“Stop the car!” I cried, “We absolutely have to see more of this town.” Drive through the French countryside with me, and you’ll notice a recurring theme. I insist on stopping everytime I spot something that might be vaguely interesting- as was the case with Louveciennes.
But then again, you won’t find this quaint little town in many brochures. Nor will you find it on any tourist maps… Instead, the charm of this quintessentially French destination lies in its off the beaten tourist track nature, as well as its status as inspiration for many an impressionist painter.
A visit to Louveciennes
One of my favourite things about France is that you could spend ten lifetimes exploring each and every region, and yet still uncover hidden gems just waiting to be explored. The town of Louvecinnes is no exception.
Barely fifteen kilometers from the center of Paris, the town lies between the iconic town of Versailles and the adorable town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Situated in the Yvelines department to the West of Paris, this quintessential French town was once the muse of the Great French painters who populated the region around the turn of the last century.
Pissarro, Renoir, and Sisley all found a tranquil place to paint out here in the French countryside. Even Monet, the most famous of all the impressionists, ventured the ten kilometers out of Paris. He too, unable to resist the lure of this typical French town.
A quintessentially French town near Paris
It was a blustery April afternoon when we pulled up into the car park at Louveciennes. The town’s only car park. Spots of rain splattered on the car. It was the kind of weather which wouldn’t have seemed at all out of place in the English countryside.
Apart from we were in France. There was no mistake about it. After all, it was a Sunday afternoon and every local business was closed. Wandering the streets, we were alone. The town was once known as ‘Luciennes’ and the population of the town and local area numbers just 7000.
It was the ‘sleepy’ nature of the town which had first caught the attention of the impressionists over a century earlier. And wandering around the empty streets I could see why. But the town wasn’t always so tranquil. Louveciennes started off life, like many towns in the Yvelines region, following the construction of an abbey in the local area.
A brief history of Louveciennes
In the VI Century, Louveciennes was predominantly a farming community. However, a few hundred centuries later in the twelfth century, this all changed. Louis XIV moved the court to nearby Versailles and the surrounding towns soon became a hub for nobility, royalty and their entourages.
Dozens of French Châteaux were constructed; many of which still survive to this day. Did I mention how gorgeous all these French palaces are? Many are still worth a visit; yet another reason to embark on a road trip around the Yvelines region.
By the eighteenth century, the town of Louveciennes had once again faded out of the spotlight. And with the royalty gone, the numerous Châteaux the only reminder that they once ruled the region. Impressionists flocked to the charming town and it remains much the same today as it did all those years ago when Monet first visited…
Best things to do in Louveciennes
With little by way of attractions, the charm of this small French town lies in its picturesque nature and unspoiled cobbled lanes. With this being said, there are several interesting things to do in Louveciennes of note:
St. Martin and St. Blaise Church: In the very heart of this town of just 8000, the church was constructed during the 19th-century and is now a Roman Catholic church.
Château de Monte Cristo: Just under two miles away, in the equally historical town of le Port-Marly, Alexadre Dumas’ former home can be visited for a small fee.
L’aqueduc de Louveciennes: Constructed in the 17th-century, when Louis XIV was in power, the aqueduct is also sometimes referred to as the acqueduct of Marly.
How to visit Louveciennes
Louveciennes is best combined with a trip to somewhere else. Unless that is, you simply want a day of strolling the streets, snapping photos, and enjoying dinner in one of the town’s only eateries. The town has its own train station, that of Louveciennes, and a day trip from Paris will take just over half an hour each way.
If you’re travelling by car, then there’s free parking throughout the village. While the town never gets too busy (even in summer, i.e. peak European high season), it’s best visited in the late spring when the cherry blossoms are blooming and pops of colour can be seen throughout the town.
Where to stay in Louveciennes
If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Paris, all the while never venturing too far away from the City of Light, then I recommend a weekend escape to this pretty town and its surrounds. With that being said, there is nowhere to stay in Louveciennes itself! Instead, some of the best accommodation nearby includes:
Pavillon Henri IV: Located in the picturesque village of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, this four-star hotel is incredibly well reviewed and is located within the town which was the birthplace of Debussy and is even home to its own castle.