Postman Cheval's Ideal Palace (Palais Ideal du Facteur Cheval in French) in Hauterives is one of France's queerest attractions. Regarded as an extraordinary example of naïve art architecture, the palace was built between 1879 and 1912 by a French postman, Ferdinand Cheval.
While he was on his way to deliver mail in April 1879, Cheval trips on a large stone. Its unusual shape appealed to him, and he set about collecting other singluar stones in the area. Inspired by the sculptures made by Nature, Cheval decided that he too could create beautiful shapes with stones.
For the next 33 years, this postman who dropped from school at age 13 single-handedly constructed what he called his Temple of Nature. He used a wheelbarrow to carry stones and often worked at night with an oil lamp.
Mr Cheval also built his own mausoleum in the same style at the local cemetery.
Shortly before his death, Cheval began to receive some recognition from renowned artists like André Breton and Pablo Picasso. In 1969, André Malraux, the Minister of Culture, declared the Palais a cultural landmark and had it officially protected. In 1986, Cheval appeared on a French postage stamp.
Cheval's style was influenced by ancient Egyptian and Hindu architecture and mythology.
He ornated the western facade with miniature representations of architectural styles from around the world, including a medieval castle, a Swiss chalet, a Hindu temple, a mosque, and El Harrach in Algiers.
The north facade are decorated with all sorts of animals (crocodiles, deer, pelicans, dogs, sheep...).
Opening Hours & Admission
The Ideal Palace is open all year round, except on 25th December, 1st January and from 15th to 31st January. It is open from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm, and from 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm (until 4:30 pm in December and January; until 6:30 pm in April, June and September; until 7:30 pm in July and August).
Admission is 5.8 € for adults, 4.1 € for children between 6 and 16 years old, and free under 6 years old. Discounted tickets (4.8 €) are available for students and disabled people. There are also combined tickets with the nearby International Shoe Museum in Romans.
How to get there
Address : 8 Rue Du Palais, 26390 Hauterives
The Ideal Palace is located in Hauterives, a small village between Lyon and Valence. The easiest way to get there is by car (set the address in your GPS), but it is also possible to go by public transport combining trains and local buses.
The nearest train stations are Saint Vallier sur Rhône and Romans sur Isère. The journey from Lyon takes about 45 minutes to Saint Vallier and 55 minutes to Romans. From there you can either take a bus to Hauterives (about 30 min) or call a taxi (in Saint Vallier: Taxis Vallon +33 4 75 23 23 23 / in Romans: Taxis Drômois, +33 4 75 05 15 05).
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