Place des Vosges has been one of the most sought-after addresses in the French capital. It is a square in Paris, France, built by King Henri IV in 1605-1612. This square is in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements of Paris on the right bank of the River Seine. It was a fashionable place for French aristocracy and other nobility to congregate.
When you visit the Place des Vosges, it’s like going back in time to the reign of the French kings. The royal square is surrounded by buildings that are uniform in composition and height. The only exceptions to this uniformity are the Pavilion of the King, or Pavillon du Roi, on the south side and the Pavilion of the Queen, or Pavillon de la Reine, on its opposite side.
Place des Vosges is a small, peaceful square in the middle of the lively Marais District. It has four equal sections divided by roads. It connects well to the businesses and cafes in the neighboring buildings, and it has markets in its bustling arcades. The municipal authority strictly regulates the area around the Place to preserve the historic character of Paris’s oldest public space.
There are many things to do in this beautiful square, and your experience will be improved with some knowledge of its history. Read on to find out more about Place des Vosges before your next trip.
Table of Contents
- Place des Vosges History
- The site of Hôtel des Tournelles
- After Henry II and before Place des Vosges
- Construction of Place Royale
- Renaming the square to Place des Vosges
- Place des Vosges today
- How to Get to Place des Vosges
- Things to do in Place des Vosges
- Check out the window displays and art galleries
- Visit the Victor Hugo Museum
- Enjoy a picnic
- Have a meal in the arcades
- Things to do Near Place Des Vosges
Place des Vosges History
The ground where the Place des Vosges stand has a lot of history, from being a mere house to being owned by the royal family. The land and property were passed on and sold for decades until they fell into Henry II’s hands.
The site of Hôtel des Tournelles
The royal family owned the magnificent Hotel de Tournelle, which was constructed in 1388. Several extravagant and out-of-the-ordinary celebrations took place at the hotel. The site hosted its final celebration in 1559, honoring the marriage of Élisabeth of France and Philip II of Spain, and the marriage of King Francis I’s sister, Marguerite of France, to the duke of Savoy.
A tournament was held on June 29 on rue Saint-Antoine, the widest street in Paris at the time and now known as the La Grant rue St. Anthoine. An unintentional lance stab gravely wounded King Henry II during a joust in front of the Hôtel de Sully. The king died on July 10, 1559, at the Hôtel des Tournelles after being moved there in tremendous pain.
Queen Catherine de Medici disapproved of the Hôtel des Tournelles’ medieval decor and used her husband’s death as an excuse to sell it. After becoming regent for Henry’s minor boys, she converted the estate into an arsenal, closing and demolishing it later.
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After Henry II and before Place des Vosges
The Marché aux chevaux, or horse market, was established in the repurposed stables. Some of the Hôtel’s property was sold off, but the enormous remaining estate is now used for military exercises.
It was here in January of 1589 that the mercenaries tasked with protecting Paris from Henry IV of France got some much-needed exercise. As time passed, it also became a popular place for brutal duels.
As early as August 1603, Henry IV attempted to repurpose the Hôtel to house a silk, gold, and silver factory by bringing in Italian artisans. In 1604, he finally issued an order to have his minister, Sully, take measurements. He gave a plot of land to his most influential noblemen, who constructed pavilions there.
Construction of Place Royale
The Place des Vosges was originally known as Place Royale. It is one of the oldest parks in Paris, built between 1605 and 1612. The square was built by King Henri IV, who died two years before its completion. It was inaugurated at the wedding of King Louis XIII and Anne d’Autriche.
Place Royale is a forerunner to the residential squares of European cities. It’s a true square (140 x 140 meters), and the buildings are quite uniform, except for the King’s Pavilion and the Queen’s Pavilion, which are higher. The building facades were constructed out of red brick with strips of stone quoins over vaulted arcades supported by square pillars.
Dormers with small panes puncture the steeply pitched blue slate roofs above the pedimented dormers that rest on the cornices. The vaulted ceilings intended for the “galleries” can be seen in the construction of the north range. Access to the area is provided by triple arches in the center of the north and south facades of two pavilions that rise above the uniform roofline of the square.
Despite the name Place Royale, neither the King nor the Queen ever resided in the aristocratic square; the only real royal to do so was Anne of Austria, who spent a brief period in the Pavilion de la Reine. After it was built, Paris underwent a series of transformations that produced an urban setting befitting the French aristocracy and nobility.
The area functioned as a gathering spot for the nobles and was frequently the scene of friendly conversation. It was like this up until the French Revolution.
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Renaming the square to Place des Vosges
In 1799, the Place Royale became Place des Vosges as the Vosges département became the first to contribute to a Revolutionary Army campaign through taxation. In 1870, during the brief Second Republic, the revolutionary name was reinstated, notwithstanding the Restoration’s reinstatement of the previous royal name.
Place des Vosges today
Today, a statue of Louis XIII, four fountains, and big trees adorn the peaceful square. Under the beautiful arcades running all along with the buildings, you can find the Hôtel de Sully (built-in 1611 and the house of the Duc de Sully), the Victor Hugo museum, a lot of art galleries, the famous restaurant L’Ambroisie, a fun café, and a school!
Take a stroll under the arcades surrounding the square before relaxing on the grass of the Louis XIII garden in its center. There’s a serene grandeur there, and if you’re lucky, you can hear the music of a local musician performing under the historic arches.
The area may have been designed for the pleasures of the bourgeoisie at the time, but it quickly became the go-to place for Parisians to stroll when they needed some peace. Although it has been renovated, the Place des Vosges is still a bustling gathering place due to its luxurious ambiance.
The Hôtel de Sully, which links the plaza to the rue Saint-Antoine, may be seen at number 7 if you walk under the arcades (interiors accessible for special events only). Victor Hugo rented a house there (now the Victor Hugo Museum) before he went into exile, and it was there that he penned a lot of his works, including a significant portion of Les Misérables.
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How to Get to Place des Vosges
Located in the heart of the 4th arrondissement, The Place des Vosges marks the western edge of the Marais and the eastern edge of the Bastille neighborhoods.
To get to the plaza from the Marais, take the Metro to St-Paul (line 4) and then walk along Rue Saint-Antoine and Rue de Birague for about 7 minutes. The square, with its unique red-bricked homes and verdant center park area, can be reached at the end of Rue de Birague.
You may also get to the square via the subway stops at Chemin-Vert (line 8), Bastille (lines 5 or 8), or Bréguet-Sabin (line 5). If you have plans to explore the neighboring Bastille district later in the day, this is a great location from which to do so.
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Things to do in Place des Vosges
While you are not allowed inside Place des Vosges, you can indulge in many other things outside the building. Whether you stay inside the premises or stroll outside its perimeter, you will definitely have a great time!
Check out the window displays and art galleries
Luxury boutiques and art galleries populate the lower levels of the square’s grand homes, charmingly protected by arched galleries from the elements. Even on damp and freezing days, a walk around the covered arcades is a pleasant experience whether you want to buy new jewelry or feel like window-shopping when it starts to rain on a Sunday in the Marais, many Parisians who are out and about seeking shelter and diversions here.
Visit the Victor Hugo Museum
The small museum on the same site provides an intriguing insight into Hugo’s life and creative endeavors, as the author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Misérables lived and worked in a corner apartment of the square. One of France’s masters of the human condition is commemorated through a collection of furniture, letters, manuscripts, and other items.
Enjoy a picnic
When the weather is nice, this is one of the best picnic spots in Paris. Get some great local street cuisine and relax on the lawn. You’ll find some of the best falafel in Paris on the Rue des Rosiers, and you can also get delicious goods in this neighborhood.
Have a meal in the arcades
There are also several places to get lunch and dinner around the square’s many eateries. The stylish Pavillon de la Reine Hotel’s Restaurant Anne is the ideal venue for a celebration supper on the square. If you’re on a strict budget, eat at one of the simpler brasseries tucked away under the covered arcades, both of which provide affordable fare.
Things to do Near Place Des Vosges
You know that you’ve found a fantastic place to live when there’s so much to do right outside your door. The Place Des Vosges is surrounded by shops, restaurants, and parks (yes, plural). If you’re looking for something special to do on a Saturday afternoon in Paris—or any day of the week—here are some suggestions.
- A stroll through the nearby flea market will give you an insider’s look at Parisian shopping culture. You’ll find everything from old books and postcards to clothing and jewelry.
- Visit the Musée Carnavalet just down the street from your apartment building. This museum contains many exhibits covering human history from prehistoric times up until today! There are also free tours offered at 15-minute intervals throughout each day–make sure not to miss them!
- For a wonderful night out with friends or family members who have come over for dinner at your new home away from home (and don’t want them getting lost), try taking them out for drinks at one of several nearby pubs within walking distance from Place Des Vosges apartments in Paris. They offer great food options along with live music performances on weekends making this an ideal spot if someone wants something different than their usual routine while still staying close enough so they won’t feel too far away either.
- If you are looking for a place to go out with friends, try one of the many pubs or bars located in the neighborhood. They offer a variety of food options as well as live music performances on weekends so you can always find something new and exciting here.
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The Place des Vosges is one of the most beautiful places in Paris. It is not only the oldest planned square in Paris but also one of the finest. It has been renovated many times and still maintains its original charm from centuries ago when it was first built by King Henri IV. If you ever go to Paris then make sure to visit this amazing place!