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A Guide to the Best Things to do in Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Last Updated on 8th June 2023 by Sophie Nadeau

Around twenty minutes west of Paris by RER A regional train, lies the quaint town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Complete with its own royal palace, a couple of other museums and enough patisserie shops to make you drool, it’s the perfect place to go on a day trip out of Paris…Here’s your guide to the best things to do in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, including what to know before you go.

Introducing Saint Germain en Laye, the Birthplace of Debussy

Located in the Île de France and with a population hovering around forty thousand people, the pretty town of Saint Germain en Laye is best known as being the birthplace of Debussy. And with an amazing view over Paris and vast woodlands to walk in, the town also has a rich history.

For more information, there is also a tourism office in the centre of the town with plenty of information on nearby attractions.


How long do you need in Saint-Germain-en-Laye?

since the town isn’t that large, you’ll only need a few hours to explore the museums, wander the cobbled lanes of the town, and admire the views onto the surrounding countryside.

All of Saint-Germain-en-Laye can easily be seen over the course of an afternoon, though you could opt to spend an entire day there if you prefer to explore a spot at a slower pace. After all, there are several restaurants in town where you can enjoy a traditional French lunch.

What is St Germain en Laye known for?

As well as being the birthplace of Debussy, Saint-Germain-en-Laye is also the birthplace of Louis XIV (none other than the Sun King of Versailles).

The heir apparent to the throne of France was born in 1638 and his parents proclaimed him to be “Louis the God-given” on account of the fact that Louis XIII had been trying 23 years for an heir to the throne prior to the birth of Louis XIV.

Things to do in Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Visit the Musée Archéologie (Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye)

The château at Saint-Germain-en-Laye was once key to the French court and kings of France before they moved to Versailles. It was here that Napoleon I created his cavalry training school in the 19th Century. 

Today the Palace has been transformed into a museum, the National Archaeology Museum for France to be more precise. There are particularly good displays about pre-History. There is also a chapel that you can visit. The museum is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM, except on Tuesdays when the museum is closed.


Explore the Domaine Saint-Germain-en-Laye

The amazing view over the former gardens allows you to see all the way to La Defense (and on a clear day, Paris itself). The woodland and long plane tree lined avenues are lovely to walk around and make a great place to have a picnic.

At the very end of the garden is the Jardin Anglais (English Garden). The wending pathways here were created with the introduction of the railway line in order to ‘beautify’ the garden when the new tracks cut up its previous periphery.


Learn about Debussy at Maison Debussy

Located on the first floor above the Tourism office, the house of the composer Debussy costs a few euros to visit and it is here where you can learn more about the famed Frenchman. 

Although it is not known in exactly which room the famous French composer was born, the museum collections comprise of many of his personal possessions and it was also here that he lived with his wife and daughter ChouChou

Eat a pastry at Gouley

This award winning patisserie shop has more patisseries that I have ever seen in my life! From macarons to tarts, there is a rainbow of flavours, fruits, and sweets to choose from. After a lot of deliberation, I decided to go for the pistachio and raspberry tart.


Wander around Place des Marchés

Situated in the very heart of the town is the main square. Surrounded by independent boutiques, cheese shops, boulangeries (French bakeries) and, of course, patisserie shops, it is a great place to stop, drink an espresso and go people watching.


How to visit Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Take the RER A in the direction of Saint-Germain-en-Laye from Auber. The train takes around half an hour each way and costs just a few euros.

France Travel Information

France uses the Euro (€)

The main language spoken in France is French. Though you can get by with English is more touristic places, it’s always a good idea to learn some of the local language. Bring along a simple phrasebook like this one to help make your travels easier.

The capital of France is Paris. For more information and inspiration, check out our best Paris travel tips.

France uses plug types, types C and E. As such, if you’re travelling from the UK, USA, Canada, and many other destinations, you’ll need to buy an adapter. I recommend buying a universal travel adapter that you can use for multiple destinations (rather than buying a new adaptor for each place you visit).

As one of the most popular destinations in the world, you should always consider booking your accommodation well ahead of time. Check out this website for price comparison details and detailed reviews.

Be careful with your belongings. I also highly advise to avoid wearing a backpack and to instead opt for a crossbody bag like these ones. I personally use a crossbody bag by this brand and love its shape, size, and versatility.

Ultimate Guide to the Best of Jardin des Tuileries (+ A History) in Paris, France
saint-germain-en-laye day trip from paris, france, home to debussy and the archaeological museum

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A Francophile at heart, she runs when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She splits her time between Paris and London and travels as much as she can! Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.

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Saturday 3rd of June 2017

The museum about thé french painter Maurice Denis is also a interesting place to discover on Saint Germain en Laye

Christine Tatum

Monday 12th of September 2016

Thanks for sharing the vlog! I WILL be watching it over and over and dreaming of my trip!


Tuesday 16th of February 2016

Awesome! I want to visit Paris someday- what a gorgeous city with so much history!

-Ashley Le Stylo Rouge


Monday 15th of February 2016

I am so in love with this post! I'm visiting Paris for the third time this summer and I feel like I want to spend a day or two outside of the city! I've never heard of this town but it looks so quaint and perfect for a day trip. Especially since it's so close by.

After all of the deliberation, was the pistachio and raspberry tart a good choice? It sure looks like it was! YUM.

Thanks so much for sharing! :)

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