Paris is a beautiful city. It is filled with incredible museums, delicious restaurants, and stunning architecture. It is also filled with people, traffic, and in increasing frequency of late, protests and strikes. I love Paris, and it is absolutely where I feel most at home. But sometimes you just need a break from the hustle and bustle of a big city. And with the massive May 1st demonstrations on the horizon, there has never been a better time to explore the suburbs of Paris. Below are my top five favourite destinations outside of the city.
This beautiful town is just under an hour from Paris, and it is one of my favourite places in the suburbs of Paris. Moret-sur-Loing dates back to the 11th century, when it was an incredibly important border town between the Kingdom of France and the Duchy of Burgundy. Today, many of the original medieval buildings still stand, meaning walking the streets of this town is like stepping back in time. Moret-sur-Loing was also the home of Alfred Sisley, an important Impressionist painter of the late 19th century. Art lovers will absolutely recognize many of the landscapes of this beautiful riverside town from his paintings. Moret-sur-Loing is my perfect day trip from Paris.
France is nothing if not filled with beautiful castles. And one of my favourite castles is the Château de Rambouillet, located in its namesake town an hour southwest of Paris. This castle has hosted Kings, Emperors, and Presidents over the centuries, and many important events in French history happened within its walls. For over a century, the Château de Rambouillet was the summer residence of the French Presidents, but today, it is open to the public. That being said, it receives only a tiny fraction of the visitors to Versailles or Fontainebleau. The town of Rambouillet is also very beautiful and picturesque, so if you’re looking for an off the beaten track day trip, I highly recommend this charming town.
This town is a little further afield, as it will take nearly an hour and a half to get there on the train. But the train is a direct line from Gare de l’Est into the suburbs, so it’s very accessible. And worth the trip, because Provins is a stunningly beautiful and nearly entirely intact medieval town that hosts many festivals throughout the year. It is also home to the beautiful Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church, towering medieval border walls, and the historic Tour Cesar that offers stunning views of the countryside. Provins was once such an economic powerhouse that it could command its own currency. Today, it’s an incredible monument to French history.
This one is for the more adventurous out there, as Pierrefonds is not what I would deem easy to access by public transport. Not impossible, mind you. But I will admit that this beautiful town is most easily accessed by car. I’m still including it, however, because the Château de Pierrefonds is the stuff that fairy tales are made of. A stunning castle, perched high on a hilltop, overlooking a beautiful lakefront town. I promise I am not exaggerating the beauty of Pierrefonds. Even if you brave public transport, it will be worth the trip.
All of the destinations listed above are incredibly beautiful places to visit. However, I also recognize that they are all a bit of a journey. Therefore, for those of you looking for a suburban adventure without a long train ride, Vincennes is the place for you. Mostly because of the Château de Vincennes. This beautiful castle complex was once the home of the French monarchy, and a lot of history has passed through its walls over the centuries. And the best part? The Château de Vincennes can be accessed by the Paris metro. That’s right. No long train trips into the depths of the suburbs, as Vincennes is located on the east side of Paris at the end of metro line 1. It’s the perfect suburban adventure for those with less time and/or desire to explore further afield.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.