One Day in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France
For my second mini-escape from Paris, I choose a charming small town located just 45 minutes west of central Paris. Saint-Germain-en-Laye used to be the seat of the French monarchy, complete with a castle in the town center. The castle is surrounded by a vast garden and a beautiful terrace that looks over the Seine River and Paris. In the town center find boutiques, restaurants, and an outdoor market.
Getting to Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Saint-Germain-en-Laye is most easily accessed via the RER (regional express railway) A. This line can be picked up from main train stations in Central Paris such as: Gare de Lyon, Chatelet les Halles and Opera. It is the last station, so check the departure board to select the correct train. Trains leave every five to ten minutes. A one way ticket costs 4.10 €. Tickets can be purchased in any subway or train station in the city, or from a ticket desk. The trip is free for Paris subway pass holders.
Castle/National Archeological Museum
The first castle in Saint-Germain-en-Laye was constructed in 1122, but was burned, rebuilt, and renovated several times throughout history. King Louis XIV, perhaps the most famous French King, was born in the castle in 1638 and lived there for almost 30 years before moving his court to Versailles. He left the castle to King James II of England who was living in exile in France.
In more modern times, the castle was the site of the treaty signing that ended hostilities between the Allies of World War I and Austria. During the German occupation of France (1940-1944), the castle served as the headquarters of the German Army.
Nowadays, the castle is completely renovated and hosts the national archeological museum. The museum hosts objects from the Paleolithic to the Merovingian times. While the collection was comprehensive, my favorite part of the visit was discovering the architecture of the castle.
Address: Place Charles de Gaulle, 78100 Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Cost: 7€, reduced ticket 5.50€. Free the first Sunday of the month, under 18, European citizens (or long term residents) aged 18-25.
Hours: 10 AM-5PM, closed Tuesdays
Time of visit: 1.5 hours (self-guided)
Just outside the castle, find sprawling gardens in both the French and English styles. The park features wide paths which are great for jogging or strolling, a playground for kids, and a beautiful terrace that gives a view of the Seine River and Paris. I love this park because I feel like I have so much room to move around, something that is a huge luxury when living in Paris.
Saint-Germain-en-Laye has a huge outdoor market. Here, find vegetables so fresh they still have dirt on them, colorful fruits, juicy sausages, and hundreds of cheeses. In addition to food, find jewelry, flowers, clothing, handbags, and books. Buy ingredients to cook a meal at home, or sample the market’s prepared food like crepes or couscous.
Address: Place du Marché Neuf
Hours: 8:30 AM to 1PM Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays
Church of Saint Germain
The church that is found on this site is actually the fourth since the town was founded. Inside, find chandeliers and colorful religious murals.
Address: Place Charles de Gaulle
Time of Visit: 10 minutes (self-guided)
Saint-Germain-en-Laye is incredibly close to Paris, but feels like a world away. The pace of life is slower, there is more greenspace, and, best of all, there are almost no tourists! So for those looking to get away from busy Paris, head to Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
Photo for One Day in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France by Unsplash.