La Défense is a collection of modern high-rise office and residential buildings built according to an evolving central plan on the western outskirts of Paris, beyond the last Parisian loop of the river Seine. La Défense is the site of the Grande Arche, one of Paris' most modern and imposing landmarks, situated at the western end of the grand axis formed by the Champs-Elysées, the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe.
La Défense is a purpose-built business district; in the 1960s, Charles de Gaulle led an effort to level the area and concentrate skyscrapers in a single business district, rather than altering the character of downtown Paris with large commercial buildings. Despite being officially and popularly recognized, and invariably associated with Paris, La Défense is neither an official administrative unit nor is it in Paris. The area of La Défense is actually at the borders of three communes of the Hauts-de-Seine department beyond the borders of Paris proper - Nanterre, Courbevoie and Puteaux.
Organization and administration
Since 1958 and up to 2007, La Défense was managed by a special government-formed entity called EPAD (Établissement Public pour l’Aménagement de la Région de La Défense), whose primary goal was the development of the new district by selling building rights to companies and institutions willing to invest. In 2007, the current management, administrative and promotional duties were transferred to the new body, called EPGD (Établissement Public de Gestion du Quartier d’Affaires de La Défense), which subsequently renamed itself Defacto and started to promote La Défense as a tourist destination as well.
- La Défense (ligne 1, and RER line A)
- Esplanade de la Défense (ligne 1)
Note: Both stations are in zone 3, but the line 1 stations can also be accessed using a T+ ticket or a zone 1-2 only pass.
La Défense can be reached on RER A, Transilien L, Transilien U, tramway T2, station La Défense. The RER A and Transilien stations are in zone 3 and cannot be accessed with a T+ ticket.
The station layout can be very confusing but 'Les Quatres Temps' is color coded. There are many maps around the shopping center.
In La Défense
- Grande Arche de la Defense, 1 Le Parvis de La Défense, ☎ . A high-rise building that looks more like hollow cube than an actual arch. The viewing platform on its top has been closed to visitors since an elevator incident in April 2010.
- Center of New Industries and Technologies (CNIT). The largest unsupported concrete span enclosed space in the world.
- La Defense Museum, 15, place de La Défense, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sunday through Friday : 9am – 5pm, Saturday : 10am – 6pm. The museum presents the history of the development of La Defense, with many plans and scale models
Each of the buildings of La Defense tells a story of architectural trends that were en vogue at the times of its construction and design. A tour of La Defense can be a quick overview through the most recent period in the history of architecture
- Notre-Dame de Pentecôte - this unusual church building was erected in 2001 and designed by Franck Hammoutène
There are over 60 works of art displayed in the open air throughout La Defense, interspersed within public spaces and freely accessible, and authored by some of the biggest names in modern art.
- Le pouce, a giant statue of a thumb by Cesar Baldaccini, stands between the CNIT and the Grande Arche
- The abstract Spider by Alexander Calder simply cannot be missed on the Esplanade
- The Bright Trees by Vassilakis Takis visually close the Esplanade
Beyond La Défense
- Tours Aillaud. Southwest from the Grand Arche you can find those tall cylindrical concrete residential towers, painted in various colours. Representing a 1970s urbanistic experiment, the 18 towers remain controversial and unique, and continue to house thousands of inhabitants in over 1600 apartments.
- Parc André Malraux. The expansive, calm park around a lake extends westwards behind the Tours Aillaud, and is a bit to La Defense what Central Park is to downtown Manhattan. You can take spectaular pictures of the La Defense skyline juxtaposted against the park's greenery from there.
- Nanterre Catherdral. Built in the 1920s, it is no match for Notre Dame in either historic importance or architectural detailing, but it can be an interesting destination for those interested in sacral architecture.
- Pavillon des Indes. The wooden Indian pavillion was moved from Paris to Courbevoie following the Universal Exhibition of 1878, and remains a curiosity amidst the much more modern architecture of the commune.
- Théâtre des Hauts-de-Seine. A 19th-century theatre building
Take an organized tour of La Défense organized by the Hauts-de-Seine department tourist board.
- Les 4 Temps, 15 Le Parvis de La Défense, ☎ . The "Quatre Temps" shopping mall, which when constructed was the largest shopping centre in Europe, has numerous big name as well as small stores, several cinemas (showing French and subtitled foreign movies) as well as a large supermarket and grocery store. It is accessible from an entrance to the left of the "Grande Arche" or via the metro station. 230 stores (Auchan, C&A, Darty, Virgin, Zara, Go Sport, H&M, Uniqlo, Toys’R’Us), 16 movie theater screens, 40 restaurants.
Besides the 40+ food and snack places at the 4 Temps, rue de Bezons has a few budget eateries, including a good bakery, a couple of Turkish joints and a McDonald's that normally stays open until midnight.
The La Coupole underground gallery, accessible through exit G of the metro station, is somewhat depressing but convenient for its restaurants and express cafés.
More fancy (and expensive) restaurants are located inside the hotels of La Défense:
- Côté Parvis (Hôtel Hilton), 2, pl de la Défense, ☎ .
- Quinte & Sens (Pullman La Défense). Under the direction of chef Jean-Paul Corbillet, the Quinte & Sens offers modern cuisine, including two-course "power lunches" for €29
- Apogé, 21 esplanade du Général de Gaulle (metro line 1, esplanade de la Defense, beneath the Allianz tower), ☎ . 12h-20h, Mon-Sat.. Apogé is a dynamic, all-in-one stop for French wine. Part bar, part merchant, part oenology school, its passionate, friendly founders are happy to share their expert advice. Not only are over 100 wines available by the glass, but every bottle for sale can be tasted before purchase. A beautiful terrace and frequent tastings with producers.
Staying in the La Defense area may be a good option for exploring Paris - the Metro line 1 gives you a direct connection from Grande Arche to central Paris in 15 minutes. La Defense is also located favorably for visiting Versailles. As an added benefit, you will get the unique sights from Esplanade de la Defense towards Paris when entering and disembarking the metro, but on balance you will be staying in a jungle of steel and concrete with next to no nightlife.
As this is a business district, most hotels are business-oriented, so do not expect any kind of Parisian flair, but perhaps a swifter service - and larger hotel rooms - than in central Paris. Unless you choose to locate yourself farther from La Defense proper, do not expect bargains, but you will probably get a higher standard for the same price as a much smaller and less comfortable hotel in downtown Paris.
You can also choose to stay farther from La Defense proper, within one of the three municipalities which share the La Defense area. This may significantly add to your transit times and complicate your transit, but then you may get really good rates there.
Unexpectedly for a business district, La Defense is neither close nor well connected to either of the airports serving Paris. Bear this in mind planning your travel.
Central La Défense
Unless you are very familiar with the La Defense system of underground motorways and parkings, driving to hotels there is not recommended. Take the metro, RER or tram and walk the distance over the Esplanade enjoying the unique retrofuturisic atmosphere (and unique views of downtown Paris).
Do note that distances between your hotel and the entrance to the metro station can be significant, even when you are staying in a very central location, and the only way for you to get to the hotel is to walk through the uncovered Esplanade and walkways.
- Ibis Paris La Défense Centre.
- Adagio La Défense Esplanade. Accor's mid-range aparthotel is right off the Esplanade, next door to Sofitel .
- Citadines La Défense. Aparthotel within walking distance of metro Esplanade de la Defense
- Hotel Novotel Paris La Défense, 2 Boulevard de Neuilly (Right next to the Seine, at the intersection of D7 and A14, where N13 enter La Defense over the bridge. On foot, exit from Esplanade de La Defense and head northeast over the walkways - you will need to take the stairs to street level, as the entrance to the Novotel is below the Esplanade.), ☎ . A rather generic, modern Novotel, with "executive rooms" providing global standards, and the regular rooms the standard French Novotel fare with toothpaste-inspired bathroom fit-outs. Some rooms (available at a small extra) provide views over the river Seine.
- Fraser Suites Harmonie Paris La Défense. A higher-end aparthotel close to the Esplanade de la Defense metro station
- Hilton. The Hilton is part of the CNIT convention centre.
- Hotel Pullman Paris La Defense, 11 Avenue d l'Arche (The Pullman occupies a triangular building with rounded corners situated to the north from CNIT and Grande Arche, accessible via a system of concrete walkways), ☎ . This Pullman was renovated in 2013 as a part of Accor's initiative to refurbish all five Pullmans in Paris. Less expensive rooms retain much of the 1990s-style furniture, while the more expensive ones conform better to the current Pullman corporate standards.
- Renaissance Paris Hotel La Defense, 60 Jardin de Valmy (The Renaissance is "behind" (westwards) the Grande Arche), ☎ +33 1 41 97 50 50 .
- Sofitel La Defense, 33 Voie des Sculpteurs, 92800 Puteaux (The Sofitel is slightly hidden in a relatively low-rise mixed use building on the Esplanade. The only approach for motor vehicles is via the underground car park. It is best reached on foot from Esplanade de la Defense metro station.), ☎ , fax: +331-47767210, e-mail: H0912@sofitel.com. There is nothing truly exceptional about the Sofitel La Defense, and the views out of the windows are downright unspectacular compared to other La Defense hotels, but this hotel garners good reviews by providing solid standards and reliable service for a fraction of the prices of downtown Sofitels. The hotel was renovated after 2010, with all but the cheapest Classic rooms getting new furnishings and bathrooms (with showers rather than bathtubs, a Paris rarity). € 210.
The area around Place Charras, in Courbevoie is a short bus ride or a 15-minute walk away from the metro.
- Adagio Access La Defense - Leonard da Vinci. Accor's no frills aparthotel.
- Adagio Access La Défense Place Charras (Citéa La Défense Place Charras), 1, rue de Bitche, ☎ . It hosts foreign students from the Alliance Française in Paris.
- ibis La Defense Courbevoie.
- Adagio La Defense Parc. Close to Adagio Access Leonard Da Vinci, an aparthotel of higher standard.
- Adagio La Defense Kleber. A more upmarket neighbour of Adagio Access Place Charras
- Kyriad Paris Ouest - La Defense Courbevoie (Northwards from Esplanade, close to the river. Not to be confused with the other Kyriad in Puteaux, which is also close to the river and a similar distance away from Esplanade, but in the opposite direction.).
- Hotel Mercure Paris La Defense 5, 18-30 rue Baudin, Place Charras, ☎ .
- Hotel Dauphin by Elegancia.
- Hotel Douglas (very close to the Puteaux station of transliens and tram T2).
- Hotel Vivaldi.
- Kyriad Paris Ouest - Puteaux La Defense (Southwards from Esplanade, close to the river. Not to be confused with the other Kyriad in Courbevoie, which is also close to the river and a similar distance away from Esplanade, but in the opposite direction.).
- Campanile Paris Nanterre.
- ibis Paris Nanterre.
- Mercure Paris La Defense Parc.
- Quality Inn Nanterre (Close to Nanterre-Ville RER station, some 5 kilometres from La Defense).
- Premiere Classe Paris Ouest - Nanterre - La Defense. Despite the name, this cheap hotel is actually very far away northeast from La Defense (and Paris as well), although still within the administrative boundaries of Nanterre
- Versailles can be conveniently reached by a Transilien line L from the La Défense station, the ride to Versailles - Rive Droite takes about 25 minutes.
|Routes through La Défense|
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