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When it comes to the world’s most sought after destinations, Paris is always at the top of the list. Home to tons of world-class museums, countless iconic landmarks, unique cuisines and just about everything that screams classic romance, it’s not hard to see why.
Whether you are a history buff, foodie, or completely art-obsessed, the City of Lights has it all.
Spend your afternoon strolling the halls of the Louvre filled with some of the world’s most prized artworks; get your fill of French fare in some of France’s best brasseries and bistros; take Montmartre by foot or clink a few glasses under the Eiffel Tower. Either way, Paris is wow-worthy on all fronts.
As an art and culture hub of not just France, but Europe as a whole, there are plenty of hidden gems to be found far beyond the realms of D’Orsay, the Louvre and Pompidou. In fact, if you’ve got your own set of wheels, Paris is an incredible jumping-off point to tour the rest of France’s cultural charm by car.
Navigating Paris’ busy roads can be intimidating, but be aware of any differences to what you’re used to and you’ll be just fine. Here’s some important tips for driving in Paris.
1. Make sure your rental car has a Crit’Air sticker (an anti-pollution vehicle sticker) to drive in Paris. This shows the pollution rating of the vehicle; if it is high, you may be banned from driving in certain restricted areas.
2. GPS is essential.
3. Parking can be hard to find, but keep an eye out for “P” signs against blue backgrounds, which is an underground garage.
4. Cars in France are generally smaller than they are in the US, but this will help with narrow roads.
Sure, there are no less than a million tours connecting Paris with Versailles, but why have the hassle of a scheduled tour when you can take the palace city at your own accord? In just under an hour you can travel from Paris to Versailles and have the entire day to explore the former digs of France’s most notorious royals. Be sure to make a small detour for a stop at the Parc de Saint-Cloud national estate, home of Marie Antoinette’s rose garden and breathtaking views of Paris.
To see a different side of French royal history, head for Maintenon just an hour and a half’s drive from Paris. Home of Chateau de Maintenon, a castle whose roots go back to the 1200s, a visit to Maintenon feels like stepping back in time. Not only are the castle grounds simply breathtaking, but the drive itself is loaded with wonderful stop-offs.
Be sure to make time for a stop in Rambouillet, yet another adorable French town loaded with royal history and of course, its own castle.
If medieval history is your thing, then a drive to Provins is an absolute must. Just an hour and a half outside Paris, this cosy medieval village is oozing with charm and rich history. Not only is there an incredibly preserved medieval Upper and Lower Town to explore; but there are mysterious underground cave systems, long-forgotten towers, ramparts and uber-romantic rose gardens just dying to be explored. Don’t just take our word for how great Provins is though. Take UNESCO’s who has deemed it a Heritage Site since 2001.
This picture-perfect village can be reached in just under two hours and makes for a perfect day trip or overnighter from Paris. Giverny is famous for being the home and workplace of Claude Monet for most of his life, and it isn’t hard to see why. Giverny is absolutely enchanting at every turn with its fairytale gardens, peaceful cottages and the peaceful Seine. The most popular attraction is Monet’s former home and gardens, but the village charm warrants a visit all on its own.
In just an hour and a half by car, you can experience Joan of Arc’s stomping grounds, Orleans. While Orleans is mainly famous for its complicated French and English history, there are plenty of other things to see and do too. Enjoy an afternoon stroll along the Loire River or go all out with a Michelin-starred dinner at Le Lièvre Gourmand for a sophisticated fine-dining experience minus the Paris price tag.
Speaking of Joan of Arc, Rouen was where she met her demise and can be reached in just under 2 hours. Don’t worry, there’s much more to this charming town than Joan of Arc, though. Take in the medieval charm with a stroll around the old town and get your fill on all things crepes and camembert. You are in Normandy, after all. Be sure to also check out the Museé Le Secq des Tournelles, a museum made up of 14,000 beautifully displayed iron pieces from all over Europe.
Just an hour north of Paris lies the ultra fairytale town of Chantilly. Famous for its lace, cream and unbelievably magical Château de Chantilly. Set among perfectly manicured gardens on the shores of a crystal clear lake complete with sky-high spires, Château de Chantilly is straight out of a dream. Not only is it home to one of France’s most stunning castles, but there are also a host of other sites such as the Horse Museum and ornate Musée Condé.