After having visited Paris on numerous occasions, we’ve started looking a little bit outside the City of Lights for our more recent adventures. It’s not that Paris doesn’t have a lot to offer, for one could spend a lifetime wandering it’s streets and never see the same thing twice, but more that we’ve grown fond of some of the beautiful landscapes and quiet villages that are within an hour of the capital.
I have a fondness for architecture – namely palaces and castles – so we’re always looking for places to visit as a day trip from Paris (like the home of Alexandre Dumas) and we chose this particular destination as our one long trip during our last visit to France.
As we emerged from the coverings of the woods on the road through the French countryside in Chantilly, you are greeted with a beautiful château that sprawls across a green landscape. It snuggles up to a small lake and just beckons you to come and wander its grounds.
Château de Chantilly Guide
We arrived just in time for lunch, and so after paying our entrance fee, we took a quick look at the different dining options available. The first choice was just past the entrance, but we opted to walk a bit to eat and le hameau, the Hamlet, and we certainly made the right decision.
For those of you unfamiliar with the French name for whipped cream, it is chantilly. Why? Because the city was the home of the man who supposedly invented the delicious dessert topping. So needless to say, you certainly can’t visit the city nor the château without ordering dessert and a café chantilly!
As we climbed the hill to the palace and turned right to head out onto the trail towards our meal, we were shocked by an icy breeze. During the spring the weather was quite cold, so be sure to bundle up! I was looking forward to a warm meal and was surprised when what we were brought was actually served cold! After I got over the shop, I was able to enjoy the food – it really was delicious – grateful for the small tent that protected us from the chill outside. I had dreamed of having a lunch outdoors in the French countryside much in the way we enjoyed ours that afternoon.
As we headed out after our meal to explore the château’s grounds, we were chased over a small bridge towards the labyrinth by swans who felt we had walked to close to their resting place. I had been dying to explore a hedge maze since the one I knew of in Paris had closed (before I had the chance to visit) and so I made M wander through three different entrances along with me while we explored some of the secret gardens hidden within its walls.
After we exhausted our time in the maze, we continued further into the property, walking along yet another lake towards the kangaroo exhibit where we had the opportunity to visit with several baby kangaroos and even an albino kangaroo who lazily basked in the sun.
We then headed back to visit the château itself. Once home to Henri d’Orleans, son of the last King of France, Louis-Philippe, the Château de Chantilly hosts the second largest collection of artwork in France (the Louvre is the home to the first).
While the art galleries were quite exquisite, it was the reading room that really fascinated me. It was beautifully designed and left me wishing I had the space for one even half the size to call my own. I can certainly relate to the Duke of Aumale who, in a letter to a friend, said this of his affinity for collecting books, “I think I’m suffering from bibliomania!”
The books are from all over the world, in a variety of shapes and sizes, and in several languages. There are some 60,000 books (only 19,000 of which are displayed in the Reading Room). The oldest date back to the 11th century and about 200 are medieval manuscripts.
There are several more things to see at Chantilly, but we had to end our trip after briefly exploring the château. In addition to what we visited, there are stables, a variety of gardens, a playground for children (and me, apparently), and additional rooms within the château.
From April to October, there is a mini train that can take you on a 40 minute tour of the grounds for 5 euros (3 for children). It covers 115 hectares of the property as part of the tour. A domain ticket is 16€, but if you prefer to just visit the grounds and skip the interior of the château, a ticket is 7€.
Low Season Hours (around November-March)
Open everyday except Tuesday
10:30 am to 5 pm
High Season Hours (around March-November)
Open 7 days a week
10 am to 6 pm
The Domain of Chantilly is 20 minutes from Charles de Gaulle airport and 40 km from the centre of Paris. From the heart of Paris, it takes around 40 minutes to get to Chantilly.
From Paris: A3 and/or A1 motorway, “Chantilly” exit, or D316 and D317 roads
By train: Paris-Chantilly:
From Gare du Nord SNCF main lines (25 minutes), get off at “Chantilly-Gouvieux”. The walk from the train station to the domain is approximately 20 minutes.
What are some of your favorite things to do in or around Paris? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!