Is Chantilly France’s Prettiest Château? Is romantic Château de Chantilly better than Versailles? There is no doubt that Versailles is an incredible castle full of history, lavish interiors and spectacular gardens. Yet is it worth the pushing and shoving of the hundreds of tourists who rush to see the Sun God’s palace? If you are looking for a quieter alternative, close to Paris look no further than the wonderful Chateau de Chantilly.
To prove just how pretty Château de Chantilly is here is a photographic guide to this lovely palace. I have added plenty of photos to help convince you to visit Chantilly. Also, just to help you imagine how lovely you would look against such gorgeous backgrounds. This is a great place to explore and have a fairy tale photoshoot, without the crowds! You will struggle to narrow down which photos to post on Instagram!
The palace of Chantilly is located just a train ride away to the north of Paris. From Gare du Nord it is just 25 minutes on the TER and costs around 6 euros (2018). Alex and I left the busy city and vast suburbs of the French capital behind us. What awaited us was a wonderfully leafy town full of delicious fresh country air. The walk from the train station to the Château took around 20 minutes through shady woods and across green fields. I believe there is a bus but the walk itself was so pleasant and the weather was sunny therefore we walked.
Upon arrival, we debated whether to purchase tickets for the whole site or just for the gardens. Annoyingly you cannot buy just the castle and grounds, you must purchase the ticket for the different exhibitions and for the stables (as vegans though we had no wish to visit or to support this part of the site). We brought the all-inclusive ticket as I did want to see what was inside the floating castle.
You can purchase tickets, valid for one year, at this link here.
A friendly guard checked our tickets and we entered the green lungs of the park. Considering its proximity to Paris there was barely anyone there. We only saw a couple of other tourists in the far distance. This was a welcome change to the hordes of tourists in the capital.
Our first stop was the beautiful English garden.
The English Garden
I fell in love with the English Garden at Chantilly. The creators stated this part of the grounds as “ideal for a romantic stroll”. I admired the wildness of the gardens dotted with pretty features. There are many beautiful things to take photos of. There are plenty of romantic elements to snap such the temple of Venus at the side of one of the many lakes. The folly was built at the beginning of the 19th century.
Whilst there were few human tourists there were many other creatures who also obviously enjoyed spending time here as herons flew overhead, ducks waddled past and dragonflies played around the water lilies. Make sure you snap a few pictures of the wildlife in the park.
My favourite part of the English gardens was the Island of Love. This wonderfully named island used to host garden parties. The Princes of Conde,who lived at Chantilly would invite the gentry during the summer to enjoy the splendour of the island of love. You must take a photo (or several dozen…) on the Island of Love.
At the end of the island, Eros, the God of Love watches over its visitors from under a decorative canopy.
The English Gardens was probably the most photogenic spot asides from the castle itself from within the grounds, you cannot miss this part of the gardens in Chantilly.
The large La Notre Flowerbed
We left the romantic English garden behind us and entered a much more formal part of the grounds; the large La Notre Flowerbed. The neat geometrical designs were envisioned by Andre La Notre, a renowned French landscape architect. La Notre later designed the gardens for Versailles, yet the grand canal at Chantilly is indeed longer by 600m than that at Versailles.
The contrast between the English garden which emphasised untamed nature is stark when looking at this part of Chantilly which emphasises strict balance and harmony. Man can tame nature, this garden claims. Capture a shot of yourself placed along one of the long trees lined avenue. Embrace your inner OCD as you marvel at the symmetry.
La Notre was immensely proud of not only the garden design but of the engineering he created at Chantilly. The fountains were able to produce 5m high sprouts of water, which was unheard of at the time. Indeed, water features a great deal at Chantilly. I believe that is what makes Chantilly so beautiful. the fact that the Château appears to be floating on water. Yet we will save that photo until last. Now it is time to escape the 30-degree heat and enter the cool rooms of the castle.
Château du Chantilly
The interior of Chantilly is lovely. Arguably less impressive than that of Versailles, yet the main draw is that you may wonder at your own pace. There are no crowds to battle through and you may linger for as long as you desire. This also makes it much easier to get those Instagram worthy photos.
As soon as you enter the Château you are treated with the view of a marvellous staircase. It is wonderfully ornate and decorative. Just make sure you adhere to the signs begging visitors not to touch it in order to preserve it. Gracefully walk up the steps and pretend you are a princess about to enter a grand ball.
There are many wonderful things to take photos of inside the castle. In terms of furniture and decorations, there were many beautifully ornate clocks in the different rooms.
Of course, there were incredible chandeliers on the ceilings and incredible frescos adorned the walls. Lovely views over the garden were also provided through the many windows.
I also particularly liked the library, known as the Reading Room. I love reading and there is something wonderful about libraries. Libraries are temples which protect and worship books, in my opinion. The Duke of Aumale thought the same and was a self-proclaimed bibliophile. The reading room was Duke Aumale’s favourite room and as an enlightened man helped Chantilly obtain this rare book collection. The wooden architecture gives the room a warm and intimate feel. It is one of the more functional rooms in the castle. I thought the reading room was beautiful.
Another room I particularly liked was the gallery of the battles. Although against war, the detail of the individual battles was incredible. There were layouts of the towns and intricate maps. Furthermore, I felt that this room was a much quieter version of Versailles hall of mirrors.
After admiring the grand state apartments, we ventured into the galleries.
The galleries were equally as impressive. There was a great wooden room followed by a room with curious looking stain glass windows. The Psyche Gallery features 44 stained glass windows in grisaille depicting the story of Psyche.
Slightly overwhelmed with all the ornate rooms and art we almost forgot to look up and admire the ceilings.
After we had absorbed all the wonderful art we could we ventured back outside into the gardens.
The Woods and the little Hamlet
After admiring the castle, we decided to venture into the wooded part of the park. The grounds are vast. I had no idea how many beautiful things there were to see over such a wide area! We walked along another lovely lake, completely by ourselves. Alex and I then entered into the woods. We lost ourselves amongst the leafy giants. We did actually get lost. It was wonderful to be lost. It was joyous to be amongst nature and away from the tourists of Paris.
After leaving the shaded woods we came across a wonderful little hamlet of sweet cottages. We had arrived at what would become the inspiration for Marie Antoinette’s hamlet at Versailles.
Whilst undeniably cute, and of course very picturesque, these little hamlets make me uneasy. They truly show how ignorant the gentry were of the true living standards of the poor and mock their lifestyles with these idyllic fake villages.
The Anglo Japanese garden
Probably my least favourite garden as it seemed neither Asian nor Anglo. In fact, we found thistles which I believe the Scottish would be horrified to discover.
Our feet were starting to ache at this point so maybe we were simply weary. Gos, this place was huge! I was expecting a small park, in fact we had even packed a picnic blanket and a book as I did not believe there would be much to see. How wrong I was!
Save the best till last – the beautiful exterior of the Château
Now it was late afternoon and the castle was bathed in glorious golden light. It was time to take a photograph (or many…sorry Alex!) of the stunning reflection of Château du Chantilly. All I can say is this is one of the most beautiful palaces I have ever been to!
Have you ever seen a floating palace? I have been at only one more.
See another spectacular floating castle in Germany in this blog post here.
Is Château de Chantilly better than Versailles?
Better in terms that it is less busy yes. They are hard to compare, however. Versailles is grand on an epic scale and historically incredibly important even if it is younger than Chantilly. Yet if you are looking for a peaceful day out I would recommend Chantilly. It is full of beautiful spots to discover and of course take pictures of.
That was our amazing day at Chantilly. I hope these photos have inspired you to visit during a trip to Paris. The Château du Chantilly is stunning and wonderfully free of tourists. Have a great time exploring the grounds and the palace. I hope you enjoy taking photos here as much as I did.
Would you like to visit Chateau de Chantilly? If you have been to both Versailles and Chantilly which did you prefer? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!