Welcome in the department of Val d'Oise
The history of the Val d'Oise is reflected in its castles, monuments, natural parks, towns and villages, some of which date back several centuries and others built only a few decades ago, making it a rich and surprising place to visit. Moreover, the area offers a variety of activities to enjoy during your trip in the region.
How to discover and experience the Val-d'Oise?
There are a number of tourist sites in the Val-d'Oise, but most of them attract a more local audience. None of its important monuments or places of regional history are as popular as other sites outside of Paris. Besides Auvers-sur-Oise, famous for the paintings of Vincent van Gogh, there is also the Château d'Écouen, which is the main tourist destination in the Val d'Oise. Its notoriety as a national museum of the Renaissance attracts visitors, often experts, from all over the world, such as academics and scientists. However, the poor transport links in the region are certainly the major cause of the slowdown in tourism development.
In the steps of the impressionist painters
The bucolic landscapes of the Val d'Oise have attracted many artists such as Daubigny, Cézanne, Corot, Pissarro and Van Gogh. This appeal continues to attract the interest of the painters of our time, because of its authenticity, even if the techniques used are no longer the same.
The walks and the nature hikes
This region is an ideal spot for hikers and cyclists. The forests and green spaces provide several routes with varied landscapes, at times combining nature, well being and cultural experiences. Crossed by the Oise and bordered by the Seine, the department houses two national parks, the French Vexin and Oise-Pays of France.
The patrimony witness of history
Though not well known, the region also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with abbeys, castles, typical villages and museums. Even if they are not all accessible if you do not have the autonomy to move around, you will have the possibility of exploring the ones in the large urban centres.
Cultural activities with family or friends
Who says that cultural activities are serious and boring? The Val d'Oise has set up playful activities to allow the discovery of history and heritage in a fun and entertaining way. Rewarding experiences adapted to all ages, regardless of whether you are an Escape Game fan or would like to try out the virtual reality.
The really essential sites in the Val d'Oise
The Val d'Oise, just outside of Paris, remains a unique testimony of rural history, due to the picturesque character and preserved countryside structure of the region. Combining the charm of a thermal town with that of other historic towns and with the architectural style of small villages, you will discover a most surprising region. If you add to this a wide range of cultural activities and new technologies, you'll discover the varied facets of the Val d'Oise, all equally interesting.
Right in the heart of the Oise valley, the village has been the favorite of many famous artists, such as Van Gogh, Cézanne, Corot and Daubigny. They drew their inspiration from the village and its surroundings. A route of the painters, illustrated by panels, will guide you in the footsteps of the greatest impressionists.
In addition to this artistic fame, the village also has buildings of interest, such as the House-Studio of Daubigny with its garden, the Ravoux Inn, where Van Gogh lived for the last months in his life, the statue of Van Gogh, the sculptor Zadkine and the tomb of Van Gogh and of his brother. Built in the 17th century, the castle is worth a detour, its superb French gardens also offer a spectacle that takes you through the era of the artists.
Standing on a hilltop overlooking the surrounding countryside, this 16th century renaissance-style castle was built for Duke and Constable Anne de Montmorency, 20 km north of Paris. Nowadays, it is the remarkable national museum dedicated to the art of the renaissance which houses sumptuous collections attracting tourists from all over the world. One of the masterpieces is the 10-part hanging "David and Bathsheba", long of 75 m, illustrating the biblical story from the second book of Samuel. The estate is surrounded by an impressive forest of 104 hectares, with large avenues, it has been the scene of many hunting parties in the past, and is now open to walkers. All around the castle is a 17-hectare garden, designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the architect of King Louis XIV during the 17th century.
Located at the commune of Asnières-sur-Oise, in the heart of the Oise-Pays de France regional nature park, and with a sensation of reaching paradise, your visit will plunge you into a world of calm, nature and serenity. The place still has the same atmosphere since its creation in 1228 by Saint Louis. Nestled in a soothing setting of timeless beauty, the abbey has been classified as an historical monument since 1927.
Until today, it has been used for a variety of purposes, from a Cistercian monastery, to a court abbey, to an industrial site, to a novitiate, to a war hospital, and to a country residence, before becoming the cultural center of the Royaumont Foundation. Open to the public 365 days a year, it is a major venue for cultural and artistic events.
Located in the commune of Chaussy, it is composed of a 16th century manor house and of an 18th century castle with a magnificent park of 70 hectares. It is open to the public from April to October. It was part of the defensive elements of the French kingdom against neighboring Normandy. In the splendid park, lovers of nature will find French, English, botanical and country gardens. Within the park, ponds are next to embroidered gardens or water gardens, fed by 32 springs, as well as plots with arbors. The Louis XV style castle is built on a rocky hill, dominating the gardens, and is accompanied, from the manor, by a vertugadin, a staircase garden, 530 m long and lined with 14 statues from Italy. The public rooms on the ground floor of the castle have been reconstructed in their 18th century state, and they evoke the sophisticated and aristocratic atmosphere of the time.
At the base of a chalky cliff, La Roche-Guyon is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France. Located in a meander of the Seine, at the gateway to Normandy, it is dominated by the imposing silhouette of its dungeon. The Renaissance castle dates from the 18th century, during the age of enlightenment, and has totally replaced its 12th century ancestor, which was a manor house totally integrated into the cliff, with a number of troglodyte rooms, almost invisible from the outside and connected to its keep by an underground staircase. The La Rochefoucauld family left their mark on it with their humanist spirit, open to the discoveries of the time. During its history, it has hosted kings of France, Henry IV, François I among others, poets such as Victor Hugo, Lamartine and during the Second World War, Marshal Rommel had made it his HQ for the defense of the French coasts.
Created in 1850, Enghien-les-Bains is a young town that owes its thermal fame to the discovery, in 1766, by Father Cotte, of a sulfurous water spring that gave birth to Enghien-les-Bains thermalism. It benefits from an exceptional natural setting just 11 km from Paris and offers a range of modern facilities, as well as the best in leisure and relaxation. Well-being, healthcare, cultural, leisure and business activities, a veritable oasis in the heart of the Montmorency Valley. In terms of nature, the city has well laid out the lake which has a surface area of 43 ha and the 3 km of shoreline, inviting you to stroll around and have a change of scenery. The lake of Enghien-les-Bains is a marvelous heritage of nature. Feel free to explore the happiness of walking along its shoreline, in the shade of hundred-year-old plane trees and a magnificent view.
Standing on a very uneven terrain, at the end of a rocky spur constituting a strategic location occupied since the 9th century, on the edge of the forest, the town of Montmorency was an important strategic point for the region. It is appreciated for its green setting, peaceful atmosphere and beautiful residences, overlooking the Plaine de France, the Montmorency valley and Paris. The city hosts the museum of the famous philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, installed in the house where he lived for 5 years in the 18th century. An other monument to visit in the city is the collegiate church of flamboyant gothic style which contains splendid 16th century stained glass windows. The first part of this seigniorial funeral chapel was built by William from 1515 to 1530 and was completed by his son from 1557 to 1563. It was later modified in the 17th and 19th centuries.
Located on the edge of the forest, on the left bank of the Oise, this pleasant and charming town is renowned for the quality of its lifestyle, green spaces and river beach, the largest in France. Its original cabins, its sandy beach and its swimming pools, make it look like a seaside resort. The little town is also known for its 18th century Chinese pavilion located in the Cassan park, which you can discover through guided tours. Another curiosity is the Cabouillet bridge, a superb stone structure dating from 1500, or the Notre Dame du Val abbey which dates from the 12th century. Today, several buildings remain, including one of the most beautiful medieval monastic dormitories in France. If you prefer the natural environment, head for the forest of L'Isle-Adam located at the exit of the city, here you will have access to a number of beautiful pathways and cycling routes.
Formerly a source of inspiration for the painter Camille Pissarro, Pontoise is located on the banks of the Oise, dominated by the Saint-Maclou cathedral, built from the 12th to the 16th century, it mixes primitive Gothic, flamboyant Gothic and Renaissance styles. For culture lovers, the Tavet-Delacour museum, in a 15th century building, houses the city's historical collections, as well as works of art from the 19th and 20th centuries. The Camille Pissarro Museum, exhibits many of the painter's drawings and engravings and its park features the magnificent Garden of the 5 senses, adorned with aromatic and medicinal plants. Under the city, a multitude of underground galleries, remains of the numerous limestone quarries that were exploited from the 12th century. Some of them can be visited from time to time and you can discover their development over the centuries.
The parks, woodlands, forests and leisure centres of the Val d'Oise
If you appreciate wooded and flowery areas in the countryside or in the city, take a break to appreciate the Val d'Oise in its natural setting. The landscaped parks, green corridors, French or contemporary gardens are all an invitation to relax and enjoy. Below, you will discover the most important sites and green lungs of the region.
This park is located within the city of Cornelius and spreads over 8 hectares. It is ideal for getting away from it all and relaxing on its sunny grassy areas. Set on the hillside overlooking the Seine, it juxtaposes a wooded area with century-old trees, a pleasant landscape with statues and beautiful cast iron fountains. There are also playgrounds for kids and those who like sports activities can play pingpong or basketball.
Up to 1937, Osny counted 4 ha of vineyard, nowadays, 8 enthusiasts have planted 269 vines, a Chardonnay grape variety, on a parcel in the village of Osny, the Clos du Petit Robinson. This enhancement of natural heritage is conducive to educational workshops for young and older people on the cycle of the vine, the maturation of grapes and the various stages of winemaking, from harvest to the press and bottling at the Château de Grouchy.
Available all year round, the center is nestled in a pleasant 250 ha domain, perfectly situated for open-air activities. The practice of water sports is very varied there on its ponds, sailing, windsurfing, ski-lift, a water sports stadium for rafting, kayaking and hydrospeed.
There are also quiet activities such as walking, biking, swimming, pedal boating, fishing and bird watching.
Of original conception, the arboretum represents the contours of the Ile de France region and its departments, it is located at the heart of the regional forest of La Roche-Guyon. On about 12 ha, it provides a place for walks, in multiple landscapes, with evolving scenes following the seasons' rhythms. There is a particular species for each department and a tree for each commune. In total, 21 groves of different species are presented.
Covering a surface area of 71,000 ha, it extends over two departments, the Val-d'Oise and the Yvelines, with its preserved, picturesque and authentic landscapes, which have inspired great impressionist painters. The Maison du Parc, installed in the elegant castle of Théméricourt and its outbuildings, you will find an information center, exhibitions, a museum dedicated to the natural environments, the geology, the history and the popular arts and traditions of the region.
It is spread over 70 communes in the Oise and Val-d'Oise departments, a green lung of 20,000 ha full of natural areas, typical villages with a fabulous built heritage. It is an ideal place to relax and enjoy beautiful walks or hikes in the middle of sandy moorlands, marshes and valleys. The park's mission is to preserve a peri-urban territory of great historical and architectural wealth that is threatened by land pressure.
Mainly occupied by chestnut and oak trees, this forest is a natural border between the Seine and Oise valleys, currently threatened by the ink disease. In the past, it provided the wood that was used for the manufacture of stakes in the vineyards and hoops for barrels and ladders. The subsoil, rich in gypsum, was exploited for a long time by the hamlet of Écancourt, at the edge of the forest, where the workers of the plaster quarries lived.
Gateway to the Vexin Natural Park, the Planite wood also marks the departure of the Chaussée Jules César which, 2,000 years after its creation, leaves the imprint of a civilization of builders. Constructed in the 1st century, it was part of the road network that linked Lyon to the English Channel. The section of the Chaussée Jules César, which connected Paris to Rouen, is accessible to hikers over a distance of 21 km between Puiseux-Pontoise and Magny-en-Vexin.