Place des Vosges A Small Square Of Parisian Paradise

Written by on May 11, 2015 in Paris


At the Bastille end of the Marais on the right bank is a small square of Parisian Paradise. Place des Vosges is the city’s oldest square. It’s tiny compared to the Jardin du Luxembourg on the left bank or Jardin des Tuileries alongside the Louvre. It’s a garden bed in comparison to one of those great beauties but Place des Vosges has proportions that please.

It started in 1604 as a royal pavilion built by Henri IV. The king loved the design of his regal townhouse so much that he comissioned another thirty-five to surround the square. Some say this was seventeenth century urban planning, whatever, the result is a triumph. Not surprisingly, it was called “Place Royale” and it became the prototype for all subsequent residential squares throughout the cities of Europe. In 1800 Emperor Napoleon changed the name, because he could, and to acknowledge the department of Vosges – they actually paid their taxes, the first to do so.


When you visit,  i’ts a good idea to stroll around the ground level of the stone arcades now populated by restaurants, galleries and designer boutiques. Very often, musicians play the classics in a most extraordinary busking performance. Settle on a bench under a row of square Linden trees that knew Victor Hugo. Between 1832 and 1848 when the great author was writing “Les Misérables” (the book not the musical) he lived on the second floor of townhouse number six in Place des Vosges – then known as the Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée, now known as Maison de Victor Hugo. On a still evening, with a window thrown open, he may have even heard the bells of Notre Dame, home of his hunchback hero.


You may even create a vision of your own, where dappled grey horses with heads held high stop obediently in the street beside an arch of the arcade… in my dream the red brick and white stone is mirrored on the sides of the gleaming black enamel carriage. A woman in rustling cornflower blue silk taffeta and blonde hair piled high, is helped down by a man wearing breeches and buckled shoes. In the square, two men are back to back, about to pace out the agreed distance for their duel.

It’s so easy to be transported back to the past in Paris.  It’s all around. The locals come here for the same reasons people go to parks anywhere in the world, for space, tranquillity and to snatch a moment of time away from their city life.

About Gai Reid : “J’ai deux amours, mon paye et Paris ’’.  When I hear Madeleine Peyroux sing about her two loves, I know exactly what she means. A writer and producer in Australia, Gai says ”The next best thing to being in France, is writing about it to share my joy with others who feel the same connection.” Find out more at:

Related Articles

Update to the fire at Notre Dame de Paris

The devastating fire that occurred at the 12th century built cathedral of Notre-Dame-de-Paris on 15 April 2019 caused immense damage. With more than 12 million visitors each year, the cathedral is the most visited monument in France and Europe, epitomising the soul of the French capital and symbolising the history and culture of France. Thanks […]

Continue Reading

Wi-Fi friendly cafés in Paris

In Paris, café culture is alive, well, and so far, has quietly embraced laptops. Don’t let anyone try and tell you differently. Especially non-Parisians coming from places where laptop-toting customers get mercilessly expelled for staying too long – San Francisco, New York and London come to mind. In France’s laissez-faire culture, for the price of […]

Continue Reading

The Pyramid at the Louvre

The Pyramid at the Louvre

Written by on March 28, 2019 in French Icons, Paris

When it comes to innovation in architecture, Paris has long been a leader and in the last 150 years, dozens of architectural gems have made it famous for originality and boldness. Just a few include the Eiffel Tower, Pompidou centre, the Louis Vuitton Foundation and La Grande Arche in the Défense business district. These new […]

Continue Reading

Five top tips for choosing a great restaurant in Paris

With thousands of restaurants to choose from in Paris, just how do you pick the authentic and delicious eatery you’ve been dreaming of? Paris may be full of eating choices but not all restaurants and cafés are created equal. And it isn’t just about picking a place without English menus (in fact, this rule has […]

Continue Reading

Picture Perfect Paris in the spring

Picture Perfect Paris in the spring

Written by on February 23, 2019 in Paris

Antoine Collas, a Paris photographer, shares his favourite photos of the city of light in the spring. Originally from Aix-en-Provence he now lives in Paris and never tires of taking photos of the ever changing scenery. His favourite location is along the Seine River which he says “never looks the same”… The carousel by the […]

Continue Reading


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.