Ile-de-France is the wealthiest and most populated of the original 26 regions of France, composed mostly of the Paris metropolitan area, and with 1281 cities and a population in excess of 12 millions.
The Region is surprising: it is attractive thanks to its diverse landscape, its inhabitants. its history, its economic advantages, and a rich heritage and cultural abundance.
Everyone is drawn to the magnificent cathedrals, beautifully preserved medieval abbeys and splendid châteaux of the region, with its architecture unsurpassed anywhere in France.
What is Ile-de-France like?
The climate in the Île-de-France is quite similar to that of England, but it has warmer summers and milder winters.
It offers peaceful valleys, forests and wildlife. On route for Versailles, you enter the prettiest countryside in Ile-de-France: the Vallée de Chevreuse.
Picturesque villages abound, Châteaufort with its 12th-century fortress; Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuse; Saint-Lambert, Dampierre, the site of a 16th century château, and Les Vaux de Cernay, one of the loveliest valleys in France.
On the way from Fontainebleau, just on the edge of the forest, lies Barbizon, made famous as an artists’ colony in the 19th century by Honoré Daumier, Constant, Musset, and the writer George Sand.
You can also visit Rousseau’s house on Grande-Rue, just behind the Monument aux Morts. Ile-de-France is the combination of culture, history, and nature.
What are the departments in Ile-de-France?
Île-de-France is composed of 8 departments (Paris, Seine-et-Marne, Yvelines, Essonne, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne and Val-d’Oise) centered around its innermost department and capital, Paris.
Around the department of Paris, urbanisation fills a first concentric ring of three departments commonly known as the Petite Couronne (“small ring”), and extends into a second outer ring of four departments known as the Grande Couronne (“large ring”).
The river Seine runs through the Île-de-France. The Seine has many tributaries which include the rivers Oise and Aube. The river Seine has its mouth in the English channel and has its source in the ‘Massif Central’. It is France’s second largest river after the Loire.
The Île-de-France is also in an area of lowland which is called the Paris basin. South of the Île-de-France is the ‘Massif-Central’ which is an area of highlands that are higher than normal land but far lower than the Alps.
Rambouillet – the playground of kings
The town of Rambouillet lies on the edge of the vast Forest of Rambouillet in the Ile-de-France, and is famous for its historical French castle, the Château de Rambouillet.
Its proximity to Paris and Versailles, has meant that Rambouillet has long been an occasional seat of government.
Rambouillet, just 50km/31miles from Paris, is little more than 200 years old. The traditional centre has retained the shape of the street village built along the Orléans Road, which became the Chartres Road in the 18th century.
In 1783, Louis XVI purchased the Rambouillet estate and had large-scale work undertaken to modernise what was then a small market town.
Today, in its urban shape, the town is a reminder of the simple Ancien Régime, the political and social system of France prior to the French Revolution, under which everyone was a subject of the king of France as well as a member of an estate and province.
The story of Rambouillet, the château, sited amid a forest of oaks, birches, moorland, heath and lakes, has for long been inextricably linked with the history of the kings of France.
A former medieval fortress, it enjoyed its Golden Age during the reign of Louis XVI, who bought it as a private residence.
But Rambouillet is also 13,000 hectares of state owned forest, a national hunting park, a multitude of paths and trails to explore on foot, by bicycle or on horseback, stretches of water with water-based pursuits.
Since 1896, the château and its 250 hectares of grounds, have served as a presidential residence.