Hi, we are looking for a day trip outside of Paris. We have 2 free days (Mon & Tues in May) before starting a Rick Steves tour. Thinking about Versailles, Chartes, or Chantilly and would appreciate any advice/recommendations on those or others you may have visited. We would like to use the train for transportation and will be returning to Paris to sleep. Thanks in advance for your help!
Susan mentions Chateau Malmaison and it is such a good idea. It can take you just a morning or an afternoon to visit It is small and charming and easily reached from La Defense by bus in about 15 minutes. Best of all? Hardly anyone there!
I enjoyed Chartres, both the cathedral and the town, but Versailles is in a class by itself. I believe the fountains will be going on Tuesdays in May, so that would be the better day. Other options: Monet's home and gardens in Giverny; Reims for champagne tasting and cathedral.
Versailles is closed on Monday. Chantilly is closed on Tuesdays. Both are easy and cheap by trian. Versailles is amazing, totally worth it, BUT it will be crowded, accept that , if you have an issue with huge crowds ,, skip it. ( I love Versailles and go all the time but I deal ok with crowds to see what I want) Chantilly is never crowded and I love love love it, its a peaceful retreat from big city Paris, crowds and stress. The painting collection in the Conde Museum is truly amazing..
The grounds are pretty , and best of all, chantilly creme and strawberries in the garden cafe, have them every time I go.. you will actually see what real strawberries are supposed to taste like, lol I visited Chartes over 35 years ago, so no comment. Its a church.. I was young and wasn't as interested. Another nice daytrip is Monets gardens in Giverny I took the Fat Tire Bike Tour there and it was the my favorite bike tour ever, and yes, you can do it, we had 8 yr olds and grannys on the tour. Its on a lovely mostly level path along a river.. picnic shopping and a picnic, nice visit to Gardens with a skip the line pass.
My favorite day trips are: Versailles, Fontainebleau, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Giverny and Malmaison (Josephine's home).
I enjoyed Chartres and Versailles. Versailles was crazy busy when I was there in September and the grounds and palace are huge. Plan on being there for most of the day. Chartres is a much more laid-back experience, so I guess your day trip choice depends on if you feel like dealing with big crowds. Chartres is about an hour from Paris and you can see the cathedral from the train station.
Don't discount the possibility of staying in Paris before your tour, without day trips. I don't know how long your tour has in Paris, but there's no shortage of ways to fill extra days there (if you look at the "Pre Tour" tab on your tour's web page, it will say what you're not seeing on your tour). Of course, if Versailles, Chartres, or Chantilly call to you, go. But in my multiple trips to Paris, I've never taken day trips. My brother didn't like Paris (sacrilege to me), but liked the town of Chartres as much as the cathedral.
Thanks to everyone who responded. We have visited Paris before and will return at the end of the trip. The area is rich with history and we want to see everything! Just trying to make the most of our limited vacation time. Appreciate your comments.
For a calm, marvelous day take a train from Paris Montparnasse to Chartres and Maintenon. Maintenon is not a famous chateau, but it is absolutely gorgeous. Chartres, as I always say on these forums, is one of my favorite towns in France. Spend the morning at the chateau in Maintenon, hop back on the train to Chartres (a few stops down the line), have lunch in the centre ville, then take in the cathedral and the Beaux-Arts museum. Then enjoy the park behind the cathedral and walk along the Eure. Then hop back on the cathedral and go back to Paris.
You might enjoy reading Ina Caro's, Paris to the Past. It is filled with day trips from Paris, listed in historical order. This book is an interesting read for historical details and architectural evolution.
We used Gray Line Tours for trips in and around Paris. We also went to Normandy, Versailles, Giverney, the tour of lights, at night, in Paris, etc. They were very good tours. In fact, when we went around Paris, we were in a small mini van with just a few other people. We also took a night tour on the Seine.
We visited Chartes from Paris last week - it was a beautiful little town. Yes, the Cathedral is what brings people there, but if you check out Rick Steves Paris book he includes a walking tour of the town. My husband and I really enjoyed this and even took a few pictures that were so beautiful that are being enlarged and framed for our home. And we are not photographers, the town is just that picturesque. It was also very nice to get out of the big crowds. We also did Versailles, on a seperate day, and it was stunning, but very crowded and a completely different feel. We also did a day trip to Bruges (Belgium) and it was wonderful as well. All of these trips were easy on the train, and we did self-guided tours for all and did not feel like we missed out on anything.
Hi Donna, I highly recommend the day trip to Normandy, I think it was a Greyline tour; you leave from the Rue de Rivoli, near the Louvre. Great comfort, guide and a memorable, can't miss stop at the American cemetery!
We've been to all the sites mentioned in the previous posts. We took a train trip to Vernon, then bicycled to Giverny to Monet's place. It was a great day. We also have visited Versailles and Chartres. Because we were based in Paris we got a museum pass (a Rick Steves suggestion) and as well as getting us in all the Paris Museums it got us in Versaille past the mile long line and to the front of the line. You can catch a train from Paris. Versailles, to me is worth the trip. Chartres is lovely, too, and you can take the train. The cathedral's stained glass is beautiful. There is a very, very old labarynth (sp?) under the chairs that people walked in the old days. The stones are indented from the use.
Not knowing which RS tour you're taking, I don't know what you'll see with your tour group. Another possibility is St Denis; you're not so far out of town, and it's extremely interesting (if you're into that sort of thing). Of course, I'd love to just wander around the city - visit the parks unrushed with some picnic goodies, have the time to really appreciate the architecture, recuperate from the flight (ugh), sit and people-watch, whatever. There is a beautiful American Military Cemetery just outside Paris in Suresnes (beautiful views of Paris are a bonus!). I also liked the Chateau de Vincennes - the grounds are gorgeous! Bring a picnic...and it's not outside the city, either.
Hi, thanks to everyone who responded. Your suggestions and information are very helpful. We are doing the RS Belgium-Holland tour, stopping off in Paris for a few days to get over the jet lag before we begin. We did the Paris and the Loire in 2009 and have been to Normandy, Giverny, and Versailles. I wouldn't mind seeing Versailles again and I'm also very interested in Chantilly (I watched the James Bond film the other night and it looks very nice). There is so much to see in France, I'm sure this will not be our last visit! Thanks for all your help!
A hint for seeing the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles without the crowds: buy your Versailles tickets ahead of time at FNAC, take the early train from Paris so you arrive before 9 am, stand in the security line (NOT the ticket line), once you're inside pass up the long line for the audio-guide(come back for this later), scurry (almost run) past all the people lolly-gagging along looking at the bedrooms, etc., and get to the Hall of Mirrors before everyone else. Priceless! Beautiful! Then go back, get your audio guide and finish seeing the chateau.
My recs are Giverny and Versailles. Others have helpfully posted closing days, so heed those. Giverny is all Monet. The house is OK, but no original art (that's in Paris). The gardens are awesome. And the gift shop is his actual studio with the skylights he installed, which makes it the coolest gift shop ever. Get there early; it will still be crowded but not as crowded. Versailles is awesome. Leave enough time to do both house and gardens. See if you can find out when the gardens are playing classical music on the sound system, it's outstanding. If you see Versailles, you dont need Chantilly. Pales by comparison.
We were at Chartres in June 2012 and the renovations inside pretty much destroyed the awe. Renovations are good, but you might want to check and see where they stand, cause it was a big disappointment.
I took a day tour through Paris Vision two years ago. They pick you up in a Mercedes van at your hotel and you spend the day visiting Fontainbleu, the village of Barbizon and then Vaux le Vicomte (you have lunch here.) There were 5 other ladies on my tour and the guide was very good. I saw alot, including some Paris suburbs and surrounding countryside in addition to two great castles and a darling little village.