You can’t visit Paris without walking by the City hall in the heart of the capital. If you didn’t succeed in booking a group tour two months in advance (!) or if the queue is to long on European Heritage Days, you can still hang around the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville while gazing at Europe’s biggest municipal building. But do you know about its story?
Paris first city hall was called the Maison aux Piliers [House of Pillars] and built in 1357 and the Parisian municipal institutions are managed from here. But in the 16th century, the House of Pillars falls into ruin. It’s replaced, following Francis I’s decisions, by a palace of Renaissance style built between 1533 and 1628 according to plans by Italian architect Boccador. From 1837 to 1848 the Hotel de Ville is renovated and extended by Godde and Lesueur. For the decoration, master artists from the time such as Delacroix and Ingres!
And yet, Paris Hotel de Ville we know today is absolutely not this one, but a building built from 1874 to 1882. But what happened in the meantime? The Paris Commune of course! On May 24, 1871, the Hotel de Ville is stormed by Communards, the Paris Commune is announced there, and a group of communards ends up by setting fire to the palace. Archives and collections are burnt to the ground.
It took only three years to re-build the new Hotel de Ville according to the plans of the former building but extended and its height is raised. A quick construction for such a majestic building, conducted by architects Théodore Ballu and Deperthes. On the façade, we can see the statues of major characters from the History of France (savants, politicians, industrials) and other artists such as Voltaire, Molière, La Bruyère, Perrault, Delacroix, de Musset, La Rochefoucault and Boileau.
Known as the Place de Grève, then the Place de la Maison Commune during the French Revolution, the square set in front of the Hotel de Ville is named the Place de l’Hotel de Ville permanently in 1803. In 2013, the words “Esplanade de la Libération” [Esplanade of the Liberation] are joined to “Place de l’Hotel de Ville” in tribute to the resistance fighters, free French people, allies and all the insurgents who freed Paris during the night from August 24 to 25, 1944.
Hôtel de Ville
Place de l'Hôtel de ville
75004 Paris 4