Historic mansions of Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Saint-Germain-en-Laye is one of the most interesting historic towns of the Paris area. It has retained its former urban fabric inherited from the middle ages, with its pre-17th century winding streets and cul-de-sacs.

Information on the tour

2 km circuit. Level of difficulty: beginner

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes

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Tour

Route

Starting point – Courtyard of the house where Claude Debussy was born
38 Rue au Pain

In the courtyard, observe the beautiful stairway and wooden banisters, the only one remaining in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. It dates from the late 17th century. Take the steps up to the first floor. This is the Claude Debussy museum. The composer was born here on 22 August 1862. His parents lived in a modest ground-floor flat and ran an earthenware and porcelain shop. The upper floors were occupied by other families.

 

Stage 1 – Rue de la Salle

Thus named since 1640 in honour of the captains who governed the town, but also because it housed a hall (“salle”) where the residents would meet.
– at no. 16: This is the oldest house in the town. Half-timbered, it is typical of the late Middle Ages. The façade has been restored.
– at no. 18: – Hôtel des Maréchaux de Villeroy. Owned by Nicolas de Neuville, governor under Louis XIV, and later by his son François, who was also a governor but under Louis XV.

 

Stage 2 – Rue du Vieil Abreuvoir

At the street entrance there was a large watering pond but it was demolished in the 18th century to make way for the “coche”, the public vehicle that was the ancestor of the “diligence” stagecoach.
– at no. 24: Hôtel “de la Feuillade”. This mansion belonged to the Duc de la Feuillade. He was a great admirer of King Louis XIV, and erected a statue in his honour at Place des Victoires in Paris.
– at no. 23: Hôtel de la Marquise de Maintenon. Mistress and, later, the second wife of Louis XIV, she purchased this mansion in 1680. The impressive wrought iron balcony dates back to 1880.
– at no. 22: Hôtel de Montausier. Mansion owned by the Duc de Montausier, governor to Louis XIV’s eldest son. The future Maréchal Lyautey also lived here, from 1887 to 1891. He was just a Captain at the time.

 

Stage 3 – Rue des Coches

So named since 1700 because it was the departure point of the public “coche” stagecoaches travelling to neighbouring towns, including Paris and Versailles.
– at no. 17: Hôtel de Guise: this private mansion was owned by Henri II de Lorraine, Duc de Guise and grandson of the “Balafré” (“slashed face”). Albert Alain, the famous organist from Saint-Germain-en-Laye, was also born here.

Stage 4 – Rue des Vieilles Boucheries

The street was named after the meat market that was here in the Middle Ages. The street was closed by a gate at night to dissuade thieves.

 

Stage 5 – Cour Larcher

Access to the courtyard is from Rue de Paris between nos. 40 and 42.
It is named after Regnault Larcher, who was an archer for King Philippe Auguste who founded a “Maison Dieu” here. This little hospital sheltered the poor of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, as well as pilgrims and travellers.

 

Stage 6 – Allée des Récollets

A narrow passageway on the site of the ancient Recollects convent. The Recollects were part of the Franciscan order and were initially protected by Henri II and Catherine de Medicis

 

Stage 7 – Rue Voltaire

Named in honour of the philosopher of light who spent two months at Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1729.
– at nos. 2 to 6: Hôtel de Fieubet. Gaspard de Fieubet, advisor to King Louis XIV, acquired and embellished this mansion. It was reworked in the 19th century, unlike the one next to it (at no. 8) which has remained in its 18th century state.

 

Stage 8 – Rue / Place Saint-Pierre

– at no. 19: Hôtel de Folard, an 18th-century knight, soldier and military strategist. To the right of the door, a height marker decorated with the crown and royal cradle, indicates our altitude: 65.838 metres above the River Seine.
At Place Saint-Pierre, the Colbert fountain originally faced the Château. It was restored, moved here and inaugurated in 1989.

 

Stage 9 – Rue du Gast

It has borne this name since 1700 in reference to a family of public figures, one of whom was a notary under Henri IV, another was a “garde manteau”, or forestry officer, under Louis XIV.
– at no. 6, the façade features a little niche which shelters a statue of Saint Christopher. Opposite, through the wrought iron railings you can see the gardens of the Hôtel de Créquy, to which the entrance is located on Rue de Paris between nos. 10 and 12.

 

Stage 10 – Rue du Vieux Marché

The markets took place in this street from the moment they were initiated by François Premier in 1526. At the end of the 18th century, it was decided to move them to what is now Place du Marché Neuf, between Rue de Pologne and Rue de Poissy.

 

Stage 11 – Rue des Louviers

There are several theories as to where the term “louviers” comes from. It may be a deformation of the word “louvetier” meaning the officer serving as the Royal Wolfcatcher. Or, it may be a reference to the sheet merchants who came from the town of Louviers in Normandy.
– at no. 15: The Institut Saint-Thomas-de-Villeneuve, the town’s oldest school, is still in use.
– In the recess at no. 34, a niche shelters a statue of Saint Peter.

 

Stage 12 – Rue des Ecuyers

So-named since 1618, probably in reference to the numerous knights who lived in Saint-Germain-en-Laye along with their horsemen (“écuyers”). Opposite the school, you can see the coat of arms of Saint-Germain-en-Laye: a crib on a blue and gold background, with a fleur-de-lys. The inscription “5 septembre 1638” recalls the birth date of Louis XIV, who was born in our town.

 

Stage 13 – Rue de la République

– at no. 11: The chapel of the Institut Saint-Thomas-de-Villeneuve mentioned above (cf. Stage 12) features a peristyle built in 1788, with 4 Ionic columns.
– nos. 24 and 26: Hôtel particulier of Henri d’Orléans, Duke of Longueville, whose second wife, Anne-Geneviève de Bourbon, sister of the Great Condé and the Prince of Conti, was renowned for her great beauty in the 17th century. The mansion was entirely reworked in the 19th century.
– at no. 27: An 18th-century building that has remained intact since its construction. The small balconies are Louis XV.

 

Stage 14 – Rue de Pontoise

– at no. 16: Hôtel de Ville de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, established here in 1842 in the former Hôtel de la Rochefoucauld which dates from the 18th century.

 

Stage 15 – Rue d’Alsace

– at no. 11: Hôtel de Noailles. The sumptuous mansion of the three Dukes of Noailles, who were town governors until the French Revolution, was built by Jules Hardouin-Mansart. Mozart stayed here in 1778.

 

Stage 16 – Rue Roger de Nézot

Named after Roger de Nézot, who was a town councillor of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in the days of the Prussian occupation (1870-71).
– at no. 9: Hôtel de Bontemps, who was Louis XIV’s first valet de chambre and confidant.

 

Stage 17 – Place Charles de Gaulle

You are standing opposite:
• The Château-Vieux, which now houses the National Archaeology Museum.
• The gardens of the National Domain.
• Saint-Germain Church and its peristyle with 6 Ionic columns. Definitely worth a visit!

 

Not to be missed: