The Best Day Trips From Paris
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You might never run out of things to do and see in Paris, but there are also countless places worth visiting just a short train ride or drive away from the city. Thanks to excellent rail connections, you can even pop off to neighboring countries for the day and be back in Paris before bedtime. Here are our picks for the best day trips from the city.
Chantilly: 20 minutes by train or one hour by car
Chantilly, an aristocratic town located about 25 miles (40 km) north of Paris, is France’s equivalent of Ascot or Epsom, best known for its horse races and the extravagant hats worn at the races. But even outside of the racing season, it’s a great (and easy) day-trip destination. Next to the racecourse, there’s an elegant château, which houses the Musée Condé and its important collection of Old Master paintings and illuminated manuscripts. The château’s Great Stables hold the Living Museum of the Horse, which offers daily equestrian demonstrations.
How to get to Chantilly from Paris:
The train from Gare du Nord reaches Gare de Chantilly-Gouvieux station in just a little over 20 minutes. The Château de Chantilly is a 20-minute walk from the station. A €17 ticket (€13.50 for youth ages 7–17) grants access to the château, its gardens, the Musée Condé, and the Living Museum of the Horse. Besides the chateau and its art museum, the Living Museum of the Horse in the Great Stables, included in the admission price, is a popular attraction for horse lovers.
Parc de Sceaux: 30 minutes by train or car
In the southern suburbs of Paris, the town of Sceaux is home to a large public park, the Parc de Sceaux, with formal gardens designed by André Le Nôtre, the same landscape architect who designed the gardens of Versailles. The 450-acre park also has a 17th-century château, now housing a regional museum, ornamental ponds and fountains, and paths for walking and cycling. The park’s blossoming cherry trees draw large crowds each April.
How to get to Parc de Sceaux from Paris:
The RER B train from Paris takes about 20–25 minutes to reach the Sceaux station, a short walk from the park entrance. Driving takes about 30 minutes, but parking lots near the park can fill up quickly at times. The park is free to visit. It’s €4 to visit the permanent collections of the Musée du Domaine départemental de Sceaux, and an extra €1 to also view temporary exhibitions. The museum is free for anyone under 26.
Versailles: 30-40 minutes by train or 45-60 minutes by car
One of the most popular day trips from Paris, a visit to the grand Château de Versailles tops the to-do list of many first-time visitors. Transformed from a humble hunting lodge to an immense and opulent complex by King Louis XIV in the 17th century, it became the center of the royal court, and its excesses contributed to the downfall of French nobility and the start of the French Revolution.
Whatever your opinion of the Baroque style, the palace played a significant role in French history and offers a unique glimpse into the lavish lifestyles of 17th- and 18th-century royalty. It’s difficult to truly grasp its scale and extravagance without seeing it firsthand, and the palace’s extensive gardens and parkland are great for strolling, cycling, picnicking, or rowing a rental boat along the Grand Canal. The estate is also home to Marie-Antoinette’s famous Hamlet, a faux village where she played at being a peasant. From April to October, there are Musical Fountains shows in the gardens, offering synchronized displays of water, light, and classical music. Beyond the palace, the charming town of Versailles itself, especially known for food and wine, is also worth a visit.
How to get to Versailles from Paris:
The train is the quickest and most convenient way to reach Versailles. Take RER line C to Versailles Château-Rive Gauche station; the palace is about 10 minutes from the station on foot. Tickets range from €19.50–€28.50, depending on ticket and access type. Admission is free for visitors under 18, but an online time-slot booking is required.
Giverny: 45-60 minutes by train or 60-75 minutes by car
The second-most-popular day trip from Paris is the picturesque village of Giverny, where you can visit the former home and gardens of impressionist painter Claude Monet. In the home, you can view Monet’s painting studio and bedroom, his collection of Japanese prints, and a lovely kitchen decorated with blue-and-white Rouen tiles and shining copper cookware. Monet’s Garden is open from April to November, but the iconic water lilies, the subject of so many of Monet’s most famous paintings, are generally in bloom from late May to early October.
How to get to Giverny from Paris:
The train from Paris’s Gare Saint-Lazare to Vernon-Giverny is the most convenient way to arrive. From the Vernon-Giverny station, you can take a shuttle bus or taxi to the Monet house museum. Tickets to Monet’s home and gardens are €13 for adults, €8.50 for 7–17-year-olds, and free for kids under 7 Giverny also offers an Impressionist museum, local food markets, and lovely countryside for walks or bike rides.
Fontainebleau: 50 minutes by train, 60-75 minutes by car
Though Versailles is far more famous, the magnificent Château de Fontainebleau actually holds a more important place in French history. It was inhabited by every French monarch for nearly 800 years, since its beginnings in the 12th century, while Versailles was home to only three kings. It’s an interesting mix of architectural styles, from medieval and Renaissance to Second Empire, and has the added advantage of being less crowded than Versailles.
Highlights of the rambling royal palace include the private apartments of Napoleon I, Marie-Antoinette’s Turkish boudoir, and the “Chinese Museum,” Empress Eugenie’s collection of priceless treasures from the Far East. The château’s 300+ acres of parks and gardens include a formal French garden, an English-style landscape garden, a pond, and a grand canal. To the west of the château, the vast national forest of Fontainebleau, the second-largest in France, is a pretty and peaceful destination for walks, cycling, rock climbing, and horseback riding
How to get to Fontainbleau from Paris:
Take the transilien line R (direction Montargis or Montereau), from Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau-Avon (about 40 minutes), then the line 1 bus (direction Les Lilas), from the station to the château (about 10 minutes). Admission to the château is €14, free for visitors under 18. A Navigo day pass for zones 1–5, on sale in Paris Métro and train stations for €20.10, is a cost-efficient way to travel since it includes the Métro, train and bus.
Reims, Champagne: 45-50 minutes by train, 1.5-2 hours by car
About 100 miles (160 km) northeast of Paris, you’ll find Champagne, the region that birthed the world’s most prestigious sparkling wine, and its largest city, Reims, the unofficial capital. The caves, or underground chalk cellars, of more than 15 famed and storied Champagne houses, including Taittinger, Veuve-Clicquot, Ruinart, and Pommery, are located in Reims, many offering tours and tastings. Guided cellar tours, which usually include a tasting, run anywhere from around €15–€100 or more. It’s wise to book them in advance.
The stunning, medieval Reims Cathedral is where many of France’s kings were crowned and features sound and light shows on summer evenings. The town is also home to a WWII museum in the room where Germany surrendered to the Allies in 1945.
How to get to Reims from Paris:
While visiting by car means you can visit some of the smaller, independent producers located outside of town, it requires a designated driver, and arriving by train is faster and more hassle-free. From Gare de l'Est, the TGV arrives to Reims in just 46 minutes.
Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte: 30 minutes by train plus 10-15 minutes by taxi or bus, or 50-60 minutes by car
If you’d like to see an opulent 17th-century château and formal French gardens but can’t stomach the thought of the crowds at Versailles, a trip to Maincy, about 34 miles (55 km) southeast of Paris, might be just the ticket. There you’ll find the lavish Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte and its extensive, ornate gardens, all designed by the same team that would later be hired to design Versailles.
Unlike many other historic French châteaux, Vaux-le-Vicomte is unusual in that it retains much of its original 17th-century furnishings and decor. There is also an antique carriage collection and a permanent exhibition on André Le Nôtre, the landscape architect who designed the château’s sprawling, symmetrical formal gardens, which later inspired those of Versailles.
How to get to Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte from Paris:
Driving is the most direct way to reach the château, as the closest train station, Melun, is approximately 10 miles (16 km) from the château. However, the RER R Train from Gare de Lyon runs to Melun, and a shuttle bus or taxi ride can bring you to the château from there. Admission to the château and gardens is €17 for adults, €13.50 for children. On summer weekends, candlelight evening visits are offered.
Chartres: 1 hour by train or 1-1.5 hours by car
Located about 51 miles (92 km) southwest of Paris is the small town of Chartres. The historic center of Chartres, with narrow cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses, is great for a stroll, but the city is best known for its soaring, striking Gothic church, Our Lady of Chartres Cathedral, one of the finest examples in France, dating from the 12th century. The UNESCO World Heritage Site features flying buttresses, intricate stained-glass windows, and a medieval labyrinth pattern set into its stone floor. Admission to the cathedral is free. Tours in English are €18 for adults, €12 for children.
How to get to Chartres from Paris:
Take the TER from Paris Montparnasse. Admission to the cathedral is free. Tours in English are €18 for adults, €12 for children.
Dijon: 90 minutes by train
Dijon, the capital of the historical Burgundy region, is located approximately 192 miles (310 km) southeast of Paris. The Musée des Beaux-Arts, housed in the magnificent Palais des Ducs, reopened in 2019 after more than 10 years of renovations. It’s one of France’s largest and most important art museums, and its rich collection alone is worth the trip from Paris. If that’s not enough to convince you, Dijon’s lively, walkable city center and food and wine scene, with several Michelin-star restaurants and world-renowned Burgundy grand crus, might seal the deal. Beyond Dijon mustard, a wealth of other local culinary specialties await, including crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) and pain d'épices (gingerbread).
How to get to Dijon from Paris:
TGV trains depart frequently from Gare de Lyon to Dijon.
Normandy: 1.5-2 hours by train or 2-3 hours by car
Normandy, a coastal region to the northeast of Paris, has something for everyone. Scenic white-chalk cliffs, World War II sites, and memorials (including D-Day landing spots like Omaha Beach), genteel seaside resorts like Deauville and Trouville-sur-Mer, and historic architecture. The city of Rouen, where Joan of Arc was executed in 1431, is known for its striking cathedral, the subject of a series of paintings by Monet.
How to get to Normandy from Paris:
TER trains depart frequently from Paris Saint-Lazare station to Rouen. Several companies also offer day tours that provide transportation and include stops at multiple sites.
Brussels: 1.5 hours by train
The Brussels city center of Brussels is compact and easily navigated on foot or using the local trams and metro system, so you could easily pop up to Belgium in the morning, marvel at the stunning Grand Place square and its ornate, 17th-century guild houses, giggle at Manneken Pis and still have plenty of time to sample iconic local specialties such as moules-frites (mussels and fries), waffles, chocolate, and beer before heading back to Paris in the evening.
How to get to Brussels from Paris:
The Thalys train connects Paris’s Gare du Nord station with the Brussels Zuid/Midi station in less than one-and-a-half hours.
London: 2.5 hours by train
The Eurostar connection through the underwater Chunnel is so quick and easy that you’re not even limited to Europe for a day trip. Head to Blighty in the early morning for a quick visit, and you could still feasibly still be back in time for dinner. The Eurostar arrives at St. Pancras station in London, and top sights within a 20-minute walk or Tube ride from St. Pancras include The British Museum, Regent’s Park, The National Gallery, and Buckingham Palace. If you'd like to venture out farther afield or visit more than one neighborhood in London, though, it might be best to stay the night as the city is large and sprawling and packed with things to do and see.
How to get to London from Paris:
The Eurostar train connects the Gare du Nord in Paris with St. Pancras International Station in London. Ticket prices vary, booking far in advance guarantees the lowest prices. At times, tickets can be found for approximately €44 each way.
Best day trips from Paris by train
While all of the destinations above are reachable by train, the following are the best day trips from Paris without a car:
- Driving isn’t always the best option. For destinations like Chantilly, Versailles, and Dijon, it’s much faster (more than twice as fast, in some cases) to take the train.
- Deauville and Trouville-sur-Mer: These are the closest beach towns to Paris, and they’re easy to reach by train, so if it’s sand and seafood you’re yearning for, hop on a train north to the Normandy coast. Trains from Gare Saint-Lazare reach the shared Trouville-Deauville station in about 2 hours and 12 minutes. Trouville has handsome half-timbered seaside mansions, and chic Deauville hosts the American Film Festival each fall.
- London: From one country to another in less than 2.5 hours and directly from city center to city center, this is a day trip that’s hard to beat in terms of bang for the buck.
- Brussels: Another international day trip possibility is Brussels–less than 1.5 hours from Gare du Nord by train, it’s definitely a doable destination for all the chocolate, beer, and waffles you can eat in a day.
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Published November 29, 2023
Last updated December 21, 2023
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