Are you looking to embark on a 7-day road trip in France but unsure of your destination? Discover our 1-week itinerary starting from Marseille, exploring the charms of South of France.
During this journey, you’ll travel through exciting cities and villages, visit stunning sunny beaches, and witness breathtaking landscapes. Bon voyage!
1-Week Road Trip in Southern France: The Itinerary
To start exploring this one-week itinerary in Southern France, we begin in Marseille. This city serves as a central hub, making it easy to traverse the Camargue and the iconic cities of Southern France.
Unfortunately, in just 7 days, we won’t be able to show you all the wonders of the southern region. However, you will still traverse a significant and beautiful part of it. Let’s embark on an expedition to some of France’s most beautiful destinations.
Map of your 1-week itinerary in South of France
Your 1-week in South of France itinerary at a glance :
- Days 1 and 2: Marseille : Visit Marseille, with points of interest such as the Old Port, Fort Saint-Jean, the Panier district, the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, and the calanques. Overnight in Marseille.
- Day 3: Arles : Discover Arles, known for its historical monuments such as the Arenas, the Baths of Constantine, the cryptoporticus of the forum, the Church of Saint-Trophime, and the Vincent van Gogh Foundation. Overnight in Arles.
- Day 4: Avignon : Explore Avignon, with sites like the Palace of the Popes, the Avignon Bridge, the old town, the Opera, and the cathedral. Overnight in Avignon.
- Day 5: Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and the Gorges du Verdon: Visit the city and plan activities around Lake Sainte-Croix and exploration of the Gorges du Verdon. Overnight in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.
- Day 6: Aix-en-Provence : Discover the city, with attractions like the old town, Saint-Sauveur Cathedral, the Rotonde fountain, the Cours Mirabeau, and Paul Cézanne’s studio. Overnight in Aix-en-Provence.
- Day 7: Martigues: Visit Martigues, nicknamed the Provençal Venice, with its canals, the Berre pond, and the beaches of La Couronne, Ferrières, or La Saulce. Return to Marseille.
Days 1 and 2: Marseille
Marseille has a rich history, being one of the oldest cities in France. Founded by the Greeks around 600 BC, it naturally showcases Greek, Roman, and medieval influences today.
Marseille is composed of several districts, each with its own charm. Among the most popular are Le Panier, Cours Julien, the Vieux-Port (Old Port) area, and the Prado district. We’re sorry to disappoint, but the Mistral district only exists in the TV series “Plus belle la vie.”
To start your 1-week road trip in South of France, head towards the Vieux-Port, the focal point of Marseille. Here, a plethora of exciting activities await you. You can take astonishing photos of the avant-garde mirrored canopy, stroll along the quay, explore the superb heritage surrounding the Old Port, and enjoy a short cruise on the Ferry Boat. This area is also bustling with bistros and restaurants – don’t miss out on the famous Marseille bouillabaisse.
Among the city’s most famous monuments, you’ll first visit Fort Saint-Jean at the entrance of the Old Port. In the Panier district, you’ll find the former hospice of La Vieille Charité. Transformed into a museum, this building with its stunning architecture offers temporary exhibitions and activities throughout the year.
Finally, climb up to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, the Good Mother. For hundreds of years, it has been the guardian of sailors and fishermen. Also, don’t miss the famous fish market, formerly known as “La Criée,” every morning from 8:00 am.
Get outside of Marseille
Outside the city, take a walk along the Corniche Kennedy to admire the sea. Of course, Marseille wouldn’t be complete without its famous calanques. You can hike, rock climb, and try to find the most beautiful coves for a refreshing dip. Speaking of swimming, head to the city’s prettiest beaches, such as those of Prado or Catalans. Moreover, water activities are offered on most beaches, including kayaking, sailing, and scuba diving.
🚘By car: Marseille- Arles (1h10)
🔗 Read Also: Best Things to do in Marseille
Day 3: Arles
Next, head to Arles, an hour away from Marseille. This city, with its grand historical heritage, is an essential stop on your one-week itinerary in south of France. Fun fact: Arles is the largest commune in France in terms of area, seven times larger than Paris! Known for its historical monuments, “Little Rome” is also a city of art.
Key attractions in Arles include:
- The Arles Amphitheatre: One of the city’s most famous attractions, this Roman amphitheater built around 80-90 AD is still used for cultural events like the Feria du Riz.
- The Baths of Constantine: Built in the early 4th century.
- The Cryptoporticus of the Forum: A series of underground vaulted galleries that served as a solid foundation for the city’s Roman forum.
- The Historic Center of Arles: Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its exceptional Roman and Romanesque remains.
- The Church of Saint-Trophime: Dating back to the 12th century, its magnificent cloister was classified as a historical monument in 1846.
- The Vincent van Gogh Foundation: Showcases modern art exhibitions in tribute to the artist who lived there from 1888 to 1889.
Arles is also known as the gateway to the Camargue, one of France’s most famous natural parks. This wetland area, spanning over 150,000 hectares, is home to numerous animal and plant species. Enjoy horseback riding, biking, or hiking in this spectacular location!
🚆Train journey: Arles – Avignon (18min)
🚘By car: Arles – Avignon (50min)
Day 4: Avignon
A less than an hour’s drive will take you to Avignon, the impressive City of Popes. Enchanting places and exciting activities await you here. Enjoy walks along the banks of the Rhône, admiring the famous Pont d’Avignon, its medieval heritage, and its artistic festival. This fourth day of your one-week road trip in France is sure to surprise and delight you.
Surrounded by ramparts, the old town of Avignon is a must-visit. Wander on foot through its ancient streets, discovering charming hidden squares. You can’t miss exploring the Palais des Papes, one of the top 10 most visited monuments in France, attracting nearly 600,000 visitors each year. Once a fortress and papal residence, it’s now a historical marvel. Nearby, you’ll find the magnificent Avignon Opera, the cathedral, and the Rocher des Doms.
Culturally, the city is rich in museums, such as the Lambert Collection and the Calvet Museum. Avignon is renowned for its festival in July, the world’s largest theater event, featuring theatrical performances, dance shows, contemporary art exhibitions, and more. From mid-August to the end of September, the Palais des Papes is illuminated with the Luminessences d’Avignon, a monumental 360° show.
🚘By car: Avignon – Moustiers-Sainte-Marie (2h15)
Day 5: Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and the Gorges du Verdon
Next, head to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, the fifth stop on your 7-day road trip in France. This charming village, located 2 hours from Avignon, nestles against a rocky cliff in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. Often described as a Provençal nativity scene, it’s famous for its legendary star suspended in the void. The village, part of the Verdon Regional Natural Park, holds the prestigious label “Villages and Cities of Character.”
To explore Moustiers, seek out its craftsmanship, especially its faience. Visit shops to purchase unique pieces. At the top of the hill overlooking the village, you’ll see the 12th-century Chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir, accessible after climbing 262 steps.
Nearby, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is close to Lake Sainte-Croix. Enjoy swimming in its fresh waters or engage in various water sports like windsurfing, canoeing, pedal boating, sailing, and even snorkeling. Next door, explore the famous Gorges du Verdon, one of Europe’s deepest canyons, by kayak or car.
🚘By car: Moustiers-Sainte-Marie – Aix-en-Provence (1h30)
Day 6: Aix-en-Provence
After a 1.5-hour journey, you’ll arrive in Aix-en-Provence, the city of Paul Cézanne.
Established in 122 BC by the Romans, it has since flourished in an exceptionally beautiful natural environment. The thermal baths, colorful streets, and fountains have made Aix-en-Provence famous, attracting numerous visitors each year. Its city center is full of historical monuments, mostly dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Let’s explore this sixth stage of your one-week itinerary in France.
In the old town, built on the ancient Roman city, you’ll find a rich history with buildings from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the 17th and 18th centuries. Don’t miss the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral, an architectural masterpiece housing a mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles. Then, head to the Rotonde fountain, marking the start of the Cours Mirabeau and adorned with 12 lion statues and 3 graces representing justice, agriculture, and the fine arts.
As mentioned, stroll along the main artery of Aix-en-Provence, the Cours Mirabeau, a street bustling with shops, cafes, and restaurants since the 17th century. Enjoy a drink on a terrace or savor a Provençal stew. Don’t forget to buy the renowned sweet treats, the calissons of Aix.
For a nature walk, visit Parc Jourdan, hiding an 18th-century country house. Finally, walk to Paul Cézanne’s studio, which retraces the life of the painter with the house and its interior elements remaining intact.
🚆Train journey: Aix-en-Provence – Martigues (1h34)
🚘By car: Aix-en-Provence – Martigues (45 min)
Day 7: Martigues
On the last day of your one-week road trip in France, you’ll reach Martigues, also known as the Provençal Venice, in just 45 minutes. From here, you’re only half an hour away from Marseille.
Martigues is home to the Quartier de l’Île and the banks of Ferrières and Jonquières Centre. Together, they form the precious city center. It’s here, in these districts, that the enchanting charm of Provence and the romantic influence of Venice intertwine. The canals of Martigues, connecting the city to the Mediterranean Sea and the Étang de Berre, are one of the city’s most symbolic features. Enjoy a boat ride or a leisurely stroll along these canals.
The Étang de Berre has saltier and warmer water than the sea, making it a popular spot for swimming among tourists. As you head to the pond, you’ll likely see colonies of flamingos. However, if you prefer the beach, relax on the beaches of La Couronne, Ferrières, or La Saulce. These fine sandy stretches, along with cliffs and coves, contribute to the richness of the majestic Blue Coast.
Near the city, you’ll find the Parc de Figuerolles, a 130-hectare space inviting you to discover its hiking trails, treetop adventure park, educational farm, and remnants of ancient agricultural estates.
Southern France, with its diverse landscapes and historic cities, offers an unforgettable road trip experience. Understanding the best time to visit these enchanting destinations can enhance your journey, making it a memorable adventure.
🚆Train journey: Martigues – Marseille (45 min)
🚘By car: Martigues – Marseille (40 min)
When to Embark on Your 1-Week Itinerary in South of France
Spring and Autumn – The Perfect Balance
Visiting Marseille during the spring (April to June) or autumn (September to November) is ideal. The weather is pleasantly mild, perfect for exploring the Old Port, Fort Saint-Jean, and the vibrant Panier district. The cooler temperatures make walking tours more comfortable, and the less crowded beaches, like Prado and Catalans, offer a serene experience.
Arles, famous for its historical monuments like the Arenas and the Baths of Constantine, is best visited in spring. The mild weather in April and May complements the outdoor exploration of its ancient sites. The spring light provides a perfect backdrop for photographers, especially at the Vincent van Gogh Foundation.
Summer – Vibrant and Festive, but Crowded
While summer (June to August) in Avignon is lively, especially during the famous Avignon Festival in July, it can be quite crowded. The Palace of the Popes and the Avignon Bridge are spectacular in the summer sun, but be prepared for higher temperatures and more tourists.
Late summer, particularly August, is a great time to visit Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and the Gorges du Verdon. The weather is warm, perfect for water activities in Lake Sainte-Croix and hiking in the Gorges du Verdon. However, it’s also the peak tourist season, so expect some crowds.
Winter – Quiet and Serene
Winter (December to February) in Aix-en-Provence offers a quieter experience. The old town, Saint-Sauveur Cathedral, and Paul Cézanne’s studio can be enjoyed without the rush of tourists. The cooler weather is ideal for leisurely exploring the city’s rich history and architecture.
Martigues, with its charming canals and the Berre pond, is a peaceful retreat in winter. The city, known as the Provençal Venice, is less crowded, allowing for a more intimate experience of its beauty.
Timing Your Visit for the Best Experience
Each season in Southern France offers a unique charm. Spring and autumn provide the best overall weather and fewer crowds, making them ideal for a road trip. Summer offers vibrancy and festivities but comes with higher temperatures and more tourists. Winter, while cooler, offers a peaceful and uncrowded experience, especially in cities like Aix-en-Provence and Martigues.
Budgeting for a 1-Week Itinerary Through South of France
A road trip through Southern France is a dream for many travelers. As you plan your journey from Marseille to Martigues, through historical cities like Arles and Avignon, it’s important to consider your budget. This guide will help you estimate the costs involved in your week-long adventure.
Car Rental Costs
- Rental Fees: The cost of renting a car can vary greatly depending on the type of vehicle and rental company. On average, expect to spend around €30-€50 per day.
- Insurance: Don’t forget to factor in insurance costs, which can add an additional €10-€20 per day.
- Fuel Prices: Fuel costs in France can fluctuate, but budgeting approximately €1.50 per liter is a safe estimate. The total cost will depend on your car’s fuel efficiency and the total distance covered.
- Hotels and B&Bs: Prices for accommodation can range widely. Budget-friendly options might start at €50 per night, while mid-range hotels can cost €100-€150 per night.
- Booking in Advance: To save money, consider booking your accommodations in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.
Food and Dining
- Eating Out: A meal at an average restaurant can cost around €15-€25 per person. Fine dining experiences in cities like Marseille and Avignon will be higher.
- Groceries and Picnics: For a more budget-friendly option, consider buying groceries and enjoying picnics. This can significantly reduce your food expenses.
Toll Roads and Parking
- Tolls: Set aside a budget for toll roads, which are common in France. Depending on your route, tolls can add up to €20-€40.
- Parking Fees: In cities, parking can cost €10-€20 per day. Some accommodations offer free parking, so check in advance.
Sightseeing and Activities
- Entrance Fees: Many historical sites and museums charge entrance fees, typically ranging from €5 to €15.
- Outdoor Activities: Budget for activities like boat rentals or guided tours, especially in areas like the Gorges du Verdon.
- Souvenirs and Extras: Set aside a portion of your budget for souvenirs, emergency expenses, or unplanned activities.
A road trip through Southern France can fit various budgets, depending on your travel style and preferences. On average, a budget of €100-€150 per day per person should cover most expenses comfortably. Remember, careful planning and booking in advance can help you manage costs effectively, ensuring a memorable and stress-free journey through the beautiful South of France.
Essential Transportation Tips for Your 1-week Road Trip itinerary Through Southern France
Embarking on a road trip through the picturesque landscapes of Southern France is an adventure of a lifetime. From the bustling streets of Marseille to the serene beauty of Martigues, each destination offers its unique charm. To ensure your journey is as smooth as it is memorable, here are some essential transportation tips.
Renting a Car: The Key to Flexibility
- Why Renting is Beneficial: A rental car offers the freedom to explore Southern France at your leisure. You can make impromptu stops, visit hidden gems, and tailor your itinerary to your preferences.
- Choosing the Right Vehicle: Depending on your group size and travel needs, select a car that offers comfort and efficiency. Compact cars are great for couples, while SUVs might be better for families.
Mastering the Art of Navigation
- GPS is Your Best Friend: In today’s digital age, a reliable GPS or a smartphone with navigation apps is indispensable. Don’t forget to download offline maps for remote areas.
- Understanding Toll Roads: Be prepared for tolls on French highways. Keep cash and cards handy to avoid any inconvenience.
Parking Smartly in Urban and Rural Areas
- City Parking Tactics: In cities like Marseille and Avignon, finding parking can be a challenge. Opt for hotel parking or public garages and be mindful of parking rules.
- Ease of Parking in the Countryside: In smaller towns and rural areas, parking is usually more accessible. However, always park legally to avoid fines.
Adhering to Driving Rules and Etiquette
- Speed Limits and Safety: France has strict speed limits, varying by area. Always adhere to these limits for your safety and to avoid fines.
- Zero Tolerance for Drunk Driving: The legal alcohol limit for drivers in France is quite low. It’s best to avoid alcohol if you’re driving.
Public Transportation: A Viable Alternative
- Trains and Buses: For some parts of your journey, consider trains or buses. They can offer a relaxing break from driving and a different perspective on the scenic landscapes.
1-Week Road Trip itinerary in South of France: Conclusion
This journey from Marseille to Avignon, passing through gems like Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and the enchanting landscapes of Provence, offers a perfect blend of culture, history, nature, and gastronomy.
Depending on the time of year you travel, we advise adjusting this itinerary. For instance, if you’re traveling in summer, we recommend spending two days in the Gorges du Verdon and skipping Martigues to enjoy the seaside setting of this destination. Conversely, if the weather is less favorable, spending two days in Aix-en-Provence will be more beneficial for your one-week road trip in France.
You have more time ? Explore our Ultimate 2-Week France Itinerary: From Paris to Provence and Beyond