You cannot speak of Île-de-France without mentioning Paris. The world capital of luxury, fashion and romance…You cannot miss a visit to this elite city, of course, but there are other sites that are worthy of your attention: the Saint-Ouen Flea Market in Seine-Saint-Denis, for one, and the Vexin Français Nature Preserve in Val-d’Oise for another.
Paris, France’s capital and brightest jewel
A holiday in Île-de-France that does not include Paris is not worthy of the name. The City of Lights has inspired countless artists and is itself a symbol of French charm, our country’s storied cuisine and our rich cultural heritage. Don’t miss Montmartre, built on a steep hill and crowned by Sacré-Cœur, a Roman- and Byzantine-style basilica completed in 1876. The small picturesque streets of this neighbourhood make you feel as though you are strolling through a village and the view of Paris that it offers will take your breath away. It is impossible to remain unmoved by a visit to the Eiffel Tower. This monument known the world over is the symbol of France. There you can also get a bird’s eye view of the city by taking one of the elevators to the top. The Notre-Dame cathedral needs no introduction. This majestic, lavish building was completed in 1340. Once inside, it is easy to imagine that you will catch a glimpse of Quasimodo hiding by the bells. Walk up the Champs-Elysées on your way to view the Arc de Triomphe and then climb aboard a bateau-mouche to float down the Seine…what could be more romantic? And when it comes to culture, the list goes on and on! There the Louvre, of course, the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, and the d’Orsay Museum, to name just a few! In the evening, the Pigalle neighbourhood and its cabarets, including the famous Moulin Rouge, will delight you. For this district, the party never ends! Paris has something for everyone.
Île-de-France, where history meets modernity
When you step outside the doors of your hotel in Île-de-France you are equally likely find yourself immersed in French history or face to face with the latest innovations. Its châteaus and their surrounding parks bring to mind the splendours of a different age – exemplified by the Saint-Cloud park in Hauts-de-Seine, designed by Le Notre and featuring 460 hectares of gardens that are a delight to walk through. In Seine-Saint-Denis you will find the imposing Basilica of Saint Denis; this burial place for the Kings of France is decorated with funeral effigies, each more magnificent than the last. Another site that is rich with historical significance is Vincennes and its celebrated château. Dating back to the 12th century, this château strikes an impressive figure with its medieval keep standing 50 metres high and its Gothic chapel.
As for modernity, one need look no further than the Hauts-de-Seine department, which is home to the European business district. La Défense in particular boasts a series of ultra-modern buildings with contemporary architectural lines and features. The district’s main attraction is the Grande Arche designed by Danish architect Otto Von Spreckelsen, a sculpture in the shape of an immense hollowed-out cube. Another cutting-edge modern building is the Stade de France! Inaugurated in 1998, the stadium can hold 80,000 people inside its curved walls.
Green tourism in Île-de-France
Yes indeed, you can enjoy nature while staying in Île-de-France! There are any number of places for walking and strolling through nature in this region of France. The Val-de-Marne rose garden in L’Haÿ-les-Roses is the ideal setting for charming walks among exceptional roses. A timeless place where you can let your imagination and your feet wander. Sénart forest, on the border between Essonne and Seine-et-Marne, contains nearly 3,000 hectares of oaks, birches, pines and chestnuts among which foxes, hares, wild boars and squirrels make their homes. You will feel perfectly at ease as you explore the forest on the walking and biking paths. As for the Gâtinais Français Regional Nature Preserve, there you will find forests and groves as well as valleys and meadows. The perfect place for a little R&R. Rambouillet forest in Yvelines and the Vexin Français Regional Nature Preserve in Val-d’Oise are also perfect sites for relaxing and getting back to nature.
Must-see sites in Île-de-France
Visiting Île-de-France involves savouring a certain way of life and enjoying the many artistic, cultural and historic sites. It would be a crime to miss out on some in particular, such as the Saint-Ouen Flea Market. Simply put, it is the world’s largest antiques market. Spanning seven hectares,the boutiques and stands make this place a Mecca for collectors looking for the deal of a lifetime! And we mustn’t forget about Disneyland Paris! For parents of young children a day or two at the park is a must. Disney princesses and characters welcome families in a fairytale atmosphere. If it’s nature you are after, look no further than the 28,000 hectares that make up the royal Fontainebleau forest. A site beloved by avid hikers, runners and mountain bikers alike. There are spots where you can go rock climbing in a spectacular natural setting. In terms of culture, there is nothing like a visit to the famous Fontainebleau palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This jewel of French art is incredibly well-preserved. The furnished rooms and the incredible gardens of the grounds will delight visitors of all ages. And lastly, the Château de Versailles, which needs no introduction. Its immense park designed by Le Notre in the 17th century, its Hall of Mirrors and its luxurious interior make it a dream destination.