecy itinerary to make sure you don’t miss out on what to see, what to do and where to eat! 

Day 1 of Your Annecy Itinerary

Spend the morning in the Old Town.

A quaint European street lined with multi-colored buildings, each showcasing distinct architectural features. On the right stands a stone structure with a prominent arched gateway, hinting at its historical significance. The street is adorned with lanterns, balconies, and storefronts, and a few bicycles and tables hint at everyday life in this picturesque setting.

Tucked away at the base of the castle, the enchanting historic district is a window into the past.

This setting is especially beautiful in the winter months, when the half-timbered houses (similar to that of Strasbourg) are delicately covered in an enchanting layer of fresh snow. 

The Thiou canal runs through the district, surrounded by revered landmarks, arcades, colorful houses and artisan boutiques, bars and cafés. 

On Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, the local farmer’s market takes over – its an event no foodie should miss! 

Start your day early to escape the crowds, especially if you want to admire the beauty of Palais de l’Île

A picturesque European town scene in Annecy, with vibrant multicolored buildings lining a serene canal. A prominent stone structure with conical roofs sits at the convergence of the waterway. Balconies, outdoor cafes, and bridges add to the town's quaint charm, all under a cloudy sky.

Built in the 12th century on a small island in the Thiou River, the Palais de l’Île has lived many lifetimes over the centuries, including acting as a residence for the Lord of Annecy, a courthouse, a prison, and now a museum. 

Stop in for a delicious coffee and authentic breakfast at Café des Arts, located just a few steps from the Palais des Îles. 

The Rue Sainte Claire is another must-see stop on your walk through the old town.

Often called Annecy’s most beautiful street, Rue Sainte Claire is positively bursting with shops and restaurants, all while conserving Annecy’s charming medieval architecture. 

A charming European cobblestone street in Annecy, flanked by pastel-colored buildings with distinct architectural features. On the left, a vintage lantern hangs from a coral-pink building, while on the right, a lime-green structure showcases tall windows with red shutters. An archway in the distance offers a glimpse of the street beyond. The scene is peaceful, with empty cafe tables and chairs awaiting patrons.

If you didn’t stop off for breakfast already, Buvette du Marché comes highly recommended for a delicious meal on Rue Sainte Claire. 

Speaking of architectural gems, the city tries to preserve as much of its rich heritage as possible. 

Make sure to take a walk along the former ramparts of Annecy via the Impasse du Trippoz as you make your way to the majestic Château d’Annecy, the former residence of the Counts of Geneva and the next stop on this Annecy itinerary.

Tip: You can do this exploration of the Old Town independently, or you can opt for an experience like this Private Walking Tour of Annecy’s Historical Center

Visit the Château d’Annecy. 

A historic stone castle with distinctive red-tiled roofs and turrets, juxtaposed against the backdrop of a lush green mountain range under a clear blue sky. The castle walls, showing signs of age and character, stand tall, evoking history.

The Château d’Annecy stands atop a hill overlooking the town, with panoramic views of Lake Annecy and the French Alps. 

The castle’s fascinating history dates all the way back to the 12th century, when it was originally built to be a home for the Counts of Geneva.

But it’s lived many lifetimes, undergoing various expansions and retoolings, and its architecture reflects a that blend of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles, each which was prominent during a stage of the castle’s renovation.

Inside the Château, you can visit the castle’s museum, which showcases traditional Savoyard art and craftsmanship.

It also tells the story of the Château and its position in the Alps, and why Annecy was founded here.

Admire the astonishing Basilique de la Visitation.

The Basilique de la Visitation in Annecy, a church standing tall and prominent against a canvas of blue skies and a backdrop of woodlands. Built primarily from stone, its grayish-white facade shines under the sunlight, with the craftsmanship and design detailing visible.

The Basilique de la Visitation is an iconic piece of architecture in the Annecy skyline, with its impressive 72-meter bell tower standing out as a key landmark in town.

With intricate stonework, arched windows, and stone construction, the Basilica is a beautiful example of religious architecture in the 17th century.

Entry to the basilica is free, and you even have the option to ascend the bell tower for an unparalleled view of the city!

The basilica is open between 7 AM and noon and 2 PM to 6 PM daily (an hour later in July and August).

However, the bell tower keeps a more unpredictable schedule — to check, cal the basilica in advance to check the bell tower timings (phone: +33 4 50 45 22 76).

Adjacent to the Basilica is the old monastery, dating back to the 1600s, which you can also visit while exploring the Basilique.

Visit the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre.

Cathédrale Saint-Pierre in Annecy, with architecture that is pretty magnificent, with that towering spire pointing skywards and the intricate detailing on its facade, in a neo-gothic style

The Cathédrale Saint-Pierre in Annecy is another place you don’t want to miss on your Annecy itinerary, a fusion of Gothic and neo-Gothic design.

The church is a nice contrast to the rest of the town, its muted palate looking beautiful against the red-tiled rooftops all over town.

The interior is your standard cathedral fare: stained glass, high arched windows, vaulted ceilings, wooden pews — but it’s still beautiful.

There’s no entrance fee, either, so there’s nothing to stop you from popping by!

Admire the beauty of the L’Église Saint-François-de-Sales.

Church constructed primarily from what appears to be limestone or a similar pale stone, which gives it a warm and inviting glow, especially as it's kissed by the golden rays of the setting or rising sun. The façade is symmetrical and features a mix of classical architectural elements.

Here’s another church worth visiting in Annecy.

Standing since the 17th century, this church combines grandeur of the Baroque with the simplicity of the Classical.

Plus, it’s on the banks of the Thioule, which makes its appearance all the more lovely!

Enjoy a delicious lunch.

Sign for a restaurant in Annecy with the red awning and lettering that reads restaurant

One of the best restaurants in Annecy is Racines, a passion project of two chefs, John and Eva.

They combine their travels with their love of their Haute-Savoie heritage to create unique dishes with Savoyard ingredients and heart.

Another option is the modern Miamici delle Alpi for Savoyard cooking with an Italian twist. 

It’s located in the lovely Galeries Lafayette, a beautiful setting worthy of the delicious food served here. 

The chef here is originally from Naples, but he was classically trained in Paris, so you truly get the best of both worlds when you eat here.

If you prefer a little more guidance — like the kind that a food tour offers — don’t worry, even a petite city like Annecy has got you covered here!

This Annecy Traditional Food Group Walking Tour covers all of the best of Savoyard cuisine in a well-paced food and walking tour!

Wander around the Jardin de l’Europe and spot the Île des Cygnes.

Iles des Cygnes, a famous artificial island on Lake Annecy with the French Alps in the background, flower boxes on the promenade and a blue sky and clear waters

From your lunch spot of choice, start to make your way toward the lake through the magnificent Jardin de l’Europe.

Picture a scene lifted straight from a postcard, a garden setting with a turquoise lakes and the beautiful Alps.

The park was designed in the English garden style, incorporating centuries-old trees, statues, and sculptures.

Across from the Jardins de l’Europe, between the Canal du Vassé and the Thiou, you can see the Île des Cygnes (Swan Island), an artificial island built between 1854 and 1859.

In 1857, the city of Annecy received a pair of swans as a gift from Geneva and the House of Savoy. 

These swans made their home on the island, which was then named in their honor!

Fall in love at Pont des Amours.

An ornate wrought-iron railing overlooking the serene waters of a lake, with the majestic backdrop of a mountain range. The sign "PONT des AMOURS" is prominently displayed, hinting at a romantic significance. A wooden dock extends into the lake where visitors are gathered, and swans gracefully float nearby. The sky above is dotted with clouds, casting gentle reflections on the water's surface.

The Pont des Amours, French for the Bridge of Love, is a charming pedestrian bridge on the edge of Lake Annecy.

Alongside Palais d’Ile, It’s one of the iconic landmarks of the city.

The bridges crosses the Canal du Vassé, connecting the Jardins de l’Europe you were walking in before to the nearby lakeside promenade.

The bridge has a romantic reputation, and many couples — those still going strong, and those long since parted — have placed padlocks or ribbons to the bridge as a symbol of their love.

Go for a drink at La Cave and enjoy a hearty dinner.

A picturesque evening view of Annecy's old town, with historic buildings lining a calm canal. Their warm, glowing lights create mesmerizing reflections on the water. Notable structures, including a tower and a stone gate, stand tall against the soft hues of the twilight sky. Riverside cafes and restaurants bustle with activity

La Cave is practically a household name in Annecy!

Located in the narrow Passage des Échoppes, the restaurant and bar serves as a popular meeting point for wine geeks.

The cellar has a whopping selection of 400 wines — and of that list, around 40 different wines are available by the glass!

Enjoy a glass of wine with the regional cured meats and cheeses if you want light bites as opposed to a more heavy meal.

For a dinner with true Savoyard ambiance, head to Le Clocher, honored by the Collège Culinaire de France. 

It’s also a great spot for wine geeks — its menu is so expansive, it was named one of the top 100 wine menus in all of France.

Another option is Café Brunet, which serves ‘cuisine canaille’, a bistro style menu, with a selection of hearty mains and shared plates.

Day 2 of your Annecy Itinerary

Spend the morning on the lake.

A serene lakeside scene on a sunny day, showcasing the vibrant turquoise waters of Lake Annecy. Wooden jetties extend into the crystal-clear lake, with boats anchored nearby and bicycles parked at one of the docks.

Lac d’Annecy is one of the most stunning lakes in Europe, for both its shockingly turquoise waters and alpine surroundings.

Lake Annecy’s beauty is due to the purity of its waters, fed by mountain springs, when snowmelt from the surrounding peaks all pools in the lake.

The best way to explore the lake and take in its the sights (the majestic villas, secret beaches, the bay of Talloires, and the nature reserves) is to take a private boat tour.

That said, this option is quite expensive — think prices starting at around €300 for two hours. 

A tranquil lakeside setting with a majestic mountain range serving as the backdrop. The towering mountains are lush at the base, gradually giving way to rocky cliffs towards the peaks. On the serene waters of the lake, a wooden jetty extends, where a solitary individual stands.

But if the weather is good and you’re only in Annecy for two days, this is an unforgettable experience that might be well worth the splurge.

If renting a boat is a bit out of your budget, don’t worry — there’s plenty to do that’s more friendly to the wallet, like renting a paddleboard, snorkeling, kayaking, or riding a bike around the lake. 

You can also loaf on the lake shores at one of the several beaches!

Tip: Grab something at the morning market, grab a bike rental, and pedal somewhere beautiful to enjoy a picnic in style.

Treat yourself to a lunch with a view.

For a lakeside lunch, try Terrasses du Lac. It has a beautiful patio in the summer!

Chef Hervé Getenet works magic here, emphasizing seasonal produce and local products that are special to Annecy.

Go for a hike in the mountains.

A breathtaking panoramic view from a high-altitude vantage point, showcasing a vast expanse of a blue lake below, embraced by a sprawling town and the landscape curving around its shores. Dominating the foreground are two hikers, navigating the rugged mountain terrain, adorned with patches of verdant grass and clusters of vibrant yellow flowers. The winding trails on the grassy mountain slope hint at the adventurous journey the hikers have undertaken.

Annecy is great for all types of hikers, from the more timid to the more adventurous!

Whether you want a peaceful stroll in nature or a heart-pumping hike, Annecy offers trails that are beautiful no matter the length or challenge.

For a more difficult hike, opt for the Tournette Trail. This trail is long — over 15 km — but it’s one of the the most popular hikes to do around Annecy.

Read more on this hike here — and expect about 4-6 hours for this hike, so be sure you get an early enough start to complete it safely if you choose it.

The ascent is quite a slog, but it’s worth it! In between panting as you ascend, you can admire gorgeous views of the mountains and lake below.

For a hike that’s a little easier (and arguably the most beautiful hike in Annecy), try the Taillefer Trail.

Unique and breathtaking, you’ll hike through beautiful alpine landscapes while passing sights such as the Château de d’Héré or the Grotte de Notre Dame du Lac.

Where to Stay in Annecy

A grand hotel with classical European architecture stands prominently against a blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds. The white multi-storied building, adorned with symmetrical windows and gray roofing, displays the national flag on its pinnacle. Adjacent is a pristine annex with arched windows, with well-maintained green lawns

Luxury: Impérial Palace

Never has a place lived up to its name more than at the Impérial Palace, a gorgeous luxury hotel overlooking Lake Annecy with positively palatial vibes.

The hotel is massive, and so are its amenities, including a 600-square-meter spa area with a swimming pool, sauna, hammam, ice fountain, and treatment rooms.

The rooms are gorgeously designed, the bathrooms magnificent (soaking tubs? hell yes!) and the ones with balconies overlooking Lake Annecy are an extra-special treat!

Check availability and prices here!

Mid-Range: Hôtel du Palais de l’Isle

Imagine opening up your windows and stepping onto your balcony, only to see Annecy’s most iconic building — the cute little charmer at the intersection of two canals — right outside your window.

That’s exactly what you get here at Hôtel du Palais de l’Isle, rooms with a view!

Beyond that, the interiors are beautiful and modern, fairly understated with the occasional pop of bold blue accents. 

The rooms are a bit small, as is typical for an Old Town hotel, but the location truly can’t be beat!

Check availability and prices here!

Budget: Hôtel du Château

The surprisingly budget-friendly Hôtel du Château offers charming, comfortable rooms right at the foot of — you guessed it — Annecy Castle.

A bit of a walk from the old town, yet just steps away from the castle, this is the perfect blend of convenience and budget.

The rooms are admittedly a bit basic, but given your surroundings, you’ll likely hardly mind!

Check availability and prices here!

10 Festive Things to Do in Strasbourg in Winter

view of a strasbourg hotel at. night in the winter

If you’re planning a winter trip to Strasbourg, you’ve probably already heard of its iconic Christmas markets.

After all, it’s among the oldest in all of Europe’s winter markets, a continent known for them!

But there are so many other reasons why visiting Strasbourg in winter is a great idea.

Known for its distinctive combination of French and German architecture, Strasbourg is a photographer’s delight.

⌛ Planning your Strasbourg trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

❄️ Best Strasbourg Winter Experiences
1. Alsatian Villages and Wine Tasting Day Trip
2. Strasbourg Traditional Food Walking Tour
3. 2-Hour Christmas Market Guided Tour

🛏️ Best Strasbourg Hotels
1. Hotel Cour du Corbeau (4* hotel in renovated 16th-century building)
2. BOMA easy living hotel (funky design hotel near Petite France)
3. AC Hotel by Marriott Strasbourg (chain hotel near Parliament)

Arriving in Prague by plane? Book your affordable airport taxi with Welcome Pickups here and avoid any headaches or scams.
Tranquil dusk scene by a canal, showcasing a row of charming half-timbered buildings reflecting on the water, with a few people seated on the cobblestone bank under the soft glow of a streetlamp.

With its well-preserved medieval center, Strasbourg is truly a city unlike any other, and the fact that it looks so beautifully old-fashioned makes it a fairytale winter destination!

Our curated guide to the capital of France’s Alsace region will tell you everything you need to know to make the best of your trip to Strasbourg in winter (we also have guides to other French cities in winter, like Annecy).

Whether you’re interested in the history, the culture or the food, we’ve got you covered.

Best Things to Do in Strasbourg in Winter

Embrace the holiday spirit at the Christmas Market.

Nighttime view of Strasbourg's festive streets adorned with shimmering star-shaped lights, glowing gold bear decorations, and illuminated text reading 'Strasbourg Capitale de Noël' (Strasbourg, Capital of Christmas) against a backdrop of historic buildings.

Strasbourg truly comes alive during the Christmas season!

So much so, it is even known as the capital of Christmas (well, at least according to its own website!)

Strasbourg’s Christmas market tradition began in the 16th century, and it only gets better each year.

With over 300 quaint chalets in markets spread across the city, Strasbourg’s Christmas markets attract visitors from around the world who want to experience its one-of-a-kind Christmas spirit.

As you wander through the cobblestone streets, there are 13 distinct Christmas markets throughout the city.

Each market has its own selection of stalls offering beautiful artisanal crafts, regional knickknacks, and delicious food and drink!

The atmosphere in these markets is nothing short of magical, with dazzling decorations illuminating the city — all perfectly scored by the obligatory Christmas playlist.

You can visit the Christmas markets independently or join a local who will guide you to all their favorite spots and give you some tips for enjoying them!

Visit Notre Dame de Strasbourg.

Street view in Strasbourg featuring traditional half-timbered houses juxtaposed against the intricate Gothic architecture of Strasbourg Cathedral with its ornate facade and towering spire against a blue sky.

A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, Strasbourg’s Notre Dame cathedral is a must-see when visiting Strasbourg in winter (or any season, frankly).

The Cathedral took a long time to build: construction began in the 12th century and continued for several hundred years until it was completed in the 15th century.

But its history is even longer than that: Notre Dame de Strasbourg stands on the site of previous churches and Roman sites, and its foundation stone was laid all the way back in 1015.

The cathedral is known for its striking façade, with intricate stone carvings of biblical scenes and sculptures of angels and saints, as well as its soaring spires.

Fun fact: With a spire reaching 142 meters, the Notre Dame de Strasbourg was the tallest building in the world from 1647 to 1874!

In addition, it has an impressive astronomical clock, an important symbol of the Gothic architecture that you’ll see in other cities like Prague.

The cathedral, while being a major tourist attraction, retains important religious significance in the city, which you’ll see in full force if you visit Strasbourg at Christmas.

Learn about modern Europe at the Parliament of Strasbourg.

Modern multi-layered glass building of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, with a series of national flags on poles displayed in the forefront, under a cloudy sky in Strasbourg in winter.

Strasbourg is the current home of the European Parliament, one of the key institutions in the European Union.

This is a directly elected legislative body, and it shares authority with the Council of the European Union in Brussels.

A visit to the Strasbourg Parlamentarium provides an overview of the legislative process governing all of Europe!

You can take tours six days a week here, free of charge — learn more here.

Explore the picturesque streets of Petite France.

Historic half-timbered houses along a calm canal, reflecting perfectly in the water, with a decorative railing adorned with festive greenery and red bows in the foreground, set against a soft gray cloudy sky.

The enchanting Petite France is a cute little neighborhood where time seems to stand still.

Recognizable for its winding canals and Germanic half-timbered houses, Petite France was originally built to accommodate the local leatherworkers.

Because they needed water constantly for their work, the village was built around the canals.

As a result, it’s a bit like a little Venice!

While Petite France is lovely in the the spring with countless flower boxes in bloom, it also has a magical atmosphere in winter!

The medieval architecture, a unique fusion of French and German influence, offers an enchanted backdrop to postcard-perfect scenery.

Plus, as part of the Grande Ile, Petite France is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site!

Petite France is also known for its many historic bridges, such as the Ponts Couverts, which adds to the neighborhood’s romantic appeal.

A perfect area for a winter walk, Petite France features a mix of restaurants, cafés, art galleries, and artisan boutiques perfect for Christmas shopping.

Admire the Christmas tree at Place Kléber.

A brightly illuminated Christmas tree stands tall in a historic town square during nighttime, surrounded by traditional European buildings, with a church spire in the background. The tree's shimmering lights contrast beautifully with the warm glow emanating from the windows of the buildings, while blurred figures of people indicate activity and festivity in the square.

This impressive square is one of the most important places in the city center, and it’s especially scenic in the holidays when it is home to a beautiful Christmas tree!

Place Kléber is busy at all times of year, since it’s where several of the city’s main streets converge.

The square has high street shops and luxury boutiques, as well as cafés and restaurants, making it a popular destination for shopping, eating, and of course, people watching!

The area around Place Kléber transforms into one of Strasbourg’s most famous Christmas markets each December. You can’t miss it!

Go underground at the Caves Historiques des Hospices.

An atmospheric wine cellar with a vaulted stone ceiling and hanging lanterns casting a soft glow. Lined on both sides of the narrow aisle are large wooden wine barrels, some with visible labels. The stone floor, with its weathered appearance, guides the viewer's eyes to a distant figure, lending a sense of depth and intrigue to the scene.

Also known as the Historical Cellars of Strasbourg Hospital, the Caves Historiques des Hospices de Strasbourg are a unique place to visit when in Strasbourg.

These cellars date back to the Middle Ages. In the past, when resources were hard to come by, this hospital was a safe place for the poor to seek shelter and food.

In exchange for shelter and food, people would often pay in land — particularly, land that would be used for grape-growing, which allowed the hospital to accumulate enough vineyards to establish a significant wine cellar.

The wine cellar ceased most of its winemaking activities in the 1990s. But it’s slowly seeing somewhat of a resurgence. 

The Alsace region is reclaiming its winemaking traditions, giving the Hospital’s cellar a future.

A visit to the Caves Historiques is well worth your time. 

Touring the cellars takes less than an hour and offers an off-the-beaten-path glimpse into the city’s past.

Rumor has it the cellar still owns its oldest barrel – from the 15th century. Talk about fine wine!

Visit the Musée Historique de Strasbourg.

A picturesque European town scene featuring traditional buildings with pastel-colored facades and steep pitched roofs, situated alongside a calm canal. In the background, a Gothic-style church tower rises, contrasting with the more modest structures. A person in red is captured mid-motion while jogging.

Dive into Strasbourg’s past at the Historical Museum of Strasbourg.

This museum chronicles the city’s journey from its ancient Roman foundation to its contemporary significance to the European Union..

The building’s medieval architecture, located in Petite France, is a chapter of history in and of itself!

Admire the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg.

A grand European building with ornate architecture stands beside a canal, with a Gothic church tower in the background, under a clear blue sky.

For those with a passion for art, the Strasbourg Museum of Fine Arts is a must-visit, housed in the elegant Palais Rohan.

This prestigious museum houses a wide selection of European art, including pieces from Gothic period, the Renaissance, and up through the dawn of Impressionism.

You can find works by Goya, Rubens, and more amongst its artists.

Explore the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Strasbourg.

A man standing in a museum with the lights on while it is dark outside

Reflecting Strasbourg’s progressive streak, the Museum of Contemporary Art focuses on art from Impressionism onwards.

With nearly 20,000 works, you’ll find a wide variety of pieces, including an extensive collection of Impressionist art, photography, and contemporary pieces.

Artists in the permanent collection include Monet, Rodin, Kandinsky, Klee, Ernst, and more.

Savor the delicious local cuisine

Plate of Strasbourg local food, Alsatian cuisine of assorted meats including ham, sausages, and sliced pork, served with sauerkraut and a boiled potato.

Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region, which makes it the best destination to savor the traditional cuisine of the region!

Alsatian cuisine is known for its blend of French and German flavors. As a result, the food is rather hearty, and thus perfect for a winter day.

In the mood for an authentic culinary experience?

Head to Winstub du Pont du Corbeau, a traditional eatery that’s a favorite of locals and tourists.

You’ll find all the traditional dishes here, including sauerkraut, grilled ham, meatloaf and the obligatory spaetzle, the rib-sticking German noodle-dumpling hybrid.

Tire-Bouchon is another local favorite when it comes to enjoying la cuisine alsacienne.

In the mood for more of a unique dining experience?

Book a table at Brasserie Les Haras; it’s a little more pricy, but it’s worth the cost.

What’s so special about it? The dining room is actually part of an old farm that dates back to the 18th century!

You can also take a Strasbourg traditional food tour, which will bring you to several eateries that serve the best Alsatian cuisine!

This tour has you visit five different eateries, including samples of charcuterie, soft pretzels, cheeses, the traditional choucroute garnie, Alsatian wine and beer, and pain d’épices, the local spin on gingerbread.

Book a river cruise with Batorama.

Colorful historic half-timbered buildings along a river, with a covered wooden terrace on the water's edge while on a boat cruise

What better way to see Strasbourg than from the river?

Batorama is the best cruise in town, offering several tour options to choose from.

The best choice is the Grand Circuit, which takes you along Strasbourg’s main historic attractions in about an hour.

You can also choose to focus your visit on the Grande Ile, which will only take 45 minutes.

Several departures are offered every day, and you can book your cruise here.

Batorama offers cozy river boats in the winter, protecting you from the cold while you get to enjoy the views!

Rent a car and explore the surrounding villages.

Picturesque canal scene with vibrant half-timbered buildings reflecting on calm water, a stone bridge in the background, and festive decorations adorning the facades in the town of Colmar in winter.

OK, admittedly, winter may not be the best time to explore the vineyards of the Alsace region.

That said, it’s a fantastic time to drive through the picturesque villages and admire the Christmas markets of each town.

Thanks to its German influence, Alsace takes Christmas very seriously, so each village boasts its own festive market and Christmas tree!

If you have the time, rent a car for a day and head out into the countryside for an authentic Alsace experience — Colmar in winter is a special treat, in my opinion. 

When looking into renting a car, I recommend searching with Discover Cars, since they look through over 500+ agencies — including smaller European ones other car rental search engines miss — to find the best price on your rental.

Check car rental prices from Strasbourg here!

They also offer the most affordable full coverage insurance, usually around $8/day — great for peace of mind when renting a car in a foreign country, and about half the price of what you’ll generally get offered at the car rental counter.

Be sure to stop at a village restaurant and taste the locally produced wine.

You can follow the Route du Vin, which traverses Obernai, Ribeauvillé, Hunawihr, Riquewihr, Kaysersberg, and Eguisheim

If you don’t feel like renting a car, there are guided day trips like this one that will bring you to all the main sights along the area — and typically include a wine tasting to boot!

Where to Stay in Strasbourg

Enchanting evening streetscape featuring ornate festive lights hanging across the street, glowing illuminations on buildings, and a prominently lit "HOTEL" sign amidst decorated facades. The ambiance is further elevated by twinkling star-shaped lights and holiday decorations on the surrounding architecture.

Luxury: Hotel Cour du Corbeau Strasbourg – MGallery

The 4-star Hotel Cour du Corbeau is in a beautifully renovated building from the 1520s.

The rooms, updated with modern amenities such as automatic lights, feature have all sorts of creature comforts like plush bathrobes and comfortable beds.

The hotel’s location is convenient, with many city attractions within walking distance, and they have lots of nice touches like afternoon tea.

Mid-Range: BOMA easy living hotel

The chic hotel BOMA is a fun delight for the eyes, with contemporary design and vibrant colors to liven up a dreary winter day.

Rooms have modern furnishings with vintage accents like retro telephones, which carries through into the hotel’s public spaces, giving everything an eclectic and funky vibe.

Despite being so modern, the medieval vibes of the lovely Petite France is just a 10-minute walk away, making it a convenient choice in Strasbourg.

Budget: AC Hotel by Marriott Strasbourg

For the classic convenience of a chain hotel, the AC Hotel by Marriott Strasbourg is a great option.

It’s slightly out of the historic town center, closer to the newer parts of town like the European Parliament and the Exhibition Center, but you can still get everywhere you need to go quickly.

13 Best Things to Do in Winter in Toulouse

sunset in toulouse during the night time

If you’re planning a trip to France this winter but are not in the mood for the cold, hectic energy of Paris, head south and visit the beautiful city of Toulouse in winter instead!

With its historic landmarks, renowned museums and delicious food, Toulouse in the wintertime offers a variety of indoor and outdoor activities that offer something for every traveler.  

While Paris is famously referred to as the City of Lights, Toulouse is known as The Pink City, La Ville Rose, a name derived from the hue of Roman-era brickwoirk used in many of the city’s landmarks.

 Planning your trip to Toulouse at the last minute?

Here are my quick picks on what to do & where to stay!

🍷 Top Toulouse Experiences:
1. Victor Hugo Market and Food Tour of Toulouse
2. Expert-Led Wine Bar Walking Tour of Toulouse
3. Small Group Day Trip to Carcassonne

🏨 Best Toulouse Hotels:
1. Grand de L’Opera Toulouse (mid-range comfort in heart of city)
2. Boutique Hotel SOCLO (upscale luxury boutique hotel)
3. Hotel Wilson Square (central, basic but charming)

✈️ Flying in? Book an airport transfer with Welcome Pickups — they’ll greet you at the airport, help with bags, & bring you into the city, all pre-booked!
Toulouse at night with the St Sermin church lit up beautifully in the winter with bare trees showing the time of year

When the sun rises in the mornings, it illuminates the city’s architecture in soft shades of pink — absolutely stunning! 

Its mild, southern winter makes Toulouse a perfect destination during cold weather seasons, especially as this formerly former hidden gem of France.

Often overlooked by tourists more focused on Paris, Bordeaux, and the Côte d’Azur, Toulouse is not so secret anymore — crowds can be a real bother in the summer (meaning that winter in Toulouse is certainly one of the best times to go!).

As one of the most historic cities in France, Toulouse is home to many museums, historic buildings and cathedrals which offer a variety of indoor activities perfect for cold weather!

Caught in the rain? You’ll easily find refuge in one of many cafés, brasseries and restaurants, where delicious French Cuisine is served for a fraction of the Parisian prices.  

Read on to discover our full guide of best things to do in Toulouse in the wintertime, including what to see, where to go, what to eat, and how to take full advantage of the city’s love for the holiday season! 

The Best Things to Do in Toulouse in Winter

Discover French cuisine culture at the central market. 

a selection of french cheeses with handwritten signs on chalkboards

Le Marché Victor Hugo has been Toulouse’s main market for more than 120 years.

Whether you’re drawn into the indoor market to grocery shop like a local, or simply to enjoy a small meal or a drink in one of the excellent cafés or bars, you won’t be disappointed.  

Food is an essential part of French culture, and local markets are its truest features, in even the smallest villages.

If you visit just one market on your trip to Toulouse, the Marché Victor Hugo is highly recommended! 

Intimidated by the prospect of navigating it on your own? There are guided food tours of the market like this one.

This 3.5-hour food tour is led by a local, showing you all the secrets of a working French market.

From tasting wines and cheeses to the city’s best baguettes and unique regional specialties, this tour will give you a greater understanding of the Toulouse food scene.

Local specialities you’ll try include chocolatines, delicious farm-to-counter foie gras, expertly crafted local cheeses, and exceptional charcuterie. You’ll cap off the visit with a private wine tasting at a tonneau in the market!

Enjoy French wine and aperitifs.

Typical french aperitif: glass of french white wine and a glass of Ricard on the background, in a romantic atmosphere during a dinner for two in a bistro

It’s not a true French meal without an apéritif, a (usually alcohol-based) drink enjoyed before your meal.

And of course, that’s followed by the digestif, enjoyed after the meal.

For your apéritif, head to the trendy Mama Shelter Hotel.

And if you’re in the mood for a great drink after your meal, L’Apothicaire or DAda are both excellent.  

You can also take an expert-led wine bar walking tour of Toulouse to help you get acquainted with the city’s wine scene, which reflects the local viticulture of the surrounding area.

This tour explores the local apéro tradition of pre-dinner drinks with a 2.5-hour spin around Toulouse, trying three local wine bars and tasting the equivalent of three glasses of wine.

Don’t expect boring wines here — you’ll try unique regional varietals particular to Southwest France, like Braucol, Négrette, and Mauzac.

And of course, you’ll pair everything with local charcuterie and cheese, because you’re in France!

Admire stunning architecture of the Capitole. 

holiday scene at the capitole main square in toulouse in winter all decorated for the christmas season

Construction of the city’s main square and government center began in the 12th century.

As it was designed to serve as the consolidating government for the region’s growing power, it’s not a coincidence it was named after the Roman Capitol.  

The emblematic building’s façade is a masterpiece of neoclassical architecture starring the city’s characteristic pink bricks.

Visitors can tour several opulent reception halls inside the Capitole featuring some of the finest artworks by Paul Gervais and Henri Martin.  

As the Capitole is also the city’s government center, you should check its opening hours before your visit.

The Place du Capitole, the former royal square in front of the town hall, hosts a variety of markets and events throughout the year, most famously during the festive season.

Bask in holiday spirit at the Place du Capitole Christmas Market.

market stall full of toys in toulouse market

Toulouse’s Christmas Market is like a fairytale come to life!

Every year, in the month leading up to Christmas, the city’s main square is transformed into a Christmas wonderland.  

Wander around the many vendor chalets filled with unique, handcrafted Christmas goods while enjoying mulled wine.

Meander through the labyrinth of Christmas trees and you may even spot the city’s very own Santa Claus.  

Another fun highlight is the ice rink located in the heart of the Christmas Market.

There are ice skates available to rent and the price for admission is 5€ for 45 minutes.  

Take a day trip to Carcassonne.

Interior of the fortified city of Carcassonne near Toulouse in the winter with festive decorations for the christmas season

This fun day tour from Toulouse to the historic city of Carcassonne is the perfect way to spend a wintry day in Toulouse if you feel like you’ve exhausted the city’s sights!

Step back in time as you explore renowned sites like the Cité de Carcassonne and the Saint Nazaire Basilica.

An easy one-hour drive from Toulouse, Carcassonne is a unique UNESCO-listed fortified city, home to sights like the Counts’ Château and the iconic Ramparts.

This tour departs Toulouse at 9:30 AM and returns to Toulouse by 5:30 PM, just in time for a little bit of rest before dinner!

Become an astronaut at Cité de l’Espace. 

Cité de l’Espace museum in Toulouse, France with a large rocket

While you may not actually be able to lift off into space from the city’s Space Museum, it’s still an unforgettable experience that includes an outstanding planetarium.

You can easily spend a full day exploring the scientific wonders this museum has to offer. It’s also a great indoor activity for children, if you are traveling with family.  

The museum features original space travel engines and a rocket, along with fascinating overviews ofthe latest scientific discoveries. 

An IMAX theater shows a variety of documentaries about space travel and exploration.

Keep an eye on the museum’s website for special events hosted by the Cité de l’Espace!

Tickets are 23€ for adults, children and students pay a bit less. 

Wander the Canal du Midi and River Garonne. 

Canal du Midi in toulouse with winter trees

Winter weather in Toulouse is generally mild and ideal for long winter walks!  

The Canal du Midi, which runs from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996 and is well worth a visit. 

In Toulouse, the canal is framed by the Voie Verte, a green belt with walking and cycling trails that wind through the city, all the way to nearby villages in the beautiful surrounding area.  

The river Garonne runs through the city itself, and its beautiful riverbank park is a favorite amongst locals and tourists alike for picnics or a strolls.  

While the park is usually packed with people in the summer, wintertime finds it aa peaceful retreat of tranquility nestled in the heart of the buzzing city.  

Treat yourself to a night at opera

The exterior of the opera house in Toulouse
Photo Credit: Didier Descouens – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

The aforementioned Capitole city center is also home to the prestigious Théâtre du Capitole, an opera house, ballet company and orchestra concert hall. 

You don’t have to be an opera connoisseur to enjoy a show at the Théâtre du Capitole, as their program offers a rich variety of classics, including Puccini operas and Romeo and Juliet ballet performances.  

Check the theater’s website for other special events,  as there are often interesting artist talks, as well as seminars and workshops about the arts.

And during the winter holiday season, you can easily find themed concerts and shows.  

Ticket prices range between 10€ and 120€, depending on the event and your seating preferences.

The stunning interior of the theater alone is well worth splurging for a special night out!

Experience the Southern French cuisine.  

Duck confit , Roasted duck with blueberry sauce, in france

Even a true Parisian can’t deny that some of the best French dishes come from the country’s southern regions, particularly the southwest.

You may want to forget your healthy diet for a while, as the local cuisine is rich and often decadent.  

If you try just one local dish, go for the confit de canard, duck cooked in fat for at least 2 hours and usually served with potatoes and garlic.

Magret de canard is duck breast cooked in butter, with meat that’s slightly more tender, similar to roast beef.  

Another iconic dish from this region is foie gras.

Served as a pâté or mousse, this duck or goose liver specialty has a buttery taste and is usually accompanied by bread as an entrée. 

The dish is a French delicacy, though its production is controversial for animal welfare reasons.

Another dish very popular in rural areas of southwest France is cassoulet, a rich, meat-and-bean stew named after the traditional deep pot, or casserole dish, it is cooked in. 

Trying to decide where to eat dinner on a frosty winter day in Toulouse? Here are our top picks: 

Traditional Cassoulet dish served at a Toulouse restaurant
  • For a traditional cassoulet, check out La Cave au Cassoulet, located on Rue des Peyrolières. The restaurant’s unique decor and traditional cuisine make for a cozy experience.  
  • If you’re looking for more vegetarian options,  La Faim des Haricots is the place for you. This trendy restaurant located not far from the Capitole offers a varied vegetarian buffet.  
  • Le Genty Magre is a wonderful place to enjoy a good-quality meal. The chef made a name for himself by putting contemporary twists on classic French cuisine. 
  • While not for the budget-conscious, Restaurant Michel Sarran is an incredible experience. This renowned, 2 Michelin-starred restaurant is easily the best in Toulouse. If you want to treat yourself to an exquisite meal, this is the place to go.  

Immerse yourself in modern art at Les Abattoirs. 

Modern art museum in a former slaughterhouse in toulouse in winter
Photo Credit: By Didier Descouens – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

As the name suggests, this museum is located in a former industrial slaughterhouse, un abattoir, that was converted into an art center in the late 90s.

Its unusual architecture alone makes Les Abattoirs well worth a visit, but of course, the art is quite nice as well!   

This museum is dedicated to modern art and contemporary art, featuring emerging new artists and well-known icons like Niki de Saint Phalle or Fernand Léger.  

The museum’s variety of exhibitions range from paintings to sculptures and photography.

The entry fee is currently set at 9€ with reduced prices for children, groups and students.

Check out the Nocturne des Abattoirs if you’re in town on a Thursday – you’ll get in for only 3€ after 6 p.m. 

Learn about the regional language.  

sunset over the river in toulouse

Not many people know that the Occitan language is spoken in Toulouse as it is throughout the south of France and Monaco, as well as in parts of Italy and Spain.  

The number of native speakers of Occitan is so rapidly declining that UNESCO today includes Occitan on its list of endangered languages.

In order to preserve the region’s linguistic heritage, many schools in the area offer courses in Occitan.  

If you travel around southern France, you’ll come across many signs indicating street and village names in both French and Occitan.

Why not learn a few words of Occitan on your trip to Toulouse?  

Quick Language Tip: If you’ve ever ordered a pain au chocolat (chocolate bread) in the northern parts of France, don’t try to do the same in Toulouse!

Here the pastry is exclusively called a chocolatine, and the locals take this distinction very seriously. 

Warm up in Toulouse’s oldest café, Le Bibent.

exterior of a cozy cafe in toulouse
Photo Credit: Didier Descouens, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ideally located at Place du Capitole, Le Bibent is the oldest café and brasserie in Toulouse.

Stop here for a delicious café au lait or a chocolat chaud (hot chocolate).  

Opened in 1843, Le Bibent’s decor is breathtaking,  with both baroque and modern elements.  

Linger for a while and imagine yourself traveling back in time to the Belle Epoque, surrounded by the artists, writers and painters who made Le Bibent a local legend.  

Travel back in time through the Basilica of Saint-Sernin. 

The most prominent church in Toulouse is one of the most well-preserved Romanesque edifices in the world, as well as being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.   

Built between the 11th and 12th century, the architecture of this church is simply stunning. The church is also part of the Route of Santiago De Compostela, a network of Catholic pilgrimage routes.  

If you’re visiting on a sunny day, make sure to also stop at the Couvent des Jacobins, a Dominican monastery built in the 13th century, with a beautiful garden in the heart of this historic monument.  

Come in from the cold for retail therapy. 

sign for winter sales in french

If you visit Toulouse in January, you’ll find great deals everywhere!

Les Soldes, as this mega-sale is called in French, are almost a cultural institution in France, with every shop and every boutique offering great deals on their winter collections.  

And Toulouse is a great city to shop until you drop!

The Rue Alsace-Lorraine is the main shopping street where you’ll find all the high street brands.  

Nearby, the Rue Croix-Baragnon is home to prestigious designers and luxury boutiques, while Galeries Lafayette is your destination for an eclectic mix of designer French accessories and all things beauty supply.  

Where to Stay in Toulouse

Winter scene of a hotel in toulouse france with beautiful pinkish orange brickwork in the architecture

Mid-Range: Grand Hotel de l’Opera

The Grand Hotel de l’Opera offers a luxurious sanctuary in the heart of Toulouse, with colorful, aesthetic rooms with tons of personality, right on the bustling Capitole Square.

Known for its refined aesthetic that blends historical charm with modern comfort, the hotel provides its guests with impeccable service, gorgeous rooms, and convenient access to the city right at your doorstep

Check availability and prices here!

Luxury: Boutique Hotel SOCLO

The lovely four-star Boutique Hotel SOCLO has gorgeously designed rooms in charming pastel tones, modern bathrooms, and sumptuous daily breakfasts — all just a few blocks from the Garonne River.

The overall vibe is extremely elegant yet laid-back, exuding that classic Southern French charm everywhere, down to the L’Occitane bath products!

Check availability and prices here!

Budget: Hotel Wilson Square

The laidback Hotel Wilson Square is a no-frills but well-reviewed hotel in the center of Toulouse, a 15-minute walk from the train station and 200 meters from Place du Capitole.

Its rooms aren’t necessarily anything to write home about, but it’s clean, convenient, and central!

Check availability and prices here!

2 Days in Lyon: Itinerary for a Culture-Filled Trip

Famous view of Lyon from the top of Notre Dame de Fourviere

Nestled between the Rhône and Saône rivers, the enchanting city of Lyon offers an exciting (and more relaxed) alternative to Paris. 

With its grandeur and historical splendor, culinary wonders and vibrant culture, the third largest city in France is a must-visit destination for urban lovers and cinephiles alike.

Yes, cinephiles — did you know Lyon is considered the birthplace of cinema? 

Lyon’s famous Lumière brothers are named amongst the first cinematographers!

They first presented their apparatus capable of projecting a series of photographs, thereby creating the first motion picture cinema, around the end of the 19th century.

The city is also a paradise for food lovers, with its number of Michelin restaurants rivaling the capital.

view of lyon over the river with a bridge and a church

The surrounding Rhône region is world renowned for its Côte du Rhône wine, which is the perfect choice to accompany hearty Lyonnais dishes such as coq au vin and andouillette

Once the capital of Roman Gaul, Lyon was a major trading center during the Renaissance and a hub of silk production in the 19th century. 

Its historic old town, Vieux Lyon, is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets, Renaissance-era buildings, and hidden traboules (passageways) that were used by silk traders as well as resistance fighters during World War II.

With just 2 days in Lyon to explore this gastronomic haven, prepare to embark on a delightful journey filled with beautiful sights, mouthwatering food, and a touch of bohemian charm. 

Our Lyon itinerary is your ideal companion to make the most of your time in Lyon, leaving no stone unturned and no taste bud unsatisfied!

Day 1 of Your Lyon Itinerary

Get a feel for the city’s splendor in Vieux Lyon.

Colorful alleyways of vieux lyon with painted building facades and bright blue and yellow pops of detail

Begin your adventure in Lyon’s atmospheric Old Town, Vieux Lyon, where the enchanting blend of cobblestone streets and Renaissance-era buildings creates a nostalgic setting.

As you wander through its charming alleys, lined with artisan shops and lovely cafés, you’ll be quick to understand what makes this French city so enchanting.  

Start your day off on the right foot with a visit to a local boulangerie, where the aroma of freshly baked croissants fills the air.

Indulge in a delicious pastry paired with a cup of strong café au lait (or espresso however you like it), and get ready to immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of daily life in Lyon.

Take a glimpse into the past at Fourvière Hill.

View of the top of the staircase, on Fourvière Hill in Lyon, with the Basilica our lady of Fourvière visible in the distance.

The iconic Fourvière Hill is a historic site that towers over the city, offering a glimpse into Lyon’s majestic past.

This part of the city dates back to Roman times when Lyon was founded as Lugdunum in 43 BCE. 

Many of the monuments on the hill are now part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, emphasizing Lyon’s historic significance in French (and also world) culture.

Fueled by your delicious breakfast in Vieux Lyon, ascend the hill’s summit for the breathtaking panoramic view just waiting to unfold before your eyes. 

From this vantage point, you’ll have an unobstructed view of Lyon’s landscape, with the Rhône and Saône rivers intertwining down below.

Take a moment here to soak up the view before you continue your walk to one of the crown jewels of Lyon’s architectural splendor.

Admire the stunning basilica.

triple arch of the marble white basilica of fourviere with two spires with crosses atop it and lots of detail in the marblework sculpted into the building

At the pinnacle of Fourvière Hill, the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière stands as a symbol of Lyon’s rich heritage. 

Go inside to admire the golden mosaics that adorn the walls and ceilings of the basilica, as well as the stained glass windows which create a kaleidoscope of soothing colors.

If you’re interested, you can take your time here to explore the various chapels before you begin your descent from the hill. 

Be sure to also take a look at the Roman amphitheaters nearby as you head back down!

Have lunch on the Presqu’île between the Saône and Rhône River. 

Narrow streets surrounded by historic buildings of Presqu'Ile, looking up to the church on the hill

Descend from the hill and head to the tongue of land nestled between the Saône and the Rhône for a leisurely lunch at a highly recommended restaurant.

The lovely Le Sud is an esteemed culinary establishment and a cherished part of the legacy left behind by the late Paul Bocuse, the revered high priest of Lyon’s gastronomic culture. 

Alternatively, you may have spotted one of the many bouchons, Lyon’s traditional restaurants, while wandering through the Old Town.

Not sure where to look? You’ll find an array of mouthwatering menus on Rue St Jean in this district. 

For a more specific recommendation, Daniel & Denise, located just a few steps further on Rue Tramassac, comes highly recommended for a traditional meal in a rustic-chic ambiance.

To be honest, though, you can’t really go wrong in a bouchon; this is the food capital of France, after all, and standards are high! 

Of course, when in Lyon, you simply have to try the ever-popular coq au vin or the regional favorite, the quenelle (a fish dumpling that tastes so much better than it sounds) at least once! So long as you’re not a vegetarian, that is.

Fish quenelle in sauce with red wine and water

Savor the rich flavors while sipping on a glass of local wine for a perfect feast.

For an incredibly sophisticated culinary experience, Restaurant Paul Bocuse awaits you just 20 minutes outside of Lyon.

Culinary experts will know: this restaurant is amongst the select few establishments to have ever received 3 prestigious Michelin stars! 

This isn’t your everyday lunch, but it is a must-do pilgrimage for the Michelin-obsessed.

Take a walk along the riverfront.

Classical view on Lyon over the Pont Bonaparte bridge, which crosses over the Saone river, as seen in summer with the famous basilica on the hill.

After a satisfying (and stylish) late lunch, it’s time to walk off the calories and embark on a leisurely stroll along Lyon’s picturesque riverfront.

You’ll find a blend of Renaissance and Gothic buildings and monuments as far as the eye can see. 

Cross the charming Pont Bonaparte, a bridge that connects the two banks of the river, and venture into the vibrant Presqu’île district.

With its lively streets and boutique shops, this district is the perfect place to spend an afternoon exploring — time passes a little too easily here. 

As you wander around, be sure to take in the grandeur of the Place des Terreaux, a magnificent square adorned with fountains and surrounded by architectural masterpieces.

The Terreaux square in Lyon, with a majestic fountain with marble sculpturework.

This cosmopolitan quartier is a great spot to mingle with locals in pursuit of fashion, culture, and culinary delights.

On the southern tip of the Presqu’île, the Confluence district proudly rises from the docklands, aspiring to propel the modern Lyon into a bright future. 

The heart of this district is the futuristic Musée des Confluences

The architectural design itself is a work of art, resembling a floating cloud or a spaceship in a distinctive shape with a reflective façade.

The museum creates a mesmerizing visual against the backdrop of Lyon’s urban landscape and rich cultural heritage. 

Embark on a late-afternoon adventure through the traboules.

A traboule, a small passageway that leads to a courtyard, with pink building in Lyon

Technically, it might be best to embark on this next adventure before sunset… unless you’re feeling really (really) adventurous. 

Lyon is riddled with a hidden network of covered alleyways, each one a fascinating architectural wormhole weaving its way through buildings, revealing glimpses of courtyards and leading to unexpected street corners.  

The answer to what purpose the traboules serve remains elusive – so, naturally, many urban legends have been told.  

What remains undisputed is the invaluable role these traboules played during Lyon’s occupation by the Nazis in World War II.

Like masterful magicians’ tricks, they provided a vital means of escape for resistance fighters. 

Now, they’re an interesting way to pass some time in Lyon.

Have dinner out, go on a food tour, or wine taste.

sampling different florence tuscan wines

When it comes time to eat dinner, return to one of the restaurants on the list recommended above for lunch.

Alternately, if you want a little more guidance, you can treat yourself to an evening food tour to get to know Lyon’s gastronomy scene even better.

For the wine lovers amongst us, you can also do a wine and cheese pairing with a sommelier before you dine!

There’s a 2.5-hour wine tasting of local wines hosted at 6 PM, spitting you out flushed and prepared for dinner at the respectably French hour of 8:30 PM.

Day 2 of Your Lyon Itinerary

Start your day in Lyon’s gastronomic heart.

Gourmet food sold at Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, at a cheesemonger who is preparing fresh cheeses

Remember the Michelin restaurant we mentioned yesterday? Les Halles de Lyon – Paul Bocuse is a legendary gourmet food market named in his honor.

A haven for foodies, this market’s aisles are a delightful tangle of fresh produce, aged cheeses, mouthwatering charcuterie, and irresistible pastries.

Savor eying everything and consider selecting ingredients for a picnic by the river or a late-night feast later that night.

Nestled amidst the bustling stalls are charming coffee bars, which invite you to pause, sit down, and savor as many patisseries and macarons in every possible shape and color as you can stomach.

Visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts and the Institut Lumière.

Green patina of a bronze female figure sculpture in Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon, France (Beaux-Arts)

The esteemed Musée des Beaux-Arts, nestled within the walls of a former 17th century Benedictine convent, is a true temple for art lovers.

Mostly European art is showcased here, spanning from ancient times to contemporary works. 

Wandering through the museum, enjoy the feeling of traveling through history, taking in the works of artists such as Monet, Rembrandt, and Picasso.

The Lumiere brothers' house in Lyon (France) view of the detail of the ceiling

If you have some time to spare, or as an alternative to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, the Institut Lumière celebrates Lyon as the birthplace of cinema, paying homage to the cinematographic legacy of the Lumière brothers. 

Housed in the former residence of the Lumière family, inventors of the cinematograph, the museum pays homage to the history of cinema through exhibits, film screenings, and an extensive collection of film-related artifacts. 

Breathe in the fresh air at the Botanical Gardens.

Garden tete d or  in the greenhouse section of the park with lush pond with lotus plants and lily pads

The Parc de la Tête d’Or offers a (much-needed) serene escape from the bustling city streets.

Considered the lungs of Lyon, the park invites visitors to unwind with its lush greenery, tranquil lakes, greenhouses, and botanical gardens. 

To further unwind, check out the paddle boats which are available to rent on the lake — you’ll feel like you’re in an Impressionist painting as you do! 

As though all that wasn’t enticing enough, there’s also a rose garden at Tête d’Or, for you to quite literally stop and smell the roses.

If you’re visiting Lyon in the spring, make sure to stop by the Jardin du Rosaire nestled on the Montée Saint-Barthélémy.

arches with red, white, pink roses looking up at the beautiful white basilica on the hill in lyon while in a garden

You’ll find beautiful archways adorned with a magnificent array of blooming roses, in a wild spectrum of hues, from striking reds to soft pinks and creamy whites.

Want another place to get some fresh air? You’ve got it, but let’s keep it between us. Le Jardin Rosa Mir is one of Lyon’s best kept secrets. 

This garden was designed by the Spanish worker Jules Senis Mir, who, after an illness, dedicated years of his life to creating this artistic oasis in his backyard.

The pathways are lined with sculptures, roses, lavender and thyme, creating an eclectic (and rather Spanish) haven in the middle of the bustling city.

Explore the bohemian atmosphere of Croix-Rousse.

Croix-Rousse houses in shades of pink, orange, and yellow pastel, all on a hillside

Once known as the weavers’ quarter, the district of Croix-Rousse retains a slightly rebellious and working-class vibe, while slowly emerging into one of Lyon’s most fashionable areas. 

At the heart of the revitalized La Croix-Rousse stands the Village des Créateurs, a 19th-century passage brimming with artisan workshops and boutiques.

From unique ceramic pieces to designer vintage clothes, you can find anything and everything here. 

With its fusion of old and new, La Croix-Rousse provides a haven for artists, start-ups, entrepreneurs and designers looking to bring Lyon forward. 

Of course, you’ll also find a variety of coffee shops, bistrots and restaurants. 

For a light and healthy lunch, head to MOMENTO, a very chic café inspired by Australian coffee shops.

This is where you’ll find your almond lattes and matcha teas, should you tire of French espresso!

mural called "Mur des Canuts" (1987) in the Croix-Rousse district of Lyon with realistic garden-like trailing flowers

The mural paintings in Croix-Rousse are an integral part of the neighborhood’s artistic identity and add to its vibrant atmosphere.

The paintings showcase the neighborhood’s history, culture, and social issues as well as historic moments and local legends. 

Keep your eyes open for the Fresque des Lyonnais and the Fresque des Canuts, two monumental murals depicting daily life, notable residents and the iconic steps. 

End your trip with a boat cruise along the Rhône River. 

A beautiful lit up night view on the water, from St Georges bridge in Lyon with Fourviere cathedral on a hill

As the afternoon sun casts a warm glow over Lyon, end your Lyon itinerary by cruising along the Rhône River — with a dinner option, too!

Drift past the city’s picturesque landmarks, such as the Hôtel Dieu and the iconic Place Bellecour, while savoring a glass of local wine or even one more delicious dinner. 

You can book a 2.5 hour guided tour including a dinner here.

Whether you opt for a dinner cruise or a simple 1-hour sightseeing tour, most boats will depart from the Quai des Célestins or the Quai Rambaud, both conveniently located in the city center.

11 Things to Do in Arles, France’s Provençal Charmer

aerial landscape of the city of arles france

Nestled in the beautiful region of Provence, Arles quickly entrances visitors with its timeless charm.

The combination of Roman history, delicious cuisine provençale and an endless love for the arts is an exquisite mix found nowhere else. 

With a myriad of experiences to offer, and a stunning landscape on the edge of the Camargue, Arles offers something to explore for every traveler. 

the rooftops of the city of arles with view of sky and buildings

Of course, the legacy of Arles is forever entwined with the legacy of Vincent van Gogh.

The renowned Dutch painter spent a significant portion of his life in the southern town, where he created some of his most iconic and influential works. 

His time in Arles was marked by a period of intense artistic productivity and personal turmoil.

bright yellow house with shutters in blue and purple blooming flowers.

Inspired by the vibrant colors and picturesque landscapes of Provence, he found solace from his troubled life in Arles, which forever remained his muse. 

A simple walk through the winding streets and colorful passages could very well ignite your own creative spirit.

As you wander through the narrow streets, a feast of visual delights unfolds before your eyes and it’s easy to see the magic that drew van Gogh to this gorgeous place.

colorful shutters and traditional houses in arles, france

Each house in the city boasts its own unique character, proudly displaying a palette of soft pastel details.

The shutters, painted in hues of lavender, sky blue, and sunshine yellow, all add a unique charm to the historic architecture of Arles. 

If you’re visiting during the summer, make sure to attend Les Rencontres d’Arles, the city’s renowned festival dedicated to photography and visual arts.

Many exhibitions are held in historic venues, reflecting the fascinating fusion of art and history that makes Arles so unique. 

The Best Things to Do in Arles

Explore Arles’ exquisite amphitheatre.

The Arles Amphitheatre, Roman arena in French town of Arles, with sunlight falling on it beautifully

Step back in time and discover Arles’ captivating history, the roots of which date back over 2,000 years.

Begin your explorations at the magnificent Amphitheatre, a UNESCO World Heritage site as well as one of the town’s most iconic landmarks. 

Inspired by the grandeur of Rome’s Colosseum, the French amphitheater in Arles was constructed just a decade after its Roman counterpart. 

Ever since the Roman Empire succumbed to the tides of history in the 5th century, the amphitheater has undergone constant transformation, reminding the Arlésiens that nothing is forever. 

Admire more ruins at the Roman Theatre.

Ruins of the old roman theatre in Arles - UNESCO heritage site in France

Continue your historical journey by visiting the ancient Roman Theatre, Théâtre Antique d’Arles, another testament to Arles’ Roman past.

Construction on this historical treasure was overseen by the Emperor Augustus. 

While the remnants of this once-majestic theater may appear modest today, the enduring presence of these ruins serves as a humbling reminder of the passage of time.  

Don’t forget to explore the Cryptoporticus, a subterranean gallery beneath the Forum Square offering a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of ancient Arles.

See through the eyes of Vincent van Gogh at the Place du Forum.

Detailed view of "Place du Forum" in Arles, Provence, France

Immerse yourself in the world of Vincent van Gogh, an artist who found boundless inspiration within the enchanting town of Arles. 

As you wander around the winding streets of this picturesque destination, you’ll soon discover scenes that have sparked the imaginations of countless artists throughout history. 

Take some time to admire the Place du Forum, forever immortalized in Van Gogh’s renowned masterpiece, Café Terrace at Night.

Step into the painting’s vibrant realm as you soak in the same charm and allure that once inspired the master himself. 

The square is lined by cafés and restaurants – perfect to wind down and take it all in. 

Visit the Van Gogh Foundation.

fondation van goh image with the word vincent painted in front
Image: Rolf Süssbrich – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re interested in Van Gogh’s creative process and would like to delve deeper into his artistic genius, a visit to the Van Gogh Foundation is an absolute must. 

This art center, established to honor his life and works, offers a captivating journey through the painter’s masterpieces.

Here, you can explore the interactive exhibits and engage with multimedia presentations that provide invaluable insight into Van Gogh’s profound artistic genius as well as his troubled mind. 

The fundamental principle of the Foundation intertwines the works of the Dutch master with those of contemporary artists, creating a thought-provoking dialogue between past and present. 

Learn more art history at Espace Van Gogh.

Patio with blooming flowers in the historic old house "Espace Van Gogh" in Arles, Provence, Cote d'Azur, France

Van Gogh’s legacy resonates from every corner of your artistic journey through Arles, with Espace Van Gogh being another must-visit. 

Arles’s former hospital, built in the 16th and 17th century, rose to fame when it hosted the troubled artist after a psychotic episode. 

While this period brought forth a multitude of paintings, it is also synonymous with his descent into depression.

To honor the painter’s genius and legacy, the Espace is now a cultural hub and important meeting point for contemporary artists. 

It’s also been giving an uplifting renovation, with a beautiful central garden with bright colors and flowers, honoring van Gogh.

Time your visit to make the most of Arles’s cultural experiences.

men on horseback during the festivities of the feria

Arles is a city brimming with cultural vitality, which truly comes alive during the summer months. 

Les Rencontres d’Arles, an internationally acclaimed photography festival, is an annual extravaganza captivating photographers, artists, and enthusiasts from every corner of the globe. 

Throughout the month of July, Arles is graced with a variety of exhibitions, workshops, and lectures that pay homage to the remarkable art of photography. 

This is a must-visit for anyone fascinated by photography, and a prestigious award is presented to a young talent every year by the House of Dior. 

If you’re looking for an authentic and exciting (though admittedly not PETA-approved) experience, plan your visit to coincide with the Feria d’Arles, an exuberant bullfighting festival that goes on in the city in both April and September. 

Between the tense atmosphere of the bullfights, the parade of horses marking the abrivado and bandido ceremonies (arrivals and departures of the bulls), the parades that paint the streets with vibrant colors, and the echoes of traditional melodies that infuse the air with fervor, this festival is not for the faint-hearted.

It is, however, a once in a lifetime opportunity to bear witness to the profound passion that the people of Arles hold for their cultural heritage.

You can actually preorder the bull arriving from the arena at the butcher shop in the Roquette neighborhood! 

The classic dish including bull is called Gardiane de Taureau. 

Dish Gardiane de Taureau, gardianne, or daube camarguaise bull slow cooked stew served with rice from Camargue with vegetables, tastes of Camargue, Provence

The Camargue AOC bull, raised locally, is marinated with onions, thyme, bay leaves, orange peels, and sometimes fennel and celery. It is then covered in red wine and a touch of vinegar.

After a night of marinating in the refrigerator, the gardiane is cooked in a large pot or cocotte, allowing everyone to add their favorite ingredients.

A few lardons are added to enrich the flavors, and the dish is served alongside Camargue red rice, creating a perfect culinary combination.

Indulge in Arles’ other culinary delights.

the dish of provence ratatouille

In Arles, you’ll taste the very essence of the Mediterranean, where dishes are crafted with an artful blend of fresh herbs, velvety olive oil, and sun-kissed flavors. 

As you explore the gastronomic landscape of Arles, be sure to experience the vibrant Saturday market at the Place du Forum, a lively weekly ritual.

For something savory, seek out the best tapenade, a savory spread made from olives, capers, and anchovies.

Alternately, sink your teeth into socca, a savory chickpea pancake that has a crisp exterior and a tender, melt-in-your-mouth center.  

And, whatever you do, don’t pass up the opportunity to savor the iconic ratatouille, a vibrant medley of seasonal vegetables simmered to perfection, all bursting with the true essence of La Provence. 

On the corner of Rue des Porcelets, Maison Genin is the neighborhood butcher, famous for an authentic Arles saucisson, unchanged in its traditional recipe for over three centuries.

arles saucisson for sale at a market

This culinary delight is meticulously crafted from pork, small lardons, a hint of garlic, and red wine. 

L’Epicerie du Cloître is another treasure trove for all the foodies amongst you.

While the restaurant serves delicious tapas on a small shaded square, you’ll also find a grocery corner selling vinegar, sauces, spices… as well as artisanal tins of food! 

Explore Arles’ great bistro scene.

Arles city, France. Outdoor cafe tables in Arles. with traditional black and white chairs and round tables.

For a truly unforgettable dining experience, venture into the heart of Arles and discover its charming bistros where the chefs effortlessly rival any northern Michelin-starred restaurant. 

Jardin des Arts is a great lunch spot while Le Gibolin serves hearty local dishes with a gastronomic twist.

Inari is the en vogue lunch/dinner spot for a sophisticated ambiance and gastronomic experience curated by Céline Pham. 

For a Michelin culinary extravaganza, La Chassagnette is the place to be. 

Le Galoubet is a favorite amongst artists and muses alike. 

Café Factory République is a great hang-out place for a coffee or a drink. At Mangelire, you can find your new favorite book while you get your caffeine fix. 

Whether you choose a traditional bouillabaisse or succumb to a delicate lavender-infused dessert, Arles will delight either way!

Get inspired at LUMA.

the famous building of luma in arles

LUMA Arles serves as a vibrant hub for artists, intellectuals, and creative minds from around the world, fostering collaboration, experimentation, and dialogue. 

The inception of LUMA Arles can be attributed to the vision and support of Swiss art collector and philanthropist, Maja Hoffmann.

With a genuine commitment to nurturing creativity and cultural innovation, Hoffmann transformed an expansive industrial site in Arles into a dynamic cultural campus. 

Designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry (originally from California, Gehry also designed the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris), the LUMA Arles complex stands as an architectural marvel. 

Gehry’s design work here harmoniously blends the industrial heritage of the site with his signature organic and sculptural forms. 

gehry architecture in luma building in arles

The centerpiece of the complex is the striking 56-meter-high Silo Tower, a cylindrical structure that has been transformed into exhibition spaces, housing an array of contemporary artworks.

The LUMA tower is conceived as a fusion emerging from both the city’s Roman heritage and a distinctive futuristic style. 

This towering, twisting edifice, adorned with 11,000 gleaming metal panels, is reminiscent of fish scales and perfectly embodies the fluidity and aquatic forms that characterize Gehry’s designs. 

Shop your way through Arles.

shop selling its wares in arles, france

If you want to get a little chic shopping done, Arles is your place!

One option is Moustique, a concept store curated by Brigitte Benkemoun and Sylvie Demaiziere and a must-see destination.

Celebrating the region’s local craftsmanship, the store sells delicate fabrics, pottery, hats, colognes, soaps and decorative art. 

Book lovers will want to stop at Actes Sud, the book shop in Arles.

Aside from its extensive collection of French and foreign literature, Actes Sud has some beautiful rare editions and also hosts lectures and a variety of events. 

For the scent-obsessed, La Parfumerie Arlésienne is a treasure trove of scents, candles, colognes and delicate perfumes.  

Continuing on the fragrance theme, La Maison Fragonnard, originally founded in 1926 in Grasse, just recently opened a boutique hotel in Arles!

The shop features a curated selection of the brand’s scents, candles, decorative items and clothes, while the upstairs of the chic townhouse has been converted into a guesthouse. 

If you love treating yourself to some natural skincare, head over to Boutique Alyscamps Cosmétiques.

Founded by Julie Faivre-Duboz, a former pharmacist and doctor, the boutique specializes in delightful natural products created from local ingredients like olive oil and sunflowers. 

Catch an exhibition at Musée Réattu.

North facade of Reattu Museum in Arles, France, on the riverfront

Housed in a former 15th-century priory, the Réattu Museum showcases a diverse collection of artworks spanning different periods and styles, with a particular focus on contemporary art and photography.

The museum takes its name from painter Jacques Réattu (1760-1833), who was born in Arles. 

Réattu produced mostly neoclassical paintings. He started his work in honor of King Louis XVI before adhering to the ideals of the French Revolution. 

After a 20-year hiatus in his career, the artist rediscovered inspiration again in his later years, producing several masterpieces exhibited at the museum today. 

The museum hosts a dynamic, ever-changing series of temporary exhibitions.

Admire the scenery and wild horses of Camargue.

pink hued salt flats of the camargue in france

Arles is the gateway to one of France’s most beautifully unique regions: the Camargue.

Prepare to be mesmerized as you witness the otherwordly landscapes and encounter the magnificent wild horses that roam freely in this unique protected space.

The contrast of white and pink salt flats against the deep blue of the sky and creates a breathtaking spectacle on this terrain dotted with salt pans, marshes, and lagoons. 

white camargue horses with marsh scenery behind them

Camargue is particularly known for its white horses which you can observe in their natural habitat, grazing peacefully or galloping across the marshes, a symbol of the untamed spirit of the Camargue. 

Keep your eyes peeled for vibrant flamingos wading through the shallow waters, and a myriad of other bird species that thrive in this unique ecosystem!

The Camargue — a beloved bird sanctuary — preserves rare species through their remarkable ecological conservation work. 

French Riviera Road Trip: An Epic 5-Day Côte d’Azur Itinerary

view of the cours saleya market and the nice seafront and sand and palm trees

Imagine driving along the azure Mediterranean coastline, past charming hilltop villages, glamorous cities, and luxurious yachts bobbing on the glittering waters of glitzy harbors.

That’s the essence of a French Riviera road trip: a luxe yet quaint stretch of coastline in the southeastern corner of France.

This Côte d’Azur road trip takes about five days to complete, but you can adjust it to your pace — take a few extra nights in a destination to make this a weeklong itinerary, or skip a town or two to condense it to three or four days.

views from the vantage point with stunning waters

We’ll start in the bustling city of Nice before proceeding to the quaint old town of Antibes, then to Cannes, famed for its iconic film festival but worthy of a visit for its many other offerings.

We then wind our way to the glitz and glamor of Saint-Tropez, exploring the cobbled lanes of Eze, stopping by the perfumeries of Grasse, and venturing into the exclusive Monaco (and ticking off another country while we’re at it!).

We cap the trip off at the breathtaking peninsula of Cap-Ferrat, for an idyllic finale!

Getting Around the French Riviera

blue and white striped umbrellas on the beach

When looking for a rental car, I always use Discover Cars to search for the best deal for multiple reasons.

I also always search from the airport as my pick-up destination, because the prices are usually the best there.

For this French Riviera road trip, picking up at the Nice Airport would make the most sense.

It’s also best to plan to return to your original pick-up point via car to avoid hefty one-way fees!

Tip: Make sure you book your car rental with full coverage insurance for peace of mind — it starts at only $7 per day, cheaper than you’d get at a rental agency!

🚗 Best France Rental Car Prices: Discover Cars

This search engine not only looks at the typical rental car agencies (which can be $$$), it also looks at local, small French rental agencies that may offer better deals. Their pricing is straightforward (no bait-and-switches) and they offer free cancellation if you need it.

➜ Check rental prices for the French Riviera here!

Day One of Your French Riviera Itinerary

Start your trip in the sun-drenched city of Nice.

Nice France promenade with palm trees and fancy building

With a unique blend of French and Italian culture, Nice is the perfect starting point for your trip.

You can easily catch a flight to its international airport or travel down from Paris by train in just a few hours.

Walk along the Promenade des Anglais.

Nearly empty seaside boulevard with a bike path in Nice with palm trees and houses

To make sure you get to see as much as possible, start your day early with a morning walk on the famous Promenade des Anglais, the city’s most prestigious seafront boulevard.

Enjoy the stunning views and take the time to soak up the southern sun as you stroll the promenade.

Your eyes will be torn between the beauty of the azure waters to one side and the beautiful architecture, like the Nice Opera House, along the Promenade on the other!

You can stop and relax on the beach for a bit if you want — there are a bunch to choose from! — before moving onto your next stop.

Explore the beautiful Vieux Nice area.

narrow yellow building with cafe and outdoor seating and motorbike and a sign leading to le chateau

After you work up an appetite walking around, head to the old town, Vieux Nice, for breakfast.

With its colorful buildings, historic monuments, narrow streets and bustling markets, the old town of Nice is the perfect place to stroll around for a few hours.

A few sights in Vieux Nice that may be of interest: Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate, the Porte Fausse, and Lascaris Palais.

Stop by the local open-air market.

Cours Saleya Market outdoor market with striped umbrella stalls with fresh food and people walking around

While in the Old Town, be sure to stop by the Cours Saleya Market!

This beautiful open-air market is the perfect place to pick up a few delicious local delicacies or grab a coffee while immersing yourself in the lively atmosphere.

Seafood lovers, rejoice: the cuisine niçoise features some of the best fresh seafood in the country.

Don’t miss out on its Pan Bagnat, a delicious tuna sandwich and the famous salade niçoise.

Take a walk up Castle Hill for gorgeous views of Nice.

Beautiful mosaic design along the staircase leading to the site of the ancient castle on Castle Hill in the Mediterranean city of Nice

For a breathtaking panoramic view of the city and the Mediterranean, walk up to Castle Hill through the gardens and simply take a moment to admire the beauty.

There’s an artificial waterfall here that is simply lovely, and there are gardens, mosaics, and sculptures to admire.

But the real kicker is the incredible view of Nice you get from the viewpoint!

a woman sitting at the viewpoint on castle hill with views over all of nice, with beautiful sand and seaside towns

Walk down from the castle hill and spend the rest of your afternoon in Nice tying up loose ends and seeing anything you missed earlier.

For art lovers, the Musée d’Art Moderne is a must-see destination.

Inaugurated in 1990, the museum is home to a variety of French and international artists, most notably exhibiting works of Yves Klein and Niki de Saint Phalle.

Go on an artistic journey in Antibes.

the old town of antibes in france with beautiful doors and flowers and shutters

In the afternoon, drive to Antibes, a charming town located just 30 minutes from Nice.

This is where Fitzgerald found his place in the sun, fought endlessly with Zelda and wrote parts of Tender is the Night as well as The Great Gatsby.

The villas on the cliffs of Antibes were also home to a variety of major figures of literature’s ‘Lost Generation’, such as Jon De Pasos, Gertrude Stein and Dorothy Parker.

Yet another iconic creative figure who couldn’t resist the charm and tranquility of Antibes was Pablo Picasso, who spent many years on the French Riviera and created some of his most accomplished work here.

Visit the Picasso Museum, housed in an old chateau.

The main can’t-miss place in Antibes is the exquisite Musée Picasso of Antibes.

It’s housed in the impressive Château Grimaldi and was founded in 1966 with many of the works donated by Picasso himself.

Speaking of the château, the building itself is also impressive, beyond the legendary artwork it now houses — not least for its stunning view!

Originally a magnificent residence for the Grimaldi family, the castle has a fascinating history that dates all the way back to the 14th century.

Wander the ramparts of Antibes.

Old buildings and fortified walls of Antibes near the Mediterranean sea, French Riviera, France

Take a stroll around Antibes’ old town and wander along the ramparts that still surround the city to soak up its rich history.

The views of the Mediterranean and its sailboats and yachts, paired with the old-world beauty of the Old Town of Antibes, is simply breathtaking.

Take a dip in the sea.

Beatiful coastal path on the Cap d'Antibes, France.

If you’re in the mood for a refreshing dip, head down to Cap d’Antibes.

This beautiful peninsula is home to sumptuous villas and gardens along the majestic coast — and it’s also a great place to jump into some waters for a little swim!

Spend the evening in Juan les Pins.

Red and white umbrellas and chairs on the beach of Juan les pins

The spectacular beach of Juan les Pins is a must-visit, and it’s the perfect way to cap off the first day of this French Riviera itinerary.

Treat yourself to a drink with a view at the Fitzgerald Piano Bar, which pays homage to the artists who loved this small Riviera town.

The artists of the Lost Generation, with Francis and Zelda Fitzgerald presiding, made Juan les Pins the most en vogue place to be on the Riviera.

The champagne-filled decadence of a life lived at night is still welcomed here!

Where to Stay in Antibes:

Budget: In the old town near the Picasso Museum, Irin Hotel is a great budget-friendly choice. It’s not super fancy, but it’s a great place to lay your head for the night, enjoying comfortable and clean air-conditioned rooms. Breakfast is available at the next-door brasserie.

>> Check rates and availability here!

Mid-Range: In the Old Town just a few hundred feet from the port and the beach, Hotel Relais Du Postillon offers stunning rooms in a prime location. There’s a variety of room types, and the design is unique to each one.

>> Check rates and availability here!

Luxury: For a luxury stay, check into the Hôtel La Villa Port d’Antibes & Spa. Enjoy the inviting waters of the outdoor swimming pool, enjoy craft cocktails made by expert mixologists, or indulge at the “by Sothys” spa with its a serene hammam and sensory shower.

>> Check rates and availability here!

Day Two of Your French Riviera Itinerary

Grab something to eat at the Marché Provençal.

Bust of general Championnet located in front of a provencal market in Antibes, France

Before you hit the road again, make sure to stop at the Marché Provençal, the bustling local market of Antibes.

Soak up the vibrant atmosphere, indulge in some shopping or simply admire the colorful displays of fresh produce before you head west to your next destination.

Grab something hearty to keep you going for a bit — we’ve got a full day ahead!

Immerse yourself in the cinematic world of Cannes.

blue and yellow striped umbrellas on the beach in cannes with water, coastline, mountains in distance

Synonymous with its star-studded film festival, Cannes is one of the most glam cities on the French Riviera.

But even when it’s not festival time, Cannes is always worth a visit for its beautiful beaches, stunning views, and sophisticated style.

Admire the Palais des Festivals, a piece of film history.

futuristic architecture in downtown cannes where you can find the palais des festivals where the cannes film festival takes place

Make sure you stop by the Palais des Festivals where the Cannes Festival takes place every year.

This modern work of architecture is a marvel, so even if you’re not a film buff, the architecture is something to gawk at!

You can even walk up the famous steps to practice your red-carpet skills (you know, just in case…)

Walk the beautiful Croisette.

a sign that reads 'cannes' walking down the preomande

The Palais is located right on the Croisette, Cannes’ seafront promenade, lined with palm trees, luxury hotels, and designer boutiques.

Strolling through, it’s hard not to feel like a star!

This is also where you’ll find the public beach, Croisette Beach, which is a good place for a swim if you’re in the mood for a dip.

Explore the charming Le Suquet.

the old town of cannes with pink, yellow, pastel colored buildings

Once you’ve explored the modern part of town, it’s time to jump back in time a bit.

Cannes’ old town, Le Suquet, marks a beautiful contrast to the modern cinematic city.

The medieval quarter is filled with cobblestone streets, colorful houses and picturesque squares.

Marvel at the church and its views.

Notre-Dame Esperance church in Cannes city in French riviera, with sea views behind it

For magnificent views of the city and the Mediterranean, you can climb up to the top of Notre-Dame-de-l’Espérance, a 12th century church.

The views here are unparalleled!

Start heading back to the main town: while you’re strolling through the streets of Cannes, keep your eyes open and admire the ever-present street art.

You’ll find mural paintings celebrating famous actors, films, and cinematic masters.

Take a ferry to the Lérins islands.

Cannes, Lérins islands, Sainte Marguerite island, natural preserve

Another great fun thing to do while you’re visiting Cannes is to take a ferry to the nearby Lérins Islands.

The charming islands make up a small nature reserve with trails for hiking and beaches for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling.

The larger one, Île Sainte-Marguerite, is also home to a historic fort that was once used as a prison (I guess at least it didn’t have a bad view?).

beautiful peaceful Lerins Abbey Cistercian monastery on the island of Saint-Honorat on the French Riviera monastic community near Cannes France

Meanwhile, the smaller of the two, Île Saint-Honorat, is home to Lérins Abbey, a monastery that monks have inhabited since the 5th century.

This is a stunning photo spot and just an all-around beautiful stop on this French Riviera itinerary.

Get a taste of the exquisite glamor of Saint-Tropez

aerial view of the coastal town of st tropez on the french riviera

Glamorous Saint-Tropez is certainly amongst the most stylish (and scandalous) destinations in France.

This formerly tranquil oasis on the Riviera rose to fame in the 1950s when Brigitte Bardot came to Saint Tropez to film And God Created Woman with Roger Vadim.  

Following this experience, Bardot famously fell in love with Saint Tropez and purchased the villa La Madrague.

Boats in a port of Saint Tropez, France

Her love of Saint Tropez went on to make the coastal town a jet set paradise for the rich and famous, conveniently located just a 30-minute drive from Cannes.  

In 1968, Alain Delon and Romy Schneider starred in the French classic La Piscine, which was shot in a sumptuous villa on the cliffs of Saint Tropez. The beautiful scenery depicted in this film can still be seen today!

Visit the local cinema museum.

Musée de la Gendarmerie et du Cinéma

While Saint-Tropez is famous for its nightlife and luxury, the old town’s historic monuments are also worth a visit.

Movie fans may want to visit the Musée de la Gendarmerie et du Cinéma, which explores the city’s cinematic history. 

Before you set off on the road for the next city, a visit to the Old Harbor is also a must! 

Take a little drive to nearby Ramatuelle.

the hilltop town of ramatuelle

Make sure you drive up to Ramatuelle on the outskirts of Saint-Tropez to enjoy a magnificent view.  

This hilltop town is quaint and charming, and its views are hard to beat.

Enjoy the town before returning to Saint-Tropez for the evening.

Where to Stay in Saint-Tropez:

Budget: St-Tropez is quite pricy, so for a budget-friendly alternative, look at Hotel La Romarine just outside of the city, a short drive away. There’s a swimming pool, olive groves and palm trees, and beautiful rooms with balconies — but because it’s outside the main town, the price isn’t shocking.

>> Check availability and rates here!

Mid-Range: The charming La Bastide Du Port is a great mid-range property with exquisite design — without a shocking price tag. The rooms have a gorgeous Provençal design style, with lovely views from the windows offering either a sea or garden view. 

>> Check availability and rates here!

Luxury: The stunning 5-star hotel, Domaine de l’Astragale, has all you’d need to basically live there: huge lush gardens, four heated swimming pools, tennis court, the list goes on. There’s an on-site restaurant and bar, as well. The rooms are huge, most with a balcony or their own private garden, and some even have their own spa bath tub!

>> Check availability and rates here!

DAY 3 of Your French Riviera Itinerary

Scents and sensibility: Explore the perfume capital of Grasse  

Old town of Grasse, town in Provence famous for its perfume industry, France

In the hills above the French Riviera, Grasse is where the warm Mediterranean climate and fertile soil create ideal growing conditions for flowers.

Grasse and its surrounding region is particularly well-suited for growing jasmine, lavender and roses which are amongst the key ingredients in many perfumes. 

It’s no surprise, then, that Grasse has been a hub for the perfume industry since the 16th century.

Local artisans have been experimenting over centuries with techniques for distilling and blending fragrances, which led to the creation of many iconic perfumes, including perhaps most famously Coco Chanel’s N°5.   

There are lots of free things to do in Grasse, but one thing you really ought to set aside some time and money for is a perfume tour — it’s what the city is known for, after all!

Take a perfume tour in Grasse.

Old town of Grasse, town in Provence famous for its perfume industry, France

Since Grasse is home to several historic perfume factories, you should absolutely make the most of the chance and take a tour to learn about the perfume-making process and the history of this unique artisanal expertise. 

Some of the most famous factories include Fragonard (my personal fave!)you can book their perfume tour online here, as well as Molinard and Galimard.

Several museums and festivals are also dedicated to the town’s perfume industry.  

Wander around the Old Town of Grasse.

Idyllic market square in Grasse, France

Beyond its modern perfumeries, Grasse’s old town is a stunning maze of picturesque streets, cafés and shops.

Be sure to save some time to wander around and get lost here.

Explore some of the nearby towns.

The charming stone town of Gourdon nearby to Grasse

The town is beautifully located as well, nestled between majestic landscapes which make for great hikes in the surrounding natural beauty, carefully preserved by the regional National Park.   

Make sure to stop in a few smaller villages along the way.

Some of your options include Gourdon, Cabris, Tourrettes-sur-Loup and the town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence, which features the awe-inspiring Chapelle du Rosaire, designed by Henri Matisse in 1940.  

Where to Stay in Grasse:

Budget: For a charming and affordable stay, look to La Bellaudiere, which is a converted 16th century house that is now a lovely guesthouse. Best of all, you can enjoy your breakfast either delivered to your room or eaten on the lovely terrace.

>> Check rates and availability here

Mid-Range: For a unique stay, there’s nowhere like Roulotte De Charme, a little wooden caravan with lovely blue-doors and shutters that you can stay in — set in a lovely garden with farm animals like donkeys! But don’t worry, it’s quite modern — you’ll enjoy WiFi and A/C, and there’s even a private little hot tub to enjoy!

>> Check rates and availability here

Luxury: The lovely Bastide Saint Antoine is part of the beloved Relais & Châteaux, known for its hospitality and gorgeous properties. In a building dating back to the 18th century, this lovely converted mansion has spacious Mediterranean gardens and an outdoor pool. The rooms are extremely elegant and lovely, some with clawfoot bathtubs and terraces.

>> Check rates and availability here

Day Four of Your French Riviera Itinerary

Visit the second smallest country in the world.

the exotic garden of monaco viewing the coastline in the distance on a sunny summer day

Why not tick off another country on this French Riviera road trip itinerary?

The tiny sovereign city-state of Monaco is famous for its glamorous lifestyle, high-end shopping, luxurious hotels and, of course, for its royalty.

The Grimaldi family has ruled Monaco for over 700 years, elegantly representing Monaco’s luxury as well as its rich history and culture across the world.

Channel your inner Grace Kelly walking along the beautiful botanical gardens or gamble the night away like James Bond at the Monte Carlo Casino. No matter your tastes, Monaco has a lot to offer.

beach in monaco with red umbrellas

Monaco is also a world ambassador for the arts as well as for humanitarian action.

It’s an easy mistake to make, but don’t think of Monaco as just a glamorous vacation destination, as the Monegasques are a very proud people with a long history.

Take a stroll around the Old Town, visit the Cathedral to pay your respects to Princess Grace of Monaco’s final resting place, and treat yourself to a royal meal in one of the many high-end restaurants.

The Oceanographic Museum is also a highlight.

Even if you don’t have time to visit the museum, don’t miss out on the majestic view.

And of course, no trip is complete without an afternoon spent soaking up the sun at the Larvotto Beach.

Spend the night in Eze.

the hilltop town of eze as seen from the bottom of the hill with a pink flower bush

Monaco is a very expensive place to visit, and there are extremely limited accommodation options, so head to the next place on your French Riviera road trip: Eze.

Located just 30 minutes from Monaco, it’s a short drive to end up in.

Where to Stay in Eze:

Budget: For an affordable and convenient hotel, check out Hôtel La Villa d’Eze, right in the heart of the town. The rooms are a little small, but it’s quite functional, with modern updated bathrooms and a lovely terrace to dine at. 

>> Check rates and availability here

Mid-Range: With a stunning infinity pool that melts into a Mediterranean Sea view, Les Terrasses d’Eze – Hôtel & Spa is a dreamy hotel you won’t soon be able to forget. Beyond its gorgeous pool, the hotel has an on-site spa with massages and even a float tank! The rooms are modern and clean-lined, some with balconies with sea views. 

>> Check rates and availability here

Luxury: Stay in an exquisite converted chateau at Chateau Eza for one of the most luxurious stays on the Riviera, part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World brand. The rooms retain a lot of the original detail, like stone walls, but with modern details like spacious soaking tubs and separate showers. The restaurant is simply breathtaking, with beautifully-plated fine dining.

>> Check rates and availability here

Day Five of Your French Riviera Itinerary

Unwind in beautiful Eze.

cobblestone street of eze with arch doorway and buildings

The picturesque medieval village of Eze is perched on a hilltop and its views of the Riviera are hard to beat.

This tranquil little village offers a great place to stretch your legs as we near the end of this French Riviera road trip.

Admire its beautiful architecture lining the cobblestone streets, savor the delicious and humble local food, and immerse yourself in the charming atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of the Riviera’s glitzier cities.

Admire the castle ruins and its views.

Ruins of the old castle on the top of Eze garden. Eze, renowned tourist site on the French Riviera, is famous worldwide for the view of the sea from its hill top and its women' statues.

Eze is also a great place to go for a hike.

You can even visit the Eze Castle ruins, which has been towering over the Mediterranean since the 12th century.

Some nearby hiking trails in the surrounding Alpes-Maritimes region are also worth checking out, if you have the time.

Admire the plants of the Jardin Exotique — with a view!

Cactus garden with views over the town of Eze

Make time to stop by the Jardin Exotique, a beautiful botanical garden which is home to a variety of exotic plants and flowers.

You can almost get lost in the gorgeous displays as you wander through these blooms and vines!

Admire the stunning beauty of Cap-Ferrat.

Harbour of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, Côte d’Azur, France

Another favorite destination amongst royals and celebrities, Cap-Ferrat is a small town located on the beautiful peninsula just a few miles from Nice.

Beautiful beaches, crystal clear water and extremely elegant settings make this gem the perfect last stop on your road trip.

Admire the pastel-pink Villa Ephrussi.

A visit to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is well worth your time.

Built in the 1900s, this elegant mansion houses some exquisite art. Go for a walk in the gardens and enjoy the breathtaking view.

Last, but certainly not least, head down to the beaches to soak up some last rays of glamorous sun before you drive back to Nice. Bon voyage!

Nice Itinerary: How to Make the Most of 2 Days in Nice!

architecture of nice with brilliant colors

Nestled on the luxurious French Riviera, the vibrant city of Nice charms visitors with its turquoise waters, stunning beaches, and an overall artistic allure.

While you could easily spend a whole week wandering around the streets of this coastal gem, our 2-Day itinerary is your perfect guide if your time on the Riviera is limited.

Nice really began to boom during the Belle Epoque period in the 19th century, and this is reflected by its beautiful architecture.

iconic buildings of nice with palm trees around it

Many Nice landmarks, like the iconic Promenade des Anglais, were built during this time.

Over centuries, this unique city has attracted renowned artists and thinkers including Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, and Friedrich Nietzsche: all finding inspiration in the vibrant colors and captivating landscapes of the region.

This cultural legacy is preserved in museums, galleries, and the artistic ambiance that defines Nice and the French Riviera in general.

With just two days in Nice to explore, follow our guide to experience the essence of Nice’s southern chic.

From strolling along the iconic Promenade des Anglais to immersing yourself in the vibrant Old Town, this article is your guide to experiencing the best of Nice in a limited timeframe.

Getting to Nice

vibrant view of the cours saleya market from a more birds-eye-view angle so you can fully see how colorful it is

Nice is well-connected by transportation, with the Nice Côte d’Azur Airport (NCE) just 4 miles away from the center of Nice.

If you’re flying into Nice, you can rent a car, take public transportation, or take a taxi to get to Cannes. The drive takes about 10-15 minutes, depending on traffic.

If you need a taxi, I recommend booking an airport transfer through Welcome Pickups.

It’s competitive with local taxi prices, but having it pre-booked gives you peace of mind upon arrival — especially since you know your driver will be waiting for you at the airport!

Book an airport pickup from Nice airport here!

If you’re renting a car during your time in Nice, I recommend looking for the best rental car deals on Discover Cars.

They search over 500 agencies (including small local ones other car rental search engines skip over) and make pricing clear and easy, with no bait and switches.

Check rental car prices from Nice here!

That said, I recommend waiting to rent a car until you’re ready to leave the Nice area and explore more of Provence or the French Riviera.

Parking in Nice is a hassle and you won’t need a car for this Nice itinerary, as everything is within walking distance!

Train station in Nice, with blue train arriving at a train track in the semi open air train terminal

There are easy train rides to Nice from all over France, as this city is a major transportation hub for Southern France.

Navigating different countries’ rail service websites can be difficult, so I make it easy on myself by booking train and bus tickets via Omio — it’s one interface for all European train companies!

If you’re arriving by train, it couldn’t be easier as the train station is right in the heart of town.

If you have a lot of luggage, you may want to take a taxi rather than walk or take public transportation.

Day 1 of Your Nice Itinerary 

Get a feel for the city wandering along Promenade des Anglais.

a stop along the promenade anglais with a sea view

Stretching for 7 km (that’s just over four miles) along the azure waters of the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels), this picturesque promenade offers breathtaking views, lined with stunning Belle Époque architecture and Grand Hôtels

Taking a leisurely stroll and basking in the sun on La Prom’ (as the locals call it) is one of the favorite activities of the Niçois, and just a few steps should be enough to explain why! 

As you wander, marvel at the iconic landmarks, such as the Hôtel Negresco, a Belle Époque masterpiece.

view of a building on the nice waterfront promenade

Be sure to admire the stunning Place Massena, adorned with ornate fountains and charming gardens, all with a fresh sea breeze to start your perfect first day in Nice.  

The Promenade des Anglais owes its name to the predominantly English tourists who came to Nice in the 19th century in search of wellness, health and leisure on the beautiful Mediterranean Coast. 

the promenade of the nice riviera

Today, la Prom’ is still a favorite amongst tourists and locals alike, who like to jog or cycle along the promenade, all while admiring the architectural masterpieces of this unique avenue.

Opulent balconies, intricate moldings and colorful façades all make this part of Nice a sort of open-air museum, showcasing architectural excellence. 

Immerse yourself in the historic heart and soul of Nice.

historic building in the center of old town nice, cute and narrow streets

The Promenade des Anglais will lead you from the airport in the west to the old town in the east.

Le Vieux-Nice is a well-preserved historic neighborhood. Although quite a touristy area, the Old Town is beloved by locals and visitors alike.

What’s not to love about its vibrant labyrinth of cobblestone, narrow and winding streets, beautifully lined with colorful façades and hectic market stalls?

colorful houses of old nice with painted shutters

Dotted by charming boutiques, artisan shops and trendy cafés, this area boasts a variety of historic landmarks and monuments.

It’s no wonder Nice was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2021!

Below, I’ll list some of the most important landmarks you shouldn’t miss in the Old Quarter.

You can also take a tour of Old Nice so you don’t have to visit each of these landmarks independently.

There are different themed tours of Vieux Nice, such as this 4-hour food and history walking tour of Old Nice, and this 2-hour history walking tour of Old Nice and Castle Hill.

Book your Vieux Nice food tour or walking tour here!

Admire the Fontaine du Soleil.

statue of a boy in a fountain with red architecture all around

First, you should admire the Fontaine du Soleil, a monumental fountain located in Place Rossetti.

The fountain depicts Apollo, the Greek god of the sun, surrounded by mythical sea creatures.

The plaza itself is lovely too, with its brick red painted architecture.

Stop by Maison Auer for delicious chocolates.

Another must-visit is Maison Auer on the very picturesque Rue Saint-François de Paule, which offers a variety of exquisite chocolates.

Five generations of chocolatiers, combined with an enchanting interior styled in Florentine fashion, make this quaint gem a local favorite!

Take in the beautiful Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate.

a beautiful historic cathedral in nice with a belltower and red architecture around it

Another worthy stop is the Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate.

It was officially built in the 17th century, though its primitive structure however dates back to the 11th century.

Inspired by the Church of Saint Susanna in Rome, the Cathédrale Sainte-Réparate features a dome adorned with vibrant, glazed tiles in the Genoese style.

Wander through the vibrant Cours Saleya.

view of the cours saleya market and the nice seafront and sand and palm trees

Be sure to stop by the bustling Cours Saleya, which runs parallel to the sea and cuts through the heart of the Old Town, one of the most important arteries in the historic center.

This iconic street is home to a bustling daily food and flower market every morning. Be sure to look for the art dealers if you’re visiting on a Monday!

To enjoy a drink on this lively street, locals recommend Le Bateleur.

Admire the architecture of the Palais de la Préfecture.

historic palace in light pink or light red architecture with white detailing and molding and many arches in the facade of it

Keep your eyes open for the Palais de la Préfecture, an impressive architectural masterpiece dating back to the 16th century.

Once belonging to the Dukes of Savoy, a dynasty that ruled Nice from the 13th century through the Renaissance until the city was finally ceded to the French Republic — not until 1860!

Peruse the museum at Palais Lascaris.

Explore the Palais Lascaris, a splendid 17th-century Genoese palace that now houses a museum.

Step inside to admire the opulent decor, intricate frescoes, and an impressive collection of musical instruments.

Stop by the Chapelle de la Miséricorde.

the famous chapel of nice with its beautiful but fading facade

A few steps further, be sure to visit the the Chapelle de la Miséricorde.

This stunning Baroque chapel adorned with intricate artwork and gilded details is considered one of the most beautiful chapels in Nice.

Visit Nice’s historic fish market.

Heading north from Old Nice, you’ll come across Place Saint-François.

This is where the iconic fish market, a cultural institution in Nice, has taken place around the Fontaine des Dauphins every day (except Mondays) since 1930.

Climb for the clock tower for an epic view over Nice.

the famous clock tower of nice on a clear blue sky day

Another place to visit is Tour Saint François, which was built as the bell tower in the 13th century before being transformed into a clock tower after the French Revolution.

Those brave enough to climb the 288 steps will be rewarded with a magnificent 360° view of Nice. Note that the admission fee is €6.

Savor the delicious local cuisine Niçoise.

hand holding a bowl of seafood stew

To truly get to know a city, you have to taste it! Immerse yourself in the flavors of Nice and savor a variety of traditional dishes.

Treat your taste buds to the iconic salade Niçoise, a refreshing salad of fresh vegetables, tuna, anchovies, and olives, drizzled with olive oil.

Of course, there’s the famous seafood stew, bouillabaisse.

Another must-try is socca, a chickpea pancake originating from Liguria that is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Its earthy flavors and unique texture make it a beloved local favorite!

If you’re craving a comforting and flavorful summer dish, you can’t go wrong with the iconic ratatouille.

ratatouille with red pepper, tomatoes and green beans, served in an orange cocotte ceramic bowl, with fork, spoon and bread

A hearty, chunky vegetable stew with a summer-ripe medley of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and bell peppers — how can it go wrong?

To complement your meal, don’t forget to pair it with a glass of local rosé — French wine geeks know that Provence is known for its exceptional rosé wines, light and delicately fruity!

If you want someone to do all the legwork of finding the best restaurants for you — and getting to taste a small portion of all the food that makes Nice so distinctly Provencal — you can take a food tour!

This food tour takes 3 hours and covers many of the dishes mentioned above, like socca, local olive oils, pissaladière, tapenade, rosé wines, and also some local Nice sweets like lavender biscuits!

Book your Nice food tour here!

Take a hike up the scenic Castle Hill.

the castle hill area of nice with mosaic and beautiful foliage

After that lunch, it’s time for a (short) hike up Castle Hill, locally known as La Colline du Château.

It’s worth the walk once you reach its summit and witness a breathtaking panoramic view of Nice that’s like a postcard come to life!

From this elevated vista, you’ll be treated to a mesmerizing vista of Nice’s cityscape, stretching out before you in all its splendor.

The city is framed on the other side by the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean Sea provide a stunning backdrop, with a clear view of the busy port.

view of nice from the castle hill

However, don’t be fooled by the park’s name into searching for an actual castle!

Fun fact: the château was actually destroyed by King Louis XIV in 1706, before the city of Nice was ceded to France!

Still, while wandering through the grounds, you’ll come across a few scattered remnants of the ancient citadel that once stood proudly on Castle Hill.

fake waterfall in nice's castle hill area

One of the most lovely places on Castle Hill is the artificial waterfall, which emerges from Nice’s main source of drinking water, the Canal de la Vésubie.

Be aware! Every day at noon, a cannon (a fake cannon, to be precise) is fired, but don’t be alarmed.

The Niçois just have a thing for keeping traditions, and this one dates back to 1862.

Catch the sunset at Promenade du Paillon.

the lovely promenade de paillon at dusk with the light slowly fading

As the sun begins its descent to the west, head to the Promenade du Paillon, a beautiful urban park that stretches from the Old Town to the more modern part of the city. 

Take some time to unwind here surrounded by the gardens, lush lawns, and fountains. 

When you’re ready, stroll down the boulevard and the Jardin Albert I towards the beaches to find a serene spot to relish the kaleidoscope of colors as the sun sets over the Mediterranean, casting a golden glow upon the city.

Have a delicious and hearty meal.  

nice france restaurants in old town street

In the evening, it’s time to continue your foodie journey through the culinary treasures of Nice! 

Chez Acchiardo, an esteemed establishment that has graced the culinary scene since 1927, comes highly recommended.

Enjoy the mouthwatering robust flavors of daube niçoise, a beef stew simmered to perfection with red wine and a delicate infusion of Mediterranean herbs.  

At Lou Balico you’ll have the pleasure of savoring their exquisite rendition of merda de can, green gnocchi adorned with a pistou sauce crafted the Ligurian way, without pine nuts.  

Day Two of Your Nice Itinerary

Skip the crowds at one of the city’s prestigious museums  

the red painted exterior of the musee matisse with mint green shutters

Nice has a variety of world-renowned museums to offer and you should try to include at least one in your Nice itinerary.

It’s well worth it to get up early to be the first in line and skip the crowds, saving you some precious time! 

Here are the top museums we recommend.

  • Musée Matisse is a tribute to the renowned artist Henri Matisse showcasing a remarkable collection of his works, from his early works to his later masterpieces.

    The museum is situated in the beautiful neighborhood of Cimiez, in a splendid 17th-century Genoese villa surrounded by a serene garden.
a sign leading to the famous. musee marc chagall a famous french painter
  • Musée Chagall is dedicated to the life and works of the renowned Russian-French artist Marc Chagall, an influential Impressionist artist.

    Housed in a distinctive building design by architect André Hermant, Musée Chagall is also located in Cimiez.

    Chagall’s works are known for their vibrant colors, dreamlike imagery, and rich symbolism.

    His art often draws inspiration from his Jewish heritage, Russian folklore, biblical themes, and personal experiences. 
  • Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC) is the place to be for art enthusiasts who want to have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening in contemporary art.

    It offers a sometimes-captivating, sometimes-confusing journey through the ever-evolving world of modern and contemporary art.

    The museum building itself is a striking architectural masterpiece, designed by Yves Bayard and Henri Vidal. 
the historic musee massena with a villa like structure and palm trees in central nice
  • Villa Masséna serves as a museum dedicated to the history and art of Nice, with works and artifacts related to the city’s past.

    Situated on the famous Promenade des Anglais, the villa is among the many iconic symbols of the city’s rich heritage and tendency towards opulence. 

Visit the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. 

the onion domes of the russian orthodox cathedral in brilliant teel colors while there is lots of gold and pink or salmon painted exterior of the church

Don’t miss the magnificent Russian Orthodox Cathedral, an architectural marvel with its gilded domes and ornate interiors.

Step into a realm of tranquility as you admire the Byzantine-style frescoes and intricate iconostasis. 

The cathedral provides a fascinating glimpse into Nice’s historical ties with the Russian aristocracy.

Also known as Cathédrale Saint Nicolas, this is the largest Russian Orthodox Cathedral built outside of Russia, and an important place of worship for the local Orthodox community.   

Have lunch at the Quartier du Port.

the port area or marina of nice with brilliant colored building sin the background and hill

The Quartier du Port, or the Port District, is a vibrant and charming neighborhood, offering a unique blend of historical charm and maritime ambiance. 

Originally constructed in the 18th century to serve as a liaison for the Duke of Savoy with other kingdoms, the port nowadays primarily serves leisure, ferries to Corsica, nautical sports and yachts. 

You can enjoy a beautiful walk from Negresco Hôtel on Promenade des Anglais to the yacht club. 

The port is also a popular area for a drink or a meal, with numerous bars and restaurants offering views of the boats.

For a truly luxurious meal, make sure to book your table in advance at Le Plongeoir.  

Take a boat ride somewhere luxe.

While you’re in the port area, why not explore somewhere else on the Riviera by boat from Nice?

There are countless Nice boat tours that take you to various places along the Riviera in different kinds of boats, from everything from speedboats to RIB boats to sailboats!

Here are a few suggestions:

Spend the rest of the day tanning under the blue striped umbrellas.

blue and white striped umbrellas on the beach

What better way to end your 2 days in Nice than basking in the sun the city is so known for?

While you can absolutely could a few hours on one of the city beaches in Nice, why do that when there’s an even better option?

We recommend heading to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, the picturesque peninsula just a few minutes’ drive from Nice.

Known for its natural beauty, extravagant villas, and stunning coastal views, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat offers secluded coves, crystal-clear waters and pristine beaches far from the crowds.

You won’t regret the small detour!

Where to Stay in Nice

architecture of one of the villas of nice in the ornate style

Budget: Résidence Lamartine

For an affordable but still lovely hotel, check out Résidence Lamartine.

This elegant home has been converted into a selection of apartments perfect for those who want less of that traditional hotel feel.

It’s great for a short visit to Nice, since it’s just a 5-minute walk from the Nice-Ville Train Station, yet it’s still only a 10-minute walk from the Promenade des Anglais and the beautiful Nice beaches.

This is also a great budget choice because it has a small kitchenette (microwave, a stove hob, and a small fridge) so you can buy local Nice produce and self-cater during your stay!

Everything was renovated in 2017, so expect modernity furnishings and details — but then be wowed by the old-world charm, like its floor-to-ceiling doors that open up to a wrought-iron balconette!

There’s also a small garden area as well as a lounge area where you can relax on plush green velvet sofas or play a round of pool.

Check availability, rates, room types, and reviews here!

Mid-Range: Hôtel Apollinaire Nice

For a luxurious but not wallet-breaking stay, Hôtel Apollinaire Nice is an excellent option.

A short walk from Old Nice, Castle Hill, and the Promenade des Anglais, this boutique hotel in the prime Carabacel neighborhood will give you a memorable stay.

Vintage-meets-modern is the design aesthetic here: just check out their bar area, with its upholstered and steel bar stools against a tiled geometric bar counter

Inside, the rooms are spacious and modern — think subtle animal-print floors, minimalist white-linen beds, and funky lighting details — all with ingenious up-to-date details like USB sockets for your electronics! 

Some rooms, like the King Suite, even have a deep soaking tub with a window in case you want to soak in some views from the tub!

This is another hotel where each room is rather personalized with its own aesthetic, so look through the different room types available to find the one that matches what you want best.

Check availability, rates, rooms, and reviews here!

Luxury: Hotel Le Negresco

The famed Hotel Le Negresco is as iconic inside as it is from its exterior! 

Entering the hotel, you’ll immediately be greeted by grandeur appropriate of the building’s standing as Belle Époque masterpiece.

Exquisite candelabras and chandeliers, original gilded crown molding, a marble floor so shiny you can see your reflection in it… and we haven’t even reached reception yet.

All the public areas are this intriguing — from the sitting room with its entirely glass dome to perfectly let in the light to its library-chic warmly lit bar area to its its quirky carousel-inspired restaurant — but now let’s move onto the rooms.

There’s a variety of room types: pick between a mid-century modern inspired one, with a unique headboard and velvet cushy chairs, or a more old-world luxury one, with floor to ceiling curtains, wicker chairs, an upholstered seating area — all with a Mediterranean view!

The rooms are very unique, so I suggest looking through the room types available on Booking to be sure you find the one that matches your aesthetic desires.

And of course, don’t forget its private beach club area!

Check availability, rates, rooms, and reviews here!