No one needs convincing to visit Paris. As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, it is a place that conjures up images of romance and wonder. Filling several days in Paris is never difficult as the city is just bursting with attractions. And yet, Paris also provides the opportunity for you to find out what else France and this part of Europe has going on.
Rather than doubling down on more Parisian landmarks, the best places to visit from Paris show you the beauty and depth that this marvelous country has to offer. So without any further ado, here are the best day trips from Paris.
Is it really a classic Paris trip if you miss out on seeing the palace of Versailles? Widely agreed to be one of the best places to visit in France, Versailles is a former royal residence and current world heritage site. Start your visit to this chateau by taking in the palace’s majesty from the elegant Marble Courtyard out front. From there you can tour through the various halls and apartments of the palace, with highlights like the glamorous Hall of Mirrors ballroom and the Royal Chapel. Behind the palace lies the gorgeous and expansive Gardens of Versailles full of fountains and statues, not to mention several smaller chateaus like the Grand Trianon. Other sights of the palace not to miss include the Royal Stables, the Royal Tennis Court, and the fascinating Coach Gallery.
Getting there: Only a short trip from Paris, Versailles is just 35 minutes by train from the city center. However, if you want logistics taken care of for you, and to be able to skip the long lines, a guided tour is the way to go.
Insider Tip: If you are visiting Versailles on your own, make sure to buy your skip-the-line ticket online, or risk waiting in line for 1-2 hours.
Certainly one of the more memorable Paris day trips you can do is to journey out to the incredible island of Mont-Saint-Michel. Sitting off the coast of Normandy by the Couesnon River, this island and its fortified monastery from the 8th century needs to be seen to be believed. With a population of just 50 people, Mont-Saint-Michel is a relic from feudal times, and you’ll feel transported back there during your visit. Once you cross the causeway out to the island, you’ll pass through the Porte de l’Avancée to reach the town itself. On a visit to Mont-Saint-Michel you can climb up onto the fortified walls for views of the coast. Naturally though, the main attraction here is the central Abbey of Mont Saint Michel.
Getting there: While it is possible to get from Paris to Mont-Saint-Michel by taking a train and bus, the trip will take at least 3 hours and there are limited connections. A far more convenient alternative is to go with an organized tour which will handle transport and give you more time on the island.
3. Loire Valley
Two things France has in abundance is wine and castles, both of which you can enjoy on a visit to the Loire Valley. One of the most popular day tours from Paris, the Loire Valley is a delight for your eyes and your tastebuds. The most common place to start is with a visit to the Château de Chenonceau, a huge and picturesque Renaissance palace. Even larger though is the magnificent Château de Chambord and the vast forest it is hidden within. In fact, the Loire Valley is simply flooded with castles, so you’ll have your pick of them with places like the Château de Villandry and Château de Nitray. Otherwise, you may want to explore the thousands of wineries which call this region home or even float above them in a hot air balloon.
Getting there: It is actually possible to visit the Loire Valley via public transport from Paris if you first get the train to Blois or Ambrose and then get on a bus. See our Loire Valley guide for more details. A less stressful approach though is to simply take a guided tour that handles everything for you.
4. Giverny and Monet’s Gardens
If a short day of sightseeing is what you’re in the mood for, Giverny is the perfect place to visit. This might seem like an ordinary small village in the French countryside, were it not for one famed artist, Claude Monet. In Giverny, you can visit the house where this acclaimed impressionist artist lived and worked for over forty years. This house, now known as the Fondation Claude Monet, is a natural place to start your visit as you see his private residence as well as his studio. From there, walk into the garden and you’ll immediately see how the water lilies and weeping willows here inspired some of Monet’s most iconic works. A short walk towards the village center you’ll find the Museum of Impressionism Giverny which highlights the history of the impressionist movement.
Getting there: Despite how close Giverny is to Paris, the nearest train station is too far to make public transport a great option. Luckily, you can easily hop aboard a half day tour to Giverny and simplify things.
5. Chablis and North Burgundy
One look at the Burgundy region and you’ll find proof that there are many things to see in France outside of Paris. This acclaimed wine region has long been known for its Chardonnay wine, as the grapes are said to originate from the region. The heart of the region is the town of Chablis, a name shared with France’s most famous wines. Setting out from Chablis it’s normal to tour the local wineries to see their cellars and sample the fine local vintages. To break up the wineries, you may like to spend some time in the super cute village of Noyers. With cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses, this medieval village is a truly charming place.
Getting there: Reaching Chablis and Noyers on public transport is difficult, not to say anything of the different wineries in this part of Burgundy. That’s why to properly experience north Burgundy you’re best off taking a winery tour.
It may seem strange, but one of the best side trips from Paris you can do is to pop over to London for the day. Yes, there’s far too much to see in London for just one day, but London is a city that needs multiple visits anyway. For a first visit you’ll want to head straight for the Palace of Westminster to see the elegant home of the UK parliament and the iconic Big Ben clocktower. Nearby rests the striking Westminster Abbey, 10 Downing Street and the peaceful St James Park. On the other side of the park you’ll find yourself standing in front of Buckingham Palace, home of the Queen and the Royal Family. Following the Mall you’ll arrive at Trafalgar Square, and another famous intersection Piccadilly Circus is also just a short walk away. Down along the Thames River, pass by attractions like St Paul’s Cathedral and Shakespeare’s Globe to reach Tower Bridge and the popular Tower of London.
Getting there: Reaching London from Paris is going to be a long day trip, but there are hourly trains that take 2.5 hours to cross the English Channel. To avoid having to work out the logistics of transport, you can simply take an organized tour that will get you there and back without hassle.
Another country you have the opportunity to visit while in Paris is Belgium, with the city of Bruges being the perfect size for a day trip. Your visit here is best begun in the city’s main square, the Markt, as there you’ll immediately be treated to some of the city’s prettiest buildings. The most obvious landmark there is the giant tower of the Bruges Belfry which you can climb for panoramic city views. Closeby are several buildings including the interactive Bruges Historium and the far darker Torture Museum. Most visitors to Bruges though come to see the city’s enchanting canals, best enjoyed aboard a canal boat cruise. From there, take your pick of important historic landmarks like the Basilica of the Holy Blood and Bruges Beguinage, or delighting your senses with tasty local beers and chocolate.
Getting there: Regular trains connect Paris to Bruges, taking around 2.5 hours via Brussels. A more care-free option though in which you don’t have to worry about train timetables is a guided tour.
France also has plenty of spectacular city destinations to explore, one of which is the city of Rouen. The capital of Normandy, Rouen also rests on the banks of the river Seine much like Paris. Start your visit by venturing into the medieval Old Town in the city center, full of quaint cobblestone streets and half-timbered houses. Rouen is probably best known to outsiders as the place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. You can actually visit where she was executed in Place du Vieux-Marché and see the modern church of Église Jeanne d’Arc which was built in her honor. From the Old Market Square, seek out the towering spire of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame to see the church’s interior and crypts. Elsewhere in Old Town head for the Gros Horloge to see a 14th century astronomical clock and the Musée des Beaux-Arts for its superb Impressionist art pieces.
Getting there: Rouen is one of the many easy train trips from Paris, thanks to regular trains making the 1 hour 15 minute journey. Alternatively, you can book a guided tour to Rouen.
9. Beaches of Normandy
To explore yet another side of France’s past, look no further than the beaches of Normandy where the pivotal D-Day landings took place. Site of the largest seaborne invasion ever, these beaches along the English Channel still bear reminders of this historic time. At Omaha Beach a memorial emerges from the sand, and nearby you can visit the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, where thousands of soldiers are buried. Over at Utah Beach, another of the D-Day landing sites, a German bunker has been converted into the Utah Beach Museum. Here you can learn about the history and personal experiences of those involved in the Normandy invasion, while seeing weapons, vehicles, and even a B-26 aircraft.
Getting there: Since there is no public transport that connects the beaches of Normandy with the nearest towns and cities, the best way to visit these places is with a guided tour.
10. WWI Somme Battlefields
France was also rocked by the events of the First World War, and the battlefields of the Somme are infamous for being one of the deadliest in human history. To give you thorough context and information about the war, it’s best to begin your visit of the Somme at the Museum of the Great War in Péronne. Here you’ll learn about how soldiers from different nationalities and sides experienced the front. The region is also home to many memorials scattered across the countryside, each dedicated to a different nation. For instance, the memorial at Delville Wood honors South African troops, and the Newfoundland Memorial remembers soldiers who came from Canada, and it still has intact trenches from the war. Then there’s the large and stirring Thiepval Memorial which honors thousands and thousands who fought for the British.
Getting there: As the memorials and museums are scattered about the Somme, a guided tour is the best way to make sure you don’t miss anything.
That’s just a start of what you can get up to with extra time visiting the City of Lights. But hopefully it shows you why allowing an extra day or two for day trips while in Paris is a smart decision.