Studying abroad in Paris will afford you the opportunity to visit the sites, museums and beauty that makes Paris, well, Paris. But sometimes it’s good to take a break from visiting the City of Lights to explore the other culturally and historically rich areas right around Paris. Let’s take a look at 5 quick, affordable and fun day trips near Paris.
Château de Fontainebleau
You don’t have to take a weekend trip to the Loire Valley if you want to see a château with beautiful gardens. The Fontainebleau Castle is located 34 miles outside of Paris- about an hour train ride from Gare de Lyon. Its construction started in the 1100s and was reconstructed several times throughout the centuries until its last renovations in the late 1800s. This castle has housed numerous French ruling families well known in France’s history. If you like history, art, architecture, and nature, than you will really enjoy your visit to Château de Fontainebleau. Another bonus, admission is free to students who are registered at a university or French school. Just be sure to bring your student ID and that your metro ticket/ Navigo Pass has been upgraded for the additional zones outside of Paris. Per the castle’s website, you should plan for a full day of sight seeing. For more information please check out official website at
Versailles is a must see. From the Hall of Mirrors to the apartments to the gardens, you will enjoy the beauty, elegance and history of this palace and its grounds. As France’s most famous palace, it is only fitting that it was home to one of the most opulent French kings, Louis XIV, and it’s most controversial queen, Marie Antoinette. My only word of advice is to be prepared to be crammed. This is a major tourist destination in France and each room will seem to be more crowded than the previous one. It is worth it especially when you can see the open and vastly majestic gardens. Tickets for the museum and the train can be purchased in advance from a RATP metro station that has a sales window. On the official Versailles website, a student rate (le tariff jeune) isn’t listed but no admission package is over 16€. However, if you plan your visit far enough in advance, you can go the first Sunday of the month from November to March which is a free admission day. Visit http://en.chateauversailles.
Every American student knows New Orleans but did you know that the original Orléans is in France about 1 hour and 10 minutes southwest of Paris? Orléans is a charming, small city. The main attractions center around Jeanne d’Arc or Joan of Arc. She is the famous female soldier who helped the French army win victory over an English invasion in the 1400s but unfortunately was burned at the stake for her involvement in the army. Good food, unique shops, a beautiful and medieval town center, cathedral and city hall, Orléans is great day trip and easily accessible by train. The Jeanne D’Arc statue, the cathedral and city hall are free and the admission to see her house is 4€. Please check out this great article link in the NY Times which gives great tips on local stores, restaurants as well as the official site for the town of Orléans below to plan your day trip.
Claude Monet’s Garden- Giverny
Claude Monet, often referred to as the father of French Impressionism Art, has a beautiful home in Giverny, France which is just 1 hour and 10 minutes northwest of Paris. Monet is most famous for his water lilies paintings. He drew inspiration from his garden which he had constructed at his home (it was not there naturally). One look at the garden and you can imagine Claude out there with his canvas, easel and paintbrush soaking up the sunshine and capturing the light glistening off each lily pad with his paint brush. The only downside to this site is that there is not a direct route. You can take a train from Paris to Vernon and then take a cab, rent a bike or walk (walk is 1 hour) to the site. My best advice, find the art club at your French university and ask if they will be visiting the Claude Monet garden. I was fortunate that an art group from my French university organized a trip there for 5€. There is also the option of going with a tour group. Please visit the below sites when planning your trip.
This town may not sound familiar but it had a very famous resident before his untimely passing. Auvers-sur-Oise is a small, quaint and quintessential French town 16 miles northwest of Paris and is known now as the burial place of famous Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh. Vincent spent his last few months in this charming French village before he took his own life in a field. You can visit the hotel and room where Vincent spent his last days before visiting the infamous field and his grave site, located in the town cemetery. If you are really a big Vincent fan you can also visit his doctor’s house. But that’s not all. This town also has a small château, an absinthe museum, art galleries, small shops, great local pastries as well as beauty. The admission for a day in Auvers-sur-Oise is: Vincent Van Gogh’s room at Auberge Ravoux- 6€; Field and cemetery= free; Absinthe Museum- 4€ for students; château d’Auvers- 13,50€ (I did not see a student rate but I would ask). The trickiest part is getting there. This is a very small town and there is no direct train ride. You will have to do a train transfer. The below website is the official site of the town which provides additional information as well as how to get there from Paris. Don’t miss this great day trip.
Paris is rich in culture, history, art and good food and shopping but so are its surrounding areas. When planning your day trips, always ask for le tarif jeune even if it isn’t always listed. The train rides will be the most expensive part of the day trip ranging from 10-30€ per ticket. Make the most of your time in Paris by seeing what France has to offer. As we say in France<< Profitez-en bien! >>
Andrea Bouchaud studied abroad in Paris for a year and wrote the ultimate guide to studying abroad in Paris, Twenty in Paris: A Young American Perspective of Studying Abroad in Paris, available on Amazon. Be sure to follow Andrea on Twitter at @twentyinparis and on her blog at twentyinparis.tumblr.com