We often tend to forget this, but Île-de-France is not just Paris. Of course, the City of Light remains the main destination for visitors to the region, for its architecture, museums, art de vivre and abundant cultural life. But Île-de-France is also seven other departments that are full of treasures. There are beautiful green areas to explore on hikes, small towns steeped in history and grandiose castles for lovers of fine heritage. The region offers a wide range of places that it would be a pity not to discover and here are the must-see places.
Escape to the castle and park of Courances in the Essonne region
The Château de Courances is a sublime building that was built between 1622 and 1630. It has had an eventful history and its current architecture corresponds to the work undertaken by Baron Samuel de Haber in 1872 to restore it. He notably took advantage of the opportunity to add elements such as the red bricks typical of the Louis XIII period on the façade or the horseshoe staircase. If the castle is still privately owned today, it is possible to visit it to learn more about its architecture and history. Outside, the park brings together several styles, French, Japanese... and the whole offers a peaceful stroll in the heart of a space labeled "Remarkable Garden"
Stroll in the French Gâtinais Regional Natural Park
Created in 1999, the French Gâtinais Regional Natural Park covers a large area where it is pleasant to go for walks, cycling or horse riding. You will discover varied landscapes ranging from valleys crossed by rivers to forests, rocky chaos and agricultural plains. In Aulne, the Maison du Parc welcomes visitors to give all the information they need to discover the regional park. You can thus set off to discover the rock art of the Paleolithic period, see the Saint-Blaise-des-Simples chapel decorated by Jean Cocteau, or climb on horseback to discover the villages and cultures of the southern Gâtinais
La Défense district, open-air museum
In the north-west of Paris, the La Défense district is one of the most important business districts in Europe, but not only. Indeed, apart from the towers, most of which house offices, the district reveals many secrets to visitors. To enjoy an incredible view of the French capital, do not hesitate to reach the roof of the Grande Arche, 100 m high. You can then have fun spotting the main Parisian monuments. A true open-air museum, the district also houses a large number of works of art from the 20th to the 21st century, which are on display there for free access. Let's mention César's Thumb, a piece of the Berlin Wall or Yaakov Agam's Fountain. For a moment in the green, go to the André Malraux Park, where wide lawns give way to more intimate spaces
A stroll through the gardens of the Albert Kahn County Museum
Located in Boulogne-Billancourt, the Albert-Kahn departmental museum is one of the most visited sites in Ile-de-France. In this place devoted to the French banker and philanthropist, who was driven by an ideal of peace on a universal scale, one discovers sumptuous gardens, a true haven of peace in the inner suburbs. French, English or Japanese gardens, all offer a peaceful stroll among trees, bushes and flowers. The museum, for its part, allows visitors to discover the work of man during the 20th century in relation to the diversity of peoples and cultures in the world.
The Place des Vosges, one of the most beautiful in Paris
Named Place Royale when it was built by Henri IV at the beginning of the 17th century, the Place des Vosges unveils incredibly unified monuments. At the time, these were private mansions where the upper middle class lived. Before heading towards the square Louis XIII to enjoy the sun while lounging on the lawns, one must walk through the arcades, for their beauty and calm, which is sometimes broken by a few musicians who have come to share their art. Also not to be missed under the arcades are the Hôtel de Sully and the Maison de Victor Hugo, now a museum dedicated to the great writer
A visit to the Louvre, an exceptional museum
The Louvre is the largest museum in the world and also the most visited. When you arrive there, you will first discover a building of great beauty, first built under King Philip Augustus as a medieval fortress, before becoming a royal palace in the 16th century. The other eye-catching feature is the pyramid made of glass and metal, which dates from 1989. Inside, the museum houses 35,000 works of art, which means you have to visit it several times to discover as many of its treasures as possible. The collections are divided into several departments, including the must-see Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities. As for the works of art, the place attracts crowds to see jewels such as the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo or the Rite of Napoleon
The Fontainebleau Forest, the largest natural area in the Paris Region
Situated 60 km south of Paris, the Fontainebleau Forest is an incredible place to go for a walk in the green. 98% of its territory is made up of the forest and the magnificent Fontainebleau castle. When hiking, walkers discover a place of great beauty, with oaks, beeches, Scots pines, but also plains, sand and rocky chaos, which give it a singular identity and bear witness to its geological history. The landscapes have inspired many artists, including the precursors of Impressionism.
The castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte, architectural splendour
In 1653, Nicolas Fouquet called upon the architect Louis Le Vau, reputed to be a formidable ambassador of the Italian style in France, to build his residence. The exterior architecture of the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte was to inspire French construction for the next century and a half. Inside, the public goes to the Salon des Muses and the King's bedroom, among others, which radiate with their baroque decor. Then comes the visit of the apartments of Monsieur and Madame Fouquet, with decorations and works of art that transport the visitor to the heart of the daily life of a large 17th century residence. Outside, you can enjoy a visit to the park and the French garden, the work of André Le Nôtre
The Drancy Shoah Memorial, a place of remembrance
Located opposite the Cité de la Muette, the Drancy Shoah Memorial is a place of meditation for history lovers and those who are particularly interested in the Second World War. The Cité de la Muette became an internment camp in 1941, before being the place where the Jews of France were rounded up and taken to the concentration camps in 1942. Approximately 63,000 Jews from France left for the camps from Drancy between 1942 and 1944. The memorial has a permanent exhibition that provides a better understanding of the history of the camp, the life of the prisoners, and the organization of the deportations with the help of video testimonies, photos, and other archives
Royaumont Abbey, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture
Royaumont Abbey was founded in 1228 by Saint Louis and his mother Blanche of Castile. It is the largest Cistercian abbey in the Île-de-France region, with superb buildings arranged around a cloister. One of the most beautiful examples of Gothic refectory in France can be found there. Apart from the cloister and its vaulted rooms, you should also take a stroll in its peaceful green park. One then goes from the cloister garden to the 9 square garden, to finally end up in the vegetable garden. Today, this place that breathes serenity hosts concerts, artists' residences and conferences. And for those who wish to prolong the pleasure, the abbey has rooms and a restaurant for weekends
Provins, a trip to medieval times
Located in Seine-et-Marne, the medieval city of Provins is worth a visit to discover its rich heritage. Start by strolling through its very well preserved historic centre and set out to conquer the most beautiful monuments: the ramparts and fortified gates, the tithe barn, a 12th century merchant's house or the tower of César, the city's keep. The tower also offers a beautiful panorama of the city and its surroundings. The religious heritage is also very interesting, with the collegiate church of Saint-Quiriace, also from the 12th century and the church of Saint-Ayoul. Note that the medieval city of Provins is classified by UNESCO since 2001.
The castle of Vincennes, a wonderful historical site
The castle of Vincennes is a splendid medieval monument located at the gates of Paris. For history, the place was a royal residence from the 12th to the 18th century. It has preserved many period features: the medieval towers, its walls, the Sainte-Chapelle and the keep, which dates from the 14th century and is the highest on the European continent. From the beginning of the 15th century and until the 19th century, the impressive keep was a prison that housed personalities such as the Marquis de Sade or Mirabeau. A visit allows you to immerse yourself in the important history of the monument, and you should know that it now houses the Historical Service of Defence, whose archives and libraries are open to visitors.
A discovery of Rambouillet
Commune of the Yvelines, Rambouillet deserves that we spend a few moments to discover its wealth. We walk through the town centre and don't forget to look up to contemplate the beautiful buildings dating from the 18th century. Then, we take the direction of the Palace of the King of Rome, museum of Art and History of the city. Another very beautiful monument is the Church of St. Lubin, whose neo-gothic style and the contemplation of the 18th century organ are appreciated. A visit to Rambouillet is also an opportunity to visit its superb 16th century fortified castle and its gardens, and later, schedule a walk in the green in the inevitable forest
The Palace of Versailles, a masterpiece of French classical art
If the Palace of Versailles was originally a modest castle built by Louis XIII for hunting, Louis XIV later chose it as the gigantic exceptional building we know today, symbol of French classical art and royal absolutism. Inside, you can visit the must-see rooms such as the Hall of Mirrors, the Royal Apartments, the Royal Opera House and the Museum of French History. And you don't leave this magical place without having walked through its park decorated with water beds, greenery, fountains, statues and other exceptional buildings such as the Temple of Love
A walk in Auvers-sur-Oise in the footsteps of the Impressionists
Auvers-sur-Oise is a bucolic town in which it is pleasant to stroll, especially to follow in the footsteps of the many great names of impressionists who stayed there and were inspired by the place and the light to compose their paintings. And how can we not mention Van Gogh, who lived there for the last two months of his life and who painted more than 70 paintings and drawings there? You can start by visiting the castle and its park, now a museum devoted to Impressionism, and then later take a tour that leads to the places where Van Gogh spent time: his room, which can be found at the Auberge Ravoux, and the church of Auvers-sur-Oise, painted by the artist, the original of which is now in the Musée d'Orsay. At the cemetery, one should not miss to go and visit the tombs of the two Van Gogh brothers