Discover northern France from your Paris base with these exciting day trips. Escape the French capital for a while and immerse yourself in the charm and beauty of the countryside. From majestic castles to picturesque vineyards, there’s something for everyone within a short distance from the Paris.
Table of contents
- Planning your day trips from Paris
- Discover the Châteaux Vaux-le-Vicomte and Fontainebleau
- Sip your way through a day trip to Champagne
- Explore the opulence of Château de Versailles
- Step into an Impressionist painting in Giverny
- Follow Van Gogh through Auvers-sur-Oise
- Escape to Chantilly
- More “day trips” outside Paris
- Practical tips for planning a day trip from Paris
Planning your day trips from Paris
There are several ways to take care of the logistics of your day trip from Paris. In most of the below instances, you can self-drive, take public transport or jump on a group tour. All have their pros and cons.
While a group tour is the simplest and most relaxing way, it is the least flexible. Driving yourself is the most flexible, if you have the courage! Navigating Paris is no joke and not recommended for nervous drivers. Public transport takes preparation and may be subject to worker strikes. It is really up to you which fits your travel style best.
Ultimately, I recommend trying to avoid weekends when sights are more busy. You should also avoid Tuesdays when Paris museums are shut and many fellow travellers take advantage of this time to venture out of the city.
Discover the Châteaux Vaux-le-Vicomte and Fontainebleau
Two more must-see castles easily rolled into a day trip from Paris are Châteaux Vaux-le-Vicomte and Fontainebleau.
Before there was the Palace of Versailles, there was Vaux-le-Vicomte. This stunning French Baroque residence was commissioned by the visionary 17th-century, French Superintendent of Finances, Nicolas Fouquet. While Fouquet’s big thinking and deep pockets inspired Versailles, it also got him thrown in prison. Thankfully his masterpiece lives on for us to enjoy.
Meanwhile the 12-th century hunting lodge turned 1500+ room palatial estate of Fontainebleau, is the former home of French royalty. Easily my favourite of the Châteaux on this list, Fontainebleau also houses the Napoleon I Museum with phenomenal artifacts from the emperor’s reign. It’s gardens and broader parkland are also quite stunning and totally picnic-worthy.
It is possible to experience both Vaux-le-Vicomte and Fontainebleau in a day trip from Paris by tour, self-drive and public transit. Though the later is a little less efficient. See my full guide to planning and executing your visit here.
Sip your way through a day trip to Champagne
You might have heard that only sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France, about 160-km (100-mi) east of Paris, can be called “Champagne”. Well, it isn’t quite that clean cut, depending on where you are in the world. Certainly, in the EU any wine labelled “Champagne” must be exclusively produced from grapes grown, harvested and made into wine within this region of France.
Therefore, the hallmarks of a day trip to Champagne are tour of a Maison (Champagne house) including subterranean crayères (chalk caves used as cellars), wander through a vineyard, and a tasting—of course! Essentially, to achieve this in a day you really need to either be driving yourself (no wine for you), or on a tour. So, in this case it is a distinct advantage to book yourself on a bus tour. Some tours offer pick up from the train station in Reims, others will provide transport from Paris.
The biggest and most globally known Champaign Maisons are generally clustered around two urban centres of Reims and Épernay. You’ll find names like Mumm, G.H. Martel & Co, Pommery, Veuve Clicquot, and Taittinger in Reims. While Moët et Chandon, Dom Perignon, Perrier-Jouet and Mercier reside in Épernay.
If you are looking to visit Dom Pérignon’s grave, it is located in the adorable hilltop commune of Hautvillers, close to Épernay. Though the marketing hype has over-inflated the Benedictine monk’s role in the invention of champagne, this picturesque town surrounded by vineyards is worth a look if you can swing it. Get my full guide to visiting Champagne here.
Explore the opulence of Château de Versailles
The Palace of Versailles, with its opulent flair, formal gardens and expansive parkland, is a popular day trip from Paris for good reason. You’ll be thrilled by the history and grandeur encapsulated within the Château with its the famous Hall of Mirrors. But don’t skip the spectacular gardens! You’ll get Alice in Wonderland vibes exploring the variety of groves, water features and parterres of the palace grounds. The fountain shows set to classical music are an absolute delight!
Within easy reach by tour, public transport or even rideshare, this former royal residence and aristocratic playground is open year-round. Of course, spring through early-autumn are ideal for seeing the gardens at their finest. For details on taking a day trip to Versailles, see my expanded guide here.
Step into an Impressionist painting in Giverny
Art and garden-enthusiasts alike will appreciate the quaint town of Giverny and its starring attraction, Monet’s home and garden. Designed and planted by the artist himself (with some help), the garden is recognizable from many of the great Impressionist’s artworks. Escape to this darling hamlet for a day and you will not be disappointed. Wander the artist’s garden, snoop around his vibrant farmhouse and pay respects at his grave. My full guide to visiting Monet’s Home and Garden is right here.
Follow Van Gogh through Auvers-sur-Oise
Located not too far northwest of Paris is the commune (civil township) of Auvers-sur-Oise. Here Dutch Expressionist painter, Vincent Van Gogh, spent the last few months of his life. This extremely productive period yielded many paintings of scenes around the town that largely remain as they were in the artist’s lifetime. They have been linked together in a lovely walking trail complete with interpretative signage featuring each of the relevant paintings. While in town you may also tour the Ravoux Inn, where Van Gogh rented a room on the second floor, the room in which he sadly passed away. You can also visit the local cemetery where he and his devoted brother Theo are buried side by side.
But wait! There’s more… Van Gogh wasn’t the only artist inspired by Auvers-sur-Oise either. Paul Cézanne, Camille Pissarro and Charles-François Daubigny are among the noteable artists inspired by the picturesque township. While in town you can visit the Daubigny Museum located in his former home and studio. You can also tour the house belonging to Dr Gatchet—Van Gogh’s doctor, and check out the Musée de l’Absinthe.
Auvers-sur-Oise is about an hour’s drive from Paris if we’re being realistic about traffic etc.
You can also take a train from Gare du Nord or Saint-Lazare toward Pontoise on Transilien Line H. Change trains at Pontoise to one on bound for Persan-Beaumont. Disembark at Auvers-Sur-Oise. Enter your date and time in this trip planner for specific train information.
Note: You can combine a day trip to Auvers-sur-Oise with your visit to Giverny and Monet’s Home as the two are only about an hour drive apart. You’ll find many of the group tours are structured to do just that.
Escape to Chantilly
Ok, I have one more Château for you. At least for now…. Château de Chantilly located in the town of Chantilly, was developed over several centuries by different dynasties. The final owner and historical influence on the Château it is today was Henri d’Orléans, Duke of Aumale. The Duke was the son of the last King of France, Louis-Philippe. He was a collector of art and antique manuscripts that are showcased in the estate’s Musée Conde (Conde Museum) today. This include paintings by Botticelli, Raphael, Fouquet and Delacroix.
Maybe the most unique feature of Chantilly’s grounds are the Grandes Écuries (Great Stables), designed by architect Jean Aubert for Louis-Henri de Bourbon in the 18th-century. The Great Stables are home to an equestrian troop that performs demonstrations for visitors. It also houses the Museum of the Horse, documenting humans’ relationship with horses through history. The Stables overlook Hippodrome de Chantilly, which Bond fans might recognize as the racecourse in A View to Kill.
Culture connoisseurs will also know that Chantilly is associated with lace and cream. There is a small museum – Musée de la Dentelle de Chantilly – dedicated to the handmade bobbin lace. It has limited opening hours, so check in advance. As for the cream, well it probably originated in Italy but got its name from Baroness of Oberkirch after she sampled some at Château de Chantilly in the 18th-century. Get my Chantilly day trip from Paris guide here.
More “day trips” outside Paris
I write “day trips” because these are really more of an overnighter or even two. You can do them in a very, very long day trip but it would not be my recommendation. There’s a lot of ground to cover and sites to see. A day just wouldn’t do them justice and would likely leave you feeling rushed and/or unfulfilled. It’s also worth noting that accommodation outside of Paris is cheaper, so it might actually save you a few dollars to spend the night.
- Unwind in the picturesque countryside of the Loire Valley
- Follow the pilgrams way to enchanting Mont St Michel
- Pay your respects at the D-Day Beaches of Normandy
Practical tips for planning a day trip from Paris
- Pack a warm layer and a rain jacket, in case the weather turns or you are out late.
- Bring a water bottle and some snacks to keep you energized.
- Go prepared. Do a little reading in advance or listen to some podcasts, especially if you are going without a guide.
- Download sight apps such as the one for Versailles and don’t forget to take earbuds. If your phone battery risks running low, take a portable power pack.
- Don’t forget your camera.
Have you taken any of these day trips from Paris? Let me known in the comments below.
Peace, love & inspiring travels,