The architectural gems of Paris
Impressive and unique religious buildings in Europe
The most emblematic cathedral in Europe, Notre-Dame-de-Paris, an absolute masterpiece of Gothic architecture, is located in the middle of the Île de la Cité. Its two enormous rosettes, instantly recognisable square towers, and, of course, its association with the famous novel by Victor Hugo, have made it famous all over the world. Great historical and political events have been held between its walls, such as the coronation of Napoleon and the funeral of Charles De Gaulle.
At the top of the Montmartre hill, the Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur dominates all Paris with its 80-metres-high dome. There is also the largest mosaic in France, as well as the largest bell, nicknamed La Savoyarde. Its four cupolas and walls of white stone re evocative of the Taj Mahal.
The Madeleine Church is particularly intriguing, with its neoclassical facade that seems to recall ancient temples. It was built by Napoleon I in the 8th arrondissement to symbolise the army before becoming a religious edifice. Visits to the Sainte-Chapelle, a jewel of medieval art, as well as the Saint-Denis basilica, an ancient Gothic necropolis of the Kings of France, will complete a tour of the most impressive Parisian places of worship.
The most beautiful residences of the Kings of France
On the right bank of the Seine stands the largest palace in Europe, which is also the most frequented site of the city: the palace of the Louvre. The palace has, over the centuries, become increasingly enriched as each sovereign added buildings. Today, the Louvre is one of the largest museums in the world, and, with its iconic glass pyramid, is one of the must-sees of the City of Light.
In the heart of Paris, is the Palais de la Cité, located on the island of the same name. It was once the main seat of French medieval power, from the tenth to the fourteenth century. One can always visit La Conciergerie, built by Philippe Le Bel, a prison whose famous guests have included Marie-Antoinette, Robespierre and Danton. In the same vein, the Château de Vincennes is still the largest royal castle in France and was the favourite fortified residence of Louis X, Charles V and Louis XIII.
The surroundings of Paris also have several royal wonders, starting with the castle of Versailles. It is a symbol of a monarchy whose most significant resident was Louis XIV, the Sun King. The palace, its splendid gardens and its incredible ice gallery also served to shelter Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Finally, about sixty kilometres from Paris, the castle of Fontainebleau is attributed to François I and imposed itself as a model of Renaissance architecture, with its pond, its gardens designed by Le Nôtre, and its rich interior decorations.
The renewal of Parisian architecture in modern times
The architectural evolution of Paris can be witnessed by the abundance of buildings in the Art Nouveau style throughout the streets of the city. Hector Guimard is responsible for most of them, although this architect is especially famous for the creation of the famous Parisian subways, with their inimitable arabesques. He also designed the Castel Béranger, a classified historical monument that can be admired on the Rue La Fontaine.
Jean Nouvel was also the originator of many modern Parisian monuments, including the entire Quai Branly and its Musée d'Orsay, whose buildings are characterised by a mixture of glass and metallic structures. Nouvel also conceived the present Institute of the Arab World whose facade is adorned with patterns whose size varies according to the sunshine. He has also worked on other notable projects such as The Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art and the Philharmonie de Paris.
A major symbol of modern Parisian architecture is obviously the business district of La Défense, the economic centre of the city. Since the 1960s, large buildings and skyscrapers have sprung up around the imposing Arche de la Defense. Finally, the Opéra Bastille, which can accommodate up to 2300 people, is one of the largest and most impressive operas in the world with its brilliant and geometric façade.
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