Day Trips from Paris

There are many options to choose from, here are some suggestions:

Chartres: 1 hour by train from Gare Montparnasse
One of the country's oldest, and best examples of Gothic architecture. The cathedral was first built in the 12th century. Although much of the church burnt down in the 13th century, inside the church (so the church officials claim) is a cloak once worn by the Virgin Mary, and miraculously survived the flames. Another unique aspect of this cathedral is the labyrinth inside. This was an intricate and massive maze built into the tiles of the floor, upon which sinners crawled from beginning to end for their penance. Chartres is also known as the stained glass capital of the world, and the cathedral shows why that is. Try to find a tour by Malcolm Miller. He lives in Chartres and is the world's foremost authority on the cathedral. A most interesting fellow.
Chantilly: 45 minutes by RER D train. The chateau is a 2km (1.25 miles) walk from the Chantilly train station.
The beautiful Chateau Chantilly is not only the birthplace of whipped cream, it also has a living horse museum with 30 horses of every conceivable breed (one of the royal Chantilly lineage believed he would be reincarnated as a horse). The Chateau also houses one of France's best fine art museums.
Vaux-Le-Vicomte: Vaux-le-Vicomte is a private chateau with a 100 acre garden that became the inspiration for the larger Chateaux Versailles. It was commissioned by Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV's minister of finance. Less than an hour from Paris, its splendid interiors, fascinating history, elegant gardens, beautiful carriage house with antique carriages, make for a very satisfying day trip from Paris.
Fontainebleu: 1.5 hours. Gare de Lyon station or the Suburban Train, the Banlieu line. The stop you want is Fontainebleau-Avon, which may or may not appear on schedule boards. From the train station in Fontainebleau take a bus to the chateau, which meets the trains coming in and connect with outgoing trains.
Built in the 1200s as a chateau (country home), Fontainebleau was embellished by King Francois I (reign: 1515-1547), who brought the best artisans from France and Italy to reconstruct the chateau in the popular Renaissance style. Even Mona Lisa graced the walls for Francois I. The beauty of the chateau was later enhanced by a succession of kings, namely Henri II and Henri IV. Louis XIV is credited with improving the gardens before starting on Versailles. The double horseshoe-shaped marble staircase of the front yard was the setting of Napoleon’s farewell speech.
Versailles: 30 minutes. Take the RER (regional express) line C and ride to the Versailles Rive Gauche station and from there a shuttle bus to the chateau.
What began in the 1660s as the hunting lodge of Louis XIII became, in the hands of Louis XIV, the most opulent, most expensive, most copied palace in the world, taking more than 32,000 workmen to construct, with a housing capacity of 20,000. Louis XIV brought his court with him to Versailles and entertained them lavishly. There are six “Grands Appartements” all with distinctive wall paintings and artwork. Some of the more interesting rooms are the Queens Bedroom (where queens gave birth in full public view), the 233-foot-long Hall of Mirrors where grand state occasions were held and where the Treaty of Versailles was ratified, ending World War I. Louis XV (Louis XIV’s great-grandson) also spent money and morals lavishly, keeping a mistress, Mme. de Pompadour, who seemed to outspend the king. By the time Louis XVI came along with his Queen Marie Antoinette, the dye was cast--Revolution. Louis-Philippe prevented the destruction of Versailles by turning it into a museum by using some of his own not-so-hard-earned money and donations from around the globe which still continue today. According to Voltaire, it is "a masterpiece of bad taste and magnificence."
Giverny: 45 minutes. The Vernon station is situated on the main line Paris / Rouen / Le Havre. It starts from the Saint-Lazare Paris station (which has not changed much since Monet painted it).
Here you'll discover Claude Monet's home and Japanese gardens. There is a museum and beautiful grounds. Monets choice of flowers makes for one of the most intoxicating color-satuarted gardens you might ever see.