When you are planning your trip to Paris, France, travel attractions in the areas surrounding the city should also be considered. Louis XIV's opulent Palace of Versailles, Monet's picturesque home and garden at Giverny, and the Empress Josephine's mansion, Malmaison, are all within a short distance of Paris, and most can be reached by public transportation.
Things to Do Outside of Paris
From picturesque chateaus to balloon rides, visitors to Paris shouldn't miss out on all of the incredible attractions the area has to offer. Thanks to a vibrant public transportation and train system, most of France is within a day trip of Paris. If you are looking to explore the incredible country, consider visiting the following:
Chateau de Vincennes
Located at the eastern edge of Paris, Chateau de Vincennes offers a colorful and detailed history. Constructed in 1150 as a hunting lodge, the Chateau served as a home away from home for the royal family when they lived at the Louvre. In later centuries it became the Vincennes Porcelain factory and later a state prison housing such infamous personages as Diderot and Marquis de Sade. Visitors are welcome nearly year-round to the grounds while guided tours are available in the Chateau proper. If you are taking the train, Paris' Line 1 ends at a station near the Chateau.
Chateau de Fontainbleau
Located about an hour from Paris, the Chateau de Fontainbleau is a magnificent royal home and the only royal domicile to have been occupied for seven centuries. Visitors have access to an incredible view of French architecture, art history and culture. The courtyards and gardens are open daily (times vary season to season) while the Chateau is open every day save for Tuesdays and state holidays. The picturesque region is ideal for touring via hot air balloon. Parisian visitors can take the train from Gare St Lazare directly to the chateau.
Palace of Versailles
No discussion of Parisian travel attractions would be complete without mentioning Versailles. What started as a small hunting lodge in 1631 by Louis XIII, Versailles expanded to became the royal seat for more than 100 years. The elaborate and massive palace was home to over 20,000 royal family members and nobles during the height of Louis XIV's reign. Today, most of the palace has been restored and is open to visitors. Particularly noteworthy is the 236-foot long Galerie des Glace (Hall of Mirrors), site of Louis XVI's wedding to Marie Antoinette and the 1919 signing of the Treaty of Versailles, among other things. Also worth visiting are the ornate state apartments, the formal gardens, and the 250-acre park, which surrounds the palace. Metro trains from Paris' Montparnasse station run the 13-mile trip to Versailles regularly throughout the day.
Disneyland Resort Paris
Mickey Mouse meets Monsieur, just 32 miles east of Paris. Disneyland Resort Paris, opened in 1992, has all of the Disney favorites, such as Main Street USA - a jazz age street here rather than a 1900s thoroughfare -- and Sleeping Beauty's Castle with a couple of quintessentially French touches, such as fresh croissants and Art Nouveau building facades added.
Adjacent to the Disneyland Paris is the new Walt Disney Studios Park, a working film studio, with an animation workshop as well as adventure rides, such as the Rock 'n Roller Coaster with music by Aerosmith. Disneyland Paris is easily reached by a 45-minute commuter RER train from Paris' Chatelet Les Halles metro station. The Disney station is located right in front of the main gates to the Disneyland Resort Paris. If you want to spend a couple of days at the parks, there are several typical Disney theme hotels in all price ranges.
The Loire Valley
Long before there was Versailles, the French kings escaped Paris to the peaceful and scenic Loire Valley. Home to over 1000 chateaux and manor houses, picturesque villages, and refreshing Chenin Blanc wines, the Loire Valley is an easy day trip from Paris. This Paris, France travel attraction features some fantastic examples of French architecture, such as King Francois I's renaissance masterpiece, the Chateau de Chambord, the largest of the Loire Valley chateaux, with 440 rooms and 365 fireplaces. The most lovely of the area's castles is Chenonceau, a delicate renaissance building, which spans the River Cher. The Loire Valley is about 80 miles from Paris and accessible via bus, rental car, and sightseeing tour. The area is a nice break from bustling central Paris travel attractions.
Napoleon's wife, the Empress Josephine's lovely home, Malmaison, is an uncrowded and worthwhile travel attraction. The 17th century mansion, purchased by the Empress as a residence for her and Napoleon upon their marriage, has been carefully restored and most of the furnishings are those used by Josephine and the Emperor themselves. After her divorce, Josephine retained the house and stayed at home to tend her rose garden, a garden that is still magnificent. Just 10 miles west of Paris, the estate is easily reached by RER train from the center of Paris.
Champagne Discovery Tour
Visitors will enjoy an exciting tour of the region's most famous vineyards in Reims. The tour is available twice a week from the beginning of April through the end of October. The tours include transportion to and from your hotel and a guide is present at all times.
Tourists seeking a robust French vacation will find many great locations just a short train ride away. Plan day trips to some of these colorful regions boasting historical and cultural significance to the French experience:
The historically significant region was home to William the Conqueror and the D-Day beaches. Visitors will find the English Channel coastline decorated with rolling green grasses, sandy beaches, white limestone cliffs and memorials to the fallen heroes. Normandy is just two hours from Paris via train. While in Normandy, be sure to see the Notre Dame like Rouen Cathedral and American, British and German War Cemeteries. Trains from Paris to the Normandy region take only a couple of hours
Giverny is a quaint, French village, about 45 miles northeast from Paris, at the eastern edge of Normandy. It is best known for its most famous resident, Impressionist painter, Claude Monet, who lived there for 43 years, from 1883 until his death in 1926. Monet's simple home and elaborate gardens are open to the public and offer visitors a glimpse at French life in the late 19th century. The gardens are glorious, with roses, wisteria, and, of course, the water garden with water lilies. The house and gardens were severely damaged during World War II and allowed to fall into disrepair. Today, they have been carefully restored to their original glory and welcome visitors between April and November.
The village of Giverny's quiet beauty also attracted other painters in the late 19th century, particularly, American painters. John Singer Sargent and Theodore Wendel are just two of the dozens of artists that flocked to the village in the period before World War I. Examples of the work they created there are on display at the Musee d'Art American in Giverny.
Just two-and-a-half hours away from Paris by train, Avignon was home to the papacy for centuries. Monuments, museums and ancient churches populate the city. Avignon is very warm in the summer time, but many visitors enjoy the sites regardless. Walls constructed in 1403 by Anti-Pope Benedict XIII enclose the center of the city.
A little more of a challenge to get to, The Camargue on the Rhone River Delta is home to a breed of wild horses known as the Carmargue. The breed is protected to keep it pure. The land is flat, green and the people in the region tend to the half-wild horses and raise black bulls. Pony tours are available, allowing visitors a chance to take an idyllic ride through unspoiled countryside. Parisian tourists will need to take a TGV train from Paris to Avignon and then a bus from the Avignon station to The Camarague.
Make Memories on Your French Vacation
The French countryside features heavily in many a Grimm's fairy tale. Visitors to Paris can enjoy numerous sojourns in and out of the city whether it's a pony ride in The Camarague, a hot air balloon over the Chateau de Fontainbleau to romping with Mickey and Miney at Disneyland Paris. Discover new memories on your next French vacation.