The city of Paris is on top of the places to visit on a trip to France. There are a plethora of things to do in Paris for a wonderful holiday, the dazzling Eiffel Tower, world-class museums, cafes, historical landmarks and much more. If you are planning a longer vacation in Paris we recommend you get out of the city and explore a completely different side of France with these awesome day trips from Paris. You will get to explore the quaint French villages, historic castles, and breathtaking nature.
Mont Saint Michel
One of the most popular day trips from Paris Mont Saint Michel is a Gothic-style medieval monastery perched on a rocky outcrop amidst the vast expanse of sea. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a major pilgrimage destination dedicated to the archangel, St Michael. The narrow alleys inside the monastery lead to the Benedictine abbey at the top through numerous souvenir shops and small eateries. The terrace of the abbey offers incredible views of the mud flats and the sea. Private vehicles are not allowed past the parking which is located a km away. The abbey is connected to the mainland through a causeway. From parking space, one can either take free shuttle buses, horse carriages or just walk to the island taking in the wonderful vistas around.
There are no direct train connections from Paris to Mont Saint-Michel. One has to take a TGV to Pontorson-Mont St Michel train station or to Rennes and then travel by bus to the destination. Next to the parking is a tourist information center which has a souvenir shop and a multimedia room which has an interesting show on the history and present of Mont Saint Michel.
Etretat White Chalk Cliffs
Etretat is a small town in Normandy region of France popular for the spectacular white chalk cliffs and natural arches. Paris to Etretat is 2.5 hours drive and by public transport, a train from Saint Lazare station in Paris to Le Havre and a bus thereafter will get one to the town of Etretat. The town of Etretat has a tourist information office where one can get info on bus timings, souvenir shops, and an old market hall selling handicrafts and souvenirs.
Out of the three chalk cliffs, two are on the left when facing the sea and one to the right. On the left is the Aval Cliff with a natural arch and a hollow needle rock Aiguille Creuse, further to left is the third and the largest arch, Manneporte. The Amont Cliff is on the right with stairs marked to the cliff top which has the Chappelle de la Garde and a monument Nungesser et Coli dedicated to the two missing French pilots.
There is no dearth of magnificent palaces and castles in France and one such not to miss on a visit to Paris or France is the Versailles Palace. The audio guided tour walks visitors through the opulent palace with sumptuously decorated rooms, royal apartments, and a large landscaped garden is a UNESCO’s World Heritage site. The Hall of Mirrors is the most popular room at Versailles with over 300 mirrors, gilded sculptures, and beautiful crystal chandeliers.
The ceiling has remarkable paintings. The King’s and Queen’s apartments are decorated with lavish furnishings and paintings. The 800 hectares of lush green gardens are decorated with flower beds, sculptures, and monumental fountains. The garden hosts Musical fountain show on particular days of the week from April to October which is an event not to miss.
Avignon is a small city in the Provence region of France popular as a base to explore the region of Provence especially the lavender fields of Provence. The magnificent Papal palace was the former seat of Pope from 1309 to 1377 when it moved back to Vatican City.
The Papal palace along with other buildings in the historic center enclosed in the 4.3 km of well-preserved medieval ramparts is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city itself is a maze of narrow alleys winding through the medieval and Renaissance buildings dotted with quaint cafes and pizzerias is set along the shores of the Rhone River.
Giverny Claude Monet’s Garden
Giverny is a popular day trip from Paris for the Claude Monet’s garden. The Monet’s Garden comprises of Monet’s house and the two gardens Clos Normand and the Water Garden. While the Clos Normand has a variety of flowers plants with vivid hues amidst the plenitude of greens the Water Garden is the most enchanting part of the garden with a pond and the Japanese Garden with water lilies and the Japanese footbridge. The house of Monet is recreated with furniture, kitchen utensils and copies of most important paintings of Monet to give an impression of the lifestyle of the painter during the time he stayed in the house.
To reach the Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny one has to board a train to Vernon from Gare St. Lazare in Paris and take a local bus from Vernon train station to Giverny which would take 10 to 15 minutes. Monet’s garden is open to the public from March to November and the best time to visit the Monet’s garden is the summer May-June when most of the flowers of the garden are in full bloom. If you are visiting in other months the garden always has something bright and beautiful to offer to its visitors. The village of Giverny is also a great place to stroll with lush greenery, wildflowers, and quaint houses.
Bayeux is a charming medieval city in the Normandy region of France, it is also a perfect base to visit the D-Day landing beaches and battle sites. Saint Lazare Train Station in Paris to Bayeux is a 2.5 hours train journey and if you are looking to visit the D-Day beaches and sites along the coast of Normandy then you can hire a taxi from the Bayeux train station itself. For a half day sightseeing they will cover the American Cemetery, Omaha Beach, and even the British military cemetery but if you are looking for more then you will have to spare a whole day exploring the D-Day sites. The historic city center of Bayeux is not very far from the train station and is compact enough to explore on foot. The city center has cobblestone alley lined with quaint cafes, restaurants and some of the remarkable preserved timber houses and mansion dating back to medieval times.
The Gothic style Bayeux Cathedral also known as Cathedral of Our Lady of Bayeux is a Roman Catholic church dating back to 12th century. The imposing facade has twin towers and the five ornamented portal leading into the triple-nave interior. The other most important Bayeux attraction without a doubt has to be the 70-meter long Tapisserie de Bayeux from 11th-century which depicts the 1066 Norman conquest of England in the Battle of Hasting. The Tapisserie de Bayeux was originally displayed in the Bayeux Cathedral and is today displayed in a museum in Bayeux.
You can also visit Caen the quiet neighborhood of Bayeux which is just 15 train ride away and has some magnificent churches and historical buildings from the times of William the Conqueror.
About an hour’s train ride from Paris is the Champagne Wine Region known for Champagne the world-famous sparkling wine. While summer is the best time to visit if you are looking to visit for the harvest season then plan during the fall. The major vineyards of Champagne are in Reims and Epernay both which can be accessed on the TGV (high-speed train from Paris).
Besides the vineyards, Reims is also rich in history, must visit in the city is the magnificent 13th-century Gothic Notre-Dame Cathedral. The Old Town of Langres enclosed in 3.5 km of ramparts comprising of fortified towers and gateways has some interesting historic buildings as well dating back to Roman times. Troyes is another city to visit in the region of Champagne. The old town of Troyes has some remarkable 16th-century half-timbered houses, a magnificent Troyes Cathedral, and a huge medieval church Basilique Saint-Urbain de Troyes.
The two major draws of Loire Valley in France are the castles and the wines. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Loire Valley has some of the magnificent castles some of which date back to 10th-century. The castles some of which are set along the riverbed with turrets, spires and the medieval aura look no less than the fairytale Disney castles.
With over 300 castles and also the vineyards to explore Loire Valley definitely needs some planning on the must-visit places. The best way to explore the castles and the wine regions of Loire Valley is to drive on your own or join one of the Loire Valley Castles group tour or a tour which covers both the famous castles with Loire Valley wine experience or just the wine tasting tour of the Loire valley.
A few of the Loire Valley Castles are always on top of the list for tourists and travelers. The 16th-century Château de Chambord with its exemplary French Renaissance architecture and over 400 rooms is the largest castles of the Loire Valley more popularly known for being the inspiration behind the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ castle. The Chateau d’Amboise perched on the hilltop has a remarkable architecture with wonderful panoramic views. The town of Amboise itself with timbered houses and quaint cafes tucked away in the cobblestone alleys is great to visit. The Renaissance style Chateau de Montsoreau built on the Loire Riverbed is set in a picturesque landscape. Other most visited castles being the Chateau Azay-Le-Rideau and the Chateau de Chenonceau.
A visit to the historic Chateau Fontainebleau is one of the top day trips from Paris. The tour of the Chateau Fontainebleau includes visiting the royal apartments decorated with ornate furnishings and lavishly decorated Renaissance rooms, the opulent galleries with painted ceilings and antique sculptures, three chapels, and four museums. The museums include Napoleon I Museum which has an exceptional collection of furniture, paintings, sculptures, arms, and other artifacts as well as the museum exhibiting masterpiece paintings with pieces from the Louvre dating from the 17th century.
The Imperial theatre at the Chateau de Fontainebleau is said to be inspired by the Opera Royal in the Versailles Palace is something not to miss too. One can explore the castle on own with an audio guide or even take a private guide who can offer more historical insights. To reach Chateau de Fontainebleau one has to take a train from Gare de Lyon train station in Paris to Montargis Sens or Montereau which has a stop in Fontainebleau-Avon and thereafter a bus to the castle. There are also several organized trips from Paris with skip-the-line castle entry.
Less than an hour drive from Paris (or 45 minutes by train) is a paradise for the kids – the Disneyland. Only family travelers will understand how difficult it to choose a destination when traveling with kids and Disneyland makes Paris one top destination to travel with kids. With the plenitude of fun rides and thrill rides for all ages, a chance to meet your favorite characters, the colorful Disney parade, Disney Illuminations show and a tour of the remarkable Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Disneyland Paris is definitely something you cannot miss on a trip to Paris.
Good frequency of trains run from Gare de Lyon in Paris to Gare de Marne la Vallee Chessy which is around 7 min walk to Disneyland. You can even join one of the organized tours which also includes an entry to Disneyland.
Strasbourg located in the Alsace region of France is only a couple of hours trains ride away from Paris making it a perfect day trip. The prominent landmark of the city is the magnificent 15th-century Gothic Strasbourg Cathedral. A climb up the 300 steps of the cathedral offers wonderful views of the city. The astronomical clock located in the Cathédrale Notre-Dame of Strasbourg one of the worlds largest puts up a show with the animated figurines when the clock strikes noon similar to the one in the Old Town Square of Prague which is something not to miss.
The major draw of Strasbourg is the charming Petite-France district which has some of the gorgeous half-timbered houses in a picturesque setting along the canal. The colorful half-timbered houses overflowing with beautiful flowers no less beautiful than German cities of Nuremberg or Rothenburg look like straight out of a fairytale.
Another popular point of interest in the Strasbourg City is the Grande Ile (Grand Island) the historic center which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can hop on a boat and explore the interesting sights and attractions backed by commentary on the facts and history.
Lyon is one of the largest French cities located at the confluence of the rivers Rhone and Saone with long serene promenades great for a stroll. Lyon is a 2-hour train journey from Paris with a good frequency of trains from Gare de Lyon. The iconic landmark of the city is the magnificent 19th-century Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourviere which sits on a hill and can be reached by a funicular. The terrace of the basilica and the climb up the 287 steps to the top of the basilica offers wonderful views of the city. The hill is also home to the ‘Tour metallique de Fourviere’ which is a replica of the Eiffel Tower in Paris but is not accessible to the public unlike the Eiffel Tower and an ancient Roman Amphitheater that can accommodate over 10,000 seats and which reminds us of the spectacular theatres in Greece.
The picturesque old town of Lyon known as Vieux Lyon is another important point of interest in Lyon. The cobblestone alleys, quaint cafes, and historic Renaissance buildings and remarkable churches including the magnificent Lyon Cathedral are sure to walk into a time warp.
If you love street art then the Fresque des Lyonnais is something you do not want to miss. A seven-story building painted with 30 frescos representing historical characters peering out from the painted balconies.
How about Visiting Other Countries?
The Swiss City Geneva is well known for the location of international organizations like the UN, Red Cross, WHO, etc. but the city has a plenitude of historical landmarks and points of interests to spend a perfect day. The high-speed TGV connects Paris with Geneva with a journey time of little more than 3 hours. Take a stroll along the lake or hop onto a cruise, take a guided tour of the UN or explore the couple of museums (choose from over 30+ museums), Saunter through the medieval old town and its quaint cobblestone alleys or relax in the parks and go shopping in either the flea markets or the brand stores of the magnificent shopping malls.
There is no dearth of fun and interesting activities to do in the city of Geneva for the first-timers. The city has a well-connected public transport with trams and buses which makes it very convenient to commute to any part of the city.
Getting to Brussels from Paris is only a couple of hour train ride thanks to the well-connected high-speed trains. Most of the attractions of Brussels are concentrated around Brussels central which saves a lot of time. At a walkable distance from the Brussels central is the Grand Place, the prominent square is surrounded by magnificent guild halls, town hall and numerous ornate buildings. 5 minutes walk from the square is the famous Manneken Pis and around it is numerous souvenir shops and cafes where you can try some special delicious waffles. Brussels is also home to the astounding street art of Comic Strip Route where more than 50 adventures of the comic hero Tintin are painted on walls of the buildings.
If you are visiting with kids do not miss a visit to the Atomium where various exhibitions and museums are housed in the spheres of the colossal structure and the Mini-Europe which is a miniature park exhibiting around 350 miniature monuments from around Europe. And the Brussels Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate for chocolate making demonstration, history of chocolate and of course chocolate tasting.
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Luxembourg City popularly known as the ‘Gibraltar of the North’ the capital of Luxembourg or the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a charming history rich with history. A two-hour train journey from Paris will get you to the wonderful Luxembourg City. At a walkable distance from the train station is the imposing 17th-century gothic Notre-Dame Cathedral and right across the street is the beautiful Monument of Remembrance commemorating the lives sacrificed during the World War II.
The historic center of the city has some of the prominent buildings dating back to the middle ages. The most impressive being the Bock Casemates which are a maze of underground tunnels carved out of rocks which served as a refuge for the soldiers and public during the wars. Next, to the casemates is the Le Chemin de La Corniche popularly known as Europe’s Most Beautiful Balcony for the lovely views over the well-preserved old quarters and the snaking Alzette River. The historic center also has several important buildings like Grand Ducal Palace, the Town Hall and numerous cafes and restaurants which makes for a perfect day in the city.
The wonderful city of London is brimming with cultural and architectural attractions and at the same time its a paradise for shopaholics and foodies. Paris to London is just a couple of hours by highspeed trains makes it very easy to cross out a visit to the dream city from the bucket list. Start with a walk on the iconic London bridge and head to explore London Tower and its history and marvel at the crown jewels. A visit to London is incomplete without visiting the magnificent Westminster Abbey and the Big Ben.
Take a ride on the London Eye for a breathtaking panorama of the city and the Thames. End your day in the magical city with an even more magical night cruise when the city basks in glorious colorful illumination.
If you looking to spend a few days in Paris then you should add some of these great places to your bucket list. How many of these have you already been to? Do share with us in comments.
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