Guide Tour of Hôtel de Ville, Paris, France

The Hôtel de Ville is the city hall of Paris, France, standing on the Place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville – Esplanade de la Libération in the 4th arrondissement. It has been the headquarters of the municipality of Paris since 1357. It serves multiple functions, housing the local government council, since 1977 the Mayor of Paris and her cabinet, and also serves as a venue for large receptions.

Hotel de Ville is a major attraction, a convenient starting point for then discovering the Marais. It is also in the heart of a lively shopping area and near other cultural and tourist destinations. Centrally located along the Seine and Rue de Rivoli, next to a department store, within walking distance of many important Paris Neighborhoods.

At the heart of much of the city’s rich history, this magnificent town hall is an architectural triumph. Look across the façade of the Hôtel de Ville to see intricately carved statues and a dark, imposing clock tower. Step inside and stroll beneath lavish chandeliers. Admire exquisite painted ceilings as well as works by some of France’s most renowned artists.

Inside make your way up a wide, flowing staircase to the ballroom. The function room is a replica of the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles and it is illuminated by giant crystal chandeliers. Check out the regular exhibitions held throughout the year, featuring national and international art.

Place de l’Hotel de Ville was used for parties organized by the municipality and to celebrate births and marriages of the royal family, but it was also the place for important executions from 1310 to 1830, including those of Ravaillac and La Brinvilliers. In the 14th-century, the Parvis de l’Hôtel de Ville (the courtyard in front of the building) became execution central, the place crowds would gather to watch those gory spectacles. In 1792 a guillotine was installed here, one which would get a lot of use during the Terror phase of the French Revolution.

It wasn’t until 1533 that the French king Francis I decided to grace the city with an Hotel de Ville that suited the capital of France. Over the centuries the building was expanded and improved. The south wing was originally constructed by François I beginning in 1535 until 1551. The north wing was built by Henry IV and Louis XIII between 1605 and 1628.

Until 1871, that is, when the Hotel de Ville Paris was set afire during the Paris Commune. It was burned by the Paris Commune, along with all the city archives that it contained, during the Commune’s final days in May 1871. All that remained after the fire was the stone shell. The current building, with a neo-renaissance style, was built by architects Théodore Ballu and Edouard Deperthes on the site of the former Hôtel de Ville which burnt down during the Paris Commune.

It took twenty years, but the city hall was rebuilt inside of the original shell. This is the version of the city hall we still see today. The outside was rebuilt following the original design, but larger, between 1874 and 1882, while the inside was considerably modified. During the 19th century the square expanded, finally becoming a vast pedestrian area in 1982 to mark the centenary of the rebuilding of the Hotel de Ville.

The plaza is a large, flexible open space in front of a grand, signature Renaissance-influenced building. Stand in the square in front of the hall and marvel at the long main façade. Along the cream-colored exterior, rows of squared windows sit above arched entranceways. Get closer to view the 108 stone figures that represent historical, illustrious Parisians. Above these is the iconic black clock tower.

The plaza has a strong connection and history as an important social, cultural and community place that woke up this extraordinary city. It is usually full of families, kids, and seniors; an important place where tourists, locals, and all types of people gather. In the winter there is a skating rink. Other visits have involved environmental or service fairs, a merry-go-round, and recently, a putting green and sports event area for children.

In July 1357, Étienne Marcel, provost of the merchants of Paris, bought the so-called maison aux piliers (“House of Pillars”) in the name of the municipality on the gently sloping shingle beach which served as a river port for unloading wheat and wood and later merged into a square, the Place de Grève (“Strand Square”).

The Place de Grève was a place where Parisians often gathered, particularly for public executions. Many of Paris’ most dramatic events took place in the Place de Greve. This is where Ravaillac, Henri IV’s murderer, was hung, drawn and quartered, and heretics were burned at the stake; where speeches were given.

In 1533, King Francis I decided to endow the city with a city hall which would be worthy of Paris, then the largest city of Europe and Christendom. He appointed two architects: Italian Dominique de Cortone, nicknamed Boccador because of his red beard, and Frenchman Pierre Chambiges. The House of Pillars was torn down and Boccador, steeped in the spirit of the Renaissance, drew up the plans of a building which was at the same time tall, spacious, full of light and refined. Building work was not finished until 1628 during the reign of Louis XIII.

During the next two centuries, no changes were made to the edifice which was the stage for several famous events during the French Revolution. On 14 July 1789, the last provost of the merchants Jacques de Flesselles was murdered by an angry crowd. On 27 July 1794, Maximilien Robespierre attempted to commit suicide following a coup and was arrested along with his followers.

In 1835, on the initiative of Rambuteau, préfet of the Seine département, two wings were added to the main building and were linked to the facade by a gallery, to provide more space for the expanded city government. The architects were Étienne-Hippolyte Godde and Jean-Baptiste Lesueur.

In the 19th century, the expansion and partial reconstruction of the town hall were carried out according to the plans of Godde and Lesueur from 1837 to 1848, while preserving the Renaissance façade. Antoine Vivenel, general contractor, directed the site. Four painters, including Jean-Victor Schnetz, are called upon to celebrate the great Parisian revolutions on the walls of the former throne room.

During the Franco-Prussian War, the building played a key role in several political events. When the news of the defeat at Sedan was known and, under the pressure of the crowd which invaded the Bourbon Palace, the Legislative Body pronounced the forfeiture of the Emperor Napoleon III, the government of National Defense is constituted at the town hall.

On 30 October 1870, revolutionaries broke into the building and captured some of the members of the Government of National Defence, while making repeated demands for the establishment of a communard government. The existing government escaped via a tunnel built in 1807, which still connects the Hôtel de Ville with a nearby barracks. On 23 January 1871, crowds gathered outside the building to protest against speculated surrender to the Prussians, and were dispersed by soldiers firing from the building, who inflicted several casualties.

The Hôtel de Ville had been the headquarters of the French Revolution, and likewise, it was the headquarters of the Paris Commune. When defeat became increasingly imminent and the French army approached the building, the Communards set fire to the Hôtel de Ville, along with other government buildings, destroying the building and almost all of the city archives.

Reconstruction of City Hall lasted from 1873 through 1892 and was directed by architects Théodore Ballu and Édouard Deperthes, who had won the public competition for the building’s reconstruction. Ballu also designed the Church of La Trinité in the 9th arrondissement and the belfry of the town hall of the 1st arrondissement, opposite the Louvre’s east facade. He also restored the Saint-Jacques Tower, a Gothic church tower in a square 150 metres to the west of the Hôtel de Ville.

The architects rebuilt the interior of the Hôtel de Ville within the stone shell that had survived the fire. While the rebuilt Hôtel de Ville from the outside appeared to be a copy of the 16th-century French Renaissance building that stood before 1871, the new interior was based on an entirely new design, with ceremonial rooms lavishly decorated in the 1880s style.

The central ceremonial doors under the clock are flanked by allegorical figures of Art, by Laurent Marqueste, and Science, by Jules Blanchard. Some 230 other sculptors were commissioned to produce 338 individual figures of famous Parisians on each facade, along with lions and other sculptural features. The sculptors included prominent academicians like Ernest-Eugène Hiolle and Henri Chapu, but easily the most famous was Auguste Rodin. Rodin produced the figure of the 18th-century mathematician Jean le Rond d’Alembert, finished in 1882.

The statue on the garden wall on the south side is of Étienne Marcel, the most famous holder of the post of prévôt des marchands (provost of the merchants) which predated the office of mayor. Marcel was lynched in 1358 by an angry mob after trying to assert the city’s powers too energetically.

The decor featured murals by the leading painters of the day, including Raphaël Collin, Henri-Camille Danger, Jean-Paul Laurens, Puvis de Chavannes, Léon Bonnat, Albert Besnard, Henri Gervex, Aimé Morot or Alfred Roll. Most can still be seen as part of a guided tour of the building.

The main facade, 143 meters long and 18.80 meters high (26.80 meters for that of the corner pavilions and 50 meters for the campanile ), includes a central avant-corps corresponding to the ancient monument built during the Renaissance. It rises at its ends into two pavilions, each flanked by a square corbelled turret, in which are pierced two access doors to the courtyards, closed by wrought iron gates, bearing the arms of the City of Paris. This central body and its two pavilions are widened on each side by a small wing set back six meters which ends in a pavilioncorner. In each bay open, on the ground floor and on the first floor, semicircular and rectangular bays surmounted by mezzanines, framed by pilasters and engaged columns.

The next floor of the intermediate facade has an attic pierced with stone skylights which enclose a rectangular bay. The floor of the pavilions is different, with a central bay comprising a semicircular bay preceded by a balustraded balcony and two side bays decorated with niches with statues of, floor surmounted by a Mansard roof crowned with a gallery with day with corner pedestals supporting flame vases.The central pediment, which occupies three bays, is decorated with a clock, the dial of which is flanked by the figures of Labor and Instruction, connected to the balustrade by two half-pediments bearing the lying figures of La Seine and La Marne.

Above the clock, a large seated figure symbolizing the City of Paris is crowned with a pediment bearing the arms of the City supported by two reclining figures, allegories of La Prudence and La Vigilance. Behind the clock stands the belfry, an octagonal campanile flanked by four crouching chimeras and covered with a scaled dome cushioned by a lanternwrought iron balustrade. The roofs are crowned with 15th century knights in embossed copper holding banners. The large chimney stacks are crowned with a bracketed entablature surmounted by an acroterion decorated with rosettes and ending in a cornice.

The main facade is decorated with prominent figures of the city of Paris, artists, scholars, politicians, industrialists. The old town hall enlarged under Louis-Philippe had already been adorned with full-length statues representing the illustrious men of the capital. Most of them were destroyed during the Paris Commune. On the forecourt are two bronze statues, allegories of Art by Laurent Marqueste and Science by Jules Blanchard.

The hall of the town hall of Paris was designed as a “republican” replica of the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles built two centuries earlier. The frescoes on the arches of the Party hall represent sixteen provinces of France. They are the work of the four painters Jean-Joseph Weerts, François-Émile Ehrmann, Paul Milliet and Ferdinand Humbert.

The Hôtel de Ville can be visited free of charge after prior registration with the public relations department of the City of Paris. The spaces available for viewing are all the reception rooms (Arcades rooms, Jean-Paul Laurens room, Bertrand room and function room), the grand staircase and the Paris Council room.

Garden of the Combatants-de-la-Nueve
The Jardin des Combattants-de-la-Nueve is a garden in Paris, located in the 4th arrondissement (Saint-Merri district ), south of the Paris City Hall. Covering an area of 1,394 m 2, it is made up of a central lawn crossed by gravelled paths and surrounded by clumps of roses; at its ends are groves of trees. There is also a play area for children enrolled in the Hôtel de Ville crèche 1, as well as a chicken coop and rabbit cages.

Historically called “Jardin de l’Hôtel-de-Ville”, it is a green space leaning against the southern facade of the Paris City Hall, along the Quai de l’Hôtel-de-Ville between the Rue de Lobau and the forecourt. It was built on the site of the former Rue des Haudriettes. It was once the private garden of the prefect of the Seine and then of the mayor of Paris. Originally closed to the public, it is open on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, from 9 a.m. to the end of the day, fromJanuary 24, 2015.

Surrounding area
The northern side of the building is located on the Rue de Rivoli. The nearby Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville (BHV) is a department store named after the Hôtel de Ville. The closest church to the Hôtel de Ville is the St-Gervais-et-St-Protais Church.

Walk towards the rue Francois Miron, passing the Church of Saint Gervais, whose origins date back to the 6th century but that was built in a 17th century style blending Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders. Note in passing through Place Saint Gervais the elm tree in memory of a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. It was under the elm tree that justice was rendered.

Rue Francois Miron, of Roman origin, led to Melun at the time of the Early Roman Empire. Remnants of this period were discovered during the levelling of the road during the 19th century. Other surrounding streets such as rue des Barres, rue de l’Hotel de Ville, and rue de Brosse were formed in the middle ages and have retained their route. This area was declared unsafe in 1960 and has been a major project of urban renewal.

At 2 -12 rue Francois Miron existed squalid medieval residences which were destroyed in 1733, permitting the building of the factory Saint Gervais in their place. Note the pattern of the wrought iron railings, still visible today, representing the arms of the parish, the St. Gervais Elm. The Couperins, famous musicians of the 17th century, also lived here.

Alexandre Ledru-Rollin was born in 1807 at 10 rue Francois Miron. He is known for entering Hotel de Ville in 1848 to proclaim the Republic. Appointed Minister of the Interior, he restored the popular vote. At 22- 16 rue Francois Miron we find the location of the first Baudoyer gate, dating from the eleventh century, at the intersection of rue Francois Miron and rue des Barres.

Rue Grenier-sur-l’Eau has preserved its original cobblestones as well as its axial stream, now animated by shops and artisans. The steeple of the church of Saint Gervais is visible in the background. Rue de l’Hotel de Ville, dating from the Middle Ages, was once called “mortellerie”; the etymology of this word derives from from the French word for mason because many masons lived there. Its origins date back to the 13th century, when masons were constructing cathedrals as well as many great European cities.

At numbers 89, 91, 95, 103, 107 and 109 of rue de l’Hotel de Ville, the street has retained some tall, narrow houses of the 17th and 18th century. The rue des Barres still has some houses built between the 16th and 18th century. It also retains some traces of earlier remains, notably at 12 rue des Barres; the structure of the Maubuisson Abbey dates from the 13th century, although it was modified in the 19th century.