Château de Malmaison.
Originally built in the 17th century as a country retreat near Paris, Malmaison gained significance during the time of Napoleon Bonaparte and his first wife, Josephine. The couple purchased the estate in 1799 and transformed it into a splendid residence.
Admittedly, this château doesn’t land high on my recommendation list compared to others in the region. Distance and lack of easy access for the latter half of the trip, few nearby quality food options, and its overall state & collection place it lower (IMO!).
If you’re a history buff or love rose gardens, and you’ve already visited the nearby castles, then Malmaison should go on the list.
The château was a center for intellectual and social life during Napoleon’s rise to power. However, the château’s glory was short-lived. Napoleon’s military campaigns and eventual downfall brought an end to the opulence of Malmaison. Josephine, having divorced Napoleon in 1809, passed away in 1814, leaving the château behind.
Over the years, the Château de Malmaison witnessed various owners and purposes. It fell into disrepair until the French government acquired it in 1904. Recognizing its historical significance, efforts were made to restore and preserve the château and its grounds.
Today, visitors can explore the meticulously restored rooms, admire Josephine’s collection of art & personal belongings, and stroll through the beautifully maintained gardens.
While the roses are blooming in Paris right now, this microclimate is about two weeks behind the city. Josephine cultivated a rose garden that gained recognition as one of the finest in Europe. To the left of the château is the vast ancient roseraie. And to the right is a stunning, enormous collection of new varietals. If you are here in June, it’ll be an incredible show.
Paris Metro Chatelet, RER A to Rueil-Malmaison stop.
From there, it’s a 35-minute walk through quiet neighborhoods to the chateau, or you can take a bus or taxi.