France Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan & Jane Fisher   St-Germain-en-Laye, France
A beautiful château near Paris houses the National Archaeology Museum.





Saint-Germain-en-Laye is a small town to the west of Paris, easily reachable by the RER A train.

The town was founded in the 11th century, and its château was the birth place of King Louis XIV in 1638. Over its history, Saint-Germain-en-Laye has been home or host to various kings and royalty. The original chateau was built in 1348 by King Charles V, and King François I had the later château built. King James VI of Scotland/II of England, "Loyal partner in the Franco-Scottish Auld Alliance," lived and died in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and his memorial in the church was erected by Queen Victoria.

So why does one want to visit Saint-Germain-en-Laye in the 21st century?

The château now houses the National Museum of Archaeology, a wonderful collection of artifacts that trace the long history and prehistory of France. More...

And the château itself is a striking building. Seeing it from different angles allows you to appreciate its size and design. The grounds (Le Domaine National—Parc du château) are lovely, with a terrace designed by André Le Nôtre and views to Paris and La Défense.

Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France
The Château of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Once home to royalty, now home to the Musée d'Archeologie National.

Just across from the château is the Église Saint-Germain. There has been a church in this location since the 11th century, although this building dates from 1827. It houses the mausoleum of King James II Stuart, of England, who was exiled in France.

The area around the church and château features many small, winding streets, which are fun to explore. If you follow rue de la salle (a pedestrian street almost 500 years old) you'll get a feel for the place. Turn left on rue au Pain and you'll soon find yourself at a dual purpose building: The Office de Tourisme and the Musée Claude Debussy.

Yes, Debussy was also born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, in 1862. The upper floors of the tourist office house a small museum, with paintings, sculptures, and other memorabilia of the composer. A statue was erected in Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1998 honoring Debussy.

Debussy, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France
Statue of Claude Debussy in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, his birthplace.

Further down rue au Pain is the Musée Départemental Maurice Denis, a painter who was active in the Nabi movement.

Keep strolling through the center of town and you'll come across the marketplace; the first market was started by François I in 1528. You'll also see the Hôtel de Ville (town hall), the former Hôtel de la Rochefoucauld, restored in the 19th century.

On the back streets and in the square in front of the château are several restaurants where you can have lunch or a snack.

If you're looking to get away from the touristy areas of Paris and still have interesting things to see and do, Saint-Germain-en-Laye makes a great day trip from Paris.

Archaeology Museum


Tourist Information

Excursions from Paris

Paris Museums

Paris Hotels

Paris Transportation

What to See & Do in Paris


Paris Girls Secret Society, a novel by Tom Brosnahan


Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France

Above, Bronze armor dating from the 9th and 8th centuries before our era. These were discovered in the 1970s-80s.

Below, House where Debussy was born. The ground floor houses the Tourist Office, and the upper floors are a small museum to Debussy.



Debussy home, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France


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