3 of Napoleon’s Favorite Getaways From Paris

Ultimately surrendering to the British, who exiled him, he died in 1821 on the Atlantic island of St. Helena.

The château’s highlights include the library decorated with literary figures, Joséphine’s 16-sided bedchamber and the tent-like Council Room, where the 1800 Treaty of San Ildefonso with Spain was signed, giving France the Louisiana Territory. Three years later, Napoleon sold it to the U.S. 

Need to know: Entry: 6.50 euros (about $7, depending on exchange rates). It is wheelchair-accessible only on the ground floor. Easiest route: a taxi ride from west Paris. Alternately, take the RER “A” train to Rueil-Malmaison station, then bus 27. 

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a ballroom at Château de Compiègne

Château de Compiègne houses several museums. Here, a lavish ballroom at the château.

Hugo Maertens/Château de Compiègne

Château de Compiègne, Compiègne, France

About 55 miles to the north of Paris and wrapped by an approximately 35,000-acre forest, Château de Compiègne, which houses several museums, was something of a love nest for Napoleon, says Etienne Guibert, heritage curator at the château. He says Napoleon spent his first night here with his second wife, Austrian Archduchess Marie-Louise, in her canopied bed. Married by proxy, they didn’t set eyes on each other until March 27, 1810, when Napoleon met her carriage en route to the château; they returned there in April to kick off their official honeymoon.

“All the memoirists say that, during this period, Napoleon is very in love with his wife and it’s a little bit difficult to have a moment to discuss state affairs,” Guibert says. 

Brimming with original furnishings from the suites of Napoleon, Marie-Louise and their son, the château’s must-see historic apartments offer the most complete example of First Empire decor in France. 

Napoleon’s nephew, Emperor Napoleon III, made this château world-famous during the Second French Empire (1852-1870). Every autumn, he hosted some 100 guests over four to six weeks, the roster changing weekly in an A-list event called “the Series,” when monarchs and ambassadors mingled with VIPs such as author Gustave Flaubert, scientist Louis Pasteur and painter Eugène Delacroix. Hunting was favored, charades were frequent and plays were staged, says general curator Marc Desti — and often the guests “were writing the texts, doing the costumes and playing [the pieces] themselves.” 

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