Paris is an incredible destination all in itself, from the gorgeous architecture and world-class museums to the chic cafés and romantic streets, it’s impossible to go wrong with this city. Often overlooked, the areas surrounding Paris are absolutely stunning; from stately châteaux and immense forests to beautiful, rugged coastline, these French wonders are definitely worth discovering. Ideally situated in central Northern France, Paris’ location makes it the perfect jumping off point for exploring the many beautiful surrounding areas. Have a couple extra days to spend? Read on to discover the best day/weekend trips from Paris.
1. Le Mont-Saint-Michel
Located just off the Atlantic coast in the Northwestern part of Normandy, this ancient tidal island commune holds many historic secrets and is worth visiting, if just for the view alone. Once a monastery, this island village is now a UNESCO world heritage site, and receives thousands of visitors each year. Made up of around 50 residents, the island houses mostly fishermen, monks and nuns, whose quaint cottages are visible within the city walls at the base of the abbey. Start at the base of the island and wind your way up through the charming, café-filled village streets to the picturesque monastery and stunning abbey atop the Mont.
Traveling by car is the easiest and most cost-efficient way to visit Le Mont-Saint-Michel, taking about 4 hours from Paris. Head out in the early morning to make the most of your day and avoid heavy commuter traffic; you can even lunch at one of the great restaurants or cafés on the island. If you don’t have a car available, there are guided shuttle trips you can book with companies like Paris City Vision, though these will take around 14 hours for the day trip and can be a quite bit more expensive.
Located on the border between Germany and France, this exquisite city has quite the mixed heritage. From Gothic cathedrals to half-timbered, brightly-colored buildings, the capital of the Alsace region effortlessly blends German and French influences, giving the city a unique character and allure. Walk along the many canals, wander through La Petite France, and don’t miss sampling the traditional dishes like Sauerkraut and Tarte Flambée. If you have the chance to visit in December, Strasbourg is home to one of the largest and most famous Christmas Markets in the world, definitely something worth experiencing.
Getting to Strasbourg is fastest and easiest by TGV trains, which take about 2 hours. Otherwise, it’s quite accessible by car, and you’ll get a nice road trip through the Eastern part of France, though this option will take about 5 hours and is best for a weekend visit.
3. Versailles/ Fontainebleau
At just 20 minutes from the city by car (about 1 hour in public transport) the stunning Château de Versailles is a must-see if you’re traveling to Paris, and is the perfect destination for a sightseeing day trip outside the city. The impressive castle and its numerous sumptuous rooms are all worth exploring, and the legendary Hall of Mirrors is not to be missed. After seeing the castle, head out to the expansive and perfectly-manicured gardens, where you can rent a rowboat and explore the lake, enjoy a lunch on one of the many lawns, or simply admire the beautiful statues and grounds.
Slightly further away (about 1 hour by car or public transport) is the charming though lesser-known Château de Fontainebleau. Much like Versailles, this opulent castle was a former home of French royalty and is a wonderful place to spend the day. Surrounded by a forest and a French national park, this castle and its grounds have something to offer every kind of visitor. Whether you’re looking to spend some time in nature in the incredible national park, soak up centuries worth of history at the castle, or simply want to discover a lovely new town, Fontainebleau is a sure bet.
The home and gardens of the renowned French Impressionist, Claude Monet are just over an hour away from Paris by car, and offer a glimpse into the life and inspiration of Monet. Visit the quaint house where he lived and worked for much of his life, and explore the lush gardens where he painted his famous Water Lily series. Perfect for art lovers, the Museum of Impressionism as well as the Fondation Monet are on-site, offering a rare and deeper look into the artist’s muses and works.
Love a little bubbly? Just to the Northeast of Paris, Reims is the unofficial capital of the Champagne region, and is less than 2 hours away by car, making it a perfect day trip. Vineyards and the world’s best champagne producers abound in this region, so you can tour and taste to your hearts content, all while learning about the special way this region-specific drink is made. If you’re lucky enough to visit in September, you’ll be able to participate in the harvest season, and can even pick some grapes yourself! Apart from the champagne, you can head into the city center to discover the old town and relish in the breathtaking Gothic architecture of the many cathedrals, museums and historic monuments.
Gaining international popularity in the 1970s with the launch of the annual American Film Festival, this seaside resort town in the Normandy region is the perfect weekend getaway for Parisians and visitors alike. During the months of May to September, the temperatures are optimal for enjoying the long, sandy beaches or cruising along the classic wooden boardwalk to take in the ocean air. The town itself is perfectly walk able and features many cafés, restaurants, and bars serving up fresh, local seafood. If you’re looking for a change of pace, you can even wander into the neighboring fishing village of Trouville in just a few minutes.
With a car, you can easily get from Paris to Deauville in just 2.5 hours, so it makes for a great little day trip, though if you have longer to spend, a weekend there is an even better option. There are plenty of beautiful bed and breakfasts, beach cottages, and of course, hotels to stay in, and you can choose between staying in Deauville or Trouville since they are so close together. Again, it’s best to head out as early as possible to beat traffic, especially in August when many Parisians take their vacation and head for the seaside.