From the stylish beaches of Nice to the lush vineyards of Bordeaux, the south of France has it all
There's something magical about the idea of a holiday in the south of France. Great wine, glorious rolling countryside, shimmering coastline... what's not to love? All you need to do is decide where in the south of France to go. We've picked a few of the top spots for your break away.
When we think of the south of France, we tend to imagine Provence. Lavender fields, wineries, little hilltop villages - it's all there. And at its heart is Aix, a city with roots deeply entrenched in history and art.
The main street, Cours Mirabeau, is the heart of the city, and along it you'll find restaurants, cafés, and plenty of boutiques that just call out for a leisurely browse. One particularly stand-out feature of Aix is its many fountains - 1,000 in all (or more - it takes quite some time to count them); while the main attraction is its thermal spas. It was the ancient Romans who discovered the natural hot springs in the region, and it's well worth taking time for a relaxing spa experience.
If you're travelling with kids, they'll appreciate a break from walking - take Le Petit Train, a fun tram that runs through the centre of town. Children will also love the Museum of Natural History in the Aix Old Town, where they can get up close to dinosaur eggs and fossils - a great choice if you happen to encounter a rainy day.
Getting there: We recommend breaking your journey in Lyon. From Eurotunnel Le Shuttle it's 758km (about 6 hours 30 minutes driving time) to Lyon, following the A26. From Lyon it's 299km (about 2 hours and 40 minutes driving time), heading south on the A7.
A busy city in the heart of rolling wine country, Bordeaux has a little of everything, be it culture, cuisine, art or entertainment. Sip some of the world's finest vintages and take in the picturesque surroundings of wine country, or indulge in the sights and sounds of the central city.
Naturally, Bordeaux is a hot spot for those keen on good wine, and if you have your heart set on picking up some great vintages, the city is an excellent base. There are lush vineyards throughout the region offering tastings and tours, and it's here that you'll find some of the most beautiful chateaux in France.
To keep the kids happy, opt for a taste of something more exotic with the Zoo de Bordeaux Pessac; from tigers to a special jungle of parrots, there are all kinds of exciting creatures to discover. You'll also find the Science Museum in the heart of the city, featuring fun, interactive exhibits that let the whole family get involved.
Getting there: We recommend breaking your journey in Orléans. From Eurotunnel Le Shuttle it's 415km (about 4 hours driving time) to Orléans, following the A1, and changing to the A10 once you pass through the outskirts of Paris. From Orléans it's 462km, about 4 hours 15 minutes driving time, heading south-west on the A10.
Lovely, lively and packed with things to do, Toulouse is full of surprises. There is so much visual splendour here, from the grand neoclassical facade of the Place du Capitol, and its museum of art, to the many pretty pink brick buildings, which earned Toulouse the nickname "La Ville Rose". This is a city made for ogling.
Certainly, modern art fans will love the exhibitions of Les Abattoirs while happy snappers will appreciate a visit to the Galerie du Château d'eau, the world's first photography museum. Take a drive through the African Safari Park, which offers plenty of fun, and look out for exotic creatures.
Toulouse is the centre of the European aerospace industry, and whether you're travelling with kids or are simply fascinated by all things space, check out La Cité de l'Espace, where simulations, model satellites and an IMAX cinema are all part of the experience.
Getting there: We recommend breaking your journey in Orléans. From Eurotunnel Le Shuttle it's 415km (about 4 hours driving time) to Orléans, following the A1, and changing to the A10 once you pass through the outskirts of Paris. From Orléans it's 554km (about 4 hours and 54 minutes driving time) to Toulouse, heading south on the A7.
It's all there in the name: Côte d'Azur. Think blue seas, sandy beaches, and to top it off, the glamour of a bygone golden era.
Perched on the French Riviera, Nice is the place to be for a little luxury break. Treat yourself and go shopping in the local boutiques, stroll along the wide avenues, and grab lunch in a cafe. Or, simply grab your beach towel and head to the pebbly beaches for a dip in the Mediterranean Sea.
If you're travelling with kids, take them to the jungle - or rather, the Parc Phoenix, a theme park of sorts, based around botanical gardens. There are birds, lizards, marine animals and over 2,500 species of different plants. If the sun is out, it's well worth taking the Petit Train, which takes you on a winding ride around the Old Town and the port, past attractions such as the Colline du Château. It's a great way to get your bearings, and see the sights.
Getting there: We recommend breaking your journey in Lyon. From Eurotunnel Le Shuttle it's 758km (about 6 hours 30 minutes driving time) to Lyon, following the A26. From Lyon it's 470km (about 4 hours and 10 minutes driving time), heading south on the A7, then venturing east on the A8 out of Provence.
Explore the cobbled winding streets of the Old Town, tucked under pretty arches, and enjoy a coffee or a glass of wine - this is the place to just sit back and take in the ambience. Montpellier is like the Paris of the south, all romantic strolls and art galleries - it even has its own Arc de Triomphe, albeit smaller than the one in the capital.
For indoor beauty, explore the artworks in the Musée Fabre, but if the sun is shining then a wander through the sprawling botanical gardens, the Jardin des Plantes, is a must.
If you're on a family break, head to Montpellier zoo, where you can meet brown bears, white rhinos, and friendly otters. Or, pack a picnic and head for the fascinating rock formations at Cirque de Moureze. If the weather isn't on your side (not even the south of France can promise endless sunshine) then the Planétarium Galilée is the perfect place to keep the whole family enthralled.
Getting there: We recommend breaking your journey in Orléans. From Eurotunnel Le Shuttle it's 415km (about 4 hours driving time) to Orléans, following the A1, and changing to the A10 once you pass through the outskirts of Paris. From Orléans it's 624km (about 5 hours 35 minutes driving time) heading south on the A71 and changing to the A75 just out of Clermont-Ferrand.
The ancient Roman city of Nîmes is packed full of historic sights, preserved ruins - it's a town with an old soul. Once part of the chariot route from Spain to Rome, many Emperors have passed through Nîmes over the ages.
To get a real sense of Nîmes' background, visit the Maison Carrée, which translates as square house - once the centre feature of the ancient Roman forum, it's one of the best preserved Roman temples in the world. And it's hard to miss Arena of Nîmes - a 1st-century Roman amphitheatre, which is still used as a stadium venue today.
The old ruins are enough to keep even the kids interested - take them to see the incredible aqueduct, Le Pont du Gard, one of the top tourist attractions in France.
If they get tired of walking around, hop on the tram that will take you around the city's main sights - a lovely way to get a better glimpse of the ancient ruins, and imagine how Nîmes might have been all those centuries ago.
Getting there: We recommend breaking your journey in Lyon. From Eurotunnel Le Shuttle it's 758km (about 6 hours 30 minutes driving time) to Lyon, following the A26. From Lyon it's 252km (about 2 hours 20 minutes driving time) heading south on the A7.