Marne-la-Vallée is a new town east of Paris that is part of the conurbation that surrounds the French capital in Île-de-France. By far the most visited attraction is Disneyland Paris, and although there is not as much to see elsewhere for your average tourist, the commune of Noisy-le-Grand and the Val d'Europe area in particular may be of interest to those looking for quirky postmodern architecture. Tourists can also pay a visit to more traditional sites in the commune of Noisiel.
See also: Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines
Marne-la-Vallée was one of 5 new towns founded in the mid-1960s to house the overspill population from Paris, with parts of the new town replacing old shantytowns notably in Noisy-le-Grand and Champigny-sur-Marne, the latter having been home to a large number of poor Portuguese immigrants fleeing the Estado Novo regime, as well as expanding around existing historical towns such as Lognes. The new town is better described as a series of ribbon developments along the RERand A4 motorway, and can be divided roughly into four 'sectors': Porte de Paris (I), Val Maubée (II), Val de Bussy (III) and Val d'Europe (IV). These four sectors were constructed roughly in eastward chronological order as the RER A was extended eastwards, first to Noisy-le-Grand in 1977, then to Torcy in 1980, and finally to its current terminus of Marne-la-Vallée Chessy in 1992, in time for the completion of Disneyland Paris the same year. Sectors I and II were therefore mostly constructed in the late 70s and 80s, with the commune of Noisy-le-Grand in particular being home to some eccentric postmodern 80s architecture, while sectors III and IV were mostly developed in the 90s and the early 00s (and in some cases are still growing), with the outermost sector of Val d'Europe in particular notable for its neo-traditionalist style of architecture reminiscent of the New Urbanist school.
The commune of Lognes is nicknamed the 'Dragon City' (Ville du Dragon) and has the highest percentage of people of Asian descent in the whole of France, with around 40% of its residents being of Asian descent, mostly originating from France's former colonies in South-East Asia (ie. Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia). Its residents are also disproportionately young: in 2006 more than 40% of its residents were below the age of 25, perhaps due to the presence of multiple institutions of higher education in the area.
Marne-la-Vallée can be reached from Paris via car, train, or bus, with the RERserving most of the town. Marne-la-Vallée - Chessy station on the end of the RER is located right in the middle of Disneyland.
Places on the RER:
- 1 Bry-sur-Marne.
- 2 Noisy-le-Grand - Mont d'Est.
- 3 Noisy-Champs.
- 4 Noisiel.
- 5 Lognes.
- 6 Torcy.
- 7 Bussy Saint-Georges.
- 8 Val d'Europe. Serves Val d'Europe shopping centre.
- 9 Marne-la-Vallée - Chessy. Get off here for Disneyland Paris/Walt Disney Studios.
Places on the RER:
- 10 Villiers-sur-Marne - Le Plessis-Trévise.
- 11 Les Yvris - Noisy-le-Grand.
- 12 Emerainville - Pontault-Combault.
Places on the La Ferté - Milon and Château Thierry branches of Transilien line:
- 1 Disneyland Paris (RER : Marne-la-Vallée - Chessy). The Disney corporation chose this city as the site for their European theme park franchise.
- 2 Les Espaces d'Abraxas (RER : Noisy-le-Grand: Mont d'Est). A very ominous Postmodernist housing estate, completed in 1982 by the architect Ricardo Bofill, known as the filming location for dystopian films such The Hunger Games and Brazil.
- 3 Les Arènes de Picasso (RER : Noisy-le-Grand: Mont d'Est). Postmodernist housing estate completed in 1985, but not quite as ominous and austere as the Espaces d'Abraxas. Nicknamed 'Les Camemberts' by the locals due to the building's round shape.
- 4 Sea Life Val d'Europe (RER : Val d'Europe), ☏ . M-F 10:30-17:00, Sa Su 10:30-18:00. Aquarium.
- 5 Château de Champs-sur-Marne (RER : Noisiel), ☏ . W-M 10:00-17:30. Neoclassical château from the 17th century.
- 6 The Menier Factory and the surrounding workers' town (L'usine Menier et la cité ouvrière) (RER : Noisiel), ☏ . Former site of the Menier chocolate factory, now owned by Nestle. The factory itself is open to visitors only during open house weeks, generally in September.
- 7 Maison Natale de Louis Braille, 13 Rue Louis Braille ( : Esbly), ☏ . Tu-Su 10:30-18:00. Museum dedicated to the life of Louis Braille, inventor of Braille script for the visually impaired.
The Espaces d'Abraxas estate (aka the place where The Hunger Games was filmed) is a housing estate with a very poor reputation (even the architect responsible for it admitted it failed in its goals, and there have been calls for it to be demolished), and there have been cases of visiting tourists being harassed or even assaulted there. This is partly exacerbated by its design with its little alleyways that foster crime, particularly relating to drug trafficking. Avoid visiting at night or on the weekend when there are few people around, and be discreet about taking pictures. In general you should be wary of standing out too much as tourists, particularly if you are of East Asian appearance.