There is never enough time to see everything in Paris. It is one of those cities with a gazillion nooks and crannies, and no one (even people living here) can cover it all.
And so, on top of all that, I will add to your “to-see” list by noting some fantastic day trips from Paris that you must absolutely squeeze in some time for!
Now one thing I will note is my criteria for a good day trip from Paris:
- the distance
- the accessibility
- the sights
- whether it is actually worth doing as a “day trip”
I have seen a lot of websites that suggest large cities like Strasbourg or Bordeaux as day trips from Paris, and for me that is slightly nuts.
There is so much to see in Strasbourg and Alsace that just because you can go there in 2 hours (by high-speed train), doesn’t mean that you actually should. Instead, I would recommend staying overnight to truly experience it. Indeed, there is so much to see and do in Alsace, you are better off spending the week there!
Certain places just require more time, and so I’ve left those off of the list. We’re looking for practical places to visit, where it makes sense to go as a day trip, rather than stay in the area. So let’s get to it, shall we? Allons-y!
1. Mont Saint Michel
One of the most beautiful and unique sights in the world, Mont Saint Michel is a vision to behold. Legend has it that the archangel Michael appeared to St. Aubert of Avranches in 708 and instructed him to build a church on a large rock.
Surrounded by marshland, it turns the UNESCO World heritage site into an island when the tide comes in. The Abbey of Mont Saint Michel only has 7 monks living there these days, but it is still one of the most spectacular churches in France.
It takes about 4 hours to get there from Paris, and to get there from Paris you can take the train from Paris’ Gare Montparnasse to the city Rennes (2 hours), from where SNCF buses travel to Mont St. Michel (1.5hrs).
2. Palace of Versailles
The rise of the palace of the Sun King Louis XIV, followed by the eventual fall of his dynasty, the Palace of Versailles is a place filled with history and tinged with sadness.
Just outside the city, Versailles is a wonderful day trip from Paris. It does get quite crowded in the summer time though, so go early in the day to give yourself time to explore before the crowds arrive.
3. Disneyland Paris
If you are traveling with a family (and even if you are not) you cannot miss going to the Chateau of Mickey. Disneyland Paris actually is much cheaper, compared to other Disneylands in the U.S., Japan, and elsewhere.
The park is split into two parts: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios. You can buy tickets for both parks, or just one.
There is also the Disney Village which is outside the theme parks and free to visit. You can read more about visiting Disneyland Paris here. Like with most things around Paris, it is best to skip the line and buy tickets and transportation in advance.
4. Giverny and Claude Monet Gardens
Even if you don’t like art, you will enjoy the trip out to idyllic Giverny and the French countryside. It is about 70 km northwest of Paris, but like stepping into another world.
This was the sanctuary of Impressionist artist Claude Monet, one of the most famous French artists of all time. You can visit his home, his famous gardens, as well as the Museum of Impressionism which holds some of his works and other impressionists from that era.
You can find tour companies that take you from Paris and stop at Giverny, providing a relaxing lunch along the way.
5. Château de Fontainebleau
In the words of Napoleon Bonaparte, Château de Fontainebleau was “the true home of kings, the house of ages.” While the glamorous Château de Versailles was a bit of a party palace, Château de Fontainebleau was the original working royal palace, constructed centuries earlier.
Further away from Paris than Versailles, Fontainebleau was originally constructed as a hunting lodge. Today it houses two exhibitions, both on larger-than-life French Kings: François I and Napoleon Bonaparte.
Of all the magnificent châteaux near Paris, this is perhaps the one with the most history. Both the Château de Fontainebleau and the Palace of Versailles are recognized as UNESCO world heritage sites.
6. Parc Asterix
If you were a fan of the comic books growing up, you cannot miss Parc Asterix. Located in North of Paris, Asterix and Obelix are here to give that foreign interlocutor Mickey Mouse a run for his money.
The story is set in 50 BC when the dastardly Roman Empire has invaded Gaul (“old France”). Asterix and Obelix cheerfully fight a good fight though, to keep them at bay. The theme park is set up in a way to cover all the areas that our two heroes have their adventures.
- Via Antiqua which is the main street with shops and restaurants.
- the Roman Empire
- Ancient Greece
- The village of the Gaulois
- Land of the Vikings with several large rollercoasters.
- Medieval France
- Egypt which is the newest section
7. Chateau de Chantilly
Situated in the north of Paris, Château de Chantilly is an architectural marvel. It is actually built in the 11th century on marshland to protect the road to Senlis, the ancient city of the French Kings.
Chantilly was also the home of the son of the last King of France, Henri d’Orleans who dedicated his life to it restoring and preserving it.
Inside the Château is the 2nd largest collection of antique paintings in France, after the Louvre Museum in Paris. In addition, the Château’s library holds over 60,000 volumes, second only to the National Library of France.
Amongst its treasures are over 1,500 manuscripts and 17,500 printed documents on all sorts of subjects, dating from as early as the 11th century.
8. Loire Valley
Chateau de Chenonceau and Chambord are two of its most famous. The beautiful city of Amboise has its own Royal Château that you shouldn’t miss, along with nearby Châteaux of Blois, Chéverny, Chaumont, and Villandry.
In addition, the Loire Valley is a wine-producing region, so there are many popular white wines that are grown in the region. The area is the second-largest concentration of sparkling-wine producing vines in France after the Champagne region.
And since they don’t build train stations next to castles, I would highly recommend taking a tour from Paris. There are several tours that combine wine-tasting and château-hopping as a day trip, or longer if you choose. You can see Loire Valley tour options here.
9. Reims & Champagne region
If you enjoy Champagne (who doesn’t), then a champagne tasting tour from Paris should definitely be on your “to-do” list. There are several different types of champagne, so this is your chance to try a few different varieties.
In addition, the capital of the Champagne Region, Reims is most famous for its gothic Cathedral and the place where the Kings of France were crowned.
A bit of culture, a bit of Champagne, and a designated driver. Who could ask for anything more?
10. Normandy: D-Day Beaches
There is a lot to see in Normandy, but if you are short on time and want to pay your respects to the soldiers who fought so bravely on D-Day, a day trip from Paris is quite do-able.
There are many cemeteries, monuments, and museums dedicated to the lives of those soldiers and those living in France at the time. A somber journey, but one that is worth the trip.
One the closest beaches that Americans will want to visit is Omaha beach. It is estimated that 34,000 American and Allied soldiers landed here on June 6th, 1944. Between 2,000 – 5,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or were deemed missing along this stretch of Normandy coastline.
You can read more about visiting the D-day beaches here, as well as see tour options to visit the D-day beaches, the Allied cemeteries and more here.
11. Château de Breteuil
Located in the South west suburb of Yveline, outside of Paris, Château of Breteuil tries to entertain as well as provide a sense of history.
A privately owned castle, Château de Breteuil has adopted the theme of fairytales and put in place several wax figures and puppet shows showing daily life at the castle, as well as reenacting several famous children’s’ stories.
If you have small children, a visit to the château is a must. You can read more about visiting Château de Breteuil here.
12. France Miniature
If you are wondering how to squeeze all these day trips in, in a limited amount of time, the France Miniature theme park outside of Paris, may be the one you want. The most beautiful French cities, attractions all monuments, all replicated and miniaturized to 1/30th the size.
It is the biggest miniature park of its kind in Europe, spanning over 5 hectares, laid out in the topography of France from north to south.
Small buildings built with care, with tiny details that have been exquisitely added to make you feel like you are looking at the real thing. You can read more about visiting France Miniature here.
13. Etretat in Normandy
Étretat in Normandy is one of those places that is very famous in France, but quite unknown to foreigners and tourists.
A small town on the north coast of France, the area is known for the striking rock formations known as falaises in French, that carved out of its white cliffs.
With award-winning gardens, beautiful seashore, and a charming old town, there is plenty to see and do in Etretat. You can read more about visiting Etretat here, and find out about tour options from Paris.
14. Château de Vaux le Vicomte
The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is best known as the château that inspired the Palace of Versailles. When Sun King Louis XIV saw the house of his finance minister Nicolas Fouquet, he became so jealous he had Fouquet imprisoned and sequestered his château.
He then got the architects and workers who had worked on Vaux-le-Vicomte to go design his château at Versailles. Today, the Château Vaux-le-Vicomte remains an impressively beautiful château that has several events held here all year around.
During Christmas and Easter, the Château is sumptuously decorated for the holidays attracting visitors from all over France. In summertime, the grounds are lit up with candles and there are evening candle-lit dinners held for visitors along with a fireworks show.
In addition, there are period costumes available to rent for men, women, and children to dress up in as they tour the château and take pictures.
About an hour away from Paris by train, Provins is an ancient fortress town that is so well preserved, it has been inscribed on UNESCO’s world heritage list.
But Provins was never a royal city. Instead it was a city where nobility and royalty sent their servants to do their shopping. The town held the letters patent to hold annual events called the foires de Champagne (Champagne fairs), where tradespeople and merchants from far and wide would come to sell their wares.
This medieval town is best known these days for its famous “rose de provins”, which is used to make all kinds of rose confectionary.
There are also plenty of towers, ramparts, and dungeons to visit, along with a pedestrianized town center. You can read more about visiting Provins here.
Located in the Centre-Val de Loire region, Chartres is famous for its cathedral which is considered a gothic masterpiece. With its intricate statues on the exterior and and 24-hour astronomical clock, it is definitely a sight to behold.
With charmingly narrow streets that open on to wide open squares, this city is known for its impressive architectural heritage and history. You can read more about visiting Chartres here.
So what are your favorite day trips from Paris that you would love to recommend? If you enjoyed reading that article, you may want to read more about things to do in Paris. A bientôt!