Complete with everything from moats to keeps to turrets, France is awash with fairytale castles. And this is especially true of the Île de France region where Paris is based. Here are some of the top fairytale castles to visit on day trips from Paris! (And all of them can be reached by public transport!)
Château de Versailles
No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the palace of the Sun King. Once home to one of the richest kings in history, Louis XIV commissioned the Palace that would have cost over $2 billion to build in today’s money. Now a UNESCO world heritage site, millions of visitors flock annually to explore the wealth of riches contained within the Château and its surrounding grounds.
In more recent years, the site has been used as a film location for Coppola’s movie ‘Marie Antoinette’ and the backdrop for the Anish Kapoor’s exhibition highlighting chaos amongst the pristine gardens at Versailles. Don’t miss: The Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon, world-famous landscape gardens and the rest of Versailles town (which is filled with pretty boutiques and delicious eateries).
How to visit Versailles: Take RER line C from Invalides to Versailles-Rive Gauche (50 minutes from the centre of Paris).
Château de Vincennes
Situated just ten minutes away from the Centre of Paris via metro, Château de Vincennes was the site of royal residences from the 12th Century up until the 18th century. From then on, it was used as the site for a porcelain factory and finally a state prison.
Today, it is possible to visit the Keep (what was once the prison) and Sainte-Chapelle de Vincennes. This is one of only a handful of Sainte-Chapelles remaining in France. Another is in Paris, while yet another still is located in Châteaudun. The gothic stained glass is worth a look if only to see a well-preserved 14th Century fortified chapel built. Don’t miss: Sainte Chappelle, 300-year-old prisoner graffiti in the Keep that transports you back in time with just one glance.
How to visit Vincennes: Take the Metro line 1 to Château de Vincennes (the entire journey takes just 10 minutes from the centre of Paris).
Château de Chantilly
Of all the fairytale castle day trips from Paris on this list, Chantilly may well be the prettiest! Situated to the North of Paris, the Château at Chantilly was home to French princes for almost two centuries rather than direct French Royalty. Due to the way it was constructed, the Château at Chantilly comprises of two buildings; one built around the 1560s, the other in the 1870s; the result is an interesting mix of new meets old.
Today, also housed within the castle is The Condé Museum, the second largest painting collection in France after the Louvre. Opened in 1898, it contains plenty of famous masterpieces including three paintings by Rafael and three by Tra Angelico. Wander around the Domaine of Chantilly’s vast estate, and you’ll also see the original ‘Hameau de la Reine‘. Don’t miss: The hamlet on which Marie Antoinette based her ‘farm’ at Versailles, the second largest art collection in France, the home of Chantilly Cream and Chantilly Lace.
How to visit Château de Chantilly: Take the direct train from Gare Du Nord to Chantilly (25 minutes from the centre of Paris).
Château de Fontainebleau
‘Versailles without the crowds’ is how this palace is often sold. Fontainebleau began life as a chapel and hunting lodge in the middle of the 12th Century. Every king and queen from Louis VI, the fat (1081-1137) to Napoleon III (1808-1873) spent time here. Napoleon called Château Fontainebleau the ‘House of the Centuries’ and even gave his final salute to his guards at the base of the horseshoe staircase (pictured below).
As is often the case with historic houses, with the arrival of each new owner came the arrival of new trends and fashions; resulting in amendments and extensions to the castle. Of all the fairytale castles on this list, a trip to Château de Fontainebleau certainly won’t dissapoint! Don’t miss: the grand canal, the boudoir of Marie Antoinette and the Papal apartments.
How to visit Fontainebleau: Take a direct train from Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau-Avon (40 minutes from the center of Paris).
Read more: Fontainebleau Château day trip from Paris.