The Hotel de Ville in Paris is an imposing and grand building a stone’s throw away from The Notre Dame. Many tourists walk past the Hotel De Ville, rushing towards other sites, but I would actually recommend taking your time to look up at the intricacies of this neo renaissance facade. If you have the time, you should try to visit the function room (a miniature copy of the Hall of Mirrors) or one of the many free exhibitions held in the Hotel de Ville every year.
It is hard to imagine that the location where the town hall is located was no more than a pebble beach on the Seine until local merchants created the Port de Grève in 1141 to relieve the busy port in Paris. The square next to the harbor was known as the “Place de Grève”. This Place de Greve is where the Paris City Hall – Hotel de Ville, is located until this day.
The first city council was elected in 1246 when the Parisian trade guilds elected a group of representatives to consult with the king on behalf of the city. There was no municipal building until 1357 when one of the representatives, a water trader, bought a house on the Place de Grève. The house consisted of two floors and had two towers and a gallery. The building, known as the “House with the Pillars”, was used as a meeting room for city council members. It was not until 1553 that King Francis I decided to officially allocate a building as the Town Hall of Paris. The construction of the very first Hotel de Ville would not be finished until 1628 and was erected in Renaissance style.
A revolting commune, which occupied the town hall for several months, set fire to the building in May 1871, destroying not only the building but also all major city archives. Shortly after federal troops chased away the commune, the government launched a competition to build a new town hall.
The architects Théodore Ballu and Edouard Deperthes were chosen as winners thanks to their plan to rebuild the Hôtel de Ville in its original form. Thanks to funds obtained through national contributions, the construction of the town hall was started in 1873. Nine years later, the new Hôtel de Ville was officially inaugurated.
The design of Hotel de Ville, Paris
The building is decorated with 108 statues, each representing important Parisians. Another 30 statues represent French cities. The clock on the central tower is decorated with some female sculptures that represent the Seine, the city of Paris, “Work” and “Education”.
The interior of the town hall is decorated in a pompous Imperial style. The grand staircase, the long Salle des Fêtes (ballroom), the painted ceilings and walls, the painted stained glass windows and the countless lusters are worth mentioning.
Place de Greve, Paris
From 1310, the square, then called Place de Grève, became the place where most executions were carried out. Here people were beheaded, quartered, cooked or burned alive. A guillotine was placed here in 1792. It would prove very useful during the French Revolution. The last execution on the square took place in 1830. The square was then renamed “Place de l’Hôtel de Ville”. The square was later enlarged by Baron Haussmann – as part of his modernization of Paris. In 1982 the square became pedestrianised making it a favourite route to walk to The Notre Dame.
Visiting Hotel de Ville in Paris
Not many people will know this, but you can actually visit the Hotel de Ville in Paris. There are many exhibitions hosted at the Hotel de Ville and during some times in the year you will be able to take guided tours through the Hotel de Ville. At the moment all individual visits to the Hotel de Ville itself have been suspended until further notice, but you will be able to enter the building when visiting any free exhibition going on in the Hotel de Ville.
Other sights and points of interest near Hotel de Ville, Paris
- Saint-Jacques Tower
- Saint Merry Catholic Church
- Stravinsky Fountain
- Les Caves du Louvre
- The Herbe Museum
- The Centre Pompidou
- Mémorial de la Shoah
- Musée de la Magie
- Hotel de Mayenne
- Maison de Victor Hugo
- Place Sainte-Catherine
- Ancien Grand Béguinage de Paris
- Agoudas Hakehilos Synagogue
- Carnavalet Museum
- Cognacq-Jay Museum
- Laboratoire Reptiles et Amphibiens
- Arab World Institute
- Cluny Museum – National Museum of the Middle Ages
- Luxembourg Palace
- Jardin de Tuileries
- Église Saint-Sulpice
- Institut de France
- Statue Of the Second Republic
- Hotel de Tesse