From its origin in the Swiss Alps, the Rhône River flows 505 miles (813 kilometers through southeastern France and into the Mediterranean. En route, it passes through Lyon, Avignon, Arles, and Côte du Rhône, one of France’s top wine regions.
The Rhône River is associated with many of France’s most romantic destinations. At its northern edge, the river flows through Lyon and abuts the Beaujolais wine region; as it flows southwards through Provence and the French Riviera, the landscape turns more arid, the slopes steepen, and the wines—which include Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Hermitage, and Côte-Rotie—become bigger, bolder, and richer.
You’ll likely pass by the Rhône River on wine-focused excursions, which typically visit several local wineries for tasting sessions. Day trips from Provence tend to visit riverside cities such as Arles and Avignon.
Things to know before you go
- The Rhône River is known for its swift and powerful current, which can make river cruises an efficient way to explore the scenery.
- If you’re a food lover, stop for a bite to eat in Lyon: the city is commonly regarded as France’s gastronomic capital and its bouchons (bistros) are a must-try.
- Note that during busy harvest time, typically in late August and September, some wineries close to visitors.
How to get there
Given its length, there are numerous points at which to access the Rhône River. Lyon, France’s third-largest city, is one of the most popular places to embark on Rhône cruises. Tours from Avignon typically explore the vineyards that line the waterway’s southern reaches.
When to get there
There’s never a bad time to visit the Rhône River and the cities and villages on its banks. If you plan to embark on a river cruise, the sailing season is roughly between March and November.
Major stops along the Rhône
Whether you’re taking a river cruise or planning an independent sightseeing trip, there’s plenty to see along the Rhône. After starting in UNESCO-listed Lyon, continue to Valence, home to medieval castles and archaeological sites. Continue south to Avignon, where you can see the Palais des Papes (Popes' Palace) and Pont d’Avignon, a Roman aqueduct, before venturing to Arles, where Vincent Van Gogh once lived and worked. Finish in the Camargue, a wetland region along the Mediterranean.
- Little Palace Museum (Musée du Petit Palais)
- Avignon Cathedral (Cathedrale Notre-Dame des Doms)
- Palace of the Popes (Palais des Papes)
- Rocher des Doms
- Les Halles Market
- St. Benezet Bridge (Pont d'Avignon)
- Pont du Gard
- Les Baux-de-Provence
- Lavender Museum (Musee de la Lavande)
- Montmajour Abbey (Abbaye de Montmajour)
- Senanque Abbey (Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque)