Paris is a city where you’ll always find something new to fall in love with. But sometimes it’s good to get out of the city and see some of the rest of France. Luckily, there are loads of lovely villages you can get to and from within a day from the city. And what’s more, you can visit them all by public transport…
Claude Monet’s house and garden in Giverny, Normandy certainly leave an impression. Take the train to Vernon (nonstop services save time) which is itself very pretty. And then hop on the shuttle bus outside.
3 hours is enough to wander through the house which looks just like Monet has popped out to do a spot of painting. The gardens are stunning, a palette of colours, a riot of plants and an ogle-some lily pond. Afterwards take a wander through the tiny but pretty town and visit restaurant Hotel Baudy where many of Monet’s friends stayed (don’t miss the atmospheric studio in the garden). There’s a great museum in the one street town, several boutiques, a pretty church where the artist is buried and plenty of places for a pit stop. More on Monet’s house and gardens.
At the edge of the Fontainebleau forest, around 60km from Paris, Barbizon is nicknamed the village of the painters, because of the role it played in the history of French pre-impressionism. Artists like Renoir, Sisley and Monet flocked here, charmed by the picturesque village and surrounding nature.
A listed Village of Character, today its postcard pretty streets are home to art galleries, artisan workshops and the Museum of the Painters of Barbizon: visitparisregion.com/en/musee-des-peintres-de-barbizon
The village is surrounded by woods and perfect for a walk to see what inspired so many artists…
Take the train from Paris Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau, then a taxi or bus 21 to Barbizon.
The town of Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse at the gateway of Paris is pretty, romantic and a real taste of the countryside. You’ll find the promenade des petits ponts, a path along a canal lined with stone houses and old wash houses. The history of Chevreuse dates back at least 1,000 years, and there’s a 12th century castle which is free to explore. And the lovely 17th century Chateau de Dampierre is a 22 minute cycle from the town. There’s a cheese farm and several excellent restaurants – an idyllic place. Take the train from Gare du Nord to Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse which takes about 50 minutes. From the station you can rent e-bikes and push bikes – great to explore the Rambouillet Forest.
The UNESCO listed world heritage site of Provins is a medieval gem complete with a grand castle and winding cobbles streets. It’s also famous for its year-round festivals and events but this is no Disney town, it feels like you’ve stepped back in time to the middle ages! The train from Gare de l’Est goes direct to Provins in 1 hour 24 minutes. Details: provins.net