12 Must-See Places along the Route des Vacances

From the chateau and the home of the lemon tree Menton to the Grand Site de France, discover cultural experiences you won’t want to miss on the Route des Vacances. Note: This article is part of a larger magazine feature called “Taking the Slow Way to the French Riviera”.

The Route des Vacances runs through six regions of France, so it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of culture, history, and gastronomy to explore. Most of the sites on this list have existed since earlier versions of Route nationale 7 (RN 7). Orange (then Arausio) was a stop on Via Agrippa built by the Romans; Moulins, the historical capital of the Bourbons, was built in the XI century in the 15th century.

The stunning Château de Fontainebleau © Shutterstock

Fontainebleau Castle

Castle of kings and a palace for Napoleon; You’ll find 800 years of history and 130 hectares of formal French and English-style gardens and parkland. There are also 30,000 works of art. Open every day all year round. www.châteaudefontainebleau.fr/en

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Chateau de la Bussière

Come here for a walk by the lake, a linden-lined avenue, bellflowers in the spring, and a scenic woodland playground for the kids. Buy fresh fruit and vegetables grown in the award-winning region potter and visit castle interior. Family accommodation on site as well. www.château-de-la-bussiere.com

Discover nature near the Loire

Ferrières-en-Gâtinais

This small village, a Petite Cité de Caractère, has a large Benedictine monastery and many small streets that you can explore on foot. There are a handful of restaurants, including. bistro and one Creperiewelcome they go, room rooms and a campground. www.ferrieresengatinais.fr

Naturelle du Val de Loire Reserve

A chance to stretch your legs and discover the importance of the Loire River’s biodiversity. Pouilly-sur-Loire has self-guided nature trails, as well as a canoe and kayak launch pad. Reserves-naturelles.org/val-de-loire

Visit the stunning Moulins © Shutterstock

La Charite-sur-Loire

Have a picnic along the banks of the Loire or cycle part of the Loire à Vélo. Visit the Église Notre-Dame, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Cluniac monastery, home to the Cité du Mot cultural program. www.lacharitesurloire-tourisme.com/en/home/

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Moulins

Historically the capital of the Bourbons, this is a beautiful town with some rich architecture. From Jacquemart Tower, head above the rooftops, then stop for lunch at Le Grand Café, even if just to marvel at the Rococo interior. www.moulins-turizm.com

Mirmande is one of the jewels of the Drôme Valley © L. Pascale/La Drôme Tourisme

mirmande

Two kilometers off the N7 in Mirmande, in Drôme, is a Plus Beau Village de France known for its artist community with open studios. It is also labeled as a Village Botanical for many rock garden plants. Below are the orchards. www.ladrometourisme.com

Mondragon and Mornas

These perfect villages tapes feel distinctly Provençal. To learn about the dragon legend, check out Mondragon, take a photo of Rue Baguette and Fontaine de la Treille. In Mornas, visit the castle for beautiful views of the Rhône valley. www.mornas.fr

Orange

The Arc de Triomphe and the Roman amphitheater, both UNESCO-listed, are must-see attractions such as the Art and History Museum. Note also the Théâtre Municipal (which is no longer open) designed by Garnier, whose façade resembles the Opéra Garnier in Paris. www.orange-tourisme.fr/en

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Montagne Sainte-Victoire

Designated as the most important landmark around Aix-en-Provence and the Grand Site de France, the 1,011 m mountain often seen in Cézanne’s paintings can be explored on foot, by bike, paragliding or rock climbing. www.grandsitesaintevictoire.com

Promenade des Anglais

A stroll along Nice’s 7km coastline gives you the chance to admire the opulence of Belle-Époque architecture. Be sure to visit the Musée Masséna, which evokes the spirit of Nice in its heyday in the 19th century as a winter vacation spot for the bourgeoisie. www.explorenicecotedazur.com

La Maison du Citron

Menton is the home of the citron Menton, a lemon with IGP status, and the famous annual Fête du Citron. High above town, with stunning views, is family-run La Maison du Citron, organic citrus growers. Book a tasting and wander the groves. www.lamaisonducitron.com

From France Today magazine

Principal photo credit: Promenade des Anglais and Musée Masséna © CRT-Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur/Y. Le Magadure

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