15 Best Things to Do in Boulogne-Billancourt (France)

Set between Paris and Versailles, Boulogne-Billancourt is a handy compromise for both transport and the price of accommodation.

The hotels are packed out at the end of May when Roland-Garros is in full swing, or if the football team PSG are playing a big match at the Parc des Princes.

The western arrondissements of Paris are all in range and contain the vaunted Musée Marmottan for Monet lovers, the Eiffel Tower, Bois de Boulogne and the Champs-Élysées.

But if you want to stick to this upscale suburb on the right bank of the Seine, Boulogne-Billancourt has its own museums, shopping areas and parks that are all worth your time.

Lets explore the best things to do in Boulogne-Billancourt:

1. Musée Albert-Kahn

Musée Albert-Kahn

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Musée Albert-Kahn

At the turn of the 20th century the eccentric Parisian banker and philanthropist set out to compile “Les Archives de la Planète”. Documenting as many locations around the world as possible, Albert Kahn gathered 72,000 colour photographs and more that 180,000 metres of footage.

You’ll see a lot of it inside this museum and find out about the origins of this ambitious project.

Outside are seven landscaped gardens in French, English and Japanese styles.

There’s also a Japanese village, which is the oldest part of the gardens, created in 1898 after a trip to Japan, and with a tea pavilion where authentic tea ceremonies are still held.

2. Musée Marmottan

Musée Marmottan

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Musée Marmottan

Minutes from Boulogne-Billancourt, in the 16th arrondissement is a museum with more paintings by Claude Monet than any other in the world.

These number over 300, nearly all of which were donated to the museum by his second son Michel Monet in the 1960s.

On show are many works that had a lasting impact on world culture, not least “Impression, Soleil Levant”, the painting of the port in Le Havre that inspired the Impressionist movement.

But Monet isn’t the only major impressionist here, as his paintings are complemented by pieces by Morisot, Degas, Renoir, Gauguin and Sisley.

3. Musée des Années Trente

Musée des Années Trente

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Musée des Années Trente

Boulogne-Billancourt cultural heyday came in the 1930s when its movie industry and car and aircraft manufacturing plants were burgeoning.

The commune was left with more  architecture from this decade than any other French commune, and this heritage is mapped out by the Musée des Années Trente.

It’s a compendium e of all things 1930s, but with an accent on art and design: There are exhibits for modernist architects like Robert Mallet-Steven, Le Corbusier and Tony Garnier, combined with sculpture, furniture, ceramics, posters, drawings and paintings.

4. Days Out in Paris

Paris

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Paris

Boulogne-Billancourt is served by the Paris Métro Lines 9 and 10, which puts the City of Light at your fingertips.

Line 9 is the best for sightseeing, as you can get to the Trocadéro in a matter of minutes, which of course also drops you off right next to the Eiffel Tower.

And from there your options are unlimited: You can wander along the Seine, call in at the Musée d’Orsay for even more Impressionists, do some window shopping at the Champs-Élysées and contemplate The Thinker at the Musée Rodin.

Naturally there’s a world of dining, both French and international, waiting for you.

At the docks by Pont de Sèvres in Boulogne-Billancourt are a clutch of boat operators providing bespoke Seine cruises if you want make things really romantic.

5. Versailles

Versailles

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Versailles

By car the extraordinary city of Versailles is only 15 minutes away and merits at least a day.

The Palace of Versailles and its head-spinning luxury is the ultimate symbol of the Ancien Régime, and one of those things you simply have to do.

More than 300 years since the reign of Louis XIV it still holds the power to leave you speechless.

The Sun King and his successors called in the pre-eminent architects and artists of the day (Le Vau, d’Orbay, Le Brun, Le Notre)  to design and decorate the palace and its resplendent apartments.

The grounds and their stables, orangery, chapels, Royal Opera as well as other residences like Louis XIV’s Grand Trianon and the Queen’s Hamlet are worth every minute of your time.

6. Musée Paul-Belmondo

Musée Paul-Belmondo

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Musée Paul-Belmondo

Active in the 20th-century, Paul Belmondo is held as the last of the great French classical sculptors.

In 2007 his son Jean-Paul, the illustrious movie actor, and two siblings Muriel and Alain, donated every work by their father that they owned to Boulogne-Billancourt.

Their collections amounted to 259 sculptures,444 medallions and just shy of 900 drawings.

The setting chosen for this treasure trove of figurative art was the palatial Château de Buchillot, built in the 19th century by James de Rothschild.

The museum has ties to the Musée des Années Trente, having been curated by the same person, and there’s a free shuttle bus running between the two attractions.

7. Parc de Boulogne-Edmond de Rothschild

Parc de Boulogne-Edmond de Rothschild

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Parc de Boulogne-Edmond de Rothschild

In 1855 James de Rothschild also ordered the Château de Rothschild , designed in the Louis XIV style.

Among its distinguished guests were the composer Frédéric Chopin and French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau.

But the property had a difficult 20th century when it was damaged and looted in the Second World War, and has sat dilapidated for decades.

In the 70s 15 hectares of the grounds became a public park, and this space is scattered with exotic trees like Corsican pines, oriental planes and a purple beech planted in the château’s earliest days.

8. Les Passages

Les Passages

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Les Passages

This new shopping centre next to the town hall is inspired by the 19th-century Passages Couverts in Paris, elegant shopping arcades beneath wrought iron and glass roofs.

Les Passages mimics that concept and has a selection of high street stores like fnac, Mango and Zara along with restaurants, cafes and a Pathé cinema, all in plush surroundings.

The centre is open Monday through Saturday to 20:00, while the square in front has restaurants and shops on all sides, and an old-time carousel in the middle of its landscaped gardens in summer.

9. Sèvres – Cité de la Céramique

Sèvres

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Sèvres

The highly prestigious Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres is one of Europe’s foremost porcelain factories and has been producing the finest ceramics since 1740. In its time it has been associated with many of the greatest French ceramists of the last 300 years or so, working with its signature hard-paste porcelain.

The museum for the factory is just on the other side of the Seine, across the Pont de Sèvres and is replete with 50,000 porcelain items, about a tenth of which are highly-valuable pieces created here in Sèvres.

The remainder is contemporary and antique ceramics from across Europe and Asia.

10. Île Seguin

Île Seguin

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Île Seguin

After decades of upheaval, this island in the Seine to the south of Boulogne-Billancourt finally has a new identity.

There had been a Renault plant here for decades, and the last car rolled off its production line in 1992. For some time the factory lay empty before it was pulled down a decade ago.

Now the island will be a culture hub for the western Paris suburbs, and at the heart of this is La Seine Musicale, an ensemble of ultra-modern buildings with an auditorium for symphony orchestras or touring rock and pop artists, and the multi-disciplinary Grand Salle that can hold up to 6,000 spectators.

11. Bois de Boulogne

Bois de Boulogne

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Bois de Boulogne

At the town’s northern boundary is the sprawling Bois de Boulogne, which like many of the parks around Paris was formerly reserved for royalty to go hunting.

Since the mid-1800s it’s been a public park of staggering proportions, more than two and a half times the size of New York’s Central Park.

Within the Bois de Boulogne are all sorts of venues and visitor attractions that we’ll cover in the next couple of entries.

But a casual everyday visitor should check out the marvellous features from when the park was landscaped as part of a gigantic engineering project during the rule of Napoleon III in the 1850s.

The largest of these were the artificial cliffs, grotto and waterfall of the Grand Cascade.

12. Jardin d’Acclimatation

Jardin d'Acclimatation

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Jardin d’Acclimatation

You won’t be stuck for things to do with the little ones, as the Jardin d’Acclimatation is a great little amusement park that first opened just after the Bois de Boulogne became a public park in 1860. The park is a little-old fashioned in its innocence wholesomeness, but this isn’t such a bad thing as there are pony rides, puppet shows, miniature train rides, as well as carousels and other traditional fairground amusements.

The park started out as a zoo, and there’s still a small menagerie of mostly domestic species that kids can meet like goats and donkeys.

Right next door is the new Fondation Louis Vuitton, a sci-fi style modern art museum designed by Frank Gehry and hosting temporary exhibitions.

13. Observatoire de Meudon

Observatoire de Meudon

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Observatoire de Meudon

The southwestern suburbs have a few places where you can take in wonderful panoramas of the Paris skyline, but none can compete with the terrace of the Meudon Observatory.

The facility belongs to the Paris Observatory, which has three sites around the city.

Meudon’s branch was intended for the study of the sun and completed in 1876, but although there’s a diverting collection of solar photography inside, the main attraction is the grounds.

In pretty gardens on this hilltop you can see nearly every major Paris landmark, all the way to the Sacré-Cœur.

14. Spectator Sports

Parc des Princes

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Parc des Princes

In the space of just a few square kilometres are venues for world-class tennis, rugby and football.

These are just inside the 16th arrondissement and include Roland-Garros for the French Open in May, Parc des Princes, home of the elite French Ligue 1 team PSG and Stade Jean-Bouin where the successful Stade Français rugby team plays.

When it comes to mystique Roland-Garros and the French open are hard to beat, and for two weeks in late May and early June, the planet’s rich and famous come to see the best players in world sliding around the fabled clay courts.

15. Parc de Saint-Cloud

Parc de Saint-Cloud

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Parc de Saint-Cloud

This “Domaine National” is on the left bank of the Seine opposite the east side of Boulogne-Billancourt.

As well as being touted as one of the most beautiful parks in all of Europe, these gardens will tell you a little about the history of the region.

Over 460 hectares on hilly ground, the park used to be the grounds for the Château de Saint-Cloud, which was a royal and imperial residence from the 1500s on and wasa favourite of Marie Antoinette and Napoleon III. The residence was destroyed by Prussian shelling during the siege of Paris in 1870-71,  but the gardens around haven’t changed, and were plotted in the 17th century by André Le Nôtre, one of the men who made Versailles what it is.


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15 Best Things to Do in Boulogne-Billancourt (France)


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