With its striking appearance and sophisticated charm, Place des Vosges is well worth a visit on your next trip to Paris. What was once a former marshland on the eastern edge of Paris is now esteemed as one of the first examples of royal city planning in Europe (dating back to 1605).
This historic heart of the Marais neighborhood is a formal, perfectly symmetrical square with singular architecture of the Louis XII-style (1601-1643), beautifully maintained and rich in its details~the regularity of the red brick facade with strips of stone quoins, the tall, narrow windows, square stone pilasters, and gently sloping slate roofs.
The grassy center of the square is the impressiviely massive bronze statue of King Louis XIII, son of Henry IV, who is responsible for the building of Place des Vosges. Four gravel paths lead diagonally away from this point, with 4 sets of flowerbeds each with its own elegant fountain. The scene is completed with three rows of clipped lime trees framing the square’s perimeters.
From the intriguing custom street lamps to the beds’ scalloped metal edging to the raked pebble paths, Place des Vosges is maintained as a truly peaceful sanctuary and gathering place.
Though Kings and Queens never lived here, the French aristocracy resided in many of the dwellings. The term “hôtel particulier” was coined to describe a type of mansion popular with aristocrats of this era who wished the opulence of a chateau in an urban setting, as Place des Vosges well illustrates. In one corner is Hôtel de Sully; walk through the arch to partake of the garden and Orangerie; on another block, Victor Hugo’s house museum is open to visitors. And now, within the vaulted arcades of the ground floor of each house block, are to be found special shops, eateries, art galleries, and boutique lodging.
Le Pavillon de la Reine, nestled into its own private courtyard, is not just for overnights but also for lunch, dinner, and tea.
And Carette, touted to be the best café for hot chocolate in Paris. Forget your waistline and splurge, it’s well worth it with the traditional accompaniment~a heaped serving of Chantilly Cream (recipe for your pleasure).
When you venture beyond the square, walk south to Rue Saint Antone (the continuation of the Rue de Rivoli) to discover the location of the original Bastille, the site on which the Opera Bastille was built.
For me there is never a question as to whether I will venture forth to Place des Vosges, the question is only when. For it holds such a fascination, with its histoire that goes back to the original roots of what was to become Paris…the oldest architecture (early 17th century), stunning in its elegant simplicity jostling with the trendiest boutiques, cafe’s, and bars. In the late 18th century the aristocracy may have moved on to Faubourg Saint-Germain, but two+ centuries later Place Royale (as it was originally called) once again attracted a lively group of urbanites.
Closing note, to consider…part of the fascination of this jewel, and the extraordinary fact, is that the Place des Vosges, has remained intact since its construction in 1605. No “urban renewal” here. Viva La France!