PLM coaches used to cross the Alps © DR
Grandes Alpes® Route © Philippe Lemonnier
Old bus on the RGA © Philippe Lemonnier
Annecy, the Venice of the Alps © Philippe Lemonnier
Baroque art on religious buildings © Philippe Lemonnier
© Philippe Lemonnier
© Lionel Terrail


Discover the history of Route des Grandes Alpes®!

Early in the 18th century, the development of fortifications in the Alps required the construction of roads to serve them. These roads very quickly had the effect of opening up Alpine communities. The construction sites also provided a welcome source of additional income.

At the end of the 19th century, the Touring Club de France, originally created to develop bicycle tourism, began to encourage automobile tourism. It promoted road improvements and signage, and campaigned for comfortable inns. It erected signs and orientation tables, and laid out numerous tourist routes itself, including the Route des Grandes Alpes®.


Designed in 1911, this prestigious itinerary was very soon served by the PLM company's benchcarts and coaches. It was completed in 1937, with the inauguration of the Col de l'Iseran by the then President of the French Republic, Albert Lebrun.

The Route Grandes Alpes® is one of the most popular tourist routes in France.

Automobile tourism was launched, initially reserved for the social elite. It was to develop and open up to a wider clientele after the 1930s. Manufacturers, in search of new markets, lowered their prices by producing smaller models in larger quantities. Thus, mass tourism takes off during the Trente Glorieuses, with the appearance of popular cars: the 4CV, the 2CV, the Dauphine, the Coccinelle...

Key dates

1909: the Touring Club launches work on the Route des Grandes Alpes®.

1913: the Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée (PLM) company inaugurates the entire Route des Grandes Alpes® crossing, covered in 5 stages.

1914/18: the First World War brings work to a halt.

1930:now Nice-Chamonix is completed in 1 ½ days.

1937 : Albert Lebrun, President of the Republic inaugurates the Col de l'Iseran road, the highest road crossing in Europe.

1970 : opening of the Cormet de Roselend road.

1995: Route des Grandes Alpes® links Thonon to Menton.

2012 : Nice, official finish town of Route des Grandes Alpes®, while the Col d'Èze becomes the last pass, before the finish on the Promenade des Anglais.