The Domaine National

The Domaine National de Saint Germain en Laye, just 20 minutes from Paris, is a protected area of around 100 acres bordered by a vast forest of 8,650 acres.


View the film shooted by the drone camera of Jérémie Lippmann.

Domaine de Saint-Germain-en-Laye (78100)


The place presents such a wealth of styles that it's a good historic summary of European Classical Art Garden. The park is classified as a historic monument since 1964.

Jardin remarquable

The label « jardin remarquable » is a testimony of the quality of some gardens and of the gardener's work. We expect the visitors to have respectful attitude to his environnement during the visit.  

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In 1124, Louis VI, Louis the Fat, had the first royal residence built here, attracted by the presence of a forest full of game and access via the river Seine.

Maintaining a royal residence required provision for the upkeep and the activities of the court : kitchen gardens, orchards and rabbit warrens supplied the food. Formal gardens were laid out for walking and for games. It was during the 16th century, however, that the great modern era of gardens began, particularly influenced by the Italian Renaissance and Francois I’s interest in Italian and other foreign artists.

Francois I was passionate about hunting, and therefore decided, in 1539, to rebuild the Château of Saint Germain on the foundations of Charles V’s castle. He also made changes to parts of the forest around this pentagonal château to facilitate foxhunting.

In 1557, Henri II invited Philibert de l’Orme to construct, near the Château Vieux, a single-story building of brick and stone overlooking the Seine valley - the Château Neuf. Then, for Henri IV, Claude Mollet under the direction of Étienne du Pérac laid out terraced gardens on the east side of the Château Neuf. These gardens, adorned with grottos, fountains and hydraulic automata designed by the engineer Thomas Francine, were considered, in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, to be the most beautiful in Europe.

Louis XIV, baptised in the present day Henri IV Pavilion, spent part of his childhood moving between the two châteaux, and tried to extend them in order to house his courtiers before moving to Versailles in 1682. However, the numerous hydraulic works resulted in subsidence, and so Louis XIV, hoping to protect the site, presented a challenge to Le Nôtre: to create a garden that would be visible from the royal wing of both the Château Vieux and the Château Neuf. Work began in 1663, and this garden demonstrates all Le Nôtre’s ingenuity: large parterres in front of the château, great axes opening on to vistas reaching to the horizon, a great terrace 1945 metres wide bordering on to the garden and the forest, and forming an enormous balcony overlooking the Seine and Paris.

In 1777, Louis XVI gave the New Château to his brother, the Comte d’Artois, but lacking funds for its upkeep, he had most of it destroyed using explosives. After he was sent into exile, the château was never rebuilt and the terraces degenerated into banks of earth. To save money, all the parterres were grassed over, and the fountains on the slope were shut down. During the Revolution the land was sold off in lots. The Château Vieux became a temporary prison in 1793, a training school for Imperial Cavalry officers in 1809, a barracks in 1816 and a military prison in 1836. It was at this point that the Henri IV Pavilion was let to the restaurant owner Gallois, and then to Collinet who turned it into a hotel.

In 1837, with the arrival of the railway line at Le Pecq, two thirds of Le Nôtre’s great design was sliced away. In 1845 a station was built there, cutting through Le Nôtre’s parterres. By way of compensation, Louis-Philippe gave almost 7.5 acres of the royal forest to the domaine. Loaisel de Tréogate, engineer for the royal estates, then created an English garden here, with some magnificent trees. Unlike previous gardens laid out in a formal, geometrical style, this was landscaped very simply, initially including trees from the neighbouring forest. The two straight avenues were retained, while the large areas of lawn planted with various species of trees were bordered with shrubs to narrow the view. The garden was redesigned between 1872 to 1874 with the addition of statues, flowerbeds, benches and lighting so the public could enjoy strolling there.

This profusion of styles in spatially well-defined areas, presents a summary of the gardens’ history. The park was classified as a historic monument in 1964. Adjacent to the Royal Palace, now the National Archaeological Museum, these gardens are now part of its history. Visitors are welcomed throughout the year, and the many events held here to raise public awareness of this natural and cultural heritage.