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Axe historique

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This article is an itinerary.

The Axe historique, the Historical Axis, or the Voie Triomphale, is a nearly straight route through French capital Paris, passing by most of the city's important buildings and monuments.

It runs from La Bastille in the 4th arrondissement along the northern bank of the Seine at the Louvre in the 1st, along the Avenue des Champs Élysées in the 8th, ending at the Grand Arch of La Défense, in the city's northwestern outskirts.

Understand[edit]

Schematic map of the Historical Axis

The Champs Élysées was created in the 17th century. It has been extended westwards through the Avenue de la Grande Armée, and the Avenue Charles De Gaulle, to the skyscraper complex in La Défense, commissioned in the 1950s.

Get around[edit]

The axis is in total 10 kilometres long, from La Bastille to La Défense. For travellers who want to complete the whole itinerary, a bicycle or a scooter would be useful. Most of the landmarks are within the 4.5 kilometres between Hôtel de Ville and Place Charles de Gaulle; walkable within 1-2 hours, depending on pace.

Metro Line 1 follows the whole axis from the Bastille to La Défense.

While the route can be done by car, driving in Paris is discouraged.

Map of Axe historique

See the district articles for complete information on the attractions.

4th arrondissement[edit]

See also: Paris/4th arrondissement

The 4th arrondissement contains many of Paris' oldest buildings. As there is not much left to see of la Bastille, the Hôtel de Ville is a good place to start.

  • 1 la Bastille (Metro: Bastille). Make your way to the Bobigny/Pablo Picasso-bound platform. All that's left of the fortress are some foundation stones on the platform. There are maps and explanations showing where the fortress used to be relative the place and surroundings. Bastille on Wikipedia Q1865480 on Wikidata
  • 2 Maison de Victor Hugo6, Place des Vosges (Metro: Saint-Paul or Bastille, Bus 20, 29, 65, 69, 96). The house in which the famous French novelist Victor Hugo once lived. Maison de Victor Hugo on Wikipedia Q2599177 on Wikidata
  • 3 Hôtel de Sully62 rue Saint-Antoine (Metro: Saint-Paul or Bastille, Bus 69, 76, 96). Built in 1625, the Hotel de Sully is an interesting house with some sculptures in a beautiful courtyard. The house features special exhibitions, so check listings when in Paris. Hôtel de Sully on Wikipedia Q1643144 on Wikidata
  • 4 Mémorial de la Shoah (The Holocaust Memorial), 17, rue Geoffroy l’Asnier. Opened in January 2005, the Holocaust Memorial comprises a major documentation centre and a wall bearing 76,000 names of Jews deported from France to the Nazi camps between 1942-1944. Includes an archive of a million artefacts, including 55,000 photographs. Excursions are run from the memorial to French internment camp sites such as Drancy. Admission free. Mémorial de la Shoah on Wikipedia Q479218 on Wikidata
l'Hôtel de Ville
  • 5 Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), Place de la Hôtel de Ville (Metro: Hôtel de Ville). Many feel that this, Paris' town hall, is one of the loveliest buildings in the city. You might not get that from the front view, but try watching the light change on its roofs and towers during sunset from one of the cafés on the Ile de St. Louis, the Lutece for instance. Alternatively, go to the top floor of the Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville (BHV) department store opposite, on rue de Rivoli and walk up a flight of stairs to the roof terrace, from which there is a dramatic view of both the roof of the Hôtel de Ville and the immediate surroundings and river. The present Hôtel de Ville replaced the 16th century original which was burned down in 1871. A pastiche of its predecessor, but on a far larger scale, it was designed by the architects Ballu and Deperthes, and was mostly completed by 1882. The building is finished in an arrestingly white stone, similar to that used for the even more eye-catching Sacré-Coeur basilica. The statue on the garden wall on the south side is of Etienne Marcel, the most famous holder of the post of "prevôt des marchands" (provost of merchants) which pre-dated the office of mayor. Hôtel de Ville, Paris on Wikipedia Q640968 on Wikidata
The Lutece on the Ile de St. Louis
Pompidou
  • 7 Centre Georges PompidouPlace George Pompidou (Metro: Rambuteau). Those who are unfamiliar with Modernist and Post-Modern art sometimes don't know quite what to expect, or how to approach it. Such travellers should rest assured that the curators at the Pompidou Centre have assembled a marvellous introduction consisting of mostly approachable works which delight, amuse, and entertain. The art is far from the only reason for a visit, as the building also contains a vast public library and a fine restaurant (run by the Costes brothers) on the roof. In fact the place is literally surrounded by some of the nicest pavement cafés in the city, in its superb location between the car-free above ground part of Forum Les Halles and the Marais art district. Centre Georges Pompidou on Wikipedia Q178065 on Wikidata
  • 8 Notre-Dame de Paris (Notre Dame Cathedral), Ile de la Cité 6, Place du Parvis Notre Dame (Metro: St Michel), e-mail: . 07:45-18:45. The early Gothic Cathédrale de Notre Dame has a 12th century design but wasn't completed until the 14th. Still it is a good example of the development of the style, though the west or main portal is a bit unusual in its rigidity. Remember that this is an active church, there may even be a mass going on. Meanwhile anybody who's interested in history should check out the crypt. You enter at the opposite end of the square, where you can observe the foundation stones for buildings on the island going back to Roman times. Notre Dame de Paris on Wikipedia Q2981 on Wikidata

1st arrondissement[edit]

See also: Paris/1st arrondissement

Through the 1st arrondissement, travellers can follow La Seine, or La Rue de Rivoli, which run on either side of Le Louvre, and the Jardin des Tuileries to Place de la Concorde.

Le Palais Royal
  • 9 La Conciergerie (Paris Metro4 Cité). The ancient medieval fortress and prison of the city's island, site of some remarkable medieval royal architecture and the scene of Marie Antoinette's imprisonment in the period leading to her execution in 1793; lots of revolutionary associations.
  • 10 Sainte-Chapelle4 blvd du Palais (Paris Metro4 Cité). Soaring stained glass windows beaming ample light onto the rich primary colours of the tile mosaics on the floor, this photogenic church was built by the French kings to house the relics of the Crown of Thorns. Make sure you go on a sunny day, as the highlight of this small chapel in Rayonnante Gothic style are the large stained-glass windows which soar up to near the vaulted ceiling. Also of interest is the extremely ornate lower level. If it happens to be rainy or cloudy, give Sainte-Chapelle a miss, as the play of coloured lights on the floor is well worth the wait for a sunnier day. As the chapelle is inside the Courts of Justice, there will thus be a security check.
  • 11 Église Saint-Eustache (Paris Metro4 Les Halles). The massive parish church of the Les Halles area is a notable example of late Gothic interspersed with Renaissance details (including the entire front façade), as it was only completed in the 17th century. Its unique form results from a combination of relatively short length and impressive height of over 30 metres inside. The latter allows room not only for an array of stained glass windows and paintings, but also France's largest church organ of 8,000 pipes. The sculpture Écoute, depicting an oversized human head, was placed in front of the church's southern facade and has become a favourite photo spot.
Bourse de commerce
  • 12 Bourse de commerce. The former commodities exchange building is now not needed for its original purpose as the exchange got digitized, and is mainly used for special events, often unrelated to its original function.
  • 13 Le Palais Royal (Paris Metro17 Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre). 07:00-23:00 during the summer and 07:00-20:30 in the winter with hours varying spring and autumn. Ordered by Cardinal de Richelieu (1585-1642); originally called Palais Cardinal; it became Le Palais Royal when Anne d'Autriche, Louis XIII's wife, came to live here. It eventually housed Louis XIV until the move to Versailles. It includes also a garden Les jardins du Palais Royal. It's been the theatre of one of the seminal events of the French Revolution (Camille Desmoulins made a famous declaration here in 1789). The Théatre Français nearby was built in 1716. There are numerous restaurants inside the garden , There's also the controversial Colonnes de Buren, striped columns installed within the inside yard amid the 17th century architecture.
The ambulatory of the Church of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois
  • 14 Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois2 place du Louvre (Paris Metro1 Louvre-Rivoli, Paris Metro7 Pont-Neuf), e-mail: . This Gothic church functioned until the 19th century as the parish church of the kings of France. Its bell called 'Marie' sounded on the night of 23 August 1572, to launch the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, in which thousands of Huguenots were killed by Catholic mobs.
The Louvre
  • 15 Musée du LouvrePlace du Carrousel (Métro: Louvre). Its exhibits come from such diverse origins as ancient Egypt, classical Greece and Rome, medieval Europe, and Napoleonic France. Its most famous exhibit, of course, is Leonardo da Vinci's painting of the Mona Lisa (French: La Joconde, Italian: La Gioconda), generally to be found surrounded by hordes of camera-flashing tourists. If you want to see everything in the Louvre, plan at least two full days. However, it is better to pick and choose, as the collection was assembled with an eye to completeness rather than quality.
  • 1 Comédie Francaise (Théâtre-Français, La maison de Molière), 1 Place Colette (Palais Royal - Musée du Louvre), e-mail: . The theatre is one of the rare state theatres in France. The company's primary venue is the Salle Richelieu. It was enlarged and modified in the 1800s, then rebuilt in 1900 after a severe fire. The played repertoires sum to around 3,000 works.
  • 1 Restaurants du monde99, rue de Rivoli, mezzanine level, Le Carrousel du Louvre (Métro: Palais Royal). A food court where some 13 stalls offer a variety of French and international cuisine including Lebanese, Mexican, Moroccan, Chinese, and Japanese.
  • 2 Café Marly93, rue de Rivoli / cour Napoléon du Louvre (Métro: Palais Royal), e-mail: . Part of the Grand Louvre redevelopment. Café Marly was opened in 1994 and is on the balcony on the northern terrace of the Cour Napoléon. Patrons can enjoy direct views of the Louvre Pyramid while sitting back in comfortable chairs, watching tourists stroll by.
Musée des Arts Décoratifs
  • 16 Musée des Arts décoratifs107, rue de Rivoli (Paris Metro17 Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre). A monument to the French art de vivre, housed in a 19th-century wing of the Louvre that has been restored to beaux-arts splendour, its galleries and period rooms showcase eight centuries of Gallic taste in interior decoration.
  • 17 Colonne Vendôme (Paris Metro378 Opéra). The centrepiece of a magnificent 8-sided square first laid out in 1699 to show off an equestrian statue of Louis XIV, removed amid revolutionary fervor in 1792 and replaced in 1806 with the Colonne de la Grande Armée. The present column is a replica, however, as the original was pulled down during the 1871 Paris Commune. Place Vendôme represents the best of well-heeled Paris, being home to an abundance of exclusive boutiques, several banks, the French Ministry of Justice, and the Ritz Hotel.
  • 18 Jardin des Tuileries (Paris Metro1 Tuileries). Originally adjoining the lost palace of the Tuileries, these gardens west of the Louvre offer a central open space for Parisians and visitors with semi-formal gardens (an outdoor gallery for modern sculpture), various cafés, ice cream and crépe stalls, and a summer fun fair. The gardens are frequently home to a giant Ferris wheel and enclose the Musée de la Orangerie and the Jeu de Paume.
  • 19 Musée d'Orsay1, rue de la Légion d'Honneur / rue de Lille (In the 5th arrondissement; on the Left Bank of the Seine, adjacent to the Pont Solferino and Pont Royal, opposite the Jardin des Tuileries, Métro: Solferino, or Assemblée Nationale, RER C: Musée d'Orsay, bus 24, 63, 68, 69, 73, 83, 84, 94). Housed in a former Beaux-Arts railway station (completed in 1900 for the Exposition Universelle, later saved from demolition and converted to its present use), the rambling, open-plan museum is home to the works of the great artists of the 19th century (1848-1914) - Impressionists, post-Impressionists, and the rest - that were formerly displayed in the l'Orangerie. This is perhaps the most spectacular collection of European impressionism in the world—breath-taking rooms full of Manet, Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, and many others. Impressionist represent the biggest draw, but there is much more to explore. Musée d'Orsay on Wikipedia Q23402 on Wikidata
Musée de l'Orangerie
  • 20 L'Orangerie (Musée de la Orangerie). Recently reopened after extensive renovations, this small museum near the Louvre houses the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume Collection, sold to the French Republic on very generous terms and numbering 143 paintings from the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century (15 Cézannes, 24 Renoirs, 10 Matisses, 12 Picassos, 28 Derains, 22 Soutines... ). The collection joined the eight immense Water Lilies that Monet gave France in 1922 and which have been displayed since 1927 in two huge oval rooms purpose-built on the artist's instructions.
  • 21 Jeu de Paume (Paris Metro1812 Concorde; NW corner of the Jardin des Tuileries). Built during the First Empire, in imitation of the Orangerie, this small building is used by the Galerie Nationale to mount shows dedicated to lesser known, but nonetheless interesting, artists or (sometimes) the lesser known works of the Great Masters. This museum once housed many of the Impressionist painters that are now to be found in the Musée d'Orsay on the other side of the River Seine.
  • 1 Le Carrousel du Louvre99 Rue de Rivoli. A diverse underground shopping precinct adjoining the Louvre Museum. Open daily including Sundays. There is also a direct access into the Louvre.
  • 2 Librairie Galignani224, rue Rivoli (Métro: Concorde). British and American bookshop, specialising in fine arts.
  • 3 W.H. Smith248, rue de Rivoli (Métro: Concorde). The largest English language bookshop in Paris carries many of the newest releases.

8th arrondissement[edit]

See also: Paris/8th arrondissement

The legendary Avenue des Champs Élysées stretches from the Place de la Concorde to the Place Charles de Gaulle, through the 8th arrondissement. The road is dominated by flagship fashion stores and fine diners.

  • At the east end of the Champs-Elysées is 22 Place de la Concorde, the largest square in Paris with fantastic vistas in every direction. It was in this square (then called la Place de la Revolution) that the French King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and many others were guillotined during the Terror. The large Egyptian obelisk in the centre of the Place de la Concorde was brought from the Temple of Luxor.
  • 23 Église de la Madeleine (La Madeleine), place de la Madeleine (Métro: Madeleine). One of the best-known and most beautiful churches in Paris, in the guise of a Corinthian order classical temple. Construction started in 1764, although the church was not finally consecrated until 1845. The Madeleine has a lavish interior of marble and gold.
  • 24 Le Grand Palais (Galeries nationales du Grand Palais). Built in 1900 for the universal exposition, the Grand Palais was an engineering feat and a milestone of design, marking the transition between historicism and modern architecture. It remain impressive today due to its unique, exquisite style and sheer volume of its main nave. The Grand Palais, managed by the state-owned institution Rnm who also manage the Musee de Luxembourg, is used both for temporary exhibitions of historic and contemporary art collections (both beaux arts and applied) and unique events, such as catwalk shows during the Paris Fashion Week, Bonhams car auctions and prestigious galas. Prices and opening hours set individually for each exhibition and event..
  • 25 Musée du Petit PalaisAvenue Winston Churchill (Metro Champs-Elysées Clémenceau (M1, M13)). Open daily except except Mondays and public holidays from 10am to 6pm. Thursdays until 8pm for temporary exhibitions only. Ticket office closes at 5 pm.. The Petit Palais was built as a complement to the Grand Palais for the 1900 universal exhibition, and afterwards became the prime exhibition venue for the City of Paris' vast collection of artworks spanning centuries from ancient history to the 1800s. There is a permanent exhibition of selected artworks of artifacts, complemented by temporary exhibitions of historic artworks. The Petit Palais also features an on-site cafe/restaurant, as well as a book and gift shop. Free admission to the permanent collections. Admission charge for temporary exhibitions (€ 5-11).
  • 26 Palais de la decouverte (Palace of discovery), Avenue Franklin D. Roosevelt (Metro Franklin D. Roosevelt (M1, M9)). Located in a magnificent the western wing of the Grand Palais, this museum forms a part of science-themed education-oriented universcience establishment together with the La Cite des Sciences in La Villette. In the Palais, you will find two large floors with rooms dedicated to different branches of science, including physics, chemistry, mathematics and life-sciences, as well as a planetarium.
  • 27 Pont Alexandre III. An ornamented bridge, arguably the most famous in Paris.
  • 2 Lido de Paris (Le Lido), 116 bis av des Champs-Elysées (Metro 1 George V: Metro 13 Champs-Elysées - Clémenceau; RER A Station Charles de Gaules Etoile). The most famous cabaret celebrates spectacle revues. Children ages 4 and older are welcome. Casual elegant dress code. Coat and tie appreciated. Shorts, Bermuda shorts, athletic clothing and tennis shoes are not allowed.
Rue du Faubourg St Honote
  • 4 C42Avenue de Champs-Elysees 42. 10AM-8PM Sun-Wed, 10AM-10PM Thu-Sat. C42 is the flasghip Citroen store occupying an entire building, designed by Manuelle Gautrand and completed in 2007, being the first new building in the Avenue in some 30 years. The unmistakable facade is inspired by Citroen's chevron logo, and the building has no less than seven storeys exhibiting Citroen's past, present and future, including iconic classics, the concept cars and winning sportscars from its many decades of history, and of course the current lineup. The interior is just as spectacular and unique as the exterior and well worth a visit.
  • 5 Atelier RenaultAvenue des Champs-Elysees 51-53. Renault has opened its Champs-Elysees showroom at this location in 1910. The highlight of its current form, launched in 2011, is the cafe/restaurant/bar in the "floating" mezzanine, where you can enjoy some good drinks and food as well as a nice view over the Champs Elysees and the Renault cars from the past and present exhibited below.
  • GuerlainNo. 68.
  • 6 Avenue PeugeotAvenue des Champs-Elysées 136. While not as spectacular from the outside as it's sister brand Citroen's building, the Avenue Peugeot is also worth a visit if you are a car fan, as it always has a temporary exhibition of some of Peugeot's concept or competition cars the brand is famous for. You can obviously also explore the regular range of Peugeot cars and purchase one, as well as an extensive range of Peugeot merchandise from the on-site "boutique Peugeot", including the Peugeot condiment grinders the company makes for much longer than it does build cars.
  • 7 Louis Vuitton BuildingAvenue de Champs-Elysees 101. An unmistakable piece of modernist architecture at the corner of Avenue George V, the Louis Vuitton Building was erected in 1913 and in the 21st century continues to serve as the flagship for the luxury brand, housing the largest Louis Vuitton boutique in the world.
  • Zadig & VoltaireRue Francois 1er 18-22.
  • 3 Diep55, rue Pierre-Charron (Métro Franklin D. Roosevelt). Thai, Chinese, and Indonesian. Vegetarian friendly.
  • 4 Kokohana (Teppanyaki), 1, rue Jean Mermoz. Two chefs battle against each other in a spectacular performance of chopping, slicing, sauteing everything from scallops to foie gras. The food is average, but the presentation is well worth it.
  • 5 Qasim22, rue du Colisée (Métro Franklin D. Roosevelt),  +33 1 45 62 19 73. Pakistani and Indian dishes.
  • 6 Spoon14, rue Marignan (Métro Franklin Roosevelt), e-mail: . Chef Alain Ducasse's à la mode eatery with modern appeal. The carte allows you to choose a main dish, a condiment, and an accompanying dish for a personalized menu with a high-end feel.
  • 7 Villa Spicy8, av Franklin Roosevelt (Métro Franklin Roosevelt). Warm and peaceful close to the Champs-Élysées serving an organic detox menu.
  • 8 Hanawa26, rue Bayard. Great sushi in a nice atmosphere, extensive menu.
  • 9 Ladurée75, avenue des Champs-Elysées. Famous for their macaroon cookies, which come in over 15 different flavours. Expensive, but an experience. There is a tea room, a bar, and a restaurant. You can also order baked goods to go, in fancy boxes and bags.
  • 10 La Table du Lancaster7, rue de Berri. Under chef Michel Troisgros, the kitchen prepares food in five themes: tomatoes, citrus, spices, greens, and dairy. This hotel restaurant was once home to screen goddess Marlene Dietrich. Lunch is up to €50 per person.
  • 1 Buddha Bar8, rue Boissy d' Anglais (Métro Concorde). Famous in electronic lounge music circles for having commissioned a series of lounge and down tempo records which you can get at most larger record shops in France, as well as abroad. Although you can also get them at the bar it's probably not the best way, since they charge €45 per CD. The drinks are not so over-priced, and definitely worth it for the hip, sophisticated, and chill atmosphere.
l'Arc de Triomphe
  • 28 l'Arc de TriomphePlace de l'Étoile, Place Charles de Gaulle (Métro Charles de Gaulle-Etoile). This iconic triumphal arch forms the focus of the main east-west road axis of Paris, running between the Louvre and the Grande Arche de la Défense in the west. The monument was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 as a tribute to his victories as Emperor of France - it was finally completed in 1836, long after his death. 50 m (150 ft) high and 45 m wide, the Arc de Triomphe is decorated with battle scenes and martial sculptures that includes La Marseillaise by Rude. More recently, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was placed beneath the arch in 1920, where an eternal flame burns in tribute to the French dead of both World Wars. The arch is surrounded by a large roundabout, aptly known as l'Etoile - 'the star' - with 12 thoroughfares leading off from it. Visitors can purchase a ticket to climb to the top of the arch, from where magnificent views spread out over western Paris. Admission to a small museum devoted to the history and meaning of the monument is included. The central island and the arch are accessed by an underground passage. Do not attempt to negotiate by foot the busy multi-lane road that rings the Arc de Triomphe, which many Parisian drivers seem to consider their own personal speedway. admission fee applies for over-17s, free for EU-people under 26.

16th and 17 arrondissements[edit]

See also: Paris/16th arrondissement, Paris/17th arrondissement
Trocadero

The Avenue de la Grande Armée and the Avenue Charles De Gaulle make up the border between the 16th and 17th arrondissements. While monuments and institutional buildings are fewer here, this leg of the journey is typical to the Haussmann Renovation.

  • 29 Palais du Trocadéro. Great perspective on the Eiffel Tower and Left Bank.
  • 30 Jardin d'Acclimatation. The northwest corner of the Bois de Boulogne is occupied by the oldest operating amusement park in the world, the Jardin d'Acclimatation, which is mainly known for offering a wide range of amusements which are appropriate even for very small children. They have miniature roller-coasters for children as small as three years, and the usual range of pony rides etc.
  • 31 Palais de Tokyo.
  • 32 Musée Dapper35 bis, rue Paul Valéry. This small museum hosts high quality African art exhibitions. It also features an interesting bookshop and cafe.

La Défense[edit]

See also: Paris/La Défense
  • 33 Grande Arche de la Defense1 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.
  • 34 Center of New Industries and Technologies (CNIT). The largest unsupported concrete span enclosed space in the world.
  • 35 La Defense Museum15, place de La Défense, e-mail: . The museum presents the history of the development of La Defense, with many plans and scale models
  • 36 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
  • 8 Les 4 Temps15 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.
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