With its neo-renaissance architecture and its English garden the small Monte Cristo castle catches the eyes. Situated in the Yvelines in France, not far from Saint-Germain-en-Laye, it was built on the initiative of the writer Alexandre Dumas who was not able to enjoy it for very long…
What is the history of the castle of Monte Cristo ? And what can we see there ? Visit this unusual place!
The eventful history of the Monte Cristo castle
In the 1840s, the writer Alexandre Dumas ( father) was at the height of his glory! His plays and historical novels made him particularly famous. Year after year, he published successful titles such as the trilogy of the Three Musketeers (1844), the Count of Monte Cristo (1844-1846), Queen Margot (1845) and the Lady of Monsoreau (1846).
In 1844 he bought a piece of land on the slopes of Port-Marly near Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and commissioned the architect Hippolyte Durand to build a neo-renaissance-style castle, complete with a second building which he called “the If Castle” and which served as his office. The complex is nestled in a typical English park with streams and caves.
” – Mr Durand, you are going to draw here an English park in the middle of which I want a renaissance castle, opposite a gothic pavilion surrounded by water… There are springs, you will make me waterfalls.
– But Mr. Dumas, the ground is clay, your buildings will slide.
– Mr. Durand, you’ll dig down to the tufa… You’ll make two floors of cellars and arcades.
– That will cost you a few hundred thousand francs.
– I should hope so.”
The housewarming party of this estate, which was born at great expense, was celebrated in July 1847 during a big party that brought together nearly 600 people! Balzac describes the place as “one of the most delicious follies we have ever done”. But a few months later Alexandre Dumas was ruined: with the revolution of 1848, his “historical theatre” on Boulevard du Temple in Paris went bankrupt and the writer was forced to sell the Monte Cristo estate in 1849 at a bargain price.
Monte Cristo then passes from hand to hand. In 1894, the industrialist Hippolyte Fontaine (inventor of the dynamo) bought the property, restored and electrified it. At his death, the successive owners abandoned the castle which almost disappeared in the 1960s in favour of a real estate program. One is its safeguard to Alain Decaux who founded the Society of Friends of Alexandre Dumas. After successfully mobilising public opinion the communes of Marly-le-Roi, Pecq-sur-Seine and Port-Marly formed an inter-communal syndicate to buy the property in the 1970s. Restored, the estate has been open to the public since 1994.
Visit of the castle of Monte Cristo
The estate therefore consists of two buildings – Monte Cristo Castle and If Castle – as well as a park.
The castle of Monte-Cristo was the residence of Alexandre Dumas. Today it shelters a museum dedicated to the writer. You can discover his origins, his history, his works. On the ground floor are the living rooms and the dining room; on the first floor the bedroom, the bathroom, the library and especially the sumptuous Moorish living room with a decoration of sculptures and arabesques elaborated by Tunisian craftsmen. The second floor is devoted to temporary exhibitions.
Opposite, the If Castle is a small Gothic castle that served as a work cabinet for Alexandre Dumas. On the walls are engraved some of the titles of the writer’s books as well as the names of the heroes of his novels.
As for the park, it does not lack charm. Around the castle, deckchairs allow you to enjoy a little nap in this enchanting setting.
How to get to the castle of Monte Cristo from Paris ?
From Paris, the castle of Monte-Cristo is accessible by public transport. For that you have to take either the RER or the Transilien:
- RER A direction and stop Saint Germain en Laye then the bus line 10 direction Marly le Roi, stop ” Les lampes “, go down the avenue Kennedy then first on the right, chemin des Montferrand, follow the pedestrian route (5 minutes on foot).
- Transilien direction Saint Nom la Bretèche, stop Marly le Roi then bus line 10 direction “Les lampes”, go down avenue Kennedy then first right, chemin des Montferrand, follow the pedestrian itinerary (5 minutes on foot).
Chemin du Haut des Ormes
78560 Le Port-Marly
Schedules vary according to the season, consult the castle’s website.
Full price: €7.
Reduced rate: €5 (under 25 years old)
Free for children under 10 years old
Please note that on the 2nd and last Sunday of the month, guided or dramatised tours take place at a higher price.
Access to the park only: €3.