If you’re spending enough time in Paris to consider day trips, here are two to put at the top of your list: Giverny and the Loire Valley.
First up is Giverny, home to Claude Monet’s famous garden and water lily pond.
My friends Kris, Turner, and I took the train out to Giverny from Paris early on a Saturday morning. It’s an easy train ride, only about 45 minutes outside of the city, and you arrive in a town called Vernon that has an amazing Saturday morning farmer’s market. I’d recommend timing your trip to visit it, and getting provisions for a picnic lunch!
Turner just finished up a PhD in art history, and was doing a fellowship this summer in Giverny with some fellow art historians and artists, so Kris and I were really excited to see where she’d been living! After hitting up the farmer’s market for lunch provisions, the three of us headed back to Turner’s place in Giverny (close to Vernon – there’s a shuttle if you don’t have a car) to dine al fresco.
We had cider:
A big, fresh salad with radishes, carrots, and cucumber:
Plus bread, cheese, roasted chicken, and the most amazing strawberries.
After lunch, Kris and I went to check out Monet’s house! We started with the gardens, which were lovely.
And then made our way to the famous water lilies. It was crowded, but so beautiful!
If you have any time after your tour of Monet’s home/gardens and want to explore, the hills around Giverny are lovely for hiking.
And the town is quite cute, too.
We ended up getting rained on and had to cut our hike short, but it was still a lot of fun to explore! I’d definitely recommend checking out Giverny if you’re in Paris – such an easy train ride and totally worth the trip.
Another day trip to consider is the Loire Valley, a beautiful region of France that is known for its wine and castles. Wine and castles?! Sign me up!
Kris and I had the pleasure of taking a Loire Castles & Wine Tasting Tour through City Wonders, who generously offered us both a complimentary tour in exchange for sharing our experience here on the blog.
City Wonders runs their Loire Castle & Wine Tasting Tour on Tuesdays and Saturdays; it departs from Paris at 7:30 a.m. and you arrive back in the city about 12 to 13 hours later.
There were about 20 people on our tour and we all hopped on a comfy bus to take us a few hours outside the city to our first stop: Château de Chambord, the castle that inspired Disney’s Beauty and the Beast!
The castle, which was never completed, was constructed by King Francis I of France. It’s the largest château in the Loire Valley, and was originally built to serve as a hunting lodge for Francis I. Ridiculous, right? Oh, just my humble hunting lodge, no big deal…
In 1792, in the wake of the French Revolution, some of the furnishings were sold and timber removed, and the building was left abandoned until restoration attempts began in the 19th century. The building remains pretty sparse inside – the true beauty of this castle is the outside and the views.
I especially loved all the towers!
Our next stop on the City Wonders tour was a private wine tasting and lunch at the Château de Nitray, a lovely, privately-owned castle and winery.
Nitray is a small 16th century Renaissance castle – so cool that people still live in it!
Lunch was fabulous – so simple and SO delicious. Roasted chicken, tomatoes, and potatoes! Plus some unpictured salad.
And some house wine, of course!
We also enjoyed some delicious cheese and bread. And for dessert, apple pie!
We were all raving about this lunch – absolutely loved it!
Bellies full, we hopped back on the bus and headed to our final stop of the day: the amazing Château de Chenonceau, which was hands down my favorite of the day. Stunning!
The current château was built in 1514–1522 on the foundations of an old mill and was later extended to span the River Cher. It’s the second most visited castle in France, after Versailles, and it showed – it was MOBBED the day we were there. Even so, if you only have time to visit one castle in the Loire Valley, make it this one. It made me want to go back in time and live in it so badly! The inside was amazing, too, and much more decorated than Chambord was.
Chenonceau also has some amazing gardens. Both functional…
And just pretty.
We also enjoyed another wine tasting there in the cellars. It was fun, but if you have limited time, skip the wine tasting and spend your time exploring the castle instead.
A big thank you to City Wonders for the opportunity to go on this tour! I would absolutely recommend them if you’re in Paris and looking to do a Loire Valley day trip. (City Wonders also offer tours around Paris and in Italy, Spain, the UK, and here in the USA.) In addition to being a convenient way to see a bunch of places all in one day without having to plan it yourself, we also had a wonderful guide with us. He shared history and facts on the bus rides to the castles, and we had headsets when we were touring the two castles so he could give us a full tour without needing to shout. Once his brief tours were done, we had time to go off and explore on our own, too, which I liked. If I have one criticism of this day tour it was that we didn’t have nearly enough time at Chenonceau. I wish we had been able to stay longer – there was a lot to explore that we didn’t get a chance to see, which was kind of a bummer, and it was such a beautiful day we would have loved to see more of the grounds!
Have you done any day trips from Paris? Do you recommend them? I’ve been to Versailles before and that’s a lovely day trip, too!