Senlis is the kind of French town you could find yourself lost in for hours, wandering along the narrow, cobblestoned alleyways and soaking up the history.
Situated in the Picardie region of France- famed for growing endives and beetroots- Senlis is a typical French town punctuated with a medieval twist. It’s perfect for a day trip from Paris. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s not mentioned more often as a good alternative to the more popular day trips like Versailles and Fontainebleau.
Senils is situated near the beautiful estate and town of Chantilly and inhabitants of the town are known as Senlisiens (‘ennes’ for women). Tracing its’ roots all the way back to Roman times and beyond, Senlis’ most prominent role in history is most probably when it was home to the monarchs of France. One notable monarch was Hugh Capet; a king elected semi-democratically by the elite of French court.
Joan of Arc
A notable figure in the history of the town is Joan of Arc. Between the 15th and 16th of August 1429, d’Arc led her French troops in the historic battle of Montépilloy, leading them to victory against the English.
Today, there’s a commemorative plaque celebrating her achievements in Senlis Cathedral.
Senlis Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Senlis)
A large and imposing cathedral of epic proportions sits in the very heart of the old town. Situated next door to the cathedral is a 16th-century library. Built in the 12th Century, its’ impressive 78 m tower was completed in the 13th century.
The town has three museums; the museum of art and archaeology, the museum of the hunts & the museum of Spahis. There is also a historic abbey, a medieval cellar and the ruins of a Roman arena that can be visited.
Ancient Royal Castle
The ruins of the ancient castle stands opposite the gothic cathedral and have now been transformed into an open air garden. Tracing its’ history back to Roman times, the current castle remains date from the 12th century AD when Louis VII was king of France.
The center of this historic town is littered with shops, cafes, brasseries and restaurants. In short, there is no shortage of places to eat at on any budget!
Besides from beetroot products, one local specialty is known as a Séraphine from Senlis. It’s an orange chocolate, named after locally celebrated painter, Séraphine de Senlis.
Although Senlis is no longer accessible by train (the main bus station in the town being on the site of the abandoned train station), there is a regular bus from Chantilly. The train station at Chantilly is easy to get to from Paris’ Gare du Nord train station.
The easiest way to get to Senlis from Paris is by car. The A1 freeway runs directly from the outskirts of Paris to a couple of kilometers away from the town itself. Once you get to the town, free parking is available just outside the center.
There is a tourist office in the center of town with suggested walking itineraries and nearby attractions to see.