Historical Paris  See below the origin of this flag.
 Imagine History in Paris when visiting some of its famous sites    Architectural Paris over History
  • The Place de la Concorde, where King Louis XVI was beheaded in 1793 ; the exact place is near the big lamp-post representing the city of Strasbourg, facing the Hotel de Crillon.

  • Other places associated with the memory of various revolutionary events in Paris (more about revolutions in Paris) include the Mur des Fédérés, in the Père Lachaise Cemetery (where hundreds of insurgents were shot in 1871), the Boulevard Saint Michel in the Latin Quarter (imagine it with tens of barricades in 1968), etc ; you may also notice thousands of little marble slabs on the wall with a name on them and a date in the third week of August 1944 : they refer to the upheaval of Paris before its liberation by the Allied Armies in August 1944.

  •  When you visit the delightful garden of Palais Royal imagine it in the XVIIIth century, with " jet-set " gamblers and prostitutes and, later on, Revolutionary orators such as Camille Desmoulins who started the Revolution there.

  • On August 24, 1944, between the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Prefecture de Police (the building facing it), two German armoured tanks were ready to fire at the insurgents in the Prefecture when they were destroyed by young resistants hidden behind the big statue of Charlemagne nearby.

  • There are also many historical American landmarks in Paris : read about some of them.

  • More to come (for more information : read Thirza Valois's books or travel in France)

USEFUL TIPS.....Understanding the French Revolution, with three remarkable movies : "La Révolution Française" (Part 1 : "Les Années Lumières", Part 2 : "Les Années Terribles"), directed by Alexandre Mnouchkine, sponsored by the French Government as an educational film for the Bicentenial, very spectacular, accurate and definitely fascinating ; and also "Ridicule", a brilliant picture of life of the dying world at the court of Louis XVI.Click here for more films.

DID YOU KNOW THAT . . . ? Like an onion, Paris has several layers. All around the city of Paris, there are three very visible rings. The first one is a large avenue, the Boulevard des Marechaux (Marshals Avenue), where each section bears the name of one of the 26 marshals of Napoleon's Empire. A few hundred yards further away is the Boulevard Peripherique, a large expressway all around the city. In between, the large ring is filled with hundreds of 6-story brick buildings. They are all public housing (HBM now HLM), constructed in the 1920s on the place of the fortifications, built by Prime Minister Thiers in the 1840s to protect Paris in case of siege. They proved inefficient in 1870 when Partis was besieged! They were the fourth rings of fortifications in the history of Paris : the Roman wall (nothing left), the medieval wall "enceinte de Philippe Auguste" (with some impressive remains in the Latin Quarter and the Halles) and the 18th century "enceinte des fermiers generaux" (with a few remains like Porte Saint Denis or Porte Saint Martin).

A few good books :

  • Anthony SUTCLIFFE, Paris, an architectural history, Yale Univ. Press, 1993
  • Claude MIGNOT, Grammaire des immeubles parisiens, Parigramme, 2004
  • Hervé MARTIN, Guide to modern architecture inParis (bilingual), Alternatives, 1990

Paris is not a dead museum and over centuries, each period has contributed to the variety of buildings. However, some areas have the flavour of a particular time. For instance :

  • IInd century : the Roman baths, adjacent to the Cluny (XVth Century) museum, are quite impressive ; around it, visit an interesting "medieval garden".

  • XIIth-XIIIth century : Medieval Paris, with Notre-Dame cathedral (devastated by a fire in April 2019), the Sainte Chapelle, the Basilique Royale (in Saint Denis), the Bernardins Cloister, etc...

  • XVIth century : visit the Marais and all its mansions (Carnavalet, the historical museum of Paris, for example, but the whole area has tens of them)

  • XVIIth century : Place des Vosges is a remarkable example of urban harmony and many monuments in Paris illustrate this period (the Invalides etc)

  • XVIIIth century : Parc Monceau and the buildings around it, including the wonderfully furnished Musée Nissim de Camondo

  • XIXth century is the Golden Age of embellishment of the city ; the illustrious prefect Haussmann created the large avenues, the style of buildings (light brown-yellow stone and slate roofs) leaving room for major monuments such as the (old) Opera House and large parks (Bois de Boulogne, Bois de Vincennes and, less known, the Parc des Buttes Chaumont) and of course the Eiffel Tower

  • 1900s : in addition to the Grand Palais, the Galeries Lafayette and the Metro entrances, do not miss Art-Nouveau buildings such as 29 Avenue Rapp

  • 1930s : the Trocadero Palace (facing the Eiffel Tower), the (former) Museum of Colonies (Porte Dorée) now Museum of Immigration

  • 1960s : everything from ugly (Front de Seine) to barely acceptable (La Défense)

  • 1970s : under Mitterrand's presidency, several " Grands Projets ", ranging from interesting (la Grande Arche de la Défense) to abominable (the new Opera house in Bastille) or ridiculous (the Bibliothèque Nationale) : read my page about the ugliest buildings in Paris

  • 1990s : building illustrating the necessity of an opening to the world (Institut du Monde Arabe, near Notre Dame and Musée du Quai Branly near Eiffel Tower)

  • 2000s : the future of Paris will probably be in the East or North-East : around the Bassin de la Villette and the Parc de Bercy

  • 2020s : later towards Aubervilliers and the Canal de l'Ourcq ? Boulogne-Billancourt on the island where the Renault plant was ? You'll have to come back !

More in Paris Notebook. Getting mixed up ? Read about French kings and see the main differences in style in furniture and construction ; read about the ugliest buildings in Paris.

DID YOU KNOW THAT .....? The French flag is blue-white-red thanks to La Fayette ! In his efforts to reconciliate the French monarchy with the Revolution after the storming of the Bastille, he proposed to associate the colors of Paris, traditionaly blue and red, to the color of the monarchy, traditionaly white. With the white between the blue and the red, the flag illustrated the monarchy controled by the Revolution.

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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

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