Paris of Napoleon
Napoleon the Ist was the leader of France after the French revolution (read more about the Paris of the Revolution), as First Consul from 1799 until 1804, and then as Emperor until 1815. Many of his reforms, such as the Civil Code or the modern French administration, have had a long and lasting impact on France and Europe, some up until today. It would unthinkable if he there was no trace of his reign in
Paris, the capital of France. So read on if you want to learn how to get a taste of the Paris of Napoleon.
Start with Napoleon’s tomb in the Invalides
You might want to start your visit of the Paris of Napoleon by heading to the Invalides (Read more about the Invalides), where you will see Napoleon’s tomb. His body was brought back from the island of Saint Helena in 1840, 19 years after his death, on the initiative of King Louis-Philippe. Since then, Napoleon rests in the Invalides, “on the banks of the Seine among the people of France whom [he] so much loved”, as he wanted it in his testimony. The tomb lies right under the dome of the Invalides, in an uncovered and circular crypt. You will also find in the Invalides the tombs of Napoleon’s son, as well as those of his brothers Joseph and Jérôme.Book your ticket to the Invalides
Then, visit the rest of the Invalides, with the Church and the army museum
In addition to Napoleon’s tomb, the Invalides is a military hospital, but also houses a church and an army museum (more information about the different parts of the Invalides). The Church is really part of the Paris of Napoleon: it was built long before his reign, but it is decorated with flags captured from the enemy during the Napoleonic wars! The army museum retraces military history from the middle ages until today, with a special section dedicated to Napoleon. Don’t miss the painting Napoleon on the imperial throne in 1804 by Ingres or the original flag of the first regiment of the Imperial Guard, which Napoleon kissed during his farewell in 1814 in Fontainebleau.
Head to the Vendôme column
After the Invalides, the Vendôme column is the second must-see of any tour of the Paris of Napoleon. Located at the centre of the Vendôme square, this column was commissioned by Napoleon to commemorate his victory at Austerlitz, similarly to what the Roman Emperors did in the Antiquity. The column is made out of stone, but covered in bronze, with a spiraling bas-relief that represents scenes of battle and of victory. At the top of the column stands a statue of Napoleon dressed as a Roman Emperor. The bronze used for the column was the bronze from the cannons captured from the enemy at the battle of Austerlitz. There is a staircase inside the column leading to the top, but it is sadly closed to the public.
Take a closer look at the Arc of Triumph
The Arc of Triumph is probably one of Paris’ most famous monuments (Things to do next to the Arc de Triomphe), but few know that it was built on Napoleon’s initiative, to commemorate his victories. Construction started in 1806 but stopped when monarchy was reinstated (learn more about French monarchy here). It eventually restarted under King Louis-Philippe and was finished in 1836. On the Arch, you will many bas-relief showing scenes of Napoleonic battles, such as Napoleon crossing the bridge at Arcole or the battle of Aboukir for instance.
Go to the Arc of the carrousel
The Arc of the Carrousel is the “little brother” if the great Arc of Triumph. Also built by Napoleon in 1806 to celebrate his victories, it is my favourite remain of the Paris of Napoleon, with its many colours and fine architecture (more about Parisian architecture). The quadriga originally used was that from the Saint-Marc cathedral in Venice, brought back by Napoleon. But with Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, the quadriga was brought back to Venice, and a copy was installed on the Arc of the carrousel. This arc used to serve as an entrance gate to the eastern courtyard of the Tuileries palace. The latter was destroyed during the Paris Commune in 1871, but the arc remained.
On the Concorde square, look at the National Assembly on one side, the Madeleine on the other
As you stand on the Concorde square, you will see on one side the colonnade of the Madeleine, on the other that of the National Assembly. The Madeleine was commissioned by Napoleon, and was to be a temple dedicated to his military victories, but construction was finished long after his reign, and the building became a church. To match the colonnade of the Madeleine, Napoleon ordered that the back of the National Assembly, which faces the Madeleine, be covered by a similar colonnade. By looking at the two colonnades facing each other today, you really see the Paris of Napoleon.
Don’t miss the Boulevard des maréchaux
The ‘Boulevard des maréchaux’ is a set of boulevard which form a circular around Paris. They were built in 1920, when the military wall that was in place there was destroyed so as to expand the city. Each section of the ‘Boulevard des maréchaux has the name of one of Napoleon’s Marshall. Out of the 26 marshalls of Napoleon Ist, 7 do not have ‘their boulevard’, because another street in Paris has their name, or in the case of three of them (Bernadotte, Marmont and Grouchy) because they are considered to be traitors. If you are keen on Napoleon’s marshalls, then you light also want to add their tombs, in the Père Lachaise cemetery, on your tour of the Paris of Napoleon.
Visit the castle of the Malmaison
A visit of the Paris of Napoleon wouldn’t be complete without seeing the castle of the Malmaison, located in the western suburbs of Paris, which was the home of Napoleon’s first wife, the Empress Joséphine. Inside the castle, you will see furniture typical of the neo-classical empire style, which draws inspiration from the antiquity.
Additional information :
- Fun facts about Napoleon
- Fun facts about the French revolution
- Travelling to Paris soon? Explore Napoleon’s life in the Chateau de Malmaison and visit the Invalides Museum
Thank you for reading !