Welcome to the department of Essonne
Known as the "Secret Garden of the Ile-de-France", the Essonne department has an abondant variety of plains, forests, valleys and many waterways. Discovering Essonne also means coming in contact with an exceptional historical heritage, a natural environment conducive to relaxation and adventure, the local produce and know-how, not to mention many other leisure activities for the whole family or your friends.
Its privileged geographical location, to the south of the capital, has enabled the Essonne department to inherit the rich history of the Paris basin, starting with the Magdalen world, to the coronation of King Dagobert, up to the great battles of the Middle Ages. Over the last few centuries, Essonne has preserved a remarkably attractive quality of life. With 49,000 hectares of forests and other environments criss-crossed by more than 400 km of rivers, the department offers varied, hilly and picturesque landscapes at the capital's gates.
Which are the 12 castles to discover in Essonne ?
In the heart of the Gâtinais region, let yourself be inspired by this charming place rich in history. Discover the Domaine de Courances which extends over 75 hectares, surrounded by water, trees and sky. The castle, in the style of Louis XIII, surrounded by a moat, has belonged to the same family since 1872. Still inhabited, it reveals to the visitors during the guided tours, a succession of tapestries, woodworks, period furniture and family souvenirs. The domain is famous for its park, considered as one of the most beautiful in France, and a remarkable testimony of the Renaissance water gardens. Here, water, plants and stone are omnipresent, with no less than 14 springs feeding the 17 water features.
The castle is located in the heart of the region and is the property of the General Council. It is in the former province of Hurepoix, now the department of Essonne, 39 km southwest of Paris. The domain combines architecture, nature and culture, with a building in the Louis XIII style, a 98-hectare landscaped park and a contemporary art gallery. It features a historic built heritage, set in an exceptional environment, between the Belvedere forest and the Juine valley. Surrounded by a moat, the Chamarande castle is topped by a Mansard roof, an elegant 17th century building combining brick, stone and slate. Every year, from May to October, artistic shows, open-air cinema sessions and creative workshops are scheduled.
03 - The Saussay castle
This rare ensemble of two twin 18th century pavilions, built on the ruins of a 15th century feudal castle, faces each other at the entrance to a romantic park with water running through it. Inside, the reception rooms evoke the lives of the illustrious people who lived there. In the 19th century, the romantic fashion led to the creation of an English garden and in the 20th century the great perspective was redesigned by the landscaper Duchêne. Open to the public for visits every Sunday and holiday from April to August, only the park is accessible in august and september.
Unlike many fortresses built on promontories, the castle of Farcheville is one of the most remarkable plain fortresses in the Île-de-France region. According to an inscription that was still visible in 1667, the castle was built at the end of the 13th century for Hugues II de Bouville, baron of Milly, in 1291. It comprises a vast rectangular enclosure surrounded by a moat, flanked by towers at the corners with machicolations supported by large pointed arches between the buttresses. Amongst others, you can discover the seigneurial hall, the tithe barn, a dovecote, the stables, the sheds and a 15th century chapel with a panelled vault. The estate, now privately owned, is atypical but impressive, and the château now houses a hotel complex, which hosts weddings, receptions and business meetings. It is possible to visit the château and its gardens in groups and by prior reservation (+33 1 60 80 63 64).
05 - Courson Castle
A luminous 17th and 18th century brick and stone residence, turned towards nature, the decorations and furniture are largely inspired by it. Resulting from the work of the best landscape designers of the 19th and 20th centuries, its park is sumptuously romantic. The stylish château of Courson-Monteloup is surrounded by a superb English-style park, in which century-old trees, flowerbeds and a peaceful pond follow one another to the delight of garden lovers and romantics. Open on Sundays and public holidays, the 35-hectare landscaped park, with long paths winding around a pond, is home to a rich vegetation that evolves throughout the year and reveals its attractions as the seasons pass. Not to be missed are the Plant Days, in May and October, dedicated to the garden and plants.
The castle of Dourdan was completed around 1222, t was built by Philip Augustus as a border post for the royal domain. At that time, the Capetians (French) and the Plantagenets (English) were at war, and the kingdom embarked on a major military construction programme. The aim of the castle was to defend the southern part of the royal domain and to ensure the trade route for wheat grown in the Beauce plain. Settled on the banks of the Orge, the medieval town of Dourdan is one of the only buildings in the Île-de-France region from this period to have preserved most of its structures, and it has a built heritage that bears witness to its past as a royal town. The fortress also has the particularity of housing the former 18th century salt storehouse, which was later transformed into a dwelling. Opposite the castle are other interesting monuments, such as the market hall dating from 1836 and the Gothic church of Saint-Germain-L'auxerrois, from the 12th and 15th centuries. Don't miss the medieval festival that takes place in June with its market and street performances.
The Château now houses the Dourdan Town Hall. Initially, the Parterre park was a French garden in the tradition of the landscaper Le Nôtre. In 1725, Michel Jacques Lévy, King's Councillor and bailiff of Dourdan, had the Château du Parterre built. The residence was bought in 1739 by Mme de Verteillac, wife of the Governor of Dourdan. In 1793, the Parterre was given over to the public and the buildings were converted into barracks in 1809. The Verteillac heirs sold it to the town in 1863, which became the sole owner.
Famous mostly for its wonderful park, the residence is nevertheless not without interest. The domain represents, above all, the most emblematic park of the Anglo-Chinese gardens, composed from 1784 onwards by François-Joseph Bélanger and then Hubert Robert on behalf of the financier Jean-Joseph de Laborde. It reveals the new aesthetic that was sweeping through Europe at the end of the century and marks a break with the regular gardens that were previously in vogue. Composed like a painting articulated around scenes that we discover along the way, this exceptional garden tells the story of the relationship between humans and a sublime nature. Although it has been partly damaged in the course of its history, its character and composition have not been lost. Since December 2000, it has been the subject of restoration work by the Essonne departmental council.
09 - The Marais castle
The current building is the 4th one built in the commune of Le Val-Saint-Germain, on the Marais land, and was constructed between 1772 and 1779 by the architect Jean-Benoît-Vincent Barré, upon the demand of Jean Lemaître, general treasurer of the artillery. He will spend a fortune for the construction of the new residence, but the result is that it is one of the most beautiful French castles of the Louis XVI era. Surrounding the castle there is a beautiful park of 40 hectares, with a formal garden, a grotto, an orchard, a floral garden and a 550 m long mirror of water, all of which are undeniable attractions for a pleasant walk. The castle is closed due to a change of ownership.
Remarkably preserved, the Saint-Jean de Beauregard castle has kept intact all the charm and elegance of its 17th century classical environment. In a setting of land and wood, the powerful and sober mass of the castle with its 7 courtyards, the park and the formal garden entirely enclosed, in a nearly perfect square, it harmoniously integrates, through the different plots, all the elements essential to daily life in the 17th century. Covering an area of 2 hectares, the flowering kitchen garden of Saint-Jean de Beauregard was one of the few to survive to the current day. It harmoniously blends flowers, fruit and rare or forgotten vegetables in compositions that are constantly renewed over the seasons. Its dovecote, with over 4,500 bolts, is one of the largest in the Ile-de-France region. Its double 12-metre swinging ladder and spectacular framework make it an essential part of the visit to the estate. It can be visited from mid-March to mid-November, on Sunday afternoons and public holidays. Every year, it hosts the perennial plant festival in April, and the festival of plants, fruits and vegetables, of both past and present, in September.
11 - The Montauger castle
Located in the communes of Lisses and Villabé, at the edge of urban and rural areas in the north and south, it constitutes the gateway to the Marais of the lower valleys of the Essonne and Juine rivers. Throughout the year, this 15-hectare domain hosts various events, entertaining and scientific exhibitions in the castle's rooms and offers 2 observatories in the heart of the wetland. This quiet and secret estate will enchant you with its ecological and landscape heritage, so typical of the Essonne region. Some 200 old varieties of fruit trees and vines, a vegetable garden, an apiary and a lime kiln bear witness to a more modest and laborious rustic past.
It was built at the end of the 14th century by Jean de Montagu, the superintendent of finances of King Charles VI. This is a typical medieval castle with a keep and a round tower, a guard room, and is surrounded by a moat on the edge of the park. The garden is composed of boxwood and woodland, with flowerbeds alternating between staggered flowering perennials, roses and fuschias. The castle was bought in 1932 by Henry de Jouvencel who, in 1933, started renovating the buildings and the meadows, transforming them into a park.
Discover some artist's houses in Essonne
In 1964, Claude François, in search of a quiet and peaceful place, discovered a 12th century water mill in the small village of Dannemois. The artist's property was quickly christened by friends and close relatives "Le Moulin de Cloclo", and, thanks to the ideas of the new owner, it became a festive showbiz venue. Claude François remained in the village of Dannemois until the unfortunate event that caused his death in 1978. He has been buried there ever since, in the municipal cemetery where his fans can come and gather around his grave. The place remained in a state of abandonment until 1998 when Mrs and Mr Lescure bought the property with the firm intention of bringing the mill back to life with the artist's memories, they reconstituted the "Ferme du Bonheur" exactly as it was in Claude François' lifetime.
02 - Jean Cocteau's house
Transformed into a museum, the house contains authentic rooms from the time when Jean Cocteau was living there and offers visitors a plunge into the mythological and baroque world of the poet. In 1947, Jean Cocteau decided to settle in Milly-la-Forêt with his partner at the time, the actor Jean Marais. The Maison du Bailli is a 17th century country house, a former outbuilding of the Château de la Bonde. He lived there for 48 years and spent the last 17 years with his companion "Doudou" who maintained the house and preserved his paintings until his death in 1995. You will also have the opportunity to walk through the gardens, a bucolic setting surrounded by the irrigation channels and moats of the nearby Château de la Bonde.
For 25 years, the owner of Alphonse Daudet's house has opened its doors to share this place of memory by welcoming children, the public and artists and developing a living cultural place. The aim is to restore, enhance and bring to life this place in the spirit that animated it in the 19th century: a place of artistic and cultural encounter. Animated and brought to life thanks to the association "Maison d'Alphonse Daudet", the writer's house is gradually being restored by private individuals, the association and artists who are involved in this project and since 2016, with the association "Urgence Patrimoine" and recently through the Dartagnans website. The house is above all a place where artists can meet, create, work, it welcomes many French-speaking storytellers with a large network of professional tellers in Europe, Africa and America. The house hosts 6 structures, in the field of heritage, books, storytelling, theatre and music. Please note: The visit of Alphonse Daudet's house is only available for groups!