Six exciting destinations for a quick day trip from Paris

by Hadi Al Khatib

While you will never lack for things to do and beautiful sights to see in Paris, by no means does your adventure have to end there. In such a populous city with so much activity, you may crave some peace, quiet and space to spread out after a while. Fortunately, an extensive network of trains and bus routes provides easy access from Paris to most major cities in France and Europe, as well as more rural areas in France. Non-airplane or long-distance travel is not only cheaper: if you are willing to pack all of your exploring into one day, it is also much easier to plan a trip without having to take multiple days off work or find accommodations to stay the night.

We will provide examples of some of the best destinations in the region surrounding Paris that are close enough to travel to and from, while still having time to explore each city for a day trip. Escape to any one of these cities for a day and enjoy a change of pace, European and French cultures from another perspective, and activities and sights that you just cannot experience by staying in Paris.

Most of the destinations we have gathered are within France, with the exception of Brussels, Belgium, and all can be reached by a short bus or train trip. Learn about French royalty in Versailles, see local art and architecture in medieval Chartres, soak up the Champagne region in Reims, experience Normandy in Rouen, see Monet’s home and inspiration in Giverny, and tour another central city in Europe, Brussels. Find out more about what makes each city unique and what types of things you can do if you are lucky enough to spend the day in one of these places.

Six exciting destinations for a quick day trip from Paris

In front of the Palace of Versailles. Source: Unsplash


Versailles can be reached in less than an hour by bus from Paris, making it perfect for a short trip and a popular tourist spot. A day will give you just enough time to explore the Palace of Versailles and enjoy the accompanying outdoor gardens, as well as walk through the city to check out historic buildings and local shopping. As it is an in-demand destination, it will usually be crowded.

One of the main attractions for visitors is the Palace of Versailles, originally the site of a hunting lodge built during the 17th century for King Louis XIII. It later served as a permanent or seasonal royal residence for many French monarchs and later, Napoleon. Inside the palace, now preserved as a museum, you can browse an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures and admire its ornate interiors, such as in the Hall of Mirrors or Marie Antoinette’s apartment. The grounds are located within the Château de Versailles, and its expansive outdoor park and landscaped gardens can be walked through or biked for a relaxing afternoon outdoors. Keep in mind that this attraction is closed on Mondays and likely to be very crowded on Tuesdays, when the Louvre Museum is closed and a lot of Paris tourists come for the day. Another historical estate to explore is the Grand Trianon and the entire village of Trianon, which can be reached on foot in about 30 minutes or by a dedicated shuttle train.

In the city center of Versailles, you will find charming local shops to explore and enjoy walking through the neighborhoods. Fans of antiques may also enjoy shopping in the antiquarian district, and in the area of Notre-Dame you can explore a bustling open-air food market. You will want to get a good look at the Notre-Dame de Versailles Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture.

Like Paris, Versailles has a diverse array of restaurants, including a variety of classic French restaurants with food from different regions, as well as international cuisine, so we definitely recommend going out to eat before you travel back to Paris. Look for classic French dishes like boeuf à la mode, a type of beef stew, and pâté de pâques, a pâté with lamb and pork. Esprit Gourmand offers traditional French bistro cuisine.


From Paris’s Gare Montparnasse station, you can catch a train arriving at Chartres Gare Routière station or travel to Chartres by bus in just over an hour. It makes a great getaway with a chance to see a famous cathedral, enjoy local outdoor spaces, shop at local small businesses and dine at a fine local restaurant.

Located in the north-central part of France, Chartres is a charming historic town that is best known for its enormous Gothic cathedral that has been standing since the 12th century with very few renovations, which is rare for European cathedrals. The cathedral is free to enter, and visitors come to admire its architecture, consisting of spires, buttresses, stained-glass windows and carved façades.

If you are in the mood for a museum visit, consider stopping by the Musée des Beaux-Arts to see artwork from several historical periods, as well as the work of local artists and students attending the Chartres School of Art. To learn more about this region’s history, you can go to the Eure-et-Loir Museum. It is operated out of a former convent and exhibits historical artifacts and art from the area.

La Maison Picassiette is the original residence of Raymond Isidore who, in the 1930s, began decorating the interior and exterior of his house with colorful mosaics made from pottery, glass, repurposed plastic and other found materials. The home still stands and is now classified as a city monument. If you have the chance to see it for yourself, you will see that almost every inch is covered in mosaics – it’s truly a unique accomplishment. The site is only open to visitors at certain times of year, so it is best to check its schedule before you go.

Visit the Museum of Fine Arts in Chartres, which is operated within the former Palais Épiscopal, the Bishop’s Palace. The building, built in the 17th and 18th centuries, is a historical monument in and of itself, and the museum’s collection includes a variety of classical and modern artworks as well as some historical artifacts.

Downtown Chartres has a lot of interesting shops you can explore. Local artisans are known for their stained-glass art, which you are sure to see on display in galleries. In the many chocolate and candy shops you can find sweet treats such as macaroons, mentchikoffs and stained-glass sugar. If you happen to be in town on a Wednesday or Saturday, you can visit a popular open-air market near the cathedral.

Although you can see plenty of Chartres in one day, if you happen to visit in the summer when the city hosts an annual light festival called Chartres En Lumière, you simply must stay after dark in order to witness the city streets and cathedral adorned with colorful lights.

Whether you are looking to experience laid back local cuisine or fine dining, Chartres has a variety of restaurant options where you can enjoy a nice meal. One example is the Michelin starred restaurant Le Georges Chartres, which serves gourmet French food. There are also plenty of bars and pubs where you can grab a drink.

Six exciting destinations for a quick day trip from Paris

Paris. Source: Unsplash


Reims is a beautiful city within the Champagne region with a rich cultural heritage to share with visitors through preserved historical sites and a tradition of Champagne making that can be experienced first-hand on a tour of one of the many famous Champagne Houses. A train will be your quickest option travelling from Paris to Reims and back, with the shortest trips taking just under an hour. You will most likely depart from Gare de Paris-Est and arrive at Gare de Reims.

It is essential to visit at least one of the local Champagne Houses while you are in Reims. You can tour vineyards, wine cellars and sprawling estates, taste the products, and in some cases even take part in making Champagne. Maison Ruinart is one of the region’s oldest Maisons de Champagne, founded in the early 18th century, and its tour includes a look at the deep chalk cellars where they age their wine. Maison Lanson is another that dates back to 1760 and they give tours of their facility, from its vineyards to its cellars.

Something unique about Reims is the presence of two rare historic sites that date all the way back to Gallo-Roman rule, including its cryptoporticus, a passageway used for grain storage as early as 200 CE, and the Mars Gate, the largest known archway from the Roman period that still stands today. Intricate sculptural details on both of these structures make them especially awe-inspiring.

Reims has its own Gothic cathedral which was built in the 13th century and served as the regular site of coronations for over 25 members of French royalty. Right next to it is the Palace of Tau, a former residence of archbishops is a museum space that features items related to the cathedral and to the royal coronations.

Some interesting museums in Reims include the Reims-Champagne Automobile Museum, featuring a large collection of vehicles, motorcycles and more, as well as the St. Remi History Museum, which can give you a better understanding of the city’s history.

Local restaurants offer the chance to try some dishes that the region is known for, such as pâté de Reims, a pork and beef pâté, and andouillette, hearty sausage consisting of pork and veal. Sample classic French cuisine at Le Crypto, an elegant restaurant.


Travel to Rouen for a taste of what the Normandy region has to offer. From Paris you will likely depart from Gare Saint-Lazare and travel to Gare de Rouen-Rive-Droite, with about an hour and a half’s train journey.

A port city on the river Seine in northern France, Rouen’s lasting heritage is tied to its role throughout history as an early settlement of the Romans and Vikings, the capital of Normandy since the 10th century and a medieval backdrop for the Norman Conquest and the Hundred Years’ War.

Its many points of interest reveal the city’s history, among them the unbelievably tall Rouen Cathedral, which left such an impression on artist Claude Monet that he painted it during his time in the city. See this painting displayed at the Fine Arts Museum, along with other works by artists who were inspired by the city’s charming landscape.

The city was further cemented in history when patron saint of France and military hero Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake in 1431 at the Place du Vieux-Marché. The city is also home to an astronomical clock which is as beautiful and ornate as it is fascinating, called the Gros-Horloge, built into a Renaissance arch dated back to 1527.

Today, you can visit and tour these historic sites and also enjoy the natural attractions of Rouen: its coastline lends itself to scenic hikes and outdoor leisure activities along the Seine river. Observe beautiful plant life in the Jardin des Plantes botanical garden, which contains over 6,000 species from all over the world.

After exploring the historic city and the surrounding nature, be sure to patronize some of the local eateries and perhaps try some of the region’s cider and apple brandy. La Couronne is France’s oldest inn, established in 1345, and you can still eat there today or at a number of restaurants where you’ll find both traditional and modern French cuisine.

Six exciting destinations for a quick day trip from Paris

Maison de Claude Monet in Giverny. Source: Unsplash


A train journey to Giverny will leave Paris by way of the Gare Saint-Lazare train station and arrive at Gare de Vernon-Giverny in just under an hour.

The Normandy village of Giverny is most well-known for being the home of impressionist painter Claude Monet – no wonder that often he painted scenes in nature while living there among such vibrant and colorful gardens for 43 years. The artist’s estate is now a museum run by the Fondation Claude Monet where visitors can tour the house and famous gardens.

The Château de Bizy in the neighboring town of Vernon gives another view of life in Giverny at different points in history. Its grounds have passed through ownership of multiple generations of French nobility who established the original residence built in the 18th century that was then added onto and rebuilt throughout the years. Visitors can tour the castle, courtyard and landscaped gardens complete with sculptures and fountains, a collection of antique horse-drawn carriages and a tearoom and boutique.

Perhaps the best thing about this area is the country landscape. Throughout Vernon and Giverny, there are a few historical mills built in and around the 16th century that can be seen as you walk through the countryside along the river or rent a bike and ride along the cycling path. Le vieux moulin de Vernon, the Old Mill of Vernon, was yet another subject for a Monet painting.

We recommend stopping by the highly rated Restaurant La Musardiere in Giverny for a taste of contemporary French fare that can be eaten in an outdoor terrace overlooking the landscape.

Six exciting destinations for a quick day trip from Paris

The cityscape of Brussels. Source: Unsplash


Off to Belgium! For an international day trip, you can get to the city of Brussels from Paris by train in about an hour and a half, leaving from Gare de Paris-Nord and arriving at Brussels-Midi.

In addition to being the capital city of Belgium, Brussels is considered the capital of Europe, as it is the home base to the administrative bodies of the European Union. It is a diverse, modern city with parts of its history preserved in its historic buildings and enduring cultural heritage.

During a day spent in Brussels, a great place to begin your sightseeing is the historic Grand-Place square, surrounded by Gothic architectural points of interest such as the city’s Town Hall, the imposing Guilds of Brussels, and the Brussels City Museum which is housed within the Maison du Roi, the King’s House, former home of Charles V. Near this square, you can see the Manneken Pis, a bronze statue of a boy urinating into a fountain and a prominent and humorous symbol of Brussels.

There are several museums in the city to entice visitors with a variety of interests, including a Museum of Natural Sciences, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History, and Train World, a specialty museum focused on the train and railway industry throughout history.

An impressive local landmark to seek out is the Atomium, a modern building recognizable for its large sculpture of, steel interconnected spheres. The sight draws visitors to the building that houses a museum of Belgian modern and digital arts and cultural exhibitions.

While in Brussels, you should try some national foods like the national favorite, fried potatoes, maybe in the form of moules-frites, mussels and chips, or a Belgian staple, carbonnade flamande, a beef stew. Visit La Vigne restaurant, which serves a lot of classic Belgian dishes. Beer drinkers will appreciate Duvel, a Golden Strong Ale, and Leffe, a Belgian Pale Ale beer, while anyone can enjoy some Belgian chocolate.

Never stop taking spontaneous day trips

As travelers with a natural curiosity for the world around us, there is nothing like immersing yourself in a new environment and learning new things through experiences. It challenges us to live in the moment and make the most out of even a limited time. Any one of these locations promises to provide a memorable and enriching experience in just one day for those willing to make the trip to see them. Whether you are interested in art, history, food, or just want somewhere new to explore, the unique character of each of these different regions in France and Belgium will only deepen your understanding of European and French culture. We hope you feel inspired to take a day trip of your own to one of these destinations close to Paris or to anywhere that strikes your fancy.