France is one of the leading tourist destinations in the world, but apart from the city of Paris, the country of Croissants and Chansons embraces hundreds of small towns and picturesque villages scattered throughout its districts. These attractive areas offer the tourist a vacation of pastoral nature and genuine tranquility.
There is no doubt that there is so much to do in Paris and that no matter how many times you visit there it’s never enough. And yet, some would want to change a little bit the atmosphere of the city with the ones of the rural areas.
The truth is that there are quite a few places and cities close to Paris worth visiting. We tried to gather some of them in the next list.
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One of the famous cities close to Paris worth visiting is of course Versailles. There is no doubt that Versailles palace is the ultimate palace and it is certainly the best option to visit one (especially if this is your first time in Paris). It is recommended to take a full day to visit Versailles so you can enjoy both the main palace, the wonderful gardens and finally the town next to the palace which is definitely worth a few hours of your time. Since the lines at the entrance to the Palace of Versailles can be long, it is highly recommended to buy tickets in advance.
2. Vaux-Le-Vicomte in Maincy
Not many people know that the Palace of Vaux-Le-Vicomte was the inspiration for the Versailles Palace. Therefore, if you are interested in palaces it is strongly recommended to visit this palace too. It contains a beautiful garden and rooms from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Although it is possible to reach the palace by train and then a bus, we believe it’s a complicated way which will take quite a bit of your precious time. So if you do not rent a car we highly recommend taking an organized tour that will take you from Paris and back.
The Champagne region
In the green fields of northern France lies the enchanting Champagne-Ardennes. The area is a wonderful destination for anyone who loves green landscapes, ancient cities and the sound of opening champagne bottles. Here the champagne was created and hence the source of its name. You may be interested to know that sparkling wines around the world are not allowed to be called champagne, as long as they are not produced here in this pleasant and calm region.
There are many places to visit in the Champagne region, here are three of them:
The old city center of Troyes is filled with ancient 16th-century buildings with colorful wooden beams and sloping roofs giving the place its charm. When strolling through the city you’ll find yourself between ancient buildings, modern buildings and magnificent cathedrals. Troyes is about an hour and a half drive from Paris, so a daily visit to the city is possible.
Just outside the city is the large outlet the McArthur Glen where you can find plenty of local and international brands at low prices.
About a 50-minute drive from Troyes you’ll find a charming amusement park called Nigloland, right in the heart of the Champagne landscapes.
Reims is located in the north of the Champagne region. It has become a famous city especially (but not only) because of the huge and impressive cathedral at its center, with beautiful stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall.
Notre-Dame de Reims is one of the most important examples of Gothic architecture at its peak. The cathedral is known to have served as the crowning place of the kings of France and stands out from anywhere in the city. The surrounding area is pleasant and full of tourist cafes.
Reims is the main and central city in the Champagne region and despite its size, it offers a very relaxed visitor experience.
Epernay is another place where you can easily see the effect of champagne. Epernay, which is 40 minutes from Reims has some the best champagne manufacturers in the province and has several visitor centers for those interested.
6. Bourgogne (Burgundy)
Burgundy is home to vineyards and wines and is a source of attraction for wine lovers from all over the world. For those who like green landscapes, ancient churches, magical castles, and many beautiful little towns, this is a recommended area to visit. Many of the villages are preserved from the Middle Ages.
Dijon, the capital city of the region, has preserved its medieval majesty and is one of the most beautiful cities in France culture-wise. This city requires around three hours drive from Paris, but you can incorporate a visit there with more interest points along the way.
There are quite a few museums in Dijon, the most famous of which is the mustard museum of Dijon. The museum, which tells the story of the city and the long-standing novel of the most famous mustard in Europe, shows the city’s achievements in the marketing of mustard and of course sells original mustard made in Dijon.
Vezelay – a beautiful hilltop village in Burgundy. It is famous for its impressive monastery which was declared a World Heritage Site in 1979. Can be visited on the same day as Dijon and the Burgundy area.
7. Loire valley
The Loire Valley is one of the most visited areas in France, perhaps because it is close to Paris, which allows going on a one day trip to this magical area. In this region, you can find fortresses and palaces, castles and cathedrals, small green villages and wineries. This is a wonderful area for families and couples that enjoy beautiful landscapes.
To explore the Loire Valley it is worth staying there for at least 3-4 days. However, if you do not have the time and wish to spend most of your vacation in Paris, then there are some good organized one day tours to the Loire Valley.
This is the lovely region of the country that begins at the borders of Paris and stretches northwest. Like the Loire Valley, if you want to explore Normandy you will need at least 3-4 days. However, since some of the famous places in that region are only a few hours away from Paris, it is possible to visit them on a day-trip from Paris.
Rouen, the capital of Normandy, became famous because of Joan of Arc, Gustave Flaubert (author of the book “Madame Bovary”) and Claude Monet. The city is located on the Seine River an hour and a half drive from the capital of Paris and about an hour from the Atlantic coast.
The Notre Dame cathedral (most of whose fame derives from the fact that its front starred in Claude Monet’s paintings) suffered heavy bombardments during World War II but was renovated at the end of the war. Around the square of the cathedral, you can find restaurants and cafés.
Giverny is another city close to Paris worth visiting. This is a small village in the Normandy region. The village is famous for the impressionist painter Claude Monet, who decided to settle there.
In Claude Monet’s Garden, you will find Monet’s house, two enchanting gardens and a pond with lilies.
Many of his landscape paintings were inspired by the well-kept garden surrounding the house. The painter, who arrived Giverny in 1883, worked here until his death in 1926.
10. Auvers Sur Oise
This peaceful and charming town is located about an hour drive from Paris. In this town, the famous painter Vincent Van Gogh lived in his last days. The famous Dutch painter spent the last 70 days of his life here and was buried in this town with his brother Theo. During his short stay here, he managed to paint about 70 paintings.
Visitors to the town will be able to take part in an organized tour that includes all the sites in the town associated with the famous painter.You can Stroll in the gardens of the Château d’Auvers, visit église d’Auvers and visit van Gogh’s grave.
One hour’s drive from Paris in the Seine-et-Marne region you’ll find an exciting and beautiful medieval village. In Provins, every street corner conceals a whole world of fascinating history from the 12th and 13th centuries. The town, which was a major commercial town during the Middle Ages, was declared a world heritage by UNESCO and was recreated wonderfully. Here you can enjoy many impressive knights performances, tours by tourist train, panoramic views from the Emperor’s castle and other surprises.
The Fontainebleau Palace is a majestic Renaissance palace near the city of Fontainebleau in the Ile de France and is approximately an hour’s drive from Paris. The palace is one of the largest in the royal palaces of France. It served as the residence of the kings of France and its sovereigns from Francois I to Emperor Napoleon III. Quite some kings have made their mark on the history and construction of this palace.
Fontainebleau Château is a must-see for palaces lovers. To see the bed of Marie Antoinette or the throne of Napoleon is definitely exciting for people interested in history. You can enjoy 130 acres of beautiful parks and gardens that once were forests and hunting grounds for the kings of France. The palace was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Senlis excels in narrow alleyways surrounding its ancient medieval buildings. In this lovely town, there is a Gothic cathedral called Notre Dame de Sensils. Opposite to it lies Parvis Square, modest and graceful. There are also remnants of a huge battle zone from the days of the Romans. Outside of rush hours, the travel time from Senlis to the center of Paris is only about an hour and a quarter. Right in front of the cathedral main gate, you’ll find the remains of the royal castle for a quick visit. The park next to the castle is a very lovely and peaceful place
Chantilly is so beautiful and so close to Paris – just an hour’s ride, by train – that you can visit it as a day trip from Paris. The small town has 15,000 inhabitants, a dense forest in the south with nice hiking trails, and a wonderful Renaissance castle surrounded by a romantic park. Chantilly is a well-known center for horses and even has a horse museum and above all, the royal stables that used to be a house for hundreds of horses in the 18th century and today they are one of the unusual attractions of the place. Chantilly also brought the world the famous cream called Creme de Chantilly.
15. Disneyland Paris
This is not a city but we thought it should be mentioned as a place near Paris worth visiting. Disneyland Paris, sometimes known as the Euro Disney, is the famous amusement park near the city of Paris in Marne-la-Vallée. Although the French were not enthusiastic about the “American invasion” to their capital city, and despite rumors of financial losses, Disneyland Paris is the most successful theme park on the European continent. The park has more than 50 facilities of which some are more adventurous and limited in height, and some are for small children.
16. Astérix Park
Again, not a city, but a great day trip from Paris. If you are traveling with children and looking for an authentic French substitute for Disneyland Paris then Astérix Park is the right option for you.
Astérix Park is the second-largest park in France, after Disneyland, and is known as a park specializing in roller coasters. The park is named after the superhero Asterix, who starred in a series of successful comic books in France.
The park has about two million visitors a year and is located in a town called Plailly about 35 km north of Paris. The park is divided into four areas, each designed in a different style: Roman, Viking, Greek and futuristic. Unlike Disneyland, it is not so huge, so you can spend a whole day and come to Paris in the evening.