Whipped cream…how do I love thee. And if you, too, love crème Chantilly, and want an easy day trip from Paris, the town of Chantilly (and the Château de Chantilly) is a roughly 25 minute train ride on the TER from Paris. We left from Gare du Nord with 10€ round-trip tickets around 11 am and returned around 6:45 pm. But, you could easily stay over night, too. There’s so much to do!
Once you get off the train, it’s a 20-30 minute walk to the château — although my friend and I joked that we were too easily impressed. Since neither of us had been to Chantilly before, we weren’t quite sure what to look out for…and as we walked along the perfectly-groomed racetracks (there are horseraces here), we saw a small spire in the distance, which we mistook for a church.
We come across a grandiose building, the door knockers coming up to our foreheads and larger than our faces, and think this must be the château. So we shake out our picnic blanket and slice our sandwich, only to have a nice and nosy French lady tell us that we are on private property, and that the château is actually just a few minutes’ walk more. Turns out the butt of the Musée du Cheval was so beautiful, we thought it was the castle! Ha!
Although hurriedly dumping our picnic back into the crumpled paper bag was slightly stress-inducing, a picnic with a view of a château is 100% better than a view of a field and the butt of a museum. (Although the museum itself was quite majestic.) We walked off our lunch (which consisted of funny flan cups; St. Marcelin; and a good saucisson sandwich) by strolling the gardens — I’m sure we walked about five miles. Rich greenery, conical trees (I wonder if they go to gardener school?), statues, and pavilions. And the driveway was ginormous. People zipped around in golf carts (and we quickly understood why after plopping into white plastic wicker chairs for a snack), and we imagined living here, riding the golf cart down to the gold-gilded gate to fetch the mail.
Of course, we came to admire a jewel of French architecture and garden design…but I admit whipped cream was the number one priority of this trip! And eat it we did. At a little café on the grounds, surrounded by country cottages sloping with age, thatched roofs looking impeccable. A coupe was 7€, and we feared it would be a sad dollop (I was hoping for a bucket).
To our delight, the coupe was rather generous — enough for two friends — and the cream divine. Not airy and light like the American manufactured stuff, but thick a rich that left a buttery slick on your lips. Sweet and fluffy, definitely whipped. Delicate but of substance; whipped cream teaches you about juxtaposition.
Timing was perfect as we made the walk back; storm clouds gathered, having been indecisive the whole day. A small blessing; I had prayed for it not to rain. Although for a moment, there was a temperamental tantrum of torrential downpour, the walk back to the station was quite pleasant, as we wound our way through the streets, charmed.
Visiting the Château de Chantilly
How to Get to Château de Chantilly
You will want to take the TER train, and tickets are available at SNCF, the national train company, starting at 5€. It’s really not that far of a trek, making it a great day trip from Paris if you don’t want the stress of a long ride.
Once you disembark from the train, there will be signs at the station that you can follow to reach the grounds of the château. It was easy enough, so don’t worry about getting lost.
Things to Do and Practicalities
Admission to the gardens is 8€, which is what my friend and I opted for. You can easily spend a whole day walking through them and having a picnic.
However, if you want to visit the museum inside the château, which boasts the private collection of the Duke of Aumale (son of France’s last king, Louis-Philippe), admission is 18€ for access to both. The château houses the second-largest collection of antique paintings in the country, behind only the Louvre. Additionally, bibliophiles will appreciate one of France’s most extensive libraries, housed here.
Lastly, for the foodies among us, you can visit the café and have yourself a generous cupful of whipped cream, which bears the name of this town.
Pin this post for your Paris day trip to the Château de Chantilly.