Palais-Royal – History in the Center of Paris

It's odd that the Palais-Royal, while situated right in the center of historic Paris, is so often missed by visitors. One reason for that, perhaps, is that Palais Royal is not easy to spot, surrounded as it is by other famous buildings and the fact it's now used for French government offices. Or maybe it's because it's right across from the Louvre and visitors are distracted by the fame and beauty of that museum.

But, hidden from the casual passer-by are the wonderful gardens. We love to spend time strolling through the galleries that border the garden, walking the flowery paths, and sitting by the one of the most pleasant fountains in Paris. It's a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle that surrounds the Louvre. One of our favourite times to be there is during those first warms days of March, with the flowers starting to bloom and the trees budding and the park birds flitting.

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History of the Palais-Royal in Paris

Palais Royal

Back in the 1630s, Cardinal Richelieu, at the height of his powers as Louis XIII's Chief Minister, commissioned a mansion for himself, to be built on land just across the street from the royal palace of the Louvre. The mansion was named after him, Palais-Cardinal, but he was only able to enjoy it for three years before he died in 1642. Richelieu bequeathed his house to Louis XIII and over the next 150 years it passed through the hands of various members of the French royalty,

Over the decades the Palais housed many notable royals, including the wife and daughter of Charles I of England after that king was deposed and executed in 1649. Henrietta Anne, his daughter, married Louis XIV's brother and it was she who created the famed gardens of the Palais Royal. During her lifetime the Palace was famous throughout France for its grand parties and royal affairs.

Theaters & Revolution.

Palais Royal

Just before the French Revolution, Palais Royal passed to Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans, a man famous for both womanizing and being short of cash. Thinking he could add to the gardens some rent-paying properties, he built uniform blocks of apartments around three sides of the garden, with arcades and shops at ground level. He also opened the gardens to the public.

Duke Louis' other work included building a new Paris Opera to replace the previous theatre that had been destroyed by fire. After that replacement opera, too, was razed by fire, it in turn was replaced by what became the two most important French theatres of that and subsequent eras — Théâtre du Palais-Royal and Comédie Francais, which is still there today.

During the French Revolution Palais Royal was temporarily renamed Palais de l'Égalité, Palace of Equality. After the Revolution the palace regained its place in the centre of Paris social life and the most popular cafés were to be found around it.

Today it's the home of France's Constitutional Council and of the Ministry of Culture. The gardens remain open to the public and are a great place to spend a perfect spring day. It's located across from the northwest wing of the Louvre, on Rue Saint-Honoré.

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Palais-Royal Resources

Palais-Royal

  • PALAIS-ROYAL
    8 rue Montpensier
    Enter the gardens from Rue de Valois on the east, Rue de Montpensier on the west, or Rue de Beaujolais on the north.
    Palais Royal Website
  • LE GRAND VÉFOUR
    This historic restaurant today holds two Michelin stars under the spatula of Chef Guy Martin. It's found in the arcade on the north end of the gardens.
    Website

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