It’s looking like I’m going to have a work trip to Paris coming up. It will be my first time in Europe, and I will have a few days outside of the time spent in Paris for work. I’m thinking of taking a train somewhere for a night or two of the trip. So if you could go somewhere from Paris for just a night or two, where would you suggest and what highlights should I hit in such a short window of time? One of the obvious options seems like London, but I want to weigh the options! Thanks! :)
We were in Brussels this past August and took the bullet train from Brussels to Paris for a 2 day layover. It's 1 hour from Paris to Brussels if you book ahead on the speedy Thalys train. Brussels is an interesting city with lots of beer (if you're into beer) and great food. I'd also hop a train from Brussels to Ghent or Bruges if you have time. Good for day trips.
If you want to stay in France, I'd suggest taking the train down to Blois in the Loire Valley. It's only a couple of hours by train. Blois is a beautiful chateau town and is not too large to be easily walkable. It's right in the middle of the valley, close to some of the most spectacular chateaus like Chambord, Chenonceau and Amboise.
If you are Ok with renting a car and driving, you can visit Bruges (hands down one of the best towns in Europe), Ghent and Brussels with ample time to explore each town with two nights. If you do rent a car, be sure to rent a car at the CDG Airport not anywhere close to downtown Paris. From there to Beligum, traffic is so light and you can get to Belgium in 2 hours.
If you prefer to ride trians, the same itinerary is still doable with 2 nights.
I agree with Bruge and Ghent (and maybe Brussels - not my fave city, but some people like it). There are a ton of great small cities in France that are easily accessible by train. It just depends on what you are into!