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The Paris Environs A World Waiting to be Discovered

Paris has so much to offer and there is so much that meets the eye that you usually overlook the potential of its environs. And, understandably so. There is so much to be enthralled by in the “City of Light” that you can easily run out of time and energy to venture beyond the limits of that vast, beautiful city. But, if you do get the chance to spend more than a long weekend in Paris, or you’re lucky enough to travel there fairly often, make a point of taking public transport or hiring a car to head for some of the spots we recommend in the following.

Versailles – Europe’s Largest Palace

The Palace of Versailles is an old favourite that should be on any wish list of places in the vicinity of Paris. The radiance of Louis XIV’s crown jewel is due not only to the palace’s architecture and opulent interiors, but also to the magnificent gardens surrounding it, including such gems as the Trianon Palaces and the Estate of Marie Antoinette.

What during Louis XIII’s reign was no more than a modest hunting lodge was transformed, in the times of his successor, into the lavish construction that would become the official residence of the King of France.

Situated less an hour away from Paris, it can be reached in comfort on the Versailles Express bus, or by train on the RER C line.

Fontainebleau – More Than a Forest and Castle

Just over an hour’s drive south of Paris lies this veritable green lung, the Forêt de Fontainebleau, a forest covering no less than 20,000 hectares. It is criss-crossed by paths you can walk or cycle down, or negotiate on horseback, and it even features rock-climbing facilities in certain spots.

A source of inspiration for 19th-century artists, who came here freely in order to capture its light, the forest had already seduced France’s monarchs centuries earlier, when they made it one of their favourite recreation areas for retreats or hunting. This led to the construction of the Palace of Fontainebleau, originally built in the 12th century. Numerous refurbishments commissioned by a number of monarchs over the centuries yielded the grand architectural work we see today – one of the largest palaces in France. Even Napoleon was seduced by its charm and it was precisely on the fantastic Horseshoe Staircase – also known as the Staircase of Farewells – that he bade farewell to his Old Guard before departing into exile on the island of Elba.

Chantilly – Apart From its Delicious Cream

Famous worldwide for its delicious cream with a vanilla aroma and situated 50 kilometres north of Paris, the town of Chantilly breathes elegance and is well worth visiting. Among its main attractions is the Château de Chantilly, comprising two buildings – the Grand Château, destroyed during the French Revolution and rebuilt in 1870, and the Petit Château, built around 1560. Be sure to spend some time in the amazing gardens with their geometrical patterns surrounding the palace, the work of La Nôtre, who also designed the gardens at Versailles and the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. Make sure you also visit the Condé Museum, housed in the Grand Château, as it boasts a fine collection of books, manuscripts, drawings and paintings.

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte – the Blue-Eyed Boy

Louis XIV was so jealous of the beauty of the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte that he ordered its owner, Nicolas Fouquet, to be imprisoned. It also acted as the source of inspiration for the construction of Versailles. With such sterling credentials, your getaway to the Paris environs simply must include what is one of the most beautiful castles in France, although, oddly enough, it is not very well known by the public at large.

This sparkling jewel is located in the small town of Maincy, 60 kilometres from Paris. Participants in its construction included the architect Louis Le Vau, the painter Charles Le Brun and the gardener, André Le Notrê. One of its highlights is the spectacular Oval Salon, 19 metres long by 18 metres wide, which is unique in the history of French architecture.

Make haste to explore the gems awaiting you on the outskirts of Paris – book your Vueling here.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by Ninara , Jean-Pierre Dalbéra, Daniel Villafruela , Pierre-Alain Bandinelli, Olga Kontsevich