It's been even quieter than usual on this blog for the past few months. First it was the hustle and bustle of the holidays, then back home to Minnesota in January and now back into the swing of things in Paris after a weekend away.
With my parents coming to visit in less than a month, I've been researching day trip ideas. While there's obviously plenty to do and see in Paris, day trips are perfect if you're already familiar with the city and have a little more time in the area. It seems like I've been seeing articles on this topic pop up more and more lately. This list of 10 Pretty Towns Near Paris You'll Just Love from Solo Sophie and the Savvy Backpacker's Day Trips from Paris inspired me to make this roundup of five of my favorite places, all really close and easily accessible.
Reims is basically the Champagne capital of France so that automatically qualifies it for the top of this list. A short 45-minute train ride from Paris Gare de l'Est, Reims might be the perfect day trip destination from the capital. Between the champagne caves and the stunning cathedral, you'll easily find enough to do to fill your day. And the town itself is the perfect size for walking around - not too big, not too small.
The famous champagne houses are a bit further from the city center, but still within walking distance: Vranken Pommery, Tattinger, and Veuve Clicquot. We ended up doing the Pommery tour, mostly because the place looks like Disneyland. The tour + tasting (2 glasses, obviously) was a little pricey at 30 euros, but all the big names are right in that price range, and this one was definitely worth it. I loved the story - that the house was founded by two men but then one guy's wife ended up running the place in the end, making all the big decisions that ultimately drove it to be the big powerhouse it is today. Moral of the story: Madame Pommery is a #girlboss.
Lille is the most charming little town, just over an hour from Paris on the TGV. Close to the Belgian border, you can definitely feel the Flemish influence in the architecture. I stopped here on my way to Brussels and definitely notice some similarities, especially with some of the brick buildings.
If you get hungry, order something on the menu with melted Maroilles, a cheese from the region.
If you're craving something sweet, Meert is the famous bakery in town where you can get a gaufre de Lille, much thinner and more cookie-like than the thicker Belgian waffles you find just next door in Brussels.
3. Chateau de Chantilly
Been to Versailles? Try the Chateau de Chantilly. Located about 50 km north of the capital, in a town of the same name, this charming castle sits on a domaine of 115 hectares. You can walk around exploring the gardens if it's nice, or if it rains like it did when we were there, check out the horse museum.
For lunch, there's a restaurant inside the chateau called La Capitainerie. If you go (because who wouldn't want to be able to say they've eaten lunch inside a chateau?!), don't skip the dessert. After all, this is the birthplace of crème de Chantilly (aka whipped cream).
4. Bois de Boulogne
Got a few hours and craving some fresh air? Pack yourself a little picnic and head to the Bois de Boulogne! Okay so this one is more like a mini day trip, but definitely still worth checking out. Parisians flock to this sprawling green space on the weekends and it's easy to see why. After a week of metro-boulot-dodo (literally "metro-work-sleep" this is how the French refer to the daily grind in Paris), trading the crowds and congestion for some fresh air and space seems like a pretty good idea. You'll see lots of people running and biking but it doesn't feel nearly as crowded as the tiny parks you find closer to the center of the city. And if that's not enough to convince you, this chic French forest comes with a Louis Vuitton museum and a Longchamp racetrack...only in France.
The capital of the northern French region of Normandy, Rouen is a port city on the Seine river. With its cobblestone streets and wooden houses, it has that medieval look and feel typical of the area. Rouen is easy to get to from Paris but it takes a bit longer than the other places on this list. You'll hop on the slower TER intercités train (direct but makes more stops than the TGV) for about an hour and a half.
Happy travels! :)