Sightseeing In The First Arrondissement

After the Ile de la Cite, the 1st arrondissement has the most historic monuments and tourist attractions in Paris. However, it also combines them with relatively recent developments. So, you have both the Louvre (started in the 12th century) and Place Vendome (18th C).

To cover everything "the first" has to offer, it's probably easiest to break it into its 4 quartiers:

Quartier Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois

Named after the former Royal church east of the Louvre, this quartier is made up of the area south of the Rue de Rivoli (plus the Place Dauphine on the Ile de la Cite).

As it's the oldest part of the arrondissement, it's not surprising that it's the part with the most intersting tourist sites:

- Place Dauphine: you'll probably be visiting the Ile de la Cite at some point (maybe to see Notre Dame or Pont Neuf), so you should also go to see Place Dauphine, which is the oldest square in Paris - and very pretty.

- The Louvre: home to almost 35,000 artworks.

- Jardin des Tuileries: Italian-style garden by the same gardener who designed the Versailles gardens.

Quartier Les Halles

This is the top right corner of the arrondissement (it's bordered by the Rue de Rivoli to the south, the Rue du Louvre to the west, Rue Etienne-Marcel to the north and the Boulevard de Sebastopol to the east).

Although this area has a fascinating history, it's an area that's been remodeled over the last 100 years and that means many of the areas of historical interest have gone.

However, one thing still stands: the church of St Eustache. It's not in the same league as Notre Dame or Sacre Coeur, but it's worth a visit if you happen to be in the neighborhood... particularly for this sculpture in front of it:

The Sculpture of the Head and Hand outside St Eustache Cathedral, Paris 1er Arrondissement

Quartier Palais-Royal

The Palais-Royal district is to the west of Les Halles (starting from the Rue du Louvre) and extends to Avenue de l'Opera.

The only "must see" tourist attraction in this quartier is the gardens of the Palais Royal.

Quartier Place Vendome

This is the western end of the 1er Arrondissement (north of the Rue du Louvre).

There is really only one tourist draw in this quartier: Place Vendome itself.

The famous column was made out of cannon parts taken from France's victory at Austerlitz.

However, few people realise that the column was dismantled in the 1871s by communards led by the painter Gustave Courbet. When their revolution failed, Courbet was condemned to pay the restoration costs.

The total fine was 323,091fr, broken down into 33 annual payments of 10,000fr - this was the 1870s and that was a huge sum of money and would have ruined the painter. However, Courbet died of liver failure just one day before the first payment was due!

So, when you visit Place Vendome - to look at the column or to gaze longingly at the rolexes in the jewelry shop windows, think of Gustave Courbet and his communist friends.

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