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TOURISM

Ten of the best day trips out of Paris

Whether you live in Paris or are just visiting, you might be looking for ideas for day-trips - here are some of our favourite spots within easy travelling distance of the City of Light.

Ten of the best day trips out of Paris
A picture of the Eiffel Tower with La Defense business district in the background (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

Giverny

About 70 kilometres from Paris, Giverny hosts the colourful gardens captured in Claude Monet’s paintings, as well as the famous lily pond that inspired his water lilies series.

Art lovers will be able to walk the grounds of Monet’s home and take a tour of his quarters. The surrounding area is picturesque, with several walking paths to explore. 

How to get there

Public Transport – The train is arguably the easiest way to get to Giverny from Paris. You take the TER from Saint-Lazare station, and the ride is just under an hour (about 52 minutes). Tickets can be as low as €9. However, beware that this will take you to the Vernon station, so upon arrival you will need to take a short shuttle from the SNCF station to the parking lot in Giverny. From Spring to Autumn, you can take a shuttle bus leaving from Paris which goes directly to Giverny. You can see the schedule HERE. If you schedule a private tour, it will likely involve a bus shuttle. 

Car – The drive from Paris to Giverny is typically between an hour and a half to two hours. There are two parking lots available.

Tips – If you are going during the summer, try to get there as early as possible in the morning to avoid the afternoon crowds. You can buy your tickets for the house and gardens ahead of time. There is also the Museum of Impressionism which is well worth the visit as well (although it doesn’t actually contain any Monet waterlilies paintings).

Deauville

Known as a summer hot spot for Parisians looking to enjoy the beach, seafood, and fresh air, Deauville boasts a 2km beach and a boardwalk known for its art deco beach huts inscribed with the names of celebrities who frequented the Deauville Film Festival.

There’s also many opportunities to get great seafood much as langoustines dipped in butter or moules marinères.

How to get there

Public Transport – There is a direct train from Paris Saint-Lazare to Trouville-Deauville that takes two hours and 10 minutes. Tickets are usually around €30 one way. If you take the bus, there are several private companies (like BlaBlaBus and Flixbus, for example) offering affordable options (usually falling between 10 to €20. The ride is between three to four hours, typically). 

Car – The drive to Deauville from Paris is about two and a half hours. 

Tips – If you drive, beware that parking is quite limited and is usually paid per hour, particularly on public holidays or popular weekends. If you rent a car, be sure to check how many miles you are allowed to drive on the rental vehicle, or you might be hit with extra charges. Keep in mind that Normandy can be a bit cooler and rainier than Paris. It might be good to take some extra layers just in case.

Chateaux in the Loire Valley 

Unesco has designated 280 kilometres of the Loire Valley a heritage site and 22 castles, large and small, are dotted along the Loire river – among the most accessible from Paris are Blois and Chambord.

The former is a bit smaller, but is still worth the visit of its four ‘grand architectural styles.’ Chambord is the largest chateau in the Loire Valley, with speculation that Leonardo da Vinci may have been involved in its design. In addition to castles, hot air balloon rides are a popular way to get a bird’s eye view of the landscape. 

How to get there

Public Transport – There is an SNCF train that takes about an hour and 45 minutes to get to the Blois-Chambord station, which is opposite Blois chateau. To get to Chambord from the station, you can take a shuttle ride (about a half hour). The train ride typically costs around €30 one way.

Car – The Loire Valley is about 100 kilometres south of Paris, it takes about two hours to reach the Château de Chambord, but more like two and a half hours to get to Château Royal d’Amboise. 

Tips – Rent a bike! The Loire Valley is known for its biking paths. Keep in mind to visit castles, you will typically need to purchase a ticket. Most will offer multi-language tours, but be sure to double check prior to booking.

Fontainebleau Castle and Forest

An ideal spot for nature lovers and history lovers alike, Fontainebleau’s castle is one of the largest in France and was the official residence of French monarchs from Louis VII to Napoleon III. On top of that, Fontainebleau is home to the second-largest national forest in France, with lots of hiking and biking trails to enjoy. 

How to get there

Public Transport – Fontainebleau by train is just 45 minutes on the Transilien from Gare de Lyon. The ride is under €10 each way, and is included in the Navigo pass is your pass covers all 5 zones.

Car – By car, the journey is about 70 kilometres, and takes a little bit over an hour. 

Tips – Pack some snacks for your visit to the Château because food options are limited once inside. Also, as Fontainebleau is more rural, it can be tricky to find an Uber or a taxi, so download the local bus timetable. 

Disneyland Paris

Fun fact – Disneyland is actually a more popular tourist attraction than the Eiffel Tower. Each year an average of 10 million people visit the park per year. Despite its name it’s not actually in Paris but it’s not far – just 30 kilometres away and well-connected on public transport.

The park offers tons of fun rides and rollercoasters, and you won’t need much in the way of French language skills to have a good time here. 

How to get there

Public transport – take the RER A toward Marne-la-Vallée Chessy (Parc Disneyland) from one of five stops in central Paris (Charles de Gaulle-Étoile, Auber, Châtelet Les Halles, Gare de Lyon or Nation). It is about a 35 minute ride, one-way tickets cost €7.60.

Car – You can also get to Disneyland by car, the ride is a little under an hour and you take the A4 the whole way.

Tips – Disneyland Paris is home to two parks: Parc Disneyland and Parc Walt Disney Studios. You’ll want to look at the attractions offered at both parks prior to booking your tickets to decide which is more appealing to you. You can also choose a single park ticket or a park hopper ticket. If you want to eat dinner while at the park, it is best to make a reservation ahead of time. You can also consider downloading the app to be able to see wait times for the attractions you’re most interested in or purchase a queue-jumper ticket to skip the lines.

Versailles Castle and Gardens

Visiting Versailles gives you a fascinating look into French history and unforgettable opportunity to gaze at the opulent lifestyle of France’s former monarchs. There is typically a lot of waiting in line involved in visiting Versailles, but we have some tips below for how to minimise that. 

How to get there

Public transport – take the RER C from several stations (Saint MIchel-Notre Dame, Gare d’Austerlitz, Musée d’Orsay, Invalides, Pont de l’Alma, and Champ de Mars) in Paris to the Versailles Château Rive Gauche station. It’s about a 15 minute walk to the palace. One way tickets on the RER are €3.65. You can also take the Versailles Express bus from the Eiffel Tower.

Car – You can drive to the palace, and it takes about an hour.

Cycle – there are cycle paths out of the city to the palace and some places offer a combined bike hire and guided tour of the gardens. 

Tips – Buy a timed ticket – this will cut your wait time. The palace is beautiful and worth visiting, but most people leave Versailles talking about the gardens, especially in the spring time when the flowers are in bloom. Not to mention, entry to the park and gardens is free. There are also events held in the gardens through the summer such as concerts and fireworks displays (which need booking in advance). In summer the palace gets extremely busy so consider a winter trip, or at least try to avoid weekends.

Provins 

The medieval town of Provins is a Unesco world heritage site with beautifully preserved medieval architecture and 11th century city walls. If you happen to visit during the month of June, you can also enjoy their famous Medieval Festival. 

How to get there

Public Transport – take the SNCF Transilien train from Gare de l’Est on the Line P. A train departs each hour and the journey is about an hour and 20 minutes. The one way journey usually costs about €12. If you have a five zone Navigo pass, it will take you to Provins.

Car – To drive to Provins, you take the N4 and it is about an hour and 20 minutes. 

Tips – If you are going by car, beware that parking in the city centre is limited. You can also look into the Provins pass to get some reduced prices on food and tourist activities.

Reims 

Have a yearning for some Champage-tasting? A day trip from Paris to the Champagne area is very doable! Reims, founded in around 80 BC, is itself worth the visit, particularly its famous gothic cathedral. The most famous tasting house is Veuve Clicquot, and there are several Paris to Reims champagne-oriented planned day trips and tours. It is about 150 kilometres north-east of Paris.

How to get there

Public Transport – take the SNCF train from Gare de l’Est, the journey is about an hour and 12 minutes, with several direct trains available per day. One-way tickets typically cost around €20, depending on when you book. There are also several bus options, which usually take about two hours. Tickets for the bus can be as low as €5-10 (again, depending on when you book. If you wait until the last second, the tickets for the bus can sometimes rival those for the train).

Car – By car, the journey to Reims takes about two hours and is mostly along the A4.

Tips – When planning your champagne tour, consider whether you’re looking to visit big houses (like Moet) or smaller, family owned ones. There are several, shorter family-run tours that can offer a more intimate experience, but they may not be as involved as the larger house options. While it’s natural to dress up to drink fizz, ask yourself before planning your outfit: will you be visiting the vineyard grounds? Will you be spending lots of time in cooler cellars?

Also, the city is not pronounced ‘reems’ – here’s how it sounds.

Brussels

If you want to cross a border, Brussels is just an hour and 20 minute train-ride away. Enjoy museums with extensive art collections without the long lines of Paris, marvel at the medieval architecture, drink a delicious Belgian beer, take in one of the city’s many parks, eat some moules-frites and chocolate, and say hi to the European Union.

How to get there

Public Transport – the train from Gare du Nord with Thalys is about an hour and 20 minutes long. If you book early enough, you might be able to find one way tickets for around €50. Depending on the time of day and day of the week, the tickets might fluctuate in price. Peak days and hours’ tickets might be closer to €100 one way. The bus is a much more affordable option, though it is a lot longer of a ride (between three and a half and four hours) – bus tickets are usually around €15.

Car – By car, the ride is about three hours and 45 minutes.

Tips – Try to go on a weekday, that way the train tickets might be a bit less expensive. Taking the train is the best way to make Brussels into a day trip, as the other options are considerably longer. In terms of what to see, we suggest heading straight to the Grand Place, and then moseying around from there – whether that be visiting the City Museum or walking along the Comic Strip Walls.

Thanks to the aforementioned EU, travel between France and Brussels is very straightforward with minimal checks, but remember that you are entering a different country so take your passport with you just in case.

Finally, if you’re willing to travel a bit longer on your day trip, we always recommend visiting Mont-Saint-Michel.

Mont Saint Michel

Another Unesco world heritage site, the abbey on the island, with its spectacular view of the tide coming in and out, is worth the slightly longer trip. If you plan ahead for a guided tour, you could even cross the bay on foot and get to see all of the unique flora and fauna. It is one of the prettiest places in France, and definitely warrants a trip from Paris, or even an overnight stay.

How to get there

Public transport – take a direct train to Rennes (about an hour and a half) and then a shuttle bus to Mont-Saint-Michel (between thirty minutes and an hour). It takes a bit of planning, but with the right coordination you could do the trip in under three and a half hours from Paris. A one way ticket to Rennes typically costs around €35, while the additional bus ticket could be between five to €15.

Car – The drive to Mont-Saint-Michel from Paris is a little over four hours. 

Private tour – Taking a shuttle or private tour to Mont-Saint-Michel is a great way to make the day trip a bit less cumbersome, as it is a long ride. 

Tips – If possible, plan your trip based on the lunar calendar – some times of the month are better than others for watching the tide go up and down.

If you turn Mont-Saint-Michel into an overnight trip, it is also worth including some of the WWII memorial sites in Normandy. Locations such as Bayeux and Caen aren’t too far away from Mont-Saint-Michel.

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TRAVEL NEWS

What to expect from traffic during upcoming three-day weekend in France

L'assomption - or the Assumption of Mary - is coming up for Monday, giving people working in France their last three-day weekend of the summer. As such, the roads are expected to be very busy.

What to expect from traffic during upcoming three-day weekend in France

As the last three-day weekend of the summer approaches, France’s traffic watchdog, Bison futé has announced their forecast for congestion on the roads. 

Traffic is expected to be quite difficult this weekend, with Saturday classified as almost entirely ‘red’ across France for both departures and returns, with the Mediterranean area coloured black – the highest alert level – for departures.

The different congestion levels range from green (normal), orange (difficult), red (very difficult) to black (extremely difficult).

“Throughout the weekend, traffic will be very difficult in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and on the Mediterranean Arc, especially on the A7, A8 and A9 freeways”, warned Bison Futé in their statement.

Here is the breakdown per day:

Friday, August 12

Friday is mostly green for departures, aside from the Paris region and the Mediterranean, which can expect some minor delays, as they are coloured in orange. The traffic watchdog recommends leaving or crossing through the Paris region prior to noon.

For returns, however, the situation will be less calm. The majority of the country is on orange alert, with the Mediterranean area coloured red. 

Bison futé predictions for Friday

Specifically, for departures motorists are advised to:

  • leave or cross the Île-de-France before 12:00,
  • avoid the A10 freeway, between Paris and Orleans, from 2pm to 8pm,
  • avoid the A63 freeway, between Bayonne and Spain, from 8am to 8pm,
  • avoid the A7 freeway, between Lyon and Orange, from 11am to 9pm and between Orange and Marseille, from 2pm to 8pm,
  • avoid the A9 freeway, between Orange and Narbonne, from 10am to 9pm,
  • avoid the A75 freeway, between Millau and Lodève, from 3pm to 8pm,
  • avoid the A62 freeway, between Bordeaux and Toulouse, from 3pm to 7pm,
  • avoid the A61 freeway, between Toulouse and Narbonne, from 3pm to 8pm,
  • avoid the Mont-Blanc tunnel in the direction of Italy, from 12:00 to 15:00 (wait time will likely be greater than 30 minutes)

For returns, Bison futé’s advice is to:

  • return to or cross the Ile-de-France before 2pm,
  • avoid the A10 freeway, between Bordeaux and Paris, from 2pm to 7pm,
  • avoid the A63 freeway, between Spain and Bayonne, from 5pm to 7pm,
  • avoid the A6 freeway, between Lyon and Beaune, from 3pm to 8pm,
  • avoid the A7 freeway, between Marseille and Lyon, from 10am to 8pm,
  • avoid the A8 freeway, near Aix-en-Provence, from 10am to 7pm,
  • avoid the A9 freeway, between Narbonne and Orange, from 11am to 7pm,
  • avoid the A62 freeway, between Toulouse and Agen, from 2pm to 8pm,
  • avoid the A61 freeway, between Narbonne and Carcassonne, from 2pm to 8pm,
  • avoid the Mont-Blanc tunnel on your way back to France, from 2pm to 9pm (wait time will likely be more than 1 hour)

Saturday

Saturday is slated to be the most difficult day on the roads this weekend.

For both departures and returns, the whole of the country can expect significant delays and congestion, under the ‘red’ classification. For departures, roads in the Mediterranean area are expected to be the most packed and will be classified as ‘black.’ 

Bison futé predictions for Saturday

Bison Futé advises you to avoid the big cities, from as early as 8am for the Paris region. 

The roads you should pay avoid for departures on Saturday are:

  • the A1 freeway, between Paris and Lille, from 10am to 5pm
  • the A84 freeway, between Caen and Rennes, from 10am to 12pm
  • the A11 freeway, between Paris and Le Mans, from 8am to 7pm and between Le Mans and Angers, from 8am to 5pm
  • the RN157 national road, between Laval and Rennes, from 10am to 5pm
  • the national road RN165, between Nantes and Lorient, from 11am to 8pm
  • the A10 freeway, at the Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines tollgate, from 6am to 2pm and between Paris and Bordeaux, from 7am to 5pm
  • the A63 freeway, between Bordeaux and Spain, from 9am to 8pm
  • the A6 freeway, between Beaune and Mâcon, from 8am to 12pm
  • the A7 freeway, between Lyon and Orange, from 6am to 6pm and between Orange and Marseille, from 9am to 7pm
  • the A54 freeway, between Nîmes and Salon-de-Provence, from 10am to 4pm
  • the A9 freeway, between Orange and Narbonne, from 7am to 5pm and between Narbonne and Perpignan, from 8am to 5pm
  • the A20 freeway, between Limoges and Brive-la-Gaillarde, from 10am to 12pm
  • the A71 freeway, between Orleans and Bourges, from 9am to 12pm
  • the A75 freeway, between Clermont-Ferrand and Saint-Flour, from 10am to 12pm, and between Millau and Lodève, from 8am to 6pm,
  • the A750 freeway, between Lodève and Montpellier, from 11am to 1pm
  • the A62 freeway, between Bordeaux and Toulouse, from 9am to 5pm,
  • the A61 freeway, between Toulouse and Narbonne, from 8am to 4pm,
  • the A43 freeway, between Lyon and Chambéry, from 10am to 4pm,
  • the Mont-Blanc tunnel towards Italy, from 12pm to 3pm (wait times expected to be more than 30 minutes).

Motorists are also advised to:

  • return to or cross the Ile-de-France before 2pm
  • avoid the A83 freeway, between Niort and Nantes, from 10am to 4pm
  • avoid the A84 freeway, between Rennes and Caen, from 10am to 3pm
  • avoid the national road RN165, between Lorient and Vannes, from 11am to 3pm
  • avoid the A10 freeway, between Bordeaux and Paris, from 10am to 5pm
  • avoid the A63 freeway, between Spain and Bayonne, from 11am to 1pm
  • avoid the A6 freeway, between Lyon and Beaune, from 9am to 6pm
  • avoid the A7 freeway, between Marseille and Orange, from 8am to 5pm and between Orange and Lyon, from 9am to 7pm
  • avoid the A8 freeway, between Italy and Fréjus, from 10am to 12pm and between Fréjus and Aix-en-Provence, from 9am to 2pm
  • avoid the A54 freeway, between Salon-de-Provence and Nîmes, from 10am to 12pm
  • avoid the A9 freeway, between Perpignan and Narbonne, from 10am to 1pm and between Narbonne and Orange, from 9am to 5pm
  • avoid the A20 freeway, between Brive-la-Gaillarde and Limoge, from 10am to 1pm
  • avoid the A71 freeway, between Clermont-Ferrand and Orléans, from 1pm to 5pm
  • avoid the A62 freeway, between Toulouse and Bordeaux, from 9am to 5pm
  • avoid the A61 freeway, between Narbonne and Toulouse, from 9am to 7pm
  • avoid the A43 freeway, between Chambéry and Lyon, from 9am to 1pm
  • avoid the A48 freeway, between Grenoble and Lyon, from 10am to 12pm
  • avoid the Mont-Blanc tunnel on your way back to France, from 2pm to 9pm (wait times are expected to be greater than 1 hour)

Sunday 

Bison futé predictions for Sunday

The traffic situation will be considerably calmer this Sunday, with slowdowns for departures mostly concentrated around the Mediterranean area and for returns around in the greater southeast region.

For departures, motorists are advised to avoid:

  • the A63 freeway, between Bayonne and Spain, from 10am to 8pm
  • the A7 freeway, between Lyon and Orange, from 9am to 7pm and between Orange and Marseille, from 2pm to 8pm
  • the A9 freeway, between Orange and Narbonne, from 10am to 7pm
  • the A61 freeway, between Carcassonne and Narbonne, from 10am to 12pm

For returns, you should also avoid:

  • the A7 freeway, between Marseille and Lyon, from 9am to 7pm,
  • the A9 highway, between Narbonne and Orange, from 10am to 8pm,
  • the A61 freeway, between Narbonne and Carcassonne, from 5pm to 7pm,
  • the Mont-Blanc tunnel on the way back to France, from 1pm to 8pm (wait times will be greater than 1 hour).

Finally, traffic will be more or less back to routine circulation in both directions on the jour férié of Monday, August 15th. The Paris region is the only part of France that is not green, and this is still only for returns. 

Motorists heading back to Ile-de-France are advised to either cross through or return before 2pm.

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