If you’re planning to be in Paris for any length of time, you’ll likely end up looking for day trip options to explore the surrounding areas.
Most people head to Versailles. Understandably. Known for being the historical country home to French Royals, Versailles is loved for its over-the-top opulence: carefully manicured and sprawling gardens, lush interior decor with furniture swathed in rich fabrics or gilded in gold, and art that is both stunning and priceless.
It’s also heaving with people. 10 million visitors per year kind of heaving. Which makes it difficult for many to truly appreciate their visit.
So I thought I’d follow up on my last post, Paris: Escape the Crowds, and offer a few châteaux alternatives to Versailles. Châteaux that are equally as beautiful, rich in history, and much more manageable. I’m confident that you’ll fall in love with any of them, and won’t feel like you’ve sacrificed your time by visiting.
Châteaux de Chantilly
Approximately 50km north of Paris you’ll find the beautiful Château de Chantilly, once the country home of the Duke of Aumale (son to the last King of France, Louis-Philippe). The Château is surrounded by a staggering 115 hectares, dotted with pools, fountains and specialised gardens. There’s plenty to see and do here.
One of the showstoppers is the Conde Musee, an highly regarded museum home to mainly French and Italian works. Be sure to keep an eye open for Three Graces by Rafael.
For bibliophiles, you’ll love the Reading Room. The Duke of Aumale collected a staggering 60,000 volumes during his lifetime and, of those, almost 19,000 are on public display today.
A short distance away you’ll find the Great Stables and its Museum of the Horse, which presents the centuries long relationship between horses and humans. Live performances can be seen in the Equestrian Loop throughout the day.
On your way back to the train station in town, do yourself a favour and stop in at a bakery for a delicious pastry featuring what else .. Chantilly cream!
This Baroque château is located about 55 km southeast of Paris, and is definitely worth a visit if only for the scandalous history alone!
Long story short.. Esteemed member of Paris Parliament builds this sprawling estate, hiring the best of the best craftsmen of the time. Jealous colleague convinces the King that the château was built with state funds. King believes the jealous colleague, throws the man into prison for embezzlement and seizes the estate. Jealous colleague is promoted to take over now-jailed man’s position in the government (which was his end goal all along), and the King hires the same dream team of craftsmen to build his own estate .. a little place you might have heard of called Versailles, ahem.
So in a roundabout way, a visit to Vaux-le-Vicomte is almost the same as going to Versailles. Or at least it’s an opportunity to see its inspiration.
But if that’s not enough to call you, perhaps it’s the opportunity to visit the largest private estate listed as an historic monument in France. Or climbing the stairs of the central dome and looking out across the formal french gardens that spread out for 3 km from the Chateau.
Inside, the Chateau is centred around the bright and airy Grand Salon. Each room you move through is decorated elaborately from floor to ceiling, so much so that it’s almost dizzying.
I recommend getting an audio guide when you arrive so you can feel like you’ve been transported back centuries while listening to the characters who give some life to this magnificent Chateau.
55 km southeast of Paris is where you’ll find Château de Fontainebleau, one of the largest French Royal Château and home to many Kings throughout its history.
It’s often thought of as the hunting lodge of the Royals, with the surrounding forest once being full of game. It’s also known as the location where Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled from.
Outside the Château is a large carp pond, which was used by the Royal Court for boating parties. Even today, you can rent a small boat to float along while pretending to be one of the elite.
If you prefer being on terra firma, there are lots of places to wander around the estate.
Plan ahead and bring a packed lunch to enjoy before heading inside.
If you’re hell bent on visiting Versailles, do yourself a favour and book a morning behind-the-scenes tour directly. Your small tour will give you the opportunity to learn from an expert and explore areas of the palace not seen by the public. It’s a great introduction to your day before you join the masses who, in many cases, won’t have the same knowledge of what they’re surrounded by that you will. And then prepare yourself to join a sea of people.
Of course, there are many more châteaux near to Paris that are worth visiting. If you’ve been to any not listed above, share your recommendations in the comment section below. I’m always looking for more to visit.
Today we’ll wrap up our visit to Vaux-le-Vicomte with a quick stop in the Grand Salon. This large room is the château’s central point, from which the rest of the elaborately decorated rooms spread out from.
The domed ceiling rises 18 metres above the ground and sprawling surface area of 400 square metres. I think I remember seeing somewhere that a major restoration is set for next year.
Of course I had to take a photo of the flooring with its centre mosaic design.
Once through the doors that lead outside, I took a few more photos before heading for the shuttle bus.
One last spin..
Life upstairs at Vaux-le-Vicomte was fancy and picture perfect, and it took hard work from the staff to make it appear effortless. Much of the behind the scenes work was done downstairs.
I shared a post a few days ago which featured a few of the smaller details that make Vaux-le-Vicomte a treat to visit. Today I’ll focus on some of the larger ones; striking tapestries and ornately designed cabinets.
Happy Victoria Day to my fellow Canadians. Stay safe!
Yesterday we looked at the gorgeous room made especially for King Louis XIV. It’s not the only beautifully decorated bedroom at the château though, and today we’ll take a look at some of the others.
If you recall my first post in this series featuring Vaux-le-Vicomte, you might remember my mentioning that Nicolas Fouquet was Superintendent of Finances under King Louis XIV. So when Fouquet had Vaux-le-Vicomte built, he made sure to include a beautiful bedroom for the young King to enjoy during his visits to the château.
Unfortunately for Fouquet, King Louis XIV was led to believe that the he had built the château using embezzled funds. Fouquet was thrown in jail and the property abandoned, meaning that all of his careful consideration put into this gorgeous bedroom went to waste.
I love a good floor, including a checkerboard. I usually associate them with kitchens, so it was a nice surprise to find one in such an elaborately decorated room of this beautiful château.
This week we’re in Maincy, at Vaux-le-Vicomte, again. I love this door and its surround. It feels to me that great things are on the other side. Like a magical world full pastries, strong tea, soft music and lots and lots of fluffy kittens.
Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments section over at Norm’s blog, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time).
It can be a bit overwhelming wandering through a French château. There’s usually so much going on around you that it starts to feel like your eyes might just fall out of your head. It’s so easy to miss the little details amongst the grandeur.
During this global pandemic, I’ve been fortunate to continue working. Of course, my computer set up looks very different here at home with a makeshift table set up as my desk.
I’ve completely lost track of what each room is at Vaux-le-Vicomte. Normally I can find the information in brochures I’ve held onto and bulk it up with help from online. Unfortunately I can’t find any papers in my stash and details for Vaux-le-Vicomte online are limited.
The fanciest of dining rooms I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating in have been at nice restaurants or hotels. At the time, I marveled at the decor of each location. But none of them could compare to sitting down for dinner in the dining room at Vaux-le-Vicomte.
Just imagine being a guest here. Where would your eyes land? There’s so much to take on and you’d know that you were in for a treat.
The large mirrors play a trick on your eyes, making the room feel much larger than it really is.
James just looked over my shoulder as I’m proofing this post, and asked why I don’t decorate our place like this. That sounds like an absolute dream but I wouldn’t even know where to start.
I took a lot of photos during my visit to Vaux-le-Vicomte. Of course I did. So many, in fact, that I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with where to start. I have decided that looking up is as good of a place as any, and am sharing an assortment of ceiling photos.
If I’ve learned anything from the amount of times I’ve walked away with a kink in my neck, it’s that these fancy French chateaux rarely have a surface untouched.
This week we’re in Maincy, France at the fantastic Vaux-le-Vicomte estate. The door I’m sharing is pretty cute – made even more attractive by its surroundings.
Regular readers of MOTM will be familiar with my love of French chateaux. Rich history, lavish decor and manicured grounds .. it’s not difficult to see why I’m a fan. Today marks the beginning of my Vaux-le-Vicomte series, starting with the buildings’ striking exteriors’.
Since we’re knee deep in posts about the Château de Chantilly, I thought it was only appropriate to share a door I came across during my visit. Or, more accurately, the intricate gold detailing.
When my friend, Stephanie, and I were in the planning stages of our first trip to Paris, I threw out the suggestion of a day trip to Versailles. I had visited Versailles years prior and was blown away by its over-the-top opulence. It’s historical importance is awe inspiring. Every direction I looked I saw a carefully manicured shrub, or something covered in gold, or a piece of art that was both stunning and priceless. I knew she’d love it too.