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 sites for its breathtaking views and great perspective. Well done Le Nôtre!
The terrace of Le Nôtre in Saint-Germain-en-Laye
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 than it really is.
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.
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).
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 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 wrought-iron railing was added between 1857 and 1871.
The amazing panoramic view from the terrace
Since its creation, the grand terrace has offered stunning views of the Western suburbs of Paris.
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.
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.
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.
In the distance, you can see the rooftops of the castle of Maisons-Laffitte.
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.
If you take the time to observe the view, you’ll notice some of La Défense’s iconic buildings such as the Grande Arche.
And right to the left, can you see the Sacré-Cœur basilica of Montmartre in the distance?
Let’s have a closer look…
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:
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:
Let’s zoom in. Both towers are clearly seen (on an Autumn day):
Views of the A16 motorway and Montmartre
The A16 motorway that links Paris to Normandy winds its way across the countryside:
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:
About the local wine: Vin des Grottes
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: