Places to visit just outside the city
Day Trips from Paris for you and the family
written by UK Mama – Jennifer Hamerman
Although Paris is gorgeous and filled with great places to explore, there is also so much to discover just outside the city. Take advantage of being in close proximity to some of the most enchanting places and spaces in France, that are just a train ride or a short drive away form the City of Light.
Fontainebleau is a beautiful chateau and has great gardens to explore. It also has the great advantage of the adjoining town and forests to give a little variety for the kids. The chateau has some great family activities for the April 2016 school holidays, including a session called ‘Dans le Peau d’un Courtisan” that looks like great fun, as kids get to play the role of a visiting Marquis, Prince or even the King! Getting there is easy. Take a train from Gare de Lyon in the direction of Montargis, Montereau, ou Laroche-Migennes. The green space around date chateau fabulous for bike riding and the village overall is extremely charming.
If you want something a little different to Disney, then this is it. Yes, it’s based on the characters from the famous comic books but, even if your children are not into Asterix, Obelix and their merry friends, there is a huge amount of fun to be had. Rollercoasters, sea-lion and dolphin shows, playgrounds and the new Forest of Dogmatix area. It’s so much fun for the family and teens will love it too.
“We paid €94 for hubby, myself and 5-year-old. Fantastic park like Disney with loads of roller coasters and shows. If your child is 1m tall, there is plenty for them to do (sometimes you need to accompany them). Longest queue was 30 mins (for the bigger rides). We spent all day there and would definitely go back and a good option for those who Disney is just a bit too expensive for.”
Super Mama Meagan – visited Parc Asterix April 3 2016
There are several ways to get there, including a coach (‘navette’) that will pick you up at the Louvre or you can take the RER to Charles-de-Gaulle Terminals 1 and 3 stop and take a coach from there. Details for both options can be found on the Parc Asterix website.
This is a must-do trip out to Giverny to see what was Claude Monet’s house and garden for 40 years and where he created his famous Waterlily paintings. Just a 45 minute train ride from Gare St Lazare in Paris to Vernon and then a shuttle bus – timed to meet each train and bring visitors to the Monet house. Before you visit, do think about introducing your kids to Monet and his Waterlilies through a visit to the Orangerie museum inside the Tuileries gardens in Paris. There are also many picture books for children such as Katie and the Waterlily Pond and The Magical Garden of Claude Monet that are great introductions for 3 – 7 year olds. Do bring the sketch pads and the colouring pencils to Giverny! Create a lovely childhood memory of drawing waterlilies in Monet’s garden with your offspring! Buy tickets in advance online.
Chantilly is stunning. Highlights of the Chateau include the art galleries and private suites. But even the grounds alone are worth the visit – fountains, flower beds and Anglo-Chinese Garden. Children love the maze and The Children’s Hamlet – two play areas, one for 3 – 6 year olds with a huge snail-shaped play area covered in grass, mini wooden houses and farm animals on springs. The other is for children aged 8 to 12, with a play structure on which bigger children can climb and jump from. There is also the Petit Parc with sheep and kangaroos and from April to November, a mini train. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays you can take a coach out to Chantilly from rue des Pyramides in central Paris run by ParisCityVision An alternative however, is to take the train from Gare du Nord to Chantilly-Gouvieux and then it’s a five-minute taxi ride or 20 minute walk to the Chateau or a free DUC bus ride to ‘Chantilly, Eglise Notre Dame.
Did you know there is a Playmobil fun park accessible on public transport from Paris? The park has 12 play areas with themes such as the farm, wild animals, pirates, a zoo and Vikings. There is a special area for the very little ones aged 18 – 36 months. Entry price is very reasonable at just 3 Euros (and it is free for kids under 3). As the price suggests, this is not Disneyland, but it’s a great option for younger children on a rainy day. To get there on public transport, take RER B to Croix de Berny and then the TVM bus in the direction of St Maur/Creteil to the stop Clos la Garenne or Montjean.
Auvers-sur-Oise is a beautiful village outside Paris, best known for being the residence of the one and only Vincent Van Gogh. He lived and painted there, as did Cezanne, Pissarro, Corot and Daubigny. If you visit, you’ll see why they chose it. The rural and village scenes are inspiring. Perhaps get your kids familiar with some of the famous paintings such as Van Gogh’s Church at Auvers-Sur-Oise and his Wheat Field with Crows (see pic) before they go so they can enjoy spotting the scenes when they get there. As well as the village, you can explore the 17th century Château d’Auvers-sur-Oise, with its lovely park and gardens. From April through October, a direct train runs from Gare du Nord in Paris to Auvers-Sur-Oise in the morning and back again early evening, making this a very easy day out in spring, summer and early autumn. Given the timings of the trains, do think about bringing food for a scenic picnic lunch or make plans to eat at Chateau restaurant. Another nice option in the village is the little restaurant Le Chemin de Peintres. If you eat at Auberge Ravoux, you can go upstairs to see Vincent Van Gogh’s bedroom which also happens to be his final resting place.
Where to begin with Versailles? The Palace, the Gardens, The Grand Trianon are amazing. But let’s not forget the Petit Trianon area, created by Marie Antoinette as a rural escape, away from the pomp of Versailles. There is so much to see and do here that it is advisable to just try and see some of it, with your children and have faith that you’ll return again soon to see the rest. It’s a magical experience and you won’t regret the jaunt. Do keep in mind that strollers and baby carriers with metal frames are not allowed inside some of the rooms in the palace so a sling might be a good idea. SNCF trains will bring you from Gare Montparnasse to Versailles Chantiers or from Gare Saint Lazare to Versailles Rive Droite. The RER line C will bring you to Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche. There is also the Versailles Express coach that will bring you from central Paris.
We are not going to tell you it is as great as the one in Florida but it is still a great fun family day out. It is really two parks, Walt Disney Studios and Disneyland Park. Take the RER A from either Chatelet or Gare de Lyon to Marne –La Vallee which literally brings you right to the entrance of Disney. It couldn’t be easier. If you’ve got younger children, they will be more than happy with the gentle ‘It’s a Small World’ ride, and Spinning Teacups at the Disneyland Park. Be warned that if they want to meet a Princess, you should reserve that immediately upon your arrival. BTW, it’s true that little girls often walk around the park in their full princess outfits. There are mini Elsa’s everywhere! So do pack accordingly or you may end up witnessing the quivering bottom lip of your little ‘princess in waiting’ and/or end up investing in a new purchase complete with tiara! The boys are likely to love the cars racing rides and the brilliant car rally event which is worth signing up to. Older children will want to head for the Walt Disney Studios park, with special effects rides based on films. Armageddon and RC Racer which, in all honesty, were a bit too much for this MLP writer. I’ll stick with the Spinning Teacups! If you’ve got very young children and have the flexibility, do think about choosing a week day to avoid crowds and very long queues. And if it’s a chilly day, do remember it feels even colder in the queues so bring layers. Food options inside the park are not great so keep that in mind.
MLP is very eager to try the Baladobus. It really opens up the countryside to Paris residents. Take the RER to Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse or an SNCF to Rambouillet and the Baladobus will take you drop you at various countryside locations. Destinations include Chateau de la Madeleine, Chateau du Breteuil, Vaux de Cernay Petit Moulin and Abbaye Vaux de Cernay. More information about the adventures made possible by the Baladobus in the Parc Naturel Régional de la Haute Vallée de Chevreuse can be found here :
I know we said day trips but how about treating the kids to a real adventure and camping overnight? MLP is intrigued by Caribou. You can sleep in a bubble suspended in a tree which lets you star gaze, a tipi or a gite and have access to all their outdoor activities, from climbing wall to swimming pool to high ropes. All in the glorious setting of the Fontainebleau forest. The best news is that all of this is on RER lines B (Maisse) and D (Fontainebleau) and the owners will pick you up at the station for a 20 Euro fee per booking.
Wow! Mama Jen (Jennifer Hamerman) what great great day trips from Paris tips!
Offering escapism for you and the kids