'Monthly Paris Tips'
BEST Daytrips from Paris
1. Provins (MAP)
A quaint medieval city 90mins SE of Paris. The train station is located in the old town. Make your way up, see the ramparts and tower (tip: climb for amazing views). Stop by the Office of Tourism to get a map, buy passes for any attractions you want to see or just maps/brochures. Main attractions: the underground tunnels (les souterrains), the watchman’s tower (la Tour Cesar), the museum and the Tithe Barn (la Grange aux dimes). Provins is also famous for its roses and you’ll find rose flavored everything. Rose flavored hot chocolate any one?
Tip: Trains leave every 45 minutes past the hour from normal platforms at Gare de l’Est. Buy tickets from an Ile de France ticket machine (skip the line at the ticket window), just make sure you have a chip/pin card or use a machine that takes cash. Provins is normally the terminus station, so just look for it on the screens to find your platform (updated 15 mins before departure).
2. Rouen (MAP)
A charming town in the Normandy region of France, about 90mins north of Paris. You’ll find brightly coloured half-timbered buildings, a gorgeous cathedral, and a fancy astronomical clock tower. Rouen is also known for being where Joan of Arc was executed and you can visit a tower where she was held (la Tour Jeanne d’Arc). Do the tour of the “gros horloge” clock tower – you’ll have fantastic views of the city.
Tip: Trains to Rouen leave twice an hour from Gare Saint Lazare station. Purchase your tickets either online, at the main ticket window (Grandes Lignes), or at the yellow ticket machines. Lines can be long, so either purchase and pick up your ticket ahead of time or arrive early. Use the small yellow machines located at beginning of each platform to validate your tickets.
3. Versailles (MAP)
Versailles is located southwest of Paris accessed by the underground RER C (leaving from several metro stops in Paris eg Tour Eiffel, St. Michel/Notre Dame, Musee d’Orsay, and Gare d’Austerlitz). The line splits though, so be sure you get on a train with terminal of “Versailles Rive Gauche”. You will need to buy a different metro ticket than the ones for Paris since Versailles is in zone 4 (unless you have a Carte Paris Visite or a Passe Navigo that is valid through zone 4, then use it!)
TIPS for Visiting the Castle: purchase your tickets online and print them before you go to skip the line, and leave early.
The castle is a 5-minute walk from the RER station, follow the crowd. Visit the inside of the castle, eat lunch at a place on the grounds, explore the gardens in the afternoon and don't forget the Grand and Petit Trianon and the Queen’s Hamlet where Marie Antoinette would escape the hassle of castle life and pretend she was in a quaint village. It includes a working farm and vineyard that is still functioning today. Trains back to Paris run frequently.
4. Fontainebleau (MAP)
Just as over the top as Versailles but no crowds, 45-minutes from Paris taking the RER D from the Gare de Lyon leaving from the main platforms (Grandes Lignes) upstairs. Trains leave about every hour.. Your Carte Paris Visite or Passe Navigo valid through zone 5 will also get you to Fontainebleau.
The RER D will take you to the Fontainebleau/Avon train station where you’ll hop on a bus that will take you to the castle (Bus 1) waiting for you when you get off the train. Bus tickets are 2 euros (you can use your Carte Paris Visite or Passe Navigo.
TIP: Go on the first Sunday of the month when the castle is free and with zero crowds and enjoy this opulent castle and manicured grounds. Lots of great lunch places within walking distance. Another bonus of Fontainebleau is the vast forest, if you have time, stop by the Office of Tourism for a map of the trails.
5. Giverny (MAP)
Made famous by Monet’s gorgeous water lily paintings, Giverny is wonderful to visit during the spring or summer. You’ll be able to stroll through his gardens and home – it’s honestly like walking through one of his paintings.
Purchase a train ticket to Vernon (online, at the Grandes Lignes ticket window, or at yellow machines) leaves from Gare Saint Lazare. and takes 45 minutes. The terminus station will likely be Rouen - check the monitors at the beginning of your platform to verify that Vernon is listed and validate your ticket in the small yellow machine. Once in Vernon, take the bus to Giverny (20 minute ride) waiting outside the station. It is approx 6€50, roundtrip. To avoid waiting in the super long line, you can purchase your tickets online and print them at home.
The gardens are breathtaking and his house is absolutely adorable. They’ve preserved it quite well with his personal items, furniture, and a number of his paintings. Monet also has an impressive collection of Japanese prints and engravings.
6. Reims (MAP)
Reims is the capital of the Champagne region and the perfect day-trip for anyone who loves a little bubbly. It's also home to a beautiful cathedral where French kings were crowned. A must: try one of the large champagne houses for tours and tastings. Try: Pommery champagne house, Mumm, Veuve Clicquot and Taittinger and G.H. Martel.
Trains leave from the Gare de l’Est and you can purchase your tickets online, at the Grandes Lignes ticket window, or by using the yellow machines. Make sure you select the main Reims station (also called “Reims Gare” or “Reims Station”) and not the Champagne-Ardennes TGV station. The terminus station for your journey will probably be Reims, so locating your platform should be straightforward.