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Best day trip from Paris and Barcelona - public transport only

We'll be spending the first two weeks of April in Paris and Barcelona - a week in each. In true Rick style, no car, we'll be wandering around from our hotels in the Rue Cler and on the Ramblas. I've been having a great time gathering ideas, and now I'm looking at planning a couple of day train trips from each city, and need your guidance.

From Paris, I want something non-urban for a change, and am thinking about a couple of possibilities including Mont St Michel. I know it's crowded during the day, but does that ruin the experience or just take away a little of the magic? And is it possible (not too arduous) to get there via train/bus? We want to go ourselves, not with a tour, but don't want a long, tiring day. If the consensus is no go, then Honfleur is another possibility I'm considering. Thoughts? I'd love suggestions for other off-the-beaten track charming villages within a couple of hours...

Same goes for Barcelona. Current possibilities include Montserrat, Girona, or spa towns Caldes d'Estrac or La Garriga. What would be your top two picks? I welcome other suggestions...

Posted by
4132 posts

A self-guided day trip to MSM would be a long day, and there are similar problems with Honfleur. Neither are served by rail, though you could make a bus connection or hire a driver.

If what you are after is medieval magic, would Chartres or the cathedral at Reims fit the bill? Or perhaps the Cistercian abbey at Fontenay? Rouen also makes a great Norman day trip.

Posted by
12040 posts

Mont St. Michel is doable as a daytrip, but as you alluded, not ideal, because you'll jostle against an invading army of daytrippers. But, I'd still rather see the Mont at the worst time of day than not see it at all. The closest train station is at Pontorson, but you'll need a ride from here to Mont St. Michel.

Posted by
4132 posts

Rouen is a good sized city, but with a pretty walkable old center. Two impressive cathedrals, one painted many times (in different lights) by Monet--I think you can see some of those at the Marmeton museum in Paris. Lots of characteristic half-timbered Norman houses. An old plague yard with gristly carvings. Joan of Arc was burned there.

So, not a village, but with lots of charm. It is logistically sweet. You can read more in a guidebook if you think it might fit the bill.

Posted by
837 posts

Strongly second Chartres. The cathedral is magnificent, one of the true crown jewels of gothic architecture. The village is truly charming. Also recommend Reims and Laon. We took trains to Reims and Chartres and rented a car for an afternoon in Reims to visit Laon.

Posted by
37 posts

Are guided tours of Mont St. Michel that bad?
I also recommend Chartres. It's quite easy to get to.

I went to Montserrat last October (not to any of the other places you mentioned outside of Barcelona). Montserrat is pretty easy to get to. A cable car takes you up and the view is wonderful. I'm not religious so the monastery didn't do that much for me (it's reconstructed and not architecturallly interesting). But I did enjoy a hike from the monastery up in the mountains. The view is spectacular and the path is very easy to walk on and not get lost. It was a nice change of pace from Barcelona.

Posted by
110 posts

From Paris the TGV's will get you lots of interesting places for a daytrip. Lyon would be one of my faves...or down into the Loire Valley.

MSM is a long day because of transportaion link challenges (as is Honfleur), and a crowded one.

For a day trip you want to pick a place that you can walk off the train and start exploring.

Posted by
8293 posts

Dijon is another possibility. I forget how long the train journey is, maybe 90 minutes. You can easily walk from the train station to the centre of town along rue Darcy, and on the left you will find a Tourist Office beside a nice park, just a few hundred meters from the station.

Posted by
250 posts

Sonia - I day-tripped from Paris to Honfleur and found it very do-able. As I remember, the train goes to Deauville, where you catch a bus to Honfleur. I had plenty of time there and the return connections worked out fine. It's a very charming port.

Posted by
692 posts

Sonia, we took a day trip Montserrat and one to the Penedes region. Montserrat was wonderful, that would be my first pick, try to do one of the hikes there if you have time. There is some tours to the Penedes region from Barcelona, i am not sure if you can go by public transport, we toured the Torres winery and the Cordeniu champagne winery, it was a nice day, if you like wine. We went to Girona, it was ok, we liked Figueres and L'Escala (for the roman ruins) better, but a car would be needed for that area.