The prosperous region of Ile-de-France is, of course, dominated by the shimmering wonders of Paris, that great cultural centre which is constantly changing and updating itself, but which at the same time remains utterly timeless and traditional.
From Louis XIV, through Napoleon, to Nicolas Sarkozy, political power has made its mark on the city of Paris. Its history can be traced through its many architectural monuments, such as the Eiffel Tower, Sacre-Cœur, the Arc de Triomphe and in the works of art at the Louvre Museum. The culture of Ile-de-France has been shaped by individuals such as Victor Hugo, with his Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the singer Edith Piaf. You can see Edith Piaf’s tomb at Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris’s most VIP cemetery, where you’ll also find the graves of Molière, Chopin, Proust, Oscar Wilde and even Jim Morrison.
But Ile-de-France is not just Paris: it also contains some well-kept secrets which many a tourist passing through Paris would miss out on. Only a metro ride away you can lose the crowds at the Chateau de Vincennes and enjoy a stroll through the tranquil Bois de Vincennes.
Further from the hustle and bustle of Paris, the forests of Seine and Marne are perfect for long walks, or you could do some chateau visiting. The moated, splendidly baroque Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte in Maincy makes a great day trip, as does the early 16th century royal Palace of Fontainbleau, set in the forest of Fontainbeau. And don’t forget Disneyland Resort Paris, for a fun day out which is sure to be a hit with the kids.
Throughout the Ile-de-France region you’ll find plenty of delicious regional specialities, from the eponymous baguette to French onion soup. In Paris you can find some of the best restaurants in the world, both for traditional French food and for Michelin-starred creations.
De gare à gare