5 day trips from Paris by train

5 day trips from Paris by train

30 April 2013

There's no lack of inspiring locations just a short train ride away from Paris, so if you fancy a break from the city why not plan a day trip (or two).

Visitors to the French capital rarely tire of Paris. But if you fancy a change of pace or you're keen to explore beyond the city limits there are plenty of day trips from Paris by train.

We've picked five mini adventures by rail, each of which are close enough to go there and back in a day, luggage free and safe in the knowledge that you'll be back in town for supper.

Provins day trip

day trips from Paris - Provins

Provins by Myrabella. Reproduced with thanks by Wikimedia Commons with a Creative Commons 3.0 licence.

This UNESCO listed world heritage site is sometimes known as the 'town of medieval fairs', a niche it fits very well! An hour and 25 mins south-east of Paris, departing from Gare de l'Est, this ancient town transports you back to the Middle Ages. With winding streets, beautifully preserved buildings and fortifications including a tower and underground passages, this makes a great day trip for history lovers. In warmer months cavalcades, jousting tournaments and falconry events help recreate a time gone by. Provins is also well-known for its rose-derived produce so use it as an excuse to stock up on rose petal jam.

Getting there: Local trains from Paris to Provins depart every half an hour from Gare de l'Est. You won't save any money by booking in advance so you can just stroll up on the day.

Visit Giverny by train

Day trips from Paris - Giverny

Monet's Gardens at Giverny (image cropped) by Dalem. Reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.0 licence.

Even if you're not an art buff, you'll no doubt recognise the series of water lily paintings by famed Impressionist Claude Monet. Just 45 minutes away from Paris' Gare Saint Lazare station by fast train is the house and garden that inspired his life's work. You'll arrive into Vernon, from where it's an hour walk at a leisurely pace, a 15 minute cycle (several companies offer bike rental immediately outside the train station) or a short bus ride to Giverny. Expect to queue if it's tourist season, but once inside you'll find the garden surprisingly peaceful as you stand on the iconic wisteria-shaded footbridge once immortalised in oil. Summer is the time to go, when the gardens are in full bloom. 

Getting there: Trains depart from Paris to Vernon (Eure) depart from Paris Saint Lazare once every couple of hours and take a little less than an hour to make the journey to Vernon. Booking in advance is possible on local TER trains, but not compulsory. 

Visit to Auvers-sur-Oise by rail

Château d’Auvers-sur-Oise (image cropped) by Philippe L PhotoGraphy. Reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.0 licence.

From one French master to another and to Auvers-sur Oise where painter Vincent Van Gogh famously worked and died. In 70 short days, Van Gogh painted prolifically, creating on average one work every day until his eventual death. Whether you're a Van Gogh fan or not, you can't fail to appreciate the pretty town and iconic cornfields that inspired his later work. Head to the Auberge Ravoux to see the attic apartment where Van Gogh lived his final months and take lunch at table number 5 where the artist took his meals, sampling the absinthe for which the town is known (it even has the dedicated Musée de l'Absinthe!). You can also amble past the village church to the cemetery where Van Gogh is buried alongside his beloved brother Theo.

Getting there: On weekends and holidays from April - October a direct train from Paris to Auvers-sur-Oise leaves from Gare du Nord around 10am, taking 35 minutes. At other times visitors take a train from either Gare du Nord or Paris St. Lazare, then transfer to an Auvers-bound train at Valmondois, Pointoise or St. Ouen. Booking in advance is possible on local TER trains, but not compulsory.  

Fontainebleau by train for the day

Day trips from Paris by train - Fontainebleau

Fontainebleau Palace by Kries. Reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.5 licence.

As you step off the train at Fontainebleau-Avon it's hard to believe you're just 40 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Paris. The sprawling forest of Fontainebleau is just moments from the station - covering 100 square miles, it is home to one of the best bouldering areas in the world with over 20,000 routes to climb. 

Enjoy a picnic in the former royal hunting grounds or download a walking trail from the Fontainebleau tourist board and amble toward the castle, the town's main attraction. The Château de Fontainebleau, once the country seat to French royals - most notably Napoleon - dates back to the 16th century so there's plenty to see on rainy days too. With hundreds of opulent rooms, galleries, art and artefacts there's lots to see (including Marie Antoinette's bed!) so give yourself plenty of time to explore at a relaxed pace.

Getting there: It's a straightforward 40 minute train ride from Gare de Lyon to the Fontainebleau-Avon station. This is a local train you needn't book in advance. If you're headed for the castle then take the ‘Ligne A’ bus destined for Les Lilas, alighting at the ‘Château’ stop. Alternatively it takes 35mins on foot.

Paris to Bruges by rail

Day trips from Paris by train - Bruges

Bruges by luizfilipe. Reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.0 licence.

We're cheating a little bit here since this is a day trip that involves leaving France altogether. However, with fast trains operating between the French and Belgian cities, you can afford to include a day trip to Bruges on your Paris holiday.

Sometimes known as the "Little Venice of the North", canal-lined Bruges is full of charm. Its medieval heart is one of the most beautifully preserved in Europe, so you can wander without an itinerary, taking in quaint houses and finishing up at the Grand Place (Grote Markt in Dutch), the town's historic centre, with its colourfully decorated guild house terraces.

Enjoy an al fresco Belgian beer or indulge your sweet tooth with a Belgian chocolate-laced waffle or two. In summer, from around April to October you can enjoy Bruges from the water on a cruise on the waterways.

Getting there: Paris is linked to Bruges by high-speed Thalys train to Brussels and InterCity trains within Belgium. Depart Paris' Gare du Nord on a Thalys train to Brussels-Midi. Here, you'll change onto a local InterCity train toward Bruges. There are frequent high-speed departures throughout the day, with a journey time of just over two hrs 30 mins. 


Main image credit: Fontainebleau Palace by Kries. Reproduced with thanks under a Creative Commons 2.5 licence.

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