12 Must-See Places along the Route des Vacances

 
12 Must-See Places along the Route des Vacances

Discover cultural experiences you won’t want to miss on the Route des Vacances from châteaux and the home of the citron Menton to a Grand Site de France. Note: This article is part of a bigger magazine feature called “Taking the Slow Road to the French Riviera”.

The Route des Vacances winds its way through six French regions so it’s no surprise that there’s plenty of culture, history, and gastronomy to discover. Many of the sites on this list have been standing since the earlier versions of Route nationale 7 (RN 7). Orange (then called Arausio) was a stop on the Via Agrippa built by the Romans while Moulins, the historical capital of the Bourbons, was one of the key locations for the new royal post created by Louis XI in the 15th century.

The stunning Château de Fontainebleau © Shutterstock

Château de Fontainebleau

The castle of kings and a palace for Napoleon; you’ll find 800 years of history and 130 hectares of formal French and English-style gardens and parkland. There are also 30,000 works of art. Open daily, all year. www.châteaudefontainebleau.fr/en

Château de la Bussière

Come here for lakeside strolls, the avenue of lime trees, bluebells in spring, and a natural woodland playground for children. Buy fresh fruit and veg grown in the award-winning potager and visit the château interior. Family accommodation on site, too. www.château-de-la-bussiere.com

Explore the biodiversity on the banks of the Loire

Ferrières-en-Gâtinais

A Petite Cité de Caractère, this tiny village has a huge Benedictine abbey and a warren of little streets to explore on foot. There’s a handful of restaurants, including a bistro and a crêperie, welcoming gîtes, chambres d’hôtes and a campsite. www.ferrieresengatinais.fr

Réserve Naturelle du Val de Loire

A chance to stretch the legs and discover the importance of the biodiversity of the River Loire. There are self-guided nature trails at Pouilly-sur-Loire, plus a canoe and kayak launching ramp. reserves-naturelles.org/val-de-loire

Visit charming Moulins © Shutterstock

La Charité-sur-Loire

Picnic on the banks of the Loire or cycle a section of the Loire à Vélo. Visit the Église Notre-Dame, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and visit the Cluniac priory, which is home to the Cité du Mot cultural programme. www.lacharitesurloire-tourisme.com/en/home/

Moulins

Historically capital of the Bourbons, this is a fine town with some rich architecture. Get your bearings above the rooftops from the Jacquemart Tower, then stop for lunch at Le Grand Café, if only to marvel at the Rococo interior. www.moulins-tourisme.com

Mirmande is one of the Drôme Valley’s gems © L. Pascale/La Drôme Tourisme

Mirmande

Two kilometres off the N7, hilltop Mirmande is a Plus Beau Village de France in the Drôme known for its artists’ community with open studios. It’s also labelled a Village Botanique for its many rock garden plants. Fruit orchards sit below. www.ladrometourisme.com

Mondragon & Mornas

These perfect villages étapes feel distinctly Provençal. See Mondragon to find out about the legend of the dragon, snap a photo of Rue Baguette and Fontaine de la Treille. At Mornas, visit the fortress for fine views across the Rhône valley. www.mornas.fr

Montagne Sainte-Victoire

Orange

The Arc de Triomphe and Roman amphitheatre, both listed by UNESCO, are must-sees, as is the Museum of Art and History. Look out, too, for the (no longer open) Théâtre Municipal, whose façade, designed by Garnier, resembles Paris’ Opéra Garnier. www.orange-tourisme.fr/en

Montagne Sainte-Victoire

The most significant landmark around Aix-en-Provence and designated a Grand Site de France, the 1,011m mountain, so often seen in paintings by Cézanne, can be explored on foot, by bike, by paraglider, or rock-climbing. www.grandsitesaintevictoire.com

La Maison du Citron offers tastings © Caroline Mills

Promenade des Anglais

A wander along Nice’s 7km beachfront promenade allows a chance to admire the wealth of Belle-Époque architecture. Be sure to visit the Musée Masséna, which evokes the spirit of Nice during its 19th-century heyday as a winter resort for the bourgeoisie. www.explorenicecotedazur.com

La Maison du Citron

Menton is the home of the citron Menton, a lemon with IGP status, and the famous annual Fête du Citron. Above the town, with outstanding views, is family-run La Maison du Citron, organic citrus growers. Book a tasting and wander the groves. www.lamaisonducitron.com

From France Today magazine

Lead photo credit : Promenade des Anglais and Musée Masséna © CRT-Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur/Y. Le Magadure

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Caroline is a freelance writer with a focus on European travel. She has toured all areas of France, but none more so than the Loire Valley where she finds the combination of rich historical culture, rural landscape and exceptional architecture – not to mention outstanding wine – an irresistible lure to return again and again. Says Caroline, "With the focus over the next three years on the Loire Valley's connection to Leonardo da Vinci, lovers of art, architecture and French culture are in for a treat when visiting the region with the many additional events and activities on offer." Caroline is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers.

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