Chantilly, southeast of Amiens and half-an-hour by train from central Paris, has several claims to fame, but is perhaps best known as France's horseracing capital. Thoroughbreds gallop across the Hippodrome de Chantilly course on race days, the very best taking part in the Prix de Jockey Club - the French Derby - in June, and other top races held at the race course. Many of the horses are trained in the nearby area and the sound of pounding hooves is a familiar one along the forested rides around Chantilly.
The Chantilly estate has long been associated with racing and a horse museum in the old château stables is an interesting addition to a tour of the main Château de Chantilly. This incredibly lavish manor house, crammed with stately apartments and priceless antiques, was the home of the princes of Condé - cousins of the French kings and a highly influential line of French nobles.
There are two main buildings, the Grand Château and Petit Château. Both are set amid landscaped gardens beset with pavilions, pool and pathways laid out by André Le Notre, Louis XIV's gardener. Also here is the Musée Condé, one of France's finest art galleries, full of extraordinary treasures by artists including Raphael, Ingres, Delacroix and Botticelli.