A day trip combining history and nature in Dourdan
Lace up your hiking boots and tighten your backpack for a day out in Dourdan: a green getaway, rich in history, just a few kilometres outside of Paris. No need for a car to get there: a train from the Gare d'Austerlitz is the easiest way to reach the capital of the old province of Hurepoix.
Dourdan's massive wooded terrain – an ancient royal forest thick with oak trees and deer – isn't the town's only treasure. In its centre towers an imposing fortified castle built by Philippe Auguste in 1222. It's one of the region's only fortresses that has perfectly preserved defence towers and a small entrance castle. A dreamy place that plunges both young and old back to the times of the knights.
The morning of your trip, head to the Gare d'Austerlitz, where, in less than two hours, the RER C will transport you to the Gare de Dourdan station. Once safely arrived, set off for a walk through the town's winding streets up to the castle. An easily visible guide — the castle's impressive 40-metre-high circular keep — will show you the way.
Crossing its superb entrance will immediately take you back to the Middle Ages. Make your way across the vast, tree-filled court, surrounded by the royal lodges and the chapel, and head for the keep. Here, prepare to climb its three levels, with their remarkable Ogival arches, until you reach the terrace. At the top, with your head in the clouds, you can admire sweeping views of the town, as well as the Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois church and its surrounding woods.
History in the attic
Your journey through time continues in the castle museum, set in a former salt attic, which the historian and archaeologist Joseph Guy transformed into a family residence in 1863. Owned by the town since 1961, the building — a perfect example of 19th-century decorative arts — now showcases the town's history.
In this exceptional setting, you can discover characteristic 19th-century objects, copies of armour and gothic chairs, an 18th-century living room, as well as a remarkable "Virgin and Child" by the celebrated Flemish painter Pieter Coecke van Aelst. Alongside its rich collection, the space also holds two temporary exhibitions every year, linked to Dourdan's history.
The call of the forest
After your morning's explorations, head for the Brasserie Blanche de Castille, where you can enjoy a gourmet lunch on the outdoor terrace on fine days, or by the fireside in winter.
Next, it's time to make for the Tourist Office to obtain your map for the "Circuit of the Abbaye de l'Ouÿe" walking tour: your key for discovering the Royal Forest of Dourdan. This nine-kilometre nature walk will provide an afternoon of discovery and relaxation.
Feel your senses come to life as you walk among the oak trees, chestnuts and ferns in this exceptional forest paradise. If you look carefully, you might even spy deers and roebucks. The walk leads to Ouÿe Abbey, founded in 1163 by Louis VII. The abbey was built by the king to give thanks after he got lost in the forest, but was saved after hearing his companions' calls. After this action-packed day, regular trains from the Gare de Dourdan will soon whisk you back to Paris.