When going on a city break the tendency is to stay within the confines of the metropolitan area, or even just the city centre. This is understandable if this is your first visit to the city – you want to visit the most well-known attractions. If this is your second or third visit to a particular city, however, why not turn to the back of your guidebook and consider taking one of the recommended day trips out of the city? Why not take in one of the smaller towns or villages on the outskirts of the city, go for a hike in the surrounding hills, or visit an out-of-town activity centre?
This will allow you to create a visit that is a bit different to everyone else’s experience of the city. You can take a break from hectic city life and experience a slower-paced version of the country you are visiting.
In a new series, Send My Bag takes a look at some of the best day trips from a number of Europe’s capital cities. This week, we explore the top five day trips from Paris.
Paris is actually one of those cities with out-of-town attractions that have become as popular its city-centre ones. Most people fit in a trip to the Palace of Versailles and/ or Disneyland while they are in Paris. But there is so much more to see away from the tourist hoards.
- Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. Instead of Versailles, why not visit Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte? This 17th-century château is located in Maincy, 55 km southeast of Paris. The Vaux-le-Vicomte estate covers over 1,200 acres and includes stunning formal gardens that visitors may walk around at their leisure or by following one of the suggested routes. Beyond the gardens there are also woodland and streams to enjoy. You can visit four floors of the château itself, which is laid out as though its original residents, Nicolas Fouquet and family, had only just moved out. You can see the sumptuously decorated private apartments and ceremonial rooms, as well as the more modest kitchen and staff rooms in the basement. You can also choose to pay an extra 3 euro to take in the dome at the top of the building, which affords panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. In addition, you can watch an audio-visual display on the creation of the garden by André le Nôtre and wander round the Carriage Museum where old carriages and their accessories are on display. If you can, visit on a Saturday evening between May and October to see the château lit by 2,000 candles! To get to Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte you can take the train (Transilien P, direction Provins) from Gare de l’Est in Paris to Verneuil l’Étang and from there take a shuttle to the château.
- Provins. Take the same Transilien P train from Paris Gare de l’Est to the end of the line and you will end up in the medieval town of Provins. This town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with 58 listed monuments. These include the ramparts that surround the entrance to the old town, dating from the 11th to the 13th century, the 12th-century Caesar’s Tower and the Underground Galleries. Throughout the town you will see examples of medieval architecture, even if you walk down the most unassuming side street. There are plenty of good places to eat in Provins, especially in the Old Town (or the Upper Town). These range from crêperies, to cafés and up-market restaurants. There are also a number of shops that sell gifts inspired by Provins’ medieval origins and many rose products, in a nod to the Rose of Provins. If you head slightly out of the town centre you can visit the Roseraie (Rose Garden) where sun loungers are provided for your relaxation. Provins is a sleepy, quiet town and will provide a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of Paris.
- Giverny. To the north-west of Paris is Giverny. This is the location of the home and garden of renowned artist Claude Monet. Visitors can look around both the house, which has been lovingly restored, and the garden, which contains both a flower garden (Clos Normand) and a Japanese-inspired water garden. It is in the water garden that you will see the Japanese bridge and the water lilies that were the subject of some of Monet’s most famous paintings. You can get to Giverny by taking the train from Gare Saint Lazare to Vernon (direction Rouen) and then taking a shuttle bus to complete the journey.
- Parc Astérix. Instead of taking the kids to Disneyland, why not try the Parc Astérix, located 35 km north of Paris. There are rides galore at this theme park, from the new attraction Discobélix, to Romus et Rapidus, a river ride, and Le Grand Splatch, a log flume ride. There are also some calmer activities for younger children, such as le Petit Train or the Panoramix Play Area. There are shows to watch together as a family, such as a dolphin and sea lion display and a staged competition between the Gauls and the Romans. You can also meet the Astérix and Obélix characters face to face. By choosing Parc Astérix over Disneyland, you will get to experience the characters and narratives behind one of France’s best loved comics and thus help your kids learn about French culture. To get to the park you can take the RER B train from Gare du Nord to Aéroport Charles de Gaulle, Terminal 1’. From there you can take a shuttle bus to the Parc Astérix.
- Parc de Thoiry. Another option for a family day out is Parc de Thoiry, an animal reserve that also has a stunning château. You can take the safari park trail by car and see animals such as zebras, elephants and giraffes. Or you can go by foot to see animals like lions and tigers in their enclosures. And, there is the ‘Arche des petites bêtes’, which houses smaller animals, such as reptiles, amphibians and insects. Visitors can also go inside the château. It still has residents, so only the lounge areas on the ground floor and the archive room are accessible. What’s more, you can enjoy the château’s beautiful gardens, and get lost (literally) in its maze. Parc de Thoiry is in the town of Thoiry and is best reached by car, especially if you want to do the safari trail. To get there from Paris, take the A13 from Porte d’Auteuil, then the A12, followed by the N12 towards Dreux and take the exit for Thoiry.
Can you recommend any day trips from Paris? Let us know on our Facebook Page. Remember that you can have your luggage sent to your hotel in France with Send My Bag, so that you enjoy your journey to the full, without having to drag heavy bags onto public transport. You also won’t have to wait around at bag drop or luggage carousels, thus speeding up your journey into Paris.
Shopping abroad is for many the ultimate way to experience another country and have great fun at the same time. While many global brands can be found in almost any city, there are still many retailers that are unique to their own country. Sampling their wares offers fascinating insight into that country’s culture and people. The spread of global brands also means that shoppers have to travel further afield and beyond the high street to source unique items. Shopping abroad can be extremely enjoyable, but there are a few things to be aware of to ensure your trip runs smoothly. Following on from our guide to the top European shopping destinations, Send MyBag has put together some tips to help you plan your shopping trip abroad.