France has arguably some of the best driving routes in Europe, if not the world, from its coastal routes to its Alpine border with Switzerland and Italy – but which are the best driving roads in France itself?
Here are five of the top contenders for that title, which you’ll see mentioned time and time again among motoring enthusiasts of all kinds.
1. Route Napoleon
Recreate the route taken by Napoleon in 1815 from Grenoble to Grasse, a distance of about 200 miles and achievable in a single day’s driving.
The route is marked by Imperial Eagle statues and from Grasse it’s a short hop onwards to the coast at Cannes or Nice, if you want to end the day on the beach.
Look out for cyclists and motorbikers in the summer months – this is France, after all – and you can share in the experience of one of the world’s most-loved routes for road users of all types.
2. Col De Turini
A shorter but more challenging drive is the Col De Turini, used in both the Tour de France and the World Rally Championship, and featured on Top Gear as one of the world’s greatest driving roads.
It’s about 35 km in length – just over 20 miles – but with narrow winding mountainside bends flanked by steep drops and a maximum height of over 1,600 metres, it’s one to relish if you like a challenge.
3. Western Coastal Route
You can arrive by ferry into St Malo from the south of England, putting you directly in Brittany rather than at the far north of France in Calais – and this unlocks the potential for a fantastic drive to the south of France down the west coast.
Cut off the Brittany headland itself with a hop down to Nantes via Rennes, and then pick up the A83 towards Bordeaux and the A63 onwards to Bayonne and Biarritz.
It’s about 450 miles in all, so possibly not a one-day drive, although in normal traffic conditions it should be doable in around seven hours if you include the toll roads along the way.
4. The Dordogne River Valley
From Bordeaux there are a couple of options to pick up the River Dordogne heading east – the A10 is the more direct northerly route, while the N89 will get you there further east around Libourne.
As you head east along the valley, you’ll reach Bergerac in about 100 km (60 miles) and can go onwards to Sarlat in a further 90 km (55 miles) and Lanzac 30 km (20 miles) beyond that.
You can continue upstream all the way to the source of the river at Puy de Sancy if you wish – a total of about 500 km or 300 miles in all – but the lower, flatter sections are the main tourist attraction with small towns that make perfect stop-offs along the way.
5. La Route des Grandes Alpes
The 425-mile route from Lake Geneva starts on the French south bank of the lake, so there’s no need to cross into Switzerland.
From Thonon-les-Bains it tracks south keeping just west of the French border with Italy, until it reaches the south coast at Menton, from where you can easily reach Monaco or Nice.
On the way you’ll see forests, mountains and snow all year round, pass some of France’s best ski resorts and reach an altitude of more than 2,300 metres – it’s a much longer run, and you don’t have to do it all, as any section along the way has plenty to offer in its own right.