Are you planning to escape big city of Paris, get some fresh air while discovering small historical French towns nearby? Good news, there are handful of those which are worthwhile for a daytrip. No need for an overnight stay, these are all great destinations for a day stroll almost all reachable by train from Paris. Pick what suits you best, depending if you are looking for a château with stunning gardens, biking in nearby parks, wine tasting, medieval culture experience, or perhaps you fancy walking in the steps of famous painters or monarchs.

To help you navigate through my list, see the map showing how far are the cities from each other (to combine trips if you wish) and from Paris-all no further than 100km from French capital.

It’s always good to get some practical information regarding the transport. Here are some useful train sites you may want to check before embarking on the trip.

Paris and many of the places nearby in Île-de-France are divided into zones, numbered 1 through 5. See the zone of the town.

For further journeys it is more efficient and cheaper to buy a daypass Mobilis. For info on trains in Paris and the nearby suburbs (métro and RER trains) check RATP. For trains that go a bit further out in the Île-de-France region use Transilien.

Direction West of Paris

S c e a u x

Less than half an hour by train from Luxembourg gardens is Sceaux city. During spring gardens are a place to be for strolls, having picnic or napping under the blooming pink and white cherry tree orchards. Early April is the best time to go and have a brief relaxing moment away from the city. Pack up some baguettes, cheese and wine and head to this favorite picnicking spot for Ile de France residents. Full of symmetrical plant arrangements, canals, fountains, Roman-inspired statues and waterways. One of the highlights surrounded by gardens is Château de Sceaux established museum of Île-de-France as well as popular filming location. Sceaux has a famous lyceé Lakanal which graduated many Nobel Prize holders. Speaking of Nobel prize winners, interesting fact is that family of Marie Curie was also settled in this location. Many cultural events take place here, for example renounced Théâtre des Gémeaux is main event host in Spring dance festival and openair opera can be enjoyed in the parc each year end of June. In the city is a green corridor which includes part of the route via Turonensis, one of the ways of the pilgrimage to Saint Jacques de Compostela.

Curious about château (only in fr): Domaine de Sceaux

Bike rental: Chatenay-Malabry

Distance from Paris: 9,7km

How to get there: RER trains 

Region: Hauts-de-Seine

Domaine de Sceaux

V e r s a i l l e s

Château de Versailles should be on your list right after Paris. Versailles used to be capital of the Kingdon of France before French revolution. Inside you pass by famous Hall of Mirrors, countless salons of different names and serving different purposes and see bedchambers of king and queen while accompanied by great garden views. Gardens of Versailles are fenomenal, covering 800ha with playing fountain spectacle organized. If you feel sporty and want to see as much as possible, hiring a bike is a great idea. On the way back you can visit Versailles’s Royal tennis court, dated 1686 or make a stopover in Les Fermes de Gally to pick up apples, strawberries and flowers for your home.

Curious about château & tickets: Versailles palace tickets

Book a bike tourFat Tire Tours

Farm fruit picking: Les Fermes de Gally

Distance from Paris: 17,1km

How to get there: RER train / Transilien L train

Versailles gate and Hall of Mirrors

R u e i l & C h â t e a u d e  M a l m a i s o n 

Take a direct train from Paris to Rueil-Malmaison and you will arrive there in half an hour. Stoll on the old downtown streets full of patisseries, restaurants, visit museums and churches all located along the Seine river. It also has a château which origins go back to 13th century when Malmaison or ‘evil house’ used to be a hideout of Norman invaders. Once an official residence of Empress Josephine, Napoleons first wife, now serves as a museum. 

If you feel like exploring a bit more, you can combine this visit with Saint-Germain-en-Laye. 

Curious about château & tickets: Château de Malmaison

Distance from Paris: 15km

How to get there: RER A

Region: Hauts-de-Seine

S a i n t – G e r m a i n – e n – L a y e

This charming city near Paris dates back to 11th century. Its rich history called for opening of Musèe des Antiquités Nationales with world’s largest collection of art from Paleolithic and Celtic times. During Friday and Sunday morning large open-air market takes place on Place du Marché Neuf. If you are visiting in summer during fun fair La Fête des Loges, you must grab some traditional delicious food in favourite kitchen aile. No worries if you miss it, take your own tour through odorous pâtisseries and one of the best cheese shops in France! If are not a big foodie, take a walk to nearby forest with botanical trail, cycle path and horseback riding paths or visit action park Accrocamp to try tree-climbing or more. There would be no historical French town without a castle. Walk through a great esplanade with panoramic views, created by André Le Nôtre and visit château where Sun King-Louis XIV was born. Between May-September you will even have a chance to climb to the roof of the Saint-Germain-en-Laye castle! 

Did you know that Claude Debussy, great French composer were both born here? Finish your trip by visiting musician’s home and nowadays museum.

Surrounding Saint-Germain town from the north to south you can find plenty of golf centres, and one more jewell along the Seine only 10minutes by car is real-life Château de Monte Cristo. 

Curious about château:

Musée D’Archéologie National

Promenade sur les toits

Curious about museum: Maison natale Claude-Debussy  

Action park: Accrocamp

Fun Fair in summer: La Fête des Loges

Distance from Paris: 19,1km

How to get there: RER A direct

Region: Île-de-France

G i v e r n y

Village in the region of Normandy saturated with prestigious castles, colourful wide gardens, rich museums and many archeological sites. Giverny is a cradle of impressionists where Claude Monet lived for over 40 years. Visit notorious Clos Normand with its Japanese bridge and water lilies and have a look into Hôtel Baudy once center of atistic life in Giverny heyday. Guided tours are a good way to learn about hidden gems of this painter’s village, but you can follow app which can route yours steps into famous paintings of Monet.

Curious about castle & tickets: Claude Monet Foundation

Guide tours: English Guided tours

Download the app: Balade des impressionnismes

Distance from Paris: 80km

How to get there: car

Region: Normandy

C h a r t r e s

Probably best known for impressive and well-preserved gothic cathedral. Chartres Cathedral is an end point of annual foot pilgrimage organized since middle ages and starting from Notre-Dame de Paris. Plenty of other great things are to be seen in this wonderful medieval town. It has museum of fine arts, military, natural science and workshop-museum Le Centre International du Vitrail devoted to stained glass art (Blue de Chartres). What’s more being in Chartres, you find yourself not far from Loire valleywhich is a centre of many historic towns and wineyards. Visiting the valley would deserve at least an overnight stay.

Curious about museum: Le Centre International du Vitrail

Distance from Paris: 90km

How to get there: M ligne plus TER

Region : Centre-Val de Loire

Direction North of Paris

A u v e r s – S u r – O i s e

Resting place of Vincent van Gogh and former residence of many impressionist artists like Daubigny whose house became a museum. City is stretched along vineyards, wheat, poppy fields and farmhouses which together with church of Auvers inspired painters to create some of their masterpieces. 

Curious about city: Tourisme-auverssuroise

Guide map of paintings: Van Gogh in Auvers

Book a workshop: Spectable

Distance from Paris: 27,2km

How to get there: Transilien H

Region: Île-de-France

S e n l i s

Senlis is a small charming town with ancient cobbled alleys, intact Gallo-Roman rampats and best medieval feel from all cities around Paris. City is fancied by French movie producers and movies like Angelique and the King was partly filmed here. Monarchs of early French dynasties lived here and that is why it has ancient royal castle, Abbey Saint-Vincent (and many around), gothic cathedral and three museums of hunts, spahis, art and of archeology. People of Senlis are proud to have a connection with Joan of Arc. It was not far from Senlis where Joan of Arc led an army to victory against the Duke of Bedford. Part of your daytrip can be spent in Chantilly forest which is only 15min west. Domaine de Chantilly is a wonderful fairytale château with famous art collection at Musée Condé and a library. One big advantage is no crowds are here like you’d encounter at Versailles. There are few things that you need to know about Chantilly. Living museum of the horse with horse racing track and worldwide popular Chantilly cream. 

Curious about Senlis city: Senlis office de Tourisme

Curious about château: Domaine de Chantilly

Biking in Chantilly: Bob Bike

Distance from Paris: 40km 

How to get there: car / combine with Chantilly TER, RER D

Region: Hauts-de-France

C h â t e a u d e P i e r r e f o n d s

On the north-east of Paris along Forêt de Compiègne with few camping sites and small river you will discover Château de Pierrefonds. Wonderful medieval building which reminds me of fairytale like Neuschwanstein castle of Bavaria, only in its smaller version. If you are driving don’t miss the opportunity to drive through the forest to Compiègne, another city with its own château, art museums, and memorial of the camp from WWII. 

Curious about château: Château de Pierrefonds

Distance from Paris: 85,5km

How to get there: TER

Region : Hauts-de-France 

Direction East of Paris

M e a u x

Meaux is a foodie paradise! Gourmets will like to hear that town has its own cheese called the Brie de Meaux, local variety of French mustard and small local brewery called Brasserie de Meaux. Town also has an episcopal palace and Cathedral in front of which is a historic show organized every summer. There are two museums Musée Bossuet (named after bishop of Meaux in 4th century) and Musée de la grande guerre (WWI museum) which is said to be the largest in the world! During the first battle of the Marne German troops were stopped at gates of Meaux. 

On your way back to Paris, visit Crécy-la-Chapelle Venice of the Brie region because of its canals called Brasset. In warm months you can see people canoeing or standup paddling there. 

Curious about city (only in fr) : Crécy-la-Chapelle

Distance from Paris: 42km 

How to get there: Transilien P train

Region: Île-de-France

Direction South of Paris

B a r b i z o n

Barbizon is a small village surrounded by Fontainebleau forest. Its school of landscape painters brought to live artistic movement considered a precursor of Impressionism. Admire paintings of rural life scenes and collection of original works by the old masters of the Barbizon school in Musée des Peintres de Barbizon or Musée Jean-François Millet. Village is charming with beautiful small homes, shops, restos and art galleries. Good news, Barbizon is on your way to Fontainebleau! 

Curious about museums: Musée des Peintres de Barbizon

Distance from Paris: 60,1km

How to get there: car

Region: Île-de-France

Barbizon painter’s village

F o n t a i n e b l e a u

Favorite weekend getaway for Parisians because of its proximity and beautiful national park Forest of Fontainebleau. It is a spot for hikers, horseback rides and fans of bouldering and climbing. Fontainebleau is hiding the rival of Versailles château, one of the largest châteaux in France, Château de Fontainebleu was renovated with each kings of France and became a national museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

South from Fontainebleau is Moret-sur-Loing walled medieval village with barley sugar making museum and sights that inspired painters like Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley. 

Curious about château & ticket Château de Fontainebleau

Activities in forest: Fontainebleau Tourisme

Distance from Paris: 56km

How to get there: direct Transilien R

Region: Île-de-France

Fontainebleau city centre

C h â t e a u V a u x – l e – V i c o m t e 

Elegant baroque château constructed entirely on a moated platform reached via two bridges. It has 3km long gardens projected by Andre Le Nôtre the same landscape architect who created Versailles gardens. Similar to those in Versailles gardens have water basins, fountains and gravel walks. This beautiful area attracted movie makers and you can spot the château in movies like The Man in the Iron Mask or early James Bond-Moonraker.

Curious about château: Château of Vaux-le-Vicomte

Distance from Paris: 55km

How to get there: car

Region: Île-de-France

P r o v i n s

Formal capital of the Courts of Champagne and Champagne fairs. Now UNESCO World Heritage Site with well-preserved medieval fortification, historic center, full of medieval tunnels and Ville Haute which you can climb. Each year in June city organizes festival called Les Médiévales which takes you back to Middle Ages. Visit La Roseraie parc which cultivates more than 300 varieties of roses. Roses are used for production of all sorts of foods like jam, candy or honey. For wine lovers, Provins is large producer of wine with the medieval methods of wine making still carried out. 

Curious about city Provins Tourisme

Fun fair: Les Médiévales

Distance from Paris: 91,1km (car)

How to get there: Transilien P train

Region: Île-de-France

Bon voyage!