Hôtel de Ville. City Hall in Paris, France

Hôtel de Ville

City Hall in Paris, France

Paris - Hôtel de ville II Photo © Jean Lemoine

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Hôtel de Ville

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The Hôtel de Ville, the City Hall of Paris, is where the local administration and government is housed. It is located in the fourth arrondissement on the Place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville (Wikipedia Article), formerly known as Place de Grève. It has been the seat of the Paris City Council since as early as 1357 and, just like the city, it has had its share of turbulent times. Besides housing the local administration and the Mayor of Paris, the building also serves a purpose as a venue for large, official receptions.

The City Hall is an enormous building and looks like a palace. Its exterior is decorated with 108 statues depicting renowned Parisians and 30 statues representing other cities in France. The interior is lavishly decorated and designed in a pompous Third Empire style. The features are huge chandeliers, stained-glass windows, and painted ceilings.

History

The first municipality was established in 1246 when the trade guilds of Paris elected aldermen to represent them in front of the King. The city remained without a municipal building until 1357, when Étienne Marcel (Wikipedia Article), who was provost of the merchants, bought a house on Place de Grève. It was a two-storied building, known as The House of Pillars, with two towers and arcades and served as a meeting place for the aldermen. Since that year, the Paris city administration has been located at the same spot.

King Francis I decided to give Paris a city hall worthy of its statute in 1533; at the time, Paris was the largest city in Europe and the largest Christian city in the world. The House of Pillars was demolished and a new, grand, Renaissance-style city hall was built. It was finished in 1628. The building was the stage of several significant events during the French Revolution and remained unchanged until 1835, when two wings were added.

In 1870, the building was overtaken by a revolting commune. They occupied the Hôtel de Ville for several months and eventually set it on fire. The fire destroyed the entire building, including the city archives, and left only the outer walls standing. Reconstruction started almost immediately, in 1873 and was completed in 1892.

The Place de Grève was a public site where people gathered, mostly to watch public executions. It was the place where the majority of executions in the city took place. People were beheaded, cooked, crushed, quartered, or burned at the stake there. In 1792, a guillotine was installed, which was used many times during the French Revolution. Executions stopped in 1830 and the square was renamed Place de l’Hôtel de Ville.

Architecture and Features

The Hôtel de Ville was reconstructed according to the looks of the former 16th-century Renaissance building. The interior, however, was completely redesigned in lavish 1880s style.

A major feature of the building is the clock at the central tower. The ceremonial doors underneath the clock are adorned by allegorical feminine sculptures that depict science and art. Other sculptures represent the City of Paris and the River Seine (Wikipedia Article). Numerous sculptures decorate every façade of the building. There are more than 300 sculptures in total, created by about 230 different sculptors. They all depict famous Parisian, lions, and other allegorical features. The most famous sculptor of them all is Auguste Rodin (Wikipedia
	Article).

On the inside, the building features large staircases, an imposing ballroom, stained-glass windows, and countless chandeliers. The murals and ceiling paintings were done by prominent artists of the time.

Visiting the Hôtel de Ville

The prestigious building can be visited for free all year round. Guided tours have to be booked in advance, but are available from Monday through Friday and offer the opportunity to see the extravagant interior, including the reception rooms. Times of tours vary and it is advised to inform beforehand. Free exhibitions are also organized inside.

The Place de l’Hôtel de Ville is a lively place. It is pedestrianized and street entertainers, such as mime artists and musicians, can be seen there throughout the day.

How to Get There

Located in the fourth arrondissement, the Hôtel de Ville enjoys a central location. It can be reached on foot from practically anywhere in the city center by following the River Seine. The subway system in Paris is extensive and allows visitors to access the building easily as well. The Hôtel de Ville subway stations are reached on the M1 and M11 lines.

Similar and Nearby Landmarks

Nearby landmarks include the Notre-Dame de Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou (Wikipedia Article); the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysées; Pont Neuf, The Louvre; the Tuileries Gardens, the Pont des Arts; and the Panthéon.

City halls worth visiting elsewhere in the world are the Brussels Town Hall, Cibeles Palace; the Town Hall Vienna, the Hamburg Town Hall; the Manchester Town Hall, the Bruges City Hall; the Milwaukee City Hall, and the Bremen Town Hall.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Dec 23, 2014

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Hôtel de Ville
Hôtel de Ville. Photo by Etudiants du Monde

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