The region around the capital – the Île de France – and the borders of the neighbouring provinces are studded with large-scale châteaux. Many were royal or noble hunting retreats, while some – like gargantuan Versailles – were for more serious state show. Vaux-le-Vicomte has perhaps the most harmonious architecture, Chantilly the finest art collection and Fontainebleau the most gorgeous interiors. Two of the world’s loveliest cathedrals also lie within easy reach of Paris: at St-Denis, on the edge of Paris, the Gothic style was born; at Chartres, it reached its exquisite pinnacle. St-Denis also offers a fascinating collection of royal tombs, while Chartres rises from a delightful medieval town. The most popular attraction by far, however, is Disneyland Paris, out beyond the satellite town of Marne-la-Vallée. All of the places detailed here are easily accessible from Paris by public transport.

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