With so many sights to see, it may sound a little absurd to suggest ever leaving Paris. However, if you’re spending several days in the City of Lights, you may want to take the opportunity to visit one of the many nearby attractions that lie just outside of Paris. The following suggestions make for fantastic day trips out of the city, and are guaranteed to have you back in Paris in time for your dinner and a late-night digestif.
About 75km from Paris, sitting on the right bank of the River Seine, is the village of Giverny. A village with much history, Giverny is best known for being home to the house and gardens of the French impressionist painter, Claude Monet. It is said that Monet discovered the village while travelling through it on a train, and it wasn’t long before he moved into a house in Giverny. His house featured a vegetable garden and orchards, and he soon added a water lily pond.
Monet was constantly inspired by the surrounding countryside, Japanese bridges, and water lilies, and his passion for Giverny can be seen in so many of his paintings. Today, the house and the surrounding gardens and pond are open to the public. The small house features many original artefacts, but it’s the outside that makes the visit truly worth it.
Don’t forget to bring your camera; the estate is a photographer’s paradise. Giverny is also where you’ll find the Giverny Museum of Impressionism, a museum dedicated to the 19th century art movement that began with Paris-based artists. To get to Giverny from Paris, you can grab a fast train from the Saint-Lazare station, which will bring you to Vernon. Upon arriving, public buses and taxis can easily bring you to your destination.
Closer to Paris, you’ll find the city of Versailles, one of France’s biggest tourist destinations. This Parisian suburb is where you’ll find the stunning Château Versailles, the country’s most luxurious castle. This enormous estate (much of which was designed under the rule of the lavish King Louis XIV) is adorned with frescoes, marble, and gilt everywhere you look, though the ultimate room of opulence is the Hall of Mirrors, a ballroom that is 75 meters long with 17 enormous mirrors on one side, and 17 windows that look over the gardens on the other side.
The grounds of Versailles are just as impressive as the castle. You can also spend some time walking around the Grand Canal (or renting a small boat), and taking in the beautiful sights. Versailles is also home to a couple remarkable churches, including the Church of Notre Dame, and the Saint Louis Cathedral. If you’re visiting Versailles from France, you can get there by taking the Paris RER (the city’s express train line), line C.
Ninety kilometres southwest of Paris lies the city of Chartres. A city with a rich history, Chartres was burned by the Romans in 858 AD, fell into the hands of the English in 1417, seized by the Germans during Franco-Prussian War, and suffered heavy damage during World War II.
Despite its rough past, Chartres remains a lovely city, and boasts the finest Gothic cathedral in France: the Cathedral of Chartres. Construction began on the cathedral in 1205, and took more than six decades to complete. The church is listed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. In addition to the cathedral, visitors to Chartres can also check out the Musée de Beaux Arts, a former Episcopal palace that boasts a collection ranging from the 16th to the 20th centuries. Make sure you save time to wander Chartres’ old town, a delicately preserved area that includes steep staircases, narrow streets, and medieval houses.