International City of the French Language Villers-Cotterêts Castle
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What to expect
Explore the International City of the French Language at Villers-Cotterêts Castle
Welcome to a cultural and living space entirely dedicated to the French language and Francophone cultures, nestled in the heart of the magnificent Villers-Cotterêts Castle. The International City of the French Language will open its doors on October 19, 2023, offering an enriching experience for all lovers of the French language and culture.
Opening Hours and Access
- Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 AM - 6:30 PM
- Last entry to the City: one hour before closing
- Closed on Mondays (except for Easter and Pentecost Mondays) as well as on January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th.
- Individual rate: €9
- Free admission for individuals under 18, those aged 18-25 (Union European citizens and regular non-European residents in France), people with disabilities and their companions, job seekers (with proof less than 6 months old), and holders of the Education Pass (valid).
It is strongly recommended to purchase your tickets online to avoid waiting in line.
How to Get There
The International City of the French Language is located in Villers-Cotterêts and is easily accessible by car or train.
- From Paris (85 km): Take the A3 and then the N2.
- From Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport (52 km): Take the N2.
- From Soissons (23 km): Take the N2.
- From Compiègne (30 km): Take the D973.
Free parking is available at Grand Bosquet and the train station, as well as in the city center of Villers-Cotterêts. Parking spaces for people with reduced mobility are available near the entrance of the City.
The City is accessible by TER, the SNCF Paris-Laon line, departing from Gare du Nord in Paris. The travel time is approximately 45 minutes, followed by a 10-minute walk from Villers-Cotterêts station.
Access and Services
The International City of the French Language offers easy access for people with reduced mobility, with an elevator to access the upper floor. You will also find practical services on-site:
- Self-service cloakrooms to store your personal belongings (except for large luggage).
- Strollers and baby carriers are allowed in the City.
- A changing area is available on the ground floor.
- You may take flash-free photos to capture your visit.
Exploring the City
The admission ticket grants you access to the permanent exhibition at the International City of the French Language. Plan on spending approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to explore this captivating journey that showcases the richness of the French language and Francophone cultures.
While the permanent exhibition is recommended for ages 7 and up, the City also offers numerous family activities throughout the year for younger visitors to introduce them to the French language in a playful way.
The International City of the French Language at Villers-Cotterêts Castle is a must-visit destination for all enthusiasts of the French language and culture. Get ready to immerse yourself in Francophonie and experience a culturally enriching journey. Reserve your tickets online now and prepare to discover this one-of-a-kind cultural treasure.
The Fascinating History of Villers-Cotterêts Castle
A prominent site in French history and architecture, the royal castle of Villers-Cotterêts has had a tumultuous history. Let's rewind the clock to discover the rich epochs that have marked this iconic place.
The renown of the Retz Forest in Aisne is not new. In 632, Dagobert I was already hunting there! The kings who succeeded him also appreciated its abundance of game and built an unpretentious residence there.
However, the grand history of Villers-Cotterêts Castle truly begins with the future Francis I. At the age of just three, he received the Duchy of Valois and the castle from his cousin, King Louis XII. In 1528, following his defeat in Pavia, Italy, Francis I initiated a series of architectural projects, including Villers-Cotterêts Castle, to indulge in his favorite pastime, hunting.
Villers-Cotterêts Castle rivaled the finest architectural achievements of its time. Its chapel, a Renaissance masterpiece, broke with Gothic tradition and bore royal emblems such as the salamander and the fleur-de-lis. Renowned architects, including Philibert Delorme and André Le Nôtre, contributed to the splendor of the castle.
French kings, notably Henry II, who spent long hours hunting deer there, made it a temporary capital of the kingdom, where important political decisions were made. In 1539, Francis I signed a historic decree there, mandating the use of French in administrative and legal documents.
The castle also hosted splendid festivities. Francis I referred to the castle as "Mon Plaisir." Local celebrations gave rise to the saying "s'amuser comme à Villers-Cotterêts" (to have fun like in Villers-Cotterêts). The Orleans, who received the castle as an appanage from Louis XIV, led a life of games, conversations, and receptions. Louis XIV himself stayed there, even organizing a masked ball in 1680.
The castle was also the site of the creation of Molière's famous play "Tartuffe," which was performed privately before Louis XIV after being publicly banned.
The French Revolution marked the decline of the castle, which was seized as national property in 1790. It briefly served as a barracks for the republican army in 1789, and later as a poorhouse in 1808. Significant alterations damaged part of its grand architecture to accommodate up to 1,800 indigent individuals.
From 1889 to 2014, the castle served as a retirement home and underwent further modifications to meet the needs of its occupants.
During World War I, Villers-Cotterêts was near the front lines. The castle was used as a military hospital and sustained minor damage during the second Battle of the Marne in 1918.
Today, Villers-Cotterêts Castle has a new destiny, in line with President Emmanuel Macron's vision. After an extensive restoration campaign, it has become the International City of the French Language. This historic monument houses a permanent exhibition celebrating the French language and Francophonie. It also offers exhibitions, performances, artist residencies, training activities, educational workshops, and a research laboratory on linguistic issues.
Villers-Cotterêts Castle, a witness to French history, continues to evolve and inspire future generations.