The great Terrace of Le Nôtre in Saint-Germain-en-Laye

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The great terrace of Le Nôtre in Saint-Germain-en-Laye overlooks the Seine River and the western suburbs of Paris. Laid out between 1668 and 1675 near the two castles (Château-Vieux and Château-Neuf), the monumental terrace is 30 metres wide and 2,400 metres long. It’s one of my favourite walking site for its breathtaking views and great perspective. Well done Le Nôtre!


The terrace of Le Nôtre in Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Terrace of Le Nôtre in Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The landscape compositions created by André Le Nôtre take into account the potential optical effects. Indeed, the terrace shows why André Le Nôtre was a master of perspective. The 2.4 km long terrace was designed with an offset perspective to look much longer that it really is.

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

On the first third of the terrace’s length (between the Belvedere and the Royal half moon) Le Nôtre created a cunning slope while leaving the two other thirds flat. To the eye the slope seems to be situated halfway, so that once you are on the flat part of the terrace the walker thinks he has reached halfway while he has actually only covered one-third.

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The perspective of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

Le Nôtre worked on funnelling the lines of perspective too: the alley widens imperceptibly as the walker moves forward.

The terrace comprises of:

  • the Grand Terrace (or ‘Grande Terrasse‘ between the Belvedere and the Rond Royal) and
  • the Little Terrace (or ‘Petite Terrasse‘ between the Pavilion Henri IV and the Belvedere).
Map of Saint-Germain-en-Laye Terrace of Le Notre by French Moments

Map of the terrace in Saint-Germain-en-Laye by French Moments


The Little Terrace

The Little Terrace (400 metres) starts at the Henri IV Pavilion (site of the Château-Neuf) and ends at the Belvedere:

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The “little terrace”, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments


The Grand Terrace

The Grand Terrace (1,945 metres) starts from the Belvedere and passes through the Demi-Lune (half-moon). Bordered by lime trees, the promenade ends in the vicinity of Le Mesnil-le-Roi at the Rond Royal:

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

Rond Royal: the north end of the great terrace © French Moments


The wrought-iron railing was added between 1857 and 1871.

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The railing of the great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments


The amazing panoramic view from the terrace

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

Since its creation the grand terrace has offered stunning views of the Western suburbs of Paris.


Orientation table

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The viewpoint (belvédère), Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

At the Belvedere an orientation table shows the main landmarks seen from the terrace: the River Seine, the green stretch of Le Vésinet, the business centre of La Défense, Mont-Valérien, the Montparnasse Tower and the Eiffel Tower. On a clear day the Sacré-Cœur basilica on the hill of Montmartre can be seen in the distance behind La Défense.


View of Le Pecq

The old village of Le Pecq clings to the hill’s western flank. In the distance, the RER A bridge, the River Seine and the shady suburb of Le Vésinet.

Town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye 11 © French Moments

View of Le Pecq from the Terrace of Le Nôtre © French Moments


Views of Le Vésinet

The wooded suburb of Le Vésinet with its mansions. The town contains many public gardens designed by French landscape gardener Paul de Lavenne.

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

Le Vésinet seen from the Terrace of Le Nôtre © French Moments

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The great terrace of Le Nôtre – view to Le Pecq and Le Vésinet © French Moments


Views of Le Mesnil-le-Roi and Maisons-Laffitte

Fields so close to Paris? Yes this small corner of countryside has been spared from urban activity. It stretches at the foot of the terrace from Le Pecq to Le Mesnil-le-Roi.

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The great terrace of Le Nôtre – view towards Maisons-Laffitte © French Moments

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The great terrace of Le Nôtre – the countryside near Le Mesnil-le-Roi © French Moments

In the distance you can see the rooftops of the castle of Maisons-Laffitte.

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The rooftops of the castle of Maisons-Laffitte in the distance © French Moments


Views of La Défense

The view towards the East leads to the high-rise district of La Défense. Since its creation, Europe’s largest business district has blocked the view to Paris from the terrace.

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

Looking East towards Le Pecq, Le Vésinet and La Défense © French Moments

If you take the time to observe the view, you’ll notice some of La Défense’s iconic buildings such as the Grande Arche.

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The great terrace of Le Nôtre and view to La Défense © French Moments

And right to the left, can you see the Sacré-Cœur basilica of Montmartre in the distance?

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The great terrace of Le Nôtre – view of La Défense © French Moments

Let’s have a closer look…

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre seen from the great terrace © French Moments


Views of Mont-Valérien, the Eiffel Tower and Montparnasse Tower

One of the most exciting things to see from the terrace is… the Eiffel Tower!

As the tower rises to a height of 324 m, it is possible to see its spire from the whole length of the terrace:

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The great terrace of Le Nôtre and the Eiffel Tower in the distance © French Moments

Let’s look closer… the Eiffel Tower to the left and the top of Montparnasse Tower to the right. In the middle, the hill of Mont-Valérien:

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The great terrace of Le Nôtre – view to the Eiffel Tower, Mont Valérien and Montparnasse Tower © French Moments

Let’s zoom in. Both towers are clearly seen (on an Autumn day):

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The Eiffel Tower and Montparnasse Tower seen from the Terrace © French Moments


Views of the A16 motorway and Montmartre

The A16 motorway that links Paris to Normandy winds its way across the countryside:

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The great terrace of Le Nôtre – view of the A16 motorway and Montmartre in the distance © French Moments

Can you see the Sacré-Cœur basilica of Montmartre in the distance?


Views of Argenteuil

Looking to the North is the suburb of Argenteuil with its high-rise blocks:

The great terrace of Le Nôtre, Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The great terrace of Le Nôtre – view towards Argenteuil © French Moments


About the local wine: Vin des Grottes

Vineyards of Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The vineyards of Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

No, it’s not a joke. Saint-Germain-en-Laye enjoys its own wine produced locally!

A small vineyard can be seen under the Petite Terrasse. Some 1,820 grapevines were planted in 1999 by the communes of Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Le Pecq with two varieties of Pinot Noir grapes. Carrying on a very old tradition, it produces a wine called ‘Vin des Grottes’.

And what about the wine? I was lucky enough to have a taste! Here is the bottle:

Wine of Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

Vin des Grottes, the wine made in Saint-Germain-en-Laye! © French Moments


Useful Links about Saint-Germain-en-Laye

The Castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments

The Castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye © French Moments


Some of the links above are affiliates so if you’re planning a trip, using these links helps me keep things running. There’s no extra cost to you. All you have to do is click the link and any booking you make is automatically tracked.

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About Author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. In 2014 he moved back to Europe from Sydney with his wife and daughter to be closer to their families and to France. He has a background teaching French and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations and a degree of Economics and Management.

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