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. Certain places just require more time, and so I’ve left those off of the list.
1. Mont Saint Michel
One of the most beautiful and unique sights in the world, Mont Saint Michel is a sight 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 that turns the UNESCO World heritage sight into an island when the tide comes in.
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). It is a bit of an adventure though, so this one day trip that I would strongly recommend going with a tour company.
Recommended Tours to visit Mont Saint Michel:
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. You can just imagine Marie Antoinette walking through the famous Hall of Mirrors and the Petit Trianon, her private sanctuary.
Just outside the city, Versailles is a wonderful day trip from Paris. Go early to give yourself time to explore before the crowds arrive.
Recommended Tours to visit Château de Versailles:
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. Like with most things around Paris, it is best to skip the line and buy tickets in advance.
Recommended transport options to visit Disneyland Paris:
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. 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.
Recommended day trips from Paris to visit Giverny:
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 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.
Recommended Tours to visit Chateau de Fontainebleau:
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 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
This is the French alternative to Disney, and definitely worth a day trip from Paris.
Recommended transport options to visit Parc Asterix:
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.
It 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.
Recommended Tours to visit Château de Chantilly:
8. Loire Valley
It is lucky that the Loire Valley is about 2.5 hours away from Paris (by car), because that meant many of its luxurious renaissance châteaux were saved from the destruction of the French Revolution.
And since they don’t build train stations next to castles, I would highly recommend taking a tour from Paris.
Recommended day trips from Paris to visit the Loire Valley:
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?
Recommended day trips from Paris to visit the Champagne Region:
10. Day Trips from Paris to 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.
Recommended day trips from Paris to Normandy to visit the D-Day beaches:
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.
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.
So what are your favorite day trips from Paris that you would love to recommend? Comment below and let me know.
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