Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a Royal town
Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a royal and green town nestled in the heart of 8,600 acres of forest is a rare and unusual place, just outside Paris.
It is difficult to limit this town, rich in character, to a few descriptive terms. Indeed, Saint-Germain-en-Laye was the favourite residence of many French kings since the reign of Philippe Auguste (1180-1223). It is also the birth place of Louis XIV in 1638, and today is renowned for its grand castle-museum and Le Nôtre’s famous Terrace overlooking the West of Paris.
In addition, the town contains many other hidden treasures: pedestrian walks and streets, dotted with lovely individual mansions from the 17th and 18th centuries. We encourage you to refer to our section on historic dwellings to appreciate the wealth of historic houses remaining in Saint-Germain today.
A little history…
It was in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, in the “Château-Neuf” (the New Castle), that the story of the future Sun King began. At 11 o’clock on Sunday September 5th 1638, Louis Dieudonné, son of Louis XIII and Anne d’Autriche was born in what is now the hotel “Pavillon Henri IV”. Saint-Germain-en-Laye then became the principle royal residence and government headquarters: the young king enjoyed the air, space and forest that he missed in Paris.
It was also at the “Château-Vieux” (the Old Castle) that the image of the great king began to take shape. He organized lavish parties, and promoted extravagant fashion. He introduced his political program, renovated and extended his castle with Mansart and developed his gardens with André Le Nôtre, who created the Terrace for him.
Until 1790 Saint-Germain-en-Laye was the headquarters of a number of royal functions including the hunting master’s office and control of waters and forests.