So yes I know, Paris is the ultimate destination. You don’t even have to live through a severe bout of romantic feelings to acknowledge and value the distinct beauty of Paris. The French capital, deeply rooted in history and meaning and adorned with a wide range of attractions, is definitely a city that belongs on everyone’s once-in-a-lifetime bucket list. Or, in other words: No travel memories photo album is complete without a picture of the Eiffel Tower. See proof below.
But let’s face it. Paris is also an urban nightmare. The drive from the airport to the city center alone can be enough to bring you to the verge of tears, staff in restaurants is fully aware that one tourist will be replaced by two others within two minutes and hotel prices can be beyond your wildest dreams. Still, it’s Paris. And seeing it is well worth all of the above.
But in case you are there and are looking for a great getaway not everyone actually gets away to, try Chantilly. That’s a lovely, mid-sized town approximately an hour away from Paris by car or by train. Chantilly is home to a chateau that’s well-known in France but attracts relatively few of the millions of Paris visitors, which is why I consider it to be half-concealed gem.
The chateau was originally built in the 16th century and belonged to French nobility for centuries. You’ll have to pay a not-budget-friendly admission price but that payment will give you access to a number of impressive attractions. These include of course the magnificent gardens, which alone will entice you to stay for hours, and the no less magnificent gallery that holds one of the finest art collections in the world.
Apart from these, I recommend walking over to the stables, because I guarantee you that you have never seen animal enclosures like this. Built in 1719, it is hard to believe that a ruler of whatever kind could build a palace like that for horses while many peasants had hard times making a living. In the summer, they hold horse shows here and the manicured racing track right next to the hippodrome is impressive by its sheer size. Also, make sure you walk though the Museum of the Horse adjacent to the stables, which gives you a good idea of how horses were used by humans in the course of the centuries.
So, to summarize: Yes, go to Paris, it’s awesome. And reserve some space to make the trip to Chantilly. In Richard Nixon’s words: “What, they brought me to Versailles seven times, but only once to Chantilly?”.
- Chantilly and Paris, France
- Travelled there: February 2018
- Stayed at: Best Western Hotel du Parc, Chantilly