A massive thank you to Jessica from Books and Bao for her guest post on these amazing day trips from Paris.
Although Paris, is one of the world’s most magical cities filled with art, culture, fine food and fashion sometimes you need a day away to explore what else France has to offer. Luckily, within an hour from Paris, you can get lost in Medieval cities, colourful chateaus, or treat yourself to some champagne tasting. With a day trip to suit everyone, it seems a shame not to indulge in one of Paris’s nearby treasures.
Luckily, getting around France is easy due to the excellent train network that runs across the country. We got to know the system well while pet sitting in Paris but your best friend for day trips are the high-speed trains as you can cover great distances in a short space of time. The two main types of train are the high-speed TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse) to major cities and RER (Regional Express Network) to more local destinations. Booking early is highly advisable as you can get some great deals and will always be cheaper than purchasing on the day. Travelling around France is a pleasure and whether you’re on the train or driving you can expect to see the stunning countryside along the way.
A trip to Versailles is one of the most popular visits from Paris and an easy way to experience a little more of French culture and history. The stunning Chateaus de Versailles is the main draw to the area and considering its vibrant colours and stunning interiors, it’s easy to see why people take the forty-five-minute trip just to see the castle. However, there’s a lot more to see in the near vicinity like the Mirrors Gallery, the extensive palace gardens, and the city of Versailles itself. Exploring Versailles is far more peaceful than visiting the palace itself – the Halles Notre-Dame food market is a good choice for seeing local life, visiting the Royal Opera House offers spectacular views and a show if desired, and quiet strolls along the river offer a stunning view of the palace. To get to Versailles just purchase an RER train ticket to Versailles – Chateau -River Gaunce.
Whether you’re travelling as a family, a couple, or as a group of friends the magic of Disney never gets old. Disneyland Paris (or Euro Disney) is just 20 miles east to the centre of Paris and can be reached by the RER train. Every day the carriages on this train are packed with people wearing Mickey Mouse ears who are making their way for a day of Disney fun. The train terminates at Marne-la-Vallee station at the gates of Disneyland and the whole journey takes 40 minutes from the city centre.
A day at Disney is what you might expect, different sections dedicated to Disney films, dressed up characters roaming around, and rides galore. Of course, there are some distinctly French twists just waiting to be discovered and the themed bakeries are a must-visit. Although, one of the bigger Disneyland parks (when compared to Hong Kong or Tokyo Disney), it’s still far more manageable than Disney World and you can see most of the sections in a day.
Although not quite historic, a day at Disney should definitely be added to your Paris Itinerary.
Le Mont Saint-Michel
One of the most beautiful monasteries on Earth and one of the most gothic and dramatic to see from a distance. The UNESCO world heritage site Le Mont Saint-Michel is a colossal piece of architecture, surrounded by a small village, all sitting atop an island which is only accessible at low tide. Everything about this place is a mix of medieval and gothic French architecture and tone.
The inner sanctum of the monastery is inaccessible to the public, but almost everything else is free to be explored, this is a photographer’s dream. While there’s not much else to do nearby and the trip is quite long, the main event itself is more than worth it. If you’re driving or taking a tour bus there (the journey takes around four hours), then you’ll be treated to gorgeous views of the French countryside along the way. Your other option is to take an early train to Rennes then connect to the Keolis bus which takes between 4-5 hours. It’ll be a long day but a truly unforgettable visit.
If you love French castles (and who doesn’t?) then the Loire Valley is a wondrous sight to behold – this is the place to go if you want to immerse yourself in history. Just 200km south of Paris (2.5 hours by car or bus) and considered ‘The Gardens of France’ there are close to a thousand castles to admire. You’ll also find beautiful vineyards and historical sites throughout the area making for a wonderful escape from busy Paris for the day. Once home to the nobility of France, there are royal and fairy-tale vibes across Loire Valley – you can even find Chateau De Chambord which supposedly inspired the Disney Beauty and the Beast animator.
Unless you’re driving around France, the easiest way to visit Loire Valley is with a private tour as it’s hard to get between the individual castles with public transport. Alternatively, you can take a train to Tours station (two hours each way or one hour on the more expensive fast train) and then rent a bike and cycle between the castles. Seeing these stunning castles and living out your own fairy-tale fantasy is well worth the journey.
Who doesn’t love champagne? This is one of the best day trips for getting to know the French drink and taking a tour of the gorgeous area. For a day of drinking the best place to head is De Castellane, after indulging in champagne tasting as you can also explore the cellars and climb the tower for stunning views of Epernay. You can also stroll along the Marne river and enjoy the attractive town.
Treat yourself while you’re there by trying the fantastic local restaurants where you can indulge in more fantastic champagne with your traditional lunch. Don’t forget to stroll down Avenue de Champagne to see many of the most famous champagne houses. The train to Epernay leaves every two hours and there are five trains a day so make sure you plan this trip ahead. However, it’s only an hour and twenty minutes on the train, once you getting going, so it’s an easy day trip that offers rewarding views and a delightfully tipsy day ahead.
A perfect day trip for art lovers, Giverny was the home of the famous impressionist painter Claude Monet who lived here from 1882 until he died in 1926. Wandering around this elegant town, you can see the inspiration for many of his paintings including the iconic Japanese Garden. Take pictures on the waterfront and enjoy the water lilies and Japanese Bridge that inspired Monet himself.
Truthfully, the whole area is an art lover or photographers dream and there’s no end to the romantic scenes and pictures you can take here. While there, you can also visit Claude Monet’s home, his first studio which includes reproductions of his paintings, and various rooms which were important to him. The flower garden attached to the house is also perfect for exploring. It takes less than 45-minutes to get to Giverny on the train making this an easy and incredibly rewarding day trip from Paris.
Medieval City of Provins
If you’re ready for another stunning UNESCO world heritage site, then this well preserved medieval village in the Ile-de-France region is perfect. Provins takes you back in time to an age of falcons, castles, and horse shows and offers views that you didn’t think were possible. An easy day trip, just 90 kilometres southeast of Paris, you can reach Provins on an hourly train which takes an hour and twenty minutes. There are over 58 ancient monuments to see in the city, and some of the major sites include 1.200 metres of 11th-century ramparts and fortified gates to walk around.
The medieval fortress of Tour Cesar, sat atop a hill can’t be missed and offers stunning views over the town. While there, make sure you catch the underground galleries dotted around the city for a snapshot of the Medieval art that is very much part of the city’s culture.
More Paris posts:
- 20 FREE THINGS TO DO IN PARIS, FRANCE
- WHAT NOT TO DO IN PARIS – 20 Common mistakes of a first-time visitor
- TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN PARIS, FRANCE
- WHERE TO STAY WHEN VISITING PARIS? HOTEL EIFFEL CAPITOL REVIEW
- Heading up the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France – Tips Before Your Visit
- 100 CREATIVE TRAVEL TIPS FOR VISITING EUROPE
Originally from Wales, UK, Jessica has travelled and worked around the world, initially as a teacher and now as a freelance writer. She started the travel and culture website Books and Bao and hasn’t looked back. Fond of books, cafes, and cats. You can follow her on @booksandbao.