While impossible to bore of Paris, you may find the urge to escape the city for a day. But in a metropolis that is so easy to get around by foot, cycle or public transport, it's difficult to know how to escape without the complication of renting a car or dealing with giant tour buses.
Compass & Key presents three unforgettable day trips within easy reach of Paris, curated based on our first-hand experiences in each of these magical places.
1. Domaine de Chantilly
Transport: 25-minute train, Paris Gare du Nord station to Chantilly-Gouvieux station
Tickets: The €17 Domain ticket provides access to the Château, Grounds, Great Stables and Museum of the Horse
From the Chantilly train station, a pleasant 1-mile walk awaits you to reach the grand Château de Chantilly and its parkland. Only second to the Louvre in its vast collection of antique paintings, the layout of the art galleries in the Château have remained unchanged since the 19th century. On the way to the Château, make sure to stop by the Grand Stables of the estate, home to 30 show horses and a fascinating museum about the history of the horse and their role in war, hunting, and sports.
Once at the Château, make use of the audio guide included in your ticket and enjoy wandering the 18th-century suites and the remarkable collection of paintings, drawings, and sculpture. Leave extra time to wonder at the 60,000 volumes housed in the Reading Room, including medieval manuscripts dating to the 11th century.
Pause for lunch at the onsite cafe in the historic kitchens, leaving room for a dessert of Chantilly cream. Then escape to the outdoors, meandering along the Grand Canal to discover the many gardens of the Château park.
Transport: 1-hour high-speed TGV train, Paris Gare du Nord station to Lille Flandres station
Lille is often overlooked, but its incredible history and architectural gems make it worth a day trip. Designated a European Capital of Culture in 2004, Lille offers a walkable old town with several noteworthy museums, interesting sites, and delightful cafés.
Highlights include the museum Palais des Beaux-Arts, the neo-classical design of the Opera House, the grand 17th-century citadel used to fortify the city, and much more. For a self-guided walking tour of Lille, view our curated tour on Triposo.
Transport: 20-minute train, RER C line to Versailles-Rive Gauche
Tickets: Fat Tire Bike Tours-Versailles, from €99pp, including roundtrip train tickets to Versailles, entrance to the Palace and the all-day bike tour
You may be wondering why we included a common day trip destination like Versailles, but we discovered a unique way to explore the grandest estate of them all: by bike. On two wheels, you're able to explore much more of the estate's 2,000+ acres than you would on foot.
The Fat Tire bike tour of Versailles begins in Paris, where you embark on a quick 20-minute train ride to your destination. Pick up your bike and head to the local market to purchase French delicacies for a picnic on the estate later in the afternoon. Cycle through tree-lined pathways to reach Marie Antoinette's Hamlet and the small Trianon chateaus, where you'll have time to explore on foot. Enjoy your picnic lunch at the far end of the Grand Canal, then wander the grand Palace itself with the included audio guide. You have the option to return to Paris with the group or continue exploring Versailles on your own.