It may be hard to imagine feeling the necessity to skip town when the capital has so much to offer. But to really understand France - its people, culture, values and storied past - you'll need to reach beyond the well-heeled streets of Paris. Some of these spots make ideal day trips from the city while others deserve your undivided attention. All are picture- perfect so keep your cameras handy.

Out of the City, Through the Woods, to a Château

A quick 40-minute train ride from the Gare de Lyon in central Paris takes you to one of the best day trips out of the city: a forest preserve surrounding a palace that dates back nine centuries.

The Forêt de Fontainebleau offers a hundred square miles of protected land for hiking, biking, and horseback-riding—all surrounding the magnificent Château de Fontainebleau. Although a castle has been here since the 1100s, most of the current construction dates from the Renaissance. Site of Napoléon I's abdication in 1814, this château is much less crowded than Versailles.

When I lived in Paris, this was the closest 'wilderness' available. If you want a break from the hectic urbanity of Paris, come to Fontainebleau mid-week; you'll feel as if you have a forest and château to yourself.

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Beautiful shot!

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My husband is an avid rock climber so he's in Fontainebleau every weekend. The town is charming but I think the big draw is the forest :)


Château de Fontainebleau

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