The charm of Marly and Louveciennes

Marly © T.Joly
Once a favourite residence of kings, noble persons and artists, Marly-le-Roi and Louveciennes have an important historical heritage. Keeping the aspect and the atmosphere of little villages, these havens of peace are only few miles away from Paris.

[ Practical ]

- Getting there
By road
23 km from Paris on autoroute A13 till exit 16, then on roads N186 and D386.
15 km from Paris on RN13 via La Défense and Rueil-Malmaison
By train
Train from Paris Saint Lazare or La Defense, direction Saint-Nom-la-Bretèche, till Louveciennes or Marly-le-Roi.
RER A till Saint Germain-en-Laye, then Connex Veolia bus number 10 till Marly-le-Roi or Connex Veolia bus number 1 till Louveciennes.
- Going around
Connex Veolia bus number 10 runs from Marly-le-Roi railway station to the Château de Monte-Cristo
- Restaurants
Le Village, in Marly
Auberge du Vieux Marly, in Marly
Le Cottage, in Marly
Aux Chandelles, in Louveciennes
- Château de Monte-Cristo
Open every day but Monday from 10.00 to 12.30 and 14.00 to 18.00 from April 1st to October 31st. Open only on Sunday from 14.00 to 17.00 from November 2nd to March 31st.
- Musée – Promenade
Open from Wednesday to Sunday from 14.00 to 18.00
- Information and guided tours
Marly-le-Roi Tourist Office
Wealthy and quiet little towns with historical centres full of country houses, old buildings and castles, Marly-le-Roi and Louveciennes seem miles away from Paris. A feeling that is reinforced by their location, in the middle of hoods, on hills overlooking the Seine valley.

Marly's park © T.Joly
 Louis XIV’s castle
However the capital is only 15 km away. Close from both Versailles and Saint-Germain en Laye, this place seduced Louis XIV. So much that he decided to have a castle built there to escape the court life. A secondary residence, sure, but sized to his majesty. Painter Le Brun and architect Hardouin-Mansart created for him a small one floor square castle and a succession of pavillons intended for the guests set up around pools and water jets. A palace admired in whole Europe at that time. Unfortunately it doesn’t exist anymore. Deserted after the Sun King’s death, fashionable again during Louis XV’s reign, it was then abandoned, converted into a spinning factory during the Revolution and lastly demolished as it was in ruins. However, the vast park where it stood is still there, located on the border between Marly and Louveciennes.

Chevaux de Marly © T.Joly
 Superb sculptures
A very enjoyable place which is like an hyphen between the two cities. Inside there is almost no remain of the former buildings and fixtures. Only a large pool surrounded by yew-trees and lawns where the locals like to take the sun in summer, and some sculptures. They are mostly copies like the two most famous ones, the “Chevaux de Marly”, made by Coustou in 1701. The originals are nowadays in one of the Louvre’s courtyards. Depicting two horses held by stable-lads, they stand over the Abreuvoir, a basin that collected waters coming from the park where Marly’s inhabitants were allowed to make their horses drink. So, it’s difficult to get an idea of the former magnificence of the royal estate. For that one must go to the main entrance of the park, the Royal Gate, easily recognizable as it is the only one keeping its original gates.

Château du Pont © T.Joly
 Seven castles
There, the small but very interesting Musée – Promenade brings the estate back to life through scale models, paintings, sculptures and furniture. It also presents the Machine de Marly, inaugurated in 1684, that took the water from the Seine to bring it 154 m higher thanks to piston pumps moved by 14 paddle wheels 14 m in diameter. Then an aqueduct still standing on 650 m supplied the palaces of Versailles and Marly. A technological exploit for the time which owed the Machine to be named the 8th wonder of the world.
However, the attraction of the noble persons for the site neither began nor ended with the reign of Louis XIV. So Louveciennes counts seven castles built between the 16th and 19th century. The château de Prunay, from the late 17th century. The château du Pont, the oldest, dates partially from the beginning of the 16th century and is surrounded by a ditch filled with water over which steps a bridge. That gives it a medieval sight quite unusual in the Parisian suburbs.

Pavillon de Musique © T.Joly
 A large estate
Reshaped at the end of the 19th century, the château de Beauséjour is now the city hall, while the château de Voisins, former residence of the granddaughter of Louis XIV, the Conti princess, is nowadays a training centre of the bank BNP Paribas. As for the château de Vernes, nowadays called Maison de l’Etang, it now hosts all kind of exhibitions. Situated in the city park the château de Louveciennes is said to have served as workshop studio for painter Elisabeth Vigée Lebrun. And lastly the most famous, the one of Madame du Barry, Louis XV’s favourite who got as present from the king a large estate stretching as far as the bank of the Seine. It included the residence of the engineer in charge of the Machine de Marly that she enlarged with two aisles giving birth to the present chateaux. She also dotted the gardens with new buildings including a charming reception hall. All these buildings belong to private owners and are most of the time close to the public. However the tourist office runs regularly guided tours in one or another.

Marly © T.Joly
 Impressionist painters
Since the chateau has disappeared, in Marly the monumental heritage is limited to some private mansions and Saint Vigor church, the former royal parish, built by Hardouin Mansart in a sober classic style. But on the other hand, ancient and country houses compose an historical centre with an homogeneity and a charm rare in Paris region. An invitation to stroll around while several restaurants and tearooms offer excellent places to relax or warm up.
Both villages also inspired more than 120 canvas to the Impressionist painters, in particular to Renoir, Sisley, Pissaro and Jeanne Baudot who all lived there. A marked out path allows to walk on their footsteps and reproductions of their painting are installed on the exact spots they were done. But they are not the only artists or famous people to have succumbed to the charm of Marly and Louveciennes.

Monte Cristo castle © T.Joly
 Alexandre Dumas’ property
The writers Proust and Maupassant, the sculptor Aristide Maillol and marshal Joffre, winner of 1914’s battle of the Marne, also lived there. And we can add to this list Alexandre Dumas, the author of the “Three Musketeers”. From 1844 to 1847 he had indeed a Renaissance style castle built for him on the ground of the nearby municipality of Port Marly. Baptized Monte-Cristo, of the name of one of his successful novels, it keeps an astonishing and charming Moorish lounge. However today it’s above all a museum which depicts his life, his work, his travels and his uncountable loving conquests through posters, books, photos and documents of that time. It is surrounded by a 3 ha English style park strewed with grottos and rocks where also stands a curious building the writer called Chateau d’If and which was his study.

Mrs Renoir's house © T.Joly
 Forest walks
But there is even better for the lovers of nature walks : the forest of Marly. Once the hunting ground of the kings and presidents of France, it covers 2 000 ha and is crossed by several paths leading to viewpoints and historic remains such as the Montjoie fortress, the Joyenval abbey or the Desert de Retz, a folly created in the 18th century. Partially closed to the public, it also shelters wild boars, roe deers and another unusual monument, the Chappe telegraph. Dating back to 1798, it’s the second of the 55 telegraphs built during the Revolution to connect the city of Brest to Navy ministry in Paris in order to warn quickly the Government of any English landing in Brittany.

May 07, 2011
Thierry Joly 

[ A gem ]

In 1771 Mme du Barry had a pavillon, nowadays known as the Pavillon de Musique, constructed in the gardens of the estate Louis XV gave her. Intended to host receptions and receive guests it was built by architect Nicolas Ledoux in a neo-classical style on a terrace overlooking the Seine and offering a superb panorama going as far as La Defense. Reshaped in the early 20th century with the addition of a first floor and subterranean rooms, it was the object of an exemplary renovation between 2003 and 2005. Paintings, gilts, woodworks, ironworks, mirrors, stuccos… The interior is now almost as it was on the day of the inauguration. Including contemporary copies of Boucher and Fragonard paintings, the rooms decoration expresses the taste of Madame du Barry for art and music. A real jewel of the 18th century.
The Pavillon de Musique is not opened to the public but the Tourist Office organizes several times a year visits of the premises as well as concerts of classical music in the main room. Besides, the company owning it rents it for sessions of mode photos, for shooting of films, for receptions and for weddings.
Information : 0142220289