As someone who has driven to the Alps more than 15 times, I have navigated all kinds of roads, towns, and cities on the road trip to the French Alps. Over the years, I have honed my knowledge of where to stop, which towns are worth visiting, and which towns can be missed.

Drawing from my background as a former travel agent, I have crafted countless road trip itineraries for clients, ensuring they experience the best of what the journey has to offer.

View from car of Morzine across the valley with sunrise

In this article, I will share insights into the best route for driving to the Alps, focusing on the best places to stop in France on the route from Calais to the French Alps. Whether you are aiming for efficiency, seeking to maximise your time on the road, or craving a leisurely drive with scenic stops, there are plenty of options.

Additionally, if you want to indulge in wine tastings, immerse yourself in nature, or explore vibrant cities, you will find something suitable.

Since I have done this journey numerous times with dogs, I will share some insights into dog-friendly places en route. It is important to note that there are several regulations to be aware of when taking animals from the UK to France on the Eurotunnel, so do your research before to make sure you have all the right documents and medical checks done.

Driving through France: Where to Stop from Calais to French Alps

Yellow panelled building with shops in Troyes and dog walkers in front
Troyes

Here are all the best stops to consider when driving to the Alps from Calais. Feel free to pick several to stop at on your drive as stop-off points, or choose one as an overnight stay.

  1. Laon
  2. Paris & Disneyland Paris
  3. Troyes
  4. Champagne
  5. Beaune
  6. Dijon
  7. Annecy
  8. Swiss Towns on Lake Geneva
  9. French Towns on Lake Geneva

These towns are listed in order of distance from Calais.

1. Laon

Brick archway in Laon - Porte D'Ardon - 1st stop on drive from Calais to French Alps
Porte d’Ardon in Laon

Laon is a medieval hilltop town famous for its stunning Gothic cathedral and panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

This town is close to the Calais Eurotunnel and is a quaint place to explore. I have only been there on a half-day trip when we were driving from the French Alps to Calais to catch the Eurotunnel home. It is a lovely place to walk around, stretch your legs, and break up the journey.

There are several quaint restaurants in the main square where you can stop for a drink and a crepe. You can also enter the cathedral for free and admire the impressive interior.

2. Paris & Disneyland Paris

Eiffel Tower in Paris with fountains and people walking along path on sunny day
Eiffel Tower

If you have never been to Paris before or you are looking forward to revisiting, Paris can be an excellent place to stop when driving to the Alps.

Since you will have your car, I recommend staying on the outskirts of Paris and travelling into the city centre by train and metro.

Paris is an excellent destination to spend 2 to 3 days ahead of your road trip to the French Alps. So, this stop would be best for people with more time to break up the journey rather than those with limited time.

Be aware you need a Crit’Air emissions sticker when driving in places such as Paris. It takes six weeks to process, but the emissions sticker only costs €4.61, including international postage. The vignette lasts the entire lifetime of a vehicle.

Me in front of Disneyland Paris at sunrise before the park opens in front of castle lit up pink
Disneyland Paris

Another option is visiting Disneyland Paris on your drive from Calais to the French Alps. I have been to Disneyland Paris at least ten times and have driven from the UK to Disneyland for most of these trips.

It is an easy and convenient drive since it is a short distance from the Eurotunnel. Plus, you do not have to drive into central Paris.

It is not possible to see and do all of Disneyland Paris in 1 day, so I would recommend two full days.

I stayed at Disneyland Paris for three nights once, and we had more than enough time (maybe too much since we managed to cover the parks quickly).

Disneyland Newport Bay Hotel is a great 4-star option for staying on-site – I have stayed there several times, and it is well-appointed and in a good location. Alternatively, Disney Sequoia Lodge has a unique theme, but you can feel the lower quality level with it being a 3-star property.

The new Disneyland Paris Hotel has reopened, which is the most luxurious Disney property.

The benefit of staying at a Disneyland hotel is that you get earlier access to the parks, which can help you get some rides done early before it gets too busy. Hence, we could do all the rides and shows we wanted within three days.

Marriott's Village d'ile-de-France townhouse buildings at night
Marriott’s Village d’ile-de-France

I have stayed at Marriott’s Village d’ile-de-France, and it was an excellent alternative to a Disney hotel. Marriott’s Village d’ile-de-France is a short drive away from the Disney parks.

The accommodation is set up as townhouses, which is good for families or those looking to cook meals at home.

When staying at Disney hotels, you do not even have access to a fridge or microwave in your room. Therefore, staying at the Marriott Hotel is a bonus. I was desperate for a home-cooked meal by the end of our Disney trip after eating so much fast food.

There is an Animal Care Centre at Disneyland Paris because you cannot bring animals into the park; however, the service does not take reservations and it can reach capacity. So you may need to have a back-up option if it is full.

3. Champagne

Rosé and brut champagne glasses at Esterlin outdoor terrace
Champagne Esterlin

Champagne is one of the best places to stop in France, particularly for fans of wine. Even without the wine, there are beautiful fields and quaint towns. It is possible to visit Champagne with children, but it is better for groups of people over 18 years old to do some wine tasting.

I visited Champagne with my adult family and our three dogs, and many of the retailers are dog-friendly on their terraces out the front.

Feel free to stay in one of the local hotels in Epernay, the main town of Champagne.

Alternatively, you can book a hotel on the outskirts, such as Le Château d’Etoges or Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa. Both hotels are luxury hotels and dog-friendly. However, Le Château d’Etoges is more budget-friendly.

You can also stay in Reims to go champagne tasting. My family have also stayed at Hotel Continental in Reims, an excellent hotel that allows dogs. It is around 30 minutes by car to Epernay. The restaurant at Hotel Continental was fancy, and you could order champagne from their extensive champagne menu, but the cheapest bottle was about €90. Hotel Continental also served a great breakfast.

My family have stayed at Hotel D’Angleterre in Châlons-en-Champagne, a 40-minute drive from Epernay, but still in the Champagne region. Hotel D’Angleterre was in a beautiful town with an exceptional Michelin 1-star restaurant called Jérôme Feck

If you want to go for a cellar visit or tour in Champagne, you must book these in advance. However, if you prefer a casual tasting, you can show up at most shops along Avenue de Champagne in Epernay and order a glass of champagne or a wine flight.

4. Troyes

Outdoor terrace at Le Belvédère restaurant on Lac d'Orient at sunset
Le Belvédère on Lac d’Orient

Troyes is a charming town along the French Alps driving route. It is common to drive through Troyes on your way from Calais to the Alps.

The architecture in Troyes is a marvel, with its well-preserved medieval architecture and charming cobblestone streets. The buildings are colourful and make for wonderful pictures.

It is possible to combine Troyes with Lac D’Orient. There is a fantastic restaurant on the lakefront called Le Belvédère. It is dog-friendly and offers a beautiful view of the lake, especially at sunset, as we experienced.

There is a pier to walk along on the lake near this restaurant. However, be aware that some of the beachfronts along the lake on the north side of Lac D’Orient are not dog-friendly.

Lac D’Orient is more of a summer destination than a winter destination because there are many more things to do in summer, such as boating, walking, and swimming. So, if you are on a road trip to French Alps for a ski holiday, I would skip Lac D’Orient. But the town of Troyes still makes a lovely stop in winter.

I would recommend staying at Best Western Premier Hôtel De La Poste Troyes, although it is a 30-minute drive from this hotel to the restaurant on Lac D’Orient that I recommend. There are few accommodation options in LacD’Orient, therefore, I suggest staying in Troyes for both summer and winter trips.

If you prefer to stay in the countryside, consider staying at La Côte Saint Jacques & Spa, a 5-star hotel with a 2-Michelin-starred restaurant. It is just under 1 ½ hours from Troyes and 1 hour 50 minutes from Beaune.

There is an excellent activity offered nearby called Bourgogne Aventure, where you can explore the Burgundy wine region by Morgan vehicle.

5. Dijon

Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy in Dijon on a grey day and wet floor
Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy

Dijon is another familiar name to many due to it being famous for its mustard. But the town of Dijon is a lovely place to visit. In the main square, you will find the imposing Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy. There are also numerous museums in Dijon.

Make sure you grab a couple of jars of mustard to take home as souvenirs. Plus, if you want to taste more of Dijon’s local delicacies, try some Pain d’Epices – a French spiced cake/bread.

If you want to try out a Michelin Guide restaurant, Dijon is an excellent place for this because there are so many at a range of prices.

My parents stayed at Hotel des Ducs in Dijon, but they were in an apartment, which they said was not great. So, I would not recommend this hotel if staying in the apartments.

6. Beaune

Saint-Aubin 1er Cru en Remilly Oliver LeFlaine bottle of white wine
Saint-Aubin 1er Cru wine

Not only is Beaune a beautiful medieval town with colourful tiled roofs and historic architecture, but it is also in the heart of the Burgundy wine region.

If you visit Beaune and enjoy drinking wine, you should visit a vineyard or cellar door for a tasting or to purchase some wine.

One of my favourites is Saint-Aubin 1er Cru; therefore, I suggest visiting Chateau de Saint Aubin to try this.

Some other things to do in Beaune include:

  • Hospices de Beaune (also known as Hôtel-Dieu), which is the most well-known and iconic building in Beaune
  • La Moutarderie Fallot (mustard factory)
  • Collégiale Notre-Dame (beautiful basilica)
  • Burgundy Wine Museum

7. Annecy

Annecy in winter on cloudy day with view of Palais de l'Isle on canal
Annecy

Annecy is a must-visit town when driving through France to the Alps. It is called the Venice of the Alps because of its beautiful canals, charming old town, and stunning lake views.

Annecy is excellent to visit in winter and summer; so, you can add it to your ski holidays or your summer trip near Mont Blanc. In winter, you can get lucky and see Annecy with a dusting of snow, and if not, it is still a lovely town to walk around. When driving to the Alps in summer, you can go out onto Lake Annecy and enjoy hiking nearby.

There are many things to do in Annecy, such as going to the Palais de l’Isle, seeing Chateau d’Annecy, and walking along the lakefront of Lake Annecy. Plus, there are some excellent wine bars and restaurants if you want a romantic night at the start or end of your trip.

I stayed in the Hebe Hotel in Annecy and would highly recommend it. It is a boutique hotel, and the rooms are small but I did not feel like I needed more space because we spent most of our time exploring Annecy. The beds were extremely comfortable, and the shower had good water pressure.

I also ate dinner at Le Denti in Annecy, and it was excellent. The food was tasty and the service was prompt. Le Denti is a short walk from Hebe Hotel, so they work well together.

If you decide to fly to Geneva airport to access ski resorts such as Val Thorens, Les Deux Alpes, and Tignes, you will pass Annecy. Therefore, Annecy is a great addition to a French Alps road trip.

8. Swiss Towns on Lake Geneva

Sunset on Lake Geneva near to Geneva - view from car window
Geneva

If you are heading to the Swiss Alps, to popular ski resorts such as Saas-Fee, Crans-Montana or Verbier, you will drive around the east side of Lake Geneva and turn onto the road towards the mountains after the lakefront town Montreux.

You will also pass Les Bains de Lavey, an excellent thermal bath in Switzerland.

However, even if you are driving to the French Alps, to towns such as Bernex, Chatel, and Evian-les-Bains, you can cross the border into Switzerland and discover the towns that dot the shores of Lake Geneva, such as Lausanne, Vevey and Montreux.

If you stop overnight in Dijon, the drive is a similar duration through France or Switzerland.

I did not count Geneva in this section because you will not pass the city on the drive from the Dijon area through the Swiss towns. However, it is possible to make a short detour to Geneva.

Geneva is a unique city with plenty of things to do, but I think it is best enjoyed for one night.

There are numerous 5-star hotels in Geneva and Michelin-starred restaurants, so Geneva is a higher-end stop when driving to French Alps towns.

Some highlights from this region include Geneva’s iconic Jet d’Eau, Chateau de Chillon near Montreux, Chaplin’s World Museum in Vevey, and Lausanne’s Olympic Museum. Read this article to learn more about the Swiss destinations on Lake Geneva.

Be aware that if you drive on a motorway in Switzerland, you must have a vignette. You can buy it online and it will digitally link to your vehicle. The vignette lasts from early December until late January the following year, but you will not get the full 14 months of validity if you buy it part way through the year.

9. French Towns on Lake Geneva

Entrance to Yvoire, brick archway with sign reading se visite a pied
Entrance to Yvoire

When doing the Calais to French Alps drive, depending on your destination, you may end up near the south side of Lake Geneva. This region is where you will find gorgeous lakefront towns such as Yvoire, Evian-les-Bains and Thonon-les-Bains.

For the ski region of Portes du Soleil, such as Abondance and Chatel, you will pass along these French towns. However, for Avoriaz and Samoens, you will turn off from the lake earlier and the drive to the French Alps from UK will not naturally include Lake Geneva.

If you have a day to spare, I recommend spending it in Yvoire or Evian because they are unique towns worth visiting. There are lovely hotels you could book for a night before or after; for example, many catered chalets only allow you to book from Saturday to Saturday.

Yvoire is a medieval village where you can spend a day walking around its charming old town, learning its history, and eating some tasty local dishes. Evian is famous for its mineral water and being a spa town. You can walk to Source Cachat, Evian’s natural spring, and it also has a pleasant old town with boutique shops.

You can do an incredible boat trip on Lake Geneva from Evian and Yvoire. It is possible to bring dogs on these boat trips at an additional cost.

Note that Yvoire’s main season is from Spring to Autumn, so hotels will not be open in winter.

Recommended Hotels:

Essential Information – Driving from the UK to the French Alps

Since 2021, you must indicate that your vehicle originates from the United Kingdom while driving in foreign countries. If your vehicle’s number plate already displays the UK identifier alongside the Union Jack, you do not need a separate UK sticker when driving in France.

Previously, vehicles were required to use a GB sticker, but this has now been transitioned to a UK sticker.

In France, the legal alcohol limit while driving is almost half of that in the UK. So be careful when drinking alcohol and driving, as your usual limit back home will be too high. For more guidance, read this RAC article with top tips for driving through France.

Read on to learn other advice for driving to ski resorts in France.

Driving on motorway in Switzerland - mountain view and grey car on road

Requirements by Law

  1. Headlamp Adjustment (France, Switzerland) – Ensure your vehicle’s headlamps are adjusted to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers. Most modern cars have adjustable headlamps for European driving.
  2. Reflective Jacket (France) – Each person in the vehicle must have a reflective jacket in the car in case of breakdown or emergencies.
  3. Warning Triangle (France, Switzerland)
  4. Vignette (Switzerland) – Required to drive on the motorways in Switzerland, but not in France.

Recommendations

  1. Snow Chains (France, Switzerland) – Essential for driving in snowy or icy conditions, especially when travelling to the Alps during winter.
  2. First Aid Kit (France, Switzerland) – While not mandatory, it’s always wise to carry a basic first aid kit.
  3. Winter Tyres (France, Switzerland) – Highly recommended for driving in cold, snowy conditions for better traction and handling.
  4. Self-Breathalyser Kit (France) – A breathalyser kit used to be legally required in France, though it is not enforced these days.
  5. Télépéage Electronic Device (France) – Sign up for this electronic toll payment system for rapid passage through toll booths.
  6. Spare Bulb (France) – If you are caught without a working light in your car, you can be fined, which is why it is recommended to carry spare bulbs in the car so you can immediately fix them when you are not near a garage.

Do I Need Snow Chains to Drive in French Alps?

From early November to late March, your vehicle must either be fitted with snow tyres or equipped with snow chains or snow socks when visiting the French Alps.

Is it Worth Driving to the Alps?

Lady carrying cocker spaniel on Eurotunnel
Eurotunnel

If you are travelling in a group, you may find it is more cost-effective to drive to French Alps from UK using the Eurotunnel or the ferry than flying.

The Eurotunnel and ferry are charged per vehicle, whereas if you fly, you need to book flights per person and rent a car or book costly airport transfers.

Additionally, the approx. 9-hour journey from Calais to the French Alps can be made more enjoyable by stopping at French towns along the way.

Driving is the best option for those wishing to travel with their dogs since you can take them on the Eurotunnel and ferry.

How Long to Drive to French Alps?

Road with snow on the side at sunset with sign reading Chatel and La Chapelle

The driving time from Calais to the French Alps can vary depending on several factors, including your starting point in the UK, traffic conditions, weather, and chosen route.

On average, the drive from Calais to popular destinations in the French Alps, such as le Grand Massif, Portes du Soleil, Chamonix or Val Thorens, typically takes around 8 to 10 hours without factoring in breaks.

The best driving route to French Alps depends on whether you want to be as quick as possible by following the most streamlined route or if you are happy to detour to beautiful sights.

Similar Posts