Hi France Travel Planners! Welcome to your new post just for France Travel Planning subscribers. When you travel to France you will no doubt want to spend time in Paris. Whether it is your first trip to Paris or you’ve visited Paris many times, you will no doubt want to do some Paris day trips. But with so many options, what are the best day trips from Paris? Whether you are looking for group tours, or prefer to go it alone I’ve broken down the options for the best day tours from Paris.
- 1 Paris day trip: Day trip to Versailles from Paris
- 3 Disneyland Paris day trip
- 4 Giverny day trip
- 5 Champagne day trip from Paris
- 6 Normandy and Mont St Michel
- 7 Rouen
- 8 Chartres
- 9 The Loire Valley
- 10 More chateaux day trips from Paris: Fontainebleau, Malmaison & Vaux-le-Vicomte
- 11 Shopping at Marne La Vallée
- 12 WW1 battle fields
- 13 Day trips from Paris to other countries
- 14 More Paris day trips
- 15 Resources to plan the best day trips from Paris
Paris day trip: Day trip to Versailles from Paris
Based on discussions in the France Travel Planning Facebook group, Versailles is the one day trip from Paris most people want to take. Because it’s so popular, the choice of options for a day trip to Versailles can be quite overwhelming ranging from cheap and cheerful do it yourself tours, all the way through to exclusive private tours.
One of the questions members of the Facebook group often ask is whether they should book a guided tour of Versailles. I always answer that question the same way – it is a question of personal taste and budget.
A self guided visit to Versailles is definitely the cheapest way to tour Versailles. Currently the return train tick from central Paris is approximately €7. It’s as easy as taking the RER C look for any train that says Versailles Rive Gauche, Versailles RG, Versailles Rive Gauche/Chateau and hopping off at Versailles Rive Gauche (the last stop). The train takes about 35mins. From the station turn right, then left at the first boulevard and follow the crowds for about 10minutes to reach the chateau.
Because it is so popular you should definitely book your entrance ticket in advance to skip the ticket line (you will still need to queue twice for security – once to enter the courtyard, then again to enter the chateau). The easiest way to book your Versailles ticket is via the chateau website.
Your entry ticket comes with a free audio guide. The best guidebook for planning your trip to Versailles (and for those who prefer a written guidebook is definitely the Rick Steves Paris or France guidebook (you can click here to buy a copy). Rick also has a free audioguide podcast, which he promises complements the chateau’s own audioguide.
If you are planning a self guided tour of Versailles, do be aware that the fountains in the gardens are not in operation all year round, and when they are operational, it is only at certain times on certain days. Check the chateau website or the Rick Steves guidebook for details.
There are multiple guided tour options for Versailles guided tours, depending on your budget, time commitment and special interests. Guided tours to Versailles do vary a lot so it is worth comparing different options.
For the advantages of a guided tour with the convenience of a self guided tour, I do like the Versailles tour offered by The Tour Guy. This tour travels to Versailles by train (so you miss the busy Paris rush hour traffic), then does an escorted guided tour of the chateau. To finish the guided part of the tour you are given an orientation to the gardens. Then you are free to tour the gardens and other buildings on your own at your leisure, before using your included return train ticket to make your own way back to Paris when you are ready.
Click here for more info on The Tour Guy Versailles tour, and make sure you use your exclusive code FRUGALFIRST5 to get 5% off the price of your tour.Of course, for some people a tour of the public areas of Versailles isn’t going to be enough. Secret Journeys offers an exclusive small group tour of Versailles which includes a tour of rooms not generally open to the public. To cap your Versailles experience your tour includes champagne and canapés in the onsite Alain Ducasse restaurant.
If you aren’t sure which type of Versailles guided tour will suit you best, you can compare the many choices at Get Your Guide by clicking on this link. (This is also the best place to search for Versailles bike tours or Segway tours).
Disneyland Paris day trip
If you are travelling to Paris with kids, I’m sure you may not agree with me about Versailles being the most popular Paris day tour. Even sixteen year old MissG rates Disneyland number one on her list of Paris getaways.
How to get to Disneyland from central Paris
There are many ways to get to Disneyland from central Paris, but I don’t think booking a special transfer to Disneyland is necessary. Disneyland is definitely one of the easiest day trips from Paris by train. The RER A train takes about 45minutes – just make sure you hop on a train that stops at Marne-la-Vallée-Chessy as the line splits into two different lines at the end (check the overhead signs at the RER station before you get on). The easiest train ticket to buy is a one day Mobilis Zone 1-5 ticket which covers your Metro rides in Paris for the day, as well as your RER train to Disneyland (currently costs €18).
If you would prefer to book a transfer from central Paris, you can choose from a range of options here by clicking on this link.
If you are travelling directly from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Disneyland you can click here to book a shuttle bus ticket.
Spending a day at Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris is like Disneyland anywhere else in the world – it can be very busy during school holidays. We first went to Disneyland in late September and queues were non-existent. But if you visit in school holidays (either North American or European) it is certainly worth booking a FASTPASS. For Disneyland newbies, FASTPASS tickets must be booked separately, and are in addition to, your normal Disneyland entrance ticket.
Regardless of where you book your Disneyland entrance tickets, you need to book your FASTPASS on the Disneyland website (you can also download their e-brochure from there). Click here to book a Disneyland Paris FASTPASS.
Regardless of how you book your Disneyland Paris tickets do make sure you download a hard copy on A4 paper – that is the only ticket that is accepted.
Giverny day trip
If you’ve been reading frugal first class travel for a while now, you’ll know I have previously posted about taking a day trip to Giverny from Paris. I’ve also written about whether it is worth visiting Giverny in fall (it is closed between the end of October and the end of March). With its garden, house, and pretty village I believe Giverny is one of the best Paris day trips you can take. You can read the details of how to do a Paris to Giverny day trip by yourself in the two posts.
The train from Paris to Giverny is very easy, but if you would prefer to take a guided tour, again you have many options. In fact there are so many options for day trips to Giverny that using a marketplace like Get Your Guide is definitely the best way to compare and book your Giverny day trip. Even though it is more expensive, I do suggest a small group Giverny tour as the house and garden are not huge.
Champagne day trip from Paris
Champagne is another of the more popular side trips from Paris. I’ve also written previously about how to make a day trip to Reims, which makes an easy and interesting day trip out of Paris. I think Reims is excellent day trip from Paris for its history, food and of course, the champagne houses as it is one of the easier train trips from Paris. You can also go to Epernay by train, but if you are looking at going into the Champagne countryside or visiting some smaller houses you need to take a tour. If you want to combine both Reims and Epernay in one day tour, a tour is probably the most efficient.
My favorite tour to recommend for Champagne is the small group tour by The Tour Guy. It offers a visit to both Reims and Epernay, as well as a visit to two different champagne houses (including one small family owned house).
Check out The Tour Guy Champagne Tour here (and remember to use FRUGALFIRST5 for your 5% discount).
TOURS IN FRANCE
PROMO CODE: FRUGALFIRST5
Normandy and Mont St Michel
While it is a little further from Paris, Normandy, including the D-day landing beaches is quite achievable from Paris. To make the most of the day take a tour, or rent a car for the day, rather than try to go by public transport. Not everywhere you will want to go has efficient public transport services.
To experience Normandy properly my recommendation is to take a car and spend a few days exploring from Paris. All inclusive day trips from Paris really should be reserved for those with little time in France who just want a taster of what Normandy has to offer.
The best Normandy day tours should include more than just the D-day landings and should definitely include some calvados or cider, the preferred tipple rather than wine, in this part of France.
Click here for my pick of the Normandy day tours (and don’t forget to redeem your 5% discount with FRUGALFIRST5 when you book).
Canadian readers can make their own special pilgrimage to Juno Beach on this tour – click here to view.
Mont St Michel makes for a very long day trip from Paris. It’s one of the most visited places in France, so is always terribly crowded with day trippers during the day time. If you are touring Normandy by car, or just want to spend longer than a day, it is possible to stay overnight on Mont St Michel.
Other Normandy and Mont St Michel tour options:
While Rouen is part of Normandy, I’m including it separately, because it is much closer to Paris than the D-day beaches and Mont St Michel, making it an easy day trip from Paris.
Rouen is steeped in Gothic architecture and French history. Its old town is charming and a wonderful place to wander.
Because of its good train service (1.5hours from Paris), Rouen is an easy day trip to do yourself. If you are short on time it is possible to combine Rouen with a self guided tour of Giverny (you actually take the Rouen train to go to Giverny).
The Rick Steves France guidebook has a detailed section on Rouen, including how to get there, what to do and what to eat.
Again, if you prefer a guided tour, it is possible to take a day trip to Rouen. Most are expensive, small group tours, and the best option is a combined Rouen/Honfleur day trip. You can also book a guided tour to both Giverny and Rouen.
Chartres is best known for its stunning Gothic cathedral, which, with Notre Dame inaccessible for the foreseeable future, makes a visit to Chartres even more worthwhile. In addition to the Cathedral there is an interesting old town (dead on Sunday and Monday) and the International Stained Glass Centre (Centre International du Vitrail) where you can learn about how stained glass is made as well as look at some original windows.
Chartres is around an hour by train from Paris. The walk to the Cathedral takes around 10minutes (follow the spires which are visible from the station), or there is a free minibus called the Filibus.
If you prefer a guided tour, they are limited. You can click here to check out options.
The Loire Valley
Mr Frugalfirstclass and I once took a day trip to the Loire Valley from Paris. It was a long, but very enjoyable day, visiting three different chateaux. While it is possible to tour the Loire Valley by public transport (my friend Rosemary has a great post on how to do it here) it is definitely much easier to either take a tour from Paris, or grab a car.
Click to search for Loire Valley tours here.
If you would prefer to take a car to the Loire Valley you can click her compare rental car prices and options at the Rental Cars website right here. (I suggest you take the train to Tours and pick up your car there – no one needs to drive in central Paris).
More chateaux day trips from Paris: Fontainebleau, Malmaison & Vaux-le-Vicomte
If the chateaux of the Loire Valley are not enough, or maybe too far for you, you can still get your chateaux fix at Fontainebleau, Malmaison or Vaux-le-Vicomte.
Fontainebleau is accessible by public transport (train, then a connecting bus to the chateau), which takes around an hour in total. The chateau is closed on Tuesdays and is very busy every Sunday. If you have a Paris Pass or Museum Pass you can use it for Fontainebleau.
Vaux-le-Vicomte is not reachable by public transport but if you are heading south from Paris with a car, is around 50minutes drive. Well known for its candlelit dinners and other spectacles, it is much easier visited by tour if you don’t have a car.
Fontainebleau and Vaux-le-Vicomte can be booked as either combined, or individual tours. It is possible to also book the popular Vaux-le-Vicomte dinner as a guided tour. Check out Fontainebleau tours here and search for Vaux-le-Vicomte visits here.
Malmaison, previously home to Napoleon and Josephine, also easily reachable from central Paris. Take the RER or Metro train to La Defense, then the number 258 bus to St Germain-en-Laye, getting off around 25minutes later at the chateau de Malmaison stop. Cross the road and turn left down Avenue de la Malmaison. It’s a 10minute walk to the chateau. I was not able to find any tours that visited Malmaison, so public transport is the way to go here.
Shopping at Marne La Vallée
If the shops in Paris aren’t enough for you, or you love a bargain, then a shopping trip to Marne La Vallée is probably on your list of things to do in Paris in one day. Marne La Vallée is an outlet shopping centre selling a range of French and overseas designer brands. In addition to reduced prices they also offer a VAT refund service, taking a further 12% of the price of your goodies.
Marne La Vallée is easily reached by the RER A train. Just as for Disneyland you need to check you get on the right train as the line divides just outside Paris – you alight at Marne-La-Vallée-Chessy the same as Disneyland. Turn right out of the station and head through the Val d’Europe shopping mall until you reach the outlet centre.
If all of that sounds too hard, you can also book the shuttle bus which runs between central Paris and the centre. Click here to book your shuttle bus now.
WW1 battle fields
If World War One history is your thing, rather than the D-day beaches in Normandy, you will want to head to northern France and the Somme. Because most of the places you will want to visit are small towns or in the countryside you either need a car, or to take a tour.
To visit the Somme battlefields by car take the train to Lille or Amiens and then pick up a car.
There are a range of day tours to the Somme available depending on your particular interests. It is well worth comparing different options to make sure you choose the one that is right for you. The better tours are seasonal, so if you can’t find what you are looking for make sure you check closer to your departure date.
Day trips from Paris to other countries
While it makes for a long day and is expensive, if local Paris tours aren’t going to do it for you, it is possible to make a Paris day trip to another country.
It is possible to visit London as a day tour from Paris. A Eurostar day trip to London is quite achievable as either a self guided, or guided tour.
If you are planning on doing a London day trip from Paris yourself you need to be super organised. Book your Eurostar ticket in advance, leaving Paris by 8.00am at the latest (with a one hour time difference, that will get you to St Pancras Station in London at around 9.00am). You need to have your day planned out, with a good idea of what you want to do and how you are going to get there. A good guidebook is key, so grab a Rick Steves London guidebook and study it well.
To make the most of your day you also need to buy a London pass. I don’t normally recommend one day city passes, as they rarely represent good value, but with only one day in a city like London you need the ease that a pass or skip the line individual tickets will afford you.
If all of this is all too hard, you can book guided daytrips from Paris to London and let someone else do all the hard work for you. Click here to choose your day trip to London.
I know it’s not the most straight forward place to visit in Belgium, but it is worth bypassing Brussels in favour of pretty Bruges. Take the train to Brussels, then change for Bruges. It’s a long day, but Bruges is full of Medieval charm – and the best moules frites (mussels and French fries) ever. Oh, and did I mention the chocolate shops?
Because it is a long trip, you may prefer an escorted tour for Bruges. You can check out the options here.
More Paris day trips
If my Paris day trip options aren’t enough, here are some other options for day trips from Paris:
Beaune in Burgundy (go on Saturday for its huge market);
Strasbourg in Alsace;
Avignon in Provence;
Anywhere else that takes your fancy that is around 2hours from Paris by TGV.
Resources to plan the best day trips from Paris
If you are keen to explore more day trips from Paris, I thoroughly recommend the book An Hour From Paris, which includes more day trips from Paris than you could ever imagine. Complete with detailed instructions on visiting by public transport or road, it is an excellent resource for getting out of the city. You can buy your copy of An Hour From Paris by clicking on the image below:
Photo credits: Pixabay (as marked), otherwise author’s own