Meaux is probably an unknown destination for tourists and travelers, but it’s the perfect city for a complete cultural and historical tour! As a member of the Villes et Pays d’Art et d’Histoire network since 1988, Meaux is nationally recognized both for the important heritage it has and for the care that local authorities have in preserving and distinguishing it.
About 40 km from the center of Paris and a short train ride away, you can take the opportunity to visit Europe’s largest museum about the Great War, stroll through gardens à la française, and even taste typical food such as the delicious Brie cheese, just to exemplify!
So, do you want to know more about 1 Day In Meaux: The Perfect Meaux Itinerary? Keep reading!
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Brief History of Meaux
Meaux‘s history dates back to the times of the Roman Empire, as there are records of buildings such as a forum, amphitheater, aqueduct, thermal baths, and even monuments of worship with the rise of Christianity and the first bishops. However, in the Middle Ages, the city suffered attacks from Normans and Vikings, until it became a possession of the Counts of Champagne in the 10th century – as was the case with Provins.
In the 16th century, Meaux became one of the most active French cities in the war between Catholics and Protestants, albeit with severe punishments on both sides. In any case, in the following centuries, religion marked the life of this geographical area, especially at the end of the 17th century with Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1681-1704), was very influential in the daily lives of the citizens of Meaux.
Since then, the city of Meaux has been involved in massacres related to the French Revolution of the late 18th century, just as it was beginning to develop its agriculture, livestock, and local production. In this sense, the former capital of the Brie region has been dedicated, over the past two centuries, to the manufacture of the famous Brie de Meaux cheese.
During the First World War (1914-1918), the region attended the Bataille de la Marne (September 1914), due to an invasion by the army of the German Empire. To honor this historic moment, Meaux decided to build the Musée de la Grande Guerre, Europe’s largest museum about the First World War to this day!
To get to Meaux, head over to the Gare de l’Est, where the Transilien P train leaves for La Ferté Millon or Château Thierry – any destination stops in the historic center of Meaux. Tickets cost €8 (adults) and €4 (children under 10).
I recommend starting your day with a visit to the Musée de la Grande Guerre and then continuing in the old town. You can explore the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne, Maison du Brie de Meaux, and the Musée et Jardin Bossuet, among other monuments and exterior landmarks.
The Service du Patrimoine: Meaux Ville d’Art Art et d’Histoire, provides lectures and guided tours in the historic city center. It’s a cultural activity that is part of the Villes et Pays d’Art et d’Histoire program and currently comprises 130 locations across France. At a cost of €6.30 (reduced fare of €3.15), tours depart daily at 3 pm from the Meaux Tourist Office.
Musée de la Grande Guerre
The Great War Museum was built in 2011 on the same site where the Battle of Marne took place, about 3 km from the center of Meaux. With more than 3000 m2 of exhibition space, the museum displays the collection of almost 50,000 objects and documents about the First World War, which historian Jean-Pierre Verney spent nearly 40 years collecting.
The permanent exhibition spans numerous rooms on the first floor, covering three major themes (or eras): the Pre-War (1870-1914), the Great War (1914-1918), and the After-War (1919-today). It’s an unbelievable experience to observe the European societies of that time, whose motivations, objectives, and alliances marked the radical change between the 19th and 20th centuries. In my opinion, the most impressive part of the museum is, without a doubt, the reproduction of the trenches, a terrible visual emblem of this war.
In this gigantic collection, there are thousands of objects, weapons, documents, clothing, and vehicles coming from all over the world, including from Asia and North America. I was very surprised by the fact that the museum tells the story from various perspectives, not only from the French point of view but also from its allies (the English) and from its enemies (the German)!
The Musée de la Grande Guerre is open every day (except Tuesday) from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm and closes annually on the holidays January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th, in addition to the period from 18th to 31th of August. Entrance costs €10 (full rate) or €5-€7 (reduced rate), and there are also audio guides available in French, English, or German for just €2.
However, children under 18 don’t pay and the museum itself is free on the first Sunday of each month! Finally, this is the only tourist attraction that isn’t located in the historic center of Meaux, but there are several buses that take you just 10 minutes from the train station (lines M6, 10, 11, 63, and 65). If you want, you can check all time schedules and stops on the museum’s official website.
First of all, did you know that the Saint-Étienne Cathedral took 350 years to be completed? It all started around 1175, in order to replace a Romanesque Cathedral built on the same site.
The work lasted until about 1530-1540, with the completion of the north tower. The Gothic Cathedral had richly decorated sections, like its five gates. However, the Wars of Religion (1562-1598) between Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots) destroyed much of the heritage.
Inside the Cathedral, you can’t help admiring the Choir, an incredible work of art due to the natural light and height of its vaults. It was rebuilt in the second half of the 13th century in Rayonnant style, the famous “Radiant Gothic” that marked French architecture between 1240 and 1350.
Also noteworthy are the various Stained Glass Windows (14th and 15th centuries) interpreting scenes from the Bible, the great Rose Window (15th century), and the imposing Organ (17th century), by Valéran de Héman, the most renowned French organ builder of his time.
Admission to the Cathédral Saint-Étienne is free for everyone, although there are different time schedules depending on the seasons. For example, from April 1st to October 31st, the monument is open from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm, but from November 1st to March 31st, it closes an hour earlier (at 5 pm).
Maison du Brie de Meaux
On the first floor of the Tourist Office building is the Meaux House of Brie, divided into six visiting rooms (or zones). This soft white “rind” cheese, made with unpasteurized cow’s milk, received the Appellation d’origine protégée (AOP) in 1980, that is, the national seal of recognized quality and authenticity.
In the first two rooms, you can learn about the region’s history (from its idyllic grasslands to the breeding of Holstein-Friesland cows), which provided the production of the Brie de Meaux cheese, as well as the origins of the cheese as a whole – dating back to the Neolithic period (ca. 5000 BC)!
The next room focuses on the milk treatment stages, after collection: maturation, coagulation, cutting, molding, drainage, salting, and maturation. Although it’s a complex and detailed process, the Maison du Brie de Meaux explains it in an exemplary way, using simple texts, images, and work tools.
On the other hand, zone 4 addresses the tools that aid in the storage, transportation, and sale of the Brie cheese, such as mats and straw baskets, together with life on the market and the emergence of competitions and fraternities. And zone 5 makes a faithful reproduction of Brie’s manufacturing rooms in the 19th century.
The visit to this “Cheese Museum” ends with other specialties of the region in its most recent history, such as the Moustarde de Meaux Pommery, and the Pavé de Meaux (among other desserts), not to mention varieties of certified vegetables. Take advantage of the visit guides (available in French, English, Spanish, Italian, German, and Dutch), to better understand all these points of interest!
The museum is open every day, from 10 am to 12:30 pm and from 1:30 pm to 6:30 pm (from April 1st to September 30th) and from 10 am to 12:30 pm (except on Sundays) and from 13:30 pm to 5 pm (Sundays from 2 pm to 5 pm), the rest of the year. Similar to other locations, it closes on January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th. Meanwhile, there are two types of visits:
- Open visit – at €4 (full rate) or €3 (reduced rate for everyone from 4 to 26 years old, students, over 65, etc.)
- Visit with tasting – at 6€ or 4.50€ (only on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 4 pm, with reservation)
Since 1927, the Bossuet Museum presents a unique art collection in the Île-de-France region, in terms of ancient paintings and French sculptures. Located on the first floor of a 12th-century Episcopal Palace – of which two rooms on the ground floor and a chapel were preserved – this art museum has ten historic rooms, with the respective works distributed in chronological order.
The honored artists are mostly French, such as Jean Senelle, Noël Coypel, Bon Boullogne (17th century), Jean-François de Troy, Charles-André van Loo, Pierre Mignard (18th century), Jean-Léon Gérôme (century XIX) and Paul Niclausse (20th century), among others. Even so, the itinerary contains foreign works, especially by the Italian Giuseppe Cesari and the Flemish Frans Floris.
The Salle Changeux and the Chapelle include the Mannerism (1550-1630), while the Classical Period (1630-1715) is depicted in the great Salle du Synode, divided into east and west wing. In the Apartments, both the Antichambre and the Chambre du Roi, exhibit works from Mythology, Rococo, and Neoclassicism (18th century). This includes the small Cabinet Bossuet, with portraits of the famous 17th-century bishop of Meaux.
In the final section, you can find landscapes and genre paintings of Romanticism, Orientalism, and Realism in the Salle Moissan (19th century), local painting and sculpture in the Salle du XXe siècle (added in 2012), and even a laboratory of an 18th-century Apothecary! Finally, all temporary exhibitions and archaeological collections can be found on the lower floor.
The Musée Bossuet is open every day (except Tuesdays) from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm, closing on the holidays January 1st, May 1st, July 14th, and December 25th. However, from November 1st to March 31th, you can only visit it from Wednesday to Sunday, from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm (except Sundays), and from 2 pm to 5 pm.
The ticket costs €3.10 (full fare) or €2.10 (reduced fare) and there are audio guides in French, for free and available at the ticket office. Still, students and children under the age of 18 don’t pay and the museum itself is free every Wednesday!
The Bossuet Garden was created in 1642 by Dominique Séguier, Bishop of Meaux between 1637 and 1659. He was responsible for the reformulation of the apartments and the north facade of the Episcopal Palace, the current headquarters of the Bossuet Museum.
In the shape of a bishop’s miter, this French garden was designed by the landscape architect André Le Nôtre, responsible for other works of art such as the Gardens of the Palace of Versailles, the Grand Parterre of the Palace of Fontainebleau, and even the Tuileries Garden, next to the Louvre Museum!
At the back of the Garden, the subsequent bishop (Dominique de Ligny) had a pavilion built, which would become the working room of his successor: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet. The most prestigious personality in the city, who gave its name to the Museum and the Garden, was Bishop of Meaux from 1681 to 1704.
In 2004, the enclosure created a kind of rose called La Rose Bossuet, Aigle de Meaux. During the warmer season, the Jardin Bossuet becomes a botanical garden with different types of medicinal, exotic, and local varieties, such as the Meaux carrot or mustard!
Like the Cathédral Saint-Étienne, the Bossuet Garden is free of charge with different schedules throughout the year. Just to illustrate, from April 1st to October 31st, the place is open from 8 am to 7 pm, and from November 1st to March 31th, it operates from 9:30 am to 5 pm.
Map of the Meaux Itinerary
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