Day Trips nearby Paris
The city of Paris has plenty of sights to keep you absorbed. But to soak up more of France’s culture – perhaps while sipping champagne at a vast vineyard or exploring ornate palaces – head off on one of these easy-access day trips outside the city.
Less than an hour away
Visit the pink-marble Palace of Versailles
Built by 'The Sun King', Louis XIV, the Palace of Versailles represents royal France at its most refined. The pièce de résistance is the 240-foot Hall of Mirrors: a sparkling mix of looking glasses, twinkling chandeliers and golden statues.
Once you've looked around inside, be sure to give yourself ample time to explore the immaculate gardens, so intricately laid-out that they took 40 years to design. If you don't fancy touring the palace, the gardens are free to enter on their own.
Sundays and Thursdays are usually the busiest days of the week to visit Versailles, as this is when many museums in Paris close. When planning your trip, bear in mind that the palace buildings aren't open on Mondays.
Discover Claude Monet's gardens in Giverny
Hop on the train to Giverny from Saint-Lazare station in Paris and 45 minutes later you'll be deep in the countryside that inspired Claude Monet. Visitors are lured here by the lush gardens, immortalised in the artist's paintings.
Stroll through bijou art galleries and wander past wisteria-clad country homes in the town, before checking out the tulips in the Clos Normand and the lily pads in the nearby Japanese-style water garden. You can learn about the area's history at the Museum of Impressionism and pay your respects at Monet's tomb in Saint-Radegonde Church.
Giverny's gardens close from the beginning of November to the start of April, so be sure to schedule your visit for the warmer months. Advance tickets help you skip the queues and are available via the Fondation Monet website. If you'd like a guide, booking ahead is necessary – you won't be able to join a tour on the day. A bus leaves from Vernon station every 15 minutes to shuttle you the five kilometres to Giverny.
Over an hour away
Roam around the Loire Valley's countryside and castles
It's not a trip to France without ambling around a château or two. Get your fortress fix in the Loire Valley, a couple of hours' drive from Paris. It's home to Château de Chambord, a favourite of Les Misérables author Victor Hugo. Climb the double-helix staircase to discover over 4,500 pieces of art spread across the opulently furnished apartments – your entrance ticket gives you access to more than 60 rooms.
Château de Chenonceau comes next. This one was built way back in the 16th century and sits neatly on top of an arched bridge stretching across the Cher River. It was designed by aristocratic women and eventually became part of an escape route for the French Resistance during the Second World War. Get clued up on the building's past at the in-depth exhibition in the Galerie Médici and don't miss the stunning 60-metre-long Grande Galerie hall suspended over the river either.
Last up is Château de Cheverny, a private home with wonderfully ornate furniture. Hunt for treasures like the 17th-century Gobelin tapestry and Louis XIV's chest of drawers in the apartments. Kids – and kids at heart – love this castle for its meandering maze and playful Tintin exhibition.
Check out the Champagne region's tastiest bubbly
Fond of fizz? Add a stint in the Champagne region, northeast of Paris, to your itinerary. You'll find the cellars of world-renowned brands – from Veuve Clicquot to Moët & Chandon – nestled in the thick forests and wetlands of the Montagne de Reims Natural Regional Park.
If you're keen on touring the vineyards of smaller producers, avoid harvest season in late summer, as opening hours are typically reduced. Autumn is the ideal time for a visit, with leaves falling and the countryside awash with vivid reds, burnt oranges and soft golds. Take a trip to the formal royal city of Reims, under two hours' drive from Paris, to explore sights including the grand Gothic cathedral.
Set your alarm for early doors and head off on one of these top day trips. Whether you choose charming châteaux, vast vineyards or glorious gardens, they'll be sure to add a rural twist to your holiday.