The site of Saint-Germain-en-Laye was first populated by the Gallo-Romans and then by the Merovingians. In the 10th century, King Robert the Pious, who enjoyed hunting in the Laye forest, ordered the construction of a monastery in honour of Saint-Germain of Paris, on the site of the current Saint-Germain church. But the city really took off in 1124, when Louis IV the Fatty built a royal residence there, in place of the current Château-Vieux. The building was destroyed in 1346, during the Hundred Years' War, and then rebuilt by Charles V (the chapel, dating from 1235, is the only original part of the castle that can be admired today). In 1556, Henri II decided to erect near the Seine a building called "house of the theatre of bathing" because of its unobstructed view of the river: thus was born the Château-Neuf. Enlarged and landscaped, the place was particularly famous for its terraced gardens. In 1638, the future Sun King was born in the castle. During the Fronde, he will often take refuge in Saint-Germain, and later, exceptional shows will be created there, such as pieces by Molière and compositions by Lully. In spite of this prestigious setting, the court eventually abandoned the castle at the end of the 17th century. It was not until the arrival of Louis XIV's cousin, James II of England, King of Scotland, then exiled in France, that this royal residence was reborn. In 1777, Louis XVI donated the castle to his brother the Count of Artois. During the Revolution, the Château-Vieux was transformed into a prison, and under the Restoration, into barracks. The city received new impetus with the construction of the railway in 1837 and the visit of Queen Victoria in 1855 to the tomb of her ancestor James II. Thanks to this visit, Napoleon III became interested in the castle. He was a history and archaeology enthusiast and decided to set up a Gallo-Roman museum there, which was inaugurated in 1867 as the Museum of National Antiquities. During the Second World War, the German General Staff remained in the Henri-IV pavilion. The city became a sub-prefecture in 1962 and saw the arrival of the RER ten years later. Thanks to this boom and the policy of renovating its homes and town centre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye has managed to preserve its charm as a provincial town while at the same time being one of the largest open-air shopping malls in France. The latest evolution to date is the fusion of the city with its neighbour Fourqueux, creating here a larger and stronger whole!

The must-see places in Saint-Germain-En-Laye

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