Château de Malmaison

Well worth a visit, Château de Malmaison is situated on the outskirts of Reuil-Malmason in the western suburbs of Paris and is the country home purchased in 1799 by Joséphine de Beauharnais, married to Napoléon Bonaparte, the future Napoleon I of France. An expensive purchase, Joséphine paid 325,000 francs for a property that required extensive renovation, her intention to fund it from her husband’s gains from the Egyptian Campaign, architects Percier and Fontaine taking the property from a country residence to a magnificent château, including an orangerie and rose garden. Though initially furious at the enormous sum his wife had spent, Malmaison brought much happiness to the Bonaparte family where together with Tuilerie in Paris, it was the site of the French government between 1800-1802. The much loved home was a backdrop to meetings, official and private receptions, concerts, balls, lunches, field sports and sadly, their eventual divorce in 1809, the house passing to Joséphine who remained there until her death in her 1st floor bedroom, May 29th 1814.

Fully restored by French architect Pierre Humbert in the early 20th century, the Imperial residence is furnished with original pieces to replicate Joséphine’s era. Grandoise yet intimate, the chateau feels like a family home where if one closes ones eyes, it possible to feel the swish of air as Joséphine passes by in her exquisite gown, entertaining her guests.

A small car park is adjacent, the ideal time to arrive being around 12.30 as the château closes for lunch – plenty of spaces and just a short walk into the centre of Malmaison for lunch. Signposted, Chemin de Joséphine is clearly marked by pavement studs that are decorated with the Imperial Bee and information points to help visitors explore the town that charmed the family. Keep a straight direction to a pretty market square, home to the 9th century parish church of Saint-Pierre Saint Paul where Empress Joséphine rests beside her daughter Queen Hortense and of course, a good selection of restaurants and eateries…

Our plan was to visit bistro Le Tout Va Bien, 17 rue Paul Vaillant Couturier but alas, Easter Sunday lunchtime and closed, likewise many others. We did stumble on nearby, Le Patte Noire, 56 rue du Gué with a short but superb looking menu; a good value weekday menu at €29, the al a carte main courses between €35 - €40 and wasn’t really what we had in mind so instead headed back to the market square brasserie, Le Beauharnais. A narrow galley room that stretched back to a postage stamp sized kitchen with an eclectic décor combining traditional (tiny) wooden tables with just enough room for 2 plates, modern pastel shaded lighting and an assortment of artwork. Heading to the rear we passed customers obviously enjoying steak-frites with baked beans, an unexpected combination though stranger still, an elderly couple who arrived with their own platter of oysters, presumably from the adjacent poissonnerie with not a single brow raised. With a view that steaks can often be chewy, we opted for a €11 Plat du Jour; salmon & spinach quiche. What arrived was an enormous wedge of feather-light homemade quiche served with a pile of salad and together with a carafe of Côtes du Rhône we had a simple yet thoroughly enjoyable lunch before retracing our steps back to the château.

Château de Malmaison
Avenue Château de Malmaison
92500 Rueil-Malmaison

Free the 1st Sunday of each month, otherwise €6.50. Audio-guides available.