To the west of Paris, Nanterre is a residential suburb that overlaps with some ultra-modern business district La Defense.
The University of Paris Nanterre has a local reputation as it is ranked as one of the best universities in the country.
In Nanterre, you can reach all kinds of cool places just by car or train, whether it is the avant-garde architecture of La Defense, a 19th-century fortress or a magnificent royal castle.
We won’t overlook Paris, it couldn’t be more convenient on the RER A line and the Transilien suburban railway network.
However, when you live in the western suburbs, you will have the opportunity to see things that most tourists in Paris don’t.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Nanterre:
1. The Great Arch
An avant-garde symbol of La Defense, the new Arc de Triomphe was built in the 80s, when the area truly came together.
It was a collaboration between two Danish engineers, Erike Reitzel and Johann Otto von Spreckelsen, who won a design competition ordered by François Mitterrand.
The 110-meter-high hollow cube is the western terminus of the Axe Historique, a monument and square in a straight line of arrows that stretches from La Defense to the Louvre.
So, standing below the Grand Arc de Triomphe and being able to look out through the arches of the Arc de Triomphe a few kilometers away will excite you.
2. Place La Defense
This huge square is where you get your bearings in La Défense, like stepping into a retro-futuristic sci-fi movie.
In a space of a few hundred meters, dozens of monuments and contemporary street art can be viewed.
It all started in 1958 with the New Centre for Industry and Technology (CNIT), which is now used as a conference centre and houses a branch of the retailer fnac.
Others worth mentioning are César Baldaccini’s Le Pouce, a 12-meter bronze thumb, and Yaacov Agam’s “Fontaine”, a massive 57 x 26-meter fountain with polychrome enamel and lighting.
3. Andre-Mallo Park
You wouldn’t imagine it today, but until the 1970s, the area was pretty bad.
On the site of the 25-hectare Parc André-Malraux, there are slums and open spaces, while the landscape is littered with abandoned gypsum quarries.
That changed 40 years ago, when the park was laid out while La Defense was being developed.
Now there are gently rolling lawns, gardens and a large pond, all frequented by office workers for lunch on sunny days.
Beyond the treeline to the north is La Defense’s unique skyline.
4. Valerian Hill Fort
On the highest hill in the western suburbs, the fortress of Mont-Valérien was built in 1841 as one of a full circle of fortifications to defend Paris from invasion.
Such an event took place during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, and the fort proved to be the most fortified in the city, having withstood several months of shelling.
Darker days were to come, as more than a thousand prisoners, mostly resistance fighters, were executed at the fort during World War II.
After the war, it became the country’s most important monument to French WWII fighters.
5. Parc de Bagatelle
Located in the middle of the Bois de Boulogne is one of the four botanical gardens in Paris.
The Parc de Bagatelle was built around an 18th-century castle built in just 64 days in 1775, and was intended as a whimsical stopover during hunting trips in the Bois de Boulogne.
A patchwork of gardens surrounds the estate, with winding paths leading to visit the English country gardens, as well as the more formal altars of irises, roses and water lilies, surrounded by tapered trims and pergolas.
Statues, stone vases, peacocks and a beautiful 19th-century Chinese pagoda add to the aristocratic touch.
6. Malmaison Castle
You can reach one of the most famous castles in the Paris region in just ten minutes.
Malmaison was purchased as a home by Napoleon and Queen Josephine, and after the couple divorced, Josephine would live there until her death in 1814. The property is a snapshot of a fascinating period in French history and was even the seat of the French government in the early 19th century.
Inside is a National Napoleonic Museum filled with personal items such as games, porcelain musical instruments that belonged to the couple.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Joséphine consolidated the vast grounds of the Château de Malmaison, which once included this park and castle.
It originally belonged to a neighbor who refused to sell to Josephine until she was found drowned in her own fountain! Now, spend a warm afternoon in the 17-hectare English gardens, an elegant place with meandering paths through mature woodland.
Check out Vital Gabriel Dubray’s monumental statue of Josephine Now the castle here was built in the mid-19th century in the Louis XV Revival style and often features a memorial to Napoleon’s second exile The museum closed in 2017 for renovations.
8. Église Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul
Draw the line on your visit to Rueil-Malmaison by visiting this Renaissance church from the turn of the 17th century.
There is some rich decoration inside, especially the gilt bronze bas-reliefs in the choir depicting the descendants of the cross.
But the main attraction here is the church’s imperial heritage.
Here is the tomb of Joséphine de Beauharnais, completed more than a decade after her funeral in the church in 1814. But her Hortense was also buried in the church, enshrined in a beautiful mausoleum sculpted by Jean-Auguste Barre.
It was commissioned by her son Napoleon III, who ruled France from 1852-1870.
9. Fondation Louis Vuitton
The Fondation Louis Vuitton is a new addition to the cultural scene in Paris, as bold as the Centre Pompidou 40 years ago, at the top of the Bois de Boulogne.
This spooky mansion was designed by Frank Gehry and looks a bit like a futuristic vehicle or mechanical monster.
The museum is mainly used for short-term exhibitions of contemporary and modern art, curated by artists, themes and movements.
Some, like Daniel Buren’s colorful panels on the eaves in 2016 and 2017, transformed the entire space.
If you’re in awe of the building, here’s a permanent exhibit on how Gehry’s project came about.
10. Jardin d’Acclimatation
In 1852, Napoleon III opened this amusement park in the Bois de Boulogne. More than 160 years later, the park is still popular with kids and has an old-world innocence to it.
See what entertainment is on offer here: pantomimes, carousels, miniature trains, puppet shows, pony rides and boat trips on the “Enchanting River”. There is also a small zoo with alpacas, goats, sheep, deer and pigs.
Parents will appreciate the imaginative gardens and 19th-century architecture, while in summer, kids can cool off in the park’s fountains.
11. Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castle
The western suburbs of Paris are full of royal possessions and can be reached in just 15 minutes by RER from Nanterre.
It was the residence of King Louis VI of France in the 12th century, and successive monarchs have done something new here.
For example, Louis IX ordered the Sainte-Chapelle, and keen-eyed sightseers will know that what looks like the building of the same name on the island of Cite is actually its predecessor, designed by the same architect.
The castle is now the National Archaeological Museum, with exhibits dating from prehistoric times to late antiquity.
Here are some items that changed perceptions of ancient cultures, like the stunning naturalistic Brasem Puvenus, an ivory statue of a woman carved 25,000 years ago.
12. The Grand Terrace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Saint-Germain-en-Laye used to have two castles, the other being the new castle, which was demolished in the 1770s.
Fragments of the stunning building and its site remain, such as this stunning terrace, created by the legendary 17th century landscape architect André Le Nôtre.
A 2.4-kilometer long walkway on the promontory above the Seine offers breathtaking panoramic views of western Paris.
In the foreground is the forest of towers of La Defense, behind you can make out other landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and Montparnasse.
13. Paris Attractions
The Arc de Triomphe is the closest major attraction to Nanterre, just over 10 minutes by RER. This world-famous monument to the Napoleonic Wars can be your first stop before continuing on to the Paris Odyssey.
We will introduce landmarks that first-time visitors to Paris cannot miss.
This is the Eiffel Tower, the Sacré Coeur and the medieval wonders of the Ile de la Cité, such as Notre Dame Cathedral.
On the left bank are the Seine, artistic Montmartre, Marais, the infamous Pigalle and the picturesque Latin Quarter.
A little further down is the Luxembourg Gardens, decorated with beautiful Renaissance decorations such as the Medici Fountain from 1620.
14. Paris Art Museum
If you come to Paris for culture, you will need a lot of time as the city is full of extraordinary museums.
The obvious place to start is the Louvre, which alone can take a full day.
But it’s just one of them: if you’re in love with Impressionist art, you can’t miss the Musée d’Orsay, the Orangerie or the Marmotten Monet, which are undoubtedly the best museums to showcase the movement. world.
But for works of applied arts and other eras, there is also the Rodin Museum, the Museum of Decorative Arts, the Jacquemar-André Museum, the Petit Palais and the National Museum.
15. The wonders of Paris
After that, there are many little experiences and moments that will win your heart.
This could be the Coulée Verte, the park on the old elevated railway line or the many elegant covered shopping passages that formed in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Passage du Grand Cerf, Passage Jouffroy, Passage Vivienne, Passage des Panormas and Galerie Choiseuil are just a few minutes away from the 2nd arrondissement.
As cruel as it sounds, you can spend time with the city’s dead: try visiting the famous tombs of Père Lachaise and Montmartre, or among the millions of nameless bones in the eerie catacombs.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Nanterre, France
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