Stringing together an all-star collection of Rick's favorite places in and around the City of Light, your expert guide will bring you the very best of Paris along with its most stunning surroundings: the Loire Valley's exquisite châteaux; Brittany's half-timbered villages; Normandy's magical Mont St. Michel and stirring D-Day beaches; Monet's dreamy gardens at Giverny; the stained-glass wonders of Bourges Cathedral; and a medieval castle being built in Burgundy today — using lots of muscle and 13th-century technology. Join us for Paris & the Heart of France in 11 Days!
You'll get all this!
- A small, friendly group of 24-28 people — half the size of most tour groups
- Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art and culture of France come alive for you
- All tours and admissions — at no extra cost — covering at least 14 group sightseeing events • 2-day Paris Museum Pass, allowing free admission throughout the city • Louvre Museum tour • Orsay Museum • Historic Paris walking tour • Notre-Dame Cathedral • Sainte-Chapelle • Guédelon tour • Bourges walking tour and Cathédrale St-Étienne • Chambord Château and audio guide • Chenonceau Château • Mont St. Michel and abbey tour • Bayeux Tapestry • D-Day tour (American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Pointe du Hoc and Sainte Mère Eglise) • Monet's Gardens at Giverny...and more
- All group transportation from Paris to Paris
- 10 nights accommodations in memorable, centrally-located hotels
- All breakfasts and half your dinners
- All tips for guides and driver
- Free stuff including Rick Steves' France and Paris guidebooks, French phrase book, moneybelt and earplugs
- Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
- Optional single supplements — this tour has a limited number of private rooms for solo travelers for an additional fee
- Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2014
- 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
- Flexibility should you need to transfer, or cancel/interrupt your tour
- Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for important details regarding everything listed above
Daily Activity Key
- Light = 2-4 miles of mostly level walking throughout the day.
- Moderate = 2-6 miles walking throughout the day with some hills and stairs.
- Strenuous = 2-8 miles walking throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs and uneven terrain.
Day 1: Welcome to Paris
We'll meet at around 5 p.m. at our hotel for a short "bienvenue à Paris" meeting. Then we'll take an orientation walk through our neighborhood, followed by time to get acquainted over dinner together. Sleep in Paris (3 nights). No bus. Walking: light.
Day 2: Historic Paris and the Orsay
Let's begin where Paris did, on the Ile de la Cité. Your guide will lead a walking tour of the city's early history, including visits to a pair of Europe's most significant medieval Gothic churches: the legendary Notre-Dame Cathedral and the exquisite Sainte-Chapelle. Then we'll take a stroll through the bohemian Latin Quarter. After free time for lunch on your own, we'll regroup and make our way to the world's greatest collection of Impressionist art — from Monet and Degas to Cézanne and Gauguin and more — at the Orsay Museum where, after an introduction, you'll be free to visit on your own. No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Day 3: Masterpieces of the Louvre
Our morning is devoted to touring Europe's greatest museum — the Louvre — where you'll come face-to-face with timeless treasures that include Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo and hundreds more. Your afternoon will be free to be inspired by Monet's incredible Water Lilies at the recently renovated Orangerie, perplexed by whimsical water fountains and modern art at the Pompidou, or compelled to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, followed by a classy stroll along the Champs-Elysées. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 4: Medieval Guédelon and Bourges
Today we'll leave Paris and head for the Château de Guédelon — a medieval castle being built today using 13th-century materials and techniques. Local experts may give us a close-up look at masons cutting limestone, sheep being sheared and blacksmiths at work. Then we'll drive past farms, forests and vineyards to the overlooked town of Bourges. Once we arrive we'll wander along the cobbled lanes and medieval half-timbered houses on a walking tour with a local guide. Our tour will culminate with a visit of Bourges' Cathédrale St-Étienne where we will learn how to read some of France's most remarkable and original medieval stained glass. Sleep in Bourges (1 night). Bus: 5 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 5: The Loire and Chambord
Today we'll head for the biggest and brightest of the Loire Valley châteaux — Chambord — where 365 fireplaces warmed royal hunting parties for more than 500 years. We'll have ample time to visit this magnificent château, its expansive grounds, and find some lunch. A bit farther up the road, our own Loire Valley accommodations will be every bit as French, but a little more down-to-earth. Dinner together tonight. Sleep in the Loire Valley (2 nights). Bus 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 6: Chenonceau and Amboise
This morning we'll visit the elegant, river-straddling, 16th-century Château de Chenonceau. We'll learn more about royal life in France and have plenty of free time to roam through its opulent interior and gardens. This afternoon you'll have time on your own in Amboise to find lunch and sightsee. You can choose to visit Leonardo da Vinci's home, Clos Lucé, and marvel at the working models of the Renaissance Man's cleverest inventions, tour Amboise's cliff-hanging castle or wander the pleasant pedestrian-friendly streets. Bus: 1 hr. Walking: moderate.
Day 7: Brittany and Mont St. Michel
We'll depart the Loire Valley this morning and make a beeline to Brittany. We'll stop for lunch and a walk through the quintessential Breton hill town of Fougères, where we'll learn about the Bretons' Celtic origins and enjoy a panoramic view of surrounding Brittany from the church garden. Later this afternoon, we'll take a short drive to the timeless, picture-perfect island of Mont St. Michel. We'll arrive as the tourist tide recedes, ensuring a less crowded experience here. We'll share dinner together and sleep on the Mont itself (1 night). Bus: 5 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 8: Treasure of Bayeux
This morning we'll take a walking tour of Mont St. Michel's town and its towering abbey to learn about local legends, monastic life, and the far-reaching influences exerted by abbeys in French history. Then we'll drive into the heart of Normandy to study the 1,000-year-old Bayeux Tapestry — a 70-yard-long embroidered cartoon/work of art that brings to life William the Conqueror's victory over the Anglo-Saxons at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. We'll enjoy dinner together and sleep in Normandy (2 nights). Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 9: Normandy's D-Day Beaches
We'll spend the day with a local expert who will give us a powerful tour of the Normandy beaches where, in June of 1944, the Allied D-Day landings took place by sea and air. We'll visit Pointe du Hoc, where Army Rangers scaled the cliffs in pre-dawn darkness, and the American Cemetery, where 10,000 stark white markers memorialize the Americans who gave their lives on the beaches below. We'll also visit the strategic town of Sainte Mère Eglise, the airborne drop site made famous by "The Longest Day" and "Band of Brothers." We'll return to Bayeux in time for dinner on your own. Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 10: Monet's Gardens at Giverny
We'll depart early this morning to visit Monet's beautifully-preserved, masterpiece-inspiring gardens in the town of Giverny. In addition to the serene ponds made famous by Monet's paintings, we'll also see his house, studio, and Japanese garden. After free time for lunch, we'll make our way back to Paris and a farewell feast together tonight, where we'll share travel memories and toast new friends. Salut! Sleep in Paris (1 night). Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 11: Tour Over After Breakfast
It's a breeze to reach Paris' airports by taxi, shuttle or public transportation. Your guide will help you with any post-tour planning, leaving you well prepared for the road ahead. Merci et au revoir!
Itinerary specifics subject to change.
Rick Steves tours are physically active!
This is an integral, essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Paris & the Heart of France in 11 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...
- Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (several blocks possible) and up stairways to reach your hotel; then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
- Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
- Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
- After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.
We've put together some specific information on what you should know about this tour before you go. You'll also find more general information about "Getting Ready for Your Tour" on our Tour FAQ.
Sightseeing On Your Own
If you arrive in Paris before your tour begins, use Rick Steves' France and Paris guidebooks to get oriented. Ride the public transportation, try out a few words of French, and get over your jet lag with lots of fresh air and exercise. Walking tours make a great introduction to any town. Check with the local TI or your Rick Steves guidebooks.
Here are a few suggestions for sightseeing in Paris that we do not do as a group: walk the Champs-Elysées and climb the Arc de Triomphe; tour Montmartre, Sacré-Coeur and the Old Opera House; or take a day trip to Versailles. Visit these museums: Invalides (military); Cluny (medieval art); Rodin (sculpture); Pompidou (modern art); Orangerie (Impressionist and post- Impressionist art) and Marmottan (Impressionist art).
Eiffel Tower Reservations: The tour does not include a visit to the Eiffel Tower. However it is often a highlight for any traveler and one we highly recommend. Avoid the lines by booking tickets in advance at: http://ticket.toureiffel.fr. Pre- or post-tour is the best time to visit the tower. If you need to visit the tower during the tour, consider making your reservation for Day 1 before 12:00 or after 22:00; Day 2 after 17:30; or Day 3 after 16:00.
Most tour members arrive a day or two before the tour begins — and those who don't, wish they had. This allows you ample time to get over jet lag and make the most of the first few days of the tour.
Paris is a major transportation hub, making additional travel before or after your tour quite easy. Flying within Europe can be reasonable. Ask your travel agent or check Rick's list of European budget airlines. For links to helpful rail and air websites, go to www.ricksteves.com/plan/links and look under "Transportation."
Read Rick's Guide to Eurail Passes and decide if your travel plans merit a rail pass (or contact our Rail Department for advice at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425/771-8303 ext. 214).
Prior to your tour departure, you will receive detailed directions on how to get from the airport to your first tour hotel, as well as contact information for your first and last hotels in case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations.
If you need more information about additional European travel or for specific questions about your tour, contact the Tour Department at 425/608-4217 or email email@example.com.
See a chart with monthly rain and temperature information for this tour.
While it is important to pack light, there are some items we'd like you to take into consideration when packing for this tour. Weather in Normandy can be very unpredictable. Rain and cooler weather are possible regardless of season, so we suggest packing an umbrella and rain appropriate clothing.
For ideas on what to pack, check Rick's Packing List and our Women's Packing List.
Tour Guide Raves
"Patrick is an extraordinary tour guide. His talents and energy are unmatchable in our opinion. He was like a classroom professor who continually worked to help us better understand all that we were going to see, and to put everything into context. He made every minute of the trip fun and exciting."
— Ron in Fredericksburg, VA
"Michaelanne had an outstanding sense of history and place having lived and gone to school in France. She has such a great sense of humor and a wonderful laugh which made her bus narratives so much fun to listen to. She wanted to make sure our trip was going to be a journey of a lifetime and she really did!"
— Linda in Kensington, CA
Favorite tour memories from recent alums:
"Favorite 'wow' moment? There were numerous! How do you put into words all that you feel when you're standing in the Louvre, or looking at the alter in Notre-Dame, or gazing at the sunset at Mont St. Michel, or studying a thousand-year-old tapestry in Bayeux? This trip was fantastic and it met all of my expectations! I have fallen in love with France and I cannot wait to return so I can explore the rest of the country!"
— Joan in East Greenville, PA
"My favorite day was in Giverny, especially after having seen Monet's water lilies paintings in Paris. I wish we could have spent all day there! The other great moment was the final night, when we walked to the Eiffel Tower, opened champagne, and toasted the lights. It was a perfect ending to a great trip."
— Jacqueline in Golden Valley, MN
"The first glimpse of Mont St. Michel was awe inspiring. Also, the trip finale at the Eiffel Tower was a memory that I will cherish."
— Jean in Thousand Oaks, CA
To see more comments on Rick Steves' tours, read through our tour member reviews.
Videos & More
This region is rich in history, art and culture. To help you get the most from your trip, we've put together this collection of travel resources from Rick's TV shows, radio interviews and articles, as well as recommended books, films and music.
Rick Steves' TV Clips & Shows
(For more Rick Steves' TV clips on this region, visit Rick on YouTube.)
- The Longest Day (1962)
- Saving Private Ryan (1998)
- Chocolat (2000)
- Amélie (2001)
- La Vie En Rose (2007)
Rick Steves' Radio Interviews
(For more radio interviews on this region, see Rick's Audio Europe™ files for iPod, PC & MP3.)
Rick Steves' Audio Tours
- Paris: The Louvre, The Orsay, Versailles Palace, Historic Paris Walk
Rick Steves Audio Europe™
- Pop: Maurice Chevalier, Johnny Hallyday, Edith Piaf, Charles Trenet
- Cabaret: Charles Aznavour
- Movie Soundtracks: French Kiss, Gigi, Amélie
Rick Steves' Articles
(For more articles on this region, see Rick's Best Destinations.)
- Rick Steves' Paris
- Rick Steves' France
- French or Foe?; Savoir-Flair — Polly Platt
- A Distant Mirror — Barbara Tuchman
- Portraits of France — Robert Daley
- Band of Brothers — Stephen Ambrose
- City of Darkness, City of Light — Marge Piercy
- A Moveable Feast — Ernest Hemingway
- Birdsong — Sebastian Faulks
- Les Misérables; The Hunchback of Notre Dame — Victor Hugo
- Suite Française — Irène Némirovsky