Hotel de Ville – The Grand City Hall In The Center Of Paris

The Hotel de Ville — that is, the Paris City Hall — is one of the enduring landmarks in the city and it's been that way since the mayor of Paris first moved to the site in 1357. Initially, the seat of Paris city government was in the house owned by whoever was mayor. It wasn't until 1533 that the French king Francis I decided to grace the city with an Hotel de Ville that suited the capital of France.


History & the Hotel de Ville

Hotel de Ville Paris

Starting in the 14th-century, the Hotel de Ville place was execution central where crowds would gather to watch the gory spectacle. In 1792, a guillotine was installed, which would get a lot of use during the French Revolution. (Luckily, the last execution took place in 1830.)

Over the centuries the building was completed and expanded. But, in 1871 Hotel de Ville Paris was set afire during the Paris Commune as a result of a clash between Communards and the central government. It took twenty years, but the city hall was rebuilt inside of the original stone shell, which was all that remained after the fire. This is the version of the City Hall we see today.

The Hotel de Ville is the official office of the Mayor of Paris and of local government. In case you're wondering, the current mayor is Spanish-born Anne Hidalgo, the first woman ever to hold the office, who's making innovative proposals like curtailing traffic in the heart of the city. If you want to send her a message, go here

Activities at Hotel de Ville Paris

Hotel de Ville Paris

We always make a visit to the Hotel de Ville, whatever the season. It's one of those place where there's always something happening. The large place in front of the building (courtesy of Baron Haussmann) is spacious enough to hold the seasonal patinoireChristmas in Paris is made even more magical with this outdoor skating rink right in the middle of Paris!

When our son Alexandre was little he loved to ride on the turn-of-the-century children's carrousel that is permanently set up on the place. It has horses and lovely deep booths.

There's often an interesting exhibit inside the city hall itself. Recently, for instance, there was an exhibit of the photographs Robert Doisneau shot at Les Halles, the old Paris central market. During important national sporting events, such as France playing in the soccer World Cup, large screens are installed in front of the building for public viewing.

Being in the center of the city, the Hotel de Ville is surrounded by many interesting buildings and districts including the Pompidou Center, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Islands of the Seine, the Marais, and the book merchants (les bouqinistes) that line the banks of the Seine river.


Night Walking Tour

Hotel de Ville Paris

The Hotel de Ville is included in a small-group walking tour that takes you on a nighttime journey to hidden Paris. We love this sort of Insiders guided tour where we discover off-the-beaten-path streets, narrow alleyways, and tucked-away buildings — while learning about the violent and dark history that lurks beneath the City of Light.

The history of Paris includes the plague, the French Revolution, the Paris Commune and the Nazi Occupation. It's on this kind of walking tour that you really get a feel for the icons that shaped the city, from early French kings Chlothar the Old and Clovis the Lazy to Napoleon and Marie Antoinette.

Ghosts, Mysteries and Legends: A Night Walking Tour of Paris visits the Hotel de Concierge, where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned, and travels to the Hotel de Ville, site of executions and hangings. It even takes in the Rat Trap Shop featured in the movie Ratatouille.

Hotel de Ville Resources

  • 1 Place de l'Hotel de Ville, 75004
  • Metro: Hotel de Ville, Line 1
  • Open: Monday to Saturday, 10 AM to 6 PM
  • Closed: Sundays and public holidays
  • All temporary exhibitions are free of charge

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