Driving the Old Salt Route in France

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When it comes to road trips in Europe, it’s hard to find something that feels unique. As one of the most touristy locations on the planet, Europe has been done, and done over again. It’s earned its reputation, of course, as a treasure trove of art, food, and culture. But how can you road trip Europe and come home having experienced something new? Look no further. We have just the trip for you. Complete with castles, foodie experiences, history, culture, and scenery, France’s Salt Route will immerse you in the ultimate road trip experience and leave you wishing you had more time to explore… no matter how long you stay. From the coastal cities of Nice and Marseilles to provincial communes, there’s much to see and do along the way. Trace the history of salt production through the French countryside, enjoying modern French lifestyle at every turn. 

Driving the Old Salt Route in France.

Salt Marsh, France. Wikimedia Commons: Pretorien0, adapted by Wandering Educators


Salt production in Europe has been a part of local culture and tradition for over 2,000 years, and was once the greatest industry in the area. Extensive trading routes carried tons of salt by caravan from the inland salt mines to the Mediterranean coastline. From there, the salt traveled around Europe along ‘salt roads,’ eventually being used in the production and preservation of food, primarily fish. These routes were often dangerous, and some salt merchants preferred to blaze their own trails rather than risk meeting bandits on the road. Doing so was far more time-consuming and difficult than traveling on the roads laid by the Romans. Today, you’ll find that travel along the old salt routes is far easier and more comfortable, and the only danger you’ll face is the possibility of running out of snacks along the way! 

Old map of Nice. From Driving the Old Salt Route in France.

Vico, Enea: Belagerung von Nizza durch Kaiser Karl V.; Kupferstich, 1543


France is known internationally for its cuisine, which ranges from delicate crepes and fresh coquilles saint-jacques, to hearty veal soups and roast meats. Seasoned, of course, with salt! 

Coquilles Saint-Jacques. From Driving the Old Salt Route in France

Coquilles Saint-Jacques. Wikimedia Commons: Frank Kovalchek

While seeking out the old salt routes and exploring the towns along them, you’ll have many opportunities to stop in for a taste of some of France’s most loved traditional dishes. Plan a little extra in your budget for a few restaurant meals. While picnics make for a great road-trip lunch, it will be well worth your time to try these dishes at one or more of the following restaurants:

Coq au Vin Jaune: a traditional dish from Franche-Comté, a province in the eastern corner of France. Tender chicken thighs broiled and served under a light wine sauce with fresh morel mushrooms. 

Coq au Vin Jaune. Driving the Old Salt Route in France

 Wikimedia Commons: Marie-Thérèse Grappe

Soupe à L’oignon: Thick and gooey, one of the most delicious soups you’ll ever try. Consists of a hearty meat broth flavoured with onions, combined with flavourful grated cheese and crunchy croutons. 

Soupe à L’oignon. Driving the Old Salt Route in France

Wikimedia Commons: Ludovic Péron

Blanquette de Veau: As traditionally French as it gets. Perfectly tender and delicate squares of veal, swimming in crème fraîche sauce and garnished with fresh mushrooms, onions, and wild rice. 

Blanquette de Veau. Driving the Old Salt Route in France

Wikimedia Commons: Magali Kunstmann-Pelchat

Steak Tartare: For the bold of heart. The finest raw beef, minced and mixed with onions, seasoned well with salt and spices, and presented with rye bread and eye yolk. 

Steak Tartare. Driving the Old Salt Route in France

Wikimedia Commons: Ken Eckert

Ratatouille: You may remember this dish from a favourite children’s movie. It originates in Nice, a port on the Mediterranean that played a vital role in the medieval salt industry, so be sure to try some while you’re there. A delicious mix of onions, garlic, eggplant, bell peppers, basil, zucchini, and a fine blend of Provencal herbs for seasoning. 

Ratatouille. Driving the Old Salt Route in France

Wikimedia Commons: Tomáš Zeleninský

Recommended restaurants along the salt route:

Le Chrissandier, Lorgues
Chez Ida, Marseille
Le Citronnier, Marseille


Nice: The fifth most populous city in France, Nice is not a small town. Located on the coast of the Mediterranean, Nice was once a major hub for the export of salt. Today, you can still find a wide selection of salts in Nice’s street market stalls. Ranging in colour from various shades of white and cream to oranges, pinks, and even black, Nice is the place to pick up a salt souvenir to take home, and it may be the best place to start your journey. 

Nice. From Driving the Old Salt Route in France.

Nice. Wikimedia Commons: Tobi 87

Arc-et-Senans: A large French commune located 32 km south-west of Besancon, Arc-Et-Sedans  is home to the Royal Saltworks, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982. The Royal Saltworks functions as a museum on the history and production of salt in France, and the building itself is an architectural wonder. 

Royal Saline in Arc-et-Senans, France. Driving the Old Salt Route in France

Royal Saline in Arc-et-Senans, France. Wikimedia Commons: Stefan Kühn

Le Croisic: Home to a large salt marsh, Le Croisic is located on the coast and boasts beautiful scenery and delicious local food. History buffs may also be interested in learning about the U.S. naval air station in town that was established in 1917 to operate seaplanes during WWI. 

Salt evaporation ponds. In the background, the steeple of le Croisic. Département de Loire-Atlantique, France voir aussi Maps of France.

Salt evaporation ponds. In the background, the steeple of le Croisic. Département de Loire-Atlantique, France voir aussi Maps of France.

Guérande: Located in Western France, Guérande is an incredibly beautiful medieval town where salt merchants once met along their journey. Here you will walk on cobblestone streets through ancient architecture, visit a castle, and look out upon the “Pays Blanc” (White Land), otherwise known as the salt marshes, and the “Pays Noir,” or peat bog. The two landscapes contrast beautifully. Visit the Terre de Sel, an attraction that explores living on the salt marshes. 

Terre de Sel - one of the things to see while driving France's Old Salt Route

Magasin «Terre de sel», marais salants de Guérande, Loire-Atlantique, Pays de la Loire, France

Pile of harvested salt in the salt marshes of Guérande, Loire-Atlantique, France. Driving the Old Salt Route in France

Pile of harvested salt in the salt marshes of Guérande, Loire-Atlantique, France. Wikimedia Commons: Demeester

Noyers: A quaint commune in Burgundy, Noyers is another fantastic place to wander among medieval architecture. Here you will find half-timbered houses, ashlars, pillars, and pinnacles. Take the time to visit the local market and speak with local craftsmen, and don’t miss the opportunity to sample the world-famous local wine. 

 City gate, Noyers-sur-Serein, Yonne, France. Driving the Old Salt Route in France

City gate, Noyers-sur-Serein, Yonne, France. Wikimedia Commons: Philippe Alès

Marseille: Like Nice, Marseille is a well-known hub along the salt route. Also a port town on the Mediterranean, Marseille was a main site for trade, importing and exporting many tons of various kinds of salt. Today, it is a much-loved tourist destination with much to see, do, and eat. Marseille’s food is phenomenal, particularly where pastries and baked goods are concerned. 

Marseille. Driving the Old Salt Route in France

Marseille. Wikimedia Commons: Laika ac

Road trip tips:

When driving in France, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the local rules of the road and make sure you’re fully prepared for your drive. Here’s some things to keep in mind:

-    Drive on the RIGHT hand side of the road, not the left.
-    If you park illegally you will receive a ticket. Most car rental companies will bill you for this and apply a surcharge, so be careful!
-    Many motorways in France will require that you pay a toll. Research your route upfront for more information. 
-    Children under 12 years must be in the backseat.
-    Be sure to include insurance with your rental company. 
-    It is not necessary to have an international driver’s license, however a full driver’s license is required. 
-    Most cars rented in France are manual, not automatic!
-    Packing lightly will help you travel with ease. Pack for the season, and consider bringing layers. 
-    An English-French dictionary will get you a long way, though tourism is a large part of French industry and communication shouldn’t be too difficult. 

This is one of the most captivating and beautiful drives in Europe.

You’ll savour traditional French food, view the countryside scenery from the comfort of your own vehicle, enjoy the freedom to explore wherever you wish, and also learn about a key part of European history. What are you waiting for? Get started by organizing your car rental and beginning your packing list. You’ll be on the adventure of a lifetime before you know it! 

Driving the Old Salt Route in France.

Marais Salants de la presqu'île guérandaise. Wikimedia Commons: Gwen4435

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About Hannah Miller: I’m a seventeen year old girl, with a serious case of wanderlust. Over the past few years I’ve traveled to over twenty-four countries, on five different continents, using bikes, buses, trains, planes, and of course, my own two feet. Wherever I go, a video camera and three instruments follow. I’m trying to change the world, one step at a time. By the end of my life I want to have visited every country in the world, and do it all through travel writing. In my opinion, there’s no better school than the big world around us, and no better way to learn about the planet I live on than to see it myself! My greatest fear: to reach the end of my days only to be filled with regret for the adventures I never had. Find me at http://www.edventuregirl.com/