Ile-de-France, also known as the Island of France and the région parisienne (Paris Region), is a tiny region in France that surrounds Paris. A popular destination for tourists, the area includes not only the capital city, but several other large, charming towns, including Versailles, Boulogne-Billancourt, Eragny and Fontainebleau. But Ile-de-France is known for more than just urban sprawl: the region is also home to several forests, parks and river lands.
What to See and Do in Ile-de-France
Comprised of 8 districts, Ile-de-France is divided as follows:
- Petite Couronne (the smaller, inner ring), which includes the Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne and Hauts-de-Seine departments.
- Grand Couronne (the larger, outer ring), which includes the Val-d’Oise, Seine-et-Marne, Essonne departments.
Tourists flock to the cities in the Grand Couronne, which include Fontainebleau, Versailles, Meaux and Provins. Disneyland Paris is nearby, which is the primary destination for most UK travelers.
Ile-de-France offers something for every traveler, whether you prefer the hustle and bustle of the city, or the tranquility of the forest. Highlights for travelers headed to the region include:
The leading tourist destination in the region (and France), Paris is known as the Capital of Fashion and is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in the world, including the:
- Eiffel Tower
- Notre-Dame de Paris
- Arc de Triomphe
- Moulin Rouge
- Basilique du Sacre Coeur
Paris is home to a charming hotel in Ile-de-France and the best restaurants in the region.
The Basilique du Sacre Coeur in Paris
Receiving more than 14 million tourists each year, Paris should be at the top of your must-see list during your visit to Ile-de-France.
The Palace of Versailles
Home of Louis XIV and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region, the Palace of Versailles is truly a sight to behold. When Louis XIV made the decision to expand his father’s hunting lodge, he had one goal in mind: to create the grandest palace in the world, and transform the nearby wilderness into exquisite gardens with fountains and structures.
Versailles is open daily from 9AM-6:30PM, but crowds gather early, so plan properly.
In contrast to Versailles, the chateau at Fontainebleau is tranquil and less crowded. Set among a forest of pine and oak trees, the palace sits near the Seine river and is often referred to as the prototype for Versailles.
The chateau is open to visitors daily except for Tuesday from 9:30AM-6PM.
The beauty of the Oise Valley inspired some of the most famous French Impressionists, including Camille Pissaro and Paul Cezanne. The town of Auvers-sur-Oise was also where Vincent van Gogh took his life over 120 years ago. The town’s tourist office offers a detailed map that allows you to follow in the painter’s footsteps and visit his last residence, the Auberge Ravoux.
Visit the Château d’Auvers while you’re there, and spend the night at some of the most romantic hotels in France.
Before you leave the Ile-de-France region, be sure to visit Troyes, lovingly known as the champagne hub, and Provins, a medieval fortified town. For families, the Disneyland Resort Paris is sure to delight the kids and offers plenty of family-friendly activities.