With blossoms, daffodils and tulips bursting into color across Paris’ jardins and parks, there’s little doubting the magic of springtime in the City of Light. But that doesn’t mean you can’t experience the pastoral prettiness of French farm life as well, even if urban adventures are your central focus. With these charming rural farm escapes all just a stone’s throw or metro stop from the beating heart of the city, there’s no better way to celebrate the onset of spring, spy a few newborn lambs, and taste la vie à la ferme.
On the outer edges of the Château de Versailles’ grounds lies a peaceful farmhouse that is worth a visit. Marie Antoinette may have had her pastiche farm, but here you can enjoy your own pastoral perfection. Complete with woodland nature discovery trail, petting zoo, and special bread-making classes for kids, visit la ferme and then take in its huge farm boutique for organic picnic fare, farmhouse-chic gifts, heirloom seeds, and if you so desire, your own fluffy farmhouse chick. Visit the farm website for details on their popular Easter Egg hunt.
Address: CD 7 – Route de Bailly, 78210 Saint-Cyr-l’École
How to get there: RER C to Versailles Rive Gauche station or take the SNCF mainline train from Saint-Lazare to Versailles Rive Droite.
Sitting in the center of the 12th arrondissement’s Bois de Vincennes park alongside the Vincennes fortress is this educational organic farm. Run by the city of Paris, general entry is restricted to weekend afternoons, but is entirely free. Depending on the season you can experience sheep shearing, learn about organic farming principles, watch animals being fed, and stroll the fruit orchards. Got weekend plans? La Ferme de Paris also runs a mobile farm so you can also meet farm animals across several different locations in the city. Simply visit the Ferme Mobile auxiliary site for dates and locations.
Address: 1 Route du Pesage, 75012
How to get there: Metro Maisons-Alfort Stade Line 8. Or, Bus 112 from Metro Château-de-Vincennes.
In the grounds of Pontoise’s Château de Marcouville, this city-run educational farm allows visitors of all ages to meet donkeys, pigs, goats, sheep, and 140 rare French farm breeds. While entrance is free three weekends a month, the farm remains closed for one rotating weekend monthly, so always check the farm website for exact opening dates before you slip on your boots. For a small historic house bonus, here visitors can also take in the château’s paved courtyard, traditional French gardens, and vista point.
Address: 2 Rue des Patis, 95300 Pontoise
How to get there: Mainline SNCF train from Gare du Nord to Pontoise, or take the 45 Bus to Pontoise Gare station
For the truly history-minded, France’s agricultural past comes to life at this destination with farming museum. Visit to check out historical farm implements and techniques, meet farm animals, shop produce, or in the summer months, get lost in the farm’s maize maze. For the full experience, you can even stay the night at the cozy farmhouse gîte accommodation.
Address: 8 Chemin du Cimetière au Parc, 91630 Cheptainville
How to get there: 45 minutes by car from city center
Enjoy a pastoral weekend day at the farm at this beautiful stone farmhouse surrounded by vegetable gardens, orchards, a special sensory garden, and of course plenty of farm animals. For a hands-on experience enquire about the occasional wool dying workshop. Open for general admittance Sunday afternoons between 2pm and 5pm.
Address: 19 Rue de Gif, 91190 Villiers-Le-Bâcle
How to get there: 40 minutes by car from city center
Think of a farm and horses come to mind? Then this historical destination 50 km west of Paris created by King Louis XVI is for you. Designated as a national sheep farm, this destination within Rambouillet Château’s 1,100-hectare park houses more than just sheep. Boasting a full equestrian center, beginners and experienced riders aged 6 years and older can take classes or head out for pony rides. Carriage rides are also available. Visit Wednesday, Saturday, or Sunday and you’ll also get to see over 300 sheep, 50 dairy cows, goats, pigs, donkeys, geese, and rabbits, and enjoy a whole host of workshops showcasing everything from milking goats to shearing sheep.
Address: Parc du Château, 78120 Rambouillet
How to get there: Drive, or take the mainline SNCF train from Paris-Montparnasse to Rambouillet then walk across the Château grounds