Courbevoie is an affluent western suburb of Paris that remains connected to the city center but also has a relaxed residential feel. There are some low-key museums to visit in the pavilions built for the 1878 World’s Fair. Courbevois also contains La Defense, the city’s modern banking district, so you don’t have to go too far to see the vibrant city architecture and France’s largest shopping mall.
Despite being in the suburbs, you can take the Metro Line 1 to reach central Paris at lightning speed. For your convenience, we’ll first tackle what you can do in West Paris.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Courbevois:
1. Musée Roybet Fould
A forgotten piece of Parisian history, this museum’s venue is the wooden pavilion built by Norway and Sweden for the 1878 World’s Fair. It blends old and new as it is in a traditional Scandinavian style house, while also standing as an early prefab.
The permanent displays inside are mostly from when the pavilion was built.
As the museum’s name suggests, the works call for paintings by Ferdinand Robert and Consuelo Fuld.
In addition, there are paintings and sculptures by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, as well as many fascinating 19th century trinkets such as toys, dolls, postcards and posters.
2. India Pavilion
Also from the 1878 World’s Fair is the India Pavilion.
This fascinating pavilion was actually commissioned by the future Prince of Wales, Edward VII, to represent British India in the exhibition.
Like the Musée Roybet Fould, it was originally located on the Champ de Mars in front of the Military Academy.
They were all transferred to the Parc de Bécon in Corbevoie in the 1880s, and the Indian Pavilion is still protected as a “Historic Monument”. After falling into disrepair, the pavilion was restored in 2013 and reopened as a studio and gallery for emerging young artists, along with a small exhibition on Courbevois during the Third Republic.
3. Becon Park
These pavilions adorn the peaceful Park Becon, which slopes down to the left bank of the Seine.
There are a few other things to note: you can see the outer walls of the Charras barracks, home to the Swiss Guard, mercenaries who protected the king from the 17th century until the Revolution, and were famously massacred at the Tuileries Palace.
You can also think about the monument to Maréchal Leclerc, the national hero who died in a plane crash in 1947 and was posthumously awarded the title of Marshal of France.
Fantastic river views from the monument’s terrace.
4. Folie Saint James
On the right bank of the Seine, there is an interesting little souvenir from the old regime.
Folie Saint-James is a house and Anglo-Chinese garden, ordered by Claude Baudard de Saint James, the French naval treasurer in the late 1770s.
He allows the architect to do whatever he wants, as long as it is expensive! The bizarre result was a miniature mountain in the center of the garden with rocks that would have been shipped here at great cost.
At its feet is a Doric temple and pond, which was once a network of tunnels covered in sparkling crystals.
5. La Defense
Many high-income residents of Courbevoie make short commutes to the modern business district of Paris next door.
La Defense came to life in the 1960s and continued to grow over the next 30 years, adding some futuristic skyscrapers in central Paris without planning permission.
New record-breaking buildings are in the pipeline, but for now it’s an area to stroll around and snap some photos of quirky buildings and sculptures.
If La Defense has one icon, it is the Grande Arche, a hollow cube-shaped building on its axis a few kilometers southeast of the Arc de Triomphe.
6. Jardin d’Acclimatation
By car or metro, you can reach this attraction at the northern end of the Bois de Boulogne in just a few minutes.
It’s music to kids’ ears as they’ll enjoy roller coasters, playground rides, miniature trains, mini golf and animal attractions.
Opened by Napoleon III in 1860, the Jardin d’Acclimatation still retains its traditional atmosphere: landscaped gardens, many buildings dating back to the 19th century, and many entertainment activities are old school and innocent, so think pony rides and Puppetry.
7. Fondation Louis Vuitton
Plus, with one of the city’s newest cultural attractions on your doorstep, it’s not to be missed.
Designed by Frank Gehry, the museum has recently been remodeled, although it has only been here since 2014.
French conceptual artist Daniel Buren has given a multi-coloured makeover to the vaulted canopies that hang from the main structure of the building.
The collections inside are enriched with the work of notable names in the contemporary art world, such as Gilbert & George, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jeff Coons.
There are also installations by the likes of Olafur Eliasson and Ellsworth Kelly, and a permanent exhibition on the projects that built this striking building.
8. Malmaison Castle
While you’ll instinctively head to Paris for sightseeing, there’s plenty to see in the western suburbs as well.
If traffic is quiet, you can reach this outstanding Royal Palace in about ten minutes.
For some time in the early 19th century, the château even shared the seat of the French government with the Tuileries Palace, which was Napoleon’s last residence before his exile after 100 days.
The woman forever associated with Malmaison was Napoleon’s first wife, Josephine de Beauharnay.
From 1799 until her death in 1814, she lived on the property and invested large sums of cash on its grounds and interior.
Inside there is a museum with personal belongings of Josephine and Napoleon.
9. Église Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul
And since you’re in the area, you can also visit this church near the castle.
It’s a sober Renaissance building, but it’s not the exterior that attracts the attention, but the events that took place here and the memorials inside.
Josephine died of pneumonia in 1814, and her funeral was held on June 2 of that year.
Famed architect Louis-Martin Bertault collaborated with sculptor Pierre Cartellier to build her mausoleum.
You can also see the stunning mausoleum of her daughter Hortense, mother of Napoleon III who ruled France in the Second Empire and commissioned the monument.
10. Local Market
There are four markets in the Courbevoie region that trade five days a week.
Two of them, Marché Villebois Mareuil and Marché Charras, are covered, while Marché Marceau and Marché du Faubourg de l’Arche are open-air.
There are butchers, bakeries, confectionary shops, fishmongers, flower shops, cheese stalls and traditional handicrafts.
They are local establishments and are more popular than supermarkets for two reasons: First, you buy directly from the farm, eliminating the middleman and making it fresher.
Also, the traders who sell this product are experts and will give you tips on how to store and cook anything you buy from them.
11. Shopping in La Defense
One of the shopping and fashion capitals of the world is a quick metro ride away, but La Defense excels here too.
In fact, it houses France’s most visited shopping centre, Les Quatre Temps, attracting a staggering 50 million shoppers each year.
The size of this mall is also incredible, with 300 stores spread across four floors of just about every popular brand you can name, from Sephora to Uniqlo.
Needless to say, all of these stores come with a full range of restaurants and leisure facilities, including a 16-screen UGC cinema.
12. Bois de Boulogne
If you’re visiting Courbevoie with kids, the Jardin d’Acclimatation isn’t the only day around.
You can venture into the huge Boulogne Forest covering 845 hectares.
Here, Lac Inferieur offers boat rentals and you can paddle to the island in the center, which houses a monument to Napoleon III, who ordered the transformation of the park in the 1850s.
There’s also the Château de Bagatelle, a compact but well-bred hunting lodge for the royal family when they were in the Bois de Boulogne.
The formal garden is as refined as ever, and there are even peacocks roaming in it.
13. St. Cloud Park
If you need a reason to hop on the Transilien and come to this park, it’s to take in the romantic panorama of Paris from the terrace of La Lanterne.
When the weather is clear, you can pick out individual landmarks on the horizon.
But there’s more to it than just the scenery: the gardens of the Saint-Cloud Park were designed by André Le Nôtre, who earned a place in the history of Versailles site design.
This terraced parterre, built for the Royal Castle of Saint Cloud, was destroyed in the Franco-Prussian War and is now marked by rows of yew canopies.
14. Musée Marmottan Monet
In the west 16th arrondissement, on the other side of the Bois de Boulogne in Courbevoie, is the world’s greatest Monet museum.
It’s no exaggeration: In 1966, the artist’s son Michel Monet left his father’s collection to the museum, which immediately became the largest collection of Monet’s works in the world.
What makes this exhibition special is that you can trace every stage of Monet’s career, seeing eras, impressions, sunrises.
Michel Monet was one of several donations of Impressionist art to museums in the 20th century.
So Monet accompanied Renoir, Sisley, Degas, Manet, Signac, Pissarro, etc.
15. Paris Attractions
So while we’ve dealt with everything around Courbevoie, Paris isn’t too far away either.
By metro line 1, you can reach the Arc de Triomphe in less than 10 minutes and Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries and the Louvre in less than 20 minutes. From there you can enjoy the city to its fullest, whether you want to stroll along the Seine, take a boat tour of the Eiffel Tower, climb the iconic Notre-Dame Cathedral or stroll along the elegant shopping thoroughfares.
But you can also indulge in culture at the Paris Opera, the Orange Museum, the Orsay Museum and the Rodin Museum, all at your fingertips.
While these are all must-dos, they are just the tip of the iceberg.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Courbevois, France
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