Welcome to the department of Yvelines
A trip to the Yvelines department is the meeting of past and present, of town and countryside. Located at the gates of Paris, just west of the capital, you can discover 4 very different areas where nature harmoniously blends with the history of the region, so many destinations each one different from the other!
The department of Yvelines is part of the Île-de-France region. It is located in the centre of the Parisian basin, about twenty kilometres west of Paris. With a rich historical, architectural and artistic heritage, the department of Yvelines is endowed with great preserved natural spaces with many hiking trails, parks and gardens, all assets that delight the walkers and outdoor leisure amateurs.
4 facets of the department you must discover in the Yvelines ?
As the cradle of classical art and the symbol of royal absolutism, the Versailles area is full of jewels not to be missed. A new city built at the wish of Louis XIV, the royal city is a place full of history. The Château de Versailles is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You should not miss the shows of the national equestrian academy, famous for its fantastic performances. To enjoy the atmosphere, there is nothing like the gardens or the historic districts of the city. The museum of the royal domain of Marly, resulting from projects of the Sun King, the museum of the Toile de Jouy, as well as the Montansier Theatre.
The Chevreuse Valley
The Yvelines region is rightly called the "green lung of the Ile-de-France". The department combines nature, culture and gastronomy in an excellent way. The South-East is a superb playground for all kinds of nature lovers and hikers, and is the starting point for a large number of itineraries to be followed by foot, horse or bicycle. If you are a fan of history, you can visit the Cistercian Abbey of Les Vaux de Cernay on the way, or the Marquis de Breteuil, the inheritor of the ancestral home, who himself will take you around. For a break, many farms, craftsmen and local producers will propose you tasting sessions while revealing the secrets of their know-how.
The curves of the Seine River
In the north of the Yvelines, the Seine crosses the department over its entire width. The river is often overlooked, but nevertheless remains majestic with a wild and unusual character. The Seine offers numerous viewpoints, where it meanders gracefully around the towns along their banks. In Chatou, on the island of impressionists, go back in time and discover the real landscapes, painted by the famous artists. In Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, at the point where the Oise and Seine rivers join, don't miss a little cruise and the museum of inland waterways. If you pass through Poissy, take a look at the Noyau de Poissy distillery and Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye. In order to see the little sister of Notre Dame de Paris, you will have to stop at Mante la Jolie and while strolling through the narrow streets of the lower town, go to visit the collegiate church.
The countryside of Rambouillet
The western part of the region is full of picturesque villages to be seen: Rambouillet, Thoiry, Houdan and Montfort l'Amaury will certainly delight you. This rural area is a great place to go for a walk and meet the local producers, discover the cities and the villages. The Château de Rambouillet, a royal and then presidential residence, will complete your tour, as well as the shell thatched cottage, the Queen's Dairy and the Bergerie Nationale. Through the green and quiet landscapes, several old medieval towns such as Montfort l'Amaury and Houdan or Thoiry and its castle and animal park, invite you to bucolic walks just outside Paris.
Which are the 7 must-see castles in the Yvelines ?
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Château de Versailles and its immense park are renowned throughout the world for its great beauty. The gardens were created under the guidance of André Le Nôtre in the 17th century at the behest of Louis XIV, the Sun King. The park is in itself an open-air museum of classical sculpture. The splendid castle is a symbol of the French monarchy's splendour and excess, a theatre for many events and festivities, with 700 rooms and 2513 windows. The Sun King had the former hunting residence of his father renovated by his architect Louis Le Vau between 1661 and 1668. Finding the result too small, Louis XIV asked his architect to enlarge it and the construction from 1668 to 1670 is the part, which houses the sumptuous Grands Appartements. The famous Hall of Mirrors is adorned with 357 mirrors and is in itself a real masterpiece.
02 - Dampierre Castle
This is one of the largest private castles in Paris. After a period of restoration and excavation, the park was reopened in 2019 and now invites its guests to enjoy lovely bucolic walks. Dampierre Castle was built in the Chevreuse Valley in the 17th century. The stylish stone and brick building is surrounded by a moat. It is a very beautiful example of the classic style. Since 1663, and for almost 4 centuries, it remained the property of the de Luynes family before its purchase in 2018 by the Mulliez family, thus allowing the undertaking of major restoration work. Historically, Dampierre has enjoyed high prestige and was closely associated with the kings of France, Louis XIII, Louis XIV and Louis XV, who used to come and hunt in the valley full of wildlife. Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the architect of Versailles, was in charge of building the château for the Count of the Duc de Chevreuse, while André Le Nôtre, another landscape gardener from Versailles, was the creator of the green setting that embellishes the property.
03 - Breteuil Castle
Set in the middle of the Haute Vallée de Chevreuse Natural Regional Park, in the commune of Choisel, the Château de Breteuil was built in the 18th century and extended during the 18th and 19th centuries. It has been inhabited by the de Breteuil family since 1712, and since 1967 the family has opened the domain to the public. This beautiful and majestic building, made of brick and stone, housed a masterpiece of goldsmithing, the Table de l'Europe, also known as the Breteuil Table or Teschen Table, which is now on display at the Louvre Museum. The tour is also conducted by the Marquis himself. During the visit, you will have the opportunity to admire historical scenes represented and animated by wax figures, period furniture and family souvenirs. A magnificent 75-hectare park invites you to enjoy a stroll in the French-style gardens, embellished by ponds and lovely, century-old trees. For kids, the outbuildings display wax figures from Charles Perrault's tales such as Sleeping Beauty, Little Thumb, Puss in Boots, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, etc.
After the success of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, both published in the press as serials in 1844, Alexandre Dumas sought peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the city. To this effect, he hired a renowned architect, Hippolyte Durand, to build his dream castle on the hillside of Port-Marly according to his specific wishes. Dumas then renamed his estate "Monte Cristo Castle" after his best-selling book. It is a beautiful building with richly sculpted facades in the Renaissance style. The visit of the place allows to discover the world of the artist, through documents, paintings and furniture, as well as a superb Moorish lounge. Opposite the château stands a neo-Gothic pavilion, the "château d'If" as Alexandre Dumas nicknamed it, that was his artist's studio. The two buildings are integrated into a charming English-style park, decorated with ponds, waterfalls, grottoes and rockeries.
The town has been the residence of many kings of France, but also the birthplace of Louis XIV. The destination is famous for its woods, the royal town and its beautiful castle. Originally built in the 16th century for François I and now housing the National Archaeological Museum, visiting the castle offers the chance to discover not only the splendid interior, but also the Sainte-Chapelle. The park, designed by Le Nôtre, is embellished with an English garden from where you can enjoy a stunning view of the Seine and the western part of Paris. A walk or a guided tour of the old town through the pedestrian alleys will lead you to old houses and mansions from the 17th and 18th centuries. A number of museums can enhance your visit, as well as the many boutiques in the city for shopping lovers.
One of the town's flagship monuments, the château was built in the 14th century. In the 18th century, it was also the pleasant residence of King Louis XVI and, since 1896, a presidential estate that welcomes Heads of State invited to France. The magnificent marble room, the rococo and neo-Pompeian decorations are worth a visit. Outside, the park, with its French and English-style canals and gardens, is an invitation to take a pleasant walk. You will also find the Bergerie Nationale, the Laiterie de la Reine and the Chaumière aux coquillages. The town of Rambouillet has been classified as a "Ville d'Art et d'Histoire" (Town of Art and History), the royal city is nestling on the outskirts of the forest, and boasts a rich heritage to discover. Those who love the world of miniature railways will find the Rambolitrain Museum, a world dedicated to miniature trains with no less than 4,000 items in its collection. Since 2009, the Centre des monuments nationaux has been planning and organising the visits. The spaces still benefit from the furnishings of the Mobilier national. The castle has undergone a restoration campaign, mainly on the facades and roofs, and in a second phase, the work will continue with the restoration of the interior spaces.
Situated on the banks of the Seine, Maisons-Laffitte castle was built in the 17th century by François Mansart to accommodate King Louis XIV after hunting. A visit to the castle reveals a succession of woodwork, tapestries, paintings and period furniture, as well as a permanent exhibition dedicated to the racehorse and to the history of horse racing in France. Besides the castle, the town of Maisons-Laffitte is best known for the racetrack and the horse training centre. Jacques Laffitte (1767-1844), a banker and statesman, was the owner of the château de Maisons, from which the town takes its name. The castle is considered a masterpiece of 17th century architecture, a reference in the history of French architecture, and is associated with the name of François Mansard, an achievement that marks the transition between the architecture of the later renaissance and the classicism.
Top 8 theme parks and visits to do with the family in the Yvelines
The zoological reserve of Thoiry gives you the opportunity to meet many animal species presented in semi-liberty. Educational games for children help them to learn about the protection of these species. A very well adapted area where families can meet these animals in the nature, who keep their natural behaviour. Apart from the zoo, the castle, built in 1559, has witnessed incredible stories over the last 4 centuries that just need to be revealed to you. Its gardens, labelled "Jardins Remarquables", occupy no less than 126 hectares of the domain. Don't miss the formal flowerbeds, the Autumn Garden, the Perfume Garden, the Rose Garden, the English Garden with thousands of sweet-smelling trees and shrubs, an unforgettable visit!
Located in the commune of Elancourt, 35 kilometres from Paris, the France Miniature park is a superb leisure park where visitors can admire models representing the emblems and images of France. This is the biggest miniature park in Europe with a huge 5-hectare map of France decorated with 117 of the most beautiful monuments, sites and 130 landscapes that have been reconstituted, villages, castles, ports, stations and a huge railway circuit, enough to take a tour of France in a very short time.
Keep your eyes and ears wide open during this unique walk, the Espace Rambouillet animal park invites you to go straight to the heart of the forest through its 250 hectares. You will be welcomed to this area by the discrete hosts of this wood, who will reveal to you some of their mysterious life secrets. Deer, wild boar, roe deer, fallow deer, but also more than 130 birds of prey, both diurnal and nocturnal, offer you a sensational adventure tour. Take the Green Odyssey, a 300-metre treetop adventure between the sky and the earth, a unique experience for the senses.
Dedicated to exploring the nature, this educational farm welcomes you all year round for a pleasant moment of relaxation. Children will discover the animals up close: cows, goats, pigs, poultry, rabbits, sheep, donkeys, ponies, horses... and they can even take part in playful workshops where they will have the chance of tasting the apple juice produced here. This is one of the oldest and best known farms around Paris. A one-way discovery trail has been set up to allow visitors to enjoy the educational farm in a relaxed way, along the barrel house circuit, crossing the farmyard, skirting the meadows, etc.
The Bergerie Nationale de Rambouillet, located in the heart of the Rambouillet domain, was created more than two centuries ago, in 1786, under the reign of Louis XVI. Today, it is an opportunity to make young people aware of sustainable development while learning how a farm really works. The Bergerie Nationale is also an educational centre and a genetic conservatory whose mission is to safeguard the last flock of Rambouillet Merinos and Romane sheep, a crossbreed intended for the meat industry. A herd of dairy cows, draught horses, an educational farmyard and goats can also be observed on a circuit that allows the animals to be approached.
It exists since 1989, it is located at 40km from Paris, an atypical and fascinating place on the commune of La-Que-lez-Yvelines, it is the very first tropical greenhouse of France to welcome these coloured and exotic insects, particularly graceful. The greenhouse is home to between 700 and 1,000 butterflies from Central America, Africa and Asia, in the families Nymphalidaes, Papilionidaes, Pieridaes and Saturniidaes. There is also a tank with fish species, including piranhas. Watching the fascinating colourful ballet of the world's most beautiful butterflies in this huge aviary, set in a recreated lush equatorial jungle, is an indescribable pleasure. This environment is ideal for teaching children about the fragility of these insects and their ecosystem. During your visit, take your time in the different areas of the greenhouse to observe as many butterflies as possible and engrave these beautiful images of nature in your memory.
Located in the heart of the Rambouillet forest, in Les Bréviaires, the Étangs de Hollande leisure centre is an incomparable place to relax and recharge your batteries. It is the ideal destination for family outings and nature lovers. The name of the ponds of Holland is not Dutch, it is a derivative of Orlande, the name of the owner of the domain which included a castle, woods and ponds. Totally artificial, they were dammed up more than three centuries ago, in 1683, to supply the great waters of Versailles, at the request of Louis XIV and under the direction of Vauban. It was only in 1977 that the network was disconnected from the part of the works linking it to the Château de Versailles. Open to the public from May onwards, it offers day or season passes for access or activities.
The great painters of the late 19th century made the island of Chatou one of their favourite sources of inspiration. Sisley, Monet, Renoir, Degas and Manet all came to set up their easel to immortalise the curves of the Seine. They have made the legend of Chatou, now nicknamed "the island of the Impressionists". You can now download the application from the town hall to visit Chatou and discover its historical secrets, or connect to the local tourist site which suggests various tours to take. Originally, the Impressionist Island was made up of several small natural islands, the cause being the dikes built for the Marly machine, used to feed the gardens of Versailles with water.