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Secret Tip: The Train to Chantilly

Chateau de Chantilly

I’m a big fan of Chantilly, an elegant town surrounded by thick forests just 55 km north of Paris. Its historic chateau dating back to the French Renaissance hold’s one of the country’s most prestigious art collections, and the thatched-roof hamlet hidden in the vast gardens designed by Le Notre are supposedly what inspired Marie Antoinette to have the same (“but bigger”) built in Versailles. The 18th-century stables – now housing a Living Horse Museum – are even bigger than the chateau itself, and serve as the backdrop to Chantilly’s hippodrome.

Chantilly isn’t only a wonderful alternative to Versailles for those who want to escape the busloads of tourists, but it’s also a nice daytrip for Parisians in need of some fresh air. Winter may seem like an unlikely time to visit, but even on a “busy” day you won’t find lines at the gatehouse ticket window nor rooms in the château so crowded that you can’t even appreciate the beautiful décor (or take “human-free” photos, as my mother calls them). 

Chantilly
Gardens of the Château de Chantilly

So how easy is it to get to Chantilly without a car? In theory it’s a snap (and twice as fast as the one-hour car trip): just take the 22-minute train or RER from Gare du Nord train station in Paris to the Chantilly-Gouvieux station, and then a 15-minute stroll to the château.

Except that even two Parisians — one who actually wrote a guidebook to Chantilly — almost couldn’t figure it out one wintry Sunday afternoon.

Why? Not to bore the pants off you, but each type of public transportation in France is run by a different, and sometimes competing, group. The Metro in Paris and part of the RER are run by RATP. But the rest of the RER and French trains are run by SNCF. And within the SNCF there are even regional authorities. They all want their own tickets and their own systems, too. Once you’ve figured out French trains they’re awesome. But good luck figuring them out!

Pick a Train

For Chantilly, you’ll often see websites and guidebooks mention the option of taking either the Transilien RER D or the TER Picardie train from the Gare du Nord. 

For now, forget RER D. For some reason, even though the RER D map shows Chantilly (in the direction of Creil), none of the trains actually go that far, stopping one station short at Orry la Ville. This seems to be the case any day of the week, so it’s not a Sunday service issue. So either they’ve cancelled the service permanently and haven’t changed the map, or they plan on bringing it back someday. Just wipe it off the calendar of options.

That leaves the TER Picardie regional train (Chantilly is not in the Ile-de-France region like Paris, but in the region called Picardie). To get the train from Gare du Nord to Chantilly look for the destination Creil (or Compeigne, but make sure Chantilly is listed as one of the stops). There are usually at least two trains an hour running from 6am until 11pm, but there can be gaps that leave you waiting bored in the station (with some pretty dodgy characters), or stuck in Chantilly because you’ve missed the last train of the day, so check the schedule.

Get Your Ticket

ticket stand
Look for this ticket distributor on the platform.

Now you just need to show up and purchase a ticket. This is where your two Parisians, after wandering around confused for 20 minutes, finally had to ask for help: there are several different ticket windows and ticket machines at the Gare du Nord, and the TER Picardie has its very own! To find them, look for the red and green ticket machines (pictured here) right on platforms 15, 16 and 17 of the “Grand Lignes” (these are the trains at ground level of the Gare du Nord, don’t go downstairs). A round-trip ticket to Chantilly is currently €17.40 for an adult. Because you’re no longer in the Ile-de-France, no Navigo passes or 5-zone transport passes will work.

There is also a special offer (not sure when it expires, but give it a try), Le Pack TER Chantilly, which for €25 combines rteurn train fare plus regular chateau entrance (or just €1 for kids under 12). According to the website (sorry, it’s only in French), you can buy these passes either at the human ticket counter or at the little green ticket machine.

From the Station to the Château

The train ride to Chantilly is just two stops, 22 minutes. From the station in Chantilly you can either try and hail a cab (not easy in the countryside), wait for the free DUC shuttle (only a few times each day Mon-Sat, I wouldn’t count on it), or take advantage of the fresh air and walk to the château. You can either walk through “town”, basically consisting of two main streets with the chateau at the far end, or take the shortcut through the forest and around the hippodrome and stables (you’ll need shoes that are okay for mud and gravel in this case). Both directions are perfectly safe and scenic in their own way, but the shortcut is about 10 minutes faster. If you need a café break or want to stop in a bakery on the way, take the town route.

Chantilly forest
The shortcut on a very cold and foggy December day; it will usually be greener!

As there are plenty of guides to the actual château, no need to expand on that here, but it’s worth noting a small change in ticketing: a few years ago you could purchase separate tickets to each part of the “Domaine” (chateau, gardens, stables, Living horse Museum). Now there are only two ticket options: gardens only (Grounds ticket for €8), or everything (Domain ticket for €17, including audioguide). So it’s worth coming for the whole day so you have the time to see everything if you’re springing for the Domain ticket. Note you can also buy these online, but I’ve never seen lines at Chantilly for tickets, so this isn’t an absolute necessity.

Provisions and Eating

There are several places to dine at the chateau and in the town, but it wouldn’t hurt to have some snacks and a thermos of coffee with you for the trip. Thinking ahead for warmer days, reserve a spot at the Hamlet for open-air lunch or afternoon tea with strawberries and whipped cream, which is called chantilly in French because it was supposedly invested here! Picnics aren’t allowed on the chateau grounds or gardens, but you can picnic in the vast lawn facing across the street from the château. 

For more info (and more exciting photos of Chantilly in nicer weather) visit their official Domaine de Chantilly website.

Chateau de Chantilly

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  • This advise is super helpful. I don't speak any French yet it was so easy for me to buy a Pack TER at gare du nord. Thank you very much.

  • My husband and I had a great trip to Chantilly, we walked casually along the allée des officiers, when just about the middle of the allée we were addressed by a Mexican couple who wanted to know where we came from, they told us that they were from Acapulco, we said that every year we go to Zihuatanejo which is 270 km north of Acapulco, they seems to ignore that town. A few moments later, I was sloshed by some green ingredient in my back and head, the woman was already wiping me with wet wipes and started cleaning my back and so did the man, then my husband got sprayed also,We were so distracted that we did not feel that our money, and credit cards were lifted. Both of us were blindly robbed during the day and in front of everyone passing by. Of course we complained to the police and spent all afternoon filings the facts. This is a new type of assault to foreigners. Even if one is very careful, these peoples are fast and knew exactly where to open purse and back packs. One has to be extremely careful. Best thing not to take any cash on you, just one card that is not activated for tap.Unfortunately we were unable to visit the chateau.

  • Thanks Heather- you made our trip to Chantilly extremely easy. The green/red automatic machines ( with a picture of them no less!) completely eliminated any confusion and that late update on the Ter/Chantilly Chateau reduced fare was Sweet! Keep up the secret tips that save folks anxiety and wasted time. Hats off to you! Mark Q.

  • @L. Lokant: You're right! Just found this after reading your comment (must be recent; they used to have something similar for Versailles years ago):https://www.ter.sncf.com/hauts-de-france/offres/tarifs-et-abonnements/pack-ter-domaine-chantilly/%5Btab%5DloffreThanks for the heads up, I'll add it to the article and test it out next weekend! 🙂

  • I read that you can go to the ticket window and purchase a combined transport and chateau ticket for 25€. That sounds like the best option to me!

  • Hi Kathy, I went on New Year's Eve myself, and although I have taken the RER in the past, there was no service listed that day. Either it was because of the holidays (many routes are restricted on public transport outside Paris), or they simply stopped it altogether. The RER tends to be used by commuters, so it's probably not a priority on New Year's Eve. You can try getting to the train station a bit early and asking at the RER ticket window if there are any RERs going AND returning, but if it's not online in the schedule, it's probably not.I would stick to the TER, as it's guaranteed to be running. As far as I know, the senior discount is only for French citizens (they have a special card); but you could always try asking for it anyway at the ticket counter, maybe you'll get a nice person willing to bend the rules. 😉 Do be very careful of the times listed for the train, as they only return to Paris a few times that evening.

  • I have read so many different sources on travel from Paris to Chantilly. I read that a 5 zone pass would work and that RER goes to Chantilly, just slower with 14 stops (52 min vs 24 min on TER). I will have a 5 zone Navigo pass and would like to use it, Has the situation changed, so I can use my pass? I checked the schedule on transilion.com and it shows a schedule with limited times but travel possible. If we have to use TER, my other question is that we are both over 60, it does not show any restriction to issue ticket online, but probably need to show ID to verify age. Is this discount only allowed for French citizens? I did not see any other source that shows we cannot use this discount except on your site. I am more confused. Please advise. We are traveling on New Year's Eve, already purchased combined ticket for equestrian show and package for entrance to chateau, grounds, horse museum. I cannot see the schedule for RER yet for this date, further out than 30 days, so I cannot yet verify travel. TER offers a package for 25 euros that includes roundtrip train and entrance package for Chantilly, but this does not help me, now

  • thank you very much heather – I got their by train today – a little muddled thanks to forgetting my mobile phone in my room at Point de St Cloud – and not reading your article closely enough. But it was so worthwhile. Wonderful piece of history post French Revolution – wonderful building art in itself and of course the art inside. And I can so see why the French so welcomed the "Impressionists". Hidden restaurant does lunch and teas – I wish I had had longer to try. Good sales shop with lovely books and cards. Lovely staff, especially on the way back when instead of ringing for a taxi – helped me find a free bus, that wasn't the station bus but did give me a lift back to town and directions to the station from the Main Street! So my day of tickets was – (I dont speak well) went to RER ticket office, asked for ticket to Chantilly and told platform too. Discovered train on this platform was going south – to somewhere that sounded like Chantilly! Tried to buy ticket from machine and didn't understand which stations for which zone. used my 2nd ticket to get back to RER platform and took RER as far as I could and waited 30 minutes there for Chantilly train. Taxi 9 euros to chateau. Bus free back. Ticket office very helpful. Ticket back 10 euros. Train back was only 22 minutes – amazing – only one stop before Gare de Nord. Important there is only effectively ONE train an hour or less. Do your research carefully not like me! thank you again heather best wishes and thanks for a wonderful day David from Lutterworth

  • We had a successful day trip to Chantilly thanks to the information provided here! we would have never figured it out on our own. My horse crazy daughter was very happy. The path thru the "woods" was easy to find and the walk was pleasant.

  • Thanks for all the helpful info. I have done some "walks" to castles from train stations before and they are not usually marked well even through the town. From the train station is there a signed path "through the forest" short cut and through town so a 15 min walk does not become 30!! Thanks

  • Thank goodness we found your website or we would still be looking for the stupid ticket machine. And we appreciated the shortcut information. A great day trip from Paris.

  • In addition to a visit to the Chateua de Chantilly I would like to make a stop at the little church in Funny Face (Castle of the White Queen near Coye la Foet). It is maddeningly close but I don't think I can just walk there. I was toying with the idea of a private car and driver from central Paris to bring two of us to those destinations; would anyone have a suggestion as to a reasonable service to do this – Mercedes not required!

  • Thank you, Heather. Another very comprehensive 'Secret Tip'. We will be in Paris again in October, staying in the 15th, and will definitely add this day trip to the itinerary. I have been receiving your newsletters for over three years and always find them loaded with great information even down to where to store luggage in Paris. Something we were considering when embarking on a walk in France.

  • I went to Chantilly today and this was SOOOO helpful! It was still a bit confusing even with these detailed instructions, so thank you for saving me a lot of time! Two things that might be helpful for others: 1) I came to the Gare du Nord from the metro so you actually have to go "upstairs" to the Grand Lignes, and 2) the ticket machine was in French (maybe I missed an english option)… I chose the "aller simple" (one way) ticket in the direction of Creil. I did not realize until after I bought the ticket that I had paid for a longer ride than I needed (Creil is end of the line)… nothing serious, 10 euros v 8 euros, but you need to choose "other destinations" from the main screen to get the Chantilly option.

  • We will be visiting Chantilly the first werk of April as a side trip for our first trip to Paris. Thank you for the train clarification!

  • Good to know. Too bad for commuters that the 5-zone-pass doesn't work due to the regional border. I looked at the reduced rates, and while these are applicable to children, students, jobseekers and disabled people, they are only available to seniors if they are on basic pensions (which would mean the French one, not for example the Canadian equivalent). I agree that there is no particular reason to give a reduced rate to well-off seniors, but many retired people who have just a bit more than your or our basic pension are far from affluent. I'm not there yet, but I'm older than you… Is Chantilly worth an overnight stay?

  • I think the RER-D only goes to Chantilly in the middle of the night when the TER doesn't run. TER from Gare du Nord is the right way to tell people to visit the Chateau during the day.