Visitors to Paris may not realise that they are within a stones’ throw of one of the idyllic gems of the French countryside, the Val d’Oise region. Situated in the centre of Ile-de-France, propping up the Oise River from which its name arises, the Val d’Oise region is located an hours drive from the capital. It may be the first glimpse of France that visitors enjoy as it is the area which houses the country’s premier airport, the Charles de Gaulle Airport.
The area is surrounded by acres of forests, historic towns backing onto picturesque villages and all this within easy traveling distance to the suburban centres, which serve the bustling Paris commuters.
Chateaux and Museums
The majority of chateaux are open to visitors who can enjoy their opulent décor and exquisite gardens. Some of the houses remain family owned while others have been converted in period regional and national museums.
The Chateau d’Ecouen has superb examples of 16th century tapestries and is now the National Museum of the Renaissance. It features numerous artworks and items from 16th century France. Possibly Val d’Oise’s largest chateau is the Chateau d’Epinay, built by a king’s adviser in the 18th century. It has since been the domain of notable writers and poets over the years.
On the river there are numerous guided tours available and many water activities. The idyllic river cruise is perfect for romantic couples or families wanting to relax after the treading the busy city streets. There are also speedboats and pleasure boats for hire.
Forests and Walking
The Val d’Oise offers ample unspoilt countryside and forest ideal for hiking. The ancient Montmorency Forest has remained beautiful for hundreds of years. Deep in the forest are the ruins of Chateau de la Chasse, the 13th century masterpiece of architecture and well worth a visit.