Situated right across the road from the Louvre, Palais Royal is a chic garden where all the Parisians come to hang out. And with wide open spaces, beautiful gardens, and the adjacent Colonnes de Buren, it’s well worth a visit when you’re in Paris. After all, the Palais, gardens and covered arcades found here are conveniently located in the 1e arrondissement of the city, just a short walk from Rue de Rivoli.
Palais Royal and Palais Royal Gardens
Once the personal residence of Cardinal Richelieu (yep, the guy from ‘The Three Musketeers’), the Palais Royal has played a prolonged role in the history of Paris. From its first inception in 1629 by acclaimed architect Jacques Lemercier, the Palace has seen centuries worth of history unfold.
Originally named Palais Cardinal, the building, accompanying gardens and courtyards passed into the king’s ownership upon the death of Cardinal Richelieu. From this point onwards, the palace ceased to be called Palais Cardinal, and was renamed ‘Palais Royal’.
The following year, in 1643, the King died, leaving the Palace to Queen Mother of Austria. She lived there with her children; one of which was to be the future King of France, Louis XIV. Not long after this, much of the Palace came into the possession of the House of Orleans (the same family who owned Chantilly).
In the 1780s, the Palace and gardens were greatly redeveloped. Additional columns and passages were added to the Gardens, and these additions can still be seen today. It was at this point that the Gardens of Palais Royal were opened to the public. Arcades (consisting of 145 boutiques) were also added to the gardens. These new shops included stores, hairdressers, and even Paris’ first restaurant, the Grand Véfour.
Visit Palais Royal
Now, the buildings that once formed Palais Royal house the Constitutional Council and Ministry of Culture among other things. Today, although the palace is closed to the public, Palais Royal Garden is a welcome respite from the crowds of Paris. It’s free to visit and usually open during daylight hours.
The gardens are the perfect place to catch up with friends, enjoy a picnic or grab a coffee. In a place where green space can sometimes be lacking, there are plenty of trees, roses, and even some grass. It’s also here where you’ll find Café Kitsuné; a cute little café that makes some of the best matcha lattés you can find anywhere in the city.
Colonnes de Buren
But perhaps what makes Palais Royal so special, and sets it apart from other public spaces in the city are the Colonnes de Buren. Also known as ‘Les Deux Plateaux’, the iconic artworks are tucked away in the very middle of Palais-Royal. Created by French artist Daniel Buren in 1985, they are located in the Palais Royal inner courtyard (Cour d’Honneur) and were controversial from the very outset.
The columns stand on what was once a parking lot. The complete art piece comprises of dozens of striped columns, all of varying heights. Painted in black and white horizontal stripes, the columns cut a striking image in the stone courtyard. Although the columns were created to disguise a ventilation shaft, they have since become an iconic art work in the city.
Today, the columns are free to visit and located not far from the Louvre. It’s considered good luck to toss coins into the pools of water that form at the base of the columns and can be seen via the ventilation shafts which you walk on. If you want to get good photos (without too many people in them), make sure to head to the columns earlier in the day, rather than later.
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Sophie Nadeau is currently based in the UK. With a love of French chateaux, photography and all things pastry related, she runs www.solosophie.com when she's not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming her weight in French food.
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