Culture and Food for Families in Lyon, Chamonix and Annecy: A Road Trip to the Rhone and Alps
From historic Macon and foodie destination Lyon to the mountainous Chamonix and charming Annecy, this family road trip to the Rhone and Alps has something for everyone.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Visit the pretty village of Oignt and the medieval town of Perouges near Macon, on the Rhone river
- Sample wines from the region, paired with delicious local produce
- Scour the food market of France's gastronomic capital Lyon and indulge in delicious dinners
- See Lyon from two perspectives - on foot and on a cruise along the river
- Drive into the Alps for a stay in a Chamonix mountain chalet with plenty of outdoors activities, including visiting Mer de Glace
- Step into a fairy tale in pretty as a picture Annecy, a charming lakeside town where you can walk, bike and sail
- Enjoy scenic landscapes as you drive through the French countryside
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When To Travel
All of the holidays we create are completely tailor-made to you
Day 1: Your Road Trip Begins
Your tailor-made family road trip to the Rhone and Alps kicks off today as you drive to Folkestone for the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle service to take your car under the Channel to Calais in just 35 minutes. We recommend upgrading to FlexiPlus tickets to benefit from a dedicated check-in, access to the exclusive lounge serving complimentary non-alcoholic drinks and snacks, and priority boarding on the next available shuttle so you don't have to worry about catching a specific train.
When you arrive in Calais you have a six-hour-45-minute-drive to Macon in the east of the country. You can circumnavigate Paris or head through the smaller cities of Reims (the 'capital' of the Champagne region) and Dijon (of mustard fame). We can organise stop offs along the way if you like, otherwise you'll arrive in the town of Macon and be welcomed to your family-friendly accommodation, where you'll be staying for the next two nights.
Take the rest of the afternoon to enjoy the pretty French countryside. The children can play outdoors while you enjoy a delicious dinner with some local wine.
Day 2: Discovering French Village Life and Viticulture
Today is a wonderful mix of culture and relaxation as we have planned numerous tours for you to enjoy the most of this lovely area.
Start your day with a self-guided tour of the pretty village of Oingt, an hour's drive south of Macon. You'll soon discover why it's officially one of the most beautiful villages of France as you stroll through its maze of cobbled streets and admire the picture-perfect, honey-coloured houses and historic buildings.
In the heart of the famous wine-producing Beaujolais region, this village is home to some excellent restaurants that serve up regional specialties paired with locally-produced wines, so you should definitely stop for a gourmet treat before you walk off the indulgence with a walk down the ancient - and cheekily-named - Trayne-Cul (which literally translates to 'drag your bottom'!) street.
After visiting the interesting sights of Oignt, jump back in the car for a 45-minute drive to the huge wetlands at Dombes. With over 1,000 nutrient-rich fishponds filled with carp and pike, and a vast amount of bird species, this is an extraordinary landscape to visit for wildlife and nature lovers. A further 20 minutes' drive away, the magnificent medieval town of Perouges has been meticulously preserved and transports visitors back to the 15th century. End the day by enjoying the famous sweet speciality of Galette de Perouges (a delicious sugary cake), before driving back to Macon.
Day 3: Drive to Lovely Lyon
After a hearty breakfast, start the hour-long drive south to the next stop on your family road trip to the Rhone and Alps: Lyon.
On the way, make a stop at Bourg-en-Bresse to see the religious complex, the Royal Monastery of Brou. This fascinating site was made a jewel of Flemish Gothic art by Marguerite of Austria (1480-1530). In the church, admire the particularly spectacular tombs of Marguerite and her husband Philibert le Beau.
After exploring, continue your journey to Ecully, a town just on the outskirts of Lyon which has been a popular holiday resort since the Renaissance. Check in to your hotel before making your way to Lyon to start your exploration.
We've organised for a private cruise on the Saone River for your family today. After a quick safety talk, embark in your small boat for a leisurely cruise along the river, from the new Confluence district - with its orange, blue and apple-green buildings - to the Couzon-au-Mont-d'Or dam, and back. Head to the foot of Fourviere Hill, along from Vieux Lyon and its Renaissance beauty, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; explore Croix-Rousse hill where the canuts (silk workers) famously worked naked and Blandine became a martyr; the 12th century chapel of Notre-Dame on Ile Barbe; legendary chef Paul Boscue's house in Collonges; and finally, Couzon, which is home to Abode of Chaos, the controversial contemporary art museum.
Come evening, we can recommend some places for your family to enjoy a delicious dinner before you head back to Ecully for a well-earned night's sleep.
Day 4: Foodie Fun in Lyon
Lyon is often hailed as France's gastronomic capital, and today you'll be able to find out for yourself why. You'll be taken on a tour of one of France's best food markets 'Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse'. Explore over 50 stalls featuring the best of Lyon's gourmet delights with a fellow food lover and guide. Opposite a traditional Armenian grocery store, spot the best smoked salmon in the city and creamy foie gras; farther away, cured saucisson hang above generous bowls of slow-cooked meat; an array of freshly-caught fish lies on a bed of ice; the butcher's pieces are laid out artistically; ripe and delicious cheese are on display; skilled fingers delicately shuck oysters, and a bottle of Macon wine should always be to hand.
Next, enjoy lunch in a traditional Lyonnaise restaurant in the waterfront area of Vieux Lyon and try some of Lyon's specialities including quenelles (say 'qu'nelle' to sound like a local), tablier de sapeur (beef tripe), poulet au vinaigre (chicken cooked in vinegar), andouillette (sausage), pruneaux au vin (prunes in red wine), while sitting elbow to elbow with other happy customers. Careful, the gratin de pâtes (pasta bake) and tarte à la praline (praline pie) are seriously addictive. Then, it's time for a wander.
Tummies full, take to your feet to walk off the indulgence and soak up the architecture of Lyon. Be sure to visit the recently restored St. John's Cathedral (12th-15th centuries) which offers a splendid collection of antique and contemporary stained-glass windows. Travel on Try and be as specific as possible as to what clients will experience e.g. mode of transport, will it be private?, how long will the journey take, what time of day will you arrive? If on a guided tour, what exactly will you see, where will your guide meet you, what sort of insight will the guide provide etc.
Lyon's funicular railways to reach the Gallo-Roman sites of Fourviere, under the Basilica of Notre-Dame (1872-1884 and designed by Pierre Bossan); the huge mosaics that decorate the nave are truly amazing and scenes from the Battle of Lepanto are majestically played out before your eyes.
The rest of the day is yours to spend as you wish, whether you want to visit the Musee des Confluences, the science centre or anthropology museum; or simply relax and soak up the atmosphere with a class of wine and some more nibbles.
Day 5: To the Alps
After breakfast, it's time to drive two-and-a-half hours to Chamonix in the Alps, the next stop on your family road trip to the Rhone and Alps.
Your family is staying in a chic mountain chalet for the next two nights, so you have some free time to simply relax, sample Alpine cuisine, spend quality time together and soak up the scenery.
Come evening, take your seats at the restaurant terrace, overlooking the Aiguille du Dru mountain. The chef serves the finest mountain cuisine where the ingredients of the Alps steal the show, including snails, morel mushrooms, meats and Reblochon cheese. And, of course, fondue: the perfect family meal.
Day 6: Outdoors Adventures in Chamonix
Be sure to fill your boots at breakfast this morning as you have an active day ahead of you. You'll be met by your private guide and taken to the Mer de Glace - or ice cave.
The whole family can enjoy exploring this vast and impressive mountain site with its spectacular views. The powerful landforms that surround the creep of the glacier make for an epic panorama. During summer you'll look out over lush green vegetation, while winter provides a sparking snowscape.
Take the cable car (followed by 400 steps) to access to a cave dug in the ice, as well as the Glaciarium, which traces the history of the glacier, explains its characteristics, and evaluates its future prospects. If you're still feeling ready for adventure, we can organise a variety of activities, including canyoning and longer hikes.
Head back to your chalet come evening for a well-deserved meal and rest, and to soak up the dramatic mountain views for one last night, as tomorrow you're leaving the Alps for Annecy.
Day 7: Experience Alpine Life in Annecy
Just an hour-and-15-minute-drive west of Chamonix is the quaint town of Annecy. Sitting on the banks of Lake Annecy, this fairy tale-like destination is known for its pastel-coloured buildings that flank cobbled alleys and canals.
Check the brood into your hotel, where you'll be staying for the next two nights. From here, you can walk and bike through the town - we particularly love the Vielle Ville (old town); go walking or water-skiing, take a boat out on the lake, visit the castle, and more.
We can recommend a number of tried-and-tested places for dinner, whether you want classic French cuisine with lake views, or a cosy restaurant away from the crowds.
Day 8: Lake Cruising and Cheese Tasting
After exploring the pretty streets of Annecy for yourself yesterday, today we've organised for you to enjoy the lake. Its clear, peaceful and gentle waters reflect the ring of mountains that surround it, plus you can see mallards, mute swans, goosanders, and coots. On sunny days, you can swim in this 'high-altitude sea', and its grassy beaches are just as beautiful as those made of sand. Head out on the water in a boat, looking at the city and the mountains from new angles, going at your own pace.
After your aquatic adventure, head back to dry land to take the opportunity to taste some regional wines - the Savoie wine region is just a stone's throw away, after all - each paired with alpine cheeses.
This is your last full day in France, so you can either take the time to revisit your favourite spots in Annecy, or we can organise a number of different activities, from an introduction to organic market gardening to a historic tour of the town.
Day 9: Back to Blighty
As you wake up on the last day of your family road trip to the Rhone and Alps, indulge in one more French breakfast at your hotel before you pack the car back up to make the journey back to the UK.
The scenic drive from Annecy to Calais takes just under eight-and-a-half hours, winding through pretty French countryside. As on the way out, we can suggest somewhere to break the journey and spend the night if you like. This is a tailor-made trip after all.
Kate L is our expert for this itinerary and, as a seasoned traveller, has the inside track on the most memorable adventures.