Me and my family will be going to France next June and I was planning on renting a car in Strasbourg and traveling to Nice. I would like to find a route to Nice that runs mostly through the Alps. I know I want to see Colmar, Geneva, and Annecy. But from Annecy I'm unsure which direction to go or are there towns that I must see. I haven't decided on the town to over night in either. Suggestions welcome. We will have 3-4 days to travel to Nice so we will be able to stop at least twice over night. Thanks.
I might consider following the Route of Napoléon and yes, it can be dangerous but it is memorable.
I have no personal experience to offer, but if you go to ViaMichelin.com and enter your origin and destination, it will present options. Zoom way in on the map and the especially scenic stretches of road will be marked in green.
If you opt for a route that cuts through Switzerland, you'll need to buy a highway vignette for that country (unless you can stay on local roads, which I imagine would be difficult).
Many of the fastest results run through Switzerland and through Italy. However, you can drive from Strasbourg via Basel, and then Bern, and then drop down to Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) to Geneva, then through Annecy/Aix Les Bains, and then to Grenoble. As acraven mentions, the route de Napoleon runs through Grenoble through Gap, then Sisteron, Dignes-les-Bains, Grasse and to Golfe Juan. (I've taken most of these routes, except for the high road between Grenoble to Gap, as I used to live in Lausanne and have a place in Nice.)
The route through Switzerland is through the lowlands. Bern makes for a nice stop for lunch (or you can route through Fribourg and hit Montreux/Lausanne through a diversion). But you won't have an alpine route through this variant, although the countryside is pleasant, especially along the lake, and views are possible. You might enjoy staying in the smaller Annecy versus the busy Geneve.
You don't necessarily need to follow the exact route de Napoleon from Grenoble (you will be in a broad valley). You can also branch down towards the A8 highway by branching at Sisteron and descending past Manosque through the Valensole or via the Gorge du Verdon, Or you can take the route via Digne and past Entrevaux. Some of these roads are pretty twisty, if you are prone to motion sickness, as well as high (as you can see from the link referenced above at dangerousroads.org).
I took the train to Entrevaux from Nice; it's a cute little medieval town, worth a stop for sure. I have no idea how touristy it is, because I visited on the day of a deluge of biblical proportions. Not the best travel decision I ever made! Digne was also interesting, but I had less time there and it was larger so I didn't get a very good look at it. I believe for most travelers Entrevaux would be the better choice for a short stop.
Another vote for the Route of Napoléon.
Thanks everyone. Gonna definitely consider the route of Napoleon since I had already thought about going through Gap. Andrew, we will definitely tour the Riviera since my wife really wants to see it. Probably spend 4-5 days in the region before catching train back to Paris.
I am planning a similar trip. How many days are you budgeting in total?
Strasbourg for me was a separate trip but I did drive from Chamonix down to the French Riviera. I chose a route through the Ardeche (one night stop) then spent five nights in Provence (Arles) before heading to the Riviera for another four nights (Juan les Pins). I drove through the Gorge de la Bourne. It was fun, so I drove it twice (maybe not so much for the faint-hearted) before continuing on.
I wanted to cover some of the route on top of the hills on the way from Arles to Juan les Pins but found it was a long enough drive, for one day, without going out of my way. As soon as I reached the area, I turned my car in in Antibes and walked from there to my apartment (I only carry one small shoulder bag, about half of a carry on, when I travel). I used the local train to visit different towns up and down the coast from Menton to Cannes (Antibes gets my vote as the best of the lot).
Afterward, I took the local train to Nice Airport (about a mile walk to the airport from the closest station, taxi might be your preference) and flew Air France back to Paris for roughly 50 euro.
Thanks a lot Brad. Great information. We are going to Chamonix-Mont-Blanc on our way(will be one of our stops). The route you took sounds great but we are staying a little more east. From Strasbourg we are going through Switzerland then to Chamonix. From there we’ll backtrack to Annecy then down to Grenoble, Gap, Selonnet, Entrevaux, then Nice. Stops include Geneva, Gap and Selonnet along with Chamonix.
How many stops did you make? Did you stay in Antibes or Juan les Pins? I’ve read the latter is wonderful and cheaper.
Do you think it’s better to have a car or use the train on the Riviera? I’m curious now. Sorry for all the questions but it’s great to talk with someone who’s done a very similar trip.
parking and driving anywhere between Menton and Cannes, including up the hills like St Paul de Vence, is an absolute basket case in the season.
I often drive (my own car) in the off-season but no way I'd even try in the season.
Watch out for the Grand Prix fortnight.
Parking in Nice at any time during the year is really tough. There's a reason all those cars have dents. Locals leave the parking brake off because the parking is so tough and many park by braille.
The train is easy to use for reaching coastal destinations and very inexpensive. Do be careful about pickpockets, though.
Good advice from Nigel to avoid the dates of the Grand Prix which also coincides partly with the Cannes Film Festival. Drop your car off at Nice airport when you arrive and take tram into city. There is excellent bus and train transportation up and down the coast.