Routes south from Calais

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Routes from calais
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Avoiding Paris

Few things can be worse at the start of a long-awaited holiday, than to find oneself stuck for hours in a monstruous traffic jam, rather than relaxing at one's holiday destination.
When travelling from the UK or from Belgium or Holland to anywhere in France, it is always best to avoid Paris, particularly during summer weekends.
Click here for mobile compatible guide to driving in France with tips, warnings, motorway information and more

The map above shows how all regions of France can be reached by motorway or dual-carriageway (divided highway) trunk road, without going through Paris.

South from Calais
There are two routes south from Calais: the A16 motorway, via Boulogne, Abbeville and Rouen, and the A26 motorway via Arras and Reims (Rheims) .

To central southern and southwest France :

Follow: Abbeville > Rouen > Evreux > Chartres > Orleans...
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For traffic heading for the central southern France, the route via Rouen is strongly recommended. Rouen can be a hassle, but the routes through the city are now clear, and dual-carriageway.

Leave Calais on the A16 motorway, following signs for Boulogne and Abbeville. Just before Abbeville, turn off onto the A28 motorway, signmosted Rouen.  On entering Rouen, the A28 becomes the N28. Follow on down through the tunnel, then across the Seine. Imediately after the river, you will do a 270° turn, and follow signs for Paris and Evreux (then Evreux & Orleans). You will join the A13 motorway west of Rouen.

   After joining the A13 in the direction of Paris, branch off after a few kilometres, onto the A 154. The route to south central and southwest France via Orleans then follows through (or past) the towns of Evreux, Dreux and Chartres. The A154 soon becomes the N154, which is almost all dual-carriageway as far as Chartres. Traffic normally flows freely on the 50 km of relatively straight and flat single-carriageway N154 from Chartres to the A10 motorway before Orleans.
    At Orleans, follow signs for the A71 in the direction of Clermont Ferrand. After that, it is simple. Traffic for the Western Massif Central and the Toulouse area leaves the A71 at Vierzon, to follow the A20. Otherwise, for Auvergne, Languedoc and the Spanish Mediterranean coast, just keep going on the A71 which becomes the (toll-free) A75 at Clermont Ferand.
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To southwest/ west France:

Follow: Abbeville > Rouen > Le Mans > Tours...
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For traffic heading to southwest France, the route via Rouen is strongly recommended. Rouen can be a hassle, but the routes through the city are now clear, and dual-carriageway.
Leave Calais on the A16 motorway, following signs for Boulogne and Abbeville. Just before Abbeville, turn off onto the A28 motorway, signposted Rouen.  On entering Rouen, the A28 becomes the N28. Follow on down through the tunnel, then across the Seine. After that, follow signs for Caen. Join the A13 motorway, then just west of Rouen branch off onto the A28 for Alençon and Le Mans.

To western Normandy and Brittany
Follow: Abbeville > Rouen > Le Havre > Caen > Rennes...
Leave Calais on the A16 motorway, following signs for Boulogne and Abbeville. Just before Abbeville, turn off onto the A28 motorway, signposted Rouen.  Before reaching Rouen, branch right onto the A29 motorway signposted Le Havre, then follow signs for Caen. After corssing the Seine in the outskirts of Le Havre, you will join the A13 motorway. Follow the direction of Caen. Caen has a long ring road, from which most traffic bound for Brittany will want to exit on the A84 motorway, in the direction of Rennes.

Traffic heading for eastern and south east France

 - Alsace, Jura, Alps, Provence,

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Leave Calais on the A 26 motorway, following signs for Arras and Reims. At Reims, you will briefly follow the A4 motorway in the direction of Strasbourg, before rejoining the A26 near Chalons en Champagne.  After that, you join the A5 at Troyes, then the A31 at Chaumont, and it is plain sailing all the way as far as Lyon. Remember to branch off onto the A 39 motorway at Dijon, as this motorway is relatively traffic free; if you follow Beaune, you will soon join the very heavy traffic on the A6 Paris to Lyon motorway.

From the A39, you join the A 40, then - unless heading for the High Alps or Geneva or Milan -  the A 42.

Getting past Lyon
Before reaching Lyon on the A42, follow the signs for St Exupéry airport, then keep following Valence & Marseille, or Grenoble, depending on your destination. If following Marseille, take great care when you join the A 43 Grenoble-Lyon motorway, just after the airport. Traffic bound for the south must take the next exit off this busy eight-lane (2 x 4) motorway, after just five kilometres. The exit is not the best of motorway intersections, so keep the signs for Marseille firmly in view, as you do a 270° exit onto the A 46 Lyon outer ring-road.
Unfortunately (particularly on peak weekends in summer) , there is no fast way of avoiding the A7 Rhone valley motorway if you are heading for Provence or the Riviera. The alternative is to take slow routes through the hills.

REMEMBER: when driving in France, follow Destinations rather than road numbers.

Some other  mobile compatible pages on About-France.com

  • Route map through western France with hotels - routes via Rouen to southwest and southern France - mobile compatible version
  • Route map through eastern France with hotels - routes via Reims and Dijon to the Alps and Provence - mobile compatible version
  • Driving in France - mobile version
  • Paris tourist attractions
  • Paris travel information
  • French restaurant menu glossary
  • (French English translation of menu terms)
  • French cheese guide
  •      and lots more...... Return to full index