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Faubourg St Honore Travel Guide

Faubourg St Honoré (1st and 2nd Arrondissement) is just northeast of Place de La Concorde and has long been a chic area of Paris. Its streets are the oldest in the city, full of 19th century passageways, elegant architecture, ritzy squares, famous boutiques, and old glass-and-iron market halls. In the 19th century, the district became a haven of perfume shops, jewelers, dressmakers, and upscale hotels like the Ritz. Today, Faubourg St Honoré is definitely a symbol of luxury, its chic apartment buildings are the residence of the rich and famous and its shops, restaurants, and cafés frequented similarly by the well-to-do.[1]

The main attraction of the quarter is the Palais-Royal (Royal Palace), which is considered to be one of the city’s most “Parisian” sights. This former palace once served as the home of King Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu. While the buildings of the royal palace are not open to the public, the courtyard, classical gardens, arcades and elegant shops are. The Royal Palace was also the site of Camille Desmoulin’s first speech in 1789, one in which he called for a French Revolution.[2]

In Faubourg St Honoré, you’ll also find the Bibliothèque Nationale Richelieu, which occupies a grand 17th century mansion.[3] Today, it serves as part of France’s national library, holding its minor collections (the major collections have been moved to the François Mitterand branch in Quartier Chinois). On display are various original manuscripts, engravings, coins, and prints. The sight also features an[4] 18th century courtyard and a reading room that was built in the 19th century.[5]

The pride of Faubourg St Honoré, however, is probably the Place Vendôme. This is a famous square that used to be the address of Chopin and other celebrities. Situated at the plaza is the Hôtel Ritz, one of Paris’ best hotels with a guest list that has included the Sultan of Brunei. Napoléon had Place Vendôme’s central column constructed out of the same bronze that was melted from the 1,200 cannons captured in 1805 at the Battle of Austerlitz. The Place Vendôme definitely outshines the Place des Victoires in extravagance and elitism. While the Place Vendôme shuns cafés and banal establishments, the Place des Victoires is more welcoming, hosting the city’s top fashion boutiques around its circular square.[6]

Notable also is the Palais de l’Élysée (Élysée Palace) in Faubourg St Honoré. This is the official home of the French President, originally constructed as a private mansion in 1718. Since 1873, it has served as the French version of the “White House”. Prior to 1873, it hosted various socialites including Queen Victoria, Napoléon, Joséphine, the Duke of Wellington, and Madame de Pompadour.[7]

There are also a number of elegant churches in Faubourg St Honoré, including the 19th century Église de la Madeleine, the 16th century St Eustache, the 15th century Flamboyant Gothic St Germain l’Auxerrois, and the 17th century St Roch.[8]

Of historical significance is the Forum des Halles. The old glass and iron halls of Les Halles once hosted the central Paris food market until it was closed in 1969. Les Halles was a lively hot spot of market activity, once described as the “belly of Paris” by novelist Émile Zola.[9]

Bibliothèque Nationale Richelieu
Palais de l’Élysée
Forum des Halles
Église de la Madeleine
Place Vendôme
Place des Victoires
St Eustache
St Germain l’Auxerrois
St Roch
Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs
Louvre des Antiquaires
Comédie Française

“Bibliothèque François Mitterand (Paris Métro and RER).” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblioth%C3%A8que_Fran%C3%A7ois_Mitterrand_%28Paris_Metro%29>

“Bibliothèque nationale de France.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblioth%C3%A8que_nationale_de_France>

Fisher, Robert I. C., and Fodor’s. Fodor’s France. New York: Fodor’s Travel Publications, 2007. ISBN: 1400016878.

[1] Fisher, 60-61
[2] Id. at 63-64
[3] Id. at 61
[4] Bibliothèque François and Bibliothèque nationale
[5] Fisher, 61
[6] Id. at 65
[7] Id. at 63
[8] Id. at 61, 65-66
[9] Id. at 63-64

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