We have already done Versailles and Chartres. Vaux-le-Vicomte looks interesting but I've heard it can be difficult to get there without a car. We will be visiting in mid April. Thanks
How about Rouen?
There are literally dozens of great day trips from Paris. You might look for Simms book 'An Hour from Paris' which details 20 of these. She doesn't do the obvious ones like Fontainebleau or Chartres, but somewhat less known ones to the general tourist. We have done about half of them and found them very interesting. You can see pictures of Senlis, Moret sur Loing, Crecy la Chapelle, Rambouillet, Sceux from this book in my photo journal under 'Day trips from Paris'. www.janettravels.wordpress.com Another one which is great although since it is on the Paris metro you may not think of as a day trip is St. Denis, the first gothic church in Europe and the site of the tombs of the French kings. There are pictures of that on the photo journal as well and it is one of those less touristed spots that will wow you.
Auvers sur Oise where Van Gogh lived his last days is another great day trip and so is Rouen which could be combined with a visit to Giverny if you started early and really hustled.
Vaux le Vicomte is wonderful but you usually need to take a cab from the train station to the chateau and back and that is pricey. I am glad we did it though -- there are also pictures of that in the journal.
For a half-day trip there is Empress Josephine's Chateau Malmaison, which can be reached from La Defense in about 15 minutes.
Vaux-le-Vicomte is fantastic and one of my favorite day trips. Easy to get to Melun, then easy to get a cab to and from station. I didn't think the cab was pricey. It's well worth it. The chateau and the grounds are amazing. They have a cafe with good food, and a fun gift shop.
I agree with Norma about Malmaison. I always enjoy going there.
Fontainebleau is another one of my favorites. And Giverny.
If you like castles you can go to Fontainebleau or Vaux-le-Vicomte. The first is to reach by public transport, see their website. Fontainebleau represents the French Royal history from Renaissance till the 19th century, you can find different styles from different periods and even the room where Napoleon signed for abdication before being exiled to Elba, so loads of history.
But Vaux-le-Vicomte is unique because the gardens en the buildings forming one comprehensive architectural package, everything was build from scratch. There is a very nice carriage museum and the hard to believe unfortunate career of first owner Nicolas Fouquet is well explained in several rooms of the castle. I have visited Vaux-le-Vicomte in early May some five years ago, everything was in full blossom, pleasant weather and no more then a few hundred visitors, perfect for a memorable visit. With the warm weather we now have everything will be in full blossom already in mid April. If costs are no problem for a taxi, Janet or Susan can certainly tell you how much ( use my own car, so have no idea ), consider seriously a visit to Vaux-le-Vicomte as it is one of the best castles around Paris.
Another good book is Ina Caro's "Paris to the Past," describing lots of beautiful and historic places in and outside Paris you can reach by train in an hour or less.
When we went, it was very hard to get a taxi in Melun. We finally went to a bar and called one; there were none at the train station. Once at the Chateau there were no taxis back to the train station. The people in the gift shop called us one and we had of course to pay the cost of his getting there so it arrived with 10 Euro on the meter -- I think it was about 20 Euro to and 30 from the Chateau.
It was really quite wonderful. I think our favorite chateau visit in France and we have also done several in the Loire and Burgundy as well as Fontainebleau, Sceaux, Rambouillet, Ecouen and of course the Louvre. It is worth the hassle to get there and when we were there there could not have been more than about 50 people. Be sure to give yourself hours to walk the extensive grounds.
The day trip I still am longing to do is to Reims, combining the cathedral, the town and the champagne houses (advance reservations required). I went to Fontainebleau on my last trip. It was lovely, but not as much as Versailles or Chartres. One tourist's opinion. . .
Reims! One of my favorite places in France. I spent a couple of nights there but it could be a good (long) daytrip.
Most people here on this forum are looking for lovely or beautifull things, what is okay as everybody has the right to enjoy things the way they like. From that point of view I understand that Fontainebleau is seen as nice, but not so impressive if compaired with Versailles for example. But I want to say that there is also a different way to look at it. For those with interest in history, then Fontainebleau deserves a better look. If one learns more and more about the French history then this castle becomes very interesting and is it an absolute treasure trove. An important part of the French (Royal) history is packed in that building, the same you can say of the Basilique de Saint-Denis like Janet already has mentioned. Everybody is raving about the Notre-Dame, nothing wrong with it as it is a very beautifull building, but it becomes different if one compaires the history of the two. More or less one can do the same with Versailles and Fontainebleau.
Wil, you are absolutely right about Fontainebleau and it also applies to most everywhere in France. The more you know about the history that took place at a particular site, the more impressive and interesting it becomes. Malmaison for instance... it is small and charming but when you know the history of it it becomes amazing.
The more a person knows about the history of a place, the more enjoyable the place becomes.
Susan – Good to read you see it in the same way. I visited last spring Fontainebleau and Malmaison. Malmaison is for sure charming and had the right size for me to see everything well in one visit, I liked the place. I got a better idea about Napoleon’s taste and more what I think the kind of person he was.
Prior to the visit one can use wikipedia or read something about history, a book or look further on the internet, a good biography can work well to have a better understanding about the places to visit, to my opinion the things you see have more meaning this way.
How about visiting Giverny (Monet's Garden)?
I agree with all the places mentioned above as doable and worthy day trips. My suggestion is Fontainebleau. I find Fontainebleau uniquely more interesting seen from an historical perspective. Just seeing ( imagining too) the Cour des Adieux at the Chateau. The same can be asserted with Versailles, maybe it depends upon which aspect of history you want to delve into more. I regret not having gone to Fontainbleau on my first trip to Paris, chose Versailles instead but timewise both places could have been done as day trips.
Going to Fontainebleau is easily done by train from Gare de Lyon, take the bus just outside the station, get off at the stop (in front of the tourist office) across the street from the Chateau. It's about a 40 mins walk from the station to the Chateau, a nice town too. If you have the time and want more Napoleonic history, there is also the Napoleon Museum, ca. 15 mins from the Chateau.
The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château located in Maincy, near Melun, 55 km southeast of Paris in the Seine-et-Marne département of France . its to hard to reach there by public transport service. if you looking comfortable private cab service you can get there without time wasting viist this site and get more info from them http://parisairportshuttle.transfer-private.com