The region around the capital – the Île de France – and the borders of the neighbouring provinces are studded with châteaux. Many were royal or noble hunting retreats, while some – like 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 greatest cathedrals also lie within easy reach of Paris: in the otherwise gritty suburb of St-Denis the Gothic style was born; at Chartres, it reached its exquisite pinnacle. The most popular attraction by far, however, is Disneyland Paris, out beyond the satellite town of Marne-la-Vallée.

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