While there’s plenty to see and do in Paris, getting out and about on a tour of the French countryside or visiting the nearby villages and coastal areas offers an even greater insight into France and its rich culture. Rent a car, hop on a train or book an organised tour as you enjoy these day trip destinations just an hour to two away.
This magnificent chateau on the outskirts of Paris offers a glimpse of royal life in France. Home to the French Royal Family until 1789, when the French Revolution forced the family to flee for their lives, Versailles became a symbol of the monarchy and its excesses. Today, this magnificent palace is a treasured landmark, where daily guided, or self-guided tours reveal such rooms as the Hall of Mirrors and Marie Antoinette’s bed chamber. Just 19 kilometres from central Paris, Versailles is easily reached by the RER C train.
The north-west coast of France is known for its quaint villages, its sweeping English Channel views and of course, its World War II history. Visit the war scared bluffs around Omaha Beach where former German bunkers, redoubts and earthworks can still be seen. The winding country roads of Normandy take visitors on a sojourn through delightful towns like Bayeux. Revel in the city’s Medieval history as you walk through the cobblestoned streets of Old Town on your way to visit such historic sites as the 1,000-year-old Bayeux Tapestry and Bayeux Cathedral.
The city of Rouen is another of Normandy’s great Medieval cities. Serving as the region’s capital, Rouen hosts many popular attractions, including the 800-year-old Rouen Castle, the magnificent Gothic inspired Rouen Cathedral and the city’s elaborate botanical gardens. Located on the Seine, Rouen is a walkable city featuring welcoming city squares and attractive timbered medieval buildings. The train trip from Paris takes just over one hour.
With its romantic gardens, grand palaces and chateaus, Fontainebleau is filled with royal history. But it’s a favourite weekend destination for Parisians too. The surrounding countryside is dominated by the Fontainebleau Forest, a place made popular due to its natural beauty, sweeping views and walkable hiking trails. Just an hour south of the French capital, Fontainebleau enjoys a vibrant dining and night life scene, fuelled partly by the internationally known INSEAD business school nearby.
For those looking for some octane fuelled action, head to Le Mans. A city known for its 24-hour test of racing endurance and skill, this annual event is held on the winding roads in the beautiful French countryside. And while the big race is only once a year, motor enthusiasts and car historians can still enjoy the Musee des 24 Heures-Circuit de la Sarthe, a museum dedicated to cars and the Le Mans racing story. But the city of Le Mans appeals to all kinds of tastes. Bordered by quaint buildings dating as far back as the Middle Ages, the narrow cobblestone laneways invite the curious, taking visitors on a journey of discovery. Along the way, French bakeries and cafes tempt would be diners with their tasty French treats. By train, Le Mans is just 2 hours away from Paris, with over two dozen direct services each day.
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