Great men & anecdotes

Discover Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a town of kings!

From Philippe-August to Louis XIV, Saint-Germain-en-Laye has been the second residence of many kings of France, as well as some well-known writers, musicians and artists.

It was Louis VI, known as “le Gros” (the fat) who decided in 1124 to have the château built at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. At the time, the purpose of the château was not to provide a holiday home, but to protect the region. After gaining the status of “residence” under Louis VII, the château housed almost every king of France up until 1682, when Louis XIV definitively left Saint-Germain and went to Versailles.

The most famous residents of the Château-Vieux (old château) were Louis IX, aka Saint-Louis, who built the chapel, François Premier who added the site’s Renaissance touch, Henri II, who initiated the building of the Château-Neuf (new château) below the old one, Henri IV, who stayed there on a regular basis, and Louis XIII, who died there.

There are also a number of hôtels particuliers dating from that period. Among them, the private mansion of the Marquise de Maintenon on Rue du Vieil-Abreuvoir is probably one of the most typical.

Saint-Germain, a town of artists…

But although the town and its châteaux have intimate connections with royalty, many other historic characters of France have also left their mark here.

Among them, three artists have left a significant impact, and you can get to know them at the museums which pay tribute to them and also bear their names:

Claude Debussy, whose birthplace at 38 Rue au Pain houses a display of his personal belongings, musical scores and iconographic documents.

The memory of Nabis leader Maurice Denis is honoured at the museum which was once his home and workshop.

The works of Paul and André Vera, who were theoreticians on garden design and influential players in the Art Deco movement, are represented in a permanent exhibition on Rue Henri IV.

The list of famous guests is endless, including Molière, Mozart, Jean-Baptiste Lulli, François Couperin, Jacques Offenbach, Félicien David, Benjamin Franklin, the poet Gérard de Nerval, the first Nobel prize winner, Frédéric Passy, Rouget de Lisle who wrote La Marseillaise, the famous chef, Guillaume Taillevent, and the filmmaker, Jacques Tati.