A Fairytale Town Close to Paris…for Less

The small, pretty town of Chantilly is less than 30 minutes from Paris by train, but when you arrive at the station and take a lungful of fresh air, the big city couldn’t feel farther away.

Chantilly (pronounced shahn-tee-yee) lies in the Oise department of France, 24 miles north-northeast of Paris. It is both the name of a town of 11,000 people, and of a larger commune that comprises several other towns and villages, bringing the total population to 36,000.

Despite its relatively small size, Chantilly is known for several things: Tourists come to visit the fairytale-like Château de Chantilly, which houses the largest collection of historical paintings in France outside the Louvre.

It also has dazzling parks and gardens on a par with those of Versailles. The town is also considered the birthplace of the luscious crème de Chantilly—or whipped cream, as we call it—and you’ll find it on every dessert menu. Then there’s the prestigious Chantilly racecourse, which you may remember seeing in the James Bond film A View to a Kill.

U.S. expat Cassie Ouaked, who lives here, uses the word “idyllic” to describe Chantilly, and it’s easy to see why. Just a block or two from the train station, I found myself walking along a long, lovely, shaded path of overlapping trees, yellow-brown autumn leaves swirling at my feet. The path eventually led to Chantilly’s main street, a pleasantly rambling block crowded with shops, services, boutiques, cafés, and restaurants.

For expats, Chantilly is idyllic in more ways than one. Not only is it beautiful and close to Paris, but it also has a large international community. British horse-lovers have been setting up residence in Chantilly for over a century, attracted by the racecourse and equestrian training center.

Today, there are so many English-speaking expats that there’s even a cricket team, Boy Scouts den, and an American football team for youth. Newcomers can get to know others in the area by joining the “Home and Away Dining Society,” an informal group that organizes nights out both in the Chantilly area and in Paris.

Housing prices here are lower than in Paris. A renovated two-bedroom apartment of 645 square feet, within walking distance to the train station, costs around $296,000. Rent for renovated two-bedroom apartments starts at $1,200 per month.

For more options and better prices, Cassie recommends looking at some of the attractive villages just a few minutes from Chantilly, such as Gouvieux, Lamorlaye, and Saint-Leu d’Esserent. You can buy a pretty, three-bedroom house for $257,000 in Saint-Leu d’Esserent. And the $350,000 that would buy you a 230-square-foot studio in Paris? It’ll get you a sprawling, three-bedroom villa with a large enclosed garden in Gouvieux.

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