Whether you’re a first timer or seasoned traveler coming back for more, visiting Paris always sweeps people away, as its streets have a romantic and seemingly effortless charm.
However like most major European cities, there’s no doubt that city life can get a little overwhelming. Whether you want to escape the hustle and bustle, or take a glimpse at what the rest of France has to offer, day trips from Paris can be rewarding additions to any itinerary. From historic towns to delightful gardens, discover some of the fascinating attractions found outside the city limits.
No roundup of Paris day trips would be complete without the ostentatious castle of Versailles. Built by Louis XIV in the late 17th century, this lavish castle served as the French seat of royal power until the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. As the iconic home of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the palace symbolizes the excessive displays of wealth that led to the downfall of the French monarchy. After touring the palace interior, explore its scenic gardens and Marie Antoinette’s charming hamlet.
Save time by buying your tickets online before your visit. Try to arrive as the palace opens or late in the afternoon to avoid the largest crowds.
The town of Chartres is best known for its cathedral, Notre Dame de Chartres, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is one of the world’s most magnificent examples of Gothic architecture. Be sure to see the cathedral’s stained glass windows, which date to the 12th and 13th centuries.
Also, don’t miss the “Voile de la Vierge” (Veil of the Virgin), a veil that some believe belonged to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This object has attracted pilgrims to the cathedral for centuries. After admiring the cathedral, wander through Chartres’ well-preserved old city to view the half-timbered medieval houses lining its narrow streets.
Home to the house and gardens of Impressionist painter Claude Monet, the town of Giverny is among the best day trips from Paris for art and botanical enthusiasts alike. Monet moved to Giverny in the late 19th century and created two private gardens that he would later immortalize in his paintings. As you stroll around the vivid Clos Normand, you’ll be able to see the elegant Japanese bridge found in the water garden, but also be sure to explore the interior of Monet’s home, which has a fine collection of Japanese prints and engravings as well as some of the artist’s personal items and furniture.
The site is open from April to November, but the gardens are most impressive during spring and summer. Buy your ticket online in advance to skip the entrance line.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town of Provins is among France’s most intact medieval-walled towns. Dating to the 11th century, the town became an important merchants’ hub in the 12th and 13th centuries, inspiring authors such as Honoré de Balzac and Victor Hugo. Home to more than 50 listed historic monuments, Provins provides intriguing insight into medieval architecture and town planning.
Head to the top of Tour César, a 12th-century tower that offers spectacular views over the town and surrounding countryside. Watch interpreters dressed in period costumes demonstrate falconry and jousting, and then descend into “les souterrains,” or the underground tunnels.
As you venture beyond the capital on one of these wonderful day trips from Paris, you’ll have the chance to see a whole new side of France.
Jessica is a Canadian freelance writer who is slowly working her way around the world. She has lived in seven different countries across Europe and Asia, feeding her ever-expanding appetite for food, culture, and languages. She can make herself understood in French, Japanese, and Thai, plus say “hello” and order a beer in a dozen other languages. She loves bold coffees, colorful skirts, street food feasts, and wandering through unfamiliar cities. Catch up with her adventures on Instagram or check out her portfolio.