I have wanted to visit Château de Chantilly for a long time and finally made it there with my kids this summer. What an easy and enjoyable day trip to make from Paris! Read on to learn more about the history of this castle and fun activities you can do with your children while visiting Château de Chantilly.
Where is Château de Chantilly, and how do you get there from Paris?
Château de Chantilly is located approximately 50 kilometres (31 miles) north of Paris. There are several ways to get there:
- By train: Take a train from Gare du Nord in Paris to Chantilly-Gouvieux station. The journey takes around 25 minutes. From the station, you can walk, take a bus or a taxi to the château. Booking your train tickets online is easy with ticket booking platforms Trainline and Omio.
- By car: If you prefer driving, you can rent a car and follow the A3/A1 highway looking out for “Chantilly” exit. The drive takes around an hour or less, depending on traffic.
What’s the story with Château de Chantilly?
The history of Château de Chantilly dates back to the late Middle Ages. It was originally a medieval fortress that gradually evolved into a lavish Renaissance château. The château’s transformation was largely orchestrated by its successive owners, who were influential figures in French history.
In the 17th century, the estate came under the ownership of the Condé family, a branch of the French royal family. The Condés played a significant role in the château’s history, expanding and enhancing its architecture and gardens. In the 19th century, Henri d’Orléans, the Duke of Aumale and the last heir of the Condé family transformed the château into a lavish residence and museum.
Henri d’Orléans was a passionate art collector and philanthropist. He amassed an impressive collection of paintings, manuscripts, books, and other artworks. With no direct heir, he decided to bequeath the château and its vast collection to the Institut de France upon his death in 1897. Accordingly, this bequest ensured the preservation of Château de Chantilly as a cultural treasure and allowed the public to enjoy its artistic and historical richness.
The Château de Chantilly’s art galleries are home to various masterpieces spanning different periods and genres. The Musée Condé, one of Europe’s most renowned art galleries, boasts an impressive assortment of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. In fact, it is the largest collection of antique paintings in France after the Louvre Museum!
What else can you visit with kids apart from the castle?
Beyond its majestic interiors, Château de Chantilly boasts a sprawling estate of 115 hectares that includes meticulously landscaped gardens. These include the French formal gardens designed by André Le Nôtre in the 17th century, the Anglo-Chinese Garden in the 18th century and the English Garden in the 19th century.
The Grand Stables, known as “Les Grandes Écuries”, are nestled beside the Château de Chantilly. They were built by the architect Jean Aubert for Luois-Henri de Bourbon, 7th Prince of Condé, and are the largest stables in Europe.
The stables house the Museum of the Horse and hold equestrian shows and demonstrations for visitors. The equestrian shows (usually 1 hour long) are held on specific dates and require prior reservation. Separately, there are equestrian demonstrations where a rider explains horse-riding basics. These demonstrations are 30 minutes long and are included in the admission ticket price. Just arrive about 15 minutes in advance to get a seat.
What are the opening hours of Château de Chantilly?
The castle and the Great Stables are open daily from 10 am to 6 pm except for Tuesdays. The grounds around the castle remain open until 8 pm. Check the official website of Château de Chantilly for prices as well as exhibitions, shows or concerts on the days of your visit.
Does Chantilly cream have anything to do with Château de Chantilly?
Chantilly cream, also called whipped cream or crème Chantilly in French, is made by whipping heavy cream until it forms soft peaks. It’s often sweetened with sugar and sometimes infused with vanilla extract for added flavour. The result is a light, airy (and high in fat) cream topping, which goes great with fruits and various desserts.
The exact origins of Chantilly cream are unclear. Its creation is often attributed to François Vatel, the celebrated chef at the Château de Chantilly, who is said to have popularised the use of whipped cream as a topping for desserts. However, Baroness of Oberkirch was the first to mention Chantilly cream in 1784 when recounting a party she attended at the Hameau on the grounds of Château de Chantilly.
What fun activities are there to do with kids at Château de Chantilly?
1. Explore the castle with a Child Tour audio guide
Château de Chantilly is not very big and will take you about two hours, or less, to explore with kids at a leisurely pace. I recommend downloading the official app Château de Chantilly on your phone. In the app you will find an Adult Tour audio guide and a Child Tour audio guide.
My daughter enjoyed listening to the Child Tour as she went from one room of the castle to another as part of Operation Diamond, a quest to find a precious jewel in the Condé Museum. Each audio clip is 2 – 2.5 minutes long, just enough to give information in a fun way and keep the kids’ attention. The app is probably best suited for kids aged 6+, and the audio is available in French and English.
2. Dress up your kids in period costume
For an additional fee of 5 euros, you can hire a period costume to let your kid dress up as a prince or a princess for an unforgettable visit to the castle.
3. Walk around the gardens and hop aboard the Little Train
The gardens are beautiful to walk around, but you will need to walk quite a lot with kids to cover everything. There is a maze and a small playground for kids near the Hameau restaurant.
If you have younger kids, I suggest hopping aboard a little train which goes around the park every hour. The 45-minute tour is available in French, English, Spanish and Chinese. It’s free for children under the age of 4 and costs 4 euros for children aged 4 – 18. Adults pay 8 euros per ticket.
4. Stop at The Hameau Restaurant for the famous Chantilly whipped cream
This cute outdoor restaurant is famous for its Chantilly whipped cream. For dessert, you can taste it on its own, with fruit, ice cream or local homemade cakes. Take a pause here in the afternoon and taste it before you carry on exploring the rest of the gardens. I warn you that the cream is very rich, and two kids can easily share a single portion!
5. Visit the stables and watch an equestrian show
Return to the castle and visit the Great Stables adjacent to Château de Chantilly. Apart from the Museum of the Horse there is also an equestrian demonstration where a rider explains horse-riding basics. The demonstrations are 30 minutes long and are included in the admission ticket price. Just arrive about 15 minutes in advance to get a seat.
6. Take a cookery workshop to learn how to make the famous Chantilly cream
On select dates throughout the year and for a separate fee, you can sign up your child for a special workshop to learn how to make Chantilly whipped cream. The group’s size is 20 people maximum, and the session lasts approximately one hour. The ticket for children under 12 is 6 euros, for children aged 12 -17 years old it’s 12 euros and for adults it cost 17 euros.
Do you want to try to make Chantilly cream at home?
Why not? Here is a recipe for Chantilly cream made by the Hameau restaurant in Château de Chantilly.
500ml of cold heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
20g vanilla sugar
20g icing sugar
- Put a bowl in the refrigerator.
- Put the heavy cream in the bowl previously cooled in the refrigerator.
- Add vanilla sugar and icing sugar.
- Beat the cream vigorously with a whisk or an electric mixer until the cream thickens and soft peaks form.
- Be careful not to over-whip the cream; otherwise, your Chantilly cream will transform into butter!