The French Revolution Landmarks Walking Tour, Paris (Self Guided)

The French Revolution had a huge impact on France's history as it gave rise to a radical democratic republic and resulted in violence during the Reign of Terror. A lot of Paris' buildings were damaged beyond repair in the course of the Revolution. The sites they occupied are of a great historical value now. This guide is to highlight the landmarks of the French Revolution that remain.
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The French Revolution Landmarks Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: The French Revolution Landmarks Walking Tour
Guide Location: France » Paris (See other walking tours in Paris)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 4 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 10.5 km
Author: karen
Place de la Bastille

1) Place de la Bastille

This square used to be the place where the notorious Bastille prison stand. On July 14, 1789, the Bastille was stormed by a crowd reinforced with a rebellious elemant of the National Guard. The “Storming of the Bastille” marked the start of the French Revolution. The prison was completely destroyed during the Revolution and nothing remains of the old building.

A square, known as Place de la Bastille, was built in its place to commemorate the revolutionary events and celebrate victory of democracy over tyranny. Special paving stones have been used to mark the original site of the fortress. Today, the square regularly hosts musical concerts and other open-air events. Due to its historical importance, the square has been the venue of many political demonstrations over the years.

The 52 meter high monument standing on the square is Colonne de Juillet for commemorating another revolution in 1830 during which king Charles X was replaced by king Louis-Philippe. It is to honor the 504 fallen victims during the three day revolution.

On your tour of Paris, make sure to visit this historic square and enjoy the sights and the history behind them.
Sight description based on wikipedia
City Hall (Hotel de Ville)

2) City Hall (Hotel de Ville)

Hôtel de Ville is the City Hall of Paris, the largest such building in Europe and one of its most enduring landmarks. Historically speaking, the Paris city government operated in the house owned by whoever was the major of the city. It wasn't until the 16th century that the then king, Francis I, decided to build a dedicated City Hall. That first Hôtel de Ville, designed in the Renaissance style, was fully completed some four centuries ago.

The Hôtel de Ville has been the headquarters of the French Revolution; the place of gathering for Robespierre and his supporters. It was also here that Robespierre was arrested, after a year of his harsh “Rule of Terror”, during which anyone who opposed the revolutionary government was arrested or guillotined.

Likewise, Hôtel de Ville was the headquarters of the Paris Commune. When their defeat became increasingly imminent and the French army approached the building, the Communards set fire to the building destroying it along with all of the city archives. The exterior was then rebuilt in the 19th century following the original design, while the inside was based on an entirely new one.

The building is decorated with 108 statues, representing famous Parisians such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Charles Perrault, Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, and others. Thirty other statues represent French cities. The clock at the central tower is adorned with several feminine sculptures representing the Seine River, the city of Paris, “Work” and “Education”.

Although this City Hall is not very accessible to the public, it has a large presence in the daily life of citizens, organizing exhibitions, film festivals, and other various events throughout Paris. Inside the building, there are two rooms reserved for art exhibitions, one of which is almost always dedicated to photography and the other more to art in general. There is almost always some kind of event or exhibition happening in the square facing the building, but the architecture alone makes a stop-by here well worth the time.
Sight description based on wikipedia
La Conciergerie

3) La Conciergerie (must see)

La Conciergerie is set on the island called Île de la Cité, in the middle of the river Seine in Paris. King Philippe IV chose the location in the early 14th century to build a palace that would symbolize his power. The palace was used by the Paris parliament and administration and had the first public clock in the country, installed around 1370. Recurrently added to and rebuilt up until the early 20th centuries, today’s palace is a fascinating conglomeration of buildings.

The Conciergerie part of the palace owes its name to a concierge who was nominated by the king to maintain law and order in the city. In 1391, the building was partially transformed into a prison housing both regular criminals and political prisoners. Their treatment depended totally on their wealth, social status and personal connections. The most affluent were usually given separate cells with a bed, desk and reading/writing material. Less rich ones settled for more modest cells, called pistols, furnished with a rough bed and a table, while the poorest ones were kept in dark, damp and vermin-infested cubicles, known as oubliettes. Most prisoners did not stay long, as the carts that took the condemned to the guillotine left from a palace nearby. During the French Revolution, hundreds of prisoners in the Conciergerie were killed.

Later, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Conciergerie continued to be used as a prison for VIP detainees, the most notable of whom were Queen Marie Antoinette and Napoleon III. Later, Marie Antoinette's cell was made into a chapel and is currently open for public viewing, together with several portraits of her and her final days before being sent to the guillotine.

Why You Should Visit:
An absolutely fascinating Gothic landmark where you can learn about the French Revolution and other historic moments.

To gain more information and a better idea of what the rooms looked like when they were in use, investing a few euros in the little 'Histopad' on site is highly recommended.
You will also be pleased to know that along with the rich history of La Conciergerie, it is possible to visit the neighboring Sainte-Chapelle on a combined ticket.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

4) Palais-Royal (must see)

The Palais-Royal, originally called the Palais-Cardinal, is a palace and an associated garden located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. Facing the Place du Palais-Royal, it stands opposite the north wing of the Louvre, and its famous forecourt, screened with columns and, since 1986, containing Daniel Buren's site-specific art-piece, Les Deux Plateaux, known as Les Colonnes de Buren. Originally, the Palais Cardinal was the residence of Cardinal Richelieu, who had hired the architect Jacques Lemercier to design it. Construction was completed in 1629. Today it houses the Conseil d'État, the Constitutional Council, and the Ministry of Culture. At the rear of the garden are the older buildings of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France with a collection of more than 6,000,000 books, documents, maps, and prints; most of the collections have been moved to more modern settings elsewhere.

Why You Should Visit:
A little seclusion in a busy part of town that really transports you to a different place and time – imagining what court life must have been like.
Ideal for a day/night walk (much more beautiful by night).

On the other side of the garden is the trendy Rue des Petits-Champs with nice wine bars, and the beautiful Place des Victoires.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7am-11pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Pavillon de Flore

5) Pavillon de Flore

The Pavillon de Flore is a section of the Palais du Louvre in Paris, France. Its construction began in 1607, during the reign of Henry IV, and has had numerous renovations since. The Pavillon de Flore was built to extend the Grande Galerie, which formed the south face of the Palais du Louvre, to the Palais des Tuileries, thus linking the two palaces. During the French Revolution, the Pavillon de Flore, situated at the southwest corner of the Palais des Tuileries at the time, was renamed Pavillon de l'Égalité (House of Equality). Under its new name, it became the meeting point for several of the Committees of the period. Many other committees of the Revolutionary Government occupied the Palais des Tuileries (referred to by contemporaries as the Palace of the Nation) during the time of the National Convention. Notable occupiers included the Monetary Committee, the Account and Liquidation Examination Committee. However, the most famous was the Committee of Public Safety.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Tuileries Garden

6) Tuileries Garden (must see)

The setting for some of the most turbulent events of French history, the Tuileries Garden is today one of the loveliest parks of Paris. It is also the most central of the city's gardens, located right next to the Seine in the “Grand Axe,” the triumphal axis that stretches from Place de la Concorde to the Grand Arche de la Défense. The park is wholly flat with the exception of some smaller gardens and elevated walkways on the sides and there is a circular fountain in the center that keeps the place a bit cooler in the summertime.

The garden was created for Queen Catherine de Médicis who, in the 16th century, began construction of a palace just outside the western walls of the capital, which took the name of the tile factories (or “tuileries”) it displaced. Completed in its initial state in the 1580s, the palace consisted of a symmetrical row of five classical pavilions. In the 19th century, Napoleon joined the Tuileries to the Louvre to create one, huge super-palace; this megalomaniacal project was barely completed when, during the bloody weeks of the 1871 Commune, the Palais des Tuileries was set on fire. It burned for approximately three days, yet it took eleven years before a decision was made to completely destroy the former royal palace, much to the horror of many who wanted it to be restored.

Despite this, the gardens that were created for the palace have survived and still retain the general outline of their original masterplan. In the 1990s, they were renewed by landscape architects as part of the Grand Louvre project and are free to access. You can lounge in green chairs, have an ice cream or a drink, rent small boats to float around the pond and enjoy some calm before entering the nearby Louvre or resuming your stroll down through Paris. From the pond near Place de la Concorde, you can see the Eiffel Tower and also a lot of beautiful bird life. Don't just stay in just one place – explore a variety of views and spots, as each provides a different perspective!

Why You Should Visit:
It's free, you can lounge in green chairs, have an ice cream or a drink, rent small boats to float around the pond and enjoy some calm before entering the nearby Louvre or resuming your stroll down through Paris.
From the pond near Place de la Concorde, you can see the Eiffel Tower and also a lot of beautiful bird life.

Don't just stay in just one place – explore a variety of views and spots, as each provides a different perspective!

Gated Area Opening Hours:
7am-9pm (Apr-May, Sep); 7am-11pm (Jun-Aug); 7:30am-7:30pm (Oct-Mar)
Sight description based on wikipedia
Place de la Concorde

7) Place de la Concorde (must see)

Place de la Concorde is a major public square in Paris; in fact, the largest and most monumental of the city's squares. It is best known for its 230-ton Egyptian obelisk which at over 3000 years old can be said to be the most ancient monument in Paris. The obelisk is flanked on both sides by magnificent fountains constructed at the time of its erection. Intended to celebrate French naval know-how, these fountains are allegories of sea and river navigation. Recently restored, they have now regained their original exuberance. Around the place are also planted 20 rostral columns – thus continuing the naval theme and also symbolizing Paris, whose emblem is a ship's prow.

Concorde Square was commissioned to the glory of absolute power before serving as the theatre of its downfall. It used to showcase an equestrian statue of King Louis XVI, which was torn down during the French Revolution when the area was renamed "Place de la Révolution". The new revolutionary government erected the guillotine in the square, and the first notable to be executed there was King Louis XVI. Other important figures guillotined on the site, often in front of cheering crowds, were Queen Marie Antoinette, Princess Élisabeth of France, and Maximilien Robespierre. The guillotine was most active during the "Reign of Terror", in the summer of 1794, when in a single month more than 1,300 people were executed. A year later, when the revolution was taking a more moderate course, the guillotine was removed from the square.

Today, major avenues converge and pass through Place de la Concorde so vehicle traffic can always be expected; however, the roundabout with the three important monuments – obelisk and fountains – is well worth viewing. The square is sometimes used for large scale events and festivals like Christmas markets and other festival activities.

Why You Should Visit:
Great place for taking photos and a stroll; centrally located so you can fan out from here to just about any place in Paris.

In the square, there is a big Ferris wheel, which offers breathtaking views over the Seine river, Louvre Museum, Jardin des Tuileries, Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower... This wheel turns three times more than the London Eye and costs much less!
Sight description based on wikipedia
Assemblee Nationale

8) Assemblee Nationale

Assemblée Nationale, the lower chamber of the French parliament, is housed in the building originally known as Palais Bourbon (the Bourbon Palace). Its construction started in 1722 under the supervision of Italian architect, Lorenzo Giardini, to a design by himself and Hardouin Mansart. After Giardini's death in 1724, Jacques Gabriel took over the project and completed it in 1728. The name of the palace refers to the Royal house of Bourbon, who were ousted by the republicans during the French Revolution. The Palais Bourbon was renovated and enlarged in 1765. In 1768, the adjoining Hôtel de Lassay was also embraced into the complex. The latter was declared a national property during the French Revolution. At that time, the National Assembly, which existed from June 17 until July 9, 1789, was a transitional body between the Estates General and the National Constituent Assembly.

Between 1804 and 1807, Napoleon Bonaparte added to the palace a colonnaded front in a bid to mirror the Madeleine temple on the opposite bank of the Seine. Since 1830, the Palais Bourbon has been the seat of the Assemblée Nationale. If you want to visit the building, you must arrange an advance reservation.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Les Invalides

9) Les Invalides (must see)

Les Invalides is an enormous complex of buildings in Paris containing museums and monuments relating to the military history of France. It was originally built as a hospital and retirement home for aged and unwell war veterans. The complex had fifteen courtyards, with the largest reserved for military parades. Completed in the 17th century, it once housed up to 4,000 war veterans. Some very important generals and war heroes of France, including Napoleon Bonaparte, are buried here.

The most striking feature of Les Invalides is the Royal Chapel, where the remains of Napoleon are kept. It features a huge dome, inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and is a typically French interpretation of Baroque, the embodiment of what was described as a “specific combination of grandeur and elegances that French masters excelled in, cooler and less illusionistic than the Italian Baroque it drew inspiration from, more Classical, but nonetheless just as spectacular”. The interior of the dome was of course a major opportunity for a display of French mastery in the decorative arts, and an army of artists and craftsmen worked on the project.

The complex is also home to three museums, the largest being Le Musee de l’Armee which recounts military history from the early Middle Ages to the Second World War. The weapons, uniforms, and maps displayed are not only from the western world but also from Oriental countries like Turkey, China, Japan, and India.

If you go on the last hours before closing you will have more of the space to observe on your own. The café on site is run by the famous patisserie Angelina's, so you could have some tea and cake for a nice break.

Why You Should Visit:
From Napoleon's campaigns to the world wars, it is all there for you to see. The exhibits cover not just the military aspects of the wars, but also their economic, social and political aspects, their causes and the aftermath.
Then, to top it all off, there is the tomb of Napoleon. The sheer size of the dome and of the sarcophagus gives an idea of Napoleon's importance to the French and the world. Unmissable and really grand!

If you go on the last hours before closing you will have more of the space to observe on your own.
The café on site is run by the famous patisserie Angelina's, so you could have some tea and cake for a nice break.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Palais de Luxembourg

10) Palais de Luxembourg (must see)

The Palais du Luxembourg in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, north of the Jardin du Luxembourg, is the seat of the French Senate. The palace was built for Marie de Médicis, mother of King Louis XIII of France and of Gaston, Duc d'Orléans, just near the site of an old hôtel particulier owned by François-Henri de Montmorency, Duc de Piney-Luxembourg, hence its name (now called Petit Luxembourg, home of the president of French Senate). Marie de Médicis desired to make a building similar to her native Florence's Palazzo Pitti, and to this effect had the main architect Salomon de Brosse send architect Clément Metézeau to Florence to obtain drawings. A series of twenty-four triumphant canvases were commissioned from Peter Paul Rubens. A series of paintings executed for her Cabinet doré ("gilded study") was identified by Anthony Blunt in 1967.

During the Revolution, the Luxembourg Palace was transformed into a prison. Major figures of the Revolution including Danton and Camille Desmoulins (the instigator of the French revolution) were detained here in March 1794.

The Palace is only open to the public when the Senate does not meet. It is worth a waiting at a queue, having brilliant halls with painted ceilings, large libraries, rare paintings and statues. Also, you have the privilege to see the Senate Hall, where French senators debate important state problems.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Le Procope Cafe

11) Le Procope Cafe

Le Procope Café is the oldest café of Paris. It was opened in 1686 and was a hub of the artistic and literary community in 18th and 19th century Paris.

Le Procope Café served the famous guests including Napoleon, Voltaire, Rousseau, Benjamin Franklin, John Paul Jones and Thomas Jefferson. The cafe exhibits some interesting items like Napoleon’s hat and the last letter from Marie Antoinette to Louis XV. It is believed that this was the place where Marie Antoinette’s death warrant was signed.

Walking Tours in Paris, France

Create Your Own Walk in Paris

Create Your Own Walk in Paris

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Religious Sights Walking Tour

Religious Sights Walking Tour

Paris is one of the cities that can fairly be considered a religious destination because of the number of churches that one is able to visit here. Reports show that, for instance, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, recorded 13.65 million visits in 2006, and the number is increasing every year. This is a tour that includes some of the most beautiful Christian relics located in the center of Paris -...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 km
1st Arrondissement Royal Paris Walk

1st Arrondissement Royal Paris Walk

The capital of France is made up of 20 administrative districts, commonly referred to as “arrondissements”. The 1st arrondissement of Paris sits mainly on the right bank of the River Seine and is the home of royal palaces and lush gardens. This itinerary includes Jardin des Tuileries, Palais-Royal, La Conciergerie and many other prominent sights.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.3 km
Hotel-de-Ville Walking Tour

Hotel-de-Ville Walking Tour

This tour takes you to explore the 4th arrondissement of Paris (aka "arrondissement de l'Hôtel-de-Ville") visiting The City Hall (Hôtel de Ville), Notre Dame Cathedral, Maison de Victor Hugo and other notable sights of the district otherwise renowned for its cute little streets, cafes, and shops. Rather fashionable as such, it is also regarded by the locals as expensive and...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 km
5th Arrondissement Latin Quarter Walking Tour

5th Arrondissement Latin Quarter Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 km
Champs-Elysees Nightlife

Champs-Elysees Nightlife

A haven for the arts in Europe, with its influence felt worldwide, Paris boasts a steady stream of visitors to its fine city. After dark, guests to the City of Light can enjoy a multitude of great nightlife establishments that is sure to appeal to anyone looking for a hot night on the town. Whether its live DJs spinning intense electronic beats or a live acoustic jazz band you’re looking for...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 km
Souvenirs Shopping Walk II

Souvenirs Shopping Walk II

It would be a pity to leave Paris without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. Being one of the world's premier shopping cities and a great "get your cash out" destination, Paris attracts thousands of shopaholics every year. Even people who hate shopping, enjoy doing it in Paris. In addition to fabulous designer shops and luxury items, it...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 km

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Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Paris for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Paris has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money visiting Paris's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the Paris Pass, Paris Explorer Pass, Paris Museum Pass, or Paris Night Pass.

A city pass combines all or multiple Paris' top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows you to skip the lines at major attractions, thus saving you precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Paris hotels that are conveniently located, but at the same time, also not so ridiculously expensive: Novotel Paris Les Halles, Les Rives de Notre-Dame, 9Confidentiel.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Paris, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of Paris typically costs from around US$20 up to US$200 or more per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off double-decker to enjoy sightseeing of Paris from the open top of the bus, listening in the headsets to the commentary provided in a variety of languages, and be able get off at any of the stops along the two interconnecting routes (your ticket is valid for both).

- Alternatively, you can cruise along the river Seine on a similar hop-on hop-off sightseeing boat viewing Paris's top attractions from a different angle, able to get on and off as often as you want at any of the eight stops along the Seine riverbanks. The ticket is valid for one day (24 hrs) and may be upgraded to two days (48 hrs).

- Embark on a self-balancing Segway tour – this usually lasts about 3 hours and allows you to get a real sense of the city. Most people (even those aged 70+) find it quite fun and convenient, enabling to cover much more ground than you otherwise would have done by walking.

- Pedal your way around Paris on a bike tour. In the course of 4 hours you will visit the city's most spectacular sights stopping at each of them for a bit of rest, watching the surroundings, and learning much about the city from an informative group leader.

- Take a walk around Paris with a knowledgeable guide for an alternative view of the French capital. Over the course of this 2-hour walking tour you will get insights and hear stories about every major classic sight of this fascinating city. A complete overview of Paris from the ground up!

- Come see the best of the French capital in just one day in a combo of a Seine river cruise and historical walk of Paris. You may start either with the Eiffel Tower or the Notre-Dame Cathedral making your way around the iconic sights of the city: the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Grand Palais, Alexandre III bridge, Invalides, Concorde Square, Orsay Museum, etc.

- Missing out on the French food, whilst in Paris, would be worse than a crime – it would be a mistake! If you don't want to make such a mistake, consider a private 3-hour food tour of Paris complete with a set of 10 unforgettable tastings the memories of which will last you a lifetime. Just make sure to bring along your appetite to make the most of the savory treats awaiting!

- Live a chocoholic’s dream right at the heart of Paris! Follow your sweet tooth sense on this 2-hour guided “chocolate walk” in central Paris visiting some of the best chocolate boutiques of the French capital, learning about peculiar chapters in the history of the city and the place delectable chocolate played in it. Adding to the excitement is a round of free tastings.

Day Trips

If you have a full or half day to spare whilst in Paris, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations, like Versailles, Fontainebleau, Champagne region, Loire valley, Normandy, or a combo of Honfleur and Giverny. For as little as US$90+ to US$200+ per person you will get a chance to discover highlights of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, see the favorite residence of the French royalty, world-famous vineyards, charming castles, and historic battlefields of World War II. For any of these tours you may be picked up either straight from your hotel or any other place in Paris, and transported by a comfortable air-conditioned minivan or train (whenever applicable) to the destination of your choice and back again.