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The Carrés Saint-Louis, a town centre that looks like a picturesque village

The Carrés Saint-Louis, in english Saint-Louis Squares may not represent in the eyes of tourists an essential place to visit Versailles. To tell you the truth, they haven’t even had the right to their Wikipedia article yet. However, this place, which is full of history and secrets, is the centre of activity in the Saint-Louis district and promises the curious a poetic and charming visit experience.

Carré à la Fontaine à Versailles
Interior facade of the Carré à la Fontaine, Fountain Square – © Vita Versailles

The « baraques », three-hundred-year-old houses typical of the Carrés Saint-Louis

These dwarf buildings commonly referred to as « baraques » (french slang for ‘house’) constitute the face of the Saint-Louis district. Built between 1736 and 1737 and originally planned to house a new market, complementary to that of the Notre-Dame square, their destiny quickly turns to that of dwellings.

Read also : Guided tour of Versailles aboard a french vintage car

Their unique architecture gives them the look of an elf’s house (that was my first impression). If we look at the mansard slate roofs, we would rather compare them to Haussmann buildings buried on 4 floors (this was my second impression).

These baraques form four squares, each bearing their little name:

  • Carré à la Fontaine (Fountain Square), home to a strange building that served as a water reservoir in the past;
  • Carré au Puits (Well Square), occupied by a playground for children;
  • Carré à la Terre (Soil Square);
  • Carré à l’Avoine (Oat Square), it is in this square that you will find something to drink, eat and enjoy the sun on the terrace.

Houses also once lined the Rue de l’Occident, Rue de l’Orient, Rue du Marché Neuf and the Rue de la Sainte-Famille, the four streets drawing the perimeter of the squares. Dilapidated, they were gradually bought by the city and demolished, then replaced by rows of chestnut trees.

From now on, only the houses accessible from Rue Royale and Rue d’Anjou will remain and should remain there for a long time to come: these have been listed in the inventory of Historic Monuments since 1931.

Small shops, artisans, artists and terraces in the Saint-Louis Squares

You can go to the Saint-Louis Squares to stroll, go shopping, have a bite to eat or discover one of the many craftsmen who occupy the ground floors of the houses built under Louis XV.

Turn off your phone, don’t look at your watch and don’t hesitate for a second to push the door of the many shops that house the souls of the squares.

Carré à l'Avoine à Versailles
Interior facade of the Carré à l’Avoine, Oat Square – © Vita Versailles

The gourmet tour of the Carrés Saint-Louis: restaurants and culinary artisans

  • La Petite chocolaterie (chocolate shop) : ideal for a gourmet gift when one is invited;
  • L’Octopus : the fishmonger/seafood restaurant;
  • Boucherie des carrés (butcher) : we appreciate the good mood of the place and the quality of the products!

Which terrace will have the honor of welcoming you?

As mentioned in the first part, the oatmeal square has the particularity of hosting several restaurants with terraces. To eat or have a drink, you will spend a pleasant moment in a village-like setting.

  • Le Carré aux Crêpes (creperie), the crêperie on the corner, if you want to discover traditional French crepes!
  • Pizza L’Ardoise (pizzeria), the most central pizzeria in Saint-Louis with a very pleasant terrace;
  • La Salamandre (french traditional restaurant), traditional and gourmet dishes;
  • Le 17.37 (french traditional restaurant), the not-to-be-missed resto at the Carré à l’Avoine.

The tour of artisans and quaint stores

  • Damien Béal, the leather craftsman recognized for his original creations in leather and wood;
  • La Fabricature, cocorico ! The shop exclusively dedicated to French manufacturing;
  • Atelier 42, shop/workshop selling decorative objects in an industrial style;
  • Le Comptoir des Monastères, a small store showcasing monastic craftsmanship;
  • Lucile Bolot, ceramistartisan, offers you her collections of ceramics made on site, as well as pottery lessons.

So, decided to make a small detour to the south of the royal city to come and discover this tourist gem?

À bientôt sur @vitaversailles!

With the help of the work of Guy Bourachot.

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