Castles you can visit easily in a day trip from Paris include Chenonceau, the gorgeous Castle of Flowers, enchanting Chantilly and fabulous Fontainebleau. If you’re in Paris, we know you’ll have plenty to do and see, but the chateaux of France are super special and when it’s this easy to visit, it really adds something to your French holiday.
What’s more we’ve focused on the most beautiful, historic castles you can visit by taking public transport – no need to hire a car.
Castles to visit on a day trip by train from Paris
Chateau de Chenonceau, Loire Valley
The exquisite Chateau de Chenonceau is the closest of the beautiful Loire Valley castles that’s easy to reach by train from Paris. Just one hour from Paris-Montparnasse to Saint-Pierre-des-Corps (Tours). And then 25 minutes by local train to Chenonceaux train station which is a 400m walk from the castle ticket office.
The chateau is famous for its flowers. A master florist creates magical floral displays in every room, many of the blooms grown in the castle’s own gorgeous gardens. It’s a fairy tale pretty castle, beautifully furnished, and has the most amazing onsite restaurant – L’Orangerie. For a taste of the Loire Valley castles, it’s perfect. But, be warned, you’ll want to go back and see more of the Loire Valley once you’ve been here…
Chateau de Versailles, Ile de France
Versailles is France’s most famous palace and it really does live up to the hype. It’s an easy 40-50-minute train ride from Paris. Note that there are two stations in Versailles. The closest to the Palace is Versailles Rive Gauche (RER Line C) 12-15 minute walk. The Gare Rive Droite is a 20-25 minute walk.
The palace is huge, you’ll need an entire day for it. I once spent 3 days there and still didn’t see it all. Sumptuous, ridiculously opulent, breath-taking for its history and beauty, the castle is packed with wow factor. The gardens are equally gorgeous. Book tickets online before you go and try to go as early as possible to avoid the queues to get in. There are restaurants on site but the gardens are fabulous for a picnic and there are plenty of restaurants in the town which is also well worth a visit.
More on Versailles:
Chateau de Chantilly, Picardy
The Chateau de Chantilly, in Picardy, is one of the most beautiful Renaissance castles in France and very easy to reach from Paris. Take a 23 minute TER train ride from Gare du Nord, then take the free shuttle bus or take the 30 minute walk if you fancy seeing the pretty town en route. Enjoy the opulent interior, an incredible art collection, stunning horse show, the gorgeous gardens with a beautiful hamlet which inspired Marie-Antoinette. And, not to be missed in the chateau restaurant – dessert with famous Chantilly cream.
More on the Chateau de Chantilly
Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte, Seine-et-Marne
In the TV series Versailles, it was the chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte which was featured, not the chateau of Versailles. Vaux-le-Vicomte has a more authentic interior in keeping with the time of Louis XIV. Elegant and exquisitely beautiful, Vaux le Vicomte was the inspiration for the Palace of Versailles and made Louis XIV mad with jealousy when he saw it. Stunning gardens and interior make this a must-see chateau. From Paris Gare de l’Est, take the train to Verneuil l’Etang train station (35 minutes) and hop on the “Châteaubus” shuttle to to the Château. There’s a lovely restaurant too.
More on Vaux-le-Vicomte: Visit to the Chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte
Chateau de Fontainebleau, Ile de France
UNESCO listed Fontainebleau has a long and interesting history going back to the 12th century. In the middle of a forest it was originally a hunting lodge used by the French Kings. Its gold plated gates and iconic horseshoe shaped staircase (where Napoleon stood to announce his abdication in 1814) are legendary. The castle has a rather intimate feel inside despite the fact that it’s enormous. With 1500 rooms it’s one of the largest in France. Take the train from Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau-Avon, which takes about 40 minutes. And, from there it’s a bus ride of about 15 minutes (Bus No. 1 behind the station).
More on Fontainebleau
Chateau de Compiègne, Picardy
The city of Compiègne is dominated by its monumental Chateau. Louis XIV declared: “At Versailles I am the King, at Fontainebleau a Prince but at Compiegne I am a country man”. It has beautiful gardens and the chateau is now home to the National Car Museum. And the Museum of the Second Empire. And historic apartments. It really is that big! Take the train from Paris Nord to Compiegne and then it’s about a 20 minute walk (1.8km) to the castle.
Château de Pierrefonds, Picardy
Travel back in time to the days of King Arthur and Merlin the Magician when you visit the Castle of Pierrefonds. In fact the castle was the location for the BBC series of Merlin. The original castle was built in the 14th century and restored in the 19th century. Teeming with turrets and towers, the building is magnificent and the unfurnished rooms make it easy to see the castle’s bones. It’s a 1 hour, 30 minute train fried from Paris Gare du Nord to Compiègne. Then take bus 27 or 28 to the château; or a taxi. (Bus details can be found on the destination-pierrefonds.fr website).
Chateau de Malmaison, Ile de la France
While Napoleon was away on his Egyptian Campaign in 1799, his wife Josephine, expecting him to win, spent a fortune on a new home – the Chateau de Malmaison. She also spent a fortune doing it up. Napoleon lost and was furious with her. But she loved this chateau and continued to spend time and money making its gardens ever more beautiful. When the couple divorced, Malmaison became hers. She died here, in the bed that you can see in her boudoir. It’s a beautiful castle with glorious gardens and rich with history. To get to Chateau Malmaison, take bus 258 from La Défense and alight at La Château stop (25 minutes) or take 20 minute train journey from Gare de Lyon to Rueil-Malmaison and hop on the 258 bus to La Chateau (8 minutes).
Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Opposite the station, on the oldest railway line from Paris (inaugurated in 1837), the castle of Saint-Germaine-en-Laye is an imposing sight. It’s witnessed 8 centuries of history including the birth of Louis XIV. Today this beautiful chateau is home to the National Archaeology Museum. It also has lovely gardens you can wander in and roof gardens which offer astounding views over the Seine Valley. The town has a museum dedicated to Claude Debussy who lived here. There’s also an ancient apothecary and umpteen glorious buildings to oggle at. Take RER Line A from Charles de Gaulle Étoile to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just 20 minutes away.
Château de Vincennes
The chateau of Vincennes was a royal residence from the 12th to the 18th century. With a vast medieval tower, the highest of its kind left in Europe, it’s an imposing sight. This seat of the royal court was abandoned when the royal court moved to Versailles. The castle became a factory, an arsenal prison and bakery. Today it the headquarters of the Historical Defense Service library and archives which are open to the public as are the castle keep and the 14th century Sainte-Chapelle which has beautiful stained glass windows. Vincennes is on RER Line A (station Vincennes, just 15 minutes from Gare du Nord).