The lillypad lake at Giverny
France,  Road Trips

Northern France Itinerary for a 3-Week Road Trip

France is such a beautiful country, with so many landmarks and famous places. We ticked off a few of them on this Northern France itinerary. Last year we went on a France Spain Portugal road trip, this time we didn’t go as far South and did a Northern France tour. Northern France has so much to offer from Honfleur to Giverny to Parc Astérix. At the end of our North of France road trip we added a little bit of Germany and Luxembourg. We just love going on road trips and France is perfect for it.

Northern France Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive at Villeneuve-d’Ascq

Day 2: Explore Lille

Day 3: Explore Villeneuve-d’Ascq

Day 4: Drive from Villeneuve-d’Ascq to Pont-L’Évêque (341 kilometers/212 miles, about 3.5 hours)

Day 5: Explore Pont-L’Évêque and the lake

Day 6: Explore Honfleur

Day 7: Drive from Pont-L’Évêque to Les Barils (122 kilometers/76 miles, about 2 hours)

Day 8 + 9: Explore Domaine Les Bois-Francs Center Parcs

Day 10: Drive from Les Barils to Plailly (193 kilometers/120 miles, about 3 hours)

Day 11: Explore Parc Astérix

Day 12: Drive from Plailly to Noyon (72 kilometers/45 miles, about 1 hour)

Day 13: Explore Noyon

Day 14: Explore Clairière de L’Armistice

Day 15: Drive from Noyon to Bezannes (124 kilometers/77 miles, about 2 hours and 10 minutes)

Day 16 + 17: Explore Reims

Day 18: Drive from Bezannes to Ringsheim (403 kilometers/250 miles, about 4 hours), crossing the border with Germany

Day 19: Explore Europa Park

Day 20: Explore Rulantica

Day 21: Explore Europa Park

Day 22: Drive from Ringsheim to Luxembourg-city (279 kilometers/173 miles, about 3 hours and 10 minutes), crossing the border with France and Luxembourg

Day 23: Going Home

Day to Day Itinerary

This Northern France road trip itinerary gives plenty of time to explore the attractions at each stop or you can take one rest day and one day for exploring.

Day 1: Arriving in France

On the first day you arrive in France either by car (like us) or by plane. If you arrive by plane drive from the airport to Villeneuve-d’Ascq. We started at our home in Utrecht and drove South via Breda and Antwerpen.

Day 2: Explore Lille

Vieille Bourse in Lille, a stately building on the grand place. A tower coming behind it
Vieille Bourse in Lille

Lille is close to Villeneuve-d’Ascq. We opted to take the metro from Villeneuve-d’Ascq to Lille center. We started our day at Marché de Wazemmes. Then we went on to explore the old city of Lille (Vieux Lille). The Église Saint-Maurice has beautiful stained glass windows. There are beautifully decorated old buildings to be admired and you can go shopping. Or visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts, the museum with the second largest art collection (after the Louvre).

Day 3: Explore Villeneuve-d’Ascq

We had a rest day, but you can explore Lille a second day or spend your day in Villeneuve-d’Ascq. Visit the Musée d’Art Moderne Lille Métropole, in short the LAM. A museum with modern art.

Day 4: Backroads, Rouen, Étretat or Le Havre

We opted to take the backroads to Pont-L’Évêque, which sadly was a bit of a boring ride. We had better taken the toll roads and either stopped at Rouen, Étretat or Le Havre to explore in the afternoon. Rouen with its cathedral and old town full of history. Étretat with its white cliffs on the coast and Le Havre with beaches and museums.

Day 5: Pont-L’Évêque

We had a rest day, but went shopping for sweets and cheese in Pont-L’Évêque. Our hotel was on the shore of Lac de Pont-L’Évêque. So a whole day on the water is also an option.

Day 6: Honfleur

The harbor of Honfleur, old houses on the other side of the canal. Boats docking the sides on both sides of the canal
The harbor of Honfleur

It’s time to explore the world famous port city of Honfleur. It’s a beautiful old city. Expect lots of tourist crowds. We went on a boat tour on the Seine, with a view on Le Havre and the Pont de Normandie. We wandered around the Port de Honfleur and the old town, stepping inside the Église Sainte-Catherine. This church is the oldest wooden church of France.

Day 7: Pont-L’Évêque + Livarot + Camembert

Inside the Calvados Experience, Cosette and Yuri sitting on a bench. In a building inside. Dimly lit. Watching a large screen with a apple vineyard on it
Inside the Calvados Experience

Today is all about cheese and calvados. First visit the Calvados Père Magloire Experience in Pont-L’Évêque. An interactive exposition on the history and production of calvados. At the end there’s a tasting of the famous Normandic apple cognac. There’s an entrance fee.

Lots of cheese at Graindorge e Fromagerie, trays full of small round cheeses
Lots of cheese at Graindorge e Fromagerie

After this experience drive over to Livarot and stop at Graindorge E Fromagerie. This is a cheese factory with a cheese shop and exposition on site. They produce 4 different cheeses here, all from this region. You get to see every step of the cheese making process. The cheeses produced here are Camembert, Neufchâtel, Pont-L’Évêque and Livarot. There’s no entrance fee. At the end is a small restaurant and shop. You can sample the cheeses here and buy them to take home with you.

Camembert making in earlier times. A  puppet of a woman pouring cheese in round shapes. In front of her cheeses drying. She's standing in an old fashioned kitchen.
Camembert making in earlier times

Third drive to the small village of Camembert. Here’s where the famous Camembert cheese was invented. There’s a small museum on the history and production of the Camembert and you can do a tasting of different Camemberts.

Day 8 + 9: Domaine Les Bois-Francs Center Parcs

Dance match, Yuri standing on the lfet, Paul on the right. Seen from behind. A dance battle machine at the arcade hall
Dance match

We went to Aqua Mundo twice on both days, to swim and have fun. We didn’t leave the resort. But there’s plenty to do in this region. Yuri wanted to visit water parks on our trip. This was the first of two, so we spent our time in the water.

Day 10: Giverny

The lillypad pond at Giverny at the gardens of Monet. Cosette in front of the pond with lillypads and trees and flowers on boths sides
The lillypad pond at Giverny at the gardens of Monet

Giverny is as beautiful as you think it will be. I loved it. It’s also as crowded as you think it will be. We visited the house and gardens of Monet and the Musée des impressionnismes Giverny. The museum is small, but has some beautiful works of art on display. The gardens in front of the museum are also worth your time, just not as beautiful as Monet’s gardens. The gardens and house of Monet are truly beautiful and well kept. Loved visiting them both.

We got our tickets at the museum, there was almost no line there, and at the house and gardens was a long waiting line. They have combination tickets for the museum, house and gardens. The gardens and house of Monet have a special entrance for people who already have a ticket. Both the museum and this entrance had no waiting line.

Day 11 + 12: Parc Astérix

Discobelix at Parc Asterix. A round shaped, the shape of a disc, with people sitting on it, goes over a track up and down and it turns around
Discobelix at Parc Asterix

We loved Parc Astérix, this theme park is a new favorite of ours. We spent a day and a half here. There are rides for all ages and all in theme with Astérix and Obélix, the comic book characters. In the evening, at the parks closing, there’s a lights, music and fireworks show. The park also offers shows, next to rides. The shows are in French, but we could still follow them and had fun. (Only Paul speaks and understands French from the 3 of us).

Day 13: Noyon

We had a rest day, but Noyon has two small museums you can visit. Musée de Noyonnais and the Musée Jean Calvin.

Day 14: Mémorial de L’Armistice

The train wagon of the armistice, as seen from the side and the front
The train wagon of the armistice

There’s a small museum and memorials in the forest near Compiègne. This is where the World War One armistice was signed. The train wagon is placed inside a memorial building and there’s a museum behind it. The museum covers the First and Second World War and the history of the  armistice wagon. Hitler also used the same train wagon to sign the surrender of France to Germany in the Second World War. He then had it towed to Berlin. It burned down in Germany. So this wagon is not the original, but from the same series. The train tracks are still there, and two other memorials for World War One are also on site.

Day 15: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Noyon + Abbaye d’Ourscamp + Caverne du Dragon

Cathedral of Noyon from the inside
Cathedral of Noyon from the inside
Abbaye d'Ourscamp, as seen from the front. The ruins of the old abbey. Pine trees aligning the path to it
Abbaye d’Ourscamp

Our hotel was across from the cathedral. We visited early in the morning, it’s a beautiful large cathedral with no crowds. The Abbaye d’Ourscamp consists of several buildings and is still in use. We visited when the monks had a service at noon. The ruins of one building of the abbey are beautiful, but fenced off, because it’s not stable anymore. The abbey is in the town of Chiry-Ourscamp, South of Noyon.

The Château de Coucy is en route to the Caverne du Dragon. We just admired it from the car, but you can make a stop here if you want.

How the soldiers lived in the quarry, a part of the cave how it was during the war
How the soldiers lived in the quarry

The Caverne du Dragon is in the town of Oulches-la-Vallée-Foulon on the Chemin des Dames. A quarry where during the First World War German and French soldiers took up residence. On the planes above and in the quarry heavy fighting took place and thousands of soldiers died. There was a guided tour through the quarry. The tour was in French, but we had audioguides in Dutch (other languages were available).

Day 16 + 17: Reims

Reims Cathedral, as seen from the front. Majestically rising up. A gothic cathedral
Reims Cathedral

We had a rest day on day 16 and visited Reims on day 17. There are enough attractions to easily spend two days in Reims. Don’t miss the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims, the entrance was free, since there was a religious day on the day we visited. An imposing cathedral, with beautiful glass stained windows. In this cathedral lots of kings and emperors were crowned and Jeanne d’Arc is remembered. The cathedral is still being restored from damages done during both World Wars. The Palais du Tau was closed when we visited, but was definitely on our list. There are a lot of Champagne houses in the city that provide tours.

Day 18: Driving Day

Drive from Bezannes to Ringsheim, it will take up half the day to more, depending on how busy the traffic is. You enter Germany.

Day 19 till 21: Europa Park + Rulantica

The whirligig at Europa Park, seen partly. People are on the chairs, under them fountains
The whirligig at Europa Park
Rulantica entrance, as seen from a bit from the side
Rulantica entrance

Europa park is the largest theme park in Europe and holds the second place in visitor numbers. Rulantica is their second park, and this is a water park. We spent one day at both parks and had one rest day. You can however easily spend two days at Europa park. We didn’t have enough time to do all the rides and shows in one day. Rulantica is a beautiful water park, which is good for a full day of water fun.

Day 22 + 23: Luxembourg-city

Cityscape of Luxembourg-city, in between the trees are buildings
Cityscape of Luxembourg-city

You can explore Luxembourg-city in the evening on day 22 and on the morning of day 23 before going home.

Where to Eat

France is known for its delicious pastries and cheeses and we tried out many of them. I’ll list them per place we visited.

Lille + Villeneuve-d’Ascq

In Lille visit the Marché du Wazemmes, it’s a roofed cast iron hall with stalls selling local cheeses, sausages and so on. We bought several things to go and had a small breakfast for lunch in the market hall.

They have delicious cakes at Elizabeth’s in Vieux Lille. We sat down here. Maison Georges Larnicol had really delicious macarons in the center of Lille.

In Villeneuve-d’Ascq we had dinner at Buffalo Grill and at Restaurant Délices d’Asie. The first is a chain in France with American cuisine, we love eating there. The second had an Asian all-you-can-eat buffet. They had sushi, fish, fried rice and more. You could also pile (raw) food on a plate, which they prepared for you with a sauce to your liking in a wok.

Pont-L’Évêque + Honfleur

Coupe de Madame cocktail at Eden Park Hotel Restaurant, Cosette is sitting in the right beach chair. The cocktails iare standing on a small table in front of her. The hotel with restaurant is behind her.
Coupe de Madame cocktail at Eden Park Hotel Restaurant

At our hotel we enjoyed the breakfast buffet on our last morning, it was a buffet with lots of choice. We also enjoyed a 3-course menu for lunch and had drinks a few times at the Eden Park Hotel Restaurant. The 3-course menu was super delicious and of good quality. The restaurant had a perfect view on the lake. They had chairs placed outside on the grass with a view on the lake. I can recommend the Coupe Madame cocktail.

Chocolaterie Mérimée Emmanuel has delicious macarons and chocolate. La Fromagerie d’Annabelle has lots of choice in cheeses. L’Epi d’Or is a boulanger and pâtissier and has delicious cakes and bread. These are all in the town of Pont-L’Évêque.

In Honfleur we had lunch at Restaurant Le Crystal. Good food with fish and other French cuisine.

Livarot + Camembert + Les Barils + Giverny

Cheese tasting and camembert at Graindorge e Fromagerie
Cheese tasting and camembert at Graindorge e Fromagerie

In Livarot Le Bar a Fromages at Graindorge E Fromagerie has several cheese plates you can sample. Such delicious regional cheeses! There’s also a shop where you can buy the cheeses and more.

Tasting of 4 different kinds of Camembert cheese, served on baguette slices. From each flavor 3 kinds on a plate from Camembert
Tasting of 4 different kinds of Camembert cheese

At La Maison du Camembert in Camembert you can buy different Camembert cheeses and other regional products.

In Giverny we had hotdogs and fries with sausages for lunch on a bench. We got them from the take out window at Les Nymhéas restaurant. The service was really slow, but the hotdogs were large.

At Center Parcs we got dinner one evening from Quick. A French fast food chain.

Parc Astérix

We had the breakfast buffet each morning at our hotel Les Trois Hiboux.

In the park we had crépes au Nutella and a gaufre au sucre as a lunch twice. For dinner we had sandwiches with chips at La Guinguette. We had loaded fries at Fritapopoulos for lunch.

Noyon + Bezannes + Reims

In Noyon we got take out pizza at Pizza King. They tasted good. We had lunch and dinner at Le Palais D’Asie, all delicious. Misto Burger had some good burgers. At Boulangerie Roland we got pastries, bread, quiches, sandwiches several times and they were all delicious.

In Bezannes we had dinner at La Boucherie restaurant. An American style restaurant with French dishes. My burger and Paul’s steak were both delicious. We had lunch at Quick on a Sunday, since almost everything else was closed. We had a cocktail at the hotel bar, which were good.

Across our hotel were 4 restaurants, 3 of them were closed due to vacation, but Chevallier was open on weekdays. This is a pastry shop and they had such delicious cakes, sandwiches, quiches and cookies, The staff was super friendly.

Champagne! Cosette is holding the glass with champagne while sitting at a table
Champagne!

In Reims we sat down at Bubble Coffee and had milkshakes and waffles here. Both were delicious. We had lunch at Paul. Paul is a pastry chain with stores throughout France. (My husband Paul always loves eating here, since the store has his name). At Le Grand Café we had a mixed board with cheese, meat and fish. I had a glass of champagne, after all we were in the Champagne region.

Ringsheim + Europa Park + Rulantica

We had dinner twice at Kebab House, which was close to our hotel. They had good kebab. We got cake from Eugen Bosch Bäckerei und Lebensmittel for Paul’s birthday. Good cakes, but it isn’t that hard to get those in Germany at a bakery. All days we had the breakfast buffet at our hotel, which had enough choice.

At Europa park we had lunch with hotdogs from Moby Dick Hot Dogs. Paul had a Chili Hot Dog and Yuri and I had a regular hotdog. We had dinner at Foodloop. Which is a super fun and somewhat spectacular restaurant. Your food and drinks arrive at your table on rollercoaster rails. The food was good and it was fun to watch. We had delicious Carte D’or ice cream at a Gelateria.

At Rulantica we had our lunch with burgers at Snekkjas. We had twice non-alcoholic cocktails at Skogbar. Where you ordered your drinks at a bar in the water, and could also drink in the water. The cocktails were good. We had dinner with pasta and pizza at Lumålunda. All food tasted good.

Luxembourg-City

We had dinner with burgers at Jakob’s House. It was expensive, but had a good vibe. We also had sangria here. The restaurant was at the Rives de Clausen, a street full of restaurants and bars.

Where to Stay

We booked all our stays with wifi and an electrical hook-up. We have a fully electrical car, so we need the last one.

Villeneuve-d’Ascq + Pont-L’Évêque

In Villeneuve-d’Ascq we stayed 3 nights at Tulip Inn Lille Grand Stade Residence. We had a studio with three single beds. It was a simple room, but with a small kitchen. There was paid parking in a parking garage under the building. Sadly the electrical hook-up in the parking garage did not work. Lots of restaurants and a grocery store nearby. We had the room including the breakfast buffet. This hotel is also perfect as a stopover hotel on the way South.

The view at Eden Park Hotel Restaurant, 4 beach chairs seen from the back, overseeing the lake
The view at Eden Park Hotel Restaurant

Eden Park Hotel Restaurant in Pont-L’Évêque was perfect. The hotel is situated on Lac de Pont-L’Évêque, the restaurant and part of the rooms had a view on the lake. Next to the shore of the lake was grass and the hotel had placed beach chairs there. It was so relaxing to sit on them. We had tea and coffee facilities in our room. There was an electrical hook-up on the hotel’s parking lot. The restaurant at the hotel was super good. It was a bit further away from the town of Pont-L’Évêque. We had 3 good nights here with airconditioning.

Les Barils + Plailly

Sunset from our cottage, the sun is visible between the trees
Sunset from our cottage

At Domaine les Bois-Francs Center Parcs we stayed a weekend (3 nights) in a renewed comfort cottage. It’s a holiday rental with a kitchen and terrace. It has a waterpark, Aqua Mundo, which is guaranteed to give hours of fun. There’s also an arcade hall, bowling alley, indoor play area, a spa and more fun things. There were no electrical hook-ups, but you could charge your car at a regular socket, free of charge.

In Plailly we stayed at Les Trois Hiboux Hotel. One of 3 hotels of Parc Astérix. We had 2 nights here and entrance to the park. You entered Parc Astérix at the back. We had 30 minutes early entrance as hotel guests. The room was basic, but good and the breakfast buffet was included. There were electrical hook-ups at the parking place and it was free of charge to use.

Noyon + Bezannes

In Noyon we had 3 nights at Cit’Hotel – Hotel le Cèdre. It’s across from the cathedral of Noyon. We had a room with a view on it. Our room was a comfort 3 persons room. It was in the city center of Noyon so lots of restaurants, cafés and stores around the corner. The hotel had it’s own parking lot with electrical hook-ups. We had a small fridge and coffee and tea facilities in our room.

In Bezannes we stayed 3 nights at Golden Tulip Reims. They had a lot of electrical hook-ups and they’re own fenced parking lot. Our room had airconditioning, a small fridge and a coffee maker. There was a small (cold) swimming pool with hot tub (with cold water). The hotel had a bar with seats inside and out.

Ringsheim + Luxembourg-City

In Ringsheim we stayed at Hotel la Toscana, just 5.2 kilometers/3.2 miles away from Europa park. We had a family room with airconditioning a small terrace. We had coffee and tea facilities. The room was including the breakfast buffet. The hotel had their own parking lot with electrical hook-ups. We spent 4 nights at this hotel.

In Luxembourg-city we stayed one night at Novotel Suites Luxembourg. The parking on their terrain costs €17.00 per day. They have electrical hook-ups. They didn’t work properly when we stayed, but they were fixing it. Our room with Queensize bed and a single bed had airconditioning, a microwave, a small fridge and coffee and tea facilities.

When to Visit

We did this road trip last July and August and it was hot. We had warm weather the whole 3 weeks. Almost the whole of Europe experienced hot, dry weather this Summer.

Typically the coast in Northern France has a sea climate. The rest has a transitional climate.

Honfleur, and that part of Normandy near the coast, has a climate that is normally cool and wet year round, with rain and wind. Especially during Fall and Winter. Summer is the least rainy season. Lille has a cool and humid climate.

The area of Normandy with Les Barils and Giverny and the area around Paris (Plailly + Noyon) has a temperate climate. So on average the temperatures are quite cool, however there can be hot days in Summer and cold spells in Winter. There’s less rainfall compared to the coast, but just as much sun days.

The Northeast (Reims + Ringsburg + Luxembourg-city) has a moderately continental climate. Which means a relatively warm Summer and a cold Winter.

You can drive this route all year long. However Rulantica closes in the Winter months.

Hiring a Car and Airports

We drove the route with our own car. For this road trip we didn’t rent a car, but we have excellent experiences with Hertz and Alamo.

When arriving by plane before embarking on this road trip: Lille has an international airport, Lille Lesquin Airport, which is 11 kilometers/7 miles away from Villeneuve-d’Ascq and 308 kilometers/191 miles away from Luxembourg-city. Luxembourg Airport is located 8 kilometers/5 miles away from Luxembourg-city and 316 kilometers/196 miles away from Villeneuve-d’Ascq.

Tips

  • When visiting at the end of July and in August, keep in mind that there will be restaurants and stores closed due to vacation. We experienced this especially in Noyon and Bezannes. Half to more were closed for 3 to 4 weeks.
  • France, Germany and Luxembourg use the Euro.
  • In the smaller cities and towns restaurants and shops close at 1.30pm or 2pm. Dinner is after 7pm.
  • France has toll roads. You can pay at the toll booths (cash or card) or have a special box for it in your car.
  • A list of cities in France, where you have to have a special emission sticker on your car, you can order that sticker here. Germany has this also, here is more information about where. 

Alternative Itineraries

Skip Europa park and Luxembourg, make it a just France trip.

Day 18: Going Home

Instead of Europa park and Luxembourg more of France.

Day 18: Drive from Bezannes to Nancy (247 kilometers/  miles, about 3 hours)

Day 19: Explore Nancy

Day 20: Drive from Nancy to Colmar (149 kilometers/  miles, about 2 hours)

Day 21: Explore Colmar

Day 22: Explore Mulhouse

Day 23: Going Home

That Concludes Our Northern France Itinerary

Hope you enjoy this road trip through beautiful Northern France as much as we’ve done!

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