The bountiful vineyards, classic villages and hearty cuisine of Eastern France are legendary. Starting in the effervescent Champagne capital of Reims, you'll spend 14 fascinating days with your Rick Steves guide, exploring Colmar's cobbled lanes, Alsace's meandering Route du Vin, Verdun's historic battlefields, Burgundy's fabled Côte d'Or, Chamonix's majestic mountains, Provence's scenic Côtes du Rhône, and ending with a harborside toast in Mediterranean Marseille. Join us for the Best of Eastern France in 14 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 19 group sightseeing events • Reims walking tour • Reims Cathedral • Champagne Cave visit and tasting • Verdun WWI battlefields tour • Colmar walking tour • Unterlinden Museum tour • Colmar wine region excursion • Alsatian wine tasting • Beaune walking tour • Hospices de Beaune tour • Market day in Beaune • Beaune wine tasting • Boat cruise on Lake Annecy • Hiking orientation in French Alps • Vaison la Romaine Roman ruins tour • Orange Roman Theater tour • Rhone Valley wine tasting • Tour of Marseille • Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica...and more
- All group transportation from Reims to Marseille
- 13 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 Provence and the French Riviera 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 France's Champagne Region
Just 45 minutes from central Paris by frequent TGV (bullet) train, the effervescent city of Reims is famous for its royal history, its towering cathedral...and Champagne. We'll meet at around 5 p.m. at our hotel for a short "bienvenue à Reims" meeting. Then we'll take an orientation walk through the heart of Reims, followed by time to get acquainted over dinner together. Sleep in Reims (2 nights). No bus. Walking: light.
Day 2: All Day in Reims
We'll spend our morning on a walking tour through Reims' historic city center, where we'll learn about the design and history of its glorious Gothic cathedral. Rivaling Paris' Notre-Dame in beauty and prestige, more than two dozen kings and queens of France were crowned here over the course of six centuries. The cathedral and its surrounding neighborhood were virtually destroyed during WWI, then rebuilt during the Art Deco age, which is delightfully reflected in the design and décor of Reims' downtown buildings. Today we'll also learn about this region's most famous product — Champagne — with a tour and tasting, courtesy of a local producer. Dinner will be on your own this evening. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 3: Battlefields and Lessons of Verdun
We'll meet our bus and driver today and take a short drive to the historic WWI battlefields at Verdun. We'll visit the ruins and monuments of one of Europe's costliest battles of attrition, where hundreds of thousands of French and German soldiers perished. Our day will end in France's Germanic region, the Alsace, the ultimate Franco-Germanic blend. Tonight we'll share a dinner of Alsatian specialties in the town of Colmar, where we'll sleep (3 nights). Bus: 6 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 4: All day in Colmar
Today is devoted to exploring the enchanting town of Colmar. We'll take a walking tour this morning, wandering over its cobbled lanes lined with leaning, half-timbered buildings, and learn about the historic importance of the community's canals. We'll wrap things up at one of Rick's favorite museums in Europe — the Unterlinden — home to the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald. You'll have this afternoon and evening free to explore more of the city's sights and pedestrian-friendly lanes, and to enjoy more Alsatian specialties on your own. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 5: The Route du Vin
Let's take off and explore the region's scenic Route du Vin, where colorful villages and vineyards carpet the foothills of the Vosges Mountains — birthplace of the region's very dry Rieslings and aromatic Gewürztraminers. We'll visit Albert Schweitzer's hometown village of Kaysersberg and find the perfect winery to sample some local varieties. Then we'll return to Colmar, where you'll have the late afternoon and evening free. Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 6: A Hearty Taste of Burgundy
This morning we'll drive from the Teutonic tidiness of Alsace to the red-tiled villages of Burgundy and its bustling wine capital of Beaune. After some free time for lunch, we'll hit the ground walking with a tour of the town and its eye-opening medieval charity hospital, Hospices de Beaune. Tonight we'll have a Burgundian dinner together. Sleep in Beaune (2 nights). Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 7: Market Day and Vineyards
It's outdoor market day in Beaune! Your morning will be free for rubbing elbows with locals sampling smelly cheeses, creamy patés and fresh produce while doing their weekly shopping. This afternoon we set off for Burgundy's legendary and beautiful Côte d'Or wine country, where we'll have lunch together at a local domaine, along with a tasting of its celebrated harvest. We'll return to Beaune later this afternoon, where you'll be free for discoveries and dinner on your own. Escargots, anyone? Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 8: To the Alpine Peaks of Chamonix
This morning we'll make a bee-line for Europe's highest point, the Mont Blanc, arriving in the picturesque resort town of Chamonix in time to get acquainted with all the Alpine thrills this charming city offers. This evening we'll enjoy a traditional dinner of raclette or fondue together. Sleep in Chamonix (2 nights). Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 9: Free Day in the French Alps
Today is your day to enjoy the wonders of the French Alps. Weather and lifts permitting, your guide will help you make your way up the Aiguille du Midi gondola and find the right trail to hike, rewarded with stunning views of nearly 16,000-foot Mont Blanc and a supporting cast of Alps that seem to stretch forever. Or if you prefer, simply find a view table in Chamonix and take the day off in après-ski style. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 10: From Peaks to Provence
Sit back and rest those hiking muscles as we spend our day driving south to sunny Provence, enjoying the countryside along the way. We'll stop for lunch and a boat ride (weather permitting) in exquisite Annecy — hands-down France's most beautiful lakefront town. We'll arrive at our history-rich, Provençal destination of Vaison la Romaine in time to get oriented and enjoy dinner together. Sleep in Vaison la Romaine (3 nights). Bus: 5 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 11: Roman Provence
We'll spend our morning sifting through the 2,000-year-old site of ancient Vaison la Romaine. There, we'll tour the ruins of a sprawling Roman mansion and the 6,000-seat Roman theater that is still used for performances today. Consider this a warm-up act for the most impressive of all Roman theaters — the Theater of Orange — which we'll drive to and experience this afternoon. Bus: 1 hr. Walking: moderate.
Day 12: The Vineyards of Côtes du Rhône
This morning, we'll drive through some of Europe's most picturesque villages and vineyards, stopping here and there along the way. One of our stops, at a favorite winery, will bring us a refreshing lunch and the chance to sample some formidable Côtes du Rhône wines at their source. We'll return to Vaison for free time this afternoon. Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 13: Hill Towns to Harbors
Today we'll continue south through Provence's intoxicating countryside, making our way to the seaside city of Marseille. We'll tour Marseille's historic center and port with our local guide — including the city-capping Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica. Tonight we'll share travel memories and toast new friends at our farewell dinner together. Sleep in Marseille (1 night). Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 14: Tour Over After Breakfast
Marseille's airport is an easy 30-minute bus, shuttle, or taxi ride away. For those staying longer, your guide will be happy to send you off in the right direction and help with any trip planning needs. Au revoir et merci!
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 Best of Eastern France in 14 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 France before your tour begins, spending time in Paris or Strasbourg are logical choices. Reims is only 45 minutes and Strasbourg only two hours from central Paris via TGV (bullet) trains. Use Rick Steves' France guidebook 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.
Here are a few suggestions for sightseeing in Paris: visit the Eiffel Tower; walk the Champs-Elysées and climb the Arc de Triomphe; tour the Louvre and Orsay Museums; or take a day trip to Versailles.
If you'd rather spend your pre-tour time in Strasbourg, visit the cathedral, wander the waterways and stroll through the city. From Strasbourg it is a two-hour train ride to Reims. In Reims visit the Museum of the Surrender (Musée de la Reddition) or add a Champagne tour at Mumm (we will not taste here as a group).
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.
There is more than one way to get to and from your tour. We recommend talking to your travel agent about "open jaw" airline tickets (flying into and out of different cities). It's easiest to fly into Paris and home from Marseille. Paris and Marseille are transportation hubs, making travel before or after your tour quite easy. For links to helpful rail and air websites, go to www.ricksteves.com/plan/links and look under "Transportation."
You may want to arrive early to spend time in either Paris or Strasbourg before taking the train to Reims to meet the tour. Another option is to book a round-trip flight in and out of Paris and then take the train (6 hours), drive, or fly from Marseille to Paris and spend at least one night in Paris before flying home. Flying within Europe can be reasonable. Ask your travel agent or check Rick's list of European budget airlines.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 consider when packing for this tour. Weather and lifts permitting, you will have the opportunity to go to top of the Aiguille de Midi and/or hike in the Alps while in Chamonix. It can get cold up there. We recommend bringing a pair of comfortable walking shoes with soles offering good traction and some warmer clothes. Regardless of season, the weather in the Alps can be cooler than expected especially at the higher altitudes.
For ideas on what to pack, check Rick's Packing List and our Women's Packing List.
Tour Guide Raves
"Julie is fantastic. We loved her knowledge of France including language, customs, people, and politics. She always had great recommendations for restaurants and the local wines. I feel privileged to have had Julie as our tour guide — she made the tour. Her infectious enthusiasm and her love of France and the people made each day terrific."
— David in Ventura, CA
"Daniela is truly a uniquely talented, warm, and knowledgeable person, quickly pulling us all into a cohesive unit and bringing an endless supply of energy, humor and enthusiasm to every day. Her obvious love and enthusiasm for the architecture, art, and people she was introducing us to was contagious, and made for an unforgettably wonderful tour."
— Carolyn in Lakewood, WA
Favorite tour memories from recent alums:
"Many 'wow' moments! Colmar in Alsace is a gem. Riding through fields and fields of vineyards; seeing the storks, the wine tastings at the Champagne house, and the Chateau with the charming Countess and the tasting at the winery near Séguret; the Alps and Mont Blanc. I loved the surprise excursions, boating on Lake Annecy and seeing the theatre in Orange. Verdun was especially touching, the damage of war still so evident, and villages destroyed and never rebuilt. I had previously visited Vaison and it remains one of my favorite villages in France."
— Connie in Charles Town, WV
"Without hesitation, it was the day we went to the Domaine de Mourchon Winery. That was a thrill of a lifetime. From the very beginning when they picked us up at the bottom of the hill; learning how the wine was produced; walking through the vineyard and then rounding the corner of their house and seeing the lunch prepared for us — all I can say is 'WOW'! We will never forget about it and we can't stop talking about it!!"
— Cynthia in Ramona, CA
"Colmar was wonderfully gorgeous. Mont Blanc was incredible, even given my big fear of heights. And the vineyard tour with wine tasting and lunch was amazing."
— Matthew in Dublin, OH
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.)
- La Grande Vadrouille (1966)
- Jean de Florette (1986)
- My Father's Glory (1990)
- Chocolat (2000)
- A Very Long Engagement (2004)
Rick Steves' Radio Interviews
(For more radio interviews on this region, see Rick's Audio Europe™ files for iPod, PC & MP3.)
Rick Steves Audio Europe™
- Pop: Francis Cabrel, Maurice Chevalier, Johnny Hallyday, Phoenix, 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' France
- Rick Steves' Provence & the French Riviera
- French or Foe?; Savoir-Flair — Polly Platt
- Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong — Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow
- The First World War — Michael Howard
- A Year in Provence; Toujours Provence — Peter Mayle
- Portraits of France — Robert Daley
- Inspector Maigret — Georges Simenon
- A Very Long Engagement — Sebastien Japrisot
- Chocolat — Joanne Harris
- Birdsong — Sebastian Faulks
- Joy of Man's Desiring — Jean Giono