France Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan & Jane Fisher   Domaine de Chantilly, France
Just north of Paris, this beautiful château houses a large museum, and its stables are the largest in Europe.

Raphael, Chantilly, France
Three Graces, by Raphael.




Everyone knows the famous Louvre Museum, but do you know where France's second largest collection of antique paintings is? In the little-known Musée Condé, at the Domaine de Chantilly, just 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Paris. This makes a great day trip from Paris.

The château itself is beautiful, surrounded by water and with gardens designed by the famous André Le Nôtre. The château has a long history, with roots in the middle ages. During the French Revolution parts of it were destroyed, and later rebuilt.

Chantilly, France
A View of Chantilly Château on a lovely June day

Chantilly today owes its existence to the Duke of Aumale, son of King Louis-Philippe, who rebuilt it in 1875 and donated it to the Institut de France in 1886. It has been open to the public since 1898.

One of the great art collectors of his time, the Duc d'Aumale created the Musée Condé to house his collection. In addition to its rich collection of paintings, the museum also has a significant historical library and important archives, with works dating from the middle ages to the 19th century. The Condé name pays hommage to the Bourbon-Condé family, who took ownership of Chantilly in 1643. The Grand Condé (Louis II de Bourbon-Condé) had Le Nôtre redo the gardens. He also commissioned 11 large paintings, depicting his military activity; these are displayed in the Gallery of Battles.

There are rooms and rooms of art to wander through. The private apartments of the Duc d'Aumale, with their ornate decor and furnishings, give a glimpse into 19th century life. The library holds the private collection of the Duke, who was considered one of the greatest bibliophiles of his time. It contains 19,000 volumes, including 200 illuminated manuscripts from the middle ages, and 2500 books from the 16th century.

Perhaps most interesting are the paintings. There's a small Raphael of the Three Graces, as well as works by Watteau, Ingres, Delacroix, and many more. Most famous is the Gallery of Painting, designed by the Duc d'Aumale to showcase his collections. Its red walls hold 85 paintings, arranged according to the Duc's preferences. Lighting comes from the glass ceiling and overhead skylight. While such galleries were found in the 19th century, this is the only one that still exists today, and the Duke stipulated in his will that it should not be changed.

Chantilly, France
The Gallery of Painting, showing about half of the paintings in that room.

One of the more unusual displays is a large sculpture of four figures: Religion, Prudence, Piety, and Justice, surrounding an urn that holds the hearts of the Princes of the House of Condé. It was commissioned by Le Grand Condé in 1648.

In addition, the Domaine de Chantilly includes Les Grandes Écuries, or great stables, where you'll find The Museum of the Horse, a new museum that focuses on the centuries-long relationships between horses and humans. Opened in 2013, the museum has everything from carousels to reproductions of prehistoric cave paintings; from live horses to tiny lead models. Individual rooms focus on Horses Through the Ages, Horses in Art, and Horse Racing, to name just a few. They also offer equestrian shows and events.

Fun facts: Chantilly lace is a form of handmade bobbin lace, named for the city of Chantilly (though most of it was actually made in Bayeux). And remember the song Chantilly Lace, by the Big Bopper? Chantilly lace and a pretty face, and a pony tail, hangin' down...That's our Chantilly he's singing about!

In addition, you may have enjoyed Crème Chantilly, or whipped cream. There are conflicting stories about its origin, whether at the château de Chantilly or at the château of Vaux-le-Vicomte, both places where the famous chef François Vatel worked. Vatel is best known, however, for having committed suicide at Chantilly over the late delivery of fish for a banquet for 2000 people, hosted by the Grand Condé in 1671 in honor of King Louis XIV. A colorful history indeed!

Transportation: Regular TER trains run from the Gare du Nord to Chantilly-Gouvieux and take about 25 minutes. You can also take the RER, which is a 45 minute journey. In Chantilly, DUC buses run once or twice an hour from the train station for a quick 6 minute ride; or you can enjoy a 20-30 minute walk to the Domaine.

Domaine de Chantilly
7 rue du Connétable
60500 Chantilly France
+33 (0)3 44 2723180

Planning Your Visit to Paris

Excursions from Paris


Paris Museums

What to See & Do in Paris

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Paris Girls Secret Society, a novel by Tom Brosnahan


Chantillly, France

Above, Memorial Sculpture for the house of Condé, commissioned by Le Grand Condé in 1648.

Below, Courtyard of the stables, The Museum of the Horse.


Chantilly, Museum of the Horse, France

Elegant room, Chantilly, France
Above, Elegant decor in one of the rooms of the château de Chantilly.

Below, Another view of the front of the château.

Château de Chantilly, France

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