Paris, the city of light and the city of love, is an enchanting and overwhelming destination for many travellers.
It is a city full of landmarks and historical sites, cultural places and monuments, fantastic parks, lovely streets, romantic restaurants and cozy cafes.
Travellers that visit Paris for the first time or for just a few days have time to explore only the main city attractions. Others, who visit Paris more often or have plenty of time, can enjoy their stay further by exploring a different side of France and booking a day trip outside of Paris. There are several lovely destinations that are easily accessible from Paris via car, train or bus service.
Here are our top picks:
A Day Trip to Rouen
Rouen is a romantic town in the region of Normandy, approx. 1.5 hours north of Paris. It is characterised by a gorgeous cathedral, half-timbered houses in bright colours and an interesting astronomical clock tower. Rouen is where Joan of Arc was executed and you can see the tower la Tour Jeanne d’Arc where she was held.
Rouen can be reached by train from Paris with services leaving twice an hour from Gare Saint Lazare. Tickets can be purchased online, at the yellow ticket machines or the main ticket window. Tickets should be validated at the front of each platform.
A great time to visit Rouen is during the Normandy Gastronomy Festival, when you can try local specialties including spice bread, sausages, local beer and Normandy Rose apple funnel cake. If not visiting at that time, all is not lost – there are plenty of lovely little restaurants around the main square.
Main attractions to be seen include the cathedral that was painted by Claude Monet and the clock tower gros horloge from where you can enjoy breathtaking views across the city.
A Day Trip to Provins
A beautiful medieval town, Provins is situated approx. 1.5 hours southeast of Paris. Trains leave every 45 minutes past the hour from Gare de l’Est. Tickets can be bought from a ticket machine Ile de France. Provins, is usually the last station of the journey. You can collect a map and attraction passes from the train station on arrival.
If visiting off-season, make sure that the attractions are open, often they are closed or only open for limited hours. Make sure to check the tower la Tour Cesar and the ramparts, the underground tunnels (les souterrains), the museum and the Tithe Barn (la Grange aux dimes). Provins has lovely little restaurants and cozy cafes where you can have lunch.
The town is famous for its roses, so you can enjoy a rose-flavoured cappuccino or hot chocolate. The most popular souvenirs to take home with you are rose flavoured lollies.
The trip back to Paris is very easy, once you validate your ticket at the machine, which will punch out the ticket’s corner.
A Day Trip to Mont Saint Michel
This lovely town is located on an island that has a towering abbey that dates back to the period before 709 AD. This site is a bit far for a day trip, yet it can be done. The monument is also among the most visited ones in France, so expect many tourists.
Mont Saint Michel can be reached in several ways, yet the fastest is with a train from the Gare Montparnasse to Dol de Bretagne and an SNCF bus to the island. Tickets can be bought from the yellow ticket machines or the Grandes Lignes ticket window. The trip takes 3.5 hours.
Once there, visit the abbey and explore the quaint and winding streets of the island. Mont Saint Michel is very touristy and most restaurants are over-priced. The place is known for its fluffy omelettes and fresh seafood, so try them if possible.
A Day Trip to Versailles
Positioned southwest of Paris, Versailles can be easily accessed by the underground PER C line with end station being Versailles Rive Gauche. This line can be accessed at several metro stations such as Tour Eiffel, St. Michel/Notre Dame and Musee d’Orsay in the central part of Paris. Versailles is in Zone 4, so a different metro ticket is needed than the ones used in Paris. A wise choice would be to get a roundtrip ticket and keep it until the very end of the journey.
The main attraction here is Versailles Palace, so buying tickets in advance is advisable in order to skip the queues. The palace is situated a short 5 minute walk from the station. You can roam through the palace interior, have lunch on the grounds and walk through the gardens. Other sites to be seen are the Grand and Petit Trianon and the Queen’s Hamlet – that is a place where Marie Antoinette loved to go to escape the hassle of palace life and where she pretended to be in a quaint village. You will find a working farm and vineyard here as well.
Trains back to Paris are quite frequent, so getting back will be easy.
A Day Trip to Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau is an excellent alternative to Versailles. It is 45 min trip by train from Paris through the RER D line main platforms Grandes Lignes from the Gare de Lyon. Trains leave every hour and tickets can be purchased from an Ile de France machine. Passe Navigo or Carte Paris Visite are valid through Zone 5 and can be used for travel to Fontainebleau. The trains will be marked Sens, Laroche-Migennes, Montargis or Montereau. Fontainebleau-Avon should be listed on the monitor at the beginning of the platform.
After arrival at Fontainebleau-Avon train station, you will need to get on Bus 1 which will take you to the castle. Note that on the first Sunday of the month, the Fontainebleau castle is free to enter. Expect steeply pitched roofs and little chimneys, an incredible staircase, opulent interior and beautifully arranged gardens. Within walking distance to the castle, there are many great lunch places. If you have plenty of time, you can explore the trails in the vast surrounding forest – just make sure to get a map from the Office of Tourism.
On the journey back you will need to validate your ticket at the machines which will punch out the corner.
A Day Trip to Giverny
The trip starts from the Gare Saint Lazare with a train ticket to Vernon and takes 45 minutes. Once in Vernon, you need to take a bus to Giverny for another 20 minute ride.
The town is a wonderful place to visit in spring and summer. It became famous after Monet’s beautiful water lily paintings. The main attractions here are the blooming gardens and the lovely house of Monet where you can see some of his artwork.
A Day Trip to Amiens
The trip starts at Gare du Nord in Paris with an Intercités train and lasts less than 30 minutes.
Situated in the Picardy region north of Paris, the town of Amiens is known for having the tallest cathedral in France with its interesting maze on the floor and its statue of the sweet Weeping Angel. Yet, most travellers come here to see the Jules Verne’s mansion and museum.
Another wonderful attraction is the fantastic floating gardens which are best seen during spring or summer. These are man-made small canals with a maze of islands.
The trip back to Paris is on the Intercités train again.
A Day Trip to Lille
The charming town of Lille is easily accessible from Paris through the TGV high-speed train that starts from Gare du Nord. The trip lasts for one hour and you will arrive at Gare de Lille Flandres or the Gare de Lille Europe – these are situated next to each other. The capital of northern France has beautiful Flemish-style architecture, two fantastic squares Le Place du Théâtre and Le Place du Général-de-Gaulle and a lovely old town with cobblestone streets and tiny shops known as Vieux Lille.
Once in Lille, make time to try some beer, the delicious fries the town is known for and the strong Maroilles cheese. Another local specialty is the beef stew cooked in beer.
A Day Trip to Reims
Ideal for one-day trips, Reims is the main town of the Champagne region. It features a lovely cathedral where the coronations of France’s kings were held. Reims is reached by train from Gare de l’Est by booking a direct train to central Reims.
Besides the cathedral, there are several large champagne houses that offer cellar tours with a champagne tasting afterward. Perhaps try visiting the Pommery champagne house, Mumm and Veuve Clicquot, The Brut Royal, G.H. Martel and Taittinger.
Now you’ve got some great ideas for your trip, don’t forget to arrange travel insurance as soon as you’ve made a booking. Get a quote today or call one of our friendly team on 1300 819 888 to discuss your requirements.
Categories: Travel Advice