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Best side trips from Paris

Paris Day Tours: 10 Cute Small Towns near Paris that you cannot miss

Paris is a great city with countless things to see and do. But it can also be a busy and crowded city and some people may need a break after a couple of days of deep exploration. Luckily there are many cute small towns near Paris that will let you see a different side of France. France is much more than Paris and there are great Paris day tours around the “big city”, easily reached by public transportation. So if you are doing great visiting Paris Like a Local and have a spare day in the city, why don’t you give these small towns a chance? Here are our picks of small towns near Paris that you cannot miss.


READ: Check out this France Travel Guide

1. CHARTRES

Chartres is one of our favorite day trips around Paris. Chartres is best known for its impressive Chartres Gothic Cathedral, one of the Grandes Cathédrales de France and (like Amiens Cathedral or Saint Denis Basilica-Cathedral) an important milestone in the evolution of Gothic Cathedrals in Europe. Apart from the magnificent cathedral, Chartres has a cute historical center with some timbered houses. We suggest walking down to the river Eure. Along the river there are cute small houses, some of them have their private boats. Maybe its inhabitants go to buy their baguette sailing down the river on their little watercraft?

Location: 96 km south of Paris, in Centre-Val de Loire region.

Best time to go: from April to October the cathedral and other historic buildings are beautifully illuminated at night: it is the Chartres Light show and it is magical.

How to reach Chartres from Paris: Paris day tours to Chartres are very easy. There are direct trains from Paris Gare de Montparnasse to Chartres (1h 10min). You can see all the transportation options here

More information: Chartres Tourisme

Easy day trips from Paris with Get Your Guide Tours

 

2. FONTAINEBLEAU

Small Towns near Paris - Fontainebleau

Fontainebleau is a cute historical town surrounded by a huge forest. During many centuries Fontainebleau was the French kings’ favorite hunting place and they built a magnificent castle to get the most of Fontainebleau. Le Chateau the Fontainebleau is one of the most beautiful castles in France and also Versailles’ eternal rival. Even if its decoration has a rustic touch (lots of wood), its different rooms and halls are magnificent. In addition, the castle has beautiful gardens around. The gardens’ main highlight is the Grand Parterre, the largest formal garden in Europe and Louis XIV’s greatest architectural achievement at Fontainebleau.

Fontainebleau Forest is Parisians’ favorite place for hiking and climbing. There is an area with lots of sandstone boulders, being the 25 bosses de Fontainebleau hike (up and down, up and down . .) one of the most famous hikes in the region. The forest of Fontainebleau is especially beautiful during the fall.

Location: 25 km south-east of Paris, in Ile de France region.

Best time to go: the chateau is always great to visit. If you want to hike, we suggest anytime from early spring to late fall.

How to reach Fontainebleau from Paris: there are direct trains from Paris Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau (2 hrs). You can see all the transportation options here

More information: Fontainebleau Tourisme

 

3. PROVINS

Small Towns Near Paris - Provins

Provins is a fortified medieval town well known for its medieval fairs. A long time ago it was the capital of the powerful Counts of Champagne. Thanks to the counts’ protection and its strategic position, the town became one of the main actors of the early development of international trade fairs and the wool industry in Europe, during the XIth and XVIIIth centuries. Walking around Provins is a step back in time: the impressive fortress, the tour César, cute timbered houses along cobbled streets and some interesting historical buildings. However, Provin’s main highlight is its “underground town” that you cannot miss. For more information, you can check our Provins post here below.

Location: 70 km south-east of Paris, in Ile de France region.

Best time to go: anytime when the weather is nice. Next Provins’ Medieval festival will be on 9 and 10 June.

How to reach Provins from Paris: there are direct trains from Paris Gare de l’Est to Provins (1 hr 22 min). You can see all the transportation options here

More information: Tourisme de Provins

 

4. MARLY-LE-ROI

Small Towns Near France - Marly Le Roi

Marly le Roi is a small town is not far from the Seine river and totally dominated on the south by the beautiful Marly Forest. Louis XIV chose Marly to build “his” Chateau de Marly to use during his weekends of leisure. The Chateau de Marly was more intimate than the royal palace and far from Versailles’ court etiquette. Only a few people had the honor to be the king’s guests at Marly and they were appointed directly by Louis XIV the day before the departure. The chateau was totally destroyed during the French Revolution but you can still see the chateau’s layout and the surrounding park with a lake, lots of sculptures and magnificent fountains and pools. The famous Marly Horses that you can see today at Louvre Museum, were located at the Chateau de Marly’s entrance watching over Marly’s Drinking Trough, the biggest drinking trough for horses in Europe.

Also, some people may want to visit the Chateau de Montecristo, Alexandre Dumas’ home, and its park. This beautiful and intriguing castle is a good opportunity to know more about the writer’s life and work.

Location: 20 km west of Paris, in Ile de France region.

Best time to go: from early spring to late fall.

How to reach Marly from Paris: there are direct trains from La Défense to Marly-le-Roi (train L towards St Nom la Bretèche, 1hr). To reach La Défense train station take RER A or metro line 1. You can see all the transportation options here

More Information: Office de Tourisme

 

5. CHEVREUSE

La Haute Vallée de la Chevreuse (Chevreuse High Valley) is one of our favorite areas for hiking because it combines great nature with an interesting historical and cultural heritage. Usually, we end our hikes at Chevreuse, a cute small town where we drink our traditional end of the hike beer before taking the train back to Paris. The town is dominated by a beautiful fortified castle, le Chateau de la Madelaine (XI century) on the top of a hill with great views over the valley. However, our favorite part of Chevreuse is le Chemin des Petits Ponts (the walk of the small bridges) along one of the legs of Yvette river. This cute pedestrian walk is full of old laundries, tanneries and water mills.

Location: 28 km south west of Paris, in Ile de France region.

Best time to go: If you want to hike, we suggest anytime from early spring to late fall. On Sundays, the town may be too sleepy for some.

How to reach Chevreuse from Paris: Chevreuse is one of the best day excursions from Paris. We usually do a 18 km hike starting at la Verriere train station and ending at St Rémy la Chevreuse train station. If you want to visit only Chevreuse, take RER B to Saint Rémy La Chevreuse and then there is a 3 km walk to Chevreuse. You can see all the transportation options here

More Information: Office de Tourisme de Chevreuse

 

6. MONTFORT L’AMAURY

Small Towns Near Paris - Montfort l'Amaury

I visited Montfort L’Amaury for the first time following Victor Hugo’s steps. He discovered Monfort l’Amaury when he was 23 and he wrote a beautiful ode to Monfort’s remains “Aux ruines de Montfort l’Amaury”:

Je vous aime, ô débris ! et surtout quand l’automne
Prolonge en vos échos sa plainte monotone.
Sous vos abris croulants je voudrais habiter,
Vieilles tours, que le temps l’une vers l’autre incline,
Et qui semblez de loin sur la haute colline,
Deux noirs géants prêts à lutter.

Monfort is dominated by a hill with a beautiful park and some remains of an ancient fortified castle. The most outstanding part of these remains is the Tour Anne de Bretagne, the object of Victor Hugo’s ode.  The heart of Montfort is the main square, dominated by impressive Saint Pierre Church and some public buildings. The historical town still keeps its medieval layout and you can still see many beautiful timbered houses along the streets near the church. I personally like a lot the town’s old cemetery (XV-XVI centuries) surrounded by a covered gallery similar to a medieval cloister. Don’t miss the church’s gargoyles and its unique collection of stained glass windows.

Location: 45 km west of Paris, in Ile de France region.

Best time to go: I loved to visit in Autumn, Victor Hugo’s favorite season at Monfort l’Amaury.

How to reach Montfort l’Amaury from Paris: there are direct trains from Paris Gare de Montparnasse to Montfort Méré. From this train station, there is a 3.6 km walk (or you can load on the train your own bike) to Montfort l’Amaury. You can see all the transportation options here

More Information: Office de Tourisme Montfort l’Amaury

 

7. SENLIS

Small Towns Near Paris - Senlis

We love Senlis, one of the cutest small towns outside of Paris and with a very rich history. Senlis is a royal town, cradle of the Capet dynasty. Indeed, Hugh Capet was lord of Senlis before becoming the first king of House of Capet in 987. Since then and until Henry IV, all his successors lived in the royal palace of Senlis. Today the historical center of Senlis still keeps its medieval layout, with cobbled streets and a beautiful architecture dating from the Xth century to XVIIIth century. Some street names still date from the Middle-Ages, when the streets were named after the occupation of their inhabitants (rue de la Tonnellerie, rue de la Tannerie, rue de la Treille). Senlis’ Cathedral may not be one of our favorite cathedrals in France but no one can deny that it is very impressive and maybe the best remaining witness of Senlis’ power. Senlis was also well known during Roman times and you can still see some remains of the Roman fortress and towers (III century) and a Gallo-Roman arena (I century).

Location: 42 km north of Paris, in Hauts de France region.

Best time to go: anytime when the weather is nice.

How to reach Senlis from Paris: take the train from Paris Gare du Nord to Chantilly (59 min). Then take the bus line 15, 20 min ride every 30 min. The bus schedule changes often, to be sure of the schedule check the tourism website on the link below. You can see all the transportation options here

More Information: Office de Tourisme de Senlis

 

8. CHANTILLY

Small Towns Near Paris - Chantilly

Chantilly is famous for its beautiful chateau, built in the XVIth century for the House of Montomercy and later for the princes of Condé, cousins of the kings of France. The city began as just a few hamlets scattered outside the chateau turning later into a beautiful town. In the XVIIth century, les Grandes Ecuries (the Grand Stables) were built for the prince of Condé and they could host 240 horses and 500 hounds. Since then, Chantilly’s world turns around horses and today Chantilly and the surrounding communities are home to the largest racehorse-training community in France. The Chantilly Racecourse  (Hippodrome de Chantilly) hosts one of the most prestigious horse races in the world.

Location: 38 km north-east of Paris, in Hauts de France region.

Best time to go: anytime when the weather is nice.

How to reach Chantilly from Paris: there are direct trains from Paris Gare du Nord to Chantilly (59 min). You can see all the transportation options here

More Information: Chantilly Tourisme

 

9. GIVERNY 

Small Towns Near Paris - Giverny

Giverny is a small town in the region of Normandy, where Impressionist painter Claude Monet lived and worked from 1883 until his death in 1926. Every year thousands of visitors go from Paris to Giverny to admire the water lily pond that inspired Monet water lilies paintings. However, Monet house and studio are as interesting as the garden and water lilies. It is not about different rooms with the artist’s personal objects. The house is a visual experience of different spaces, colors, and materials where Monet left nothing to chance.

Apart from Monet’s house, Giverny has a main street with some cute shops, cafes and an Impressionist Museum.

Location: 80 km north west of Paris, in Normandy region.

Best time to go: if you come especially to see the water lilies pond, water lilies start to blossom in July and last until the end of August.

How to reach Giverny from Paris: there are direct trains from Gare Saint Lazare to Vernon train station (1 hr 57 min) where you can take a shuttle which drops you in front of Monet house. You can see all the transportation options here Bike tours from Paris are becoming a very popular way to visit Giverny.

 

10. AUVERS SUR OISE

Small Towns Near Paris - Auvers sur Oise

Auvers is a cute village in the French countryside with some interesting things to see and do. This beautiful and peaceful village attired by the end of the XIXth century many artists, especially the Impressionists. People like Cézanne, Pissarro, Sisley, or Monet lived or frequented Auvers-sur-Oise and painted the village on some of their masterworks. That’s why Auvers-sur-Oise is called “the Impressionists’ village”. But most of all Auvers village will be always related to Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh discovered the village by the end of his life and although he lived in Auvers less than two months he painted 70 works, most of them related to the village and its landscapes. In Auvers there is a nice DIY walk, The Painters’ Pathway, linking a number of views which figured in the paintings of these Impressionist artists. The local Tourism Office installed on each exact spot a plaque with the painting reproduction so you can compare the real view to its artistic representation. Also, you can visit the room at Auverge Ravoux where Van Gogh spent his last days, Van Gogh’s tomb in the town cemetery and the famous church of Auvers, the object of a Van Gogh canvas that you can see at Musée d’Orsay. You can read more about Auvers-sur-Oise on our dedicated post below.

Location: 35 km North of Paris, in Ile de France region.

Best time to go: anytime when the weather is nice

How to reach Auvers sur Oise from Paris: this is one of the best Paris day trips by train. There are direct trains from Paris Gare du Nord to Auvers sur Oise (41 min). You can see all the transportation options here

More Information: Office de Tourisme d’Auvers sur Oise

 

Did you like our list of short day trips from Paris? Which of these small towns around Paris would you like to visit? 

 

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  • peter
    12/18/2017 at 1:25 am

    Hi guys,
    thanks for creating this article, i have searched hundreds of blogs and most of them always mention the same day trips from Paris. Very boring, but not this one. Well done guys!
    I’m going to Paris in two weeks and i’m printing this blog entry write now which i will use.
    Thanks heaps guys

    • WorldInParis
      12/20/2017 at 4:01 pm

      Glad that you enjoyed the post, Peter! And Bon voyage 😉

  • Francesca Murray
    12/04/2017 at 10:41 pm

    I’m going to pin this! A few of these were on my list to visit, but you also introduced me to a few. I used to live in Haut de France (formerly known as Picardie) years ago and loved it

    • WorldInParis
      12/06/2017 at 1:51 pm

      Did not know that Picardie does not exist anymore! :-O Glad that you found some new inspiring small towns on our article

  • How To Stay In Europe Longer Than Three Months | THE WILD LIFE
    12/01/2017 at 11:41 am

    […] And here a recommendation from World in Paris: Day Tours near Paris […]

  • Lauren
    11/29/2017 at 7:58 am

    It’s interesting because I haven’t been to France yet, but Paris has never really appealed to me. Although…these small towns do! I’m always drawn to the smaller towns anyway. These ones have so much to offer and I’d love to explore them!

    • WorldInParis
      11/30/2017 at 4:57 pm

      That’s great! There are many small towns around Paris I am sure you would love 🙂

  • Paige W
    11/29/2017 at 6:21 am

    Oh my gosh. This is like cute town porn! I want to see them all! I’ve only been to Chartres, so I think a tiny town road trip is in order! Giverny is a must for me (as with many others) because of Monet. That’s on my wanderlist for my next trip to France.

  • Megan Jerrard
    11/28/2017 at 3:53 pm

    Some great trip ideas! I love the sound of Chartres for unique history, and Le Chateau the Fontainebleau has been on my list of places I want to visit for a while now.

    Is Rouen a close enough day trip from Paris? I haven’t looked too much into it yet, though have a very keen interest in Joan of Arc. Thanks!

    • WorldInParis
      11/30/2017 at 4:59 pm

      Yes, Rouen is close to Paris (1 hour aprox by train) but I would not say it is a small town . . that’s why Rouen is not on this list 😉

  • Kirstie
    11/27/2017 at 11:35 am

    Your photo of Fontainebleau looks like it’s from a postcard! I wonder what medieval fairs in Provins are like! It must be a really fun experience!

  • Cathy
    11/27/2017 at 8:42 am

    I haven’t been to Paris. This is beautiful to know that there are pretty lovely towns that we can go on a day tour. And I’d like to choose MONTFORT L’AMAURY. This place looks like a fairy tale to me. Seems pretty calm and cozy, too! I love how green this small town is!

    • WorldInParis
      11/30/2017 at 5:08 pm

      Beautiful and calm, yes! I suggest not to go on Sunday, it may be too calm for visiting . .

  • Silke
    11/26/2017 at 6:47 pm

    That’s a great list of very interesting day trip destinations. I would probably want to see them all but I would start with the small medieval villages. Senlis and Chevreuse both look very picturesque and quaint, I’d love to walk along the canal and picture medieval life with mills and tannery along the waterfront. The chateaus look equally stunning but of course in a different way. Fontainebleau and Chantilly ring a bell… there must be a lot of history here. Hopefully, I get to explore France some more in the next couple of years.

    • WorldInParis
      11/30/2017 at 5:09 pm

      Yes, lots of history in France, not only in Paris . . 😉

  • Linda de Beer
    11/26/2017 at 12:32 pm

    It’s so true. France is much more than Paris. Your ten towns have sparked the wanderlust in me! I’ll start with the Chevreuse High Valley. I like small towns that can be reached by train, and I don’t even consider a hike if there’s no beer at the end of it!

    • WorldInParis
      11/26/2017 at 5:44 pm

      Great pick! All the small towns on this post can be reached by train so no worries about it! For Chevreuse it is better to wait for next spring 🙂

  • Danijela
    11/25/2017 at 11:06 am

    Fontainebleau sounds like the place I’d go nuts about! Beautiful chateau, a lot of history. And you say – the former largest garden in Europe? Oh, that would be nice to see.
    I’ve been to Rouen and Giverny, but I have to say that I don’t often consider that I could do day trips from Paris when coming to the city. And here, you’ve pointed out to few very good reasons to do just that! 🙂

    • WorldInParis
      11/25/2017 at 12:28 pm

      Well, now that you know Paris a little bit why don’t explore its surroundings? There are nice surprises out there . . 😉