Paris, being a European center with decades of history and a diverse range of architectural designs, has no dearth of spectacular city squares. These are some of Paris’ most gorgeous squares, ranging from the regal, vast, and elegant to the quietly poetic and intimate. Places = “square” in French, and these are the places one goes to get a feel for local town life, take a break from touring, or shop.
1. Place de la Bastille
This massive, bustling square is infused with centuries of Parisian history, despite its lack of tranquility. The huge square, which once housed the historic Bastille jail, is still a potent symbol of France’s first Revolution in 1789. One of the metro platforms at the Bastille metro stop (on line 1), coincidentally, shows some of the dramatic events of the uprising.
The July Column (Colonne de Juillet), constructed in 1840 to memorialize yet another groundbreaking conflict a decade earlier, is one of the square’s most impressive structures now. The column was commissioned by King Louis-Philippe in the 1790s to memorialize the dead of the July Revolution. A gilded statue of the “Spirit of Liberty” crowns the top of the structure.
The square’s other notable landmark is the contemporary Opéra Bastille. It seats approximately 2,700 people and is the city’s major venue for opera and other classical musical acts, having opened in 1989.
The square is a wonderful starting place for exploring the surrounding area because it forms the border of four important Parisian neighborhoods—the 4th, 11th, and 12th arrondissements. Travel south to explore the Marais and the magnificent Place des Vosges, or east to walk along the Promenade Plantée, a lush above-ground path.
2. Place des Vosges
A square in Paris’ Marais area attracts tourists for photo ops and picnics because of its distinctive architecture and lovely lawns. The exquisite Place des the Vosges can be an idyllic setting for a stroll or a relaxed meal on the grass, especially in the spring and summer months.
The plaza has a center grassy park area flanked by red-bricked mansions from the 17th century. It was formerly known as Place Royale and was commissioned by King Henri IV. The garden place is also called Square Louis XIII, after the French king who held his engagement celebrations there with Anne of Austria.
The Spot des Vosges, which is lined with cafés, restaurants, art galleries, and stores, is a nice place to go for a stroll or a light supper even on a wet day, thanks to the covered “galleries” that wrap around it on all four sides.
Go and capture the red-brick facades with their exquisite, towering windows and other flourishes with your camera. The architectural elements in this building contrast sharply with those in the surrounding region, which originate from the Renaissance and late medieval periods. In one corner of the square, look for the Maison Victor Hugo, which is now a museum dedicated to the famed French author’s life and work.
3. Place de la Sorbonne
The centuries-old institution of the same name that sits at its end is named after this landmark square in the heart of the Latin Quarter. The Place de la Sorbonne, lined with fountains and thick trees that provide lots of shade in the summer, is a wonderful place to take a breather after exploring on the left bank.
It has long been linked with writers, philosophers, and intellectuals who congregated in the square’s cafes and pubs after giving or hearing a lecture at the university. It’s also adjacent to several popular Parisian movie theaters, making it a nice place to wait before viewing a film.
While the square can get quite congested during peak tourist season, consider going early in the morning for a café on one of the terraces. If you visit between noon and early evening, you’ll be able to appreciate its calm and historic significance even more.
4. Place Dauphine
In an area that is sometimes congested and noisy, this gorgeous, greenery-dense square near the city center is a bit of a hidden gem. The Place Dauphine was erected by Henry IV in 1607 on the edge of the Ile de la Cité, a semi-natural island that exists between the two banks of the Seine River.
The plaza, which is formed like a triangle, is accessible from the sumptuous Pont Neuf, one of Paris’s most gorgeous bridges. The triangular public area is surrounded by beautiful mansions from different eras in the Renaissance and early modern ages. Some of them are similar to those on the Place des Vosges (previously Place Royale) because they were built about the same time.
Benches and shade trees provide relaxing spots to read a book or eat a sandwich. Experts suggest visiting the area as part of a self-guided tour of Paris’s bridges, or when visiting the Ile de la Cité and other Seine-related attractions.
5. Place Vendome
Place Vendome, arguably the most picturesque open area in the French city, has traditionally been linked with elegance and glamour. The 18th-century square was originally named “Conquest Square” to honor French King Louis XIV’s military triumphs.
One can’t resist but experience a sense of superiority and significance while approaching it from the Rue Royale (Royal Street). The enormous, open space is flanked on both sides by high-end retailers ranging from Cartier to Chanel and is made to appear even larger by a distinct lack of foliage. The legendary Ritz Hotel, which was recently refurbished and has long been a location to stay, dine, and drink among the wealthy and influential, occupies the western side.
A striking 1874 column, a replica of a bronze predecessor authorized by Emperor Napoleon I, stands in the center. The original was claimed to be constructed from almost 1,000 melted enemy cannons.
Though most of us won’t be able to purchase in Place Vendome, it’s a great place to snap unforgettable images, especially on a beautiful day when the light makes the square appear even larger. Tea at the Ritz might be a more economical way to enjoy typical Parisian splendor in the winter.