Paris could satisfy any diner’s hunger and curiosity pretty much forever, but it’s a mistake to limit yourself to eating in the capital exclusively. You’d miss out on some truly compelling food experiences only a short drive or train ride away. So if you’re planning to launch from Paris to check out the cultural highlights, monuments, and natural landscapes that lay beyond city limits, make sure to include stops — for a day, an overnight stay, or a full weekend — at some of France’s most stunning restaurants and guesthouses.
Île de France
Paris may be its center but the broader region surrounding the capital in north-central France includes iconic forests and landmarks — Versailles, the chateau and forest in Fontainebleau, the Basilica of Saint-Denis — as well as exciting meals just beyond the portes.
Distance from Paris: 25 miles south
Drive time: 45-60 minutes
Train time: 35 minutes from Gare d’Austerlitz, followed by a five-minute taxi ride
After making their mark on the Parisian dining scene in the early days of the bistronomy boom at Au Passage, Yard, and Bones (now called Jones), the Australian chefs James Henry and Shaun Kelly left the capital at their peak. Since 2017, the friends have lived in the small French village of Saint-Vrain, south of Paris, where they took five years to build a restaurant, guesthouse, and regenerative farm on the grounds of the Château de Saint-Vrain, a 19th-century private estate. With the support of Antoine de Mortemart, the duo’s business partner (whose family has owned the estate for two centuries), they gut renovated the property, planted an orchard, and revived the potager in a walled garden, where it had remained dormant for 60 years. Even before construction was completed, the chefs were supplying fruits and vegetables to some of Paris’s top restaurants, such as Mokonuts and Septime.
Once they finally opened in summer 2022, the grounds proved to be just as big of a draw as the restaurant, with a hundred varieties of heirloom fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, and fruit trees to fawn over. Guests are encouraged to stroll the grounds, and perhaps follow with an aperitif by the fireplace in the lounge before dinner. Then it’s on to a lengthy meal while watching Henry and his team in an open kitchen. Those who experienced his cooking at Bones will find the same precise and simple style, but with even greater sophistication.
Lunch and dinner typically begin with an amuse-bouche of seasonal barbajuans, fritters common to the Riviera that are typically filled with ricotta and leafy vegetables like Swiss chard. Alongside a rainbow of vegetables, the rest of the seasonal menu might include line-caught fish, a pork chop from the chefs’ 26-month-old forest-raised pig, or a selection of artisanal cheeses and hearty sourdough bread baked by Lori Oyamada, formerly of Tartine and Mirabelle Bakery. Depending on the day, dessert might be héliantis ice cream drizzled with chestnut cream, or a rustic fruit tart.
For guests staying over, there are 11 rooms kitted out with antique furnishings, exposed wood beams, and dusty pink bed linens. A leisurely breakfast (included for guests) includes Oyamada’s pastries, fruit from the garden, and farm-fresh eggs. Stop into the Doyenné boutique to pick up produce from the potager, wines, condiments, and fresh bread for the road.
Distance from Paris: 40 miles south
Drive time: 60-90 minutes
Train time: 40 minutes from Gare de Lyon, followed by a 10-minute taxi ride
Those interested in visiting a royal chateau that isn’t Versailles typically head to the Château de Fontainebleau, a quick jaunt by car or train southeast of Paris. For seven centuries, French monarchs continuously inhabited the hunting residence, now a UNESCO World Heritage site on more than 320 acres. Visitors can easily spend a full day exploring the chateau’s gardens, not to mention the Fôret de Fontainebleau surrounding the town, a world-renowned destination for bouldering and hiking. When it’s time to eat, Michelin-starred L’Axel is a local standout just five minutes from the chateau. Japanese chef Kunihisa Goto and his wife Vanessa emphasize ingredient-driven contemporary cooking anchored in classic French technique. Kunihisa nods to his heritage throughout the meal: Shiso leaves envelop the ris de veau; wagyu, ginger, and vegetables combine for a twist on pot-au-feu; and one of his signature dishes, the Oeuf Translucide à 65, a translucent egg prepared in the traditional onsen tamago style, is served in an emulsion that changes seasonally.
Location: Vallée de Chevreuse
Distance from Paris: 34 miles west
Drive time: 45 minutes
Train time: 35 minutes from Montparnasse station, then a shuttle or taxi (can be arranged with the restaurant)
Amid the horse stables that run alongside the Rambouillet forest, California-born locavore chef Cybèle Idelot and her sommelier husband Frank laid down roots for their farm-to-table restaurant, called Ruche, and five-room inn. The couple was initially looking for land to set up a permaculture produce garden to supply La Table de Cybèle, the chef’s modern bistro in Boulogne-Billancourt, west of Paris. When they came across this former post house from 1850, surrounded by century-old rhododendrons, apple and cherry trees, and a 98-foot stone pond on 3.5 acres, they knew there was a more ambitious project to pursue.
The garden, greenhouse, and a bakehouse set up in a former barn fulfill most of the chef’s needs for bright dishes. You might find guinea fowl with wild asparagus, geranium, and lacto-fermented kumquat; rainbow carrots with pursha lime gremolata, hazelnuts, fresh turmeric, and yogurt; and a host of homemade sourdough breads and baked goods. For everything else, the couple sources within several kilometers of the property. Meat comes from Eric Sanceau in Auffargis, the Ferme du Grand Frêne in Broué, or the Bergerie Nationale de Rambouillet, while a collective of small-scale producers provide line-caught fish from Île d’Yeu and Brittany.
You could go for the lunchtime three- or five-course tasting menus (offered Friday through Sunday), but for the most special experience, book dinner and a night in one of the five, rustic-chic guest rooms located above the dining room. An overnight stay means you can take full advantage of Frank Idelot’s excellent natural and biodynamic wine selection and wake up to the smell of fresh bread and pastries at breakfast.
Distance from Paris: 140 miles north
Train time: 1 hour from Gare du Nord
The capital of the northern Hauts-de-France region, this historic merchant city and university town on the Belgian border is a draw for its Flemish architecture, dynamic cultural scene, and rising culinary cred. Given Lille’s proximity to Paris on the TGV train, it’s entirely possible to visit Lille for a day and feel completely transported.
If anyone can be credited with elevating the reputation of Flemish cuisine beyond moules-frites, Maroilles cheese, and beer, it’s Florent Ladeyn, the chef-owner of several restaurants in and around Lille, including the Michelin-starred l’Auberge du Vert Mont. The self-taught chef was a finalist on Top Chef France in 2013 before opening his modern Flemish canteen Bloempot (“Flower Pot”) the same year.
The restaurant occupies a converted carpenter’s workshop in Vieux-Lille that feels somewhere between a loft and a beer garden, with metallic beams, brick, and rustic wood floors and tabletops. The ambiance may be casual but there is serious technique on the plate. Dishes might include pork shoulder yakitori; creamy pollack rillettes with bread chips, endive leaves, and jus mousse; mackerel atop a bed of celery and chervil in a buttermilk and leek-oil sauce; and buckwheat-salted caramel cream puffs for dessert.
The chef spotlights ingredients sourced exclusively within a 30-mile radius, so you won’t find olive oil, chocolate, or citrus. Ladeyn serves chicory in place of coffee (another out-of-range product), including a chicory Irish coffee at the end of the meal, served with a generous mix of juniper, brown sugar, and whipped cream.
For another lens on Flemish cooking, Ladeyn also runs Bierbuik in the historic city center. The no-reservations pub on the ground floor serves street-food classics like fries in a Maroilles cheese sauce, marinated meats baked in a wood-fire oven, and twists on the Flamiche (a Flemish leek tart), while upstairs, locavore bistro dishes go for less than 30 euros.
“Eat, drink, and be merry” is the abiding conceit behind this sprawling locavore street-food hall in the center of Lille. Ten restaurants, two bars, and a coffee shop fill the 17,000-square-foot space, which is meant to serve as a springboard for young local chefs looking to open their own restaurants. At any given time, you’ll find groups of friends, families, and coworkers dining elbow to elbow at communal tables. Depending on the evening, you might also find a DJ, a rugby match playing on a massive screen, or a food festival. Don’t miss Ataya for Syrian recipes with northern French twists, like falafaluche (falafel served in a regional bread called faluche) and ch’tiwarma (shawarma with Maroilles cheese).
Sweets are core to the Lillois experience and there’s perhaps no better place to taste that heritage than Méert, the 250-year-old pastry shop and tea salon with 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century architecture in the historic center. Whether you stay for a full tea time or pick up confections to go, pay particular attention to the shop’s signatures: flattened gaufres — waffles filled with sugar and Madagascan vanilla — and the regional claim to fame, the merveilleux, an airy, layered mound of meringue coated with sweet whipped cream and a host of coatings like chocolate flakes and caramelized hazelnuts. (For more innovative pastries and modernized classics, visit L’Ogre de Carrouselberg, a five-minute walk away.)
In the past several years, as Parisians have ditched the city and headed for greener pastures, much of the exodus has been directed toward Le Perche, a bucolic area and regional park in lower Normandy. It’s not too far from the capital but not too close, making the picturesque rolling hills, artisanal design scene, and country-chic restaurants a perfect refuge for urbanites — and well-respected Parisian chefs.
Distance from Paris: 93 miles west
Drive time: 2 hours
Several years before Le Perche became a coveted country escape for Parisians, Septime chefs Bertrand Grébaut and Théo Pourriat took over this rustic 17th-century farmhouse property on nearly 20 acres of land. Eight minimalist guest rooms, with simple white bed linens, exposed wooden beams, and vintage furnishings, are spread out across several stone buildings. Staying the night grants guests priority access to dinner in the farm-to-table restaurant.
The menu, executed by a kitchen crew who worked with Grébaut and Pourriat in Paris, is dictated by the garden, seasons, and simple pleasures. The team only works with items sourced from regional producers and farmers markets (so no olive oil or citrus), which naturally results in a rustic menu where fruits, vegetables, and herbs have a starring role. Dine on buttermilk-grilled leeks; crisp pickled vegetables; fresh goat cheese; leg of lamb roasted on the bone and served with jus; house-made pommeau foie gras, plated with roasted shallots puree and crunchy granola; seasonal fruit tarts; and vanilla grass cream puffs that have become such a hit that the chefs added them to their bakery menu at Tâpisserie in Paris.
Distance from Paris: 93 miles west
Drive time: 2 hours
Chef Sven Chartier, a disciple of Alain Passard, made headlines when he closed his Michelin-starred Saturne in 2019 and made a beeline for the Perche countryside in late 2020. His casual neo-bistrot, Oiseau Oiseau, opened in October 2021 in the pindrop-quiet town of Préaux-du-Perche with a short seasonal menu. The dining room is usually full of locals, though you’ll find a significant number of Parisians who make the drive for lunch on the weekend.
Chartier runs the operation, open Thursday through Sunday, with his wife Marianne and his older brother Nils, who oversees the natural wine list (some bottles are also available in the shop at the back of the restaurant). While the food isn’t reflective of the kind of creativity the chef flexed at Saturne, his mastery of seasoning and textures carries over to comforting, perfectly executed dishes like farm-raised grilled chicken with crunchy vegetables, vegetable pie enveloped in puff pastry, yuzu kosho pâté en crôute with pistachios and almonds, hay-smoked duck filet, and a wonderfully indulgent chocolate tart with buckwheat ice cream and crunchy hemp praline.
Distance from Paris: 111 miles west
Drive time: 2.5 hours
The most recent, large-scale opening in the area, this restaurant and inn is set far off the road in a centuries-old farmhouse and barn surrounded by 740 acres of fields and farmland dotted with horses. Owners Julie and Stéphane Lehembre spent two years rehabilitating the abandoned property with solar panels and all-natural materials and insulation to create an eco-hideout for restorative weekend escapes. A year after opening, the couple has three spacious guest rooms, each outfitted with love seats facing panoramic windows for unobstructed views of the landscape. More rooms are on the way, as is a wellness space down the road.
On Friday and Saturday nights, the house is typically packed for dinner service, cooked entirely by Julie, who trained at Alain Ducasse’s cooking school. Guests can kick off the evening with an aperitif by the fire before digging into the rotating menu that emphasizes seasonal, local produce, some sourced from the property’s growing garden. A winter evening might bring squash and roasted carrot soup, roasted leeks mimosa, and beef confit with sweet potatoes. Come summer, meals and mingling move outdoors for one big house party under the stars.
Lindsey Tramuta is a Paris-based writer and the author of The New Paris and The New Parisienne: The Women & Ideas Shaping Paris.