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4 Stunning Castles Near Paris That Aren’t As Crowded As Versailles

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Are you looking for the best alternatives to the Palace of Versailles near Paris, France?

Versailles is one of the most popular tourist attractions in France.

Suburban Residence of the France Kings - beautiful Chateau Fontainebleau with the fountain on foreground

This opulent chateau (the French word for castle or country house) is about a 45-minute train ride from Paris.

Constructed in the 17th century, Versailles is famous for its luxurious interiors and sprawling manicured gardens.

Millions of tourists flock to the palace every year to see the palace and its grounds.

But Versailles can become extremely crowded to the point where it's unenjoyable — think long lines, shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, and massive tour buses dumping out hundreds of people every hour.

It's also not cheap, with tickets coming in at €32 to visit the palace and gardens.

If you've already been to Versailles and are looking for somewhere new, or you just want to get off the beaten path and skip Versailles, here are the best castles near Paris to visit instead.

I've been to each of these, so I can tell you that they're all worth a visit.

1. Chateau de Fontainebleau

Chateau de Fontainebleau

One of the best castles near Paris is the Chateau de Fontainebleau. This particularly impressive chateau has a history dating back more than 800 years.

Once a summer hunting lodge for royalty like Louis XIV, the famous Sun King, Fontainebleau was later home to Napoleon Bonaparte during the nineteenth century.

Now, the chateau and its gardens are well worth a visit on a day trip from Paris. The town of Fontainebleau is also a nice place to spend the afternoon enjoying lunch at one of the many cafes.

How to get there

This is a day trip that's much easier to do if you have your own car (and you can also combine it with a visit to Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte, which is next on this list.) Chateau de Fontainebleau is a one-hour drive from central Paris.

If you want to take public transportation, you will first need to get to Gare de Lyon in Paris. At the train station, you'll want to purchase a one-day Mobilis ticket from any ticket machine.

This ticket costs €17.80 and allows for unlimited train and bus travel within the Île-de-France region.

You will then take the Transilien R train south towards Montereau. Make sure you take a train that terminates in Montereau (and not another town) or else you won't be able to reach your stop! You'll want to get off at the Fontainebleau-Avon station. The total time on the train is 40 minutes.

From the train station, you can take the 1 bus or the 4014 bus across town to the chateau. It's about a 10-minute bus ride. If you don't mind walking, it's about a 40-minute walk to the chateau.

2. Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Another great alternative to Versailles is Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte.

This chateau was owned by Nicolas Fouquet, the Superintendent of Finances in France under Louis XIV, the Sun King.

He used the same architects and landscape designers who worked on Versailles in an attempt to build a chateau that would impress the king.

Unfortunately, his plan backfired, and he was arrested and spent his life in prison for mismanaging funds!

The chateau itself is nice to tour, but the real highlight here is the gardens.

You can rent a golf-cart for €20 per hour which is a great way to explore the expansive grounds (and lots of fun!)

How to get there:

Again, I recommend getting a rental car if you want to visit Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte.

It's less than 30 minutes by car from Fontainebleau, so they combine well into a day trip.

If you want to visit via public transportation, you would follow the same steps as getting to Fontainebleau, but take the Transilien R train to Melun instead.

From Melun, it's a 10-minute taxi or Uber ride to Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte. Sometimes there's also a free shuttle to the chateau.

3. Chateau de Chantilly

Chateau de Chantilly

Chateau de Chantilly is another one of my favorite castles near Paris that is nowhere near as crowded as Versailles.

This lovely chateau was built for a wealthy family but was almost entirely destroyed during the French Revolution and later rebuilt.

Today, the chateau is famous for its equestrian connections. It overlooks the Chantilly Racecourse, where many horse races take place, and visitors can also tour the chateau's stables and watch equestrian demonstrations.

How to get there

Chateau de Chantilly is a good place to visit if you don't have your own car and want to take an easy day trip via public transportation.

You just need to get to Gare du Nord in Paris. From there, buy a ticket for the TER train towards Chantilly Gouvieux. It's a 25-minute train ride, and then you'll need to walk about 15 minutes through a forested path to reach the entrance of the chateau.

5. Chateau de Sceaux

Chateau de Sceaux

Although it's one of the smaller castles on this list, Chateau de Sceaux is another lovely place to visit that is very close to central Paris.

This stately home was built for the wealthy Potier de Gesvres family in the late 16th century, although it was later destroyed during the French Revolution. Afterward, the current chateau was built in its place.

The real highlight of Chateau de Sceaux is its sprawling park and gardens, which were designed by André Le Nôtre, who also designed the gardens of Versailles.

How to get there

Chateau de Sceaux is another destination that is really easy to visit with public transportation. It's located in the town of Sceaux, a suburb south of Paris.

You just need to take a southbound RER B train from any RER B station in Paris (such as Chatelet – Les Halles or Saint Michel – Notre-Dame.) You can buy your tickets from any machine at the station.

You can either get off at Bourg la Reine or Sceaux and then walk about 15 minutes to get to the chateau. The total travel time from central Paris is around 35 to 40 minutes.

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