A guide to Chantilly

  • Things to do
  • France
  • 6 min read
A guide to Chantilly

Saddle up for art, culture and equine heritage in Chantilly. You can get there in no time from LeShuttle’s Calais Terminal.

Chantilly is famous around the world for many things: its château, racecourse, equine heritage, lace-making and, of course, its whipped cream! 

Located just to the north of Paris, Chantilly is the ideal place for an excursion outside of the city, or for a dedicated weekend break. Why not add it as a stop on your French road trip? There are plenty of things to do in Chantilly, and if you love horses we can’t imagine many better places in France!

A guide to Chantilly

An elegantly decorated château on three floors with tall windows stands behind a large gravel drive with ornamental borders

Where is Chantilly?

Chantilly is around an hour’s drive from the centre of Paris on its northern outskirts. The town sits within the Chantilly forest in the department of Oise.

Driving to Chantilly from Calais

Driving to Chantilly, north of Paris takes around 2 hours 35 minutes (with tolls) from LeShuttle's Calais Terminal. You can break the journey with some other worthwhile places to visit in northern France.

A brief history of Chantilly

Chantilly has always had royal connections. There has been a château here since the 14th century, and was home to the princes of Condé, cousins of the Kings of France. The Revolution saw the château seized by the republic, and Chantilly soon became a centre of horseracing, with the first races held in 1834. 

Lace making began in the 17th century and was at its peak during the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI. 

Henri d’Orléans, the Duke Aumale and the last lord of the town, encouraged Chantilly’s growth as an aristocratic holiday destination in the 19th century, and several luxury hotels were built. The château’s sumptuous art collections bear witness to its aristocratic history and patronage.  The Duke bestowed the chateau and its grounds to the Institut de France in 1886. 

During the Great War Chantilly was General Joffre’s headquarters and a military hospital. In World War II the town was occupied by the German army with the stables used as a veterinary hospital for its horses.

What is Chantilly famous for?

The château, park, and racecourse

The château de Chantilly is a classic French fairytale castle, delightful both inside and out. Built in the French Renaissance style, it’s actually a combination of two buildings, the Petit Château and the Grand Château. It is a living museum which holds the Musée Condé, one of the greatest art collections in France.

A fountain sprays water in the gardens of a lavish country house, with a château in the background

The château is set in 115 acres of parkland with 25 hectares of water gardens. The parks include large formal gardens, an Anglo-Chinese garden and the English garden. 

The immense pools of water are meant to reflect the sky, and you’ll find hidden streams, statues and animals in every possible corner.

The racecourse is one of the leading courses in France. Every year in June it holds two of the French flat racing classics, the Prix du Jockey Club and the Prix de Diane. Overlooking the course is the Grandes Écuries, the 186 metre long great stables, the largest in Europe. 

Housed in the Grandes Écuries is the Museum of the Horse (Le Musée du Cheval) dedicated to equine art and culture. You’ll get a glimpse of the stables’ past and plenty of fascinating facts about horses.

Exclusive offer for LeShuttle customers - 20% off entry

LeShuttle customers receive 20% off entry to the château, grounds and stables. Simply show your LeShuttle travel hanger or booking reference number on arrival. Find out more about this exclusive offer. 

Chantilly lace

Chantilly lace is amongst the most famous in the world, particularly its black silk, which became very popular for mourning wear. Lace was first produced in Chantilly under the auspices of the Duchesse de Longueville in the 17th century, and became fashionable during the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI. It was a favourite of Marie Antoinette, but Chantilly lace fell out of favour after the Revolution with its aristocratic associations.

Chantilly cream

Whipped cream being squeezed out of a piping bag onto a cup cake, with several other cakes on a round board

A trip to Chantilly is not complete without a dessert served with the town’s famous whipped cream! 

A chef is thought to have created Chantilly cream in the château’s kitchens at a banquet for Louis XIV in the late 17th century. The classic ingredients are double cream, icing sugar and vanilla, whipped together until the peaks hold their shape. Try it flavoured with liqueur for a little kick!

Things to see and do in Chantilly

The art collection at the Musée Condé

The Musée Condé holds one of the largest collection of historic paintings in France –second only to the Louvre. Here you will find works from Raphael, Poussin, Clouet, Fra Angelico and many others. 

You can only ever see these pieces here, as all of the paintings and statues on display are protected by a “no loaning” clause established by Henri d’Orléans.

The Church of Notre-Dame of Chantilly

Just behind the Great Stables, on the corner of Rue du Connetable, is the Church of Notre-Dame. Conveniently placed near to the shuttle bus stop for the château, it is more than worth a look inside. Dating from 1692, it was the first church in Chantilly and has some attractive windows, statues and altarpieces.

The history of lacemaking at Musée de la Dentelle

Discover how Chantilly lace was made and how the town became a centre of lace-making. Special exhibitions are also held at various times through the year focusing on the artistic and historical aspects of the lace industry. 

The Museum of Chantilly Lace is housed in the Pavilion Egler, a grand mansion built for Napoleon III’s foreign minister. The museum is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 2-6pm. Tours are included in the ticket price.

The garden and animal park at Le Potager des Princes

Manicured hedges in foreground, with an ornamental lake behind and a statue of a deer overlooking the water and one boat in the lake

A short walk from the Great Stables is a more recent addition to the attractions of Chantilly. Le Potager des Princes (Vegetable Garden of the Princes) was created by the château’s riding master Yves Bienaimé and his wife Annabel. It opened in 2002 and features ornamental gardens, fountains, waterfalls, a petting zoo, outdoor theatre and art gallery.

Families will find the zoo at the Princes Garden an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon in Chantilly. Pigs, ponies, donkeys, geese and peacocks roam free here.

Take a stroll through Chantilly forest

Walking through the forest you could see deer, and will definitely see oaks, lime and beech trees. The 6,340-hectare forest is also popular for horse riding, cyclists and hikers. 

As befits Chantilly, the forest was laid out for hunting for hounds by Louis, Prince of Condé (Grand Condé) in the 17th century, which explains the star-shaped crossings and large alleys facing the chateau de Chantilly.

Visit the troglodyte houses in Gouvieux

A few kilometres from Chantilly are some very different kind of dwellings. A street in the quiet village of Gouvieux is cut into the limestone rockface. Once the modest homes of local people, these troglodyte cave houses date back to Roman times and are now workshops for local arts and crafts. 

The water mill at Pavillon de Manse

Just ten minutes walk from the Château de Chantilly is the Pavillon de Manse, which houses a recently restored water mill.  The ‘Grandes Eaux’, a huge hydraulic machine, was developed to provide a water supply to the many fountains and ponds of the Chantilly estate. It changed function in the 1840s and was used to supply water to the growing town. 

The mill is open every day except Mondays between May and September from 10am-6pm, and 2-5.30pm from October to April.

Two brass statues of horse heads on wooden plinths in front of a sandy coloured stone building

Start your trip to Chantilly with LeShuttle

Chantilly is just a short gallop away. Travel from Folkestone to France in only 35 minutes via LeShuttle. Driving to Chantilly from LeShuttle's Calais Terminal will only take just over two and a half hours, so you could be there in time for a Chantilly cream tea!

Get 20% off entry to Château de Chantilly
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