2 Royal Day Trips From Paris You Need To Go On
Updated: Dec 6, 2020
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Let's face it, Paris is probably in the top half of almost everyone's bucket list. I've visited the city a few times, for various events, but it still fails to be one of my favourite places to visit in Europe. That being said, I've had the opportunity to go on a couple of day trips from Paris, and I thoroughly enjoyed them, more so than walking around the streets of Paris. So, if you find yourself with a day or two to spare while visiting the French capital, here are two of my top recommendations for day trips out of Paris:
1. Château de Versailles
Château de Versailles had been at the top of my bucket list ever since learning about French history in school. When I actually got to visit it I was beyond excited and felt like a child on their first trip to Walt Disney World. It played such a prominent role in French history (don't worry I won't go on and on about it), and it still stands today as an historic landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site. I visited in the winter, but I've seen photos of the gardens in the summer and they look incredible. You can also take the opportunity to watch the musical fountains show if you visit when those are on.
Opening hours: 9am - 6:30pm, closed Mondays
Entry fee: Unfortunately entry into Versailles is not free for adults. A €20 day pass gets you entry into all parts of the estate for the whole day. However, entry is FREE for EU citizens under the age of 26 and free for under 18's of any nationality (other ticket concessions available on the website).
Getting there: A trip to Versailles from Paris takes only about 45 minutes by train. Once you arrive at Versailles, it's then a short walk up the main street to the palace itself.
A day trip from Paris to Versailles is one of the best day trips you can go on. Even on a cloudy day, the magnificence of the palace will astound you. The short walk from the train station to the palace offers you a great view of Versailles from a distance and really gets your excitement flowing.
Once inside the palace gates, you'll find yourself in the Royal Courtyard which will give you access to different routes of the castle. If you continue towards the palace, you'll walk up a few steps and find yourself standing in the Marble Courtyard.
My favourite part of Versailles had to be the famous Hall of Mirrors. There's a grand total of 357 mirrors adorning this room, and when the sun shines through the windows it reflects to all corners of the hall. It was built to show the absolutist power of the Sun King, Louis XIV. If you're planning on visiting Versailles, make sure you don't miss this part of the palace.
The palace grounds and gardens are immense, and you can walk through all of it. Or if you prefer there's a little train car you can hop on to get to the other locations around the grounds. Since we planned our day trip to Versailles in the middle of the winter, its true beauty wasn't on display for us, but it was still nice to walk around.
I completely forgot this was here until we were exploring the grounds. The Queen's Hamlet was restructured by Marie-Antoinette and takes on a completely different style than the main palace. It looks like something out of a fairy tale, and is easily missed if you're not on a guided tour or don't follow the map correctly.
Exploring the Palace of Versailles is one of the best day trips from Paris you can go on. I would recommend spending half of a day here at the very least in order to see everything that this gorgeous historic site has to offer.
2. Château de Fontainebleau
An alternative day trip from Paris is to Château de Fontainebleau. It's not as popular as Versailles, which makes it ideal for visiting even during the peak season. The last time I visited Paris I was looking for somewhere to visit outside of the centre that wasn't too far away, and having already been to Versailles on a previous visit, Fontainebleau was ideal. I did make the mistake of not looking up the opening hours of Fontainebleau though, assuming that it was open on a Tuesday. It was not. However, you could still walk around the palace grounds and since it wasn't open there were practically no other people there. It's set in a lovely French town as well so you can take a walk around it if you have time and get a bite to eat.
Opening hours: Oct-Mar 9:30am - 5pm, Apr-Sept 9:30am - 6pm, CLOSED Tuesdays
Entry fee: FREE for EU citizens under the age of 26 and under 18's of any nationality (other concessions available on the website). If you want to visit the Grand Apartments, it'll cost you €12 per ticket.
Getting there: Getting to Fontainebleau from Paris by train takes just 1 hour, and then you have to get a bus for another 15 minutes to the palace itself. You can walk from the train station but it takes a long time. I did that on the way back, and ended up getting stuck in the pouring rain and had to sprint for the last train. So I wouldn't recommend it unless you have time, and are fortunate enough to have nice weather.
The Palace of Fontainebleau is much smaller than Versailles, but it's still one of the largest royal palaces in France. It's a beautiful sight when you pass through the gates, which are ornately decorated. It was once a hunting lodge for the kings of France, and has a long history dating back to the 12th century.
The grounds and gardens of Fontainebleau are beautifully maintained, and lovely to walk around during the summer months. Because of its close proximity to Paris, it's a favourite spot for Parisians looking to take a day trip or weekend break.
Fontainebleau was also known to have one of the grandest gardens in the whole of France at one point. They were built during the reign of King Francois I, who wanted to rival the stunning gardens found in Italy.
Something fun to do at Fontainebleau is to rent a boat and row around Carps Pond. It's a great way to relax and take in the palace from another point of view.
Despite not being able to visit the inside of the palace, Fontainebleau was still a great choice for a day trip from Paris, and was very different than the crowded Palace of Versailles. Both palaces played an important role in French history, and are worth visiting if you're looking to go on a day trip under an hour from Paris. If you're looking for some tips about exploring Paris like a local, check out confusionofcultures for some great advice!
Fun fact: In Russia, the gardens of Peterhof Palace were designed to rival those at Versailles. So if you're ever in St Petersburg, I would highly recommend going there. You can read about my experience here. Another capital city which I would definitely recommend visiting, with gorgeous palaces, is Vienna. And if you ever find yourself crossing the border into Spain, check out my blog post about Toledo & Segovia, two beautiful medieval cities which are also great for day trips. Don't forget to follow my adventures on Instagram, and get in touch if you have any tips or questions!