We will be in Paris in July and would like to visit either another and maybe less-crowded palace that is at least somewhat furnished. I think I read about a Vaux de Vicomt and also Fontainebleau but they are not listed in Ricks France book. We will have to 18 year old granddaughters with us. Any suggestions appreciated.
Much asked question, consider also Chantilly and Écouen north of Paris, both furnished. More convenient located is Napoleons Château de Malmaison, actually more a mansion west of Paris and also furnished.
In Rick's Paris guidebook he describes 3 chateaux that one could see, in addition to Versailles:
I am partial to the St. Germain-en-Laye castle that is easily reached by RER A suburban train. But, really, I do not feel there is an alternative to Versailles. As I glanced it for the first time, I felt like the time I saw St. Peters' in Rome for the first time: one of these building that made history; no other castle in the world has the same importance. IMHO, either you spend a day there battling the crowds, or you consider that the next time you will be in Paris Versailles will still be there, and find some things to do that may interest you in the city - and Paris has no shortage of things to do.
Chantilly, Vaux le Vicomte, Blois.
Easy reachable little town from Paris: Troyes
Chateau Malmaison, easily reached in about 15 minutes from La Defense, was Empress Josephine's favourite abode and no wonder. It is a perfect small gem of a place, at the end of a tree-lined lane, a short and pleasant walk from the bus stop. You can spend an hour or two there and still get back to the city to do other things.
asps2 - Do you think there is more to see inside Saint-Germain-en-Laye than the archeological museum? That´s what they told me at the entrance and was the reason I didn´t visited it a few years ago.
my absolute favorite is Vaux le Vicomte; the grounds were designed by the same architects who later did Versailles and they use an interesting forced perspective. You can see our visit here:
Fontainbleau is also very uncrowded and makes for a nice visit; it has lovely grounds but not IMHO as nice as Vaux le Vicomte. If you go to Vaux be sure to visit the historic tableau in the basement; while it is in French, there are descriptive materials in English on the walls between the scenes.
Many people enjoy St. Germaine en Laye particularly for its views back towards Paris but we thought it was disappointing and it certainly isn't part of a discussion of alternatives to Versailles.
Malmaison is charming, but also not in the same league IMHO. Rambouillet which currently serves as the summer home of the President is available for tour when he is not in residence, and the chateaux at Sceaux and Ecouen and Chantilly can all be visited. None of them IMHO are as impressive as Vaux le Vicomte which is the closest to a Versailles experience and without crowds.
We really loved Vaux le Vicomte! We spent an afternoon walking the grounds and having lunch in their very nice restaurant. We stayed for the evening candlelight tour. They line the paths at the back of the chateau with candles and also light the inside with them. It was magical! Highly recommend a visit to this small (relatively!), very beautiful chateau.
Thanks everyone. Jane, your pictures and descriptions helped me make the decision in favor of Vaux le Vicomte. It does look like it rivals Versailles except for the Hall of Mirrors. The garden and the dance scene are especially impressive. I'm a little concerned about the transportation. If anyone has any additional information besides a taxi from the train station, let me know please.
" I'm a little concerned about the transportation."
You're right to focus on the task of getting to Vaux-le-Vicomte. In fact, Rick's Paris guidebook has a 3 paragraph detailed description of how to get there. His description takes up most of a page and it's too long to quote or even paraphrase here.
He says that "given the tricky train access," some travelers find the City Vision tour company's excursion bus worthwhile.
I haven't been to the chateau yet but am going in a few months, and I haven't yet decided whether to take the train or go with City Vision.
From reading Rick's book, I can tell you that the train only gets you to the Melun station, and then you either 1) take a taxi or 2) from April to November the Veoila shuttle buses run fro the station to the chateau.
Further details on all of the above are given in Rick's Paris guidebook.
To me all places can be enjoyed in their own right, it is just a bit the way you look to it.