Guide to
Historic Paris Landmarks

walking in paris is like
walking through history

Historic Paris Landmarks. With over 2000 years of history, you know there are going to be a lot to see. And the City of Lights doesn't disappoint, for it's also the City of History.

From vestiges of Roman walls and streets to medieval churches from archaeological crypts to grand royal city development, Paris landmarks cover an amazing scope of history, architectural styles and uses.

At Paris Inisiders Guide you'll find other articles on landmarks of paris, with specific article on the Eiffel Tower, paris churches & cathedrals, and Hotel de Ville.

But there's so much more of interest. In fact, it's hard to walk down a street in Paris and not see something of historic value. In this article we look at some of these historic Paris landmarks, where to find them, and where they came from

The Catacombs

Paris Catacombs

Historic Paris Landmarks. If you're looking for something a little different in Paris landmarks, consider a trip to the underworld.

Explore the labyrinths beneath the city that are the final resting place of millions of Parisians. A tour through the Paris Catacombs is an eerie reminder of the long and sometimes bizarre history of Paris.

Archaeological Crypt of Notre-Dame

Archaeological Crypt of Notre-Dame

Discover the history of Paris in a crypt that extends 80 meters under the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The archaeological crypt itself was built in 1965 to protect the ruins discovered during the excavations, the crypt was opened to the public in 1980. But the remains you can see here date back 2000 years to the Roman city of Lutetia. It's a fascinating trip into the twenty centuries of history of Île de la Cité.

Historic Paris Landmarks: Palais Royal

Palais Royal

The Palais Royal was built as the home of the famous Cardinal Richelieu in the 1630s. It was orginally named after him, Palais-Cardinal, but he only enjoyed it for three years before he died in 1642.

It has housed many notable royals, including the wife and daughter of Charles I of England after he 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.

In the next century shops were added and the gardens were open to the public. Also added at this time were the two most important French theatres: Théâtre du Palais-Royal and Comédie Francais, which is still there today.

Travel Tip

The Heart of Paris Bike Tour takes you to Palais Royal and many other historic landmarks.

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.

Located across from the north west wing of the Louvre, on Rue Saint-Honoré.

Place des Vosges, The Marais

Place des Vosges

This historic Paris square or place was first called Place Royale, not to be confused with Palais Royal!

It actually is a square, the oldest one in Paris, and perhaps the prettiest. It's the model and predecessor of all the squares that were to be built in the cities of Europe. It was an early model of urban planning, with the same design used for the facades of the buildings surrounding the place.

Travel Tip

The Historic Paris Luxury Coach Tour: See the most historic parts of Paris from Place Vendome to Notre Dame.

Like many Paris landmarks, Place des Vosges has a royal beginning. It was opened in 1612 (400 years ago!) with a regal bash to celebrate the wedding of Louis XII. Today it's also known for the house of Victor Hugo, which is now a museum dedicated to this famous French writer.

It's also a great place to start your walking tour of the Marais. Explore the shops along Rue des Francs Bourgeois and stop for a Jewish pastry on Rue des Rosiers.

Historic Paris Landmarks: Place Dauphine

Place Dauphine

One of our favorite spots in Paris, Place Dauphine is an oasis of calm in the middle of the activity of Paris. It's located near the western end of Île de la Cité.

This triangular-shaped "square" was built at the same time as Place des Vosges and was one of the projects of Henry IV, the French king who was the first to really start beautifying Paris. In 1609, when the work started, the site was three small, muddy islands, but you wouldn't know it to see Place Dauphine today.

The place started out shaped like a rectangle with tapered ends, with the western gates facing the statue of Henri IV, which still stands there today. In the Haussmannian renovation of Paris during the mid-19th century, the eastern end of Place Dauphine was demolished to make way for the Palais de Justice.

Today, Place Dauphine is an ideal spot to take a break and enjoy a glass of wine and a light snack at Le Bar du Caveau or one of the restaurants surrounding the place. You can watch boules games or the occassional art show held in the place.

Historic Paris Landmarks: Conciergerie


La Conciergerie is the oldest remaining part of the Palais de la Cité, the seat of the kings of France from the 10th through the 14th centuries.

In fact, the history of the site goes back even farther, to the 6th century when Clovis established his royal residence on Île de la Cité. It wasn't until 1358 that Charles V moved the royal residence to the Louvre on the right bank of the Seine.

La Conciergerie was converted to a prison and that's when it got its name, the Concierge being the person appointed by the king to maintain order and oversee prisoner records.

The place already had a bad reputation by the time the French Revolution began in 1789, when its reputation sank even lower. Over a thousand "enemies of the Revolution" were housed there at a time, and 2,500 were sent to the guillotine. Famous names from that period of history ended their time here: Marie Antoinette, Charlotte Corday, Madame du Barry.

Today La Conciergerie is a National Historic Monument and is part of the complex of the Palais de Justice (as is Saint-Chapelle). Parts of it are open to public visits, including the magnificent Hall of the Guards.

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