Royal Route

Discover in one hour 15 minutes the île de la Cité, the Marais and the île Saint-Louis.

  • The ROYAL route will show you the sights of the île de la Cité, the Marais and the île Saint-Louis, demonstrating how the history of these places is linked to the Kings of France and their Court, from the Middle Ages to the 17th century.
  • You will discover the architectural beauty of these heritage sites that have become a centre for culture, fashion and creativity.

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

Notre Dame de Paris cathedral

Notre Dame de Paris cathedral

Here, in 1163, the Bishop of Paris decided to erect a gothic cathedral in to honour the Virgin Mary. Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral was eventually finished one hundred years later. This gothic masterpiece has towers 70 metres high, flying buttresses and immense rose windows, beautifully carved doorways and statue galleries.

Town Hall

Town Hall

The Mayor of Paris is the head of the département - or County - of the Seine and also of the Municipality of Paris; two identical territories. He is elected every 6 years. The first Town Hall was constructed here in 1357. During the Renaissance, king François the First ordered the construction of a new Town Hall from Le Boccador, the architect of Chambord castle. In 1871 rebellious Communards set fire to the Renaissance building. The present Town Hall is the one rebuilt at the end of the 19th century.

Saint-Gervais Saint-Protais church

Saint-Gervais Saint-Protais church

Finished in 1620. It was the first Parisian church with a classical façade with three antique orders superposed on it: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. It still houses the oldest Parisian church organs, those of the Couperin, musicians known throughout Europe. 8 members of this family succeeded each other at the Saint-Gervais organ.

Memorial to the Shoah

Memorial to the Shoah

After the genocide perpetrated on the Jews during the Second World War, the tomb of an unknown Jewish Martyr was erected here in 1956. The Memorial to the Shoah was constructed around it, in memory of the 76,000 victims deported from France during the War. The Wall of the Righteous commemorates the 2693 French people who, risking their lives saved persecuted Jews.

Hôtel de Beauvais and Hôtel Hénault de Cantobre - European House of Photography

Hôtel de Beauvais and Hôtel Hénault de Cantobre - European House of Photography

The Hôtel de Beauvais was inaugurated in 1660 on the day Louis the Fourteenth and queen Marie-Thérèse of Austria arrived in Paris after their wedding. On that special day, the building's owner even invited the king's mother to admire the parade from the balcony. The Hôtel Hénault de Cantobre dates back to 1706. It houses the European House of Photography.

Hôtel d'Aumont

Hôtel d'Aumont

Built in 1620. It was one of the first buildings done by Le Vau, future architect of the Versailles palace. In 1662 the building was extended by architect François Mansart to whom one can attribute the beautiful garden façade.

Hôtel of the Archbishops of Sens

Hôtel of the Archbishops of Sens

One of the rare survivors of mediaeval Parisian architecture. It dates back to 1519. At that time Paris was just a diocese of the Archdiocese of Sens in Burgundy. Decorated with gothic windows, gargoyles and corner turrets. It was the headquarters of the Catholic League during the wars of Religion around 1570. Then it was the lodging place for Queen Margot, who was divorced from Henry the Fourth. The Hôtel de Sens now belongs to the City of Paris and houses the Forney library, given over to decorative arts.

Muraille de Philippe Auguste

Muraille de Philippe Auguste

Here is a fragment of the wall that is 70 metres long. It was constructed by King Philip August in 1190. That solid rampart 3 metres wide and 10 metres high defended Paris. In 1356, King Charles the Fifth built a larger wall on the right bank of the Seine.

Saint-Paul Antiques Village

Saint-Paul Antiques Village

In the 14th century, King Charles the Fifth built, on this site, the Hôtel Royal Saint-Pol, which no longer exists today. The domain has been replaced by houses from the 17th and 18th centuries. Grouped around courtyards and gardens, they make up the charming village of the Saint-Paul antiques dealers.

Saint-Paul Saint-Louis church

Saint-Paul Saint-Louis church

Its building was decided by King Louis the Thirteenth and achieved between 1627 and 1634. It is one of the finest examples of Parisian Jesuit architecture. Façade with three levels, and the oldest great dome in Paris. Mass was celebrated there for the first time in 1641. In this church situated at the heart of an aristocratic and fashionable Paris of the 17th and 18th centuries, the townspeople and the Court came to hear the sermons of bishops Bossuet and Bourdaloue and the music of choirmasters Charpentier and Rameau.

Sainte-Catherine Market Square

Sainte-Catherine Market Square

Former place of the Priory of Sainte-Catherine-du-Val-des-Escholiers, which no longer exists today. The beautiful square was designed in 1783 to create Sainte-Catherine’s Market. And for the fish market, just behind, rue de Jarente, a specific fountain was designed, decorated with seashells, dolphins and water plants.

Hôtel Carnavalet and Carnavalet Museum

Hôtel Carnavalet and Carnavalet Museum

The Marais’ first town house, built in 1548 for the president of the parliament, with a courtyard in front and garden at the back. It inspired the building of a number of new homes in the Marais. The courtyard is decorated with low-reliefs by Jean Goujon, famous Renaissance sculptor, and with a statue of Louis the Fourteenth. Writer Madame de Sévigné set up home here in 1677 until her death in 1696. Nowadays, the Carnavalet Museum recounts the day-to-day history of Paris and its inhabitants. It includes the Hôtel Le-Peltier-de-Saint-Fargeau (1690).

Hôtel de Marle - Swedish Institute and Hôtel de Donon - Cognacq-Jay Museum

Hôtel de Marle - Swedish Institute and Hôtel de Donon - Cognacq-Jay Museum

The Hôtel de Marle, now the Swedish Institute, was built in 1572. It is surmounted by a woodwork roof frame in the form of an upturned boat; a style of wood framing known as ”in the fashion of Philibert Delorme”, the architect who invented it. The Hôtel de Donon dates back to 1575. It houses the Cognacq-Jay Museum, which presents the collections of Mr Cognacq and Mrs Jay, a couple of rich collectors and lovers of 18th century art.

Hôtel de Lamoignon

Hôtel de Lamoignon

This imposing "hôtel" was built for Diane de France, the illegitimate daughter of Henry the Second. She was a talented musician with a passion for hunting and for horses.

Rue des Rosiers

Rue des Rosiers

Heart of the Jewish quarter. Families of Ashkenazy Jews began arriving here in the 19th century, refugees from Central Europe. Later Sephardic Jews from North Africa were to join them. Hebrew bookshops, kosher and oriental food and delicious falafels. The street was badly affected by Nazi Occupation and by the roundup of Jews (on July 16th, 1942), when the French police arrested entire families and handed them over to the German authorities.

Blancs Manteaux area

Blancs Manteaux area

The name of the area evokes the white coats that the monks who lived in the neighbouring convent wore. The former covered market extended to the other side of rue des Hospitalières Saint-Gervais, where two ox heads signified the entrance to the butchers’ market. The church of Notre Dame des Blancs Manteaux dates back to 1685-1690. It is in the classical style and is all that is left of the Benedictine abbey of the Blancs Manteaux, sold off in the French Revolution like most other Parisian convents.

Pompidou Centre

Pompidou Centre

The centre was President Georges Pompidou’s idea and inaugurated in 1977. The architectural competition for the building of the complex had almost 700 projects pitting against one another. The winners were R.Piano and R.Rogers. Their architectural choice was to free as much open space as possible by putting all the technical elements on the outside of the building. That is why all of the pipes are on the façade. They are painted different colours according to their function. The green pipes transport water; the blue ones air-conditioning; the yellow ones electricity; the red tubes allow people to move around the corridors and escalators. It was an extremely controversial building in the beginning but has now become a cultural must. It houses the National Museum of Modern Art, and its art collections from 1905 till now.

Hôtel de Soubise - National Archive

Hôtel de Soubise - National Archive

This majestic palace was built in 1708, by architect Delamair for François de Rohan, Prince of Soubise. It has been the National Archive centre since 1808. It occupies nearly one hectare. It also houses the Museum of French history.

Municipal Credit Bank

Municipal Credit Bank

The former “Mont-de-Piété” became the Municipal Credit Bank. It dates back to 1778 and is the oldest financial institution in France. You can leave valuable items as security against immediate small loans. King Louis the Sixteenth created it to allow poorer people to escape loan sharks. Today it still fulfils the same role.

Hôtel de Jean Hérouet

Hôtel de Jean Hérouet

The elegant turret (1500-1510) is all that remains of the palatial home of Jean Hérouet, a 16th century lord. This hôtel was seriously damaged in 1944.

Hôtel de Clisson archway

Hôtel de Clisson archway

Gothic archway (1375) of the former house of Olivier de Clisson, friend of Du Guesclin. In the 16th and 17th centuries, it became the house of the Guise family. Duc de Guise was the commander-in-chief of the Catholic League during the wars of Religion. Nicknamed “Scarface”, he was probably the one who decided to massacre Protestants on Saint-Bartholomew’s Day, the 24th of August 1572.

Fontaine des Haudriettes

Fontaine des Haudriettes

Legend has it that Haudry, a man who went off on a crusade during the 12th century, offered it to thank God for having returned alive. This fountain was rebuilt during the 18th century.

Hôtel de Guénégaud - Nature and Hunting Museum

Hôtel de Guénégaud - Nature and Hunting Museum

Built by architect François Mansart in 1650. This town house and its neighbour (Hôtel de Mongelas) house the Nature and Hunting Museum.

Charlot street

Charlot street

The Order of the Knight Templars arrived in Paris in the 13th century and built a vast fortified enclosure on this site. In the 17th century, they prospered from the Marais’ building industry and sold to financier Charlot eight hectares of land in order to build these streets, that have retained their original aspect. Center for fashion and creativity.

Armenian Catholics’ Sainte-Croix cathedral

Armenian Catholics’ Sainte-Croix cathedral

Dates back to 1715. Former church of the Capuchin monastery. Before the French revoltion, there were 77 convents and monasteries in the Marais.

Hôtel Salé -Picasso Museum

Hôtel Salé -Picasso Museum

One of the most sumptuous town house of its time (1659). It was built for the king’s counsellor and tax collector of the levy on salt. This is why it was nicknamed “the salty hotel”. The Picasso Museum houses many thousands of works by the master, Pablo Picasso, which date from his arrival in Montmartre in 1895 to his death in 1973.

Hôtel de Rohan - National Archive

Hôtel de Rohan - National Archive

A sibling of the Hôtel de Soubise, it was built at the same period (1705-1718), by the same architect (Delamair) and for the same family (de Soubise). Generations of Cardinals de Rohan succeeded one another there. Then it was transformed by Napoleon 1st into the Imperial Print works. Threatened with demolition in the Thirties it has been saved and restored. Now it is another part of the National Archive.

Impasse des Arbalétriers

Impasse des Arbalétriers

Typical medieval alley with its paving and corbelled architecture houses reminiscent of the times. The impasse des Arbalétriers or Crossbowmen’s’ alley was the setting for a bloody event of the Hundred Years War. In this very spot, in 1407, John the Fearless had the king’s brother assassinated and thus seized power. A civil war lasting 20 years ensued between the Burgundians lead by John the Fearless and friends of the English, and the Armagnacs, another branch of the Royal family and enemies of the English. Today there is the Swiss Cultural Institute.

Hôtel de Coulanges and Hôtel d'Albret

Hôtel de Coulanges and Hôtel d'Albret

The Hôtel de Coulanges (1634 - at number 37, rue des Francs Bourgeois) has known some famous occupants. Its first owners educated their young orphaned niece there; future writer Madame de Sévigné. Later on, it was here that the illegitimate children of King Louis the Fourteenth and Madame de Montespan, his mistress, grew up in secret. The whole area was the centre of an intense society life. At the Hôtel d’Albret (1651), at number 31, one frequently came across the court aristocrats the most brilliant women writers; Madame de La Fayette, Madame de Maintenon, Madame de Sévigné.

Place des Vosges

Place des Vosges

In 1605, King Henry the 4th created the first royal square of Paris there. It is preserved in its initial harmony: classical with brick and stone façades, French style pitched slate roofs and archways. The king, who was assassinated in 1610, was unable to attend the extraordinary inauguration ceremony of this square in 1612. On that day his son Louis the 13th, on the occasion of his wedding, gave the 10,000 guests a magnificent show consisting of 1,300 horse riders. The equestrian statue of Louis the 13th in the centre of the square reminds us of that huge celebration. The Royal Square was renamed Place des Vosges in 1800: Napoleon Bonaparte thus rewarded the first French “département”, the county of the Vosges, that had paid its taxes.

House of Victor Hugo

House of Victor Hugo

Writer Victor Hugo arrived here in 1832 with his wife and 4 children and for 16 years rented an apartment of 280 square meters on the second floor of this house. He wrote some of his major works here including “Ruy Blas”, some of “The Miserable Ones” and also part of “The Legend of the Ages”. In his drawing room, which overlooked the square, he received his contemporaries: Vigny, Lamartine, Dumas and Mérimée. Since 1902, the centenary of his birth, this house has been the Victor Hugo Museum.

Hôtel de Sully - National Monuments Centre

Hôtel de Sully - National Monuments Centre

The main entrance to this "hôtel" is in the Saint-Antoine street, but there is another entrance: the charming passage leading from Place des Vosges to the orangery and the garden of the Hôtel de Sully, built in 1630. It was there that the Duc de Sully, Henry the Fourth’s Minister of Finances, came to live at the age of 75. He liked to walk in the Royal Square every day. The Hôtel de Sully houses the National Monuments Centre.

Marie bridge

Marie bridge

1614-1635. In the Middle-Ages there were in fact two islands there. A boat was needed to get there. Louis the Thirteenth commissionned Christophe Marie, a property developer, to unite both islands. Marie created the île Saint-Louis, and connected it to the banks of the river by two stone bridges (Marie bridge wears his name). Requests came from the high society for houses, and richly decorated homes. The whole of the island was built up in less than 50 years from 1616 to 1660. This is what makes the ensemble so harmonious.

Tournelle Bridge

Tournelle Bridge

Built 1924-1928. Standing to attention on the Tournelle Bridge, the statue of Sainte-Geneviève, a patron saint of Paris, is a work created by Paul Landowski in 1928 (author of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ). From the bridge one can see the towers of the business district near the Gare de Lyon train station; the huge Finance Ministry, inaugurated in 1989; the curved glass façade of the Arab World Institute (Jean Nouvel 1988); the tower of the University of Jussieu, totally renovated in 2010; and, on the top floor of a building, the Tour d’Argent restaurant. The ancestor of this restaurant was opened in 1582. Here at last is a marvellous viewpoint of Paris: the Seine with the île de la Cité and the flamboyant gothic Notre Dame Cathedral apse as its backdrop.

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