Elegant Route

Discover in one hour 15 minutes the Palais Royal and the Comédie Française theatre, the elegant covered shopping arcades, the Garnier Opera House and the Opera Comique.

The ELEGANT route will take you through the Paris of luxury, business and entertainment, created entirely between King Louis the Thirteenth's 17th century and emperor Napoleon the Third's 19th century.

To find out more, move your mouse over the numbered points of interest on the map!

Louvre Colonnade

Louvre Colonnade

In the Middle Ages the Louvre was just a big dungeon, built in 1200 by King Philip August to defend the capital. During the Renaissance, King François the First had the dungeon demolished and replaced with a Renaissance chateau, where he set up the royal palace. Each successive sovereign improved the Louvre. The greatest construction work was that of Louis the Fourteenth, the Sun King. He commissioned this monumental Colonnade to architect Claude Perrault in 1660.

Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois Church

Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois Church

In the Middle Ages, along the Seine, was a bustling port, no longer there today. Here apples and cider landed from Normandy and cod and herrings from the Channel. This thriving trade made Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois church one of the richest in Paris. Its porch and flamboyant gothic sculptures date back to the 15th century. Next to it, the Town Hall of the 1st district and its tower were built towards 1860. Their architects Hittorff and Ballu took inspiration from the gothic style to achieve this overall harmony.

Garden and Forum of Les Halles

Garden and Forum of Les Halles

The garden of Les Halles occupies the area that was the biggest food market in Paris from the 12th to the 20th century. The first market was founded here in 1137. The apogee of Les Halles was in 1857, when emperor Napoleon the Third inaugurated the metallic pavilions built by Victor Baltard. One century later, the enormous market was transferred to Rungis, near Orly. The Forum des Halles shopping centre and the RER, a regional rapid-transit train, opened beneath the garden in 1979. Continually on the go, Les Halles have more surprises in store for the coming years.

Astrological column of the Hôtel de Soissons

Astrological column of the Hôtel de Soissons

This curious column is the last remaining vestige of the Renaissance palace built here for Queen Catherine de Medici in 1574, a palace which no longer exists today. This column was built in order that Ruggieri, an astrologist from Florence and confident of the queen, could make his astronomical observations from its summit.

Birthplace of Molière

Birthplace of Molière

At the corner of rue Sauval and rue Saint-Honoré was the birthplace of a man who would become one of the main playwrights of the 17th century, Molière. A bourgeois-looking house, no longer there today, was the boutique of Molière's father, the king's upholsterer. Molière was born here in 1622 and was baptized in Saint-Eustache.

Rampart of Philip August

Rampart of Philip August

The piece of curved rampart that stands between the buildings is the inside of one of the towers of the wall King Philip August built around 1200 to protect Paris.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris

Here was Queen Catherine de Medici's Renaissance palace. This palace was destroyed in the 18th century and replaced by the Corn Exchange. The current circular building was built for the Commodities Exchange in 1889. It is now the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris. Inside its dome can be found a wonderful fresco evoking the history of trade over the five continents.

Saint-Eustache Church

Saint-Eustache Church

This church was founded thanks to Les Halles. Its first chapel was offered in 1213 by a bourgeois, who had won a lot of money at Les Halles. The current church was built between 1532 and 1640 and has both gothic elements and Renaissance design. Its classic façade was added in the 18th century. Saint-Eustache is reputed for its exceptional organ. The church celebrated all the events of the court in the 17th century: the communion of king Louis the Fourteenth, the wedding of Lully and the burial of Rameau, Jean de la Fontaine and Molière.

Central Post Office

Central Post Office

Alone in the middle of the boutiques of fashion designers stands the Central Post Office. Built by architect Jules Guadet and inaugurated in 1885, it is the only French post office open 24 hours a day.

Place des Victoires

Place des Victoires

This round royal square celebrates the military victories of Louis the Fourteenth. It was financed by a courtier who wanted to attract the Sun King's favours. The square was inaugurated in 1686 and adorned by the king's statue. Louis the Fourteenth was greatly satisfied, but the courtier was ruined! Despite its transformation the Place des Victoires kept its elegant, regal allure.

Vivienne and Colbert galleries

Vivienne and Colbert galleries

In 1634, this area of marshland and kitchen gardens was transformed into a grid pattern of streets, christened “Richelieu district”. And the rue des Petits-Champs was lined with the homes of statesmen and financiers. The town house where Colbert lived, a great minister to Louis the Fourteenth, is no longer there. It was replaced in 1826 by the Vivienne and Colbert galleries, which launched the fashion for elegant covered shopping arcades.

Hôtel Tubeuf - National Library of France

Hôtel Tubeuf - National Library of France

This town house dates back to 1634. In brick and stone it is typical of the Louis the Thirteenth’s style. It was the home of Cardinal Mazarin, a prime minister that governed France together with Queen Anne of Austria after the death of Louis the Thirteenth in 1643, the young king Louis the Fourteenth being only 5 years old. Here he was very close to the Palais Royal where the queen and her son lived. The Hôtel Tubeuf belongs today to the National Library of France.

Molière's house and Molière Fountain

Molière's house and Molière Fountain

Rue de Richelieu was opened in 1634 in the middle of the marshes, the arable land and the windmills. Molière moved into a house situated at number 40, where he lived until his death in 1673. The fountain sculpted by Visconti in 1844 honours Molière, a man with a free spirit, a writer, actor, company director and stage director simultaneously, rival to the official company of the King’s Actors.

Palais Royal Garden and Galleries

Palais Royal Garden and Galleries

In the beginning the palace built by Richelieu between 1630 and 1640 was called Palais Cardinal, or Cardinal Palace. It was rechristened Palais Royal, or Royal Palace, when Anne of Austria and her son Louis the Fourteenth lived there after the death of Louis the Thirteenth. Until the revolution, the palace was lived in by the Orléans family, a branch of the royal family. The Duke of Orléans even had to rebuild it entirely after a fire ravaged it in 1773. The Duke had three sides of rental properties built around the garden, with the ground floor equipped with galleries, boutiques and cafés.

Palais Royal Theatre

Palais Royal Theatre

The building of this theatre was decided on by the Duke of Orléans, owner of the Palais royal, and realized by architect Victor Louis in 1784. It was an immediate success thanks to a formidable business woman, Mademoiselle de Montansier, who alone knew how to attract hundreds of spectators. The external fire escape, all in wrought iron, was added in 1880 to improve spectators' safety, at a time when theatres were often victims of fire. It was in this theatre that composer Jacques Offenbach created his famous “Vie Parisienne" in the 19th century.

Palais Mazarin - National Library of France

Palais Mazarin - National Library of France

The Hôtel Tubeuf, property of Mazarin from 1643, is extended by galleries that were built by architect François Mansart. After the Cardinal's death were set up there the India Company, the Stock Exchange and the French Treasury. The complex belongs today to the National Library of France. It was extended in the 19th century by Labrouste, the architect of the Sainte-Geneviève Library. Now the Richelieu National Library keeps specialised books, reserved for researchers. And the Mitterrand National Library in the 13th district holds all books accessible to the general public.

Louvois Garden and Fountain

Louvois Garden and Fountain

This fountain is a work by Visconti. Sculpted in 1839, it evokes the four female French rivers: the Seine, the Loire, the Saône and the Garonne. Before this a theatre stood here. On that official stage of the Opéra de Paris, “the Magic Flute” by Mozart was first performed in 1800. But in 1820, the assassination of one of the last heirs to the throne of France led to the theatre being demolished.

Lully's town house

Lully's town house

On the corner of rue des Petits-Champs and rue Sainte-Anne, the bourgeois town house, built in 1671, was the home of Jean-Baptiste Lully, Louis the Fourteenth's music master. Lully had complete reign over court music. After Molière’s death, he didn't hesitate to drive out his actors to take over the Palais Royal theatre, where he created the Royal Music Academy, otherwise known as the Opéra de Paris.

Passage Choiseul and Bouffes-Parisiens Theatre

Passage Choiseul and Bouffes-Parisiens Theatre

Opened in 1826, the same year as the Vivienne and Colbert galleries, the Passage Choiseul has barely changed. It retains the elegant charm that made it a success in the 19th century. The Bouffes-Parisiens theatre was built in 1826 along the Passage Choiseul, and it experienced its greatest musical moments from 1855 under the direction of Jacques Offenbach.

Salle Ventadour

Salle Ventadour

The Salle Ventadour is a former auditorium dating back to 1826. The Salle Ventadour no longer performs shows but is occupied by offices.

Place Vendôme

Place Vendôme

A masterpiece of classic French town planning. This royal square was commissioned by Louis the Fourteenth to architect Hardouin-Mansart, and finished in 1698. Its façades, adorned with emblems of the Sun King, conceal sumptuous town houses. The Vendôme column was erected by Napoleon the First. It tells of the battle of Austerlitz and the victory of Napoleon's army against Austria and Russia in 1805. This square is the symbol of the luxury: Boucheron set up here in 1893 and was joined by the other jewellers; and the Ritz hotel, opened in 1898, was one of the first Parisian palaces.

Place de la Concorde - Colonnades - Obélisque

Place de la Concorde - Colonnades - Obélisque

Fifty years after Place Vendôme, it was the new royal square, commissioned by Louis the Fifteenth to architect J.-A. Gabriel, and inaugurated in 1770. The guillotine was set up there in 1793 to execute King Louis the Sixteenth, and more than a thousand of persons after him. The decor of the square dates back to the 19th century. The Luxor obelisk (13th century BC) was a gift offered to France by Egypt in 1831. The two big fountains were built in 1840, just like the street lamps and the statues of the eight major French cities. The north side is adorned with two elegant twin colonnades by Gabriel.

Place de la Madeleine - Madeleine Church

Place de la Madeleine - Madeleine Church

The Madeleine church was finished in 1842 after taking 80 years to build. Napoleon the First had the idea of making a monument to pay tribute to his great army, then went back to the idea of a church, and chose this plan of an antique temple. Camille Saint-Saëns and Gabriel Fauré were organists there. The Place de la Madeleine, also created in 1842, holds a flower market and reputed delicatessens, as well as the Pinacothèque, a gallery of temporary exhibitions.

Olympia Hall and Edouard VII Theatre

Olympia Hall and Edouard VII Theatre

The Olympia Hall, inaugurated in 1893, was Paris's first music hall. Little neighbouring streets abound with theatres created around 1900 including the Athénée theatre, the Mathurins theatre, the Comédie Caumartin, and the Edward the Seventh theatre, offered in 1914 by Edward the Seventh of England, "the most Parisian of all English kings". All these auditoriums owe their success to plays by Georges Feydeau and Sacha Guitry, brilliant Parisian plays with biting wit.

Garnier Opera House

Garnier Opera House

Emperor Napoleon the Third decided to build it in 1862 and entrusted the task to architect Charles Garnier, who adorned the top of the façade with the initials N and E, in honour of Napoleon the Third and Empress Eugénie. However the building was only finished in 1875, four years after the fall of Napoleon the Third. It was Mac-Mahon, president of the 3rd Republic, who inaugurated it. Since the Bastille Opera house opened in 1989, the Garnier Opera house has been devoted to dance.

Gaillon Square - Gaillon Fountain

Gaillon Square - Gaillon Fountain

One of the charming squares in Paris. On one side, the Gaillon fountain, a work by sculptor Visconti in 1828, is used as decor for the terrace of a restaurant. On the other side, the Drouant restaurant, opened in 1880, is a literary Mecca. Editors and writers flock there every year for the award ceremony of one of the most prestigious French literary awards, the Goncourt prize.

Street of the Columns

Street of the Columns

Rue des Colonnes, street of the Columns, dates back to 1795. It's a very rare example of construction from the time of the revolution. This original street with arches certainly inspired the architects of rue de Rivoli in 1802. In the past this street housed a theatre and during the interval, the spectators willingly went to get some refreshment beneath the arches.

Palais Brongniart - Former Stock Exchange

Palais Brongniart - Former Stock Exchange

The Palais Brongniart was the headquarters of the French Stock Exchange from 1826 to 1986. The Stock Exchange was built at Napoleon the First's request by architect Brongniart. In accordance with Napoleonic fashion, Brongniart gave it the look of an antique temple. The opening of the Stock Exchange in 1826 led to a number of banks setting up in the district, as well as numismatist experts and gold and coin traders. At the end of the 20th century, the progress of computers silenced the Stock Exchange. The new Palais Brongniart, a centre for new economies, will be inaugurated in 2013.

Passage des Panoramas

Passage des Panoramas

The Passage des Panoramas dates back to 1800. The panoramas were rotundas decorated with panoramic frescoes that gave visitors the feeling that they were walking around London or Rome. They were very fashionable attractions at the beginning of the 19th century. The panoramas have disappeared, but at the north end of the passage the Théâtre des Variétés remains from this era.

The Folies Bergères

The Folies Bergères

The Folies Bergères is the Faubourg Montmartres's flagship. This auditorium was created in 1869 and modernised in the art deco style in 1929. Mistinguett and Joséphine Baker performed on its stage.

Passages Jouffroy and Verdeau

Passages Jouffroy and Verdeau

These elegant passages were created in 1845. Covered by metallic canopies these two walkways quickly became fashionable. They achieved more of a success thanks to the opening of the Hôtel Drouot in 1852. The presence of this first auction house attracted antique dealers and art galleries.

Drouot Auction House

Drouot Auction House

The activity of Drouot began in 1852. The current building christened "new Drouot" was rebuilt in the 1980's. Every morning a crowd of collectors flock there to discover the art objects that will be sold in the afternoon, at auction, under the direction of the auctioneers.

Passage des Princes

Passage des Princes

It is the last of the covered walkways of the 19th century. Built in 1860, it was entirely renovated in 2002. Its old-style boutiques have been reconverted into toy shops.

Opéra Comique - Salle Favart

Opéra Comique - Salle Favart

The “opéra comique” is a theatrical and musical genre invented in 1714, half-spoken half-sung. In 1762 a decision was made to merge the Opéra Comique with the Comédie Italienne, and to build the first auditorium dedicated to opéra comique here. This Salle Favart bears the name of Favart, composer of opéras comiques. The current building is the third bearing this name. It was inaugurated in 1898 and is typical of the Edwardian era. Here masterpieces from the French repertoire were created like “Carmen” by Bizet and “Les Contes d'Hoffmann” by Offenbach.

Saint-Honoré Market

Saint-Honoré Market

The transparent market, known as the "Saint-Honoré market", houses offices. This building created by Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill in 1997 represents a contemporary tribute to the former metallic market that was here in the 19th century. The Saint-Honoré market square is a very pleasant place to lunch, particularly in the summer.

Saint-Roch Church

Saint-Roch Church

The building of this church began at the beginning of Louis the Fourteenth’s reign. Several close friends of the Sun King were buried here, like playwright Corneille and gardener Le Nôtre. The baroque façade was finished in 1740. The doorway of the church is clearly higher than the street level, because Saint-Roch used to be on a knoll that has since been levelled off.

Statue of Joan of Arc

Statue of Joan of Arc

Here, in 1429, right at the height of the Hundred Years war, young heroine Joan of Arc gathered together 12,000 men to deliver Paris from the English occupants. Alas, injured by an arrow to the thigh, she gave up the attack. There is an equestrian statue in gilt bronze of Joan of Arc, a work of art by Emmanuel Frémiet, inaugurated in 1874.

Colette Square - Comédie Française

Colette Square - Comédie Française

This theatre was rebuilt around 1900, after being destroyed by a fire. The Comédie Française company was created because of Louis the Fourteenth's desire to establish again a unique theatre in Paris. He signed the founding act in 1680, in Saint-Germain des Prés, by bringing together the King’s Actors and Molière's former company. The Comédie Française has been set up here in the Palais Royal since 1799. Its repertoire consists of classic French and foreign authors, as well as modern writers.

Palais Royal Square - Council of State and Louvre des Antiquaires

Palais Royal Square - Council of State and Louvre des Antiquaires

This square is flanked in the North by the Palais Royal and the entrance to the Council of State, in the South by the Louvre Museum (a wing built in 1855 for Napoleon the Third's own lodgings, and then occupied by the Ministry of Finace from 1871 to 1989), and in the East by the Louvre des Antiquaires, a huge antique market. On the corner of rue de Valois was founded the Palais Royal's first theatre (which no longer exists), the one built by Richelieu. It's here that Molière performed his last “Imaginary Invalid” in 1673, before Lully took over the auditorium to found the Opéra de Paris.

Louvre Oratory

Louvre Oratory

This oratory was built by Louis the Thirteenth in 1623, to be the royal chapel of the Louvre Palace. Its façade, like that of Saint-Roch church, was added later in 1750. Today it's a protestant temple.

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