Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
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Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
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 Northern France road trip to take in your stride, allowing you a few days to unwind and enjoy a slower pace of life. Touring Northern France by car is easy, and there are many beautiful places to visit North of Paris.
This short Northern France itinerary by car explores the department of Oise (Hauts-de-France), located north of Paris, and it is a good combination of history, sightseeing, and relaxing walks. Ideally, this round-trip journey from Paris takes four days, but you can make it longer by adding day hikes or bike rides through the forest.
This Northern France itinerary by car is one of the best road trips in France. Read more about road-tripping in France:
Road Trip Northern France Overview
- Start: Paris
- Finish: Paris
- Duration: 4 days
- Suggested Route: Paris – Senlis – Chantilly – Compiègne
- Total distance: 240 km, 3 hrs 40 min drive in total
- Regions covered: Hauts-de-France
- Best for: sightseeing, small towns, outdoors, food, and wine.
Road Trip North France Map
4-Day Northern France Road Trip Itinerary
The starting point of this Northern France road trip itinerary is Paris, where you can decide to spend a few days before or after the road trip. 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.
For this road trip from Paris, you don’t need the car until you leave the French capital. If you need to hire a car, wait until then to pick up your rental car in Paris. Click here for our best tips for renting a car in France.
If you fly to Charles de Gaulle airport, you can pick up your rental car at the airport and start this North France road trip from there, and finish it in Paris. When you finish, drop the car off in Paris and explore the French capital on foot or by public transportation.
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 occupying a privileged position. The king served the monks at the table, asked to wash their feet in the cloister according to a Benedictine tradition, and looked after sick monks.
The abbey closed in 1791 during the French Revolution, and some of the stones from the building were used to build a part of a local factory. However, it is still an interesting place to visit both for its history and beautiful architecture. Structures such as 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 architecture and an interesting 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 of 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, 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 fortresses and towers and a Roman arena from the 1st century AD)
Night at Château d’Ermenonville
Senlis has a few accommodation options to spend the next two nights. However, for a unique stay, we recommend Château d’Ermenonville, an 18th-century castle open today as a hotel. Take the time to visit the château’s beautiful grounds, and you can also go rowing on its moat.
Day 2 | Chantilly
The second day of this road trip Northern France is dedicated to visiting the Domain of Chantilly, which includes the Great Stables, the Château of Chantilly, its surrounding 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 lover, this remarkable building is like a palace for horses!
Today, the Great Stables host the (fascinating) Horse Museum and a prestigious international dressage center. Some of the world’s best (and most expensive) horses are trained 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-École 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 (a short 10 min walk), where you can also have lunch in the Capitanerie, the on-site restaurant. The Capitanerie serves a simple, refined menu prepared under the vaults of the 17th-century kitchens, which were famous for the exquisite 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 in France 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 visiting the interior, go for a stroll around the beautiful French-style gardens. These gardens were designed by André le Notre – the famous landscape gardener who designed 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 guinguettes (open-air cafés).
Spend the second night at Château d’Ermenonville.
Day 3 | Compiègne
Day 3 of this North of France road trip visits Compiègne, where you will spend one night. Compiègne is another interesting city in the Oise department, best known for the Imperial Château, its beautiful forest, and the Armistice Museum.
For your night in Compiègne, La Parenthèse du Rond Royal is an excellent option, with free public parking on-site and free bikes for exploring the area. It also has a beautiful private courtyard perfect for a nightcap under the stars.
Morning Stroll in Compiègne
Visit Compiègne, which in the 18th century became a royal and imperial city when the Palace was built. The city has a beautiful old center with an interesting town hall and several medieval houses.
Compiègne’s main sight is the Royal Palace, where King Louis XV, King Louis XVI, and the Emperors Napoleon I and Napoleon III all spent time successively transforming the castle into a bastion of power.
Explore the Palace’s lavishly decorated rooms and halls and visit its surrounding gardens. Then, have lunch in Compiègne before heading to the forest.
Why not pick up provisions in the town and have a picnic in the park (the entrance, located on the Palace’s right, is free), with views over the castle.
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, the historic location that marked the end of the First World War.
Here, you will be able to visit a replica of the 1918 and 1940 Armistices’ emblematic carriage and learn more about this interesting chapter of our history from the 1919 Treaty of Versailles (First World War) to the final fate of the Armistice Carriage at the end of Second World War.
We found this museum very interesting. There were no war victims in this forest area, so unlike other war sites like the D-Day landing beaches, this is not a sad place to visit.
After your visit to the museum, 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 Imperial Château of Compiègne.
Drive back to Compiègne to spend the night.
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 Compiègne.
The first castle was built in the 14th century. 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 from ruins and added a bit of his fantasy.
TIP: This combo ticket visits Château de Pierrefonds + Château de Chantilly (both included in this North of France itinerary) and saves you time & money
Visit the château and enjoy a stroll around the town before driving back to Paris.
So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your Northern France road trip today!