I don’t think you can ever run out of things to do in Paris but if you feel like you need to get out of the city for a while there are many great day trips from Paris.
Monet’s Garden is open from April to October and is an easy hours drive from Paris. I went last year at the beginning of April which was a huge mistake as very few of the bulbs were in flower. It didn’t really matter because there were cherry trees in bloom as well as some annuals and daffodils but it would have been so much more beautiful later on when the tulips, irises, wisteria, and so many other plants are in flower. You can see the flowering calendar here.
Whenever you go though, it’s still amazing to see the garden which inspired the Impressionist painter. The highlight is the Japanese water garden where you can see the famous Japanese bridge and water lilies depicted in his paintings.
Monet’s Garden is a little tricky to get to using public transport so I suggest hiring a car to get there.
The town of Chantilly is most well known for being the birth place of Chantilly cream. The French both invented and perfected Chantilly cream and if you’re anything like me you’ll enjoy it at every opportunity when in France. Of course I’m not suggesting you go to Chantilly to spend the day indulging in cream, the reason to take a day trip there is to visit the Chateau de Chantilly.
The chateau is just plain adorable. It’s surrounded by a moat and extensive formal and informal gardens. You can easily spend hours wandering around the woods and that’s exactly what I did.
Chantilly is easy to get to by both car and train so there’s really no reason not to go.
Chartres is one of the most relaxing day trips you can do from Paris. There aren’t loads of thing to do so there is no need to rush around. Take your time to visit the famous cathedral and then wander around the old town. My favourite thing to do when visiting towns like Chartres is to pick a nice little cafe to sit in where I can people watch or read my Kindle and then move along to the next little cafe and rinse and repeat. There’s not much to do but enjoy a long lunch, do a little window shopping, and cafe hop. What more do you want from a pretty town one hours drive from Paris.
The Chateau de Fontainebleau is free to visit on the first Sunday of every month so that’s the perfect time to visit. Of course half of Paris has the same idea so you might want to pick a different day if you want to avoid the crowds.
The interior of the chateau is decorated in typical ornate, over the top style you see in many chateaux in France. Depending on how interesting you find that kind of thing will determine if you stroll through the many, many rooms or if you push through the crowds to find the exit, taking a few snaps along the way. I’m not saying which category I fall into.
After the visiting the chateau, it’s well worth spending some time to explore the town which has plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants.
I sometimes forget that Brussels is only an hour from Paris on the Eurostar. Although the Belgian capital warrants more than a day visit, you can certainly see all the major sites in one day but if you feel that’s a bit rushed you can at least enjoy some of the best food (and of course chocolate) in Europe.
You may as well start your visit at the centre of it all, the Grand Place de Bruxelles. Many people describe it as the most beautiful square in the world and although I haven’t visited every square in the world, I’m going to have to agree. Beauty is in every direction and although the cafes in the square are overpriced it’s well worth the expense so you can sit back and enjoy the view and watch people go by.
When you’ve had enough of the crowds, I suggest going on a bit of a ‘chocolate crawl’ (you know, like a pub crawl but for chocolate). Visit all the popular chocolate shops like Godiva and Neuhaus as well as the higher end chocolatiers like Pierre Marcolini where you can pick up a few (or more than a few) edible souvenirs.
Not far from the Grand Place is Place de l’Albertine and Jardin du Mont des Arts which can provide you with a few good photo ops. A bit further along is another famous square, Place Royale, where you can visit one of Belgian’s top museums or you can head around the corner to see the Palais du Roi. Just opposite the Palais du Roi is the Parc de Bruxelles which is the perfect place to have a picnic or just relax until you have to get your train back to Paris.
So that’s my top 5 day trips from Paris. Where would you recommend going?