Five Worthwhile Day Trips From Paris

Five Worthwhile Day Trips From Paris

Paris is filled with attractions. Many tourists simply focus on the main urban attractions during their entire time in France. However, there is a lot to see outside of the City of Lights. In fact, some of the most interesting sites in the country are located only a short distance outside of Paris. This means that travelers can have the best of both worlds. They can enjoy breakfast at a Parisian cafe, head out of the city to visit palaces, historic towns or amazing gardens, and return in time to see the Eiffel Tower lit up in all its evening-time glory.

Here are five ideas for day trips from Paris.

Versailles

Versailles

Photo: stephane martin / Flickr

The one consensus must-take day-trip for every visitor to Paris would have to be to the Palace of Versailles. Originally used by the French monarch Louis XIV, the ornate palace and its extensive gardens are an example of the extravagant lifestyle of the royalty in pre-revolution France. History-lovers can delve into the past by visiting the famous Hall of Mirrors or the former living spaces used by the ill-fated Marie Antoinette. Of course, Versailles has also been an important meeting place for world leaders at several points during the 20th Century (including to sign the treaty that ended World War I). Everyone will be entranced by the fountains and gardens that cover the grounds and by the ornate structure and decor of the main palace.

Brussels

Grand Place, Brussels

Photo: Giannis Pitarokilis / Flickr

Yes, Brussels is in an entirely different county. However, if you travel there on the Eurostar train, it will only take an hour each way. That leaves you almost an entire day to explore this important and unique Belgian city before you have to return to Paris. One day will not give you enough time to see everything, but you will be able to sample the city’s best chocolate, restaurants, and famous craft beers. If you haven’t had enough train travel on the Eurostar, you can take a self-guided sightseeing trip through the city using Brussels’s famous tram system. Or, you could simply spend your day in the beautiful Grand Place, which many people consider the most stunning public plaza in all of Western Europe.

Fontainebleau

Fontainebleau

Photo: Mike Shelby / Flickr

The palace at Fontainebleau certainly gives Versailles a run for its money when it comes to overall opulence. This town has a much longer history, however, with the first monarchs living here and hunting in the nearby forests as early as the 13th Century. The palace will be the highlight of this day trip from Paris for people who are interested in design, history, and architecture. The ornate decor, common in many French “chateaus” used by the aristocracy, is truly impressive. Fontainebleau also has beautiful forests and many hiking trails that will appeal to nature-lovers and people who want to take a break from the city landscapes of Paris for a while.

Chartres

Chartres

Photo: Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr

This town, a little more than an hour outside of the city, is another great option for a day trip from Paris. The cathedral here is the headlining sight. It has a story that dates back eight centuries, and it has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Aside from taking in the architectural splendor of this building, you can walk the labyrinth on the floor just as pilgrims did nearly 800 years ago. The town of Chartres itself is pleasant with many restaurants, cafes and shops. There are historic wooden houses lining some streets, and a nightly lights display, in the plaza in front of the cathedral, makes it worthwhile to postpone your return to Paris until after dark.

Giverny

Giverny

Photo: ho visto nina volare / Flickr

The main attraction in Giverny is Monet’s Garden. You will immediately see where the famous painter got the inspiration for his nature-focused works if you wander around this garden. Flowers, ponds covered with water lilies, forests, and hiking paths make it possible to walk in the footsteps of Monet and really appreciate nature in the same way that he did. There is a small museum near the garden. Most people choose to take a train from Paris to the town of Vernon and then rent a bicycle to travel through the picturesque countryside to the garden. (Note: the Monet’s Garden is closed during the wintertime)

Do you have any insights about day trips from Paris? Let us know what your recommendations are in the comments section below.

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About Josh Lew

Josh Lew has traveled widely in Asia and the Americas. He has contributed to popular travel sites like Gadling and Brave New Traveler and currently writes a weekly travel column for MNN. His work has also appeared on the websites of CNN and Forbes Magazine.

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