Historic Cities & Charming Villages in France: A Cultural Train Trip to the French Riviera
Explore the hidden gems and well-kept secrets of the French Riviera on this 12-day train itinerary, staying in charming villages and historic cities. From Nimes to Nice, this itinerary takes you from foodie tours to private city tours and a perfume masterclass, as you experience the best of the South of France.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Travel from London to the spa-town of Vichy in less than a day, and spend the evening exploring the stylish and architectural city
- Explore the historic city of Nimes, hailed as the 'Rome of France' thanks to its many Roman relics
- Wander through the streets of Avignon on a Foodie tour of the city, tasting your way around the streets with an expert guide
- Discover the hidden secrets of Marseille on a private tour of the city
- Cruise the waters of the wild and beautiful Calanques National Park on a boat trip
- Create your own perfume during a masterclass in Grasse - a town famous for its perfume-industry
- Explore the wild beauty of the Valley of Marvels on a scenic train trip through the area, stopping off at picturesque villages
Why Book with Original Travel?
When To Travel
All of the holidays we create are completely tailor-made to you
Day 1: London to Vichy
Pack your bags because your luxury French Riviera train itinerary starts this morning, with a morning train from London to Vichy.
The train will take you through the Eurotunnel to Paris, where you'll transfer from the Gare Du Nord to Paris's Bercy Station before catching your train to Vichy. Heading further south through France, you'll arrive in Vichy mid-afternoon, in time to settle into your hotel for the evening before heading out for some early-evening exploration of the city.
Cradled in the bend of the Allier River, the spa-town of Vichy has earnt a reputation as a health retreat, thanks to the thermal waters that bubble up from the town's hot springs. Take the chance to explore the streets, enjoying the town's art-deco buildings and getting a for a taste of its glamorous character before stopping for a delicious dinner, toasting your first night in France.
Day 2: Travelling from Vichy to Nimes
There is no need to rush up this morning, so take your time over breakfast before heading back to the station to catch your mid-morning train from Vichy to Nimes.
Travelling southwards, you'll need to make one change on your journey - after 30 minutes you'll arrive in Clermont Ferrand in time to catch your connecting train to Nimes. Once you are safely on board, settle down as the train winds its way through the picturesque French countryside. The journey takes over four hours in total, meaning you'll arrive in Nimes in the early evening.
Once you have settled into your luxurious boutique hotel you'll have the evening to explore Nimes. We can recommend some places to eat and drink, or take it easy and wander at your own pace.
Day 3: Exploring Nimes
Today on your luxury French Riviera train itinerary you have a free day to explore Nimes. Called the 'Rome of France' by many, Nimes was once one of the most important cities to the Roman Empire, evidenced by the city's incredible collection of Roman buildings, such the stunning amphitheatre and a 2000-year-old temple. Wander the sunny palm-lined streets, popping into one of the city's many museums and markets, stopping for a delicious lunch along the way.
We can recommend the best places to eat in the city, and our expert Concierge can sort out reservations, meaning that you can relax and focus on enjoying your day in Nimes, looking forward to a delicious dinner.
- You could take a day trip to Arles, which is 30 minutes away by direct train.
- Uzes or Chateuneuf are not accessible by train, but make for an excellent day trip from Nimes - we can organise a driver for you
- Take a taxi to a local market, such as the market of Saint Remy de Provence (on Wednesdays) and we can arrange a tour of the market with a local guide
Day 4: Foodie Tours in Avignon
This morning you'll be heading to out for a day trip to Avignon. After breakfast, hop on a direct train from Nimes to Avignon, which takes 35 minutes.
Once you have arrived in the charming city of Avignon, get exploring the town and the impressive Palais du Papes. The UNESCO-listed building is one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe, it was the seat of Christianity in the 14th century - so it's well worth a visit.
You might want to opt for a light lunch today because this afternoon you'll be going on a foodie stroll with an expert local guide. Meander through the alleys of Avignon meeting local artisans, tasting regional products and learning about culinary traditions and local history. You'll be taken to spots that the locals love - where they eat and shop; from the oldest bakery in town, to the best artisan chocolate maker. The tour is rounded off with a tasting of Châteauneuf du Pape - the region's most prestigious wine.
Full up on delicious food, with bags filled with your foodie purchases, it's time to head back to Nimes. Hop back on the train for the half-hour trip back to the city and your hotel before thinking about where to go for dinner (if you aren't still full from your foodie tour!).
Day 5: Travelling to Marseille
Today on your luxury French Riviera train itinerary you'll leave your hotel and Nimes and head to the sunny coastal city of Marseille. It's an hour train ride to Marseille, so you'll arrive in time to settle into your hotel and grab a spot of lunch before your privately guided tour of the city this afternoon.
Discover the capital of the south wandering through the streets of this charming, multicultural port city with your local guide. Perched on the shores of the Mediterranean, the heartbeat of the city comes from its connection to the sea. Founded by the Greeks in 600BC, Marseilles is peppered with a variety of different architectural styles, ranging from ancient Greek to 17th century Baroque styles. Your expert guide will help you discover the oldest neighbourhood in France - le Panier - guiding you through the narrow winding streets that snake throughout the city. You'll visit Vieux Port (the old Port), which is located in the heart of the city and scale the Saint John's Fortress to look out on the many sail boats bobbing on waves in the harbour. As you walk you'll pass numerous cafes and restaurants as well as visiting the majestic Cathedral la Major. Walking through the city's vibrant streets is enough to charm any visitor as you soak up the city's buzzing atmosphere.
Once you have soaked up the best of the city's sites, you have the rest of the day to spend as you wish. You might have spotted a restaurant while on your walk that you'd like to head back to for dinner, or our knowledgeable Concierge can recommend the hottest places to eat and to experience the best of the city's nightlife.
Day 6: Cruising in the waters of the Calanques
Today you will be heading out on a cruise, travelling through the incredible Calanques National Park from Marseille to Cassis.
Leaving the busy streets of Marseille, hop on a private boat, ready to set sail through the natural refuge that is the Calanques. Discover the secrets of this delightfully remote area of natural beauty, exploring hidden coves, spotting animals from the waves as your boat tracks along the ruggedly beautiful coastline towards Cassis. The boat-trip takes around three-and-a-half-hours, so you'll be back in Marseille in time for a late lunch.
You have the rest of the afternoon to yourself to explore more of streets of Marseille and take things at your own pace.
Day 7: Travelling from Marseille to Le Dramont
It's your last morning in Marseille, which means it's time to pack up your things, ready to catch your train from Marseille to Le Dramont, a coastal village close to the town of Saint Raphaël.
Leaving around mid-morning, the journey takes around three hours travelling west through the gorgeous French Riviera region. You'll arrive ready to check into your hotel which is located right on the shore, with easy access to the sea. You have the rest of the day to settle into your hotel and enjoy a relaxed evening meal.
Day 8: A Relaxing Day by the Sea
Today, have the whole day to yourself. You could explore the surrounding area, visiting Saint Raphaël, or just relax by the sea, basking in the sun and taking your time - today, you don't have anywhere to be on your luxury French Riviera train itinerary.
Day 9: From Le Dramont to Mougins
After a leisurely breakfast, it's time to head to the station for the next leg of your luxury French Riviera train itinerary.
Hop on the train to Cannes, a journey that takes around 30 minutes. A private transfer will meet you at the station in Cannes, for your onward journey, heading northwards out of Cannes to the charming town of Mougins where you'll be dropped off at your hotel for the night.
Bursting with character, the cobbled streets of Mougins are laid out in a spiral, along which you'll find lots of studios, artisan shops and some great spots for al fresco dining. Spend the rest of day exploring the streets and shops of Mougins, before finding the perfect spot for a relaxing and delicious dinner.
Day 10: Exploring Grasse and Creating Your Own Perfume
After a delicious breakfast, it's time to get ready for a day trip to Grasse. Your private transfer will meet you and take you north, from Mougins to the town of Grasse, which is famous for its long-established perfume-industry. The journey should take around 40 minutes.
Today is all about creating the perfect scent during a workshop guided with an expert teacher. You'll learn about the craft of making the perfect perfume before having a go at creating your very own that is totally unique to you. Once you have your unique scent, it will be sorted on a database and be available to re-order when your supplies run low - your own personal perfume on demand!
You have the rest of the day to yourself - you could explore Grasse before heading back to Mougins and your hotel for the evening, or we can recommend a variety of other activities in the area.
Day 11: A Trip on the Train des Merveilles
It's an early start this morning on your luxury French Riviera train itinerary as you head to Nice Station (which is a 30-minute drive from Mougins) to catch your morning train.
Leaving from Nice, you'll be catching the Train des Merveilles which climbs through the area's mountainous terrain, through a series of tunnels exploring the rugged and beautiful Valley of the Marvels.
You'll explore the picturesque village and the impressive natural surroundings of this beautiful French region. The train stops off in the village of Sospel, or you can continue on to the lakeside village of Breil-sur-Roya for a spot of lunch. You can then continue on the train to experience the rustic charm of the village of Tende and its museum, which is full of petroglyphs and ancient artefacts found in the surrounding Valley of Marvels.
You train adventure will take up the whole day, meaning that you'll arrive back in Nice in the evening.
Day 12: Homeward Bound from Nice to London
Today marks the end of your luxury French Riviera train itinerary, meaning it's time to say goodbye to Mougins and head back to Nice to catch your morning train to London.
The train will take you from Nice to Paris, arriving in time for you to transfer trains and catch the Eurotunnel back to London.
It's a long journey taking over 11 hours, so you'll want to make sure you have plenty of snacks as the train speeds through France. After whizzing through the channel tunnel, you'll arrive back in London the same evening. Alternatively, we can organise for you to stop in Paris and enjoy the city for a day, staying in a lovely centrally located hotel and breaking up the long journey.
Harriet and Kate L are our experts for this itinerary and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.