France has so much to offer to the inquisitive and adventurous travelers. And while Paris is packed with things to see and do, nothing beats the tranquility and peace of some of the areas in the vicinity of the French capital that will mesmerize and amaze you.
With so many choices, it is hard to pick the best places to visit. So, we’ve selected 5 locations that are both close to Paris, not as crowded, yet memorable and enjoyable and a great representation of French architecture, history, and cultural heritage.
Palace of Chantilly
Chateau de Chantilly is the perfect getaway if you are yearning to take a a day trip from Paris, located only 40 miles north of the French capital. It is serene, peaceful and never too crowded. The chateau will amaze you with its enormous art collection of old paintings, which is second to only the famed Louvre in Paris.
The chateau presents the life story of an amazing historical figure - Henry of Orleans, Duke of Aumale, son of the last king of France, Louis-Philippe. The prince was one of the greatest collectors of his time and he made chateau de Chantilly a showcase of his innumerable manuscripts and art collection.
Only about 60 kilometers southeast of Paris, the stunning chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte is less crowded than the more popular Versailles and was the inspiration for building the latter. With a fascinating history, lavishly decorated interiors, and stylish perfectly manicured gardens, it is the most rewarding day trip from Paris you should plan. Privately owned by the De Vogüé family, who currently live on the premises, the estate has been meticulously maintained, cared for, warmly welcoming visitors and offering many events, like Candle-lit evenings, The Easter egg hunt events to name a few.
The view from the dome is stunning! You have a 360 degree lookout over the perfectly symmetrical meticulously trimmed garden, elaborately manicured in beautiful geometric figures. Designed by the legendary landsape architect Le Notre, who is the founder of the French formal garden style, this garden has served as a model for famous Versailles.
Located on the Seine river, some 50 miles northwest of Paris, Giverny is mostly famous for being the home of Impressionist painter Claude Monet, who lived here and painted his famous garden scenes. With beds of daffodils, tulips, irises, oriental poppies, and peonies, you can absolutely see why the impressionist painter was inspired with the riot of color and abundance of seasonal blooms.
The garden boasts 100,000 annuals and an equal number of perennials, which makes it a great spot to visit during all seasons. Place worth a visit are the Claude Monet Foundation, the Museum of Impressionism, tickets for the which can be combined. There are also additional options to bundle the entrance tickets for the Musée Marmottan Monet, L’Orangerie and the Musée d’Orsay, all of which feature brilliant Impressionist artworks in Paris.
Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery
Located 25 km south-west of Paris, the Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois is the largest Russian cemetery outside of Russia, allegedly created around the miraculous story of St. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, who was going to Troyes to visit Bishop St. Loup (383-478), and stopped to quench her thirst in a spring that had gushed forth at her feet. The saint subsequently healed the inhabitants of a neighboring town with the water of the spring, which became a popular place of pilgrimage.
Famous for the Russian Orthodox section of the municipal cemetery, Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois forms the biggest Russian necropolis out of Russia. Attracting more than 30,000 visitors every year, the cemetery has an unusual landscape and is a burial place of many Russian celebrities, such as writer Ivan Bunin (1870-1953; Nobel Prize in Literature, 1933), painter Konstantin Korovin (1861-1939), Prince Felix Yusupof (1887-1967; organizer of the assassination of Rasputin), the movie director Andrei Tarkovski (1932-1986), and the ballet dancers and choreographers Serge Lifar (1905-1986) and Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993).
France Miniature Park
All of France at 1/30th scale with the added benefit of a fabulous amusement park is a day trip from Paris that is perfect not only to grown-ups but kids as well. Over 125 of France’s most famous sites and monuments are here, laid out just like they are on the map in proportion to the real distance and spacial relationship. Reduced to 1/30th of the actual size and exquisitely finished with precise architectural details and landscaping, the park presents a very realistic view of monuments, sites and even little towns.
You can see the Eiffel Tower, the Palace of Versailles, Brittany, Normandy, the abbey at Mont St. Michel to name a few. The landscaping includes about 30,000 bonsai trees. There are little rail lines, miniature SNCF high-speed trains, ships, etc.
The amusement park has fun rides for younger kids, including a giant slide and a huge cone climbing area. There are rides for older kids, a “drop” ride, in which you use a pulley to pull up your seat before you press a release button to “drop.” There is also a boat ride that shoots you through the air and into a lake, and a zip line that crosses over the lake, as well as many others that kids can enjoy.