Places to Discover

Agoudas Hakehilos Synagogue
10 rue Pavé
Art Nouveau genius Hector Guimard built this unique synagogue in 1913 for a Polish-Russian Orthodox association. The facade resembles an open book; Guimard consciously used the motif of the Ten Commandments to inspire the building's shape and its interior (which unfortunately can't be visited). Like other Parisian synagogues, this address was dynamited by the Nazis on Yom Kippur 1940. The Star of David over the door was added after the building was restored, symbolizing the renaissance of the Jewish community here.

Hôtel de Montmor
79 rue de Temple
This 17th-century mansion originally belonged to Louis XIII's financial advisor Jean-Baptiste Colbert. His son ran a salon here frequented by luminaries like playwright Molière, philosopher and mathematician Pierre Gassendi, physicist Gilles de Roberval, and Dutch astronomer Christian Huygens. These gatherings inspired Colbert to create the Académie des Sciences in 1666. The building is private, but if you press the main button on the code panel during the week the door usually opens, so you can admire the curvaceous Louis XV-era courtyard.

Hôtel de Beauvais
68 rue Francois-Miron
Newly restored, this mansion from 1655 has an unusually shaped courtyard, built for Pierre de Beauvais with surprisingly generous funding from the normally parsimonious Louis XIV. The reason for the Sun King's unwonted largesse: a reward for de Beauvais's willingness to turn a blind eye to the activities of his wife, Catherine-Henriette Bellier, in educating the young monarch in matters sexual. Louis, who came to the throne in 1643 at the age of 4, was 14 when de Beauvais's 40-year-old wife first gave him the benefit of her expertise. Later, Mozart supposedly stayed here. The hôtel now belongs to the city and is closed to the public apart from tantalizing courtyard glimpses.

Hôtel du Sully
62 rue St-Antoine
The best surviving example of early Baroque in Paris, this mansion was built in 1624 with Flemish-inspired carving. Like much of the area, the hôtel particulier fell into ruin until the 1950s, when it was rescued by the administration of French historic monuments, Caisse Nationale des Monuments Historiques. It is now the administration's head office, complete with an excellent bookshop featuring innumerable publications in French and English about Paris (be sure to look up at the shop's original Louis XIII ceiling). Guided visits to Paris sites and buildings begin here, though all are conducted in French. There are also photography exhibitions here.

Place des Vosges
The oldest monumental square in Paris -- and one of hypnotic beauty -- place des Vosges was laid out by Henri IV at the start of the 17th century. Originally known as place Royale, it has kept its Renaissance character nearly intact, Henri IV's precise proportions give it a placid regularity, although its buildings have been softened by time, their pale pink brick crumbling slightly and the darker stone facings pitting with age. It stands on the site of a former royal palace, the Palais des Tournelles, which was abandoned by the Italian-born queen of France, Catherine de' Medici, when her husband, Henri II, was fatally lanced in the eye during a tournament here in 1559. It was always a highly desirable address, reaching a peak of glamour in the early years of Louis XIV's reign, when nobles were falling over themselves for the privilege of living here. The two larger buildings on either side of the square were originally the king's and queen's pavilions. The statue in the center is of Louis XIII, a 19th-century remake of the 17th-century original, which was melted down in the Revolution. In 1800, under Napoléon, the square's name was changed to honor the French département Vosges, the first in the country to cough up taxes to the Revolutionary government. With its arcades, symmetrical brick facades, and trim green garden, there is no better location for a picnic -- and you can even sit on the grass. To get inside one of the imposing town houses, visit the Maison de Victor Hugo at No. 6.
Place St. Catherine

Place St. Catherine

Village St. Paul

   
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