The small town of Giverny was once home to the famous impressionist artist, Claude Monet. After traveling in his early year, the painter spent his retirement in the village and created a sacred space to create his art. Each year many visitors come to Giverny to see the home in which Monet lived and the gardens that he landscaped himself. Many aspiring artists come to the gardens now to create their own drawings of the famous lily ponds.
Even those who are unfamiliar with the works of Claude Monet will enjoy strolling amongst the various flowers and wandering through the towers of bamboo. The village itself is not to be missed as it is filled with many traditional cafes and bistros. A pro tip is to stop for lunch before heading to the Monet gardens to avoid the line.
Just a short train ride from the center of Paris is one of the most visited monuments in France, the Palace of Versailles. This grand complex was the creation of King Louis XIV who was envious of a neighboring castle. The Palace of Versailles was intended to be a place for the king to escape the political atmosphere in Paris; however, after some time the palace became a popular place for the French nobility to stay so the Trianon Estates were constructed as another safe house. Years later these Estates were used by Marie Antoinette as a place to live out her dream of having a simple life.
Today visitors from all over the world come to Versailles to see the Hall of Mirrors, the grand apartments, and the royal chapel in the Grand Palace. Be sure to spend time exploring the vast gardens with many musical fountains or enjoy a boat ride along the Grand Canal. For those interested in the rich history of France leading up to the Revolution, Versailles is not to be missed.
Situated near a large forest, the Palace of Fontainebleau began as a humble hunting lodge of the French royalty in the twelfth century. Over time the structure was transformed into a luxurious palace to create what we see now as a mixture of various halls, wings, and architectural styles. This château was once the seat of the French Royal Court for over 100 years. One notable figure who invested a lot his time and money into the palace was Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. There is a special portion of the palace dedicated to the life and reign of Napoleon complete with the original décor.
This château is the perfect place to visit for those interested in visiting a typical French palace while being able to avoid the long lines and large crowds at other nearby palaces. Be sure to explore the carefully crafted gardens and forests.
Just north of Paris is the beautiful town of Chantilly, credited with being the birthplace of Chantilly cream. This town is also known for the beautiful Domaine de Chantilly, originally a mansion that was destroyed during the French Revolution, and the largest horse stables in Europe. The palace was used as an extravagant hunting lodge by its owner, Henri d'Orléans the Duke of Aumale, who also believed that after his death he would be reincarnated as a horse. Because of his belief, he had an elaborate horse palace built across from his mansion.
Both of these are a must see for anyone looking to visit a fantastic French château without having to deal with the long lines and crowds of the more popular palaces. Equine enthusiasts will enjoy the Living Museum of the Horse, located inside of the Great Stables. Be sure to schedule your visit on a day of an unforgettable equestrian performance. A visit to Chantilly is a truly unique experience.