In the "Park it in Paris" series, I write about the city's parks - some of the best spots to relax, people-watch, and mingle with the locals.
It wouldn't be right to continue the Park it in Paris series without stopping to acknowledge one of Paris' most beautiful squares. Sure, Place des Vosges may not be a secret, but it is well known and loved with good reason.
Place des Vosges is in the Marais and has the distinction of being the oldest planned square in the city. Its example was followed throughout Europe. It was commissioned by King Henry IV and inaugurated in 1612 for the wedding of his son, Louis XIII (whose statue can be seen in the middle of the square, mounted on horseback). The square was unique at the time because the style of the building facades were designed to be uniform and harmonious, featuring all that gorgeous red brick.
The square was first called Place Royale, a place for the wealthy. Two of the houses on the square were for the king and queen (the two highest ones), although they never used by royalty. Before this square was established, the Hôtel de Tournelles was located here which did serve as a royal residence. The Marais still bears hints of its past royal inhabitants, like the street name "rue de Parc Royal" not too far from Place des Vosges.
If you're still following and not tuning out my slight history geek-out, you might be wondering why the square is no longer referred to by its initial name Place Royale. A few names changes occurred during/after the Revolution, until the name Place des Vosges was settled on by Napoleon. He needed the country to pay taxes and renamed the square as recognition to the first department of France to pay the tax. (Vosges is in the east, close to Germany.)
Although the royalty is long gone, purchasing a property on this square nowadays is some of the most expensive real estate in the city per square meter. But thankfully for us common folk, we can still enter the park for free and enjoy the serene setting.
If I set out to have a long, leisurely picnic in Paris, I'm most likely headed for Parc des Buttes-Chaumont or to a spot along the Seine (often on Île Saint-Louis). But if I'm looking to take a shorter break, possibly one to satisfy my sweet tooth, you'll find me here. In fact, my preferred method of snacking on Place des Vosges makes me feel like royalty. See Exhibit A:
And the next time you visit Place des Vosges, don't forget that Victor Hugo's house is accessible to visit, as a free museum! It's not too large so a visit there won't take much time, but take a moment to reflect on this historic spot - it was his home at the time when he wrote Les Misérables.
Have you ever been to Place des Vosges? What did you do there?
PLAN YOUR TRIP:
Place des Vosges, 75004 Paris, France
Looking for a snack to bring into the park to enjoy? Three options are -
Café Pouchkine, 2 rue des Francs-Bourgeois - the decadent Russian/French pastry shop opened up a shop in the Marais in December 2013. Even if you don't purchase a pastry, you must stop in for a peek at those beautiful works of art...but really, why stop there? (No seating, take-away only.) Open daily, Monday-Friday 10:30am-7:30pm / Sat, Sun 10:00am-8:15pm
Amorino gelato, 1 rue des Francs Bourgeois - part of a chain of gelato shops, always offering a delicious and refreshing treat on a warm day (or a cold one at that!)