Saint-Germain-en-Laye is a city of about 45,000 inhabitants in the Ile-de-France.
Saint-Germain-en-Laye is in the Yvelines department, about 19 km west of Paris. Tracing its origins to an abbey dedicated to Saint Germain, the city's claim to fame today is its château, which was a favorite residence of the French monarchy throughout the Renaissance. Like the more famous Versailles one of the treaties between the victors of World War I and a defeated power was signed here, in this case the treaty with Austria. This might earn you historical trivia points because despite Austria losing more territory than Germany, the treaty of Saint Germain is today rarely talked about outside history-nerd circles. Today, it's a wealthy suburb of Paris, known throughout the region for being a pretty city with a lot of activities.
Saint-Germain-en-Laye can be reached from Paris on the RER A, direction Saint-Germain-en-Laye. It takes about 18 minutes from La Défense and about 30 from Châtelet.
Saint-Germain-en-Laye's city centre is generally walkable, but if necessary there's a bus station next to the RER station.
- 1 Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The city's most famous monument. Originally a medieval castle (of which the Gothic styled castle chapel built by St. Louis still remains, along with the keep redecorated in Renaissance style), the château was rebuilt in early Renaissance style by François I and completed shortly after his death. The château, also known as the was part a royal residence complex, along with the nearby "Château Neuf" (which is no longer standing). Two French kings, Henri II and Louis XIV, were born here. The château fell out of favour after Louis XIV moved the court permanently to Versailles in 1682. It then became the home of the exiled King of England James II, who died in the château in 1701. After having been used as a military school and prison, Napoleon III gave a new life to the palace when he made it the home of what is now known as the Musée d'Archéologie nationale. This archeology museum houses artefacts dating from Prehistory up to the early Middle Ages, including those from the Gallo-Roman period.
- 2 Eglise Saint-Germain. built in the 1820s in Neoclassical style, there were several churches on this site previously. It is best known for being the location of James II of England's tomb.
- 3 Place du Marché Neuf. Created in the 18th century, this is the city's market square. The market is held here on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. It is surrounded by 19th-century picturesque houses, and on one side of the square, there are arcades in which there are several restaurants.
- 4 Parc du Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. this park, part of the Domaine National de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, is a place where you can take a nice walk, especially along the Grande Terrasse de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, from which you have a very good view of the surrounding areas, including La Défense. You can even spot the Eiffel Tower partially hidden by Mont Valérien in the distance.
The main shopping streets are Rue au Pain, Rue de Paris, Rue de Pologne, Rue des Louviers and Rue Collingon. You'll find many chic shops on these streets.
The main locations of restaurants are in the following locations:
-Place Charles de Gaulle and surrounding area: the square on which the Château, the parish church and the RER station are located. A well known restaurant on the square is Le Soubize.
-Place du Marché Neuf: the market square. There are several restaurants on this square, including le Café de l'Industrie (traditional French cuisine)
Bars/Brasseries can be found on Place Charles de Gaulle and Place André Malraux. You can get a drink at Le Soubize or l'Amnésia for example. Yet again, you can get a drink at the Café de l'Industrie on the Place du Marché Neuf.
Another location where you have bars is on Rue Saint-Pierre, which Café Jules (where you can also order a meal) and The Bitter End (an Irish styled pub).
One other pub is the O'Sullivans on Rue de Pontoise.
There's the Pavillon Henri IV on the site of the Château Neuf.
There's also an Ibis on Rue des Joueries.
- The garden city of Le Vésinet just over the river (or a couple of stops along the RER to Le Vésinet - Le Pecq and Le Vésinet - Centre), known for its mansions and lakes.
- Maisons-Laffitte, a similar garden city to the north.
- Pays des Impressionnistes, a number of suburbs along the Seine which provided inspiration to a large number of famous 19th-century impressionist paintings.
- Poissy - a town just across the Forest of Saint-Germain. Can be easily accessed via Bus 24. It is well known for its 12th-century parish church where St. Louis was baptized and the Villa Savoye, a building designed by Le Corbusier.