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Weekend without a car: 10 ideas to get away in France and Europe

juin 24, 2022
Femme au cheveux long blond de dos habilée d'un jean et une chemise bleue. Elle est sur un chemin de terre entouré de champs avec une petite valise à la main

After a week of hard work at the office, there's nothing like a weekend away to recharge your batteries! Whether you're concerned about your carbon footprint, want to leave your car in the garage for the weekend or don't have a driving license, we've put together 10 ideas for a car-free weekend. You will find a selection of destinations accessible by train in France and in Europe. Cultural or touring atmosphere: the choice is yours! This will give you the inspiration to plan your next weekends, without worrying about traffic jams or parking problems.

  1. Want a car-free weekend in Europe?
  2. Brussels
  3. London
  4. Milan
  5. Bike ride in the Netherlands
  6. The north shore of Lake Geneva by bike or train
  7. Want a car-free weekend in France?
  8. Hyères
  9. Amiens
  10. The Bay of Sommet and the Opal Coast by bike
  11. The Lot without car
  12. the island of Groix

Want a car-free weekend in Europe?

City-trips to do (again)

To get away from it all without going to the other side of the world, but with the little touch of foreignness, what better than a little city trip in Europe? They can be done in any season and will allow you to discover or rediscover European cities at the gates of France, accessible in a few hours by train.

Brussels

Less than an hour and a half from Paris and 35 minutes from Lille, the Belgian capital will keep you busy for many weekends. Take the time to stroll on the majestic Grand-Place, the most beautiful in Europe according to Victor Hugo! Do you want to go green and enjoy the sun if it comes out? Take a walk in the Royal Park or the Cinquantenaire Park. Finally, end your weekend in style with a beer tasting through Brussels, in moderation of course.

Getting around Brussels without a car is child's play! Opt for the Villo! self-service bicycle service or take advantage of the city's public transport network.

Finally, to put down your suitcase, why not book at Made in Louise? It's a family and responsible hotel that will welcome you with delicious breakfasts made with local products.

London

It will only take you 2 hours and a half by Eurostar from Paris to transport you to a completely different atmosphere. Between the red double-decker buses, the left-hand drive and the Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guard ceremony, the British capital will make you forget all your worries of the week in an instant. Not enough? Then hop on the Tube and say hello to the squirrels in Hyde Park or take a trip back in time to the British Museum, before ending your day in the warm atmosphere of a London pub.

To get you into the mood as soon as you arrive, the Zetter Hotel, in an old Georgian house, offers a very British decor. You can also rent bicycles from the hotel to get around London on your own power.

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Milan

With the magic of the night train, leave Paris on Friday night and wake up at Milan station on Saturday morning! Here you are in a dynamic metropolis with the mountains in the background, where cars are not welcome. There is even a toll in Milan if you enter the city center by car.

But, armed with your best sneakers, you will only need your feet to discover the Italian city. Don't miss its historical riches with the Duomo and the Sforza castle. To complete your weekend, you can even plan to attend an opera in the iconic Scala!

Finally, for your nights in Milan, 2 Ethik'Hotels await you:

  • Starhotels E.c.ho a few meters from the central station offers a decoration based on eco-friendly materials;
  • Eco Hotel La Residenzia, in a quiet area will seduce you with its risotto menu that will make you salivate in advance!

Travelling weekends

Bike ride in the Netherlands

The advantage of the Netherlands is its lack of relief, which makes it a perfect country to discover by bike! Leave from Amsterdam, located 3 hours and a half by Thalys from Paris, and get on your bike. After discovering this beautiful city by strolling along its many canals, pedal to Utrecht, 50 kilometers away, on the LF7 bicycle route.

Utrecht is one of the most bikeable cities in the world! With the charm of Amsterdam, but without the crowds, you will certainly be charmed by this city, which is one of the oldest in the country.

To end your weekend on a high note, continue your journey to Delft, 65 km from Utrecht on the LF4 cycle route. The city is known for its famous ceramics and its medieval center, which is worth a visit. From there, it's only a 15-minute train ride to Rotterdam, where you can extend your weekend or take a Thalys to Paris in 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Finally, to rest your aching legs, the Pincoff Hotel awaits you in Rotterdam.

If you want to rent your own bike, Bike City offers travel bikes with panniers for rent from Amsterdam. However, you will have to return it to your starting point at the end of your stay.

N.B. If you leave with your own bike, you will have to dismantle it and store it in a transport bag to be able to board the Thalys.

The north shore of Lake Geneva by bike or train

From Geneva to Montreux, cover 100 km on the Rhône cycle route in 2 or 3 days. If Geneva is not the most pleasant destination for cycling, once out of the city, you will be able to enjoy the beautiful shores of Lake Geneva against the backdrop of an alpine panorama.

If you make the trip in 3 days, you can stop in Nyon and discover its 16th century castle. From its esplanade, you will be able to enjoy the superb view of Lake Geneva, the Alps and even the Mont-Blanc in good weather!

Then, stop one night in Lausanne to take the time to discover the city but don't forget to rest! Indeed, the next day, you will warm up your thighs in the superb terraced vineyards of Lavaux, classified as a Unesco heritage site.

Finally, don't forget to take short breaks in Vevey and Montreux to rest on the shores of the lake. Among other sights, you can discover a statue of Freddie Mercury, another of Charlie Chaplin and the splendid castle of Chillon which seems to come straight out of a history book!

Geneva is accessible in 3 hours by TGV Lyria from Paris or in 2 hours by TER from Lyon or Grenoble. If you leave with your bike, you will have to dismantle it to take it on the TGV but you will be able to take it as is on the TER.

Rent your bike at 2 steps from the train station with the Geneva Roule agency. You can even reserve a small trailer to transport your belongings.

If you are not a fan of cycling, you can make the same trip by train without worrying. Many trains connect the different cities along Lake Geneva every day. To book your trip, go to the website of the Swiss railway company SBB.

For even more ideas on how to get away from it all on the Old Continent, find out where to travel by train in Europe.

Want a car-free weekend in France?

City-trips in France

Where to go without a car in France? For a change from big cities like Paris, Marseille or Lyon, we share with you 2 visits to small towns that are not very popular in France. A way to discover France in a different way and without the crowds of tourists.

Hyères

Fancy a weekend by the sea? Then head for Hyères, a city in the Var that is worth a visit. Don't miss to visit the old Hyères with its Art Trail. Also stop to admire the superb Villa Noailles. But the highlight of the show is the beach of Almanarre and the islands of Porquerolles and Port-Cros off the coast which will give you a real feeling of vacation under the sun of the French Riviera!

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For your nights in Hyères, the Almanarre Plage hotel is very well located with its feet in the water, only a few meters from the beach. It is accessible with the bus 39 from the station.

Finally, to reach Hyères, allow 1 hour 20 minutes by TER from Marseille.

Amiens

Fancy a weekend near Paris by train? Located 1 hour and 15 minutes from the capital and accessible by bus from the Haute Picardie TGV station, Amiens is a city full of surprises that will not leave you indifferent. The Hortillonnages, a real green setting 15 minutes from the station, will offer you a breath of fresh air! Don't miss the old Amiens with its impressive cathedral.

To know more about this destination, discover the story of the whole weekend in Amiens by Anne, the founder of Ethik'Hotels.

Adventures in roaming

The Bay of Sommet and the Opal Coast by bike

What could be better than a few days in the fresh air by bike to explore the natural wealth of the Bay of the Somme and the Opal Coast? On the program of this nature weekend without car:

  • a meeting with the seals of the Authie Bay before setting foot in Berck-sur-mer;
  • the crossing of the sumptuous seaside resort of Le Touquet to discover its large villas;
  • a visit to the castle of Hardelot in the so British style;
  • a walk in Boulogne-sur-Mer with a stop at the largest aquarium in Europe, Nausicaà.

In order not to get lost by bike, follow the marked itinerary of the Vélomaritime, which will take you from the town of Le Crotoy to Boulogne-sur-Mer in 90 km.

To reach your starting point in Le Crotoy, count 1 hour 45 minutes by train from Paris to Noyelles-sur-mer. Then, take your bike on the small tourist train of the Somme bay. For the return trip, take the same TER line from Boulogne-sur-Mer and count on 2 hours 30 minutes of travel to get back to the bustle of the capital.

To rest between your 2 sporty days, plan a stop in Berck-sur-mer or Le Touquet.

Finally, if you have an extra day off, why not linger in Le Crotoy to discover the riches of the Bay of the Somme? Plan your night in the hotel des Tourelles, with a panoramic view on the bay that will not leave you indifferent.

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If you don't have your own equipment, you can rent your bike one way with Opale Vélo Services. Thus, you can have it delivered in Le Crotoy and return it in Boulogne-sur-Mer. On the other hand, the agency does not offer panniers for rent.

The Lot without car

With the city of Cahors as your base camp, explore the Lot without a car. Take the time to discover the Saint-Etienne cathedral and the Valentré bridge, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Then start your itinerary by reaching the perched village of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, located 45 minutes away from the Cahors train station (TER bus line 889). The village was elected "Favorite Village of the French" and is well worth a visit! Finally, to end the day in beauty, why not explore the Pech Merle cave, located 1 hour and 15 minutes from Saint-Cirq-Lapopie on the GR 651?

For your second day of discovery, head for the medieval village of Gourdon, 25 minutes by train from Cahors. Don't miss the superb view of the town and the surrounding area from the esplanade of the castle. Continue the underground visits by exploring the caves of Cougnac, accessible on foot 3 km from the village of Gourdon.

Cahors is located at 1 hour from Toulouse by SNCF Intercity train. Gourdon station is on the same railroad line.

For those who wish to extend their weekend, why not recharge your batteries at the Perchoir du Quercy? This ecological gite will seduce you with its terrace and its Nordic bath with a breathtaking view on the region. To reach it without a car, a bus line runs during the week between Cahors and Montcuq and a bus on demand takes over on Saturdays. The gîte is only 2 km from the village of Montcuq.

The island of Groix

Finally, head to Brittany for a last weekend accessible by train. At 1 hour 40 minutes from Nantes by TER or 3 hours from Paris by TGV, reach Lorient in Brittany. From the city, take a boat to the island of Groix! You won't miss your car on this small island, which is best discovered by bike or on foot.

Discover the complete story of a weekend on the island of Groix, told by an Explor'Actrice.

You are now ready to organize your next car-free weekend! Which getaway appeals to you the most ? Tell us in comments !

Article written by Anaïs Maroteaux, SEO web writer

Anne Chéné
CEO