There’s something about the charm of French villages that just makes them so appealing. Perhaps it’s the little lanes, maybe it’s the charming architecture. I’m not sure, but of course, there’s always oodles of history just waiting to be discovered. Here are 10+ pretty French towns near Paris you’ll just love!
- #1 Sceaux
- #2 Versailles
- #3 Senlis
- #4 Saint-Germain-en-Laye
- #5 Chartres
- #6 Provins
- #7 Meaux
- #8 Auvers-Sur-Oise
- #9 Fontainebleau
- #10 Rueil-Malmaison
- #11 Chantilly
- #12 Chevreuse
- #13 Enghien-les-Bains
- #14 Lagny-sur-Marne
- #15 Nemours
- #16 Moret-sur-Loing
- #17 Luzarches
- #18 Étampes
- #19 Montfort L’Amaury
- #20 Marly-le-Roi
- #21 Bougival
- #22 Conflans-Sainte-Honorine
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Accessible via one end of the RER B, you’ll find the charming town of Sceaux. The journey from Paris’ Gare du Nord to Sceaux takes around half an hour. The French settlement near Paris is pretty as a postcard during the spring thanks to an abundance of spring blossom.
In the grounds of the Sceaux château, there’s even an entire cherry blossom orchard which blooms in April of each year. Even if you can’t visit the town during the first few months of the year, Sceaux is just as lovely throughout the rest of the seasons.
After all, there’s a château to visit, a park to wander around and plenty of eateries to be enticed by. Other things to do in Sceaux include discovering the magnificent Château that has been used as many a filming location (such as the TV series of Versailles), and enjoying a cup of tea at Plaisirs des Thés.
There are several cities close to Paris, and undoubtedly the picturesque Versailles is the most famous of them all. Versailles also happens to be one of the closest cities to Paris.
Of course, for first (or second or third) time visitors to Paris, you can’t visit the twinkling city of lights and not make the (at least) half day trip out of the city to see Versailles.
After all, outside of Paris proper, it’s one of the main attractions that the Île de France region has to offer. Aside from the grand palace, there’s an entire town to be discovered, with plenty of museums, cafés, and quirky architecture.
For example, did you know that the game of Tennis partly finds its origins in Versailles? Or that in the autumn months you can go fruit picking in Versailles? Versailles is also home to some pretty wonderful museums, as well as several delightful bookshops.
An hour drive from the centre of Paris, you’ll find the charming town of Senlis. This French commune sits fondly in my memory as a place with plenty of history and oodles of sunshine as I visited on my Birthday a couple of years ago.
The town has three museums (the museum of art and archaeology, the museum of the hunts & the museum of Spahis.) There’s also a historic abbey, the ruins of a Roman arena and a medieval cellar, all waiting to be discovered and explored…
The ancient town of Senlis also has links with French heroine, Joan of Arc. Between the 15th and 16th of August 1429, Joan of Arc led her French troops in the historic battle of Montépilloy (close to Senlis), leading them to victory against the English. There’s a commemorative plaque in the church celebrating her victory.
Only half an hour away on the RER A from the centre of Paris, you’ll find the sweet town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. This town makes the list of pretty French towns near Paris not only because of its lovely architecture and wonderful eateries but also because it has a large forest and charming château (which now houses a fantastic museum of archaeology).
Aside from the museum, the château itsself is well worth a look, if only for its impressive architecture and the fact that Louis XIV was born there! Elsewhere in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, there’s the real-life Château de Monte Cristo (Alexander Dumas’ country mansion) and Musée Claude Debussy in the iconic composer’s birthplace.
Of all the cities near Paris, Chartres is one of the top places to visit. Located in the Loire valley, Chartres is a gateway to the land of castles. Located in the Eure-et-Loire department of France, the city is best known for its impressive cathedral, oodles of medieval architecture and fascinating museums.
Since the middle ages, the town has also been the destination for many Catholic pilgrimages, meaning that there’s also a wealth of ecclesiastical buildings and history to learn about as well.
Best visited by car so as to head out to the Loire Valley (i.e. the Garden of France) straight after your visit, Chartres is located around an hour and a half’s drive from the City of Light, meaning this city near Paris is definitely worth a visit.
Provins is a fully preserved medieval town just under an hour away from the city centre of Paris. Although a little further away from the city than some of the other pretty French towns near Paris, Provins is well worth the (slightly) longer journey.
After all, it’s not every day that you get the chance to visit a basilica where Joan of Arc attended mass, or that you get the opportunity to climb a medieval tower dating all the way back to the 12th-century.
Elsewhere in Provins, there are medieval tunnels with a mysterious history. During winter, a fantastic Christmas market is held in the ancient city on an annual basis during an advent weekend in December that makes for the perfect day trip from Paris.
Around 40 minutes away from the centre of Paris, you’ll find Meaux. Famous for its Brie and Mustard (although little-known is that much of the Meaux Brie is now fabricated in the Lorraine region of France).
If you’re not a great foodie, then Meaux offers plenty of other historical and cultural activities. There are plenty of outdoor fun for those who want to experience life in France outside of Paris in the form of walks, water activities, and hiking.
In Meaux, you’ll also find the Musée de la Grande Guerre (Museum of the Great War) which is one of the biggest museums about WWI in all of Europe, if not the world. Those who are looking to escape into a little nature during their time out of Paris might also consider the walk along the Canal de Meaux à Chalifert.
Some of the towns which form the ‘Paris countryside’ as it were, still lack in green space, much like the French capital itself. However, the commune of Auvers-Sur-Oise is surrounded by rolling green hills.
What’s more is that Auvers-sur-Oise even has its own château (which is open to the public and can be visited for a fee). Those looking for small villages near Paris won’t be disappointed with the bucolic charm of this countryside settlement.
Head to Auvers-Sur-Oise to learn all about the infamous drink absinthe in the absinthe museum, and to trace the footsteps of Van Gogh who lived here for a few months before his death. It’s even possible to visit the final place where the famous artist once resided.
In the town’s cemetery, you’ll find the final resting place of the great artist himself as well as the grave of Van Gogh’s brother Theo. In the rest of the town there are trails inspired by Van Gogh’s final paintings. A day trip to Auvers-Sur-Oise can easily be combined with a trip to nearby L’Isle Adam, a charming town with its own sandy beach.
Beautiful countryside near Paris is never too far away thanks to fantastic transport links in the Île de France region. And with a pretty castle to rival Versailles, Fontainebleau definitely can’t be missed off the list.
After all, the château is easily one of the most fairytale-like day trips from the city of love. “Versailles without the crowds” is one of the best ways to describe the château, and the town is equally as magical…
Apart from the castle, you can wander through the great forest (which was used as hunting grounds for the French royal family in the 12th-Century) and visit the charming house museum of Musee Stephane Mallarme. So as to save time during your visit, book your Fontainebleau tickets here in advance prior to your trip.
Situated on RER line A, Rueil-Malmaison is only around thirty minutes from the centre of Paris, making it one of the top places near Paris to visit. Complete with a French Château, it’s the epitome of a typical French town.
The Château here was once the official residence of Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon, meaning that chances are when you’re wandering through the property, you’ll be walking in the very steps that the empress herself walked in.
The rest of the town is full of bakeries, patisseries and located along the Seine (which is lovely to go for a cycle along or to go for a quick jog along on a warm summer’s evening), in Rueil-Malmaison you’ll find plenty of small churches and museums. Of all the pretty French towns day trips from Paris, Rueil-Malmaison may well be the most underrated…
Easily one of the most underrated towns which can be reached as a short day trip from Paris, Chantilly is a magical settlement which is just twenty minutes from Gare du Nord (should you opt to take the fast train).
A quintessentially French town with plenty of bars, restaurants, and independent shops, Chantilly also happens to be home to a magical Château which boasts the second largest art collection in France, as well as grounds which inspired Marie Antoinette’s Hameau de La Reine at Versailles.
The charming French town of Chevreuse. It’s the kind of settlement you see in the movies. And the type of place you’d think no longer exists. But it does. And it’s totally worth your time since it’s one of the most beautiful towns near Paris.
The fairytale town is located in the Île de France region, south of Paris and is overlooked by the haunting ruins of a medieval château. Wander through the town itself and you’ll soon discover a gently flowing river which you can walk along while admiring many a traditional French garden.
Just a short drive away the the beautiful Monastic remains and chapel of Port-Royal-des-Champs Abbey are well worth a visit, provided that you have access to a car.
For a taste of Deauville (the Normandy resort town) on the fringes of Paris, you simply need to visit Enghien-les-Bains, à spa settlement which has been populated since at least the Middle Ages and perhaps even earlier.
Though the main highlights of the lakeside town is its casino (one of the largest and most popular in all of l’Hexagone), the other draw of Enghein-les-Bains is that it’s situated just a ten-minute train ride away from Gare du Nord and yet feels as if it’s a world away.
A particular joy in visiting Enghien-les-Bains, is walking the 3.3 km walk around the lake and soaking up the unusual architectural features and pretty gardens en route. Make sure to bring a picnic and visit on a sunny day so as to enjoy a quiet moment halfway through the walk!
Weeping willows line the banks of the Marne, a lazy flowing river along which you’ll find a hidden gem of a town in the form of Lagny-sur-Marne. And though the Île-de-France settlement is situated just under 30 km to the East of intra-muros Paris, even many Parisians don’t know of its existence.
Nemours is rather unique in that it lays claim to being the only town within the Île de France region to boast a château in the very heart of the town. Situated an hour away from the city from the Gare de Lyon station in Paris, other highlights of this charming French town include a prehistory museum, plenty of riverside walks, and a church with an unusual wooden spire.
A particularly charming town which can be visited as a day trip from Paris and one that I only discovered recently is that of Moret-Sur-Loing. Roughly a fifty minute train ride away from the French capital from the Gare de Lyon station, the town is home to a medley of medieval structures and architecture.
The town was also once the haunt and home of Alfred Sisley, the English painter and artist, who painted many a scene of the picturesque town. Other highlights of Moret-sur-Loing include admiring the medieval walls of the town, buying local sweets (the Sucre d’Orge is a local speciality), and taking a countryside walk along one of the many nearby rivers and tributaries.
Yet another charming off the beaten path town that can easily be visited as a day trip from Paris is that of Luzarches, a delightful French settlement with several medieval remnants, including a gateway you can walk through and a fairly large church that can be visited for free throughout the week.
A charming medieval town which was once used by royalty, Étampes is located around an hour away from Paris on the RER. The first attestation of the city of Étampes goes all the way back to the 7th-century.
However, the town close by to Paris did not gain true prominence until the 12th-century, when a council hosted in the town recognised Innocent II as the legitimate and true pope. Today, the charming French settlement has over two dozen historic monuments.
#19 Montfort L’Amaury
If you have access to a car then one of the most beautiful and lesser known towns you can visit as a day trip from Paris is that of Montfort L’Amaury. Though slightly smaller than some of the other French settlements on this list, once in Montfort L’Amaury you’ll soon discover why even Victor Hugo fell in love with the place on a visit during his early 20s.
Situated over 40km to the West of Paris, the medieval town is characterised by its centuries old church and charming timber-framed houses. Châteaux lovers will also be delighted to discover that the romantic ruins of the 12th-century Tour d’Anne de Bretagne, while fans of ecclesiastical architecture will be interested in the Renaissance stained glass windows of the church of Saint Pierrre.
One of the more off the beaten path towns near Paris is that of Marly-le-Roi, which is around half an hour from Paris’ Saint-Lazare. The town is historically known as it was the former site of the Château Marly which was one of King Louis XIV’s (The Sun King) favourite leisure residences.
Though the Château was destroyed during the French Revolution, much of the former grounds have been transformed into a park, Marly-le-Roi National Estate and Park, which visitors can enjoy wandering around for free.
If you’re looking for a pretty town that is incredibly close to Paris and can be reached in around an hour from the city centre, then Bougival is the place to head to. Situated to the West of the French capital, highlights of Bougival include the chance to follow in the footsteps of the impressionists, meander along picturesque waterways, and shop at plenty of independent stores and boutiques.
Of all the small towns near Paris that are worth visiting, Conflans-Sainte-Honorine is one of the most beautiful. Lying lazily alongside the River Seine, the charming settlement boasts a medieval past, a charming port, and several fantastic eateries.
One of the more unusual things to do in the area is to check out the chapel barge. As its name would suggest, this is a place of worship on a literal early 20th-century boat.
Elsewhere in Conflans, the medieval church is beautiful and boasts the remnants of centuries old murals, while the donjon offers views over the rest of the settlement. What’s more is that Conflans-Sainte-Honorine can easily be reached via the RER A or the line J from Saint-Lazare.
France Travel Information
France uses the Euro (€)
The main language spoken in France is French. Though you can get by with English is more touristic places, it’s always a good idea to learn some of the local language. Bring along a simple phrasebook like this one to help make your travels easier.
The capital of France is Paris. For more information and inspiration, check out our best Paris travel tips.
France uses plug types, types C and E. As such, if you’re travelling from the UK, USA, Canada, and many other destinations, you’ll need to buy an adapter. I recommend buying a universal travel adapter that you can use for multiple destinations (rather than buying a new adaptor for each place you visit).
As one of the most popular destinations in the world, you should always consider booking your accommodation well ahead of time. Check out this website for price comparison details and detailed reviews.
Be careful with your belongings. I also highly advise to avoid wearing a backpack and to instead opt for a crossbody bag like these ones. I personally use a crossbody bag by this brand and love its shape, size, and versatility.