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Le Rond de la Balustrade: a breathtaking view of Paris

Le rond de la balustrade

Located on a hillside overlooking the Seine, the Saint-Cloud national estate offers several spectacular panoramic views of the capital. Don't hesitate to climb up to the Rond de la Balustrade, to admire "the most beautiful view in the world", in the words of Princess Palatine!

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Le Nôtre's star

Designed by André Le Nôtre for Louis XIV's brother Monsieur, the Haut-Parc is a regular grid of paths. Placed at the center of this composition, the rond de la Balustrade is a half-star towards which five alleys converge.

Le Nôtre treated this highest point as a belvedere, to offer a panoramic, 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape. If you turn your back on the vast vistas offered by the Haut-Parc's allées, you'll discover a wide open view of the outside world, embracing the Seine in the foreground, the Bois de Boulogne and Paris and its monuments in the distance.

The name "rond de la Balustrade" is rather paradoxical, since until the end of the 19th century, there were no railings. The space opened up without any physical barrier in front of the viewer. In those days, the view was far more bucolic than it is today: Boulogne was a small village bordered by a royal forest and surrounded by meadows and fields!

La vue depuis Saint-Cloud en 1715
La vue depuis Saint-Cloud en 1715

Patrick Cadet

The lantern

The central avenue leading to the rond de la Balustrade was originally known as the allée Royale. It was renamed allée de la Lanterne in the early 19th century. Why the name change? Because of the construction of a square tower just over 18 meters high, the Lanterne de Démosthène, on the rond de la Balustrade.

What was the purpose of this strange edifice?

The Comte de Choiseul-Gouffier had brought back from his travels in Greece casts of a monument erected in Athens by the sculptor Lysicrates, towards the end of the 4th century BC. A terracotta copy of this monument was made in 1801, and presented to the First Consul, Napoleon Bonaparte. Perched at the top of a tower, accessible by a staircase, it offers a unique view from a great height. It is also equipped with a lighting system. A flame burns in this strange lighthouse, lit only to signal to Parisians when the Emperor is staying at the Château de Saint-Cloud!

As it is copied from a Greek monument, its name is inspired by famous ancient figures, who however have nothing to do with the original Athenian edifice. Sometimes dedicated to Diogenes, it was later known as the Lantern of Demosthenes.

It was destroyed in 1870 during the Prussian occupation. If you look carefully at the ground in the middle of the lawn, you'll see the foundation stones marking the site of the vanished lantern.

la lanterne de Démosthène
la lanterne de Démosthène

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