Château de Chantilly
The fairytale Château de Chantilly dates back to the 1400s before being destroyed during the French revolution and rebuilt during the 1870s. The Chateau of Chantilly is set on a huge domain with stunning gardens designed by André Le Notre (the landscape designer of Versailles). The castle itself, once the home of royalty, is now an art museum with a collection amassed over time by Duc d’Aumale, son of France’s last king Louis-Philippe. The pre-Impressionist collection is second in France only to that of the Louvre and includes works by Raphael, Poussin, Watteau, Ingres. Don’t forget to try the original (and still the best) Chantilly cream, available easily in the town and in the region. A visit to the horse museum is also worthwhile, with live shows each day. Chantilly is the equestrian capital of France, and the stables at the Chateau de Chantilly were used in as the set for the James Bond film A View to a Kill. You can even visit the castle on horseback.
Château de Pierrefonds – BBC Merlin’s Camelot
The Chateau de Pierrefonds is a fairytale castle situated in a picture-postcard village. The chateau, complete with moat, drawbridge and eight soaring towers, was the set of BBC series Merlin. Medieval in origin but reconstructed in the Romantic style by famed architect Viollet-le-Duc in the 17th century, it looks for all the world like something out of a fairytale with its white towers with turrets on different levels.
Set in the picturesque town of the same name 60 miles north-east of Paris, Pierrefonds Castle is a magnificent setting for a family day out – kids love the parapet walk, the imperial apartments with their period decor and the family activities. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday 10am–1pm and 2–5.30pm until April 30th, or daily 9.30am–6pm from May 2nd.
Royal Palais de Compiegne
The Royal Palais de Compiegne was built for Louis XV, right in the heart of prime hunting territory, the magnificent Compiegne forest. Restored by Napoleon I post Revolution, it was the scene for extravagant week-long parties hosted by the Emperor for his guests, as well as the setting for his love story with Marie-Louise. He was so besotted by his Austrian empress that he cut down 4kms of trees to create an alley resembling that of her home town.