The former residence of Joséphine de Beauharnais and Napoléon Bonaparte, Château de Malmaison is both an opulent palace and an important historical landmark. The château is located roughly nine miles (15 kilometers) west of Paris in Rueil-Malmaison and was once used as government headquarters, but it’s most famous for its elegant gardens.
Joséphine de Beauharnais—wife of Napoleon Bonaparte and the first Empress of France—purchased Château de Malmaison in 1799. She transformed it from a dilapidated estate into an extravagant imperial residence with elegant grounds, a large rose garden, and exotic animals. The château served as government headquarters from 1800–1802. Following her divorce in 1809, Joséphine lived there until her death in 1814. The palace was restored by architect Pierre Humbert and is today a Musée National.
The Château de Malmaison, given its proximity to central Paris, makes a good day trip destination for history buffs and architecture lovers. It is also included in some city passes, while tours to the château from central Paris include perks such as round-trip coach transit and skip-the-line tickets.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Château de Malmaison is free to visit on the first Sunday of the month.
- Separate tickets to the palace grounds are available for those who don’t want to see the interior.
- Helmets, large umbrellas, strollers, and baby carriers with metal parts are forbidden.
- Only the ground floor of the château is accessible to those with limited mobility.
- The château is closed for lunch.
How to Get There
To reach the Château de Malmaison, take the RER A from central Paris to the Gare de La Défense; transfer to the 258 bus and disembark at the École la Malmaison stop. Alternatively, take the RER A to the Gare de Nanterre Préfecture, transfer to the 259 bus, and then disembark at École la Malmaison stop. The château can also be reached by car or taxi (free parking is available on-site) and most tours include transportation.
When to Get There
The visiting hours at Château de Malmaison vary according to the seasons, but the museum is open every day except Tuesday. Be sure to time your visit around its closure for lunch. The museum is closed on Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.
The Château de Malmaison showcases numerous special objects and artworks, from Joséphine’s musical instruments and personal art collection to Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David. Joséphine’s rose garden remains a highlight of its grounds.