While the City of Lights of course has an immense amount of things to see and to do, sometimes you will need a break to get out of the city. I have a quick list of day and weekend excursions to get you away from the hustle and bustle.
Mont St. Michel
This is my absolute favorite place in the entire country of France. Better to experience this on a weekend as opposed to try to swing a day trip as you will have to get out of the Île and into Normandy, but a day trip is not out of the question if planned correctly. It is an ancient Norman Benedictine Abbey located on a small rock in the English Channel. Historically, when the tide would come in, the rock would be completely surrounded by water, making it inaccessible. Due to the increase of travel through the English Channel in the last 50 years, however, has changed how the tides work and it does not get completely surrounded any longer.
The view of the Abbey is breathtaking. And walking along the narrow alleyways is like a walk into history. If you are lucky, you will get there on a day when you can hear the monks chanting. It’s completely mesmerizing.
You would be remiss to make it all the way to Paris and not make it to the famous gold-crusted palace outside of the city. The symbol of the French monarchy and the fodder for the French Revolution, the palace was gloriously erected by the powerful “Sun King” Louis XIV. Of course the downfall was actually by his grandson, Louis XVI following his son’s terrible reign. Kind Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette lived there before they were eventually executed and their rooms have been maintained through the centuries to reflect how they lived.
The Hall of Mirrors alone is amazing to see. Also on the grounds is Marie Antoinette’s private quarters called Le Petit Trianon, her animal farm and cottage that was meant to remind her of her Austrian home. The grounds are immense and there are gardens to explore.
Monet’s Gardens at Giverny
Claude Monet’s home is not far from Paris and a frequent tourist destination. It’s a must-see for anyone interested in art history. The gardens opened to the public in 1980, immortalizing his brushstrokes with his private gardens. It will be easy to see where he found all of inspiration for his water lilies.
Especially if you have kids, getting out of Paris to head to Disneyland Paris would be a treat. Fully equipped with resort facilities, including a gold course, Disneyland is definitely a good time. There are plenty of rides and children entertainment in the true spirit of Disney.
Fontainebleau Palace and Park
Dripping in royal history, the palace and surrounding forest dates back to the 13th century. A visit here hits both history and architecture buffs alike as well as hiking up the nature lovers. The area is full of miles of hiking trails around the historic park and forest. The nearby town is Barbizon, famous for being the home to the painter Millet.
The Cathedral at Chartres
This would be an easy day trip to Normandy, or you could clump it together with the visit to le Mont St. Michel. It is a medieval Catholic cathedral that is one of the best examples of French Gothic architecture. The cathedral is also a statement of preservation. Most of the original stained glass windows are still intact and the architecture has only had minor changes since the 13th century. It’s a definite must-see.