Chateau de Malmaison | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Chateau de Malmaison

Rueil-Malmaison, Ile-de-France, France

Luke Tomes

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Chateau de Malmaison

Chateau de Malmaison is a French château situated near the left bank of the Seine, about 15 kilometres west of the centre of Paris, in the municipality of Rueil-Malmaison.

Chateau de Malmaison history

The origin of the name “Malmaison” is thought to be linked to the existence of a hideout used by Norman invaders as their base for carrying out raids in the surrounding area. It appeared as this in texts for the first time in 1244, before it was eventually bought by Guillaume Goudet, Sergeant-at-Arms for Charles VI, remaining in his lineage under the Dauvergne, Perrot and Barentin families until 1763.

The French Revolution ended this lineage and forced Jacques-Jean Le Couteulx du Molay to part with the manor house. Chateau de Malmaison became the home of Napoleon Bonaparte and his first wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais, who bought it in 1799. Chateau de Malmaison served as the seat of government from 1800 to 1802 and then became Joséphine’s exclusive property in 1809 after the couple divorced.

Chateau de Malmaison continued to serve as her home and, amongst other things, as a military barracks. Napoleon returned and took residence in the house after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and Joséphine’s death a year prior, before his exile to the island of St Helena.

The manor house eventually became the property of the state in 1903 and a museum opened on the site two years later.

Chateau de Malmaison today

Today, Chateau de Malmaison is open to the public, allowing visitors to view Napoleon’s former bedroom and that where his first wife died. The renovations made by architects Percier and Fontaine (1800 to 1802) turned the house into a luxurious villa with all the fashions of the 19th century. Frescos and paintings are found throughout and there is a museum dedicated to Napoleon in the grounds.

On the ground floor, the architects gave the vestibule the appearance of the atrium of a Roman villa. During receptions, a mechanism installed enabled the mirrors to slide into the walls transforming the billiard rooms and dining room into reception halls.

There is no shortage of archaeological and historical references. Doric pilasters and stucco columns in the vestibule, decorative motifs inspired by Roman and Pompeian paintings on the library ceiling and in the dining room.

The Gardens are a very important part of the Château and we recommend spending some time exploring them. Very fond of botanic, the Empress Joséphine brought her personal touch at the gardens of Malmaison, adding a number of various plants, statues and more.

Some 200 plants, such as purple magnolia, tree peony, hibiscus, camellias, and dahlias, were grown in France for the first time at Malmaison. The gardens are truly stunning!

Getting to Chateau de Malmaison

Chateau de Malmaison is an easy half-day trip from Paris. Considered one of the most beautiful castles near Paris, it is located 8 kilometers to the west from the French capital, in the town of Rueil-Malmaison.

If travelling via public transport from Paris, take Bus 258 to La Defense bus stop. You could also take the RER line A to the stop Rueil-Malmaison. Once you arrive there is a shuttle bus that goes to the Chateau. If walking is preferable, it is longer than a 15-20 minute walk from the train station to the site.

Upon exiting the train station walk down Avenue Albert 1st to the end and take a right onto Avenue Paul Doumer, which will turn into Avenue Napoléon Bonaparte. Keep looking on your left for Avenue du Château de Malmaison and once you find it take a left and the château will be visible on your right.

There is also a public carpark at the site for those driving.

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