While Paris offers many great attractions, it can be good to take a break from city life and discover new things to do outside Paris. In the areas surrounding the city, there are tons of great activities and attractions to choose from. Historic locations like the Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte and the medieval town of Provins will transport you into the past. Theme parks like Disneyland Paris and Koezio adventure park provide fun for the whole family. And beautiful natural scenes are replete in places like Giverny and Parc de Sceaux. Whatever your pleasure, there are so many great things to do outside Paris. Whether you live in the City of Lights or plan on visiting Paris on your next vacation, don’t miss these great outings near the capital.
Make the most out of your Navigo Pass
Visit Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte
One of the most popular things to do outside Paris is visiting the many historic chateaux built around the city. No need to take a train to the Loire Valley, your Navigo pass can take you to the stunning Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte in just 30 minutes. Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is one of the most impressive historical French castles to be found outside of Paris. It is the largest existing private estate in France and is a beloved national monument. The château was built in the 1600s and yet is so well-maintained that stepping inside feels like taking a journey back to one of the most opulent periods in French history.
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In fact, the gardens at Château Vaux-le-Vicomte were the original inspiration for the gardens of Versailles. The chateau has many events throughout the year to bring its rich history to life. On The Grand Siècle Day, June 2, visitors from all over the country come dressed in period costumes. Every Saturday night from May to October, Vaux-le-Vicomte turns up the romance with their Candlelit Evenings as more than 2000 candles illuminate the estate. A visit to this chateau lets you experience the luxurious lifestyle of France’s pre-revolution aristocracy.
From Gare de l’Est in Paris, take the Line P train bound for Provins and get off at the Verneuil l’Etang train station. Your Navigo Pass covers your train ride! From there, the Vaux-le-Vicomte’s shuttle bus will take you directly to the chateau. You can get to this beautiful estate in just under 1 hour!
Relax at Parc de Sceaux
Less than 15 kilometers away from Paris sits the stunning Parc de Sceaux. Surrounding Château de Sceaux, these grounds were not made public until the early 1900s. The gardens are built in the classic French style and feature an orangery, a canal, and a statuary. It is probably the most famous spot for viewing cherry blossoms in spring where festivals and large picnics are held. The town of Sceaux is itself a sight to behold, characterized by its beautiful fine homes and charming cafes. Parc de Sceaux and the surrounding town can be reached from Paris in as little as 30 minutes via the RER B.
Shop for bargains at La Vallée Village
If you love shopping without the huge price tag, then La Vallée Village is the place to be. This luxury outlet mall carries all your favorite designers at discounted prices. Some of the brands sold at La Vallée Village include Balenciaga, Céline, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana. There are also mid-market brands like Levi’s, Sandro, and Maje. It’s one of the best things to do outside Paris if you’re someone who loves fashion and a great bargain. La Vallée Village is just an hour from Paris by the RER A. It’s more than easy to get there and back in an afternoon and even easier to spend a whole day at the mall scooping up bargains! For more on shopping in Paris, download our Paris Shopping Guide.
Explore nearby towns
Provins is a fascinating medieval town less than two hours from central Paris. Dating as far back as the time of the Roman empire, this little town’s history has been steeped in conflict and violence but it has come out of it as charming town. Every year, the city of Provins throws festivals to celebrate its rich heritage. On June 15th and 16th, 2019, Provins will host Europe’s biggest and best medieval fair where you can see throngs of costumed tourists and locals take over the city for a weekend of revelry and fun. You can combine your visit here with a trip to Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte by taking the train Line P!
Any fan of Monet will surely have the town of Giverny at the top of their bucket list. This picturesque town was the inspiration for some of Monet’s most famous works. It’s easy to see why. Giverny is located just an hour east of Paris by train. Here you can visit the artist’s home and the gardens he so loved to paint. Giverny also houses the Museum of Impressionism where you can learn about the movement fathered by Monet and his successors. The city takes on a special charm during the spring and summer months when the flowers are in full bloom. Discover everything there is to do and see in the town with our Giverny Map!
While many Impressionists followed Monet’s lead and settled in Giverny, Auvers-sur-Oise played host to several other famous artists over the 20th century. Daubigny, Cezanne, Pissarro and Van Gogh all called Auvers-sur-Oise home at one point or another during their career. This city is where Van Gogh spent the last days of his life and where his remains can be found today. Auvers-sur-Oise also contains the Musée de l’Absinthe which seeks to recreate the ambience and culture of French cafes during la Belle Époque. Auvers-sur-Oise can be reached from Paris in an hour by taking the SNFC H train from Gare du Nord.
Have a full day of wholesome fun
Looking for more exciting things to do outside Paris? What could be better than a trip to Disneyland? Weather you’re travelling with children or just want to let your inner child run loose, there is always something at Disneyland to put a smile on your face. Like all Disney Parks, Disneyland Paris has its own assortment of exclusive rides and experiences with all of the classic features and highlights you expect. The Disney Studio Park is also an attraction no to be missed! Make sure to visit the park on a weekday for minimum crowding and best access to fast-pass tickets which let you skip the lines. Book your 1-Day ticket here!
Parc Asterix is the second biggest theme park in France after Disneyland Paris. This adventure park is based off of the hugely popular French comic series Asterix. Asterix follows the trials and tribulations of a village of Gaul people as they resist Roman occupation during 50 BC. Despite its very unique theme, the park carries many classic attractions like roller coasters, electric trains and other standard rides. 2019 is the 30th anniversary of the park so there are likely to be tons of specials events announced during the high season in spring and summer.
Koezio is an indoor theme park where you and your assembled team mates will attempt to play your way through the obstacle course and accomplish your mission before time runs out. You and your team will be immersed in an alternate universe where you will have to work together to find clues, complete challenges and solve the final mystery. Challenges are offered in both English and French and last between 90 to 120 minutes. Koezio is situated in the city of Cergy, an hour and a half from Paris by RER A.
Go on a mini road trip
Visit champagne cellars in Reims
If you’re hoping for more sophisticated things to do outside of Paris, hop in your car and head for the city of Reims where you can visit some of the country’s best and oldest champagne cellars and vineyards. Under the unsuspecting city of Reims sits 250 kilometers of cellers used to ferment champagne for centuries. You can easily visit two of Reims’ more important champagne houses in half a day; Veuve Clicquot and GH Martel are only within minutes of each other. Only about an hour and half from Paris on the A4 highway, explore the city with our Reims Map!
Explore the city of Chartres
The pre-medieval city of Chartres is best known for its stunning gothic Cathedral. The cathedral narrowly survived the second world war due to suspicions that it might be concealing German soldiers. Now, the cathedral is a popular attraction and the pride of the city. Another local attraction is Maison Picassiette, the famous house covered in mosaic tiles. Chartres also has a thriving culinary scene and is famed for its game pies and other delicacies. You can easily reach Chartres in less than an hour and a half from Paris by car via the A11.
Go chateau-hopping in Loire Valley
If after your visit to Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte you’re still keen for more French castles, a visit to the Loire Valley should be on the agenda. It is one of the most popular things to do outside Paris. Here you will find an amazing collection of more than 300 chateaux built in a variety of classic styles. The area is also a rich agricultural center that houses many vineyards and fruit orchards. Notable châteaux include Château d’Azay-le-Rideau surrounded by an extensive moat and Château de Chambord which exemplifies French Renaissance architecture. The Loire Valley is more than a two hour drive from Paris via the A10 highway. You can book your Fairytale Loire Castles Tour from Paris including wine tasting and Lunch here!
INSIDR Tips for travelling outside of Paris
Getting a Navigo Pass
If you’re planning on discovering things to do outside Paris during your visit, getting a Navigo Pass is a must. The pass covers you for all travel inside the city and for trips on suburban trains like the RER, L, and P. That means you can cover the costs for your trips to the airport as well as to sightseeing attractions like Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte and Disneyland Paris. The card costs just 5€ and an unlimited week pass is only 22.80€. Navigo passes can be purchased directly online at Navigo.fr, and at all RATP ticket desks inside most metro stations. Make sure to bring a valid piece of photo ID to be attached to your card.
Renting a car
Though more expensive than a Navigo pass, renting a car affords you the most freedom while exploring things to do outside Paris. It can be advantageous because you can go at your own pace and make as many or as few stops as you want! For example, a trip to Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte can easily be combined with a trip to the Fontainebleu Forest or to the medieval town of Provins. To rent a car in France as a foreigner you will need to present a passport, a valid driver’s license, and depending on your country of origin, an international driver’s permit. Popular car rental companies in France include Avis, Europcar, Hertz, and Enterprise. For information on toll booths, road rules and other INSIDR tips, see our full guide on driving in France and renting a car.
Booking train tickets
If you’re planning on travelling to a different city outside of the Navigo zones, you’ll need to take an SNCF TGV train or an Intercité train. It’s best to book TGV tickets a month in advance when the prices are cheapest. Train tickets can be booked in SNCF stations and on their official website. All TER, L, P and RER train tickets have fixed prices based on the distance you’ll be travelling so there’s no need to purchase them in advance. They can simply be purchased at the train station billeterie or ticket machines.
– When travelling by train in France, you’ll need to consult the Departures Board to find which platform your train will leave from. Note that the Departures Board often displays only the trains leaving in the next 10 to 20 minutes, so don’t panic if you don’t see your train right away.
– It’s always a good idea to download the EURail App which contains up to date timetables for all of the trains across Europe.
– Lastly, don’t forget to bring snacks. It’s totally okay to eat on board all trains in Europe. Most trains do not come equipped with a meal cart so it’s a good idea to come prepared.