Historical and Cultural Tourism and Leisure Guide in Essonne, Île-de-France

Discover gardens or famous residences, nature or aerial leisure in Essonne. Secret garden of Île-de-France, the department of Essonne, with landscapes of plains, forests, valleys and rivers, is home to a number of beautiful parks and gardens ideal for strolling, like those by example of Courances, Courson and Saint-Jean-de-Beauregard. Discovering Essonne also means exploring its many castles and museums, without forgetting to visit the medieval town of Dourdan, the charming village of Milly-la-Forêt, the church of Saint-Sulpice-de- Favières or the town of Art and History of Étampes.

Nicknamed “secret garden of Île-de-France”, a few kilometers south of Paris, a historical, cultural and natural heritage which has some wonderful surprises in store. Tourism in Essonne revolves around six main axes, castles and their gardens, religious buildings, museums, artists’ houses including those of Victor Hugo in Bièvres, Alphonse Daudet in Draveil, Claude François in Dannemois and Tsugouharu Foujita in Villiers-le-Bâcle, business tourism for large established companies and sporting activities.

Many ideas for outings and getaways, Cultural and historical heritage, remarkable natural heritage or even outdoor leisure activities… Essonne is notably home to two national stages with the Opéra de Massy and the Théâtre de l’Agora d’Evry, several stages recognized for contemporary music with the Plan de Ris-Orangis, Paul B. de Massy and the Rack’ am from Brétigny-sur-Orge. Numerous places of culture offer a program covering all fields of artistic creation.

The two medieval towns of Dourdan and Etampes offering fortifications and other remarkable remains of the Middle Ages. The departmental estates of Chamarande (17th century) or Méréville (18th century) or the numerous 19th century castles and gardens punctuating Essonne attest to the interest that this territory has in terms of natural heritage. The Courson estate, the Courances estate, the castle and gardens of Saint-Jean-de-Beauregard, famous for its plant festivals, the Villeconin castle and the Montlhéry Tower, the one of the vestiges of history concerning King Louis XI.

Essonne is particularly recognized for its numerous gardens, public or private, which bear witness to the history of this territory. Gardens, museums, historical, cultural or natural heritage… A few dozen kilometers from Paris, Essonne offers many remarkable and unique heritage sites. Ideally, its landscape combines large preserved spaces with numerous forests and watercourses.

Recently, Essonne has developed tourism based on leisure entertainment and outdoor sports with its numerous infrastructures. Practiced in one of the two leisure centers of Étampes and Port-aux-Cerises, hiking or cycling on marked circuits, including the GR 1, the GR 2 and the GR 11, the fifteen golf courses including that of the Stade français Paris rugby in Courson-Monteloup, treetop adventure courses, swimming pools and equestrian clubs.

The Essonne department has a multitude of places spread across the territory, almost each commune having a multipurpose room, a media library, a cultural center or a youth and culture center. A large network of cinemas completes this offer. Many cultural, sporting and tourist activities await you in Essonne. Ideally located a few kilometers from Paris, Essonne has an exceptional cultural offering to delight young and old, amateurs and enthusiasts.

The territory of the current department of Essonne was definitely occupied from the Neolithic period, as evidenced by the discoveries in various points of the department of carved flint and the elevation of menhirs such as in the forest of Sénart in Brunoy. During the Gallic era, the territory was on the border between the domains of the Parisii to the north, the Carnutes to the southwest and the Sénons to the southeast. The first towns then began to stand out, including Dourdan, renowned for its pottery activity. The Roman invasion allowed the construction of a multitude of villa rustica on the plateaus overlooking the rich valleys, as evidenced by the results of archaeological excavations in Orsay. Other villages were transformed into oppidums at the crossroads, such as Arpajon.

Milly-la-Forêt became, by the will of Dryus, a Druidic center in the 2nd century BC. The Dourdan region came under the authority of the pagan king Dordanus in the 4th century. In the 6th century the evangelization of the territory was completed, with the construction in 600 of a first church in Corbeil-Essonnes and the development of an abbey in Palaiseau under the leadership of Saint Bathilde and Saint Wandrille. In the year 604 the first battle of Étampes took place between Clotaire II, king of Neustria and Thierry II, king of Burgundy allied with Thibert II, king of Austrasia.

From the 8th century, most of the territory was integrated into the French royal domain, with the kings disposing of the land and distributing the land to their vassals. In the 10th century, the construction of fortified castles controlling trade routes began, such as in Montlhéry, or to stop Viking raids in Corbeil-Essonnes and La Ferté-Alais. From the 11th century, the Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Garde basilica in Longpont-sur-Orge became the first stop on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela from Paris.

The revolts of local nobles led to the complete integration of the territory into the royal domain, Robert II of France building the Château d’Étampes, Louis VI the Fat dismantling the Château de Montlhéry in the 12th century and reducing the powerful Montlhéry family to nothing, Philip II of France building the castle of Dourdan in the 13th century. In 1131 the Council of Étampes took place which ruled in favor of the future Pope Innocent II. In 1258 the Treaty of Corbeil was sealed, fixing the territorial limits between the kingdom of France and the kingdom of Aragon. The domain of Étampes was established as a county in 1298, creating the line of counts and then dukes of Étampes. From this time, the two main components of the local economy were established, agriculture to supply the capital and industry using the driving force of the numerous rivers. In the 12th century, the Grands Moulins de Corbeil became “Mills of the King”.

From the 14th century, important Templar commanderies were established in the region at Étampes, Longjumeau, Chalou-Moulineux, Auvernaux, organizing vast prosperous agricultural estates. In 1305 the Treaty of Athis-sur-Orge was signed which integrated the cities of Lille, Douai and Béthune into the Kingdom of France. In 1326 the second Treaty of Corbeil took place, renewing the Auld Alliance. In 1346, Philip VI of France signed the Brunoy Ordinance, considered the first legal act in French relating to sustainable development.

Then came the Hundred Years’ War, causing devastation and massacres in the territory, such as the fire in 1360 of the Saint-Clement d’Arpajon church by the troops of Edward III of England, burning eight hundred inhabitants alive. In 1371, it was the turn of Milly-la-Forêt to be ravaged by the “black prince”Edward of Woodstock. Between 1353 and 1355, Paris struck by the Black Death used the coaches of Corbeil’s boatmen, the corbeillards, to evacuate corpses, thus giving rise to the word hearse. In 1465 the Battle of Montlhéry took place between Louis XI and Charles the Bold.

The beginning of the Renaissance saw the commercial development of the region, with the construction of market halls in Milly-la-Forêt in the 15th century then Dourdan, Arpajon and Méréville in the 16th century. At the same time, the establishment of royal power in Paris then Versailles, two nearby towns and the appanages constituted by the towns of Dourdan and Étampes, offered as gifts to the favorites Anne de Pisseleu and Gabrielle d’Estrées, led to the establishment of castles, built by Parisian courtiers and magistrates. In 1568 the Peace of Longjumeau was signed, concluding the second war of religion. In 1590, during the siege of Paris, it was again Corbeil, taken by Alexandre Farnese which allowed the supply of Paris, blocked by the troops of Henry IV of France. In 1628, the town of Essonnes was ravaged by a fire, caused by a new explosion at the powder mill.

The 18th century saw the region equipped with several Hôtels-Dieu in Milly-la-Forêt, Dourdan and Arpajon, and post houses on the roads to Fontainebleau and Orléans. It ended with the French Revolution, changing relatively little the daily life of the inhabitants. However, a news item marked this troubled period, the assassination in Étampes of mayor Jacques Guillaume Simoneau, leading to the creation by the Legislative Assembly of a “Fête de la Loi”throughout the territory.

Relatively little affected by conflicts apart from the Prussian occupation in 1870, the territory took advantage of the 19th century to benefit from significant modernization, with the creation of several railway lines, the Sceaux line in 1854, the line Brétigny – Tours in 1867, the line of the great belt in 1882, several villages then becoming a vacation spot for rich Parisian bourgeois and artists. The opening of the Arpajonnais tram line in 1894 allowed a further rise in agricultural opportunities in the region, providing direct and rapid access to the market halls of Paris. Heavy industry also made its appearance with the opening of the Decauville factories in Évry-Petit-Bourg and the Darblay paper mills in Essonnes, bringing this rich Essonian family into the circle of “two hundred families”.

The current department of Essonne received on its soil, from the beginning of the 20th century, numerous pioneering aviation sites and facilities, such as Port-Aviation (1909), the Latham d’Étampes site (1920) or Étampes-Mondésir, and preserves a flying heritage and buildings representative of the beginnings of aviation. A significant part of the Orly airport area is located in Essonian territory. Another emblematic site of speed racing, the Linas-Montlhéry autodrome created in 1924 remained the location of the most famous automobile races until the 1960s.

Top Destinations
The Essonne department was created on 1 January 1968, from the southern portion of the former department of Seine-et-Oise. Essonne is the French department which has recorded the strongest contemporary demographic growth, this progression is naturally linked to the proximity of Paris and the ease of connections (rail and especially road) with the capital. Since the creation of the department, its morphology has changed considerably, creating two radically different landscapes between the urbanized North and the rural South of the territory.

Domaine de Chamarande
The Château de Chamarande is a French castle located in the commune of Chamarande, in the department of Essonne in the Île-de-France region. It is the property of the department of Essonne. The 98-hectare park is open to the public all year round and hosts a contemporary art center, the main repository of the Essonne departmental archives, the FDAC91 and an accommodation center for the schools’ “green classes”.

Located in the heart of the territory, the Estate brings together a 17th century castle, an artistic and cultural center, as well as the reserves of the collection of the Departmental Contemporary Art Fund (FDAC), the Departmental Archives and the Auguste Mione accommodation center. The Domaine de Chamarande has the particularity of offering an artistic project where the history of the place, the art of gardens and contemporary creation are in constant dialogue.

A heritage and cultural site of the Essonne Departmental Council, the Domaine de Chamarande presents a historical, built and landscape heritage which is part of an exceptional environment, between the Belvédère forest and the Juine valley. Labeled a “remarkable garden”since 2005, the site covers 98 hectares, making it the largest public garden in the Department.

A first castle would have been established at Bonnes (original name of Chamarande) in the 9th century by Arteld, missus dominicus and brother of Charlemagne’s biographer, Éginhard. A seigneurial hotel was built there in the 16th century, probably for François Miron (1560-1609), provost of the merchants of Paris and personal friend of King Henry IV.

The castle was sold in 1654 to Pierre Mérault, former farmer of the gabelles, also purchaser of the castle of Villeconin-la Grange, enriched and ennobled by the acquisition of a position of squire, and future secretary to King Louis XIV. Mérault had the current castle built in the purest Louis XIII style, attributed to Nicolas de L’Espine, the king’s architect. The quadrilateral surrounded by a moat then includes the dwelling, flanked laterally by the outbuildings. The entrance to the main courtyard is surrounded by two pavilions, the one on the left housing the chapel with a baroque style dome and whose stucco decoration is due to the sculptor Louis Lerambert; it retains two large stained glass windows “which evoke the high rank of its former lords”. The estate is then “decorated with canals, ponds and fountains”no. 2 in the style of French gardens.

In 1737, the castle, with Villecoin, passed to Louis de Talaru, Marquis de Chalmazel, butler to Queen Marie Leszczynska. He brought to work the renowned architect Pierre Contant d’Ivry, who built new outbuildings beyond the local road near the village, and installed a pediment carved with a helmet and garlands with the Latin maxim Pax huic domui (“peace be in this house”), decorates the park with an orangery, a belvedere, an ice house, a waterfall, an oval grove and a “goose game”with a “temple of love”at its center. He removed the wall of the main courtyard along the moat, placed an ironwork grille framed by two lampposts in front of the bridge and renovated the interior decorations of the castle.

In the 1780s, a water feature was created with an island at its center lined with Louisiana bald cypresses; it is traditionally attributed to the landscape painter Hubert Robert. On August 4, 1789, the county of Chamarande was abolished. In 1794 the castle was sequestered and the furniture was sold at auction except the library, some furniture identified by the Arts Commission, metal objects, and bedding and linen requisitioned for the army and hospitals.

After the French Revolution, Louis-Justin-Marie, Marquis of Talaru covered the domain under the Consulate. He had it restored and had the park redesigned in the English style. Mayor of Chamarande, he lived at the castle until his death in 1850.

In 1852, the estate was sold to Pierre and René Robineau then in 1857 to Jean-Gilbert Victor Fialin, count then duke of Persigny, Minister of the Interior of Napoleon III. Persigny, who received 500,000 francs from the emperor during his marriage in 1852 to the granddaughter of Marshal Ney and the banker Jacques Laffitte, created a gallery on the ground floor of the castle which he furnished with luxury, built the surrounding wall of the estate, completed the transformation of the English-style park thanks to the Count of Paul de Choulot, a specialist in the genre, planted a large avenue of trees in front of the castle whose axial perspective was truncated by the path of railway (1865), and exotic species. Near the new grille of honor is placed an obelisk inspired by the Dream of Poliphile, which probably refers to the loves of Henri II and Diane de Poitiers. In 1862 Persigny gave Chamarande a party for Empress Eugénie’s birthday; Baron Haussmann offers the lord a gas lantern, kept in the neo-classical style vestibule.

Persigny died in 1872; in 1876, the estate was sold to Anthony Boucicaut, son of the founder of Le Bon Marché, who had a “hunting dining room”built in the neo-Renaissance style, with woodwork decorated with brass, as well as a farm and a kennel.

From 1922 to 1951, the castle was a major training site for scouting in France. Around the Manor, part of the park is reserved for this activity which has involved thousands of trainees.

Chamarande Park covers an area of 98 hectares. The departmental estate is labeled Remarkable Garden. The 98-hectare park was redeveloped by landscape architect Jacques Sgard in the 1990s. The park has been partly restored in the spirit of the 18th century garden. The absence of a surrounding wall (replaced by a ditch called wolf’s leap) allows you to take in a wide exterior landscape. In the 1780s, the park was partly transformed in the English style by the creation of an island surrounded by a pond, probably under the direction of the landscape painter Hubert Robert. In the second half of the 19th century, the parts of the park unchanged since the mid-18th century also took on an English appearance.

With its eclectic programming alternating presentations of internationally renowned artists and exhibitions of Essonian artists, activities, workshops, concerts, shows, and open-air cinema, the site is transformed into a real space of cultural openness for all public. The Department thus positions itself as an essential player in the cultural development and tourist influence of Essonne.

In 2001, a contemporary art center was established in Chamarande at the instigation of Dominique Marchès, historical founder of the Vassivière art center. In season, from May to October, festivals on storytelling, music, dance, cinema as well as meetings around gardens and heritage are organized in the estate’s park. The entire artistic project of Chamarande developed and was built on current events of French and international art, on the context of an atypical exhibition: a castle with a very present decor, a landscaped park, an orangery – and on the consideration of a public with diverse practices: walkers, art lovers, schools, etc.

Every Saturday, from the end of July to the end of August, the Chamarande departmental estate hosts an open-air cinema screening as part of the “Cinéma Paradiso”festival. The dance festival acquires a new reputation. The program is expanding and goes from just one to five exhibitions per year, the collection is being enriched considerably and the contemporary dance program attracts a large audience.

Owned by the Essonne Departmental Council since December 2000, the Méréville estate is appreciated as the last example of a picturesque garden designed at the end of the 18th century. It is essentially the project of a man, a great financier and art lover, the Marquis de Laborde, who surrounded himself with the most prestigious garden designers of his time, François-Joseph Bélanger then Hubert Robert, to create a park in the style fashionable since the 1750s: landscaped or Anglo-Chinese gardens.

Of the French garden that he acquired in 1784, the regular gardens and terraced vegetable gardens that surrounded the castle are completely remodeled to create scenes of rolling hills and green valleys. The straight paths are replaced by small winding paths decorated with cobblestones which wind and play with the visitor, constantly providing surprises and escapes towards hidden scenes. The steep hillsides of the plateau, which constitute a natural amphitheater setting all around the garden, are equipped with caves and rock formations in which it is pleasant to cool off in summer.

The Juine, a quiet river which flowed in a straight line at the bottom of the garden, is diverted to create islands, meanders and lakes. Waterfalls punctuate the waterways to add sound effects to the splendors of the garden. Méréville is the polar opposite of the tamed and domesticated nature of French gardens, it is wild and sublime. The rock scenes evoke the mountain and the fear that Nature can sometimes arouse.

Méréville tells the story of man’s relationship with Nature at the end of the Age of Enlightenment. The most magical thing is that this garden is still there today, secret, hidden, sometimes buried, but ready to reveal itself to anyone who is willing to listen to it…

Immerse in a preserved environment conducive to serenity. An atypical place, both classified as a Sensitive Natural Space (ENS) and witness to a past activity of which we have preserved some clues. A few steps from the town, the Domaine Départemental de Montauger gives you the opportunity to observe happy fauna, to smell thriving flora, while getting to know them. It’s up to you to make this haven of peace your own, to respect it and to compose your visits as you wish.

In the shade of its large trees, on the edge of the agglomeration of Évry and Corbeil-Essonnes, this green setting has retained a rustic and picturesque character. Calm and secret, it will enchant you with its ecological and landscape heritage characteristic of Essonne. Almost all the landscapes of the territory are brought together here: meadows, hillsides, hedges, ponds, marshes, reed beds, ponds and streams make up a beautiful mosaic of natural habitats for wildlife. 200 old varieties of fruit trees and vine stocks are also to be discovered. Orchards, vineyards, vegetable garden, apiary, lime kiln, bear witness to a more modest and laborious rustic past. The park is also an excellent starting point for an adventure to the nearby Misery and Fontenay marshes.

The Montauger departmental estate is home to the Essonne Environment Centre, located in a completely renovated historic residence. Its mission: to raise public awareness of environmental issues. Many activities, events and events are regularly organized there around biodiversity and sustainable development, as well as temporary or permanent exhibitions.

Numerous points of interest, representative of the Essonne environment, can be discovered around the Montauger departmental estate: sensitive departmental natural areas such as the Grand Montauger (Lisses), the Grande Île (Mennecy), the Misery marsh (Vert-le-Petit, Écharcon), the Fontenay-le-Vicomte marsh, the forests of Grands-Avaux and de la Coudraye (Champcueil) or the marshes and the geological site of Itteville; municipal natural spaces such as the Patte d’Oie in Mennecy or the Châteaubourg park in Ormoy; parks and castles such as the Villeroy park in Mennecy or the Château du Saussay in Ballancourt-sur-Essonne; departmental hiking routes such as the Chemin des Marais, Entre Brie et Gâtinais, Escapades en Val de Seine, the Juine runs through the middle (maps on request).

Étampes is a commune in the metropolitan area of Paris, France. Étampes existed at the beginning of the 7th century and in the early Middle Ages belonged to the crown domain. During the Middle Ages it was the scene of several councils, the most notable of which took place in 1130 and resulted in the recognition of Innocent II as the legitimate pope. In 1652, during the war of the Fronde it suffered severely at the hands of the royal troops under Turenne.

Étampes has one of the most important built and landscape heritages in Essonne, which has enabled it to obtain the “City of art and history”label. City of the royal domain, Étampes offers numerous testimonies of its history from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Note in particular its numerous medieval churches, its keep, its Renaissance hotels, its wash houses and its watering troughs. Étampes Intercommunal Museum house the Stampian fossils, 35 million years old, collection of 19th century art, prehistoric, Gallo-Roman and medieval archaeology.

Fortified royal city since the Middle Ages, on the borders of the Paris metropolitan area and the great plains of Beauce. The main city of southern Essonne, a crossroads of communication routes, it radiates economically and culturally over all neighboring villages and marks the southern entrance to the Île-de-France region on national road 20, as before the royal domain. Crisscrossed by numerous rivers, it was sometimes nicknamed “Little Venice”because of the old canals which powered the thirty-two mills.

A fine view of Étampes is obtained from the Tour Guinette, a keep (now ruined) built by Louis VI in the 12th century on an eminence on the other side of the railway. Notre-Dame du Fort, the chief church, dates from the 11th and 12th centuries; irregular in plan, it is remarkable for a fine Romanesque tower and spire, and for the crenellated wall which partly surrounds it. The interior contains ancient paintings and other artistic works.

St Basile (12th and 16th centuries), preserves a Romanesque doorway, and St Martin (12th and 13th centuries), has a leaning tower of the 16th century. In a letter to his daughter Léopoldine dated August 22, 1834, Victor Hugo described it as follows: “Étampes is a large tower seen on the right in the twilight above the roofs of a long street”. A town with preserved charm, it has served as a setting for various cinematographic works.

A city with a rich architectural heritage, Dourdan, is associated with the Capetian dynasty. Eight historical information plaques mark out a discovery walk in the city center, starting with the Porte de Chartres, the Town Hall, 19th century architecture and the ramparts.

The Château de Dourdan is a castle in the town of Dourdan in the Essonne department of France. The fortification is characteristic of the military architecture of this period. It is built on a square pattern, with towers at three of the corners and an isolated donjon at the fourth. The walls are punctuated by towers in the middle of each side, and two, on the east side, flank the gatehouse. A deep stone-lined dry moat follows the outline of the castle.

The Château de Dourdan is a former fortified castle. At the beginning of the 13th century, Philippe Auguste was engaged in war with the Plantagenets. The king of France seeks to impose his royal power and secure his territory through powerful and ostentatious architecture with stone fortresses. Built between 1220 and 1222, the fortress of Dourdan is no exception and is based on the plan of the Louvre castle completed in 1202, with the exception of the location of the main tower.

The donjon, the major defensive component of the castle, measures approximately 30 metres in height and 13.6 metres in diameter. It is typical of the donjons being built by King Philip II Augustus of France at this time, like at Rouen and other French nobility throughout the 13th century. The conception of the geometric pattern and isolated donjon was similar to that of the castle of the Louvre. A near identical castle is found at Seringes-et-Nesles, department of Aisne in northern France.

The keep, built by Philippe Auguste around 1220, the centerpiece of the castle, measured approximately thirty meters in height from the ditch and twenty-two from the courtyard to the top of the roof for a diameter of thirteen meters and sixty and a thickness of the walls fixed at three meters seventy-five. The bases are in cut sandstone, the base in Beauce limestone. Today, the height of the keep is only twenty-five meters from the ditches and eighteen from the courtyard.

Located at a corner of the enclosure, it was separated from the rest of the castle by a clean annular ditch, spanned by two drawbridges, one towards the interior of the castle, the other towards the outside which led to the first floor by ogival doors. This first floor is entirely occupied by the common room with a diameter of six meters, under a six-sided ribbed vault eight meters and forty-five meters high. This room was equipped with a pilaster fireplace with an oven, a hand mill, a well embedded in the wall ten and a half meters deep. It was artificially separated by a floor allowing the surface area to be doubled for the garrison.

A crawling staircase integrated into the wall, one meter and twenty-five meters wide, with forty-one steps, led to the upper room, a bedroom, also equipped with a fireplace, six meters and fifty-five meters high under a cross vault. warheads. A spiral staircase led to the upper room, a watch room six meters in diameter. Beyond were the attic topped by a bell tower. In the courtyard there was a chapel dedicated to John the Baptist, followed by a U-shaped private mansion, completed to the east by a covered terrace.

The castle complex is classified as historic monuments by decree of December 9, 1964; in 1972, the northeast tower was restored; between 1975 and 1977, the ditches surrounding the keep were cleared; between 1980 and 1982, the roof and part of the facade on the courtyard side were redone, followed, between 1983 and 1984, by the keep, a corner tower and curtain walls and from 1986 to 1987, by the repair of all the facades on the courtyard side and loopholes of the châtelet.

Milly-la-Forêt is a French commune located in the southeast of the Essonne department in the Île-de-France region. An agricultural and commercial center, on the route to Lyon until the 18th century. From the middle of the 20th century, it became a vacation spot for Parisians and artists, including Jean Cocteau and Christian Dior. Today it is an important tourist center in the department, the capital of aromatic herbs.

The monumental sculpture Cyclop in Milly-la-Forêt, 22 meters high, is located in the woods of Milly-la-Forêt. It was created by Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle with the collaboration of numerous artists.

The Paul Bédu cultural space presents temporary exhibitions and a permanent collection allowing you to discover a set of paintings by masters of the 19th and 20th centuries which belonged to the collector Paul Bédu, in particular the famous “Boronali”, a famous hoax imagined by Roland Dorgelès.

Architectural Heritage

The department of Essonne is located in the Paris basin, a territory very early occupied by humans, as evidenced by the discovery of carved flints and the erection of menhirs during the Neolithic period, some of which remain and are today classified as monuments. historical: the Mousseau Stone in Vigneux-sur-Seine, the Straight Stone in Milly-la-Forêt, the Fritte Stone in Étampes, the Daughter of Lot in Brunoy. The Gallic and then Gallo-Roman occupation left vestiges of villages like the one discovered in Gif-sur-Yvette, villa rustica like in Orsay and oppidum like in Champlan.

From the Middle Ages, one of the oldest bridges in Île-de-France remains in Longjumeau, dating from the 13th century, the Pont des Templiers, and fortified castles such as Montlhéry (11th century), Dourdan (13th century) or Étampes ( 12th century), the ramparts of Corbeil-Essonnes or important Catholic places of worship, such as the Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Garde basilica in Longpont-sur-Orge from the 12th century or the Notre-Dame-du-Fort collegiate church in Prints from the 11th century.

Located in an agricultural region and close to the capitals of Versailles and Paris, the territory was during the Renaissance and during the Modern Era equipped with important market halls in Dourdan, Arpajon (16th century), Milly-la-Forêt (15th century) and Méréville (16th century), enriched with castles, the most important of which are the Château de Chamarande in Chamarande (17th century), the Château du Marais in Val-Saint-Germain (18th century), the Château de Courson in Courson-Monteloup (17th century) or the Château de Courances in Courances (17th century, churches including the Saint-Exupère cathedral in Corbeil-Essonnes (14th century) or the Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois church in Dourdan (15th century), wash houses and bourgeois residences.

From the First Empire to the Belle Époque, the department evolved towards industry with the construction of important factories such as the Grands Moulins de Corbeil of the 19th century, many communes became resorts for Parisians, who had residences built and follies, such as the Temple of Glory in Orsay (19th century) and the Caillebotte property, in Yerres and places of worship of other faiths such as the Notre-Dame-de-la-Dormition orthodox church in Sainte-Geneviève -des-Bois (20th century).

The 20th century also left a contemporary heritage with the construction of the vast social housing city of La Grande Borne in Grigny, the construction of the monumental sculpture of Cyclop in Milly-la-Forêt, and the unique cathedral French architecture of the 20th century in Évry accompanied by the largest mosque in France in Courcouronnes and the largest pagoda in Europe still in Évry.

In the south of the department, Étampes, a former royal town, concentrates a remarkable heritage in its territory, thus benefiting from the “Cities and countries of art and history”label. In total, there are fifty-one castles and ninety-four religious monuments spread across the territory which benefit from classification or registration as historic monuments.

Castle of Saint-Jean de Beauregard
The Château de Saint-Jean de Beauregard is a French castle located in Saint-Jean-de-Beauregard in the department of Essonne and the Île-de-France region. The name “Beauregard”comes, according to custom, from the point seen from the terraces of the castle, over the Salmouille valley, the panorama being the most beautiful given to the first occupant. The Saint-Jean-de-Beauregard estate is labeled “Remarkable Garden”. The castle was registered as a historic monument on October 28, 1926, the estate as a whole was finally classified on July 5, 1993.

The start of construction of the castle dates from 1612, at the request of François Dupoux, advisor to the King. A new castle was then built in place of the ruins of Montfaucon which faced the old castle of Montlhéry. The new lord of the place asked Louis XIII to change the name of Montfaucon, of sinister fame, to Beauregard. The king ordered the name of the place to be changed from Saint-Jean-de-Monfaucon to Saint-Jean-de-Beauregard.

François Garnier, squire, acquired the estate in 1638. Then, the estate passed into the hands of Charles Doullet de Neufville, then Gabriel de Méhérenc de Saint Pierre, then in 1669 an advisor to the King, Pierre de La Mouche..

A hundred years later the castle was sold to Laurent Charron, Receiver General of Estates and Forests of the Generality of Paris (1678-1751). Françoise Matagon, his widow, remains the sole mistress of the estate. Living on rue Sainte-Avoye in Paris, she made it her country home. She died in 1768 and her only son, Laurent Charron (bapt. 1706) died in turn the following year. The castle and estate belong to the latter’s third daughter, Françoise-Mélanie Charron, wife of Victor-Amédée d’Auberjon, Count of Murinais, brigadier, field marshal, knight of the order of Saint-Louis. The park then timidly evolved towards English fashion. The castle was bequeathed in 1866 to Mr. Quatresolz de Marolles, then in 1879 the Count and then Duke of Caraman bought the estate. The current owners are part of the Caraman family.

The main building, in light sandstone, is a classic 17th century construction, on 3 levels. It is bordered by outbuildings, with a dovecote and an orangery. The French flowered vegetable garden of the Château de Beauregard. The perspective of the park, from the terraces, as well as the surrounding areas close to the castle, are made up of a so-called French garden. Adjoining the outbuildings, the estate has a vegetable garden (still used today, for rare vegetables, during plant days). The rest of the estate is an English-style composition, part in which is located a chapel, made of millstone and an icehouse.

Castle of Courances
The Château de Courances, located in the commune of Courances 47 kilometers southeast of Paris in the French Gâtinais and the Essonne department in Île-de-France, has been classified as a historic monument since June 27, 1983.

In 1552, Côme Clausse, notary and secretary to the King, acquired from the Lapite family a stately home located in Courances, at the western end of the Fontainebleau forest. It was Claude Gallard who built an “H”plan castle raised on a quadrangular platform surrounded by a moat.

In the 18th century, the castle was brought up to date first by Anne-Catherine Gallard, widow of Nicolas Potier de Novion, who opened the main courtyard by demolishing the wall and the entrance portico, then by her granddaughter Léontine-Philippine de Novion and her husband Aymar de Nicolay, president of the Chamber of Accounts of Paris, who modernized the castle (1775-1777) by opening new bays and adding a large pediment to each facade.

The castle was abandoned after the Revolution of 1830, latter in 1872 architect Hippolyte Destailleur undertook the restoration of the castle in the Louis XIII style. The work campaign carried out from 1873 to 1884 revealed the brick by removing the plaster, raised the attics of the pavilions, and added zinc ornaments to the roofs. The horseshoe-shaped interior ceremonial staircase was demolished and monumental steps inspired by those of the Château de Fontainebleau were placed on each of the facades. A new wing, with a broken attic, was built on the site of the old kitchens to house the master apartments and connected by a gallery to the old wing. Destailleur also built new outbuildings, which were destroyed in 1976 by a fire.

The 75-hectare park, considered one of the most beautiful in France, was started in the 16th century by the Clausses and completed by the Gallards in the mid-17th century. It is from this period that the avenue of honor between two canals and the large perspective in the axis of the castle date, with its canals and its basins, including a long canal of 248 toises, “tablecloths”and a “Bathroom “. In the 17th century, the Marquise de Novion added the water mirror. In 1873, Destailleur redesigned the park in the English style.

The Marquise Jean de Ganay, granddaughter of Baron de Haber, had a French design restored with the help of the landscaper Achille Duchêne. She notably created the horseshoe basin and the Aréthuse fountain, topped with a marble nymph sculpted in 1711 by Claude Poirier (1656-1729) for the Marly park (the statue was acquired in 2005 by the Musée du Louvre). In 1930, she created an “Anglo-Japanese”garden.

The Courance gardens are described by Ernest de Ganay in Beaux Jardins de France, dedicated to Lucien Corpechot. The castle park is labeled “remarkable garden”. In 1962, Henri Decoin used the castle to make it the residence of Mazarin and his mistress Anne of Austria in his film The Iron Mask with Jean Marais. The film Molière (2007) by Laurent Tirard was largely filmed at the castle.

In May 2015, part of the filming of the episode Le Noyé du Grand Canal of the French television series Nicolas Le Floch took place along the castle basin. In spring 2016, the filming of the film Le Sens de la fête took place partly in the park and the Château de Courances. Episode 4 of part 3 of Lupine, released in October 2023 on Netflix, was partly filmed at the Château de Courances.

Castle of Courson
Courson Castle is a French castle located in Courson-Monteloup. Originally home to the Lamignon family, the castle has been passed down by inheritance since the 18th century. The castle houses numerous objects and paintings dating from the First and Second Empire. The castle was classified as a historic monument in 1944 (facades, roofs, hydraulic installation) and registered in 1992 (park, prospect alley, facades and roofs of the outbuildings, chapel).

The Courson estate is labeled “Remarkable Garden”. Its 45-hectare historic park was designed in the formal style by a student of Le Nôtre in the 18th century. During the 19th century, the gardens were redesigned twice, the first time around 1820 for the Duke of Padua by the landscaper Louis-Martin Berthault and again around 1860 by the brothers Denis and Eugène Bühler. From 1982 to 2015 a Courson Plant Day is held there on the third weekend of October and May. The event was transferred to the Château de Chantilly in 2015.

Castle of Marais
The Château du Marais is a French castle located in the commune of Val-Saint-Germain, near Saint-Chéron, in the former province of Hurepoix, today in the department of Essonne, thirty-six kilometers to the southwest of Paris. Built by the architect Jean-Benoît-Vincent Barré for Jean Le Maître de La Martinière, General Treasurer of Artillery and Engineering, it is considered one of the most remarkable examples of a Louis XVI style castle in the Paris region.

The current castle was built at the eastern end of the platform surrounded by water ditches which constituted the main courtyard of the old castle. The northwest and southwest corners of this platform have two small pavilions which are located on the site of those which were already to mark this courtyard. It is from the middle and not from the side of the courtyard that one enters it. The main room is at the center of the plan. It is preceded by less decorated rooms, while those which follow it are more sumptuous. The main building, double in depth, is built on a rectangular plan. The interplay of the roofs and slight recesses on the façade suggest the traditional volumes of the 18th century castle: a central façade with five bays and lateral façades with a single bay.

The courtyard façade includes in its central part a portico composed of four colossal Doric columns, topped by an attic topped with a pediment and a square dome whose design is taken from that of the Louvre Clock Pavilion. This arrangement is surprising in its proportions, even if its different components are attested in other previous buildings.

On the garden façade, the columns are replaced by composite pilasters and the square dome by a flattened pavilion roof, giving a much more classic appearance. To the north of the castle, a platform supports the outbuildings. The old buildings here have been preserved, but modernized and unified. At the northwest corner, the old dovecote has been preserved. A bridge spanning the moat connects the outbuildings to the castle.

The park, which had been transformed in the English style at the beginning of the 19th century, was recreated by Achille Duchêne between 1903 and 1906 for Boniface de Castellane. The large body of water, widening an old canal, is fed by the Rémarde (a tributary of the Orge). To the east, Duchêne designed French-style flowerbeds on a platform surrounded by water ditches.

In June 2022, Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínský purchased this mansion, this operation was carried out jointly with Jiří Šmejc, another Czech businessman. The project of the two billionaires is to turn this historic estate into a luxury hotel, by completely renovating the interior of the castle. They also want to develop equestrian activities in the forty-hectare park.

Castle of Janvry
The Château de Janvry is a French castle located in the commune of Janvry in the department of Essonne and the Île-de-France region, twenty-seven kilometers southwest of Paris. The castle was built between 1600 and 1650 in a typically Louis XIII architectural style. The castle, made up of the main pavilion, the outbuildings, the moat and the roofs, was listed as a historic monument on May 11, 1981.

The castle is established on a platform surrounded by a moat. It is built according to a “U”plan around a square courtyard of fifty meters on each side surrounded by lawns and shrubs. Access to the main building is via a bridge built above the moat and leading to the massive gates of the castle, opening onto the “cour d’honneur”. Before arriving at the castle, a long avenue of poplars leads to the main courtyard. This driveway was the historic entrance to the castle and is now kept as grass due to a tarmac road that separates the driveway from the castle.

The main body respects typical Louis XIII architecture. Consistent with the styles of the time, the castle presents a dissymmetry specific and unique to the Louis XIII style. The west wing has four windows on the left side of the main door, three on the right side. The east facade has five windows on the right side of the main door, and four on the left side.

The central part of the castle (west wing) includes the reception rooms: lounges, dining room, billiard room and main entrance. All rooms have windows facing west and east. The first floor includes a long corridor leading to the bedrooms which overlook the park and the garden side. The ground floor of the north wing was originally created to accommodate teams and horses. During its evolution, the arches overlooking these stables were blocked but still remain visible. The south wing faces the castle’s farmyard and is a wing today separately furnished with an entrance and apartments separate from the rest of the castle.

This courtyard is surrounded by square-shaped barns and stables where poultry, sheep, cattle and horses were raised and maintained. All the barns still retain traces of these past activities, with some cow names still engraved in the stables. The stables are functional and the majestic attics formerly used to store straw, hay and supplies are now visible. One of the barns has a ceiling more than fifteen meters high, another houses four jails that are still in good condition. These jails are in a raw state and have never been restored, it has been confirmed that some were used during the Second World War.

The cellar is present under the north and west wings. The vaulted rooms were used to store wine and food for years, including the cider and pear and apple spirits once produced at the castle. Although filled only by rainwater and runoff, the castle’s original well is still functional and in use.

The castle is surrounded by an enclosed park of fourteen hectares. The park is surrounded by millstone walls for most of the perimeter. Ten hectares of woodland and two hectares of meadow make up this often redesigned park with century-old trees. A pond and tennis court are also located in the park. At the back of the park, the original cooler used to store the ice packs is still visible. A legend says that the Château de Janvry, the Château de Saint-Jean-de-Beauregard and a monastery (now disappeared) located near Arpajon were connected by a network of underground tunnels.

Religious heritage

Catholic worship is organized in Essonne around the diocese of Évry-Corbeil-Essonnes, which covers the department and two neighboring towns of Yvelines. It is divided into two zones, five vicariates, twenty-three parish sectors and one hundred and eight parishes. Its headquarters is located in Évry, near the Cathedral of the Resurrection, and it has the associated headquarters of Corbeil-Essonnes of the Saint-Spire cathedral.

The Muslim faith has in Courcouronnes the largest mosque in France, the Évry-Courcouronnes mosque, and a multitude of prayer centers spread across the territory. The Jewish religion has synagogues in certain municipalities in the department, including the largest in Massy. Protestants have temples spread across several communities. Orthodox Christians are found in several places, mainly the Notre-Dame-de-la-Dormition church in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois and the headquarters of the Romanian Orthodox metropolis of Western and Southern Europe in Limours. Buddhists have the Khánh-Anh Pagoda in Évry. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a place of worship in Évry.

Saint-Germain-d’Auxerre Church in Dourdan
The Saint-Germain-d’Auxerre church is a parish church of Catholic worship, dedicated to the bishop Saint Germain l’Auxerrois. The church is fifty meters long, eighteen wide, the north spire rises to fifty meters. Since October 26, 1967, the church has been classified as a historic monument, while an old door attached to the right facade of the church and dated from the 15th century was listed on July 12, 1965.

A first church would have been founded by Bertrade de Laon, mother of Charlemagne in the 7th century. Construction of the church began in 1150 under the direction of the canons of Saint-Chéron and was completed in the 12th century. In 1428, during the Hundred Years’ War, the Salisbury troops seriously damaged the upper parts; it was not restored until the end of the 15th century, gaining side chapels in the process. During the wars of religion, the church was damaged again by the Huguenots, burning the roof, breaking the stained glass windows, the bells were melted down to make cannonballs.

In 1641, the asymmetrical spiers were added; in 1648, Anne of Austria offered the four-column high altar of the chapel of the Virgin; then, in 1689, the chapel of the Virgin was built which increased the length of the building by fourteen meters to reach fifty meters and become the apse. Ravaged again during the French Revolution, the church was transformed into the “Temple of Victorious Reason”then into a prison until 1795. In the 19th century, the almost ruined church was rehabilitated thanks to the will of Father Gérard and donations from parishioners in less than ten years.

Saint-Martin d’Étampes collegiate
The Saint-Martin d’Étampes collegiate church is a former Catholic collegiate church, dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, located in the French commune of Étampes and the department of Essonne. Saint-Martin is home to one of the city’s three primitive parish altars. In 1106, King Philip I gave it to the abbey of Morigny. From then on, no more canon was named. Disputes between the abbey and the chapter led to the expulsion of the last canons in 1142. The abbey therefore established a priory near the church, and undertook its replacement with a larger building.

The lower parts of its apse, with an ambulatory and three very deep radiating chapels, are surprising with a plan evoking the 11th century, and are even more Romanesque than Gothic, but the ribbed vault is present from the start. One of its first applications of the innovation of flying buttresses found at the apse of the Saint-Martin collegiate church. The elevations of the central nave are organized on three levels, and are inspired by the Saint-Étienne cathedral in Sens. Above the large arcades, galleries open onto the attic. The collegiate church became one of the key buildings of the first Gothic period. Its completion was around 1170, but an additional bay was added after 1213. Finally, a new bell tower was built during the 1530s in front of the facade.

Perfectly oriented, the collegiate church is built of limestone, and adopts a symmetrical cruciform plan. It consists of a nave of four bays accompanied by two aisles; a non-protruding transept whose crosspieces do not reach the height of the central nave; a five-sided hemicycle apse; an ambulatory of five bays; and three radiating chapels in front of the second, third and fourth bay of the ambulatory. Each chapel has a straight bay, which is square for the axial chapel and barlong for the other two, and a three-sided semicircular apse, which forms a separate bay. The axis chapel is placed under the invocation of the Blessed Sacrament; the other two are dedicated to Saint-Vincent and Saint-Martin. As annexes added later, there is the bell tower-porch from 1537, connected to the western facade by a small bay dating from 1873; a sacristy in front of the south transept; and a second sacristy between the axial chapel and the northeast chapel.

The entire building measures eighty meters long, thirty-five meters wide and eighteen meters high. All the bays are ribbed vaulted, but the vaults of the first three bays are made of wood. The vault of the base of the bell tower has eight ribs, and pierced with a bell hole in its center. The vault of the apse has five ribbed branches, and the vaults of the apses of the chapels have two ribbed branches. As a special feature, four triangular vaults are inserted between the four-pointed ribbed vaults of the ambulatory. Among them, those located near the axis chapel are separated into two vaults by an ogive. Portals exist under the bell tower; in the facade of the south aisle; and in the second bay of the south aisle. The central vessel is covered with a unique gable roof. The shed roofs of the braces are established in continuity with this roof. The aisles also have shed roofs.

Cathedral of the Resurrection of Saint-Corbinien in Évry
The Cathedral of the Resurrection of Saint-Corbinien in Évry is a diocesan cathedral of the Catholic faith. The Byzantine inspiration is found in the chosen form, the circle, strongly symbolic. The building therefore adopts a cylindrical plan with an external diameter of thirty-eight meters with a footprint of one thousand six hundred square meters. On deep foundations rests a framework consisting of a double cylinder of four thousand cubic meters of concrete covered with eight hundred and forty thousand homemade bricks, its highest point facing northwest reaching thirty-four meters.

The cylindrical shape preventing the installation of a real facade, the architect decided to cut the cylinder at an angle, with the slope oriented towards the southeast, placing the low point of the roof seventeen meters from the ground. This roof is pierced by two large stepped glass roofs in an arc providing zenithal light, in the center of which is a triangular metal frame resting on three corbels. The roof is topped by a concrete crown, lit in gold at night and topped by twenty-four silver lime trees, symbol of life, resurrection, twenty-four hours of the day, the twelve apostles plus the twelve tribes of Israel.

They are planted in one thousand two hundred cubic meters of topsoil. To the northwest, above an outgrowth containing a staircase, is a campanile supporting five bells and a metal cross, all weighing three tons. Three portals provide access to the cathedral, the traditional one to the southeast, the ceremonial portal to the west, topped by a bridge for access to the museum, and the eastern portal, the last two giving on one level in the nave.

The nave occupies a cylinder twenty-nine meters in diameter, its floor placed below the main entrance, as in the old parish church of Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul, is covered in black granite. Access to the choir, fifteen meters wide and behind which is a stained glass window symbolizing a tree, is via an ambulatory with “donkey-stepping”steps, wide and low, lit by twelve stained glass windows works of Kim En Joong of twelve colors, from gray to white, symbolizing the twelve apostles and the progression from darkness to light.

Above this choir, a volute houses the Paul-Delouvrier museum and the Center for Sacred Art. In the center of the choir, the altar is made of white Carrara marble, its foot descends to the center of the crypt where twenty-four tombs are arranged for the bishops of the diocese. In it, two large-format paintings by Vasarely representing Christ and Saint Peter were exhibited until December 2018. To the left of the choir the cylindrical baptistery, also in white marble, allowing baptisms by immersion, weighs nine tonnes. The bishop’s cathedra on the right is highlighted by a particular arrangement of bricks.

At the back of the nave, under the main entrance to the southeast is the Day Chapel, also called the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, octagonal in shape, symbolizing the seven days of creation according to the Bible plus an eighth day, that of re-creation or Resurrection. It is lit by a skylight from the east behind the altar. The floor is covered with polished and rough black granite slabs forming a labyrinth reminiscent of that of the Notre-Dame de Chartres cathedral. The chapel is furnished with an altar and oak seats, it is decorated with three sculptures by Gérard Garouste, a wrought iron Virgin and Child, a tabernacle and a Cross represented by a vine with the engraved inscription “I am the alpha and the omega”, or I am the beginning and the end.

The cathedral’s furniture was also designed by architect Mario Botta and made from Burgundy oak. The nave is decorated with various works, in the center, dominating the altar, a blackened steel tau cross receives a six-foot-tall wooden Christ carved at the beginning of the 20th century in Tanzania and brought back by a missionary, on the left, a 16th century Virgin Mary measuring four feet tall from Chaource dominates the baptistery, on the right, the bronze statue of Saint-Corbinien, the work of France and Hugues Siptrott.

It is completed by seven tapestries recounting his life, from the beginning at Saint-Germain-de-Châtre, his hermitage, his coronation as bishop by Pope Gregory II, the protection of wine, the training of the bear, the return of his stolen mule and his death. The tabernacle created by Louis Cane represents the symbols of Christianity, the dove, grapes, bread and fish. The building thus created allows the participation of one thousand four hundred faithful, with eight hundred seats.

Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Garde Basilica
The Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Garde basilica is a Catholic basilica, dedicated to Notre-Dame. The church was founded in 1031 by Guy I of Montlhéry and his wife Hodierne de Gometz. The Gothic portal from the 1220s is famous for its artistic quality and iconography; the tympanum represents the coronation of the Virgin. The nave and side aisles are in Romanesque style and probably date from the first quarter of the 12th century, but were only vaulted later. The transept and the choir were demolished in 1819 due to their dilapidation. In the middle of the 19th century, Abbot Arthaud worked to enrich the reliquary, and it soon took on a national scale. The basilica remains the most important spiritual center of the diocese, along with the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Évry.

Cultural heritage

Essonne offers a diverse cultural offering thanks to a territorial network of very active cultural scenes in the south and north of its territory. Whether you are a fan of music, shows, opera, exhibitions or theater, you will definitely find what you are looking for. Three places, stand out for their importance, the Agora theater in Évry, labeled national scene, the Massy opera, labeled opera approved scene and the contemporary art center of the Château de Chamarande.

Several museums are spread across the four corners of the department, including some of national scope such as the French Museum of Photography in Bièvres. Renowned festivals are organized by the municipalities of the department such as the international circus festival of Massy, the emergence cinema festival in Marcoussis or by private individuals such as the festival of perennial plants at the domain of Saint-Jean-de-Beauregard. Legacies of past centuries, the Arpajon, Montlhéry and Dourdan fairs still mark the departmental calendar.

The communes of the department have also always attracted artists, becoming centers of expression and creation, such as Étampes where a painting school was born, Milly-la-Forêt which welcomed Jean Cocteau, Christian Dior, Jean Marais and Jean Tinguely, author of the famous Cyclop. Other artists are from the department, including Dany Brillant, Alain Chabat, Marc Lavoine and Jean-Luc Lemoine, others like Claude François have chosen to settle there.

Historical or cultural sites are also worth a detour. The Cyclop, an enormous work by Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle, nestled in the forest of Milly, the Saint-Sulpice de Favières church, the Saint-Blaise des simples chapel, the cemetery and the Orthodox church of Sainte-Geneviève -des-bois, the Saint-Médard church in Brunoy or the Resurrection Cathedral, the last cathedral built in France.

The original sites or museums that adorn Essonne. The Salis flying museum in Cerny, the art glassworks of Soisy-sur-École, the French photography museum in Bièvres and of course the National Conservatory of perfume, medicinal and aromatic plants in Milly-la-Forêt.

French Museum of Photography
The French Museum of Photography houses a rich collection of photographic materials and images tracing the combined history of the techniques and social uses of photography. With an exceptional collection of nearly a million images, 25,000 materials, more than 50,000 printed documents (books, manuals, catalogs, magazines, posters, etc.), from 1839 to the present day, the French museum of photography aims to tell the story of all photography and the whole history of photography.

Invented in the mid-19th century, photography is everywhere today. Family memory, self-presentation, cartography, space exploration, police investigation, medical diagnosis, war, journalism, advertising, political propaganda, artistic creation, sociological studies, archaeology, education, architecture, scientific research… Very few activities humans who do without photographic images.

How were photos taken in 1850, during the First World War or at the end of the 20th century? How did we distribute images at a time when we did not yet know how to reproduce them in books and newspapers? How does chemistry make them appear in the darkness of the laboratory, long before computers, printers and digital networks were invented? Why did we move from a complex craft to a thriving industry and an almost universal practice? What are the billions of photos produced, reproduced, classified, preserved and sometimes forgotten or thrown away for?

Starting to answer these questions, and many others, by discovering surprising images, mysterious objects, amusing advertisements, is, thanks to the museum, trying to understand our “civilization of the image”, to train your critical eye, to discover the little stories that make up the great History of the image. This is what the museum in Bièvres offers on 150 m2 of regularly renewed exhibition, through original objects, slideshows and films or game booklets, accessible from a very young age.

Foujita house-workshop
In 1991, Kimiyo Foujita donated the last studio of her husband, the Franco-Japanese painter Léonard Foujita, to the Essonne Departmental Council. The house-studio of Villiers-le-Bâcle, where nothing seems to have changed, offers a glimpse of the intimate universe of this artist.

At the end of the 1950s, Foujita worked with the art publisher Pierre de Tartas who had just transformed an old mill into an art center in Bièvres. Foujita goes there regularly and, during one of these visits, discovers a small rural house in ruins in the village of Villiers-le-Bâcle. It’s a favorite. In October 1960, Foujita bought it. This will be his last residence. He undertook major work there which radically transformed the small 18th century dwelling. Fascinated by craftsmanship, attracted by design and modernity, he designed everything there, down to the smallest detail. In November 1961, Foujita finally took possession of his new workshop.

The Foujita House-workshop, with its garden, its living rooms with unique decor and furniture and its workshop, invites us to enter the world of the famous painter of the School of Paris, a multi-faceted artist readily described as “magician”by his contemporaries. In September 2011, the Foujita Maison-atelier received the “Maisons des Illustres”label awarded by the Ministry of Culture and Communication to 111 places including 3 unique places in Essonne: the Foujita Maison-atelier in Villiers-le-Bâcle, the Maison Jean Cocteau in Milly-la-Forêt and the Caillebotte property in Yerres.

“Meeting old trades”museum in Bouray-sur-Juine
Exhibition of more than 3,500 tools representing more than thirty trades that have disappeared or are disappearing: beekeeper, carpenter, blacksmith, clog maker, cooper…

Literary house of Victor Hugo Château des Roches in Bièvres
Contains documents and manuscripts of Victor Hugo, who stayed over several summers at the Domaine des Roches, now transformed into a Literary House.

André Dunoyer Municipal Museum of Segonzac
Town hall (former stables) of Boussy-Saint-Antoine. Museum created by André Dunoyer de Segonzac (1884-1974), painter, draftsman, engraver, born at the Château de Boussy, today housing the town hall and the museum. Carnegie Prize (1933), gold medal at the Venice Biennale (1935), National Library (1958), Orangerie des Tuileries (1976).

Robert Dubois-Corneau Municipal Museum in Brunoy
Home of Robert Dubois-Corneau, collector, scholar, history enthusiast. The museum’s collections are made up of drawings, engravings, paintings, sculptures and art objects, which illustrate the history of the city and the Yerres valley. Two temporary exhibitions during the year.

House of Alphonse Daudet in Champrosay, Draveil
Owned by Alphonse Daudet, it is a place of memory in several ways. Daudet came there with his family on vacation, he received many 19th century artists there. The author wrote numerous works there, including La Petite Paroisse which he set in his own house. Edmond de Goncourt, the family friend and godfather of Alphonse Daudet’s daughter, was welcomed there regularly.

Paul Delouvrier Art Center in Évry
The collections presented are diverse from Ethiopian art, treasures of the liturgical past, to contemporary art paintings, over 500 m² of exhibition space.

Boigneville ecomuseum
Designed and built by the municipality, the ecomuseum is located in the old barn of the country guard. Presented on three floors, the collection allows you to discover a rural village in the French Gâtinais (agricultural machines, school equipment, photographs and posters)

“Le Moulin”, former home of Claude François in Dannemois
Many objects and clothing that belonged to Claude François can be seen in the museum.

Municipal Museum of History and Archeology in Longjumeau
This museum is made up of a historical range retracing all periods of local history. In addition it presents antique figurines and oil lamps from the Greco-Roman and Egyptian era.

Palaisien Hurepoix Museum at the Hôtel Brière, in Palaiseau
The museum retraces life in Hurepoix at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, through reconstructions: agriculture, housing, trades, and presentation of important collections.

Foujita house-workshop in Villiers-le-Bâcle
In 1991, Kimiyo Foujita donated the last studio of her husband, the Franco-Japanese painter Léonard Foujita to the General Council of Essonne for opening to the public. Located in the Mérantaise valley, the house was redeveloped by the painter in the early 1960s. On the top floor of the house, the artist’s studio is preserved intact: brushes, pigments, models and murals (preparation of the work produced in the Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix chapel in Reims).

Archaeological site of Etiolles
The archaeological site of Etiolles bears witness to the presence, among the first “Essonniens”, of the Magdalenians, a nomadic people who set up camp every year on the banks of the Seine, almost 14,000 years ago. The archaeological site of Etiolles, usually reserved for excavations, is revealed every June, with a rich program allowing a journey to discover the archeology and prehistoric techniques of the Magdalenians (fire, stone cutting, throwing with a thruster…).

Aviation History theme

The beginning of the 20th century saw a new revolution for the department, which became one of the cradle of aviation, Viry-Châtillon welcoming in 1909 the first organized airport in the world at Port-Aviation, in 1910 Louis Blériot and Maurice Farman opened schools at the Étampes – Mondésir airfield, Brétigny-sur-Orge had air base 217 in 1938, the site of numerous records.

Salis Flying Museum in Cerny-La Ferté-Alais
Jean-Baptiste Salis, aboard the “Libellule”which he himself restored, was the first to fly over Mont-Blanc. The museum is one of the largest flying museums in Europe (50 propeller planes including 7 classified as Historic Monuments) and follows the beginnings of aviation step by step with two Blériots from 1909 and 1913, a Morane and a Caudron from 1913-1914, aerobatic planes from the interwar period, the first travel planes, and the last propeller-driven fighters. All of these planes are in flying condition. Big meeting every year at Pentecost.

Paris Airport, Orly Environment Center
The Orly Airport Environment Center is a reception, information and documentation center for residents of Paris airports, designed for all audiences. A permanent exhibition is organized around three themes: the history of the airport, air traffic, stopover activities and the airport environment. Guided tours of the airport platform, part of the circuit takes place in a reserved area, closed to the public. Specific activities on the themes of air transport and the environment.

Port-Aviation officers’ mess at Viry-Châtillon
Unique vestige of the first organized aerodrome in the world (1909-1919), ancestor of Orly airport

Étampes-Mondésir aerodrome in Guillerval
Étampes-Mondésir is the most important tourist airfield in Essonne. Created at the beginning of the 20th century, it was the setting for numerous records. The “Patrouille de France”will be created there. Today it hosts several flying clubs in the department.

Cerny Aerodrome in Cerny
Cerny aerodrome is an aerodrome known for its famous meeting broadcast on television news.

Natural space

The department of Essonne, half of which is integrated into the Paris metropolitan area, nevertheless has a preserved environment over a large part of its territory. Thus, nearly one hundred and thirty-nine thousand hectares, or nearly 78% of the territory, are still classified by Iaurif as rural areas. The four natural regions that make up the department, Hurepoix, Brie, Gâtinais and Beauce, each have typical and distinct landscapes. To the north-east, Brie en Essonne is covered by the vast Sénart forest with oak, chestnut, hornbeam and birch species, the Hurepoix mixes wooded valleys and agricultural plateaus, the Gâtinais is for the most part covered by the important forest of Fontainebleau and its annexed forest of Milly, whose sandy and rocky soil is covered with oak, Scots pine and beech, the Beauce plain is almost entirely covered with large cereal crops.

From west to east, the department is crossed by the green belt of Île-de-France, with from the Rambouillet forest in Yvelines, a strip formed by the Dourdan forest and that of Angervilliers, then the forest of the Roche Turpin, the Belvédère forest, the Grands Avaux forest and the Milly-la-Forêt forest which joins the Fontainebleau forest to the east. In the north of the department, the forest of Verrières and the forest of Sénart form two preserved areas on the edge of the inner suburbs of Paris. The forests of Palaiseau, Rocher de Saulx and Bellejame complete these massifs.

The Department of Essonne is the owner and manager of several establishments dedicated to art or culture. Distributed throughout the territory, they are generally centered on a particular field: photography, painting, reading, contemporary art, garden art… The two most important are the leisure islands of Étampes and Port-aux-Cerises in Draveil and Vigneux-sur-Seine. They are complemented in their educational role by the Vilmorin arboretum and the municipal arboretum of Verrières-le-Buisson, the Segrez arboretum in Saint-Sulpice-de-Favières and the National Conservatory of perfume, medicinal, aromatic and industrial in Milly-la-Forêt. The Jeurre park in Morigny-Champigny, the Chamarande park, the Courances castle park, the Courson park and the castle park in Saint-Jean-de-Beauregard also attract visitors.

Added to this are two recent environmental initiatives, the green corridor of southern Paris which crosses the north-west of the department from Verrières-le-Buisson to Gometz-le-Châtel with a planned continuation to Rambouillet via Limours and the Méridienne verte which crosses the department in its center from north to south.

Several departmental parks dot the territory and allow a more or less natural approach to the environment. In these parks and forests several remarkable trees have been identified including a lime tree in Boutigny-sur-Essonne, an oak in Bures-sur-Yvette, plane trees in Chamarande and Morsang-sur-Orge, redwoods in Courson-Monteloup and Mennecy, a Japanese sophora in Juvisy-sur-Orge and common beeches in Saint-Sulpice-de-Favières.

Other places reflect the visceral attachment of artists and historical figures to this territory: the Maison Cocteau in Milly-la-Forêt, the house-studio of the painter Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita in Villiers-le-Bâcle, the Maison literary work of Victor Hugo at the Domaine des Roches…

Two renowned spaces also occupy a significant part of the territory. To the northwest, the Chevreuse valley follows the course of the Yvette as far as Palaiseau, with the possibility in 2010 of an extension of the Haute Vallée de Chevreuse regional natural park, sixteen municipalities in the department having already approved the principle of integration. To the south-east, the French Gâtinais regional natural park encompasses twenty-eight municipalities in the department between the Essonne and École valleys.

Some of them exceeding administrative limits, ten sites have been identified by the Natura 2000 network, three of which are classified as “Special Protection Zone”: the marshes of Itteville and Fontenay-le-Vicomte on five hundred and twenty-two hectares, the Massif of Fontainebleau in the communes of Courances and Milly-la-Forêt and the Massif de Rambouillet, 4% of which is in Essonne. There are also sites of community importance such as the mushroom farms of Étampes, the sandstone mounds of Essonne, the marshes of the lower valleys of Juine and Essonne, the limestone lawns of Gâtinais and the upper valley of the June and the upper Essonne valley.

Spread across several communes, the Nature Reserve of Geological Sites of Essonne which occupies nearly five hectares is classified as a National Nature Reserve, it is supplemented by several regional nature reserves including the Saulx-les-Chartreux basin, the Itteville park, the Grands Réages in Varennes-Jarcy and the Roger de Vilmorin arboretum in Verrières-le-Buisson. The Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and the Sea has also classified a certain number of sites including the Juine valley and its surroundings, the Yerres valley and its surroundings. Finally, the Essonne departmental council acquired land to classify it as a “Sensitive Natural Area”.

Parks and gardens
The 2006-2010 tourism development plan sets the development of the Essonne gardens as a priority area for tourism development.

Departmental domain of Chamarande
The departmental domain of Chamarande is a 98 hectare park surrounding a 17th century castle.

Courances Castle Park
The 75-hectare park is classic and romantic, historical and contemporary.

Domaine de Courson
The romantic castle park is the work of the greatest landscapers of the last three centuries. Its restoration allowed the introduction of many rare species of trees and flowering shrubs. Twice a year, in May and October, the “Courson Plant Days”(grouping of nurserymen from around the world) take place.

Domaine de Saint-Jean-de-Beauregard
The 17th century vegetable garden offers rare vegetables and a succession of flowers: daffodils, irises, peonies, old roses, summer flowers. A collection of aromatic, medicinal and condiment plants is also presented.

Marais Castle Park
A French garden created by Achille Duchêne located at the Château du Marais, a cave (last vestige of the romantic garden of the 19th century), a small, more intimate flower garden, an orchard, an old watercress orchard.

Departmental domain of Méréville
The Méréville estate was one of the most beautiful picturesque gardens of the late 18th century, and the name of Hubert Robert remains attached to it. Owned since 2000 by the General Council of Essonne, this area is classified as a historic monument.

Jeurre Park and its factories
Located in Morigny-Champigny, the Jeurre park is complementary to the Méréville estate because it houses the four main “factories”of Méréville: the dairy, the temple of Filial Piety, the rostral column and the Cook cenotaph. At the end of the 19th century, these were bought then dismantled stone by stone, transported to Jeurre and rebuilt in this park.

Saussay castle park
In Ballancourt-sur-Essonne, the Saussay estate owes its name to the willows that grew on these wetlands. In the 19th century, romantic fashion led to the creation of an English garden and in the 20th century the large perspective was redesigned by Duchêne.

Caillebotte property
The impressionist painter Gustave Caillebotte lived on his property in Yerres from 1860 to 1879. In his early days, he produced nearly 80 paintings there, including more than 20 paintings on the river and canoeing. (Portraits in the countryside, Périssoires, Canotiers rowing on the Yerres).

Domaine de Piedefer
Located in the historic center of Viry-Châtillon, this 19th century wooded park is laid out along a canal and overlooks a French-style parterre and a 17th century orangery. The nymphaeum (room decorated with shells and rockeries from the end of the 17th century) is classified as a historic monument.

Segrez Arboretum
In 1884, the arboretum of the Château de Segrez in Saint-Sulpice-de-Favières had 6,500 species of trees, making it one of the largest arboretums in the world. These were collected from 1857 by Alphonse-Pierre Lavallée, son of Alphonse Lavallée. There are now 300 interesting species there.

Municipal arboretum of Verrières
The municipal arboretum of Verrières-le-Buisson is only part of the initial arboretum. This area was acquired in 1975 by the municipality and was classified as a nature reserve in 1988. Of the thousand species planted by Roger de Vilmorin, there are still 200 trees and as many shrubs remaining today. The private part of the arboretum, still owned by the Vilmorin family, is exceptionally open to the public.

Juvisy-sur-Orge Caves Park
The current park is the result of a history of the site that began in the 17th century, with the construction of a regular park, designed by Le Nôtre. From this time, what remains is the general composition and the retaining wall. In the 19th century, the addition of the monumental cave gave it its current appearance. The cave park with an area of 2.2 hectares is protected as a registered site. 21 species of trees coexist there.

Flammarion Observatory Park
The Camille-Flammarion park in Juvisy-sur-Orge is a 2.1 hectare site classified since 1988 and organized around green rooms offering several atmospheres. The structure has generally remained as designed at the time of Camille Flammarion around 1880: a rocky cave, a yew belvedere, small reservoir basins for the vegetable garden

The Douves garden, park of the Maison Saint-Antoine
In Marcoussis, a 19th century wooded park, which extends on either side of the Salmouille, and where the ruins of the castle built in 1402 by Jean de Montagu are located.

Parc de la Seigneurie de Villiers-sur-Orge
Park and vegetable garden with traditional 17th century design

Leisure and entertainment activities

Hiking paths
Discover the riches of Essonne’s natural heritage. The Departmental Council welcomes you to its natural areas spread across the four corners of Essonne. Acquired for the protection of biodiversity, they are also designed for walking and exploring the landscapes. In addition to these particularly interesting areas in terms of fauna and flora, there are routes, representing 352 kilometers of hiking and geological walks in town. In the four corners of Essonne, the Departmental Council is developing itineraries to discover natural but also urban landscapes. These marked paths allow the most significant elements of the territory to be linked together.

These routes are equipped with directional signage at the main intersections. In addition, information panels are located at the starting points, and a topo-guide map of each hiking loop is available to you free of charge. In order to raise awareness of the riches of the subsoil and local architecture, the Department has also developed a collection of geological walks in town with the scientific support of the National Museum of Natural History and the Geological Society of France.

Essonne offers you a whole range of accommodation for your short or long stays, capable of satisfying even the most demanding needs. Hotels, lodges or rentals, guest rooms or unusual accommodation are available to you, without forgetting campsites for outdoor lovers. Take a stroll, as your inspiration dictates, from castles to museums, from parks to gardens, from golf courses to leisure centers. Rural lodges, guest houses, charming and business hotels, campsites, caravan parks… At the connection of four remarkable natural regions which are Brie, Gâtinais, Hurepoix and Beauce, Essonne awaits with its remarkable cultural and natural heritage.

Leisure centers
Essonne is home to two of the twelve regional outdoor and leisure bases in Île-de-France: the Port aux Cerises base and the Etampes base. Located in the communes of Draveil, Juvisy-sur-Orge and Vigneux-sur-Seine, in the north of the department on the banks of the Seine, the Port aux Cerises offers outdoor sports and leisure activities on 163 hectares throughout of the year. From walkers to athletes, families and also people with disabilities, everyone can enjoy this unique setting near Paris. 45 km south of Paris, the Étampes Regional Leisure Base offers an ideal setting for discovering nature, leisure and sport. A 140 hectare site which offers a wide range of activities and services, both sporting and entertainment.

Business tourism
Located a few kilometers south of Paris, in the heart of preserved natural spaces, Essonne offers you a range of sites suitable for the organization of seminars, congresses or meetings with high quality rooms, of all styles and for every taste. The department offers seminar locations with or without accommodation, combining in most cases with leisure activities (golf, karting, tree climbing, horse riding, etc.). In short, a destination close to the major Parisian business centers offering preserved nature without forgetting that Essonne is also a beautiful land of gastronomy.

The department is still largely covered by cultivation areas, including market gardening in the north and large-scale cereal crops in the south. Until the middle of the 20th century, it was one of the main suppliers of fresh products to the markets. from Paris and directly connected to them by the Arpajonnais. Certain products are thus renowned in the department, such as strawberries in the Bièvre valley and on the Saclay plateau, tomatoes in the Montlhéry region, beans and in particular the Chevrier species around Arpajon, bright red pumpkin d’Étampes, green lamb’s lettuce from Étampes and watercress in the south-east. The Gâtinais and the Milly region are also renowned for their aromatic and medicinal plants such as Saffron and Peppermint.

This results in some culinary specialties such as the watercress quiche from Milly-la-Forêt, the watercress wine from Méréville, the lark pâté from Chalo-Saint-Mars and the confectionery called Buchette d’Étampes.