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Fancy soaking up some beautiful sights and scenery of France without having to drive all the way south to the French Riviera? No problem.
Here’s a 4-day road trip in Northern France to take in your stride, allowing you a few days to unwind and enjoy a slower pace of life.
This short road trip in northern France explores the department of Oise (Hauts-de-France), located north of Paris, and it is a good combination of history, sightseeing, and relaxing walks. This round trip journey ideally takes 4 days but you can make it longer by adding day hikes or bike rides through the forest.
This 4-day road trip in Northern France is one of the most beautiful road trips near Paris. Click here for the best road trips in France.
Road Trip Northern France Overview
- Start: Paris
- Finish: Paris
- Duration: 4 days
- Suggested Route: Paris – Senlis – Chantilly – Compiègne
- Total distance: 275 km, 4 hours drive in total
- Regions covered: Hauts-de-France
- Best for: sightseeing, small towns, outdoors, food, and wine.
If you are short of time, you can do some of the activities of days 3 and 4 in only one day. In this case, we recommend visiting the Armistice Clearing + the Château de Pierrefonds or the city of Compiègne + the Château de Pierrefonds.
You can also extend this road trip in Northern France by adding a hiking day in the forest of Compiègne. The forest of Compiègne also has many bike itineraries, and some of them start from the city of Compiègne.
If you fly to Charles de Gaulle airport, you can pick up your rental car at the airport and start this road trip in Northern France from there, and finish it in Paris. Drop off the car in Paris and explore the French capital on foot or by public transportation.
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4 Day Road Trip Northern France Map
4 Day Road Trip in Northern France Itinerary
The starting point of this itinerary is Paris. If this is your first time in Paris, check out this article to decide how many days to stay in Paris. This Paris trip planner will help you to decide where to stay, and what to do.
Day 1 | Paris – Senlis – Ermenonville
Morning at Abbey of Royaumont
From Paris, drive to the Royal Abbey of Royaumont, located 40 km north of the French capital. This former Cistercian abbey set in a beautiful forested area was built in the 13th century with the support of King Louis IX (Saint Louis).
Royaumont was located not far from the royal castle of Asnières-sur-Oise, where the French king lived. Saint Louis often stayed in Royaumont, praying and sharing the monks’ everyday tasks without seeking to occupy a privileged position. The king served the monks at table, asked to wash their feet in the cloister according to a Benedictine habit and looked after sick monks.
The abbey was dissolved in 1791 during the French Revolution and the stones were partly used to build a factory. However, it is still an interesting place to visit both for its history and beautiful architecture. Things like the sacristy, cloister, and refectory remain intact.
Afternoon in Senlis
After visiting the abbey, drive to Senlis, in the heart of the Parc Naturel Régional Oise-Pays de France. Senlis is a picturesque town with remarkable architectural and cultural heritage.
Senlis was the cradle of the Capet dynasty. Indeed, Hugh Capet was lord of Senlis before becoming the first king of the House of Capet in 987. Since then, all his successors until King Henry IV lived or spent some periods in the Royal Palace of Senlis.
After lunch, stroll through the old town to admire its medieval layout, with picturesque cobbled streets and beautiful architecture dating from the 10th-18th centuries. In Senlis, don’t miss the following sites:
- Remains of the Royal Palace
- The Cathedral of Our Lady
- Gallo Roman remains (Roman fortresss and towers and a Roman arena from the 1st century)
Night at Château d’Ermenonville
Take the time to visit the château’s beautiful grounds and you can also go rowing on its moat. For dinner, book (in advance) a table at Le Relais de la Croix d’Or. This is an authentic place located at walking distance from the château, proposing good regional cuisine made of fresh and quality produce. Their dinner set menu, with 2-3 entries, mains, and desserts, is a very good deal.
Day 2 | Chantilly
The second day of this road trip in Northern France is dedicated to the Domain of Chantilly, which includes the Great Stables, the Château of Chantilly surrounded by beautiful gardens, and the forest.
Morning at the Great Stables
Start the day by visiting the impressive Great Stables of Chantilly. Built by the prince of Condé, a horse passionate, this awesome building is like a palace for the horses!
The Great Stables host today the (very interesting) Horse Museum and a prestigious dressage center for horses. Some of the world’s best (and most expensive) horses are training here in Chantilly.
The ticket to the Great Stables includes an equestrian show at 11.00 am under the great dome. This equestrian show is devoted to the art of Haute-Ecole horse training which has been contributing to Chantilly’s international renown for more than 30 years.
Lunch and Afternoon at Château de Chantilly
After visiting the Great Stables, walk to the Château de Chantilly, where you can also have lunch in the Capitanerie, the on-site restaurant. The Capitanerie serves a simple, refined menu using fresh produce under the vaults of the 17th-century kitchens, famous for the majestic dinners organized by François Vatel, steward of the Prince of Condé.
Then, visit the Château of Chantilly, famous for its collection of antique paintings, the second largest collection after the Louvre! The château has an impressive succession of lavishly furnished and ornately decorated suites and a wonderful library-reading room.
When you finish the visit inside, go for a stroll around the beautiful French-style gardens. These gardens were designed by André le Notre – the famous landscape designer author of the Versailles Gardens. Enjoy the gardens and the water features, perhaps with a coffee break (topped with chantilly cream!) in one of the park’s guinguette.
Spend the second night at Chateau d’Ermenonville.
Day 3 | Compiègne
Day 3 of this road trip in Northern France is dedicated to Compiègne, another interesting city in the Oise department. Compiègne is best known for the Imperial Château, its beautiful forest, and the Armistice Museum.
Morning Stroll in Compiègne
Visit Compiègne, which in the 18th century became a royal and imperial city when the castle was built. The city has a pretty old center with an interesting town hall and some medieval houses.
The city’s main sight is the Royal Castle, where King Louis XV, King Louis XVI, and the Emperors Napoleon I and Napoleon III spent time in succession, transforming the castle into a bastion of power.
Explore its lavishly decorated rooms and halls and visit its surrounding gardens. Then, have lunch in Compiègne, before heading to the forest. You can improvise a picnic in the park (the entrance, located on the right of the palace, is free), with views over the palace.
Afternoon at Musée de l’Armistice
After lunch drive to the Forest of Compiègne to visit the Armistice Museum. This small museum was built in the Armistice Clearing, a historic location world-renowned for having hosted two important events that forever changed world history.
Here, you will be able to visit a replica of the emblematic carriage of the 1918 and 1940 Armistices and learn more about this interesting chapter of our history from the 1919 Treaty of Versailles to the final fate of the Armistice Carriage at the end of WWII.
We found this museum very interesting. There were no war victims in this area of the forest so unlike other war sites like the D-Day landing beaches this is not a sad place to visit.
After the visit, enjoy a stroll through the forest. We had our bicycles with us so it was easy to go to Avenue des Beaux Monts for the best viewpoint of the forest. At the end of the perspective, there’s the Imperial Château of Compiègne.
Dinner and Night at Compiègne
Drive back to Compiègne to spend one night. La Parenthèse du Rond Royal, is an excellent option, with free public parking on-site and offering free bikes for exploring the area. It also has a beautiful private courtyard perfect for a last drink under the stars.
For dinner, we recommend the restaurant Les Accordailles (24 rue d’Ulm), near the château. They propose a good cuisine with delicious and original dishes.
Day 4 | Pierrefonds – Paris
For the last day of this road trip near Paris, drive to the charming town of Pierrefonds, dominated by a fairytale castle. Pierrefonds is a 14-minute drive from the Château de Compiègne.
The first construction was built in the 14th century but the current château dates back to the 19th century when the emperor Napoleon III decided to rebuild it and use it as an imperial residence. To do so, he hired the architect Viollet-le-Duc who restored the château in ruins and added a bit of his fantasy.
Visit the château and enjoy a stroll around the town before driving back to Paris.
So, what are you waiting for? Book your road trip in Northern France today!