When people think of castle in France they often automatically think of the numerous Loire Valley castles. However, there are in fact a number of castles located just outside of Paris. Some are well known, such as Versailles, however there are many other lesser known chateaux that are just as splendid and perhaps more enjoyable as the crowds are fewer.
Built by Louis XIV, the Chateau of Versailles is a stunning example of 17th century French architecture. It is hard to find a more sumptuous chateau elsewhere in France, so it is certainly worth taking a day to explore.
Aside from the main chateau there is also the beautiful french gardens, Le Grand Trianon, Le Petit Trianon, and Marie Antoinette’s Estate.
Another plus to Versailles is it is relatively easy to reach. There are a few different options for arriving at Versailles. Taking the RER C to Chateau de Versailles Rive Gauche. Or you could take a day trip tour bus from Paris to Versailles
This chateau located just over an hour southeast from Paris and is the forerunner of Versailles. Built by Louis XIV’s finance minister Nicolas Fouquet in 1661, it inspired such envy in the young king that Fouquet was imprisoned for life and his architect, gardener, and painter were commandeered and used to build Versailles.
The options to get to Vaux-le-Vicomte are either to rent a car or to take part in a half day tour stopping her and Fontainebleau.
A royal chateau built largely during the renaissance and regularly inhabited up until the mid 19th century. Due to this long history of passing kings and emperors, a visit to Fontainbleau allows for a mini French kings history lesson. In addition to the chateau, Fontainebleau has an expansive garden that is lovely to explore on a beautiful day.
Here are two tour options to see Fontainebleau. You can all take the Transilien line R from Gare de Lyon to Fontainbleau Avon.
The Chateau de Vincennes is perhaps one of the most forgotten and certainly the mostly easily accessed chateaux near to Paris. The structure that you see today was constructed beginning in the 14th century. It most famously has served as the prison for generations of criminals and those disloyal to various kings.
Getting to Vincennes: Take Metro line 1 or RER A to Vincennes. By bus you can take line 46, 56, and 86.
There is also an excellent bike tour of the chateau:
Located about 45 minutes north of Paris, Chantilly is a charming result renaissance chateau and home to an impressive art collection, expansive gardens, and magnificent horse shows.
Read more about Chantilly in these posts:
Located about 10 miles west of Paris is the mansion once lived in by Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte.
Getting to Malmaison: From La Défense Bus line 258 and get off at “Le Château”. This will take about 25 minutes.
Saint Germain en Laye
A royal chateau for centuries, was most popular during the French renaissance during the reigns of Frances I, Henry II, and Henry IV. It also had a moment of popularity After being a royal chateau it has had various incarnations as a prison, a hospital, and finally a museum. Today the chateau of Saint Germain en Laye is home to the Musée d’Archéologie Nationale.
Getting to Saint Germain en Laye: take the RER line A to Station Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Or take Bus 258 from La Défense.
Built by a renaissance Marshal of France and currently home to the Nation Renaissance Museum (Musée National de la Renaissance). This is a great chateau to visit if you have any interest in renaissance history, because you can learn about the history while in a placed that
Getting to Chateau d’Écouen: Gare du Nord take line H direction Persan-Beaumont / Luzarches par Monsoult. Get off at d’Écouen-Ézanville station it will take about 25 minutes. Then take by Bus 269, direction Garges-Sarcelles and get off at stop Mairie/Château. The bus ride will be about 5 minutes. Or you could take a pleasant aproximately 20 minute walk through the forest from the train station to the chateau.