Can’t get enough of France’s tasty cuisine and charming cities? We reckon one of the best ways to pack in as much as you possibly can is to set out on a road trip around the entire country.
Consider yourself an explorer needing a slightly more historic twist? You’ll be spoilt for choice by cities, towns and battlefields which are brimming with fascinating stories of old. While you could take a tour of France’s most lavish chateaux or whizz down the Route Napoleon, why not embark on an epic road trip that takes you to key sites associated with the French Revolution?
First things first, what was the French Revolution?
Ok, so now it’s time for a quick history lesson. Basically the French revolution was exactly that. A revolution. This huge event completely revolutionised the way the country was run. Clue’s in the name right?
At the time there was a massive gap between the rich and the poor. Louis XVI was the king and he didn’t really have a great track record of managing the nation’s money. The people of France had enough and ended up revolting against him in 1789. It was pretty grim – with months of rioting and bloody battles until Napoleon Bonaparte took control in 1799.
Numerous causes and events led to the tragic execution of France’s royal family and the political upheaval of the entire nation. And the best way to learn all about it? A French Revolution themed road trip, of course! Here’s some must-see places to stop off at along the way…
For more French Revolution landmarks than you can shake a stick at, Paris is your pal
You can’t go on a tour of France’s revolutionary monuments without setting aside plenty of time to explore Paris!
The French capital was at the very heart of the Revolution and is an obvious starting point for a road trip. Before you pick up your hire car, why not travel around the city on the metro (or by foot)? You can soak up destinations like Place de Bastille – the site of a prison that was stormed by a revolutionary mob in July 1789 – or the Palais de Justice where the Revolutionary Tribunal sat and many key figures (including Marie Antoinette) were imprisoned.
Another essential French Revolutionary pitstop in Paris is the Place de la Concorde. And it’s a bloody one at that! Once called Place de la Revolution, the major square at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées hosted numerous public executions – including Louis XVI, his wife and his sister.
Venture on down to Versailles to get a taste of royal decadence
Once you’ve ticked off all the French Revolution landmarks you can handle in Paris, why not make the 22km journey south to Versailles?
You’ve no doubt heard of Versailles before. This elegant suburb was once surrounded by gorgeous greenery and is best-known for its incredibly plush royal palace. The Palace of Versailles is massively linked to the Revolution as it was the luxurious family home of King Louis and his notoriously extravagant wife, Marie Antoinette.
Why not stroll through its elegant hallways or have a little dance in the jaw-dropping Hall of Mirrors? And make sure you don’t miss the chambers where the royal couple slept before they were arrested, dragged off to Paris and executed by guillotine in 1793.
Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles
Make a pitstop in Bordeaux for wine and iconic war monuments,
As well as being a jumping off point for one of France’s top wine regions, the city of Bordeaux is also the location of the Monument aux Girondins.
You’ll find it at Place des Quinconces. Just look out for the small Statue of Liberty which sits at the top of its towering, white column! And the history lesson? The monument honours France’s Girondists: a political group based in Bordeaux who supported the French Revolution.
It is also one of Bordeaux city’s most eye-catching sights and a work of art thanks to the gorgeously carved figures and pool of water at its base.
Make your way to Marseille for fascinating facts in a fortress-turned-revolutionary-war-prison
Another castle closely linked to the French Revolution is the Fort Saint-Jean. Located all the way down on the south coast, you’ll spot it looming over the entrance to Marseille’s Old Port.
Built by Louis XIV (aka the Sun King) in 1660 to supposedly protect the city from invasion, it was actually used to help subdue the locals who had begun to turn against their governor.
Fast-forward to the French Revolution and the mighty structure was seized by rebels and turned into a prison. Any famous prisoners? Its most famous occupants were Louis Phillipe II (the king’s cousin) and his sons, who originally supported the revolution, but were then executed during the dramatic Reign of Terror era.
Nowadays, as well as having an awesome viewing point, Fort Saint-Jean forms part of the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations and you can wander right inside its centuries-old interiors.
Walk in the footsteps of one of the French Revolution’s most famous figures in Corsica
Ever heard of a bloke called Napoleon Bonaparte? We thought so. Before he became the Emperor of France, kickstarted the Napoleonic Wars and was defeated by the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo, the fearless Napoleon played a major role in the French Revolution.
Fancy some history and a little sunshine thrown in too? Well one of the most famous – and most idyllic – places associated with him is the dreamy isle of Corsica just off France’s south coast.
To continue your road trip all you need to do is catch a ferry over from Marseille and cruise around the island. Corsica was Napoleon’s birthplace and it’s filled with landmarks which help build up a picture of the man who was brave enough to make himself the ruler of France.
Want to discover more? You’ll fine several road trip routes you can take, including one around Ajaccio to see his childhood home – the three storey Maison Bonaparte – and Ajaccio Cathedral where he was christened in 1771.
Love soaking up some history on your driving holidays? You’ll find handsome heritage sites and throwbacks to bygone eras in every country across the globe! Why not uncover royal connections at the Fontainebleau forest, sip your way around ancient vineyards in Champagne or hop over to Germany for a road trip along the dreamy Romantic Route?