The Place des Vosges is the oldest planned square in Paris. This square is located in the district known as Le Marais and lies between the 3rd and 4th municipal arrondissements of Paris. The site has five attractions within a 1 km radius with the closest being the Musée Carnavalet and Saint Paul-Saint Louis, a church in the Marais district. This area is now a very peaceful place that is perfect to relax in. It is also surrounded by a lot of shops and arcades.
A Royal pavilion was commissioned by King Henry IV during the year 1604 and was built at the southern end of the square. This building was designed by Baptiste du Cerceau, who had designed quite a few structures in Paris during his time. The King did not want the other buildings to contrast with the design of the Royal pavilion so he ordered all surrounding buildings to take on the same design. There were 35 other buildings surrounding the square. This was one of the earliest examples of urban planning in France. It was due to the meticulous demands of the king that the square developed a symmetric and harmoniously beautiful design. The Royal pavilion, which lies on the southern end, is called the King’s pavilion. A structure mirroring this building on the northern end was built and named the Queen’s pavilion.
Hôtel de Tournelles
Before the Royal pavilion was built, another iconic structure stood in the northern end of the square. This was known as the Hôtel de Tournelles and was a grand building which was built during 1388. This was used by the Royal family up until the mid 16th Century. This was because in the year 1559, King Henry II was badly wounded on the site during a tournament. He passed away ten days later at Hôtel de Tournelles. The building was demolished by the order of Catherine de Medicis, the Queen, after the tragic incident.
In the year 1612, the square was officially inaugurated and called “Place Royale”. It was not a public place during this time and was a merely a vast lawn used for duels and other activities. Later, an equestrian statue was built of King Louis XIII and placed in the square. This was torn down during the French Revolution, but reconstructed in 1825. The statue still stands there today.
It was Napoleon who changed the name of “Place Royale” to what it is now known as Place des Vosges. This was to pay tribute to the first department to pay taxes in Paris, the Vosges department. A number of great Frenchmen lived in the square. Among them was Victor Hugo, the author of the well known Hunchback of Notre-Dame. He spent most of his days writing Les Miserables on the second floor of Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée. This house is now called Maison de Victor Hugo. It serves as a museum where people can visit rooms where Hugo’s books and drawings are kept.