There are quite a few good daytrips to be made from Paris. While everyone does Versailles, and many do Chartres, don't forget about Fontainebleau, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Giverny, or the Château de Chantilly. I've been wanting to go to Chantilly for a few months now, but everyone kept telling me to wait until the weather got warmer, to truly be able to appreciate the gardens. While you might first think of the thick whipped cream (crème de Chantilly), Chantilly is known for the chateau, its art collection, the gardens, and of course the beautiful stables and jockey club. In fact, the horses were the first thing that greeted us on our way from the train station to the chateau:Like a scene out of Arabian Nights, this long procession of turbaned men, followed by veiled women, was making its way to the Hippodrome. Tunisia was the guest of honor this weekend, and we just happened to arrive as they were making their formal parade through town.
It's a nice 30-minute walk through town to the chateau. Since it was a beautiful sunny day, many of the cafés had the terraces in full effect. There was also a large market on the main square, and tons of boutiques - children's clothing, kitchen stuff, shoe stores, a doggy shop (Pluto Chic - heehee get it), bookstores, and even a Longchamps outlet! This might very well extend the walk as it did in my case. Going through town also lets you visit the other sights on the way, such as the Notre-Dame church, which is connected to the Horse Museum and the stables.
The chateau is impressive when viewed from a distance, surrounded by a moat, with the gardens behind. The inside of the chateau itself is gorgeous. We spent most of our time viewing the sizable collection of art, with highlights including Ingrès, Raphaël, and Delacroix, as well as the Duc d'Aumale's library, the collections of lace and porcelein, and the stained glass hallways. We also took a tour of the private apartments (in French, and my goodness the guide was completely hammered!), and visited the chapel. After all my waiting in order to really visit the gardens, however, I didn't do more than take a glance around the pond in the French garden. I know, I know, I'm horrible. But it was too hot...that kind of sticky hot where you don't want to move, or eat, or do anything but stay in the shade. Also there was a lot of work going on, so even the French garden wasn't that nice - scaffoldings and barriers were scattered around the grass, and there were no flowers. Looking over the brochure I now regret missing out on the Kangaroo park, the Temple of Venus, the waterfall, and seeing the various "cottages" - oh well, there's always next time.
Château de Chantilly
The park is open every day from 10 - 18h, the Chateau has the same hours but is closed on Tuesdays.
4€ to visit the gardens, 8€ to visit the gardens and the château.
From Gare du Nord (check the train schedules here):
RER D1 Direction Creil to Chantilly Gouvieu, ~45 minutes, 7.70€ one-way
TER train to Chantilly Gouvieu, ~25 minutes, 6.80/5.10/3.40€ one-way depending on what tarif applies.
There is a free shuttle to the chateau that leaves within a few minutes of each TER train's arrival from Paris; otherwise it is a lovely 30-minute walk to the chateau, either through a shaded path, or through the town itself which has really cute boutiques and cafés.