Paris is fantastique and all, but sometimes a day away from the bustling capital is necessary to maintain your sanity. (Anyone who takes the metro to get to and from work or school during peak hours will understand where I’m coming from.)
Thankfully, the capital is well situated within France to permit a number of day trips around the country. What’s more, it’s cheap, with cities like Bordeaux and Lille costing as little as €10 to get to, and smaller towns like Giverny even accessible by monthly metro card.
One of my favourite places that I’ve visited on one of these wallet-friendly excursions is Chantilly. a commune in the Picardie region that is a mere 38.4km away from central Paris. With its elegant château, thick forests, and signature dessert, it is a great alternative to Versailles that takes mere minutes to get to.
How to get to Chantilly from Paris
There are numerous ways that you can reach Chantilly from central Paris. One can drive there, of course – it takes around an hour – but the two most popular ways are by train and by bike.
Train from Paris to Chantilly
To get to Chantilly by train, you must catch the TER Picardie regional train from Gare du Nord. You want to get the train whose destination is Creil. (You can also catch the one whose destination is Compeigne, but Chantilly is not always a stop on this line, so be sure to double check before you board.)
There are approximately two trains an hour for this route, which runs from 6 AM to 11 PM. That said, there are sometimes gaps in the schedule, so be sure to check the train times prior to your departure.
You can book your tickets online, or purchase them at the station. When purchasing them at Gare du Nord, you will need to get them from either a ticket window, or from one of the TER Picardie’s special ticket machines, which are bright red and green and situated by the Grandes Lignes platforms 15, 16, and 17.
From Gare de Nord, the trip to Chantilly takes a little over 20 minutes.
On average, a round-trip ticket to Chantilly from Paris will cost you €17.40. Monthly passes are not accepted as Chantilly goes beyond the designated 5-zone areas.
Biking to Chantilly from Paris
If you’re visiting Chantilly in the summertime, I would highly recommend at least partially biking there. My friends and I did just that, and had a fabulous time!
We started by renting bikes from a shop in central Paris. From there we biked to Gare du Nord, where we purchased round trip tickets to Chantilly, and boarded the TER. The TER has designated bike racks inside the train which made it easy to store them.
We got off the train at the stop right before Chantilly, which left us at the edge of Forêt de Chantilly. Biking through the lush green forest took approximately 40 minutes and was a smooth, easy ride on dirt roads and paths with little to no cars.
Once in Chantilly, we could easily explore the commune without the bikes being a burden. There are plenty of bike racks to be found, especially around the main tourist sites.
If you bike the full way – which is completely doable – it will take you approximately 2 1/2 hours.
What to do in Chantilly
Château de Chantilly
As I mentioned in the introduction to this article, Chantilly is a great alternative to Versailles. While iconic and a must-see, you can’t deny that Versailles can be exhausting with its mile-long queues, overcrowded gardens, and lavish palace packed within an inch of its life with tourists.
Chantilly boasts its own château and gardens. Dating back to the French Renaissance, it houses, among other things:
- Three different gardens (French, Anglo-Chinese, and English),
- A two-story library packed with antique books,
- The second largest collection of Illuminated manuscripts in France,
- The second largest collection of antique paintings after the Louvre,
- A traditional restaurant,
- The largest stables in Europe, which hold regular equestrian shows,
- A horse museum which houses over 200 objects and works of art.
The Domaine de Chantilly costs €17 for a full-price ticket and €10 for a reduced ticket. Those eligible for a reduced-price ticket include students, job-seekers, people with disabilities, and children aged 3-17.
While the price seems a little steep, keep in mind that it gives you access to the grounds, château (including an audio headset), great stables, and horse museum.
You can easily spend the entire day at the Domaine de Chantilly, and not even see it all! For my friends and I personally, we spend most of our time there exploring the gorgeous château and its vast art collection and library, as well lounging around the picturesque gardens, which are perfect for a picnic or hot summer day.
L’Hippodrome de Chantilly
The Chantilly racecourse – or l’hippodrome de Chantilly – is a thoroughbred turf racecourse located by France’s main horse training area just outside of Chantilly Forest.
First opened in 1834, it has been in regular use since. Most notably, it hosts the Prix du Jockey Club in June, which is one of the five classic races in France.
Some interesting facts about the racecourse? In addition to having a grandstand built by famed French architect Honoré Daumet, it was host to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe from 2016-2017, and was even featured in the 1985 James Bond film A View to Kill.
An article about the commune of Chantilly would be incomplete without mention of its most famous export – Chantilly cream. A simple but decadent dessert of sweetened whipped cream with a touch of vanilla, it is popular not only in France but the world over.
The invention of Chantilly cream is frequently attributed to famous French chef Vatel, who worked in the kitchens of the château.
Making it yourself is easy, requiring only whipping cream, a vanilla bean pod, icing sugar, and a whisk or electric mixer. However, if you’re visiting Chantilly, you must give it a taste at one of the cafes or restaurants there. Served with fresh fruit or compote, it is absolutely divine.