It is almost impossible not to fall in love with la ville lumière – the City of Lights, Paris. Wading through high-end haute couture and fashion, exploring sleek and chic restaurants as the smell of freshly baked croissants and macarons takes you to iconic Parisian marvels such as the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre and Notre Dame, it sure seems like you can never run out of things to do in Paris.
But why limit your Paris experience to just within the city when you can make the best out of your trip by daring to venture more? Be it the charming little town of Giverny, the expansive mountain ranges of Normandy or the historic chapels and chateaus of Versailles, here are some of the best day trips you can take from Paris.
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Paris – Versailles
Starting off with the list, we have Versailles, one of the most easily accessible and must-visit towns from Paris.
Château de Versailles, the birthplace of the French Revolution, which once was used as the centre of power in France, has been long open to the public, allowing visitors to glance into the outrageously lavish lives of the royalty that ruled over France centuries ago. The Palace of Versailles also holds the crown as a World Heritage Site for over 40 years and is one of the most exceptional achievements in French 17th-century art.
The Palace hosts over 2,300 rooms, but perhaps the most famous of them all is the Hall of Mirrors. Over 350 mirrors decked across the 17 arches of the windows in the 230 feet long room overlooks the beautifully landscaped gardens. Massive glass chandeliers adorn the ornately painted ceiling, flanked by gilded statues and marble sculptures. While the Palace itself can feel overwhelming to the senses, don’t forget to pay a visit to the Notre Dame de Versailles, the authentic and ancient Roman Catholic Church built very close to the Palace.
Getting to Versailles
- hop onto TER 62421 from Paris-Montparnasse and reach Versailles Chantier Station in just 15 minutes. Fares range between EUR 3 to EUR 15.
- alternatively, driving to Versailles by car is the best option as it will take only 20 minutes to reach there. Cabs are available at EUR 30 to EUR 40, whereas sharing your ride would take just EUR 3 to EUR 5.
Paris – Giverny – Rouen – Normandy
Multicoloured flowers and vines hang across green-coloured bridges overlooking crystal clear waters filled with water lilies. Giverny is a magical green paradise straight out of a fairy tale.
Barely an hour away from Paris, Giverny was home to the legendary painter Oscar-Claude Monet, founder and pioneer of impressionist painting and modernism. Taking inspiration from the picturesque greenery surrounding his home, Monet created some of his masterpieces, including his renowned water lily series, Les Nymphéas, from here.
Today, his home and garden are open to the public and are nothing short of a paradise. There are two parts in Monet’s garden which perfectly contrast and complement one another. The flower garden called Clos Normand in front of the house is filled with fruit and ornamental trees, long vines of climbing roses and colourful hollyhocks. Monet blended simple flowers like daisies and poppies with the rarest varieties creating a striking visual spectacle. The Japanese bridge on the other side of the house is covered with wisterias, weeping willows and water lilies that bloom all summer.
Getting to Giverny
- take the Gare Saint-Lazare from Saint Lazare train station in Paris to Vernon, which will take around 45 mins and cost EUR 18. Take a bus shuttle from there to Giverny, available at approximately EUR 8.
- travelling from Paris to Giverny by taxi costs EUR 120 – EUR 150. Alternatively, you can opt to go for a fun road trip along the scenic roads and reach there in an hour and a half.
Yet another favourite subject of Monet’s iconic paintings were the intricately-designed cathedrals and chateaus of Rouen, which has the unique ability to leave any visitor in a daze out of pure admiration.
French poet and dramatist Victor Hugo famously described Rouen as “the city of a hundred spires”, and we couldn’t agree more. Running from east to west right through the heart of the city are rows of monumental churches– Saint-Ouen, Saint-Maclou, Notre Dame Cathedral and the modern church dedicated to Joan of Arc.
While in Rouen, you simply can’t miss the Gros Horloge astronomic clock- one of the oldest working clocks in Europe, the awe-inspiring gothic architecture of the Palais de Justice and the macabre carving at the Aître Saint-Maclou, whose carved skull and crossbones making it the stuff of legends.
Getting to Rouen
- Take the line 03 bus to Vernon Gare SNCF then take the train to Rouen Rive Droite. The trip will take you an hour and 45 minutes.
- Rouen is more than two hours from Paris by car. A private cab would cost you around EUR 170.
Back in the day, Normandy witnessed the largest seaborne invasion in history on D-Day, which in turn changed the course of World War 2 itself.
Despite its sombre history, a single visit to this historical city will make you realise that Normandy is just too beautiful to be the scene of war alone.
If you’ve got a flair for the arts, you’ll be thrilled to know that Normandy is considered the spiritual birthplace of impressionism. Several great artists drew inspiration from here, including Monet who resided in Giverny here for most of his life. The Normandy coastline is ranked among the world’s most famous coasts, marked by the expansive beach bordered by ranges of towering cliffs.
The versatility of this city spreads across families, children and adults alike. If you’re looking to have a fun time with your family, there are tons of attractions and activities waiting for you here. Be it a laid-back summer afternoon in Omaha Beach or thrilling adrenaline-boosting activities such as water sports, horse-riding, skydiving, cliff-climbing, bungee jumping and more, Normandy does it all.
Getting to Normandy
- Take the TER train from Rouen- Reve- Droit to Gare de Caen in just EUR 8. The travel time is 1 hour 45 minutes.
- Caen is just a little over an hour away from Rouen by car.
Paris – Lille
History buffs and art connoisseurs will never run out of places of interest in France. That being said, located further north of Paris is Lille, an underrated gem near the Belgium Border, offering a unique blend of Flemish and French culture and traditions.
Lille is home to Le Palais Des Beaux Arts De Lille, one of the largest museums in France completely dedicated to art and antiquities featuring works of prestigious artists such as Goya, Donatello and Veronese. The emblematic neighbourhood representative of 17th-century France, Vieux Lille, is characterised by redbrick townhouses, medieval buildings, and at the heart of it is the central square, Grand Place.
Wanna catch a quick break? Head over to La Maison Meert, one of the oldest patisseries in Lille, to savour the traditional thin-waffle delicacy, along with other specialities such as croissants, baguettes and other baked goods.
Getting to Lille
- the easiest and cheapest way to reach Lille from Paris is by train as it will only take an hour. Take the TGV 7015 from Gare du Nord in Paris to Lille Flandres. Ticket fares are from EUR 28 to EUR 60.
- multiple buses are available from Paris (Bercy Seine) to Lille. However, they make take upto 3 hours, with fares going upto EUR 7.