Six of the best driving routes in France

Carlton Boyce / 06 May 2016

Whether you're going on a driving holiday or are just passing through to get to your holiday destination, here are six of the best driving routes in France.



Most people drive through France along the brilliant – but expensive - autoroute system, seeing their journey as nothing more than a necessary evil that gets them to their holiday home as quickly as possible.

Which might be a mistake, because France has some of the best driving roads in the world; if you can spare the time, you can turn the drive down into an enjoyable part of your holiday, rather than a chore that has to be endured. 

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Here are six of my favourites. 

1. Route Napoléon

The Route Napoléon starts in Grenoble and finishes in Grasse. The 200-mile route replicates that taken by Napoléon in 1815 and is marked by a series of French Imperial Eagle statues.

It takes in some of the most stunning mountain scenery in Europe and the road itself is so spectacular it regularly features as one of the top ten drives in the world. As a result, it can get busy in the summer, especially with bikers.

If you allow around eight hours to complete it, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and have a leisurely lunch.

2. La Côte d'Or 

A relatively short route of just 37 miles from Santenay to Dijon, it takes in the towns of Puligny-Montrachet, Volnay, Beaune, Nuits-St-Georges, Vosne-Romanée, Gevrey-Chambertin, and Marsannay-la-Côte, making it the perfect road trip for wine lovers.

Of course, you could do the whole length in an hour, but why not relax and take a couple of days. It’s not like you’ll be stuck for something to do…

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3. La Route des Grandes Alpes 

By way of contrast, La Route des Grandes Alpes is 460 miles of beautiful mountain scenery stretching from Lake Geneva to Nice via the French Alps.

It can take anything from two to six days to cover, but I’d recommend taking the latter as you don’t want to rush through such beautiful mountain passes. Beware: some of the passes are closed in the winter, so it’s best to check the brilliant interactive website for more information before setting off!

4. La Route du Cidre

The Cider Route is a small route of just 25 miles that, unsurprisingly, takes in Normandy’s cider country.  

Probably not the best driving roads in the world, but definitely worth a detour if you’re driving through northern France on your way down south. (You could always explore the abbeys of Normandy on your way back, too.)

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5. Col de Turini

The 13-mile Col de Turini has been used for both the Tour de France and the Monte Carlo rally, so if you’re expecting tight mountain hairpins and spectacular scenery you are unlikely to be disappointed.

Bad weather and nightfall can make it truly treacherous, so it’s better to drive it during the day and enjoy the stunning views.

6. Col de la Croix-Morand

Another relatively short stretch of road, the Col de la Croix-Morand comprises wide, smooth tarmac and flowing bends and could have been designed with fast motorbikes and sports cars in mind.

Of course, some people take their road bikes with them and cycle the whole length.

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Tip: My top tip is to keep an eye out for "Routes bis". These are picturesque routes that are specifically designed for holidaymakers who aren’t in a hurry, and make a great alternative to the autoroutes if you’re happy to potter along and explore the countryside.

For more tips and useful information, browse our motoring articles.

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