Pierrefonds: The hidden gem of Oise
Conveniently located just a 45-minute drive from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport – northeast of Paris and on the southeast edge of the Forest of Compiègne – the quaint commune of Pierrefonds is undoubtedly the hidden gem of the Oise department of France, bristling with tradition and rural charm, and home to the staggering Château de Pierrefonds.
What is perhaps most impressive about Pierrefonds is that, despite being home to such a widely visited tourist attraction as the Château, the commune itself still feels largely untouristy. Strolling through the quiet, cobbled streets, and passing by the traditional architecture and selection of family-run boulangeries, charcuteries, chocolatiers, cafes, restaurants and antique shops on offer – with the faint sound of church bells ringing close by – you can’t help but admire the history, the tradition and the untouched charm Pierrefonds exudes in abundance.
Château de Pierrefonds
One of the most impressive and imposing castles to be found anywhere in the country, the extraordinary Château de Pierrefonds sits proudly at the outer edge of the village, rising majestically through a mass of thick foliage, and overlooking the surrounding countryside and village below.
Built on the site of a former 12th century castle by Louis I de Valois, Duke of Orléans (brother of King Charles VI) in the late 14th century – in the heart of the devastating Hundred Years War – the castle was notably besieged by the troops of Cardinal Richelieu in March 1617 (during the difficult early days of the reign of Louis XIII) who were ultimately forced to halt its subsequent demolition due to the enormity of the task. The castle then remained in ruins for over two hundred years.
In 1857, Emperor Napoleon III commissioned architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc – known for his medieval restoration projects on the likes of Notre Dame Cathedral and Mont Saint-Michel – to rebuild it as an Imperial residence, using architectural designs and military knowledge that would have existed in the Middle Ages. Viollet-le-Duc’s designs are not so much based on the strict, authentic history of the building itself, but instead his own imagining of how the castle ought to have looked; what an extraordinary job he did.
Since 1862, the Château de Pierrefonds has been a monument historique, and is now managed by the Centre des monuments nationaux which opens the castle to the public and programs activities and exhibitions within it.
Château de Pierrefonds, Rue Viollet-le-Duc, 60350 Pierrefonds
Ph. : 33 / (0)3 44 42 72 72
For more information on the Château, and to book tickets, please Click Here.
Over the decades the Château de Pierrefonds has been used as a filming location for numerous film and television projects including: Les Visiteurs, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, and The Man in the Iron Mask.
However, for one set of fans, the Château will only ever be known for one thing, as between the years of 2008 and 2012 the Château served as the setting for the mythical Camelot in the hugely successful BBC series, Merlin.
Though understandable for health and safety reasons, it is a real shame that large parts of the castle still remain closed off to the public as there is still so much to be explored.
That said however, Merlin fans visiting the castle will not be disappointed by what is on offer, or by how many of the original in-tact features have been incorporated into the production.
Where To Stay
There are a number of B&B and guest house options available in and around Pierrefonds, however if it is a hotel you are after – and one that offers great customer service and serves up excellent food in its own restaurant – then the 3-star Logis Hôtel Beaudon is definitely the pick of the bunch.
Offering unparalleled views over the lake and the Château from its front, castle-view rooms (see header image at top, taken from hotel window), Hôtel Beaudon boasts a relaxed, friendly atmosphere and features 21 recently-renovated rooms, all offering excellent natural light and simple, elegant decor.
A traditional continental breakfast is not included in the price of the rooms, but is available at an additional 9.00€ per person.
There are a few parking spaces on the road outside the hotel, however there is a large free public car by the lake just a short 30-second walk from the hotel.
The hotel offers free high-speed wireless internet throughout.
N.B. Very few of the staff speak any English, and many speak none at all, so brush up on your French before you go! That goes for Pierrefonds in general.
For more information on Logis Hôtel Beaudon, and to book your stay, please Click Here.
Due to the absence of any sort of train or metro line close by, there is no ‘easy’ way to get to Pierrefonds if you do not have your own mode of transport, so hiring a vehicle is certainly the best way to go.
Located within the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (Roissy Airport) complex, Avis offer a wide range of vehicles at decent price ranges. However make sure to book direct through Avis or via the app to avoid being stung by excess agent or comparison site fees, and qualify for all the direct Avis benefits. ‘Manage rentals easier than ever with the Avis App – www.avis.co.uk/app.
If staying in central Paris, Pierrefonds is certainly an option for day trips, but the best way to get there would be via train from Paris to Gare de Compiègne (approx 1 hour), then via bus or taxi from Compiègne (approx. 20 minutes).
There are numerous regular flights daily from the UK and Air France offers flights to Paris from eight departure points across the UK (Aberdeen, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Exeter, London Heathrow, Manchester, Newcastle and Southampton) via its award-winning hub at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. Flight times from the UK range from 1 hour and 10 minutes to 2 hours, depending on departure point.
Air France fare price from UK: Fares from the UK start from £69 economy return including taxes and charges, plus, Air France customers get to travel in true Parisian style with a complimentary coffee and croissant – what better way to go!
For more information on reservations and flight times, please call the reservations line on 0207 660 0337 or visit airfrance.co.uk.