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Best Historic Locations in Paris

By: Cityseeker
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Hôtel de Ville de Paris

This splendid neo-Renaissance-style building is just minutes from the Seine and right in the heart of the capital. In 1260, Louis IX decided to endow Paris with the means of organizing its own affairs. Situated in Place de Grève (grève meaning 'strike' the square gets its name from discontented workers who often demonstrated here!), the building was used as the seat of government during the French Revolution, when a guillotine stood imposingly in front of its windows. Burnt to the ground during a working-class uprising in 1871, it was rebuilt 11 years later and became the current Town Hall. Crystal chandeliers, beautiful paintings and vast function rooms are all part of its sumptuous interior.

Paris, France
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Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais Church

The first Saint-Gervais Saint-Protais Church was built in the 6th Century in the Marais district in Paris. The construction of its current shape started in 1494 and lasted 150 years. It is consequently the oldest parish of the Seine’s right bank. Even though its style is definitely Gothic, the French classicism has inspired the creation of the facade, which was finished in 1621. This facade has a distinctive feature: it has three different Greek-style columns; moreover, one can also admire the two sundials: one is made with Roman numerals, to the southeast, the other with Arabic numerals, to the southwest. Inside the Saint-Gervais Saint-Protais Church, one can look at the oldest church organ of Paris.

Paris, France
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Crypte Archéologique du Parvis Notre-Dame

Located opposite the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, Crypte Archéologique du Parvis Notre-Dame is a treasure trove of important and priceless ruins from Gallo-Roman to the 19th Century. The crypt is made with the intention to preserve some of the masterpieces of an age and period, which will never return. The traces which were discovered during the excavation of 1965 were converted into a preservation space in 1980. As this place is open to the public, don't miss an opportunity to visit, when in Paris.

Paris, France
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Île Saint-Louis

Named after King Louis IX, this island in the Seine River is known to be the birthplace of Parisian civilization. Connected by many bridges to Paris, Île Saint-Louis is a sanctuary from the bustle of the city. Untouched by modernization, this small wonder has many markets, bakeries, cafes, boutiques and historic attractions. One of the most significant monuments is the St Louis en l'Ile Church, an ethereal chapel built in 1662. Indulge your palate for fine food at the numerous restaurants around the island. Suitable for all budgets whether it is dining, shopping or just sight seeing, Île Saint-Louis will charm you with its centuries-old splendor.

Paris, France
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Place des Vosges

Surrounded by shady arcades that shelter beautiful boutiques, this square, situated in the heart of the Marais, is one of Paris' unmissable sights. Place des Vosges is perfectly symmetrical, measuring 140 meters (459 feet) by 127 meters (416 feet). Stone and brick houses, whose almost identical facades are all crowned by steep slate roofs, border its quasi-rectangular shape. Designed by Henri IV, it used to be the favored sight for duels. Famous people also lived in the area, including the Cardinal de Richelieu and the writer Victor Hugo.

Paris, France
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Le Panthéon

The Panthéon is a magnificent building that was built between 1764 and 1790, commissioned by King Louis XV and completed on the heels of the French Revolution. Not only is the building renowned for its Neoclassical architecture, but the Panthéon is also the resting place of famous individuals such as Victor Hugo, Voltaire and Marie Curie. The architecture is inspired by the Roman Pantheon, with the dome closely resembling the dome of the St. Paul's Cathedral in London. This is a must-visit for all visitors of Paris - not only for the grand history, but the sheer beauty of the Panthéon as well.

Paris, France
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Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés was a city on the outskirts of Paris during the Middle Ages. It functioned as a mausoleum of the Merovingian dynasty. Established in 558 CE, this abbey exhibits the remains of innumerable wars, and architectural styles spanning from the 8th to the 18th Century. The ancient city has been demolished and the church stands as a lone survivor. One must not miss the tombs of famous personalities like René Descartes, King Childebert I and King John II Casimir Vasa. Visitors can also explore multiple chapels, and a 12th-century ambulatory and chancel.

Paris, France
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Palais-Royal

Palais-Royal has a storied past, evolving from a palace for Cardinal de Richelieu to a debaucherous hideout under the leadership of Louis XIV's brother to a center for new ideas and innovative thinkers during the Age of Enlightenment. Revolutionary Camille Desmoulins solidified the role of Palais-Royal as a historic locale by gathering a crowd and planning a rebellion at the Palais arches. Today, this palace features a serene garden and hosts the Ministry for the Arts and the Council of State.

Paris, France
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Luxembourg Palace

The Palais' construction was commissioned in 1615 by princess regent Marie de Médicis, who bought the Duke of Luxembourg's private mansion and entrusted architect Salomon de Brosse with its transformation into a royal palace. The inspiration for its Renaissance style came from Tuscany, Marie de Médicis' birthplace; it remained royal property under the reign of Louis XIV (who raised his children here) and then became a prison under the 18th Century Convention (France's short-term, post-Revolution government). During the Second World War it was used by the German Luftwaffe (Air Force) as their headquarters. Today, it is home to the Sénat (upper house of the French parliament) and its garden (Jardin du Luxembourg) is one of Paris' favorites. The Musée du Luxembourg is nearby.

Paris, France
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Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel punctuates the splendid landscape of one of Paris' iconic squares. Within stumbling distance of the Musée du Louvre and the ornamental gardens on Place du Carrousel, this triumphal arch is a must visit. Built in 1806, it is an ode to the glories of Napoleon I's army and is inspired by the Arch of Constantine in Rome. Two arches flank a taller central arch, and the perimeter of the 19-meter (63-foot) monument is surrounded by eight Corinthian columns. Statues of soldiers cap the columns and bas-reliefs representing battles are carved on the pediment. The quadriga on the top is reminiscent to the Horses of Saint Mark at St Mark's Basilica.

Paris, France
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Grand Mosque of Paris

Built in 1926, Grande Mosquée de Paris is one of France's largest mosques. The decor of wooden ceilings is made from Lebanese cedar. The fountains for performing ablutions and lavish oriental rugs whisk you off into another world. The ponds and fountains, landscaped gardens, a courtyard and a 33 meter (108 foot) high minaret are the prominent features. An accompaniment of lush greenery makes this oasis all the more welcoming on a hot summer day. This fine Moroccan-style mosque has its own library and excellent restaurant and is renowned for Turkish baths. It has separate spaces for conducting religious activities and academic research. The on-site Arabic café is a wonderful place to enjoy nuts and sheesha, while admiring the fine Islamic art and architecture.

Paris, France
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L'église de la Madeleine

For connoisseurs of architecture in Paris, La Madeleine is a must visit. Pierre Constant d'Ivry began the construction of this monument in 1764, and it was completed by one of his colleagues. It was looted during the French Revolution and Napoléon I later decided to transform it into a temple in the memory of his glorious army. Eventually, this structure was instead dedicated to St. Mary Madeleine. One of Paris' most famous churches, its impressive façade is made up of 52 20-meter (65-foot) Corinthian columns, while inside its nave is magnificently crowned by three cupolas. Sculptor Charles Marochetti's marble statue the Ravissement de Sainte-Madeleine overlooks the high altar, giving it a unique splendor. Classical concerts are occasionally organized at this church.

Paris, France
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