Palais Ideal visitor guide

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The village of Hauterives is situated in the Rhone-Alpes region of France about 40 kilometres north of Valence. Despite the pleasant setting for the village it would probably go unremarked by visitors to the region if it wasn't for the extraordinary monument it contains.

The Palais Ideal

At the end of the 19th century (from 1879-1912), the local postman - Ferdinand Cheval - spent his spare time very industriously and slowly built a remarkable building, mostly using stones and pebbles that he collected during his deliveries, now known as the Palais Ideal.

Facade of the Maison Idéal

After dreaming of his project for 12 years, Ferdinand Cheval got to work, collecting stones during the day and building at night - a project that was to take more than 30 years to complete. Apparently Cheval had something of a reputation as an eccentric!

The building is about 26 metres long and 12 metres high. A fabulously ornate creation, it is an incredible achievement and fascinating to visit. It is not easy to classify or describe the building, since it is so unique, although the term 'naive architecture' has been applied.

France This Way review: photos can not do justice do the Palais Ideal because the most remarkable feature is the incredible attention to detail, and each small area of wall has its own surprises to discover.

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The east facade took the longest to complete and is the most interesting, and brings to mind the appearance of a temple in Cambodia. The west facade has a variety of scenes, recreations and highlights, including a hindu temple and an Egyptian Monument, and also further alcoves containing miniature versions of buildings from around the world such as a swiss chalet, a medieval chateau and so on.

Before the building - the Palais Idéal - was even finished it had quite a reputation, and the support of Pablo Picasso as a surrealist monument. The building is now a classified historic monument, and open to the public all year round (except the second half of january), admission price around 5 euros.

Inscription on one of the facade

Attractions nearby

When the palace was finished Cheval built a similar tomb in the town churchyard, where he is now buried. Taking eight years to build it has a certain gothic appeal (although I'm not sure it's what I might choose for my own tomb!)

About 20 kilometres south-east of Hauterives you can visit the village of Saint-Antoine l'Abbaye, classified among the most beautiful villages in France.

You can find more travel ideas in the Drome guide and the Rhone-Alpes guide.

See also: 

Photos of Palais Ideal

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Map of Palais Ideal and places nearby

 
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The French version of this page is at Palais Ideal (Francais)

 
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