At the gates of Paris, the surroundings of Chatou have long charmed Parisians in search of greenery and calm. As early as the 19th century, the impressionists immortalised moments of joy and relaxation here: Renoir, Monet and Vlaminck created some of their most beautiful paintings here.
Even today, Chatou offers the promise of a complete change of scenery, accessible from Paris in just 30 minutes by RER!
What to do in a day around Chatou? How to prepare your trip? What are the best addresses? And what to see in the area? Here are some practical tips to prepare your next weekend in the countryside!
Plan your day around Chatou
- How to get there? The easiest way to get there is to take the RER A train directly from Paris, getting off at the Chatou – Croissy station.
- How to get there? If you are a walker, you can easily do everything on foot, but if walking is not your forte, opt for a bicycle. The Saint-Germain Boucle de Seine tourist office offers a number of electric bikes for hire at a cost of 4 euros per hour – More information
- How to eat? It all depends on your pace and your desires. You can of course opt for a picnic, and you will easily find pleasant places to sit down. You will also find some suggestions for restaurants in the following article.
To help you prepare your trip, here is a map where you will find all the good addresses listed in this article:
Chatou and the island of the Impressionists
To start the day, head for the island of Chatou, located a few minutes’ walk from the Chatou – Croissy station. This island, also known as the island of the Impressionists, has a history closely linked to that of the painters.
The island had its golden age in the 19th century thanks to a double revolution: on the one hand, the development of the first train line linking Paris to Pec with a stop in Chatou, which allowed Parisians to come and discover the banks of the Seine easily; and on the other hand, the arrival of paint in tubes, which allowed painters (and in particular the Impressionists) to leave their studios and come and paint outdoors.
It is in this context that the Maison Fournaise flourished. It was a meeting place for painters and artists, with a restaurant and boat rental services. It was here that Renoir painted his famous picture Luncheon of the Boating Party.
Today, the island of Chatou preserves the memory of this period. The restaurant of the Fournaise house still exists, but there is also the Fournaise museum, which invites us to come and meet Renoir thanks to a show trail. In a lively and human way, the museum presents Renoir’s approach, his difficulties, his supporters and some anecdotes. – To find out more
It is also on this island, just a few steps from the Maison Fournaise, that the Sequana association is located. Created in 1989, this association seeks to safeguard and enhance the river and cultural heritage of Chatou. Numerous volunteers work on restoration projects for boats and sailing ships from the end of the 18th century/beginning of the 19th century. These volunteers with their golden hands restore wrecks while preserving the authenticity of the boats and the gestures. If you pass by the Sequana workshop and come across a few of these enthusiasts, they will probably find a few minutes to share their passion with you by explaining what they are doing.
And if you want to take a trip in the style of the impressionists, Sequana organises very pleasant guided trips on board Chloé, an electric boat that can accommodate 9 passengers. An activity I highly recommend! – To find out more
Where to eat in Chatou?
On the Impressionist island you can of course go to the restaurant Fournaise but the establishment is under construction as I write this article. Its reopening is planned for summer 2021.
Just opposite, the restaurant Les rives de la Courtille offers traditional cuisine on the banks of the Seine with formulas at 24 € (starter/main course or main course/dessert) for lunch, except on Sundays. To find out more
Carrières-sur-Seine, an atypical village
Then head for Carrières-sur-Seine, where a beautiful stroll awaits you along the banks of the Seine. Then go up through the Mairie park, whose design is attributed to a pupil of Le Nôtre, to reach the town centre located in the hills.
On the way to the allée du pressoir, you will find some charming troglodyte houses. These natural excavations were used by the inhabitants for housing as well as for the needs of agricultural life (cellars, storerooms, stables, etc.).
Continue to the Saint John the Baptist church, built in the early 13th century and famous for its medieval altarpiece.
Did you know that?
Carrières-sur-Seine takes its name from its limestone deposits which were exploited very early on, in particular to construct religious buildings such as the Basilica of Saint-Denis.
When the quarries were no longer in use in the 19th century, they were used to grow mushrooms, which thrived in these dark, damp places. Today, only one mushroom farm remains in operation.
The Grenouillère Museum, the spirit of the guinguette
If you decide to embark on the boat trip with the Sequana association, you will probably hear about the Grenouillère. It was a guinguette located on the banks of the Seine which was very successful in the 1860s: many Parisians came there to swim, canoe or to attend a ball held there every Thursday evening.
After a fire in 1889, the guinguette was rebuilt in a new style and attracted a more serious public and business diners. Then in 1928, the widening of the waterways sounded the death knell for the Grenouillère, which was forced to close its doors.
Today, an association seeks to preserve the memory and the spirit of this guinguette where Renoir and Monet painted several canvases. The Grenouillère Museum presents archive documents, models and copies of paintings by Monet and Renoir.
Currently and until December, you can also see an exhibition organised in partnership with the Maison des Renoir d’Essoyes, dedicated to Gabrielle Renard who was the nurse of one of Renoir’s children and above all one of the painter’s favourite models. – To find out more
Walking in the footsteps of the Impressionists
To (re)discover the paintings of the Impressionist painters, several walks have been created by the tourist office and allow you to see several points of interest while discovering reproductions of the paintings positioned opposite the landscape they represent – More information
What to see around Chatou?
If you wish to extend your visits, there are many other cultural places to discover around Chatou. Here are some of them:
The Désert de Retz
Near Chambourcy, the Désert de Retz is a garden that bears witness to the Age of Enlightenment, a place steeped in history and an invitation to contemplation.
The Domaine de Marly
Along with Versailles, the Domaine Royal de Marly is the great construction of Louis XIV. Although not much remains of this 17th century castle, a landscaped park and a fascinating museum allow you to immerse yourself in this estate, which was once dedicated to festivals, walks and hunting. Follow in the footsteps of Louis XI’s vanished palace!
A stone’s throw from Marly, Saint-Germain-en-Laye is an ideal destination for a cultural getaway. Did you know that it has the largest archaeological museum in Europe, that 29 kings have passed through here and that Louis XIV was born here? In other words, Saint-Germain is not short of history!
The Monte Cristo Castle
With its neo-renaissance architecture and its English garden, the small Monte-Cristo castle attracts attention. Located not far from Saint-Germain-en-Laye, it was built on the initiative of Alexandre Dumas, who was not able to enjoy it for very long… Take a look at this charming castle.
Enjoy your visit!
Article produced in collaboration with the Saint-Germain Boucles de Seine Tourism Office