10 Château Day Trips from Paris

Château Life Outside Versailles

October 31, 2018By Emma HussainDaytrips From Paris
France, Seine-et-Marne (77), Maincy, le château de Vaux-le-Vicomte (vue aérienne) // France, Seine-et-Marne, Maincy, the castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte (aerial view)
Aerial view of the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. © Vaux-le-Vicomte 2107

Strolling around a landscaped garden and seeing some pre-Revolution architecture can be a peaceful way to spend a weekend, away from the rush of life in the city. The famed Château de Versailles is a must for most Paris visitors, but the Île-de-France region boasts an array of similarly beautiful, if perhaps less imposing, palaces and gardens. Here are 10 slightly more off-the-beaten-track châteaux, all easily accessible via public transport on a day trip from Paris.

Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte was the inspiration for Versailles, and you’ll see why as you wander its sweeping grounds, which can be seen from a panoramic viewpoint in the house’s lantern dome. Built and owned by Louis XIV’s finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet, the castle hosted a lavish entertainment in August 1661 for Louis, displaying an opulence that is said to have played a part in the annoyed young king having Fouquet put in prison soon afterward. The interior is furnished in authentic 17th-century style, and special events are held year-round for families, couples and individuals.

35 minutes from Paris Gare de l’Est. The “Châteaubus” shuttle bus leaves from the Verneuil l’Etang train station.

Chàteau de Fontainebleau
Chàteau de Fontainebleau. Photo © Beatrice Lecuyer-Bibal

Fontainebleau

Napoleon described the palace at Fontainebleau as “the house of ages,” as it was home to French royalty for seven centuries. It contains some 1,500 rooms overflowing with history, art, and architecture. The quaint town of Fontainebleau or the vast Fontainebleau forest can also be visited on a day trip.

45 minutes from Paris Gare de Lyon. Alight at Fontainebleau-Avon and take the Line 1 bus for Les Lilas, getting off at the Château stop.

Chàteau Monte-Cristo
Château de Monte-Cristo. Photo: JP Baudin/Monte-Cristo

Cbâteau de Monte Cristo

A little different from the mostly royal châteaux in the Paris region, the Château de Monte-Cristo, now a museum, was built by Alexander Dumas as a refuge from city life at the height of his fame. Its grounds include a smaller château in the Gothic style, which served as Dumas’ study, as well as English-style gardens where you can soak up the place’s creative history.

50 minutes from Paris. Take the train from Paris Saint Lazare and alight at Marly le Roi station, or take the RER A from the city and alight at Saint Germain en Laye. Then take the number 10 bus toward Les Lampes, get off at Avenue Kennedy and follow the footpath to the château.

Chàteau Pierrefonds
Château de Pierrefonds. Photo © Colombe Clier

Château de Pierrefonds

You’ll think you’ve traveled back in time to Camelot at this quintessential European castle on a hill in southern Picardy. Built in the Middle Ages but restored in the 19th century, the château offers self-guided tours in nine languages. The nearby Forest of Compiègne is a great place for a brisk countryside walk.

1 hour, 30 minutes from Paris Gare du Nord. Alight at Compiègne and take bus 27 to the château. Local buses can be infrequent, so be sure to research your trip before heading out.

Chàteau de Malmaison
Château de Malmaison. Photo: Musées Nationaux Malmaison

Malmaison

This château west of Paris is rich in history: it briefly served as the headquarters of the French government at the start of the 19th century and was also Napolean’s last residence in France. It sits amid tranquil grounds, vastly expanded by Napoleon’s first wife Joséphine, where you can take in the floral display after appreciating the house’s architecture.

25 minutes from La Défense. Take Metro line 1 to La Défense and then take bus 258 to the La Château stop. From April to September, ParisCityVision offers a shuttle service from 2, rue des Pyramides in Paris.

Château de Saint Germain en Laye
Château de Saint Germain en Laye. Photo © MAN

Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye

The facade of this majestic château greets you as you step out of the RER station. The treaty to end the war with Austria in 1919 was signed here, and various European royals have walked its halls over the years. Today, it houses France’s national archaeology museum, and its grounds are the perfect place to take a walk in nature right on Paris’ doorstep.

20 minutes from Charles de Gaulle Étoile. Take the RER A from the city and alight at Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

Château de Breteuil
Château de Breteuil. Photo: Michel André

Château de Breteuil

This château is a little farther from Paris than the others, but its uniqueness makes it worth the trip. Its collection includes over 100 paintings of French royals and Breteuil family members, as well as wax figures recreating significant moments in the house’s history. There is also a lavish neo-Gothic chapel. The popular fairy tales of Charles Perrault are celebrated here due to the author’s collaboration with the family – you’ll find signs of old childhood friends like Snow White and Puss in Boots around the grounds.

2 hours from Paris Châtelet. Take the RER B and alight at Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuse. From April to October,  a “Baladobus” tourist bus runs from Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuse to the château on Sundays and public holidays, but at other times, taxis are advised.

Château de Maisons
Château de Maisons. Photo: Philippe Berthé

Château de Maisons

Conveniently located between Paris and Versailles, this château opened in 1651 and is believed, along with Vaux-le-Vicomte, to have inspired Louis XIV’s plans for the palace at Versailles. It is seen as one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in France, and its grounds include a nine-hectare park and a museum of horse racing.

25 minutes from Charles de Gaulle Étoile. Take RER A and alight at Maisons Laffite.

Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly. Photo © Jérôme Houyvet

Chantilly

Henri d’Orléans, son of the last king of France, put together an extraordinary collection of art for this château, whose antique painting collection is second only to that of the Louvre. The beautiful reading room is not to be missed, and the elegant gardens pay homage to a number of cultures and eras.

25 minutes via SNCF from Paris Gare du Nord, or 45 minutes via RER D. Alight at Chantilly-Gouvieux, then take a taxi or walk (about a mile) to the château.

Château de Vincennes
Château de Vincennes. © Philippe Berthé–CMN

Château de Vincennes

This fortress was built to protect French kings from uprisings, a fact reflected in its forbidding exterior. It was the base for the royal family before its move to Versailles, and today contains archives and exhibitions dedicated to the history of the armed forces. Visits to this château, Pierrefonds, Maisons and a number of others are operated by the Centre de Monuments Nationaux.

17 minutes from Châtelet. Take RER A and alight at Vincennes.

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