While Paris is without a doubt a world unto its own, it’s not the only place to explore in the region.
As a new resident of the City of Light, you still might get the urge to escape the urban mecca for a bit, even if it’s just a day. Luckily, there are nearly endless places to visit in nearby areas of France, offering everything from ancient legends to locally produced wines. The best part is that you don’t have to have tons of free time to visit these places — thanks to an efficient train system, there are many that can you can check out if you have just a spare day!
If you’ve ever daydreamed of visiting a real-life medieval village, Provins is your place. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Provins is characterized by its meandering cobblestone streets and fascinating medieval architecture. Just strolling around this small town is an experience in itself, but you can launch yourself even further back in time by taking a tour of the ancient underground tunnels that lay under the city. If you’re lucky enough to be there during the summer, you might also be able to catch a local renaissance fair, complete with traditional attire, music, and activities (jousting, anyone?).
Okay, so it might be a little cliche, but it can’t be denied that the famous palace of Versailles is one of the most visually impressive buildings in France. The endlessly intricate architecture, the extravagant opulence on display, and simply the massive size of it all fascinates millions of visitors every year, making it one of the most visited palaces in the world.
Whether you’re looking for an alternative to the crowds at Versailles or simply to feast your eyes on another mind-blowing French palace, Fontainebleau is a very worthy option. Located under an hour from Paris, it’s also a great break from the city. This château was originally built by François I as a hunting lodge, and continued to be used as a country home for several generations of kings to come. After your tour of the château, consider renting a bike and going for a leisurely ride through the expansive and well-kept gardens and the surrounding parks and forests.
Whether you’re an art buff or not, Giverny is bound to impress. Most famous for being the former home of the great Impressionist painter, Claude Monet, Giverny is an ideal place to visit during the spring and summer months, when Monet’s famous lily gardens are in full bloom. Hop on the train for just 45 minutes and find yourself immersed in the real-life version of those colorful paintings you’ve seen so many times.
After all of the walking tours you’ve done by this point, you might be feeling like it’s time for a more relaxed day trip. Welcome to Reims, the regional home of the sparkling wine known as champagne. For many visitors here, the bubbly is indeed the star of the show, and you can easily fill a relaxing afternoon with tours of the various champagne houses and their impressive cellars. History buffs won’t miss out either — the city also boasts Roman ruins, a stunning Gothic cathedral, and the “Museum of the Surrender”: an homage to the document signed in Reims in 1945, securing the surrender of the Germans in World War II.
Get a glimpse into the past in Rouen, a small city located an hour and a half to the northwest of Paris. Most famously, it’s where the French heroine Joan of Arc was tragically burned at the stake in the city’s central square, Place du Vieux Marche. The plaza continues to honor her to this day, and there is also a church dedicated to her. Additionally, the 15th century Church of Saint Maclau offers a mind-blowingly intricate example of ornate Gothic architecture.
So there you have it — the wonders of France don’t stop at the city limits of Paris! Studying abroad in Paris allows you access to a multitude of different sceneries, foods, traditions, and historical experiences just within a couple of hours of your new home.