A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the CompiÃ¨gne Forest and the Armistice monuments there. Besides this wonderful forest, there is also a ChÃ¢teau de CompiÃ¨gne – which was the royal residence for French monarchs, and also for Napoleon and Napoleon III. Since the mid 1300s a royal chÃ¢teau was cited in the forest because the French kings used it for their hunting activities. But the castle we see today was renovated and remodelled in a neoclassical style during the second half of the eighteenth century for Louis XV, who particularly liked hunting and spent much of his time here. Together with the castles at Versailles and Fontainebleau, CompiÃ¨gne was one of three seats of royal government.
During the revolution the castle was all but gutted, the furniture was sold off and the art was taken to Paris and the nations central museum. In 1807 Napoleon ordered renovations, and then in the 1850s Napoleon III and his wife used it as an autumn residence. Consequently the castle has both First French Empire (1808-1810) and Second French Empire styles of decoration, although there are traces of earlier monarchist decoration.
Today the chÃ¢teau incorporates not one but three museums – well these places are palatial! First there are ‘Les Appartements Historiques‘, in which you can tour examples of royal apartments from the eighteenth century, as well as the First and Second Empires. Then there is the MusÃ©e du Second Empire, which is the rule of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870. This ‘museum’ displays the national collection of paintings, sculptures and other objects from this period in France’s history. And finally, the MusÃ©e de la Voiture et du Tourisme. Founded in 1927 this ‘museum’ has well over a hundred bicycles, animal drawn carriages and early cars that tell the history of the car and tourism.
Together with the various attractions in the forest, the ChÃ¢teau de CompiÃ¨gne with its three museums make a wonderful day-trip from Paris. It’s only a 50 minute journey by train from Gard du Nord. Or you may prefer to have a more leisurely visit by staying overnight in a hotel in CompiÃ¨gne.
For practical information about the castle, see the museums’ website.
More on European Museums
Find out about more museums in Europe on Europe a la Carte.