3 Easy Day Trips from Paris
Leah Walker April 17, 2017

As much as I love Paris, there are times when I have to shake up my daily routine. I want to trade the 7th arrondissement for silence and the Arc de Triomphe for trees. Sure, I know several spots in the city where I can hide away with the birds and red squirrels, but there’s a freeing feeling about getting outside of Paris’ Périphérique.

Fall in Parc de Sceaux

Plenty of historic and peaceful places exist within an hour of the capital, but many require a car. With convenient train service, not to mention a billion group tour buses, Versailles and Giverny are the most well known day trips from Paris. With the busy summer tourist season fast approaching, I’ll be avoiding those two places like the plague. Whether you’re a frequent visitor looking for something different or live in the city, I’ve got three suggestions for easy day trips from Paris.

Parc de Sceaux

Spring at Parc de Sceaux

Just about six miles south of Paris lies Parc de Sceaux. This expansive park was designed by André Le Nôtre, the same landscape architect who created the Tuileries and Versailles. At approximately two-square kilometers, the park is filled with walking and running trails, fountains, a cherry tree grove, and symmetry that will please even the most OCD person {me!}. The main feature is Château de Sceaux, which is home to Musée d’Ile-de-France. Find the history of Paris from the 17th century to the middle of the 20th century, as well as one of the largest collections from the School of Paris. Wander down the Plaine des Quatre Statues {Plain of Four Statues} behind the château; meander along the Grand Canal; enjoy Les Cascades {the Waterfalls}; and in the springtime, don’t miss the cherry blossoms at Plaine de Chatenay.

Cherry blossoms at Parc de Sceaux

What to Know: There are restroom facilities, as well as a few snack bars scattered around the park. However, I’d suggest a picnic instead. Stop by a Parisian market or specialty shop for food and beverages. A walk and a picnic in Parc de Sceaux is a lovely way to spend an afternoon away from Paris, but the town of Sceaux is otherwise unremarkable.

Get There: Buy a Zone 3 ticket, and take the RER B {blue line} from Paris. Get off at the Parc de Sceaux stop. There’s also a Sceaux stop, but it’s about a 20-minute walk to the park. Be careful, because the RER B line forks just before both of the stops for Sceaux.

When getting on the train in Paris, choose the B4 line ending in Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse. This line allows you to get off at the Parc de Sceaux stop. Don’t worry if you accidentally get on the B2 line ending at Robinson. You’ll just need to exit at the Sceaux stop and walk further to the park.

Château de Chantilly

The Château houses Musée Condé, one of the finest art galleries in France.

Chantilly is most famous for two things: cream and lace. Crème Chantilly is a vanilla-spiked whipped cream invented by François Vatel and served to the Duc de Condé at Château de Chantilly in 1671. The black silk Chantilly lace was a favorite of the nobles, including Marie Antoinette. BUT, Chantilly is also known for its château and hippodrome {horse racing track}.

Just a humble hunting lodge

The original Château de Chantilly dates to the 1400s, but was destroyed during the French Revolution. It was then rebuilt by Henri d’Orléans, son of King Louis-Philippe in the 1870s. Housed in the château is Musée Condé, one of the most impressive collections of art in France. In fact, it is the second largest collection of antique paintings in France, behind the Louvre. Mostly French and Italian, Musée Condé even has three pieces by Raphaël. After you’ve gotten your fill of culture, wander the estate’s classic French garden, also designed by André Le Nôtre. Visit the Anglo-Chinese garden, which inspired Marie-Antoinette’s hamlet in the Petit Trianon at Versailles, and see the Temple of Venus in the English garden.

Horse lovers won’t want to miss Musée du Cheval.

Don’t miss visiting the Great Stables, the largest in Europe. A five-minute walk from the château, the Great Stables are located next to the hippodrome. A distinct smell of horse greets you as you enter the building. Rows of stables house some spectacular horses, though you’re technically not allowed to touch them, {I totally ignored that rule}. From the stables, meander through the Musée du Cheval {Museum of the Horse}. Each room explores the relationship between horse and man throughout history. Also, check for equestrian shows and demonstrations periodically performed on the grounds. 

What to Know: There is a lot to do and see in Chantilly, so I suggest arriving early. During the high season, the château is open seven days per week, beginning at 10:00 am. During the low season, the château is closed on Tuesday and opens at 10:30. Tickets can be purchased online, and I would suggest buying the Domaine ticket. It gives access to the château, grounds, Great Stables, and Museum of the Horse. Purchasing separately is more expensive. Check the website for specifics.

Over 3,000 books line the shelves of the library.

Get There: The best and fastest way to get to Chantilly is to take a TER train from Paris’ Gare de Nord station. The journey takes less than 30 minutes to the Chantilly-Gouvieux station. Trains run about every 30 minutes, but you’ll want to check the schedule. Look for the Transilien ticket window, as it might be difficult to figure out which self-serve kiosk sells tickets to Chantilly. If you happen to spot a Transilien machine, you can buy your ticket there. Make sure to punch your ticket in the yellow machines by the track before getting on the train.

Technically, you can take the RER D {green line with a zone 6 ticket}, but it takes twice as long and the trains don’t travel as often as the TER. Once you arrive at Chantilly-Gouvieux, it’s about a 20-minute walk along a forest trail to the château, or you can take a longer route through town. There’s also the Cariane bus in front of the train station. Take it in the direction of Senlis, and get off at the Chantilly-Église Notre-Dame stop. Within Chantilly, the bus is free.

Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Outside of Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye 

Saint-Germain-en-Laye is located just west of Paris and has a distinguished royal history dating to 1124, when King Louis VI built a residence near the present day Château-Vieux. Over the next centuries, French kings would build and rebuild castles and churches in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. It was in Saint-Germain that composer Claude Debussy was born, and Alexandre Dumas wrote The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. The town’s history is long and convoluted, however, you don’t need a PhD in French history to appreciate Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye and its vast gardens.

The former royal residence and prison now houses Musée Archéologie Nationale {National Archeological Museum}. With nearly 30,000 objects displayed from pre-historic times to Merovingian period, the museum has one of the most extensive collections in Europe. Stretching out in front of the museum is the domaine’s 175-acre gardens. It was King Henri IV that built the six terraces stretching toward the Seine River in the 16th century, but it was King Louis XIV that enlisted Le Nôtre {again} to make them truly regal nearly a century later. The embroidered flower beds of the Jardin à la Française, as well as Le Nôtre’s Grand Terrace are not to be missed. From this terrace, the entire west of Paris is seen, including the Eiffel Tower and La Défense.

Take a twirl around the gardens of Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

What to Know: It’s easy to spend an entire day in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. It feels far removed from Paris, even though you can literally see the city from the gardens. Schedule some time to wander around the city and enjoy a lunch on one of the many café terraces. The city is home to Lycée International de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a top public school specializing in international education. Because of this, there is a relatively large population of English speakers.

Get There: Buy a Zone 4 ticket, and take the RER A {red line} from Paris. When getting on the train in Paris, you’ll choose the A1 line ending at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The metro station is located directly in front of the château.

The number of obscure and lesser-known places within an hour of Paris is vast. After all, centuries of French kings lived in Paris and wanted to escape the city, too. Since there were no cars or trains, travel distances were much shorter than today. As a result, the île de France, Normandy, Hauts-de-France, and Centre-Val de Loire regions are treasure troves for picturesque villages, historic churches, opulent gardens, and grand castles. Whether it’s your first trip to Paris or your tenth, you can’t go wrong with any of these three easy day trips from Paris.

Leah Walker

Leah's a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, The Daily Basics, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's thrilled to call Paris home after being awarded the coveted three-year Compétences & Talents visa from France, though her talents don't extend to speaking French. Yet.

8 Comments

  1. Ahhh! Chantilly– am soooo tempted. Alas, only two weeks in France and just four days in paris. Therefore, next trip is already in planning stage😉. Really enjoy the historical information as well as the practical. Thank you!

  2. When I finally take my little Bonjour, Amigo! to Paris, I know one day trip we’ll definitely take: Chantilly. She will love the stables and everything related to horses. And I would love to admire that “humble hunting lodge” 🙂

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