Paris is one of the densest cities in the world, so it’s no wonder its residents head en masse to its green spaces on summer weekends. This of course leads to packed parks with much less relaxation value. However, with a short trip from city center you can surround yourself in gorgeous greenery, as well as some history and culture. Here are some of the best day trips from Paris for those seeking a peaceful and beautiful escape to nature.

Vallée-aux-Loups Maison de Chateaubriand in the middle of a green park.
Vallée-aux-Loups Maison de Chateaubriand


Located only 40 minutes from Gare de Lyon station, Fontainebleau offers the perfect combination of history and nature. Home to one of France’s most important castles, le Château de Fontainebleau, it also has a huge forest which was once royal hunting grounds.

The Chateau de Fontainbleau with its creamy stone and grey roof (left) and its park with numerous water features (right).
Château de Fontainebleau

Pack a picnic (or if visiting on Tuesday, Friday, or Sunday you can pick up some supplies at the local food market in town), then visit the castle first. Here you can marvel at the Renaissance decor commissioned by King Francois I as well as a set of apartments refurbished by Napoleon Bonaparte in his Imperial style.

A view of the Château de Fontainebleau from the park, two people have parked their bikes and are admiring the view while sitting on a bench.
Château de Fontainebleau – Jérôme Schwab

After an amble through the castle’s classic gardens, spend the afternoon connecting with real nature as you discovering the forest’s extensive hiking trails (see some suggested hikes here).

Château de Fontainebleau by night; it's beautifully lit.
Château de Fontainebleau – Corentin Foucaut Photographie


If you’ve already been to Fontainebleau, then perhaps you would prefer a day trip to the neighboring medieval village of Moret-sur-Loing. A 45-minute train journey from Gare de Lyon (line R), you can start by exploring this well-preserved town and its stone fortifications, ancient churches, timbered houses, and mills along the river.

Château de Fontainebleau at sunset with the reflection of the manicured trees in the water (left). The fountain at Château de Fontainebleau in the daytime (right).
Château de Fontainebleau – Béatrice Lecuyer (left)

Be sure to pass by the tourist office where you can pick up a free map of the hiking trails (more info here). There are 16 different trails that start from the village, ranging in seven to 20 kilometers long. You can also enjoy this verdant setting by bike (rentable at the tourist office), or on the river via canoe or kayak (available through Apikopa).

Les Etangs de Corot

Located near Versailles in Ville-d’Avray, these bucolic ponds (etangs in French) are both beautiful and historically significant.

Les Etangs de Corot Hotel garden with tables slotted among the pink rose bushes.
Hotel Les Etangs de Corot

Accessible by the L train line from Saint Lazare, Ville-d’Avray became a popular nature getaway with the artists, writers, and musicians of the 19th century. Among them was the Impressionist painter Corot, now the area’s namesake, who immortalized its forest and ponds in his paintings.

A room at Les Etangs de Corot Hotel with dark printed wallpaper a double bed (left), and the gardens (right).
Hotel Les Etangs de Corot

You can relive this Impressionist experience in painting classes offered by the hotel Les Etangs de Corot on Sunday mornings (advance booking required), or you can soak up this gorgeous setting over a gourmet lunch at their Michelin-starred restaurant.

Snacks at the outdoor restaurant of Les Etangs de Corot.
Hotel Les Etangs de Corot

You can carry on your natural explorations in the adjacent Forêt de Fausses-Reposes. Find more information and a hiking map here (in French).

Les Etangs de Corot is popular for its Caudalie spa with a semi-outdoor jacuzzi.
Hotel Les Etangs de Corot

Vallée de Chevreuse and Vaux de Cernay Abbey

Further southwest of Versailles and within the Rambouillet Forest is the enchanting Chevreuse Valley, a haven of nature and home to various unique historic sites. A protected natural reserve, the Vallée de Chevreuse is reachable from central Paris via the RER B to the Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse station.

Beautiful fields with trees in the Haute Vallée de Chevreuse (left) and its ruined castle (right).
Haute Vallée de Chevreuse

From April to October there is a special bus, the Baladobus, which can take you to various sites and hike starting points around the park. You could spend the whole day in the park, but if you would like to do “shorter” day, then you could start at the Vaux de Cernay Abbey.

The Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay with its medieval structure and green lawsn out front.
Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay

The largest Cistercian monastery in France, the complex dates back to the 12th century. Although it has since been converted into a hotel, you can still visit the remains of the impressive gothic abbey (paid entrance).

Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay and its back terrace with tables sheltered from the sun with white parasols (left). The abbey's ivy-clad exterior.
Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay

The hotel also has a lovely restaurant or you can bring your own picnic to have during your hike. You can do a three-hour long wander through the surrounding forest via this route here (in French) or explore other hiking options in the park at this link.

Chateaubriand’s Estate, la Vallée-aux-Loups

This excursion is perfect for lovers of nature and French literature. Take the RER B south to Robinson and you’ll be a short walk away from la Vallée-aux-Loups, the large former estate of François-René de Chateaubriand. One of the most prominent writers of the early 19th century Romantic era, Chateaubriand was forced out of Paris in 1807 due to his open criticism of Napoleon and retreated to this estate which he nicknamed “Wolf Valley.”

Vallée-aux-Loups Maison de Chateaubriand set in a lush green park with a lake (left) and the main manor building (right).
Vallée-aux-Loups Maison de Chateaubriand

The charming manor home is now a museum in his honor (note, it closes over lunch from 12-1 pm). If you don’t bring your own pique-nique, you can have a light lunch or snack in its salon de thé found in the Orangerie. The 56-hectare estate is populated by mature trees, romantic pathways, an “Ile Verte” and an Arboretum with over 500 species of flora—all of which offer just the right dose of greenery for those seeking a more leisurely natural outing.

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Written by Lily Heise for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation, or long term, rental in Paris, Italy, France or elsewhere in Europe.


Lily Heise

Lily Heise has been living in Paris for more than 10 years. When she’s not getting into romantic mischief, she writes on dating, travel, and culture. Her writing has been featured in Frommer’s Guides, the Huffington Post, Conde Nast Traveler, City Secrets, DK Eyewitness Guides, and other local and international publications. She is the author of Je T’Aime, Me Neither, and Je T’Aime… Maybe? lively novelized memoirs on her romantic misadventures, and continues to share dating tips, stories and travel features on her blog

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