Paris is the heart of France, but there’s so much more to see and do in the country outside of this iconic city. From Lyon to Marseilles and beyond, there’s a whole different side of France that’s waiting to be discovered.
As an international student living and learning in France, it’s always a good idea to occasionally take time away from your studies to help yourself relax and renew. One of the best things you can do to make the most of your free time is to take a day or weekend trip outside of Paris so you can experience the immense gastronomical and cultural wealth that the country has to offer.
Here, we take a look at some of the most interesting and spectacular venues outside of IIe de France for you to discover without breaking the bank.
8 Top Getaways From Paris
1. Visit Picturesque Marseille
Marseille is a place that has amazing weather, making it ideal to visit any time of the year. Here, you’ll get to see and do an impressive range of activities, such as sightseeing around the city, taking a tour of the charming Old Port, visiting the breathtaking Cathedral and Abbey of Saint-Victor, among many other activities.
Since the location’s designation as Europe’s Capital of Culture in early 2013, Marseille has upgraded its cultural agenda, museums, and more, including the inauguration of the MuCEM (Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée) and the Villa Mediterranee.
For anyone seeking more than just city sights, the spectacular Calanques de Marseille is an amazing place to visit. Located between Cassis and Marseille, this area offers you the opportunity to take a catamaran cruise and have lunch in the fabulous National Park.
Getting to Marseille is easy and affordable by train, with direct trains leaving Paris Gare de Lyon each day for the 3.5-hour journey. If possible, try to book your ticket well in advance.
2. Chateau de Chantilly
The castle of Chantilly is built on 7,800 hectares of beautiful lush forest. It’s surrounded by water and the Chantilly Estate includes the castle gardens, the Conde Museum, the Musee du Cheval, the park, and the Grandes Ecuries.
At the Conde Museum, you’ll find the country’s second-biggest collection of ancient paintings next to the Louvre. The Chantilly Estate gardens were designed and created by the famed Monsieur Le Notre, and here they hold horse shows and the popular Musee du Cheval.
Chateau de Chantilly is one of the best places to visit on a budget because for the same affordable price, you get to experience such as a diverse range of activities and sights to please all. There are even acrobatic shows and dressage demonstrations to see during your visit here. For those interested in Western gardening, the park also offers an astounding panorama into this art.
3. Visit Versailles – City of Royals
Visiting Versailles is a great idea if you want to make the most of the time away from your books. If you dream of leaving the daily routine behind for a day or two, then this is the perfect trip for you. This popular spot was once a quiet village that slowly grew during the 17th century after a hunting lodge was built there by King Louis XVII.
The Versailles palace became the center of the monarchy during the Ancien Regime, an exclusivity which is evident in the building’s stunning architecture and the opulence of the rooms inside. You’ll have the chance to explore the exquisite gardens and discover the era’s history, ranging from the publicly guillotined Marie Antoinette to Louis XIV, also known as Louis the Great of France.
There are many easy, convenient, and affordable means to get to Versailles, which is just 23km from Paris, including trains, buses, or any other type of public transportation.
4. Spend a Dazzling Day at Rouen
Rouen, Normandy’s administrative capital, is located next to the River Seine. It has been nicknamed ‘The city with a hundred bell towers’ – and with good reason. Rouen has a long, storied history and boasts some of the most interesting museums in France, as well as the most mouthwatering gastronomy this culture has to offer.
Among the many possible options for short trips from the capital, Rouen is one of the most beautiful destinations you can choose. You can visit Monet’s beloved cathedral, which inspired the great artist’s ‘Cathedrals’ series.
Here, you’ll also see one of France’s most breathtaking medieval centers. Walk among the locals and admire the beautiful timber-framed houses. You can also visit Rouen’s Old Market Square – the place where they burned Jeanne d’Arc alive. Afterward, you can take a trip to the History Museum where you’ll discover all about the country’s Saint Patron.
Located just 126 km from the capital, getting here is easy and affordable by bus or train. Whether you have a few hours or a couple of days to spend here, you can be sure that your time will be filled with wonderful new discoveries.
5. Mont Saint Michel
Mont Saint Michel is a rocky islet that is surrounded by a strikingly beautiful bay, and taking time off to visit this place will make for some truly memorable experiences. Located on the border between Normandy and Brittany, this site has been on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites since 1979.
Mont Saint Michel is the scene of continental Europe’s biggest tides. Once famous for being a place of pilgrimage, now this isle has a fantastic mix of medieval military and religious architecture that will amaze all visitors.
For anyone looking for an interesting and original trip during their day or weekend break, this is a great option for you to consider. In addition to offering a wealth of unique experiences, a trip to Mont Saint Michel is an affordable and easy way to discover the biggest attractions of France outside of Paris.
Located just an hour from the capital, Giverny is a sleepy place where everything moves at a more serene and relaxed pace. Things have stayed pretty much the same as they were during Monet’s time. The great artist lived and painted in this little town from 1883 right until he died in 1926.
This place, which produced Monet’s great works, including the famous Les Nympeas, the waterlily series, sits on the ‘right side’ of the Seine river. A visit to these magical gardens that inspired this great master will certainly make for a very pleasant day trip from Paris.
Given that it only takes about an hour to get there from the capital by public transport, you can be sure you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy your visit. This is a trip that all nature lovers absolutely cannot miss.
7. Visit Lyon and Old Town
After you’ve exhausted all the spots in and around the city, it’s always a great idea to start looking a bit further afield. And while it’s hard to discover anything about Paris and its surrounding areas that haven’t been done before, there are still some areas that are off the beaten path enough to make them appealing.
One such place is the Lyon, the third-largest city in France, and one of Europes greatest historic cities. Known for its awe-inspiring cathedrals, bustling shops, and vibrant night scene, this area has a lot to see and do. You can lunch at one of the many top-notch restaurants located here, such as the La Cave Cote or the Brasserie Chantecler.
Alternatively, you’ll be able to rent a bike so you can explore the town’s intricate streets. You can even take a leisurely stroll on the beautiful streets so you don’t miss anything. From the Cathedral St-Jean to the Musee des Beaux-Arts and more, there’s something at Lyon and Old Town to please all tastes.