Place Des Vosges

Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, northwest of the Bastille, Right Bank
Paris, France

Contributed by Project for Public Spaces

Outdoor square bordered by 39 red brick buildings with ground-level arcades.

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Why It Works

With its four quadrants bisected by paths, the Place des Vosges is a simple, quiet space amidst a bustling Parisian neighborhood. Its success can be attributed to its integration with the adjacent buildings, whose ground floors are occupied by shops and cafes, and the arcades that are the site of market activity - much of the activity centers around shopping and dining in the nearby antique stores, book and record shops, and cafes. The area surrounding the Place is kept under strict zoning regulations by the local government to protect the look of the square, the oldest in Paris.

History & Background

The streets were incredibly filthy, animals left their waste, respectable women would never be caught dead or alive in these streets. So this was the first time that someone had the idea of a public square where people could gather. --from Pariswalks, by Alison Landes & Sonia Landes

Built in the 17th century, Place des Vosges is the oldest square in Paris. It was constructed under Henry IV between 1605 and 1612 after Henry II was accidentally wounded in the eye by the lance of his captain of guards, during a tournament. After ten days of agony, he died and his widow, Catherine de' Medici, persuaded her son to demolish the Hotel Des Tournelles, where both Louis XI and Louis XII died.

The vacated space eventually became a horse market until the area was gradually taken over by aristocracy and became a favorite spot for French nobility. The square was probably designed by Baptiste du Cerceau and was renamed by Napoleon, after the first department to pay its taxes in 1800. It continues to be one of the most pleasant squares in Paris.

In the 1960s, the French government undertook a major restoration project in the Marais quarter that now stretches between the Beaubourg and the Bastille. Their efforts were obviously successful: This is now one of the hottest neighborhoods in Paris for shopping, dining and trendy living. The medieval streets make for fascinating strolling, and there's plenty of window shopping as well: Next door to Middle Eastern spice stores are haute couture boutiques, and cozy cafes edge up to antique emporiums. As the center of Paris's Jewish community, the Marais is also the site of synagogues, delicatessens and kosher butcher shops.

Contact Info:

Mayor Office of the 4th district 2 place Baudoyer75181 Paris cedex 04 Phone: 011 331 44 54 75 04 Fax: 011 331 44 54 75 54

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