A cultural stopover in Chantilly


Northern FranceParisCultural HeritageNature and Outdoor ActivitiesWith FamilyCouples

Jérôme Houyvet
© Jérôme Houyvet

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 18 October 2023

Just 25 minutes from Paris airport, Chantilly ticks all the boxes for a premium stopover. Surrounded by pines and oaks, yet on the outskirts of the city, the estate is a haven for harried city dwellers. A tour by the owner.

You land gently, park your car and leave the city behind. On the programme: water mirrors, cosmopolitan gardens, sky-coloured pools, racehorses and a visit to the heart of the château.

Standing on the water since the 17th century, the Classical-style princely building of the Domaine de Chantilly is said to have been built on the foundations of a medieval castle. Over the centuries, several French families lived there, but it was Henri d'Orléans (or more commonly known as duc d'Aumale), son of King Louis-Philippe, who sublimated it until his last words. On his death in 1886, he generously bequeathed it to the Institut de France. This is an opportunity to discover the treasures he wished to leave intact...

Behind the stone walls is the Ali BaBa cave.

Starting with the impressive collection of paintings on the walls of the galleries. The first thing you notice is that they are everywhere. Up, down, left, right. Not a single wall is untouched.

The painting galleries were designed to display the exceptional collections of the Duke of Aumale.

Sophie Lloyd
© Sophie Lloyd

It's easy to see why the museum's impressive list of early paintings ranks second in France, just behind that of the Louvre. The 85 paintings on display include gems such as Raphaël's Madonna of the House of Orléans, masterpieces by Botticelli, Delacroix and the imposing painting by Nicolas Poussin known as The Massacre of the Innocents.

Another room to take in is les grands appartements des princes de Bourbon-Condé. It's impossible not to be reminded of the decor of Versailles. That's because the setting and furnishings are magnificent. Located on the 1st floor, the rooms were thematically restored by the Duke after the plundering of the Revolution. The Salon de Musique, the Chambre de M. le Prince, the Grande Singerie and the Grand Cabinet d'Angle all reflect the tastes and colours of the 18th century.

The last wonder to be discovered is the library. Designed by the architect Honoré Daumet at the end of the 19th century, the "Book Cabinet" is said to contain 1,500 precious manuscripts on its shelves. A real museum. It also has the distinction of housing the second largest collection of illuminated manuscripts in France, after the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. The central table proudly displays the "Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry", considered one of the finest manuscripts in the world.

Outside: balance, elegance and harmony First there's the Outside: balance, elegance and harmony.

First there are the French gardens, with their geometric and symmetrical lines, designed at the end of the 17th century by André Le Nôtre (gardener at Versailles). Then there are the Anglo-Chinese gardens, added in the 18th century, this time all curves, and finally the immaculate English garden, completed in the 19th century. Yes, to love Chantilly, you must also have a taste for "clean" and "refined" nature.

Jérôme Houyvet
© Jérôme Houyvet

A symbol of the triumph of "culture over nature and the reflective over the spontaneous", Le Nôtre's grand parterre à la française remains our personal favourite. Not least for its pretty bosquets, water features and the many statuettes that line the path.

Further up the hill, it's not uncommon to see some prestigious nags cavorting about. The Grandes Écuries are another unique feature of the estate! Behind the château is a veritable palace for horses and a racecourse. Built in the 18th century by the architect Jean Aubert for another Prince de Condé, the stables are still the largest in Europe. As a bonus, there are numerous equestrian shows organised at different times of the year.

Address : Domaine de Chantilly 7 rue du Connétable 60500 Chantilly +33 3 44 27 31 80

To sleep like a prince and/or princess, we recommend the Tiara Château Hotel Mont Royal *****, nestled in the heart of the Chantilly forest. A must for relaxation in the heart of nature, with the added bonus of luxury.

By France.fr

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