Albeit you can spend in Paris the entire year without running out of related activities, a day break always comes in handy. Especially if it offers an enriching experience you would remember as much as your stay in one of the most enchanting cities in the world. Therefore, while you enjoy your vacation in the French capital, consider setting off to some of numerous magnificent day trips. Everything is accounted, starting from historic places and palaces to architectural gems and various forms of art. Keep reading to find out which day tours from Paris are especially noteworthy.
A day trip to Versailles, a legendary royal residence, reveals the world in which splendor and magnificence were the only trading currencies. Richly decorated and elegant palace of Versailles was created to amaze, which it does even today, over 3 centuries after its construction.
A wealth of works of art and priceless objects decorate the official and private apartments of the palace. Stylish furniture, gilded objects and allusions aligning the French sovereigns to Greek and Roman deities are ever present. In the separate gallery, you can visit the exhibition devoted to glories of France, represented by a series of paintings and some sculptures.
The utmost luxury in the palace is replaced by indescribable beauty in the Versailles Gardens. There, you can walk perfectly aligned alleys, decorated with floral paths, playful fountains and numerous sculptures. You can easily find a secluded spot to relax in the utmost peacethroughout expansive grounds. Besides, you are sure to wonder how everything is ideally aligned regardless of the assumed visual perspective.
Therefore, you shouldn’t miss a visit to Versailles, the complex that set high standards in beauty, luxury and style that no future undertaking succeeded in matching by a long shot.
Versailles is up to 20 kilometers distant from Paris city center. Travelling times from the Gare Montparnasse to the Gare de Versailles (a short walk from the chateau) are up to 30 minutes.
2. Fontainebleau and Vaux le Vicomte
The joined tour of chateaux Fontainebleau and Vaux le Vicomte takes you to the French royal residence longest in use and to the property that directly inspired the construction of the Versailles complex.
The Chateau de Fontainebleau boasts long and interesting history, which is tightly interwoven with destinies of many French sovereigns. Francois I,Henri II and Napoleon Bonaparte are some rulers who left a significant mark on the most beloved French royal (imperial) residence. On your way through the official and private apartments, you will lay eyes on a couple of indisputable highlights. These are Galerie Francois I (the French Renaissance masterpiece), magnificent Salle de Bal (ballroom) and the Appartments de Napoleon I, with the grandiose imperial throne. Around the chateau, you can walk nice French and English-style parks and gardens.
The Chateau Vaux le Vicomte (in the photo) is the best confirmation that the great beauty comes only with the great price. All you need to know before taking the tour is that the Vaux le Vicomte’s commissioner was arrested by Louis XIV, who subsequently engaged his architects to create Versailles. The official reason for the arrest was quite different, of course. Still, a brief look at the Vaux le Vicomte is more than enough for understanding what made Louis XIV, the Sun King, jealous.
Both estates can be reached from the Gare d’Austerlitz in Paris. Travelling times (including transfers) are up to 1:30 to the Chateau de Fontainebleau (60 km) and around an hour to the Vaux le Vicomte (50 km).
3. Chateau de Chantilly
A tour to the Chateau de Chantilly is another exceptional day trip you can take from Paris. Although not as renowned as Versailles and Fontainebleau, the Chateau de Chantilly is nothing less amazing. It boasts marvelous architecture, splendid gardens and parks, lavish rooms and apartments and a great collection of paintings, second only to the Louvre Museum’s collection.
The chateau consists of two adjoined structures with striking façades, standing seemingly in a large lake. Its exceptional collection of paintings includes works of art by the world’s greatest artists, with Raphael, Poussin and Piero di Cosimo among them. Within the Chateau de Chantilly’s premises, you can examine richly decorated rooms, a great number of personal objects that belonged to its former owners and more. However, the ultimate highlight is the Psyche Gallery.Its incredible stained glass windows narrate the story of Cupid and Psyche, a gorgeous mortal whose beauty made Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, jealous.
Expansive parks and gardens surround the palace. These are the stop for migratory birds and consist of English, French and Japanese-style parks and gardens. During the tour, you will also be informed about the significant role Chantilly had in horse breeding and training.
The Chateau de Chantilly is around 40 kilometers away from Paris city center. Travelling times between the Gare du Nord and the Chantilly Gouvieux station are around 30 minutes. From there, you can take a shuttle bus or a 20-minute walk to the chateau.
4. Loire Valley Castles
A Loire Valley Castles day tour takes you to the three most popular and widely different chateaux – Chambord, Amboise and Chenonceau.
The Chateau de Chambord, set amid untamed nature, dominates its surroundings with its perfectly symmetrical towers. The roof line also boasts miniature spires, shell-shaped domes and sculpted gables. The chateau’s recognizable design was probably conceived by brilliant Leonardo da Vinci, who supposedly designed its Grand Staircase, too. Other highlights you will have an opportunity to examine during the tour are Louis XIV’s Bedchamber, Vaulted Guardrooms and Francois I’s Cabinet.
The Chateau d’Amboise was another favorite residence of French kings. Its position, some 80 meters above the Loire River, offers great panoramic views. The chateau used to be a defensive structure that was turned into a palace, and it features Renaissance and Gothic elements. Besides the chateau itself, you will certainly be amazed by the surrounding gardens. The Gothic Chapelle St-Hubert, the burial place of da Vinci, and Clos-Luce, da Vinci’s workshop, are additional highlights.
Finally, the Chateau de Chenonceau (in the photo), spanning over the River Cher like a bridge, is an architectural masterpiece boasting impeccably decorated rooms, bedrooms and gardens. Its strategic position over the river preserved the chateau from destruction during the French Revolution, when most other royal residences were heavily damaged. Within the castle’s premises, pay attention to a museum exhibiting prized Flanders tapestries and paintings by Rubens, Poussin, Murillo and other acclaimed artists.
The three chateaux are most conveniently accessible by car. Approximate travelling times are: around 2:30 to the Chambord (around 170 km) and up to 3 hours to the Amboise (220 km) and the Chenonceau (240 km).
A guided tour to Giverny takes you to the last residence of Claude Monet, a brilliant Impressionist painter whose works of art inaugurated such a celebrated art movement. Besides the small village in Normandy, you will also have an opportunity to visit the village of La Roche-Guyon, famous for its medieval castle.
The house in which Monet lived features the same decoration that was admired by the artist. Inside, you can observe copies of his celebrated paintings in a small gallery. Besides the gallery, you will visit the family rooms, the study, the reading room and more. The house has a charming garden, from which Monet drew inspiration for some of his masterpieces. The Water Lilies (Nympheas) series, his most famous works of art, were painted in these very gardens.
La Roche-Guyon is renowned as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Its highlight is the medieval fortification, dominating over the Seine River, which protected the passage from the Viking raids. Note that its donjon (main tower) was built into the limestone hill. Although the castle’s decoration is scarce when compared to the decoration of royal palaces, views from its top are simply marvelous.
Giverny is around 70 kilometers away from Paris and it is accessible by car (around 1:30) most conveniently.
6. Mont Saint Michel
The magnificent Mont Saint Michel marks the boundary between French regions of Normandy and Bretagne. Assuming the dominant position atop a hill, the Abbey Mont Saint Michel is visible from afar. What is most outstanding about the Mont Saint Michel, however, is that it becomes the hill and an island at regular intervals.
The Gothic abbey can be accessed through the streets of a fortified medieval town, which is connected to the mainland by a causeway. From the abbey, the breathtaking views extend tens of kilometers in all directions. During your tour, you can explore the cloisters, featuring Anglo-Norman columns, a monastery and the complex that combines elements of a religious structure and a fortress. As a bonus, various interesting stories and legends, some involving Merlin the wizard, are related to the Mont Saint Michel.
Finally, whether the Mont Saint Michel is the hill or the island depends on the time of the day. Since this region features unusually high flood tide and ebb tide levels, the Mont Saint Michel is mostly the hill during the day and the island during the night. And not just that. While advancing, the flood tide’s speed matches the horse gallop. Hence, pay close attention to when you should cross the causeway.
You can travel to the Mont Saint Michel from Paris by car. The overall distance is around 360 km and travelling times are up to 4 hours.
A day trip to Rouen takes you to a once wealthy medieval town, which is also known as ‘the City of 1000 spires’. Rouen has preserved a great deal of its medieval authenticity, despite the severe damage inflicted during the World War II. The town is renowned for numerous churches whose spires define the city’s skyline, the restored medieval quarter and extraordinary museums.
Rouen has a couple of exceptionally striking landmarks, including the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Saint Maclou Church and the Saint Ouen Church.
The Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral was frequently painted by Claude Monet. The cathedral’s western façade is highly elaborated, featuring a myriad of statues and pinnacles. Its towers are built a few centuries apart, thus the differences between them. The Notre Dame’s exceptional stained glass windows convey the events that took place during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
The Saint Maclou Church boasts the Flamboyant Gothic style, whose door carvings depict biblical scenes. The church’s ossuary is another highlight you can see in Rouen.
The Saint Ouen Church also features ornate decoration, including stained glass windows and flying buttresses. Behind the church, you can enjoy a picnic in a pleasant park.
The museums you should consider visiting while in Rouen are the Musee des Beaux Art (Fine Arts), Musee de la Ceramique and Musee Le Secq des Tournelles.
Rouen is around 130 kilometers away from Paris. The fastest connection to Rouen from Paris is via bus (around 2 hours), which departs from the Port Maillot.
A charming town of Chartres is the UNESCO World Heritage site, renowned for its splendid and worldwide famous Notre Dame Cathedral. However, a great deal more would be revealed to you if you join the tour.
For a start, have you known that Chartres is a significant conservation site, with a rich legacy of past times? You can examine granite walls that surrounded the town, cobbled streets, half-timbered houses, stone bridges, mills and the abundance of flowers decorating the town. Chartres also boasts the Musee des Beaux Arts, Centre International du Vitraux (Stained Glass Center) and endlessly imaginative La Maisson Picassiette. La Maisson Picassiette simply impresses with its mosaic decoration, comprising pieces of glass, crockery and other materials.
The Chartres Cathedral, the masterpiece of the Gothic architecture, is distinguished by its different towers, majestic stained glass windows, the largest crypt in France, the labyrinth (mimicking the Way of the Cross) and much more.
Chartres is around 90 kilometers distant from Paris. You can travel to Chartres from Paris by the Transilien (TER) rail, which departs the Gare Montparnasse. Traveling times are around an hour.
Once a thriving medieval town, Provins proves to be an ideal day trip destination for history buffs. Besides medieval architecture and defensive structures, consisting of around 60 protected monuments, you can examine how masters create tools, weapons and other related arts and crafts items. You are also free to walk the town’s ramparts, gardens and walkways along the river.
Provins is also renowned for its display of medieval war devices and shows that take place almost the entire year. While here, don’t miss the falconry show, demonstrations of knight fights, troubadour shows and other educational and entertaining performances.
Provins is 90 kilometers away from Paris. The fastest connection from Paris is provided by a train (up to 1:30), which departs from the Gare de l’Est.
Bruges in Belgium is a small town that was the principal power of the Flanders region before the Zwin channel, its main thoroughfare, silted in the 16th century. Bruges is renowned for its amazing architecture and canals that crisscross the town, which nicknamed it as “Venice of the North”.
The Belfort Tower, the principal landmark of Bruges, offers splendid views over the town and its surroundings. In the beautiful Notre Dame Church, you can examine the Madonna and the Child sculpture, done by Michelangelo. The Basilica of the Holy Blood is still another highlight, sheltering a relic containing Jesus Christ’s blood.
Bruges is easily covered on foot, so you should use the opportunity to visit other attractions of this amazing town. Among other points of interest, pay special attention to the Markt and Burg squares, St. John’s Hospital, Beguinage and Saint Salvator’s Cathedral.
The distance between Bruges and Paris is 310 kilometers. The fastest connection is provided by trains. A train to the South Railway Station in Brussels departs from Paris’s Gare du Nord. There, you can catch a connection to Bruges. Traveling times are up to 3 hours.
If you are looking for more interesting Day Trip ideas from Paris, visit Best Day Trips from Paris on our website.