France’s National Museum of Archaeology: Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Yvelines
Few châteaux have had as turbulent a history as that of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, situated 19km north-west of Paris in the magnificent forest of the same name.
A royal residence for several centuries since the time of St Louis and the birthplace of several sovereigns, this most important Île-de-France château now houses France’s National Museum of Archaeology.
Although the château has only held this title since 2005, its connection with archaeology can be traced back much further to 1862, when Napoleon III asked Eugene Millet (a pupil of Viollet-le-Duc) to restore the building and transform it into a museum. The aim was to display the treasure discovered during the Second Empire’s great archaeological excavations.
A unique collection of prehistoric artefacts
This is the start of an exciting museum establishment that will see the château endowed with nearly 30,000 objects. It will form one of the richest collections of prehistoric artefacts in Europe, featuring objects from all five continents covering six chronological periods: Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman and the early Middle Ages.
An extensive renovation programme is ongoing at the château, with the south façade, bell tower and large terrace wall undergoing restoration. It’s an ideal place to understand archaeology and its history through a series of workshops and conferences.
The museum’s educational mission is fulfilled by a busy calendar of events, featuring temporary and thematic exhibitions on subjects such as ancient Greece and the château’s own restoration. Beyond the confines of the building, visitors can explore beautiful gardens designed by André Le Nôtre (who also designed those at Versailles) and enjoy peaceful walks in an environment that combines nature, French architecture and ancient treasures.
National Museum of Archaeology
Place Charles de Gaulle