Mont Saint Michel at low tide in Normandy, France

Paris, Normandy and Loire Valley Road Trip Itinerary

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Normandy and the Loire Valley are the perfect destinations in France for a road trip. This itinerary is great for first-time visitors to France as it is an easy itinerary and takes in some of the best sights in France.

Planning Your Trip to France lAST mINUTE?

Planning your road trip to France? Below are some places to stay, things to do, and more.

Best Tours and Experiences in France
  1. Hot-Air Balloon Ride over the Loire Valley
  2. Amboise: Caves Ambacia Visit and Wine Tasting
  3. Bayeux: American D-Day Sites in Normandy Full-Day Tour
  4. Paris: 1-Hour River Seine Cruise
Top Picks for Places to Stay ON THIS ROAD TRIP
  1. Hôtel Le Blason (Amboise, I stayed here and loved it)
  2. Chambre d’ Hôte (Near Mont St Michel, charming B&B)
  3. Hotel de Brunville (Bayeux, great hotel and location)
  4. Hotel des Carmes (Paris, great location)

Driving around France independently? Click here to check France rental car rates!

Combining the Loire Valley, Normandy, and Paris into one 8-day road trip may seem a little ambitious, but this France vacation ended up being one of my favourite trips. If you’re working on your budget for a trip to France, I’ve outlined my entire budget for this trip here. This is the best one-week road trip to explore France from Paris.

Chateau d'Amboise in the Loire Valley of France
Amboise, France

Top 5 Experiences on a Normandy and Loire Valley Road trip

  1. Explore the fairy-tale-like castles of the Loire Valley.
  2. See Mont Saint Michel at low and high tide
  3. Visit the D-Day landing sites on the Normandy Coast
  4. Wander Monet’s gardens in Giverny
  5. Spend time seeing the highlights of Paris

Renting a Car in France

Driving in France was really quite straightforward as there are lots of highways. The Loire Valley and Normandy are both excellent places to have a car to explore all the castles and sights.

France is a fantastic destination if you are considering a European road trip. Doing this Normandy and Loire Valley itinerary as a road trip gave the freedom of exploring cute villages, having flexibility in adding on sights, and driving through the countryside.

I recommend and use Discover Cars to find a rental car. It compares local and international companies so you can get the best deal. Always compare rental company ratings as even though it can be tempting to go with the cheapest price it might not be the best experience.

I picked up and dropped off the rental car at the airport in Paris for this itinerary. Because you don’t need a car in Paris, just drop off the car before your time in Paris to save money.

France Road Trip Itinerary

This itinerary is best done by car. If you want to visit the Loire Valley and Normandy without a car, it will be more challenging, but it is possible.

For a shorter vacation, your best bet would be to join guided tours. One option I found was this two-day tour that takes in Mont Saint Michel and Loire Valley Chateaus. Or you could do a day trip from Paris to the Loire Valley and another day trip to Mont Saint Michel. With more time, it would be possible to see most of these sights using a combination of trains and buses.

In this France itinerary, I have everything you need for a fantastic 8-day road trip to France. This was my second visit to France. You can check out my one-week itinerary that included Strasbourg and the Alsace here. If you are short on time, another great road trip is spending 5 days in the South of France.

Two Days in the Loire Valley

While I did this right after landing from an overnight flight, this doesn’t work for everyone. If you know you will be too drowsy to drive, start this itinerary in Paris instead of ending in Paris. Pick up your rental car and get ready for your road trip.

Start your week in France with the castles of the Loire Valley. The Loire Valley has to be one of the most romantic places in France you can visit. Drive to Amboise in the Loire Valley, it’s a fantastic place to base yourself to explore the area.

Wondering where to stay in Amboise? I stayed at Hôtel Le Blason which was perfectly placed in Amboise to walk to the local sights. It’s a great budget hotel and I would stay there again.

Amboise Chateau is one of the prettiest chateaus in the Loire Valley of France. Amboise makes for a great stop on your France itinerary as it is perfectly placed to visit the Loire Valley
Amboise at sunset

Day One in Amboise: Explore the City

After checking in to your hotel (and taking a nap!), explore Amboise.

Amboise is a really beautiful town with the gorgeous Chateau d’Amboise sitting above the town. It’s a great place to walk around and watch the sunset over the Loire River.

There are also some good restaurants here to enjoy local cuisine:

  • Via Roma – Great pizza and pasta. Not traditional French food but a solid choice.
  • Anne de Bretagne– Crepe restaurant and has yummy savory and dessert crepes. Also a good place to have some wine or cider.
  • L’Horlage– Is a fantastic bakery and serves up delicious quiches, pastries, and croissants. I also loved grabbing sandwiches from here for lunches.
Sunset over the Loire River in Amboise, France
Sunset over the Loire River

Day Two in the Loire Valley: Visit Chateaux

After a good night’s sleep, start your day by picking up some breakfast from local boulangeries. Check out my guide to the Loire Valley chateaux for more information on these castles.

Chateau Chenonceau is the closest to Amboise and well worth a visit as it was probably my favourite. It was nice to explore Chenonceau and learn about its history.

Chateau Chenonceau is one of the most popular in the Loire Valley. It's located close to Amboise and spans across the river. It's history with the ladies of France is an interesting one to discover.
Chateau Chenonceau

I also visited Chateau Villandry for the stunning gardens, and Chateau d’Usse to see the chateau that inspired Sleeping Beauty’s castle. I highly recommend all three as they each offered a different experience and made for what felt like a perfect day.

Chateau Villandry in the Loire Valley is a great stop on any France itinerary as the gardens are absolutely spectacular here. Wander the gardens and check out the overlook point to see the heart gardens.
Chateau Villandry gardens
Chateau d'Usse is a unique castle in the Loire Valley, Sleeping Beauty's castle was based on it. If you go inside you can explore the turrets and see scenes from Sleeping Beauty displayed inside.
Chateau d’Usse – Sleeping Beauty’s castle

After a great day exploring the Loire Valley, I finished up the day by having a crepe dinner in Amboise.

With More Time: Amboise is also close to Chateau Chambord which looks stunning as well as many vineyards. Leonardo da Vinci called Amboise home and his house, Chateau du Close Luce, is located in the town and open to visitors. I would have happily stayed another night or two in Amboise.

Four Days in Normandy and Brittany

Driving in Normandy is a pleasant experience. There are adorable villages to drive through and winding narrow roads through fields and forests. Mont Sainte Michel and the D-Day Beaches are what bring most tourists into Normandy, but it’s well worth it to make side trips to Brittany. Normandy is a great place to try some of its specialties, the three C’s: camembert, calvados, and cider.

Day Three: Drive to Normandy

The third day of this itinerary has a lot of driving. There’s no way around it, the Loire Valley and Normandy are pretty far apart. My goal today was to drive to Mont St Michel to see it at night.

Visit Chateau d’Angers Enjoy a final breakfast in Amboise and then head towards Mont St Michel. I stopped in Angers to break up the 3.5-hour drive. Chateau d’Angers is an impressive chateau with multiple towers, it’s absolutely huge. If you pay to go inside, you can view the impressive Apocolypse Tapestry which depicts scenes from the Book of Revelations.

Chateau d'Angers is a huge chateau with multiple towers. Located in the city of Angers, this chateau is a great stop when driving from the Loire Valley to Normandy as it is in the lower part of the Loire Valley.
Chateau d’Angers

Check in to Pontorson Continue your drive towards Mont St Michel and check in to your accommodation. I chose to stay in Pontorson as it was cheaper and only a short drive to Mont St. Michel. I stayed at a B&B in Pontorson, Chambre d’ Hôte. I loved that it was just 15 minutes drive to Mont St Michel and also convenient for visiting other locations like Dinan and Saint-Malo. The owner was friendly and the place was so quiet and peaceful. It was a great place to stay and affordable.

Visit Dinan Knowing this would be my only chance to visit Dinan, I made the half-hour drive for a quick visit. Dinan is a walled medieval town in Brittany and is a lot of fun to explore. It’s a great stop and with more time, I would stay overnight.

Dinan is a medieval village located in France's Brittany region. It's just a short drive from Mont Saint Michel so its worth a stop if you have the time.
The medieval streets of Dinan, Brittany

Visit Mont St Michel at Night After visiting Dinan, I drove to Mont St Michel so I could see the sunset and see it at night and high tide. You can check tide tables in advance to see if you will be there at low or high tide. At the highest tides, Mont St Michel turns into an island and is temporarily inaccessible. I have a full guide to Mont Saint Michel here.

I loved visiting Mont St Michel and highly recommend going in the evening. The shuttle buses between the Mont and the visitors parking lot run late so it isn’t necessary to stay on the Mont to see it at nighttime.

Mont Saint Michel at night. I highly recommend visiting Mont St Michel in the evening to explore it with out the crowds.

Depending on your timing you can either eat dinner in Dinan or on Mont St Michel. Or if you’re me, you can forgo dinner because you’re too excited about seeing things and end up at the only available food place open. McDonald’s at 11 pm in Pontorson.

With More Time: Dinan would make a fantastic place to stay and I could have easily spent more time here. It would be a great base to explore more of Brittany.

Day Four: Explore Brittany and Mont Saint Michel

Views of the beach at Saint Malo in Brittany, France. At high tide all access is cut off as the water goes up to the walls of the city. Saint Malo was made famous in the novel All the Light You Cannot See and is a great stop on your France Road Trip itinerary
Saint-Malo in Brittany, France

On my fourth day, I returned to Mont St Michel to see it at low tide and visit the Abbey. If you don’t want to visit again, you can easily spend more time in Saint-Malo or head to Bayeux earlier.

Visit Saint-Malo Start off your day by heading to Saint-Malo and exploring the walls and beach here. It’s a beautiful city to visit even if you only have a couple of hours. This coastal town makes for a great beach destination as they have a gorgeous long sandy beach. I grabbed a sandwich and some local pastries for lunch here.

Saint-Malo in Brittany, France is just a short drive away from Mont Saint Michel and is a great destination for beach lovers as there is a huge beach here and few other tourists.
The walls of Saint-Malo, France

Do A Coastal Drive After a visit to Saint-Malo, drive along the coast on the D201 highway towards Mont St Michel for scenic views. This takes about 2 hours depending on the number of stops. Pointe du Grouin was my favourite stop as it sits on the entrance to the bay of Mont St Michel and in clear weather, you can see Mont St Michel in the distance.

Visit Mont Saint-Michel After enjoying Brittany and the coast, visit Mont St. Michel. You need about 2 hours here to properly have time to visit and see the Abbey and town. It was an interesting experience to be able to contrast night and day as well as low tide and high tide.

Mont Saint Michel in Normandy at low tide. This fantastic destination is a must for any Normandy itinerary
Mont Saint Michel at low tide

When you’re done at Mont St Michel, drive to Bayeux and check into your hotel and have dinner. L’Insolite was a fantastic place to have crepes. I had the Popeye crepe here, it was filled with spinach and creme fraiche. Really delicious.

Wondering where to stay in Bayeux for two nights? I stayed at Hotel de Brunville. I loved how centrally located it was. It was only a few minutes to walk to the Cathedral and restaurants. It was also easy to access by car and there was plenty of cheap parking in the parking lots.

Day Five: Explore Bayeux and D-Day Sites

See the Bayeux Tapestry Bayeux is a very walkable town and can easily be explored in a morning. The top things to see in Bayeux are its impressive gothic Cathedral and the Bayeux Tapestry. The tapestry covers the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings in 1070. Included with your admission to the Bayeux Tapestry is an audio guide that explains exactly what you are seeing in the tapestry.

Visit D-Day Sites After spending the morning in Bayeux, head out for an afternoon visiting D-Day sites. Bayeux is perfectly placed to explore D-Day sites as it was the first city liberated in WWII in the Battle of Normandy.

While I had a car and decided to explore independently, there are some guided tours you can join from Bayeux if you prefer. There is this American D-Day sites tour and there’s also a Canadian D-Day sites tour.

I chose to visit Juno Beach and the museum there as it was the beach that Canadians landed at in the war. The beach itself had nothing to see but the museum was interesting. After seeing Juno Beach, I stopped at Arromanches-les-Bains. This site overlooks the harbour where you can see that an artificial port was installed right after D-Day. This port allowed goods to be delivered and the beach to be held.

After, it was off to Longues-sur-Mer battery. For me, this was the most interesting D-Day site I visited. These German guns actually took part in shelling the nearby Omaha and Gold Beaches during D-Day.

Return to Bayeux for dinner.

Day Six: Honfleur and Giverny

Drive to Honfleur Enjoy your last morning in Bayeux and then do the short drive to Honfleur. It’s just over an hour between the two and a pleasant drive.

Have Lunch in Honfleur Honfleur has a really cute harbour and is a fantastic place to have lunch, especially if you like seafood. The harbour is lined with cute buildings and lots of restaurants so you can sit and take in the view.

Honfleur, Normandy, France is known for its adorable harbor with tall skinny buildings. It attracted impressionist painters like Monet to paint it.
Honfleur, France

Explore Honfleur After lunch, walk around Honfleur and check out some of the shops and the historic area. A highlight for me was seeing the Church of St. Catherine. Uniquely, this church is made entirely of wood using the same techniques as for boat building. There are also lots of souvenir shops in Honfleur which makes it a great place to pick up some sea salt caramels or local liquor and candies.

Stop in Vernon After lunch, continue onwards towards Giverny. If you have time, make a quick stop at Vernon as it is on the way. Just on the edge of town, stop to see the old half-timbered mill of Vernon that sits over the Seine River.

Vernon France mill over water. It's nearby to Giverny so you can stop on the way to Monet's Gardens to get a quick look at this unique building.
The mill in Vernon, Normandy

Visit Monet’s Gardens Continue on towards Giverny and stop at Monet’s Gardens. I arrived around 4 pm and it was still quite busy but by the time I left, I was able to get shots of the garden without a swarm of people.

Monet’s gardens when I visited had bright pops of dahlias everywhere. The Japanese Garden that houses the famous green bridges and waterlilies was peaceful. I could easily have spent longer here as it is a relaxing place.

Drive to Paris Drive to Paris and return your rental car to the airport. Use the train to get into Paris and check in to your hotel. Being a large city, you should be able to find many food places open late or grocery stores like Monoprix for quick meals like sandwiches or salads.

Two Days in Paris

Now that the road trip portion of the itinerary is over, getting around Paris requires using the Metro system and walking. There is plenty to do, with lots of hidden gems in Paris, so you are really going to have to narrow down your Paris wishlist to avoid overpacking your itinerary. If you bought a pet along for this road trip, Paris with a dog is very doable as many places are pet-friendly.

Wondering where to stay in Paris for three nights? I stayed at Hotel des Carmes in the 5th arrondissement. I loved the location as it was 2 minutes to a Metro station. It was also 5 minutes to the Luxembourg Gardens, down the hill from the Pantheon, and 10 minutes to Notre Dame. The hotel room was basic but I didn’t spend much time in the room anyways.

Paris has expensive accommodation so I highly recommend booking as soon as you purchase your flight.

Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero in Paris, France. Visiting the Eiffel Tower is a top activity in Paris and should be included on your one week to France itinerary.

Use your two full days in Paris to explore the following highlights:

  • Eiffel Tower: A visit to the Eiffel Tower and Trocadero is a must if it’s your first visit to Paris. It’s also in a great spot to explore the nearby streets. If you want to go up the Eiffel Tower, you should purchase your tickets in advance.
  • Arc de Triomphe: Head to the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees. The Arc de Triomphe is absolutely enormous, it’s hard to believe the size. If you have time, go up it, you may want to purchase your ticket in advance
  • Notre Dame: It’s still closed but check out the gargoyles and architecture on the outside.
  • Sainte Chapelle: This church has absolutely beautiful and unique stained glass that is worth a look.
  • Louvre: In Paris you are spoiled for choice with museums. With only two days I would only schedule one museum in. You could also visit L’Orangerie and Musee d’Orsay instead of the Louvre. Buy your ticket in advance for the Louvre to avoid long lines. I timed my exit from the Louvre to be at sunset so I could see the Louvre Pyramid lit up at night.
  • Luxembourg Gardens: These gardens are well worth a visit as they are quite beautiful and almost a mini Versaille. After a walk in the park, I explored the Latin Quarter for some shopping.

You can see my full guide to Paris here.

The Louvre Pyramid at night. Even if you don't visit the Louvre, you should still check out the glass pyramid to see it lit up at night.

Day Nine: Flight Home

On your last day, grab any last-minute things from shops nearby and head to the airport. The airport is easy to access using the Metro and RER system but you should allow for 1-1.5 hours to get to the airport from Paris.

8 Days in France

The eight days will absolutely fly by. If you have more time, I would definitely add more time to the Loire Valley, perhaps staying in Angers, and more time in Normandy and Brittany, perhaps adding a night in Dinan and a night in Honfleur.

Driving in Normandy includes some very out in the middle of nowhere roads like this one that take you through fields. You can also stick to the highways.
Driving in Normandy

Overall, I felt this itinerary went well and was a great introduction to the top sights in the Loire Valley and Normandy. I would happily visit both again.

I hope this itinerary has inspired you to visit France. Leave questions or comments about your own experiences in France below!

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  1. This is a world wind road trip! I’ve done it and loved it. We try to do 2 weeks every year and have spent a lot of time in Loire Valley, Normandy and Brittany, besides Paris of course, cannot get enough of France! Thanks for sharing your adventures!

  2. What a fantastic road trip and brings back great memories for me, I spent my childhood summer holidays in France. I haven’t visited Amboise though (or Paris for that matter, not quite sure how that’s happened!), Chateau d’Usse looks so idyllic 🙂

  3. Wow! This sounds amazing. I was in Paris earlier this year and plan to return. Thank you so much for the recommendations and will follow and will follow them to explore outside of the city. The Popeye crepe sounds so delicious!

    1. The popeye crepe was so yummy, I wish I could recreate it at home but I am hopeless at making crepes. Paris is a great city but it was so much fun to explore some of France’s countryside.

  4. This looks like the perfect way to really explore France! I would love to take a road trip in this area, and this makes me feel like it’s totally doable. Monet’s Garden especially is so dreamy!

    1. It’s a very doable road trip itinerary! I absolutely loved both the Loire Valley and Normandy. I could have spent a whole afternoon in Monet’s Garden, it was such a beautiful place.

  5. I love the Mont Saint Michel, haven’t been in ages but will have to go back one day! I’m from Brittany and usually forget how beautiful it can be! Would love to do a road trip throughout the whole country.

    1. I would love to explore more of Brittany, the little bit I did see was gorgeous! Road tripping all of France would be an amazing trip, there’s so much to see and do there!

  6. What a wonderful post! This looks like an amazing road trip with so much helpful info. I’ve been to Paris twice but never ventured further and would love to take this route. Will save for when I get the chance to go back! ?

  7. This is a solid road trip! I love France and visit frequently with my husband who is French and I love so many of the places you included. I still have yet to visit Brittany and Monet’s Gardens so I’ll take some of your recommendations for those places. Two days in Paris is always tough but you can see a lot if you’ve got the stamina, haha!

    1. Thanks, it felt like I got to see a ton of things in a short period of time. France is fantastic, it’s great that you get to visit often! I really would have loved to spend more time exploring Brittany as the little bit I saw was gorgeous.

  8. Fantastic trip! We are driving to Normandy and Loire this May, and visiting lots of the same places you did. Do you have any parking tips for the larger towns and cities? Was it always easy to find parking?

    1. Hi Tim, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. In general, parking was not a problem. The hotels I stayed at either had parking or had a recommendation for public parking. Send your hotel an email to enquire about parking before your arrival. For large cities, I use Google Maps and search for parking and the city/town name so they show up on the map and I have a general idea before starting my day about where I can find parking.

      I do have two pieces of advice on parking though. First, know how to parallel park in small spaces. You can maybe get away without knowing how to parallel park but if you can, it will be useful for visiting smaller places and for finding the best parking spots.

      Secondly, just accept that you will pay for parking. Many towns do have free parking but you will save time by paying. I found that it really was worth just paying up as it generally is not that expensive and way better than wasting time circling looking for free parking. Every town did have some kind of paid parking lot and signs pointing you towards it. At the chateaus the parking is free and they are pretty huge dirt/gravel lots.

      Hope you have a fantastic trip to Normandy and the Loire Valley!

      1. Thanks so much for taking the time to reply! Very helpful advice, we will be staying with some locals in their gíte so will certainly ask them for specific recommendations as well.

  9. Brianna: well written informative article, like this style and appreciation of what you saw and did. Thanks v much, I am planning a UK driving trip in a favourite car and this itinerary looks great.Happy Travels.

    1. Hi Stuart, I’m glad you enjoyed this article! I loved this itinerary, it fit in a lot in a short time. France is a fantastic country for a road trip, I hope you have a great time when you visit!

  10. Wow! You covered so much ground in so little time. Impressive! I’ll be bookmarking this. Thanks for the great recommendations!

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