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8 days in Paris & surrounding cities

Hi I am traveling to Paris in late October and need help on my itinerary!
We are traveling with another couple and are having trouble deciding what to do.

Our interests are Paris, Reims, Versailles, Normandy, and the Loire Valley.
Would it be best to stay in Paris the whole trip and do day trips to these locations? Or is it best to spend nights in each/or some of these locations? If so, what would be the quickest and cheapest way to get around? And do you have recommendations on tours in Normandy and the Loire Valley. We would like a bed and breakfast/tour combo to save some money.

Posted by
2020 posts

You could easily spend 8 wonderful days in Paris and not have to go anywhere. I would stay in town and make a day trip -- I suggest doing just one, because I think you will find more than enough to interest you in the city.

Versailles would be my first recommendation for a day trip -- it's easy to get out there on your own.
I also suggest you go to the Paris City Vision website and look at their guided bus tours. They have a 1 and 2 day tour of the Loire chateaus that is fantastic, the 2-day tour goes everywhere Rick Steves shows in his latest show in the Loire.
I have also taken their 1-day Normandy tour, which is great also. They have many more.
A train trip to Chartres Cathedral is easy to do on your own too. Fantastic cathedral and surrounding town.

Posted by
10344 posts

Consider whether or not you're trying to do too much.
Sometimes in European travel, less is more, quality versus quantity, etc.

You should definitely do some of the day trips you mentioned: I'd suggest Reims and Versailles.
Normandy and the Loire Valley are best done spending nights in those locations.
However, commercial bus tours can get you to Normandy and the Loire Valley as a day trip. I wouldn't recommend it, but if you think you won't ever be back, then maybe.

Reims can be done as a day trip from Paris, if you take the TGV high speed train it's 45 minutes station to station time. You'll want to book those tickets as soon as they become available, 90 days before your travel day.

Versailles is done as a day trip from Paris, but will take most of your day.

If you do all of these day trips, you leave yourself only 3 or 4 days in Paris. re not giving yourself much time to see things in Paris.

Posted by
6095 posts

I agree with the above comments. Normandy and the Loire each deserve more than a day, and trying to do it all would leave you too little time in Paris. Day trips involve getting in and out of the big city, I'd hate to do that often on a short trip.

Another consideration: When two couples travel together (or even two people), they may sometimes want to do different things some of the time. Paris gives you lots of easy options to split up and reunite for lunch or dinner or whenever. If you're moving around together on day trips, you're probably stuck with each other all day. That might not always be the way to maximize enjoyment if you have different interests or priorities. Worth a thought.

Of course if you've been to Paris before and seen a lot already, you might want to branch out, but from your post it doesn't seem like that. Have fun planning!

Posted by
359 posts

Reims and Versailles would be the easiest day trips, Versailles especially. Just do one or two day trips and save plenty of time for Paris itself!

Posted by
4059 posts

Kristin, Versailles can be done as a day trip and so can Reims. But do get an early start so you wont be rushed. Considering your limited time, however, my suggestion is to only do one (Versailles) and spend the rest of the time in Paris itself. TC

Posted by
29 posts

Whatever you do, be sure to include Normandy... (D-Day Beaches) We would not have missed if for anything. Stay in Arromanche for two nights. Hotel d Arromanches... eat dinner there.. Right on Sword Beach. Walk the Beaches where D-Day happened. Since you don't have a car, you may want to take a local tour to see Omaha Beach and the gun emplacements. The craters are still there. It is an experience you won't forget... If you are game enough, you could rent a car at ORLY and then turn it back in.

Our very favorite area to stay in Paris is the Hotel de L Esperance near Rue Mouffetard. We absolutely love this area of Paris... Less tourists, feels like true Paris. Easy to get to the big sights, but also enjoy the ambience of living in the City. Ask for a quiet room in the back at the hotel.. they have a lovely breakfast and the hotel is clean, and inexpensive. We stayed over in Rue Cler once verses this area and we think Rue Mouffetard is way cooler and more intimate. If I had a choice between Normandy and Versailles... I would do Normandy in a minute. But we are older (60's) ... parents fought in World War II so it was very meaningful to us.
If you go to Normandy, be sure to watch the Band of Brothers miniseries before you go, as well as Saving Private Ryan.

Posted by
6858 posts

With 8 days I think you could fit in 3 day trips. As stated before Reims and Versailles are the easiest to do as day trips, however you can also do a tour of several Loire Valley chateaux as a day tour from Paris. It's a long day, you would need to take an early train from Paris in order to meet up with the chateaux tours that leave from the Tours train station (which you should arrange ahead of time), but definitely doable. The train to Tours takes about an hour and I think most of the tours leave at 9:00am.

I don't know about throwing Normandy in the mix. I haven't done it but I've heard it's brutal to do it as a day trip so it would probably require at least one overnight. Personally I would avoid having to pack up and travel to another hotel in another city when you only have 8 days total. If you do 2 or 3 day trips from Paris don't do them on consecutive days, that gets too tiring - mix them up with more leisurely days in Paris.

Posted by
10937 posts

We are just wrapping up Day 5 of 6 full days in Paris. Today we went to Versailles: a very full and tiring day! We have seen a lot in Paris besides Versailles. In 4 days we saw: The Louvre, the Picasso Museum, Notre Dame & Saint Chappelle among other sites on Rick Steves' Historic Paris Walk, the Marais, Sacre Coure & Montmarte, R.S Place de Madeleine Shopping Walk and Galleries Lafayette, the Eiffel Tower, Arc di Triomphe and Champs-Elysees, the Orangerie Museum, and a long walk through an elegant neighborhood we "live" in.

Yet to come tomorrow are The Musee D'Orsay and R.S. Left Bank Walk. Whew! We are still missing a lot: The Pompidou Center, Rodin Museum, the Marmottan Museum, Bateaux Mouches we intended to ride, Rue Cler, etc. Wanted to do more shopping but we are out of time! And we take time to relax: a 2-3 hour break in the afternoon so we can regroup for the next assault and to refresh ourselves. I think in 8 days one trip out-of-Paris-center will be enough. I suggest you plot out what you want to do in 1/2 day increments. What will you do in the morning and what in the afternoon/early evening? What is weather dependent and should be moved around as the forecast reveals itself? When we have a long stay in one location, I find I can sort of plug-and-play my itinerary formed this way, choosing based on weather, energy, crowds, our mood, or taking advantage of something that comes up that I did not know about before traveling.

BTW, the trains are great as are the Metro and buses, but it takes some route planning. This site, RATP, has been very helpful in planning our transit.

Have you considered an apartment for two couples? We like having a little kitchen, a place to make coffee, occasionally a light lunch "in", and a place to have a glass of wine and relax between events.

Posted by
4129 posts

Loire and (especially) Normandy best seen by spending a night or two.

If everybody is on board, I think you could visit one of those destinations this trip, plus Paris. Otherwise I'd save for another time, not try to visit as a day trips.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you all so much for the great responses!
I agree with having to choose only 2/3 day trips! We actually have 8 nights/ 9 days so that gives us a little more time!

I think I need to do more research on the tours you all mentioned. Right now I am leaning toward staying 5 nights in Paris (possible 1/2 day in Versailles), 1 in Normandy and 2 in the Loire Valley. From Paris we would take a train to Caen. Get a tour bus to explore Normandy or rent our own car with a possible private guide (Any tour recommendations are welcome!). My question here is where should we spend the night in Normandy if the plan is the travel to The Loire Valley the next morning? Also what is the best way to reach the Loire Valley from Normandy? Would this be by train or renting a car? The plan is to sleep in Amboise for 2 nights and finally take a train back to Paris for our flight home.

Posted by
7617 posts

One week -- 8 nights 7 days is a perfect Paris trip with one or two short day trips e.g. Versailles, Giverney or Chartres -- or perhaps Fontainebleau or Vaux le Vicomte. Or you could do one larger side trip e.g. maybe spend a night in the Loire and join a mini van trip of chateaux there.

IMHO you need several days for Normandy but you could manage with one night in Bayeux of you only want to see the beaches. If you spent 2 nights, you could drive to MSM the first day and then go onto Bayeux that night for two nights using the full day to tour the beaches perhaps with something like Overlord. Then the last day you could make a stop on the way back in Rouen or Giverny.

But if it were me, I'd mine Paris and what it has to offer for a first trip like this.