The most obvious reason to go to Chantilly is to visit the historical chateau, but we recently returned to find many other activities and sites to enhance our stay, including recently restored rooms at the chateau.
Trains leave Paris Gard du Nord station to Chantilly/Gouvieux station almost every hour, and it takes a mere 24 minutes to be whisked to the verdant French countryside.
A two-year restoration of the royal apartments at the Chateau de Chantilly is a great reason to revisit the city. Henri de Orleans/the Duke of Aumale, the last heir to the Duke Aumale, engaged the services of architect Victor Dubois and decorator Eugene Lami in 1845 to design private apartments for him and his new wife, Maria-Carolina- Augusta, on the ground floor of the Petite Chateau, an extension of the Chateau de Chantilly. The suite of eight rooms was completed in 1847, and it includes the prince and princesses’ bedroom, salon and bathrooms, plus the Petite Singerie, the only room that is completely intact since it was originally built. A series of wood panels painted in 1735 by Christophe Huet exhibit the aristocratic activities of female monkeys (lunch during the hunt, picking cherries, playing card games, dressing), borrowing the clothes and expressions of the Condé princesses, in all the seasons.
The chateau features the second most significant art collection in France after the Louvre, with masterpieces by artists Corot, Delacroix, Fragonard, Ingres, Poussin, Raphael, Watteau and Van Dyck. An extensive library boasts 50,000 books and 15,000 manuscripts. Le Notre, who created the royal gardens of Versailles and Fontainebleau, designed a gorgeous formal French garden, and the park area of the chateau has acres of forest, streams, and meadows -- an ideal place to have a picnic.
A few hundred feet from the chateau, horse aficionados will embrace the Hippodrome de Chantilly, one of the most prestigious racetracks in Europe. The first official race took place in 1834, and the current racetrack was constructed in 1879. The flat, thoroughbred track runs a little under a mile and a half, and five classic races include the Prix de Diane and Prix du Jockey Club, which draw international guests. Next door to the racetrack is the Horse Museum, located in the Cour de Remises, the vast stables of Chantilly. Fifteen rooms have been designated to exhibit 200 objects and works of art including manuscripts, drawings, paintings, prints, and sculpture, which tell the rich history and evolution of the horse culture of France.
Le Potager des Princes is the former royal vegetable garden of Prince de Condé, and today it is a wonderful public garden with a bevy of sites and activities. A formal garden still stands along with an active vegetable garden and children will be enchanted with the animal farm that features peacocks, ponies, swans, goats, and geese in addition to rabbit and hen races. A theater on the property has a theater festival in summer and operas are also performed from time to time. A tea salon and café serving full meals and pastries open from May to September, has a lovely setting inside the formal garden with a green latticework pavilion and starched white linens.
Golf is not a major pastime in France, but the turf and climate of Chantilly is ideal for the sport. There are five premiere golf courses in Chantilly, all with 18 holes and some that sponsor competitions.
Since there were so many activities in Chantilly, it was necessary to stay overnight. Auberge du Jeu de Paume, a five-star Relais & Chateaux hotel, is the best situated hotel in Chantilly, as it is the closest property to the chateau and it is also within walking distance of the restaurants and boutiques in town.
We highly recommend booking the suites and rooms overlooking the chateau gardens and a tranquil fountain, rather than the rooms facing the front of the hotel, where the main road runs. Our Junior Suite was decorated in typical, luxurious French style with blue, Tuile de Jouy fabric on the headboard and drapes in the bedroom and lace trimmed pillows on the bed. Our petite salon was tastefully appointed with a tapestry-style carpet, a handsome blue, silk covered sofa with mahogany wood trim, and classic 18th century portraits on the wall.
The highlight of our stay was the dinner we had at the Michelin star restaurant Le Table du Connétable. We appreciated the spaciousness and comfort of the elegant dining room, as many restaurants in France tend to be crammed with too many tables. French-born Chef Julien Lucas prepares an exquisite menu of truly local specialties, sourcing most ingredients in less than a 50 mile radius, such as endive and mushrooms from Orry-la-Ville; hares, deer, and chestnuts from the forestland surrounding Chantilly; wild seafood from the waters of Picardie; and shellfish and saffron from the Bay of Sommes. A most special dessert, probably one of the most beautiful and clever we’ve ever seen, was an exact replica of an endive, but made of chocolate on the outside and filled with a sensational mix of chocolate and espresso ganache.
Do not miss the crème de la crème we experienced at the Valmont spa at the hotel, the Thousand & One Chantilly treatment. The decadent treatment starts with a revitalizing exfoliation followed by a soothing massage; the surprise at the end is the slathering of chilled Chantilly cream all over our bodies. After the treatment, our skin felt smooth and silky for days.
An advantage about Chantilly is its close proximity to Charles De Gaulle Airport, only 20 minutes away. Auberge du Jeu de Paume offers a special “Last Night in France” package.
Agents may contact Nicole Wilms-Kaufmann directly at [email protected] for bookings and other information.
Chateau de Chantilly
Auberge du Jeu de Paume