Paris is a wonderful city with so much to offer, but there are also plenty of incredible places on the capital’s doorstep that are worth discovering. If you’re in need of a day away from the hustle and bustle, or if you’re simply looking to see more of France, here are my top suggestions for taking a day trip from Paris.
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Surrounded by a moat and exquisite gardens, the stunning 17th-century château of Vaux-le-Vicomte is situated just 30 miles south of Paris.
Built for Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV’s Superintendent of Finances, the château of Vaux-le-Vicomte is the work of three of the most famous Frenchmen of the time: Le Vau, an architect already famous for his elegant buildings on Paris’s Ile Saint-Louis; Le Brun, a talented court painter to the king; and Le Nôtre, then head gardener of the Tuileries Gardens in Paris.
The trio created a magnificent château. In fact, Vaux-le-Vicomte was perhaps too grand for Fouquet’s own good: Louis XIV loved the castle more than its owner and consequently had Fouquet arrested. The king then took Le Vau, Le Brun, and Le Nôtre, to have them design the new palace and gardens of Versailles.
How long to get there: 50 minutes from Gare de l’Est
How to get there by public transportation: Train Line P from Gare de l’Est, direction Provins, to Verneuil l’Etang station. Then Châteaubus shuttle.
Never traveled by train in France? Read our guide to taking the train in Paris to learn all you need to know.
The Château de Chantilly belonged to Henri d’Orléans, the son of the last king of France, Louis Philippe I. An army man and serious art collector, Henri d’Orléans amassed the second largest art collection in France, after the Louvre.
In addition to the impressive artworks on display in the palace’s main gallery, an extensive collection of beautiful books fills the shelves of the château’s large library .
Outside the castle, the sprawling grounds feature several different gardens designed by Le Nôtre, as well as a horse racetrack and stables. The stables are also now home to the Living Museum of the Horse, so be sure to stop by if you’re an equestrian.
How long to get there: 25 minutes from Gare du Nord
How to get there by public transportation: TER train from Gare du Nord to Chantilly-Goieux. Reserve your train tickets for Paris – Chantilly here.
The closest day trip destination in this selection, Saint-Germain-en-Laye is a popular, posh Parisian suburb which not only offers a picturesque town, plenty of history, a château, museums, and a gorgeous market, but also serves up some superb views of Paris.
How long to get there: 30 minutes from Châtelet
How to get there by public transportation: RER A direction Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Giverny is a must-see for anyone in the Paris region. Monet’s house offers visitors an insight into the painter’s life, but the stunning gardens are without a doubt the main attraction.
It’s quite a unique sensation to stand in the middle of an Impressionist painting. The pond, the water lilies, the bridge, the willows—it’s all there, just like Monet painted.
While you’re there, look in at the Museum of Impressionism, and before you leave Vernon (where you catch the train), don’t miss taking a picture of the Old Mill, a half-timbered house perched upon two piers of a medieval bridge that once crossed the Seine.
How long to get there: Approximately 1 hour
How to get there by public transportation: Train from Paris Saint-Lazare, direction Rouen or Le Havre, to Vernon-Giverny station. Then shuttle to Giverny. Reserve your train tickets to Giverny here.
Reims is the capital of the Champagne region. Need I say more?
This lovely city boasts four UNESCO World Heritage sites, a magnificent cathedral where nearly all of France’s kings were crowned, Roman ruins, great shopping and dining, and well, even better drinking.
Ties to the region’s namesake bubbly beverage are visible throughout the town, and a visit to at least one of the champagne houses is a must. Veuve Clicquot is fabulous and Ruinart and Taittinger also offer good tours of the caves running under Reims—caves that served as a shelter for the locals during times of war.
How long to get there: 45 minutes from Gare de l’Est.
How to get there: Train from Gare de l’Est to Reims. Reserve your train tickets here.
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