Courances, a charming French castle near Paris

Courances, un charmant château près de Paris


Some places I just love to visit over and over. There are people who always look for new experiences and adventures on weekends and there are those who love indulging in sweet memories and go back to places they hold dear to their heart – just like visiting old friends. This is how I feel when I go to Courances.

This beautiful French castle is quite ironically more famous to foreigners than to French people. When I talk about places to visit around Paris with my (French) friends, I am quite astonished that they know nothing about Courances. Of course, they are more acquainted with Fontainebleau, which is not very far from Courances. Some of them might even have heard about the lovely and quaint village of Milly-la-Forêt nearby. It is quite ironic when you think about it: most of my friends travel abroad to faraway places, yet, they are quite unaware of the many beauties of their own country. Therefore, it is always amusing to read in American or English magazines and books mentioning Courances (I’m particularly thinking about Charlotte Moss). And at the same time, I’m quite happy the French do not know about it as I can keep this wonderful secret a little bit longer…  

This utterly gorgeous French castle is a real treat if you want to take a break from Paris. 

Courances is quite a romantic garden, you can get lost in its beautiful alleys leading to different water pieces. You can stumble upon the family motto in a greenhouse saying “On n’a besoin ni de bec, ni de serre mais d’ailes pour atteindre les étoiles” which they translate by “No need for beak or claws but only wings to reach for the stars”.

You can admire its beautiful architecture sitting on a stone bench with a good book or you can simply walk around the village to really feel French essence.

Visiting the gardens of Courances is the perfect getaway for a Saturday afternoon as you can have a lovely time in the Foulerie tea room (the former mill of the estate). You can enjoy in this beautiful and rustic building and a good tarte or gâteau au chocolat served with a Mariage Frère cup of tea. My favorite time there is when it rains in Autumn. I love having a good goûter while listening to the rain pouring outside and looking out at the gorgeous surroundings from a cozy spot.

The gardens of Courances have been awarded the label “Jardins Remarquables” but do not expect any extravagance there. It is all about simplicity, perspective and structure focused on those many water pieces. For those who love French interiors, be aware that you cannot always visit the castle and when you can, the number of rooms you are allowed to see is quite limited. The family still lives there after all. 

But Courances is not only famous for its gardens. It has acquired quite a reputation in organic farming these last few years thanks to the Countess Valentine de Ganay who is a strong advocate of organic food and whose ambition is to “feed Paris” in a sustainable way. She now works with Parisian chefs who have their own little parcel at Courances. The nice thing is that she has opened a very charming and rustic boutique in the village of Courances called Les Jardins de Courances where you can buy delicious and seasonal fruits, vegetables and flowers. You can sometimes meet her in the boutique, and hear how passionate she is about it. 

I would strongly advise going to Courances. It is my favorite French castle near Paris and the surroundings are enchanting. The fact that you cannot really visit the castle is probably for the best, as it leaves room for imagination while wandering across the different parts of the garden.

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