The château de Chantilly has always held a special place in my heart. I have always thought that it is one of the cutest castles around Paris.
It’s not as grand as others such as Vaux-le-Vicomte, Versailles or even Courances (on a smaller scale) but it has particular charms that make it just like a fairytale castle. Its architecture is beautiful, especially the towers and it has a unique and even peculiar look as it sits in the water. The area around the castle is lovely too. What I enjoy the most is the park, where you can take long walks along the river and spot beautiful charming treasures. One such treasure is the Anglo-Chinese garden with quaint half-timbered cottages called Le Hameau (this is the place to go to for whipped cream) and, if you keep walking to the Île d’Amour (Island of Love – that is soooo French), you will find the Pont des Grands Hommes. It is a beautiful bridge, which to me is the most beautiful spot in the park. There, you can admire the stunning green treillage that has been restored over the years by Tricotel – Accents of France representing French savoir-faire at its best.
Of course, the main thing of interest to most visitors is the château itself, which includes not only one of the biggest collections of paintings in France (it has the second largest collection of antique paintings after the Louvre museum), but also the great and grand library.
The castle is also very famous because of the crème Chantilly (the real whipped cream, which has wrongly been attributed to the famous French chef, Vatel). This rich cream is so good, that in itself should be reason enough to visit the castle because you will be pressed to find as delicious whipped cream anywhere else. This one is the original recipe and I’ve never tasted a crème as good as this one. Jamais.
But desserts are not my only raison de vivre (don’t believe everything I write), I also enjoy going to the Flower and Plant Show that is held twice a year in the park (even though it could be much better). I love this gathering of French and foreign plant nurseries in front of the castle. It is quite a sight and you never come home with empty hands!
After your visit to the domain, why not take a little tour of the town of Chantilly itself? It is not very big and you can walk around while enjoying a good coffee, or stop at a good restaurant or visit the Grandes Écuries opposite the castle (built in the XVIIIth century) which are the biggest and most beautiful stables in Europe. Because Chantilly is not only a ville princière it is also a town where horses are extremely important with many stud farms as well as one the biggest polo clubs in Europe not far. There is also a very famous racetrack where the prix de Diane Longines formerly known as the prix Diane-Hermès is held every year and is the chicest event of the season.
So when you are visiting Paris, hop on a fast train and you’ll be in Chantilly in 20 min!