When you think of French Châteaux (French for Castles), the first place that comes to mind is Paris’ famous Château, the Château de Versailles. From the Baroque architecture, to the manicured lawns and beautiful furnishings the Château is an iconic place for many a tourist to stop over on there way through Paris providing an opportunity to escape the city centre and enjoy some greenery.
What’s far less well known though, is that Versailles is not the only Château in Paris. In fact, much like Machu Picchu is not the only mountaintop Inca village in Peru, there are the many smaller Châteaux hidden in and around Paris, whilst staying within the bounds of the Parisian public transport system.
1. Le Château de Vincennes
The closest grand château to the Parisian city centre and only one accessible with a simple metro ticket. On arrival you will discover a castle far closer to the one you imagine as a small child than Versailles. With a wide, entirely intact moat, high walls and even a keep, the Château de Vincennes is a great place to take the kids (or the little kid inside you) and let their imagination run wild.
How to get there: Take the metro to the station Château de Vincennes (Metro Line 1, Direction Château de Vincennes)
2. Le Château de Chantilly
North of the city, hidden at the end of one of the suburban train lines, lies the Château of Chantilly. Chantilly itself has hosted a number of significant historical events and is well worth a visit whilst you are there but definitely the highlight of this suburb is the amazing Château that calls this pocket of Paris home. Manicured gardens, a small enclosure full of wallabies and a large lake, this Château is full of charm.
How to get there: Take the RER to the statio, Chantilly-Gouvieux (RER D, Dircetion Creil) and either follow the signs and walk via the racetrack (25 minutes each way) or search out the shuttle bus (10 minutes each way)
3. Le Château de Champs-sur-Marne
In the east of Paris, on the way to Disneyland, there is another castle you can drop by and visit. Situated next to the Parc de Noisiel which contains a lake that you can swim in on warm days, the Château de Champs-sur-Marne is a great place to escape to on a hot Parisian day. Surrounded by a large park you can stretch your legs and cool off whilst checking out the quaint Château that sits overlooking the rest of the park.
How to get there: Take the RER to the station Noisiel (RER A, Direction Marne-la-Vallee-Chessy)
Lying close to the Chateau de Versailles and within on of the upper class western Parisian suburbs lies the Chateau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Whilst the Chateau itself is a beautiful building what really sets this place apart is it’s simply massive gardens. In fact, gardens is not an appropriate title for the surrounds as the French have recognised by naming the space ‘the forest of Saint-Germain-en-Laye’. Whilst not manicured like the gardens of Versailles they are incredibly more 3 times the size of the gardens surrounding Versailles. For those who enjoy a long walk, ride or run you will never get bored in this easily accessible expanse of wilderness.
How to get there: Take the RER to the station Saint Germain-en-Laye (RER A, Direction Saint-Germain-en-Laye)
A little tricky to access but well worth the journey for any who love a beautifully manicured garden, this former residence for which the surrounding suburb is named is secreted away to the south of Paris
How to get there: Take the Translinien to the station Fontainebleau-Avon (Translinien R, Direction Montargis Sens, Montereau or Laroche-Migennes) and then take the ‘Line 1’ bus in the direction of Les Lilas and exit at the stop called ‘Château’
Challenge yourself and get out there and discover the secret Châteaux of Paris, free from many of the tourists you will find in the city centre and at Versailles. All it takes is a public transport ticket.