Situated within the Île-de-France region, Hauts-de-Seine is one of the smallest of the French departments with a total area of approximately 176 square kilometers. However, it is very densely populated. Thus despite its small land area, it has a population of over 1.5 million. This department is located on the western outskirts of Paris and together with the similarly small departments of Seine-Saint-Denis and Val-de-Marne, Hauts-de-Seine forms a ring around the French capital known as 'la petite couronne'.
The department of Hauts-de-Seine was created in 1968 from portions of the original Seine and Seine-et-Oise departments. The department was subject to scandal during the latter half of the 1990s due to the local administration's misuse of public funds within the housing sector. Today, Hauts-de-Seine is one of the wealthiest of the French departments: its GDP has consistently exceeded that of many other European regions over the years. No break to this department would be complete, however, without a visit to its many picturesque châteaux which are located within the heart of the French countryside.
Hauts-de-Seine consists of three departmental arrondissements, 45 cantons and 36 communes. The principal cities within this department are:
Hauts-de-Seine is characterised by a temperate Atlantic climate; winters are generally cold whilst summers are mild. The department's climate is extremely similar to that of Paris (and mean monthly temperatures for that city may be found here). Summer temperatures, in particular, tend to spike on account of the Parisian pollution, whilst showers are common during the autumn months.
As with many of the departments in the Île-de-France region, Hauts-de-Seine possesses a number of magnificent châteaux. The Château de la Petite Malmaison, which is situated on the banks of the River Seine, is one such stately home. This château was one of Napoleon's favoured residences and acted as the inspiration for numerous Impressionist artists. The château is located within the idyllic setting of the Parc de Saint-Cloud which was designed by the famed French landscape artist, Le Notre. It covers some 460 hectares and entrance is free to visitors.
There are a number of other châteaux which are also well worth a visit. The Château de Sceaux, formerly owned by Colbert, the finance superintendant of Louis XIV, is a fine example. It was damaged by fire during the 19th century. However, its subsequent restoration has left it more magnificent than ever. Elsewhere, no stopover to the Vallé-aux-Loups would be complete without a visit to the residence of the writer and thinker, Chateaubriand. His former home now contains an impressive collection of his writings amongst other objects of historical interest.
Museums, Galleries and Culture
Part of the appeal of this department is that it combines both the traditional and the modern. One of the most prominent of Hauts-de-Seine's attractions is the Grande Arche de La Défense. It is designed in a similar manner to Paris's famed Arc de Triomphe – but with a futuristic twist. It provides a magnificent panoramic view over the French capital and is also a museum of modern sculpture.
There are a number of other museums of general interest within this department. A visit to the Musée National de la Céramique at Sèvres would certainly not go amiss. This museum houses a number of impressive displays on the development of the ceramic industry in France. Anyone with an interest in photography would no doubt greatly enjoy a visit to the Espace Albert Kahn at Boulogne-Billancourt. It possesses a wealth of exhibits on the history of film journalism. Elsewhere, the Renault Museum charts the evolution of the car industry in France.
Most major hotels cater well to the needs of their younger visitors by offering a wide variety of organized games and activities. The department's numerous parks and gardens provide a beautiful setting for younger children to play in. The vast gardens and children's play area at the Château de Sceaux are a fine example of this.
Given its proximity to Paris, Hauts-de-Seine offers near limitless shopping opportunities. Outlets of high street fashion chains are also in abundance. The main shopping precinct in Hauts-de-Seine is located within La Défense, the central business district for the department. However, one should not overlook this department's many traditional markets, which offer excellent deals on high quality gourmet produce as well as vintage clothing, organic food and antiques.
Food and Drink
As with many French departments, Hauts-de-Seine is famous for its culinary pleasures and is home to many superb brasseries and bars. This department possesses a number of hidden gastronomical gems that must be sampled by any visitor. The white wine, Vin de Pays des Hauts de Seine is one such example. Only 6,500 bottles of this drink are produced each year and sell for about 50 euros per bottle.
Hauts-de-Seine offers both professional and amateur golfers with the opportunity to refine their skills within idyllic surroundings. There are a number of high quality golf courses situated in this department. Golf de Saint-Cloud (60 rue du 19 Janvier, 92380 Garches) is an excellent example. A 36-hole course, it possesses a number of other prime facilities including a pro shop, bar and tennis courts and is located just 6km west of Paris. For those looking for a more relaxed golfing experience, the nine-hole course at Golf du Stade Français (129 av. de la Celle St Cloud, 92420 Vaucresson), which is located near Versailles, may be the perfect setting.
Ease of Access
The Hauts-de-Seine department has a highly developed transport system and is well served by air and rail amongst other forms of transport. The department also possesses a number of high-speed train (TGV) stations. It is possible to travel to the French capital, Paris, via the RER rapid transit lines, the Métro, and the tram and bus networks. Travel by train from London takes approximately three hours.
Value for Money
Hauts-de-Seine undeniably offers good value for money despite being located on the outskirts of Paris. Small family run hotels offer a reasonably priced option to those who do not want to compromise quality when travelling on a budget. As ever, off peak season travel ensures lower transportation costs.
Hauts-de-Seine has some fantastic opportunities for a relaxed break on the outskirts of Paris. Its principal attractions are a mix of the traditional and the modern and there is no doubt that this department will provide a fine holiday location for anyone in quest of that unique French experience.