Undoubtedly the most famous and visited place in the Île-de-France region is the city of Paris. This romantic city is the centre of the region from which it’s only a short ride on one of the RER or metro lines to places like Versailles in the Southwest and the Marne region to the East.
In about 45 minutes the metro takes you to Marne-la-Vallée, which has its own international train station and bus station, making it an easy place to explore the region from. From here you can dive into Île-de-France’s hidden gems.
The adventure starts on a bus ride to the town of Meaux, in the Marne, renowned for its cheese and mustard. This city is not well known to international visitors but is definitely worth a visit. Meaux is a relatively small town, with close to 50,000 people living there. On the banks of the Marne river and the Ourcq canal there are stunning areas for a picnic lunch. But before you head out for an al fresco lunch, first go shopping. Make your first stop one of the boulangeries in the city centre and pick up a crispy baguette and then stop off at one of the fromageries where you can buy the local specialty, brie de Meaux. It’s a soft and very flavourful cheese, which is perfect on a baguette. It’s a short walk to the benches overlooking the river – the perfect spot for lunch.
Take a stroll along the Marne river and head back to the centre to visit the Episcopal Palace and Bossuet Garden. This site was named after Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, a very influential bishop in 17th century France. It also houses the Bossuet Museum which has a collection of paintings and sculptures from the 16th up to the 19th century. The Renaissance style building is absolutely beautiful. The gardens are thought to have been designed by André Le Notre, the famous gardener responsible for the garden designs of the castles of Vaux-le-Vicomte and Versailles.
From here it’s a short walk to the cathedral of Saint Etienne. Begun in the 12th century, it took more than three centuries to complete, and blends various phases of Gothic architecture. End the day with an aperitif on one of the terraces opposite the cathedral and enjoy the amazing view.
For your next stop in the region, jump a bit further back in time. From Marne-la-Vallée take the bus to one of the most beautiful places in the Île-de-France region. The fortified town of Provins is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and lets you experience what it was like to live here almost 900 years ago.
Head to top of the Tour Cesar which rises high above the town and offers a magnificent view of Provins and the surrounding region. Wandering through the historic streets of this lovely old town makes you feel as if you’ve stepped into the past.
Don’t leave Provins without trying some of their local food and drinks. The refreshing Brie lager, irresistible chocolate – the Provins rose flavoured chocolates are scrumptious – and delicious ice cream are highly recommended!
The region has an abundance of historical sites including the castles of Vaux-le-Vicomte and Fontainebleau. But the most famous of all is the palace of Versailles, home to King Louis the XIV, the Sun King who reigned a record 72 years.
Former tour guide, Natascha Gordeau has a passion for travel, photography and story-telling. From her home in the Netherlands, she loves to visit France where her ancestors are from. Tash Travel Pics 🌍📸🗽 (@N_Gordeau) / Twitter
More on the Ile de France
Chevreuse Valley, bucolic countryside just an hour from Paris
Axe Majeur, a monumental artwork on the edge of Paris
Chateau de Breteuil, Chevreuse Valley