It’s hard to imagine that anyone could become tired of Paris: the mysterious ambience, the iconic monuments, the romantic bridges, the fabulous boutiques, the mouth-watering menus. But if you hanker after seeing more of France – it’s easy to take a day trip for a complete change of scenery such as a day trip from Paris to Amboise in the heart of the Loire Valley
Take a day trip by train from Paris
With six train stations in metropolitan Paris alone and trains running almost every minute, an out-and-back, one-day getaway is convenient and surprisingly inexpensive.
Easy as it is, there are some guidelines to follow that will minimize the hassle and maximize the enjoyment of your day trip from Paris. It’s a good idea to limit the one-way travel time to two hours. Take your trip in the middle of the week. Take the first train out, but not the last train back.
Let me explain. Two hours on a train passes relatively quickly, unless you’re going to work, and especially if you’re nursing a hot cappuccino and fresh croissant. Let your mind wander as you watch the sun rise and the landscape roll by through your carriage window. You’ll arrive at your destination, rested and ready to explore.
Traveling in the middle of the week means lower fares and a less crowded railcar. Booking the first car out at roughly 7am in the morning ensures that you arrive at your destination around 9am, with the whole day to enjoy. (And, okay, you can also take a nap on the train if you’re not a morning person. Just don’t, you know, sleep through your stop.)
Reserving a 5pm or 6pm return ensures that if, for whatever reason, you miss your train, you have a good chance of catching a later one and not being stranded in a strange city overnight with no change of clothes.
Paris to Amboise day trip
With those details in mind, let’s take a day trip to Amboise in the Loire Valley, former home to the French royal court and last residence of Leonardo da Vinci.
Aim to arrive at Gare d’Austerlitz station in Paris’ 4th arrondissement at about 7am to catch a 7.37am train bound for Amboise. The thirty minutes wait time gives you a chance to look at the station’s ever-changing art exhibitions. Sometimes it’s photography. Sometimes it’s cartoons. Whatever it is, it’s always different and always interesting.
If you get a seat on the right side of the train (facing forward), the sun will not be in your eyes. This is a small but important detail, especially if you want to snooze or scan headlines on your laptop.
There are about 12,000 inhabitants in Amboise. It can be a little touristy at times, but we’re here for the history. By that I mean Chateau d’Amboise, former home to French kings and, surprisingly, Mary Queen of Scots when she was a child. We’ll also visit Chateau Gaillard, as well as Clos Lucé, the last home of Leonardo da Vinci, who is buried in the town.
Day trip highlights in Amboise
It’s a little under 10 minutes by taxi from the station to the historic center, or a 20 minute walk. The rest of the day is on foot and within easy walking distance.
First, the Chateau Amboise. If you’re in Amboise, you can’t miss it. The chateau is massive, sitting on the side of a hill, dominating the village, and overlooking the Loire river and valley.
Around an hour and a half is a good time to spend at the chateau which boasts a beautiful garden and breath-taking views across the valley. The walls practically drip with history. The tomb of Leonardo da Vinci is in a small chapel off to one side of the chateau’s garden level. It’s nice to just take a moment and silently appreciate this personal, intimate place. It will echo with meaning later, after you visit the Chateau du Clos Lucé, where he lived for the last few years of his life. What to see and do in Amboise and more on the Chateau
From the chateau, it’s a two-minute walk into the historic center of Amboise. Here, cafés bustle with tempting, reasonably-priced options in a postcard-perfect setting.
From here it’s a ten-minute stroll to the Chateau Gaillard, appropriately nicknamed ‘the most Italian chateau in the Loire. Allow an hour to an hour and a half here, enjoying the luxurious interiors and marvelling at the beautiful gardens.
Five minutes away the Chateau du Clos Lucé, the home of Leonardo da Vinci from 1516 to 1519. In addition to the house in which he lived, there is wonderful museum which hosts an enlightening celebration of the life and work of this unique genius.
You could easily spend two hours or more here. The exhibits are varied, informative, interactive, and awe-inspiring. A real highlight of the day trip. Chateau du Clos Lucé – last home of Leonardo da Vinci; Gorgeous gardens of the Chateau du Clos Lucé
Byron Tully is author of The Old Money Book and curates The Old Money Book blog at www.theoldmoneybook.com. He lives in Paris with his wife.
More day trips from Paris
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