10 cute little towns near Paris not to be missed
Paris is a great city, probably one of the most beautiful to visit in France and in the world, with countless things to see and do. However, the capital tends to overshadow the surrounding cities which will undoubtedly charm you. On the other hand, its frantic pace and overcrowding can get the better of some tourists’ nerves after a few days.
So if you’re in need of some peace and beauty, don’t wait to explore the capital’s surroundings and its pretty little towns. Our French cities are quite picturesque and showcase cultures and landscapes that are both attractive and welcoming. So, if you are in Paris and have a free day in the city, take the opportunity to discover these small towns outside of Paris ? There are excellent day trips from Paris, easily accessible by public transportation. Here is our selection of cities not to be missed !
1 – Chartres
Chartres is one of our favorite excursions accessible by train from Paris. Notably known for its impressive gothic cathedral, one of the largest cathedrals in France (like Amiens Cathedral or Saint-Denis Basilica), Chartres will seduce art and beauty lovers as well as history lovers and Catholics. An important city for the French religious heritage, Chartres also stands out as a city of arts and crafts with its master glass and wood craftsmen in particular.
Chartres has a nice historical center with half-timbered houses. We suggest you walk down to the Eure River where you can see pretty little houses on the waterfront, with charming boats moored there. Maybe its inhabitants will buy their baguette de pain, a real French institution, by going down the river in their little boat ?
Keep the’Well opened eye throughout your stroll in the lower town, many street artists have scattered sculptures, murals and other works that enliven the city with poetry and glitter.
The gourmet point: for an exceptional meal, go to the table du Georges, a starred restaurant near the cathedral. This temple of refinement and epicureanism is a real gift for the taste buds.
Location: 96 km south of Paris, in the Centre-Val de Loire region.
Best time to go to Chartres: between April and October. The cathedral and other historical buildings are beautifully illuminated and set to music at night: it’s the Chartres light show and it’s magical. The atmosphere is quite phantasmagorical, you will be amazed !
How to get to Chartres from Paris ?
Chartres is one of the day trips to Paris easily accessible by train. Direct trains leave from Paris Gare de Montparnasse to Chartres station (1h 10min, every 30min).
2 – Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau is a city close to Paris with a beautiful historical center and surrounded by a huge forest. For centuries, Fontainebleau was the favorite hunting ground of the kings of France and they built a magnificent castle to make the most of Fontainebleau. The Château de Fontainebleau is one of the most beautiful castles in France, eternal rival to the Château de Versailles and its gardens. The castle is a must-see with its wood-panelled decoration and its large and majestic rooms. After visiting the castle, let yourself be seduced by the magnificent gardens that surround it.
The highlight of the gardens is the Grand Parterre, the largest formal garden in Europe and Louis XIV’s greatest architectural achievement at Fontainebleau.
The forest of Fontainebleau is the favorite place of Parisians for hiking and climbing. There is an area with a lot of sandstone blocks, the 25 bosses of Fontainebleau (up and down) one of the most famous hikes in the region. For a total change of scenery, enjoy a walk, a bike ride or a horse ride in the Fontainebleau forest, it is particularly beautiful in autumn.
The best time to go to Fontainebleau ? The castle is always very pleasant to visit. If you want to go hiking, we suggest you do it between early spring and late fall.
Location: 25 km south-east of Paris, in the Ile de France.
Gourmet point: like many French cities, Fontainebleau has its culinary specialties, so on the menu is quail with Fontainebleau grapes. And for a little sweetness, enjoy Rochers Bellifontain, delicious chocolate bites made of almonds, puffed rice and various dried fruits.
How to get to Fontainebleau from Paris ?
There are direct trains from Paris Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau-Avon (40 min, every 20 min). Once you arrive at the Fontainebleau train station, there is a shuttle bus waiting for you to reach the castle (in 12 min). You can see the train schedule and all the transportation options (public transport or car) directly on the Internet.
3 – Provins
Provins is one of the few medieval towns near Paris and one of the most exotic excursions near the capital. This walled city is well known for its medieval fairs. A long time ago, Provins was the capital of the powerful Counts of Champagne.
Thanks to the protection of the counts and its strategic position, the city became one of the main players in the early development of international fairs and the wool industry in Europe during the 11th and 18th centuries. Walking through Provins is like stepping back in time: the impressive fortress, the Caesar tower, the beautiful half-timbered houses along the cobbled streets, some interesting historical buildings or its unique “underground city”.
Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Provins is also known for its underground network to explore during a visit, and it is definitely a change from the Parisian metro !
The gourmet point: the culinary workshops where you will be taught medieval cooking. Good tasting !
Location: 70 km southeast of Paris, in the Ile de France region.
When is the best time to go to Provins ?
From early spring to late fall, when you can walk through the streets of Provins and enjoy this medieval fairground.
How to get to Provins from Paris ?
This is one of the easiest day trips to Paris by train. There are direct trains from the Gare de l’Est to Provins (1h 22 min, every hour).
4 – Chantilly
Chantilly is famous for its beautiful castle, built in the 16th century for the House of Montomercy and later for the princes of Condé, cousins of the kings of France. The town began as just a few scattered hamlets outside the castle, later transforming into a beautiful town. In the 17th century, the Grandes Écuries were built for the Prince of Condé and could accommodate 240 horses and 500 hounds. Since then, the Domaine de Chantilly has revolved around horses and today, Chantilly and the surrounding communities are home to the largest racehorse training community in France.
The Chantilly racecourse hosts the most prestigious horse races in the world.
The equestrian shows and animations are absolutely worth the detour, original creations dedicated to the art of dressage. Representations mixing technique and lyricism that give a glimpse of the city’s empire over the equine world. The tickets for the domain, in addition to giving you access to the castle and the large stables, offer you the possibility to attend these fascinating dressage demonstrations.
The park of the Domain of a surface of 115 hectares offers you opportunities of walk to leisure, revealing on both sides the art of the garden to the Occidental with its big parterre created by André Le Nôtre, its Anglo-Chinese garden and its English garden, a delight. We advise you to enjoy the panorama by strolling along the canals.
The gourmet point: Nothing like enjoying the park to picnic, the view will give taste and refinement to the simplest dishes !
Location: 38 km northeast of Paris, in the Hauts de France.
Best time to go to Chantilly: any time the weather is good .
How to get to Chantilly from Paris ?
There are direct trains from the Gare du Nord in Paris to Chantilly-Gouvieux (30 min).
5 – Giverny
This small town in the Normandy region is one of the most popular day trips around Paris. A must-see for lovers of art’Impressionism, Giverny is the city where the impressionist painter Claude Monet lived and worked from 1883 until his death in 1926. Every year, thousands of visitors rush from Paris to Giverny to admire the water lily pond that inspired Monet’s famous Water Lilies.
If the gardens and its luxuriant flowers give you the opportunity to dream, the house and the Monet studio represent in their layout a major work of the artist. The house is a visual experience of different spaces, colors and materials where Monet left nothing to chance. The house also houses an impressive collection of two hundred and eleven Japanese prints that’acquired the painter from 1870 until his death.
Once outside of Monet’s house, it’s nice to stroll down Giverny’s main street with its charming Norman stores, cafes and an impressionist museum. A trip that will make you feel artistic !
The gourmet point: the delicious ice creams of the restaurant Les Nymphéas facing the Claude Monet Foundation.
Location : 80 km northwest of Paris, in Normandy.
Best time to go to Giverny: if you come especially to see the water lilies pond, they start to bloom in July and last until the end of August.
How to get to Giverny from Paris ?
There is no direct train connection from Paris to Giverny. You must first take the train from the Gare Saint Lazare to the station of Vernon (1 hour, every hour) where you can take a shuttle that drops you off in front of the Monet house.
What are the best day trips from Paris to Giverny ? Day trips to Giverny are a very interesting option even if Giverny is not very easy to reach (and not very cheap either) by public transportation. The following are the most popular day trips from Paris to Giverny.
6 – Marly le Roi
Totally dominated on the south side by the lush forest of Marly, the city of Marly le Roi is the ideal destination for a gentle and historical excursion. This is where Louis XIV chose to build “his” Château de Marly to live during his weekends of leisure. The Castle of Marly , More intimate than the Château de Versailles and far from the etiquette of the court, it is a place of great beauty’The castle is a real haven of peace for the Sun King who took refuge there whenever he had the time’opportunity. Only a few privileged people had the honor to be invited by the King to Marly, each one chosen and named with attention by the King himself on the eve of the departure.
The castle was unfortunately totally destroyed during the French Revolution but you can still see its plans and the surrounding park overlooked by a beautiful lake, many sculptures, beautiful fountains and pools still remain. The famous Marly Horses, which can be seen today in the Louvre Museum, were located at the entrance of the castle of Marly, watching over Marly’s Drinking Trough, the largest horse trough in Europe.
In Marly, we also recommend you to visit the Castle of Monte Cristo, exceptional residence of the writer Alexandre Dumas, and its park. This gothic castle, as theatrical as it is intriguing, is famous for its hospitality. Many sumptuous receptions took place there until the writer’s bankruptcy, but it is also within these walls that many works were born. A visit to the Chateau de Monte Cristo is a good opportunity to learn more about the history of Paris’You will learn about the work of the same name as well as the life of this monument of French literature.
The gourmet point: a quick trip to the big market of Marly, which is held three times a week, and its large stalls.
Location : 20 km west of Paris, in Ile de France.
Best time to go to Marly: from early spring to late fall.
How to get to Marly from Paris ?
Marly is one of the day trips to Paris accessible by train, with many direct trains from La Défense to Marly-le-Roi . To get to La Défense station, take the RER A or metro line 1. Then take the L train to St Nom la Bretèche (1h, every 20 min).
The best day trips from Paris to Marly ?
Unfortunately, there are no day trips from Paris. But don’t be discouraged, Marly and its surroundings are easy to organize by yourself.
7 – Chevreuse
The High Valley of the Chevreuse (Chevreuse High Valley) is one of our favorite hiking spots because it combines a beautiful nature with an interesting historical and cultural heritage. We usually end our hikes in Chevreuse, a nice little town where we drink our traditional “end of hike” beer before taking the train to Paris. The town is dominated by a beautiful castle, Le Castle of la Madeleine (XIth century) on the top of a hill with a breathtaking view on the valley. However, our favorite part of Chevreuse is the Chemin des Petits Ponts (or promenade des petits ponts) along one of the legs of the Yvette river. This pretty pedestrian walk is full of old laundries, tanneries and watermills.
A picturesque charm for a well-deserved exile.
The gourmet point: we told you, there is nothing like a beer at the end of the hike to refresh and quench your thirst after a good hike.
Location: 28 km southwest of Paris, in the Ile de France region.
Best time to go to Chevreuse : If you want to go hiking, we suggest you do it between early spring and late fall. On Sundays, the city can be too quiet for some, for others, it can be a little too busy’others it is the occasion to feel really disconnected.
How to get to Chevreuse from Paris?
We don’t know of any organized day trips to Chevreuse, but it is one of the easiest day trips to get to from Paris by train ! We usually do an 18 km hike that starts at the station of La Verrière and ends at the station of St Rémy la Chevreuse. If you only want to visit Chevreuse, take the RER B to Saint Rémy La Chevreuse (45 min, 1 hour) and it’s a 3 km walk to Chevreuse.
8 – Montfort L’Amaury
Montfort l’Amaury is one of the most beautiful cities in the Paris region. I visited Montfort L’Amaury for the first time following the steps of Victor Hugo. He discovered this place at the age of 23 and wrote a beautiful ode to the remains of Monfort “Aux ruines de Montfort l’Amaury.
Monfort is dominated by a hill with a beautiful park and some remains of an old fortress. The most remarkable part of these remains is the Anne de Bretagne Tower, object of Victor Hugo’s ode. The beating heart of Montfort is its main square, dominated by the impressive Saint-Pierre church and some public buildings. The historic town still retains its medieval layout and you can still see many beautiful half-timbered houses along the streets around the church.
Personally, I really like the old cemetery of the city (XV-XVI centuries) surrounded by a covered gallery similar to a medieval cloister. Don’t miss the gargoyles of the church and its unique collection of stained glass windows.
The gourmet point: a visit to the Fromagerie de Montfort is a must, I promise you it is worth the detour !
Location : 45 km west of Paris, in Ile de France.
Best time to go to Monfort L’Amaury: We loved going to Montfort l’Montfort l’Amaury in autumn, Victor Hugo’s favorite season to visit the city.
How to get to Montfort l’Amaury from Paris ?
There are direct trains from the Montparnasse station to Montfort Méré. From this station, it’s a 3.6 km walk to Montfort l’Amaury. Small alternative, you can load your own bike in the train and use it for the last 3,6 kilometers instead of walking.
9 – Senlis
We like Senlis, l’one of the best cities in the Paris region with a very rich history. Senlis is a royal city, cradle of the Capet dynasty. Indeed, Hugh Capet was lord of Senlis before becoming the first king of the House of Capet in 987. Since then and until’Since then and until Henry IV, all his successors have lived in the royal palace of Senlis. Today’Today, the historic center of Senlis still retains its medieval layout, with cobblestone streets and beautiful architecture dating from the 10th to the 18th century.
Some of the street names still date back to the Middle Ages, when the streets were named after Victor Hugo’after the’The city is occupied by its inhabitants (rue de la Tonnellerie, rue de la Tannerie, rue de la Treille). The cathedral of Senlis n’is perhaps not the’Montfort is one of our favorite cathedrals in France, but no one can deny that it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world’it is very impressive and perhaps the best witness of the power of Senlis. Senlis was also well known in the 19th century’Roman period and you can still see some remains of the fortress and Roman towers (3rd century) and a Gallo-Roman arena (1st century).
The gourmet point: Direction the dungeon, no no this is not a joke, but a tea room and a medieval store, two archaeological finds were made in these places so we nibble and we grow !
Location: 42 km north of Paris, in the Hauts de France region.
Best time to go to Senlis : any time when the weather is good.
How to get to Sentis from Paris ?
Take the train from Gare du Nord to Chantilly-Gouvieux (30 min, every hour) then take the bus 15 (20 min, every 30 min).
10 – Auvers sur Oise
Last but not least , The beautiful village of Auvers sur Oise in the French countryside. This beautiful village, where peace and quiet reign, attracted many artists, notably the impressionists, at the end of the 19th century. Painters such as Cézanne, Pissarro, Sisley or Monet have lived in or visited Auvers-Sur-Oise and have sketched the village which can be seen on some of their masterpieces. That’s why Auvers-Sur-Oise has been naturally renamed “the village of the impressionists”.
But above all, the village of Auvers remains forever linked to Vincent Van Gogh . Even though the famous artist only discovered the village in the late 19th century, he is still here’at the end of his life and although he lived in Auvers for less than two months, he painted seventy works, most of them linked to the village and its landscapes.
In Auvers, there is a beautiful DIY walk, The Painters’ Pathway, which traces a number of views featured in Impressionist paintings. A pilgrimage in the footsteps of the Impressionists, a real open-air exhibition The local tourist office has installed a plaque with a reproduction of the painting at each exact location so that you can compare the real view with its pictorial representation. You can also visit the room of the Ravoux Inn where Van Gogh spent his last days, Van Gogh’s grave in the town’s cemetery and the famous church in Auvers, the subject of a Van Gogh painting that you can see at the Musée d’Orsay in the seventh arrondissement of Paris .
The gourmet point: Go to the Chemin des Peintres for a well-deserved break between two brush strokes !
Location : 32 km north of Paris.
Best time to go to Auvers: any time the weather is good.
How to get to Auvers-Sur-Oise from Paris ?
Auvers is very easily accessible from Paris, trains are direct from Paris Gare du Nord to Auvers-Sur-Oise (41 min).
Bonus: The city of Enghien les Bains and its land casino : KW
Enghien les Bains is located in the Val d’Oise, only eleven kilometers from Paris. It is a very pleasant town which, despite its proximity to the capital, seems to be a thousand miles away from the effervescence of the city. Among the must-sees, you can relax in the town’s spa.
A source of restful well-being with sports, relaxation and swimming areas.
If you are looking for thrills, you can find the Enghien les Bains casino, a gambling area for adults less than 20 minutes from Paris. You can find all the great classics of casinos: slot machines, English and French roulettes, black jack, punto banco or sic bo. You can also play a game of poker if you feel lucky.
The opportunity to have fun and who knows, to replenish your bank account.
For more information on the establishment and the gaming restaurant, you can inform yourself by browsing this review of the Casino d’Enghien les Bains, complete and very illustrated. The ideal accessory to prepare your trip to Paris.
After a long afternoon of games and relaxation, you can continue your weekend by spending an evening in the Casino Enghien theater. A way to appreciate modern art for a day or a weekend away from your daily life. A way to offer yourself an exceptional weekend without traveling miles.
The gourmet point: In order to continue an evening with friends or lovers, you can treat yourself to a meal in the Casino Enghien restaurant, a way to spend a pleasant evening in a chic and sophisticated setting.
Location : 21 km north of Paris.
Best time to go to Enghien: all year round, the frenzy of the game warms up.
How to go to Enghien les Bains from Paris ?
Hyper fast, the transilien is direct from Paris Gare du Nord, you will arrive at your destination in only 17 minutes.