Each of our hotels are located in cities that don’t just have loads to see in the heart of town, but plenty of nearby places perfect for an excursion too. With the Paris edition of our four-city guide, visit grand palaces outside the City of Light and places that are – quite literally – a work of art, knowing that a comfy citizenM bed awaits at the end of your trip.
Okay, we might as well start with the obvious – and no, we’re not talking about Disneyland. You haven’t truly experienced Paris in all its glory until you’ve been to Versailles. Less than half an hour by train from Gare Montparnasse, the former home of the French monarchy is one of the grandest palaces imaginable. Louis XIV initiated its transformation from hunting lodge to fairytale château and, thanks to painstaking restorations, visitors can get a good idea how the one per cent used to live. Pirouette your way through the Hall of Mirrors, get lost in the beautifully manicured gardens and make sure not to miss Hameau de la Reine, the mock village Marie Antoinette would retreat to so she could enact her bizarre rural role-play. No wonder the people were calling for her head!
If you’ve already visited Versailles, or want to avoid the crowds, you should check out the palace at Fontainebleau. This opulent château was home to Napoleon, and here guests can get a look at Marie Antoinette’s Turkish Boudoir – recently restored to its original glory.
Versailles and Fontainebleau may be steeped in history but art aficionados might prefer Château de Chantilly. This gorgeous castle also happens to house the Musée Condé, France’s second best collection of paintings after the Louvre. Not bad, huh? There are three Raphael's, as well as works by Fra Angelico, Poussin, Watteau and Ingres. The Chateau also has a wonderful library: both manuscripts and paintings are the legacy of Henri d’Orleans, who donated Chantilly to the Institut de France when he died in 1897. Now that’s what we call generous.
Of course, any true art-lover shouldn’t leave France without visiting Giverny. Monet lived in the village from 1883 until his death in 1924, and its gardens were the inspiration for his water lily paintings. Seeing the water garden, the Clos Normand and the Japanese bridge with your own eyes is incredibly inspiring, and visitors can also mosey around Monet’s beautifully restored home. The gardens are closed from November to Easter, so this isn’t a trip for winter.
the notre-dame's little sister
A trip to Chartres – a little medieval city 45 minutes’ drive south of Versailles – might be a better bet during colder times. The two-spired Cathédrale Notre-Dame is breathtaking: the North Rose window boasts some of the finest stained glass anywhere in the world, and a climb up the Clocher Neuf offers incredible views. Be warned, it’s 350 steps. If all that walking tires you out, you can slip into one of Chartres’ charming cafés for a freshly baked croissant and chocolat chaud. Bon appétit!