These two adjacent communities in the western suburbs of Paris, about 18 kilometres from the centre, both have ancient origins but their most significant historical associations are with the French royal court, particularly in the time of Louis XIV and with his palace at Marly, which was built as a “quiet” retreat from the formality of Versailles. This building was destroyed after the Revolution but the landscaped gardens and surrounding woodlands have now been restored to something like their original grandeur. Numerous other chateaux and grand houses were built in the area and it is also the site of the Machine of Marly, an impressive feat of engineering drawing water from the Seine to supply the elaborate fountains at Versailles. The colossal aqueduct remains and stands as testament to both the excesses of the French monarchy but also to the ingenuity of French hydraulic engineering. The old town of Marly-le-Roi boasts a very attractive ‘Grande Rue’ with many 17th and 18th century houses and the church of Saint-Vigor is a fine example of the work of the royal architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart, who was also responsible for the palace and aqueduct. The church of Saint-Martin and Saint-Blaise in Louveciennes dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries but most of the present building is much more recent and this is evident when comparing depictions of the church in Impressionist paintings with the present day reality. The church is located in a typical village square with a range of traditional French shops. Before the arrival of the railway in the 1880’s these communities must have seemed like a rural idyll compared to life in the rapidly changing city only a few miles away and, no doubt that is what attracted several of the Impressionist painters including Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro and Auguste Renoir to live and work in these very agreeable surroundings. However, the area was devastated by occupying forces during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and both Pissarro and Sisley suffered the loss of much of their early work.
How to get there from Paris
Marly-le-Roi and Louveciennes have stations served by suburban trains from Gare Saint-Lazare, direction Saint-Nom-la-Bretèche.
From Porte d’Auteuil take the A13 in the direction of Rouen. Take exit 6 onto the N186 for Saint-Germain-en-Laye. After 4km a roundabout will be reached and at this point turn left to have direct access to the Musée-Promenade. From here it is possible to walk to Marly through the park or continue by car downhill along Côte de Coeur-Volant (D386). Otherwise turn onto the Route de Versailles (RN186) for access to Louveciennes.
RATP line 258 from La Défense.
Office de Tourisme de Marly-le-Roi
2, Avenue des Combattants, 78160 Marly-le-Roi
E-mail: email@example.com Website: www.pays-des-impressionnistes.fr
Open: Monday and Tuesday 09.00–12.00; Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 09.00–12.00 and 14.00–17.30; Saturday and Sunday 14.00–17.30.
Closed: Bank holidays
Parks and Museums
Parc de Marly
The extensive grounds of the former palace are accessible from both Marly-le-Roi and Louveciennes. Formal lakes and grand avenues of trees surround the site of the original house, the outlines of which can still be seen on the ground. At the northern end of the park is the Abreuvoir or ‘watering-place’ overlooked by formal terraces and reproductions of the Cheveaux de Marly, impressive equestrian statues by Guillaume Coustou. Alfred Sisley lived nearby for some time and this water feature was a frequent subject in all seasons and in all weathers.
Open: 1st November to 31st March from 08:00 to 17:30; 1st to 30th April from 08:00 to 18:30;
1st May to 30th September from 07:30 to 19:30 (during July and August from 7:30 to 21:00);
1st to 31st October from 08:00 to 18:30.
Musée-Promenade of Marly-le-Roi & Louveciennes
In the Parc de Marly, the Musée-Promenade has collections of paintings, drawings, sculptures, furniture and the decorative arts tracing the history of the royal estate. The museum shows the estate at its height, in the reign of Louis XIV, but also its destiny under his successors Louis XV and Louis XVI. It features members of the royal court such as Mme du Barry, and famous artists of this period, such as Boucher, Mme Vigée-Lebrun and Nicolas Ledoux. There is an excellent model showing how the Machine de Marly operated. The staff of the museum organise temporary exhibitions, guided tours and activities for children.
Grille Royale, Parc de Marly, Route de Versailles, 78430 Louveciennes
Open: Wednesday to Sunday 14.00–18.30
Closed: Monday, Tuesday and public holidays