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Gems of Paris by French Moments

France prides itself in having some of Europe’s most beautiful squares. Planned and designed in the heart of the old towns, they are vibrant places for community gatherings. Many of them feature a fountain or a statue at their centre. We have listed below some of our most beautiful squares of France.

1. Place de la Concorde, Paris

Place de la Concorde Paris June 2015 01 © French Moments
Place de la Concorde, Paris © French Moments

The majestic Place de la Concorde is arguably the most prestigious square in Paris and is renowned for its important part in French history. On many occasions, since its creation in the 18th century, the square has been the place chosen for happy or sad national gatherings. The Place de la Concorde, with its amazing fountains and delicate lamp posts, plays a great symbolic part along the Historical Axis.

Ideally placed in the middle of the square, the Luxor Obelisk is 3,500 years old, which makes it the oldest monument standing in Paris. It is 23 metres tall and weighs 220 tons.

Read more about the Place de la Concorde.

2. Place des Vosges, Paris

Place des Vosges April 2016 05 © French Moments
What a beautiful Saturday morning to spend on the Place des Vosges, Paris (on 9. April 2016) © French Moments

The picturesque Place des Vosges is located in the Marais district in Paris, at the junction of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. This excellent example of Louis XIII-style architecture is the oldest planned square in Paris and its charm comes from the regularity of the façades. Often considered as one of Europe’s most beautiful squares, the Place des Vosges, formally named “Place Royale”, is a perfect symmetrical square bordered by 36 buildings, including the Victor Hugo house, now a museum.

Read more about the Place des Vosges.

3. Place Vendôme, Paris

Place Vendôme, Paris © French Moments
Place Vendôme, Paris © French Moments

The famous Place Vendôme in Paris’ first arrondissement ranks amongst France’s most beautiful squares. Located to the north of the Tuileries Garden, it is a magnificent example of neoclassical architecture in France. A mecca of money and luxury, Place Vendôme provides a base for renowned and prestigious establishments: the Ritz hotel, Cartier, Rolex, Chanel jewellery, as well as the Ministry of Justice; and in its centre the celebrated Column of Vendôme sits enthroned.

Read more about the Place Vendôme.

4. Place Stanislas, Nancy

Place Stanislas © French Moments
The City-Hall of Nancy, Place Stanislas © French Moments

Place Stanislas in Nancy is a good example of French classicism. The pavilions were built by Emmanuel Héré, and the wrought-iron railings are the work of Jean Lamour. These have made the city famous: finely decorated with gold leaves, occasionally surrounding majestic fountains designed by Barthélemy Guibal.

At the angles towards the lower pavilions are extravagant fountains in a green setting, work of Barthélemy Guibal. The sculptor designed two types of fountains: Amphitrite in the eastern side (where the Opera stands) giving access to the Pépinière park.

The Arc de Triomphe which stands between the Place Stanislas and the Place de la Carrière is an important monument along the beautiful perspective created between the town-hall (Place Stanislas) and the Palais du Gouvernement (at the very end of the Place de la Carrière).

Read more about the Place Stanislas.

5. Place Ducale, Charleville-Mézières

Place Ducale of Charleville Mézières, photo Ad Meskens
Place Ducale of Charleville Mézières, photo Ad Meskens

The Place Ducale certainly shares the same characteristics as its Parisian sister, Place des Vosges: a perfect symmetrical design and a common style of architecture. It seems that the similarities between the two squares are a result of their respective designers being brothers: Louis Métezeau in Paris and Clément Métezeau in Charleville-Mézières.

A little smaller than the Place des Vosges, the Place Ducale is 127 metres long and 90 metres wide. Twenty-seven pavilions in the Louis XIII-style border the square following a quaternary model: four bays, four picture windows on each storey, four dormer windows and four oculi on the roof.

Read more here.

6. Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux

Bordeaux Place de la Bourse 15 © French Moments
Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux © French Moments

Place de la Bourse is part of the Port of the Moon, Bordeaux, which has been listed by UNESCO as World Heritage since 2007. The royal square is a fine example of the outstanding urban ensemble that was built in the 18th century, during the reign of King Louis XV. The spectacular setting of Place de la Bourse on the edge of the Garonne River shows a monumental succession of identical buildings that form a continuous and balanced building curtain.

The beauty of Place de la Bourse becomes dreamlike when it is reflected in “le miroir d’eau”, the reflecting pool. This 130 meter long and 42 meter wide set of granite slabs is the largest reflecting pool in the world. Conceived by the landscape architect Michel Corajoud, and developed by the fountain expert J. M. Llorca, it was, with “le jardin des lumières” (the garden of lights) and the skate park, one of the main elements of Bordeaux‘s quayside recent redevelopment.

Read more about the Place de la Bourse.

7. Place d’Albertas, Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence © French Moments
Place d’Albertas, Aix-en-Provence © French Moments

Almost facing the Natural History Museum lies the elegant Place d’Albertas, certainly one of the finest examples of baroque architecture in Provence.

The fountain standing at the centre of the square was designed in 1912 by the students of the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts (ENSAM). This elegant cast-iron fountain sits in perfect harmony with the Baroque façades bordering the square.

The square was listed as a “Monument Historique” in 2000 and underwent a major restoration in the last decade.

Read more about the Place d’Albertas.

8. Grand’Place, Arras

Arras-hotel_de_ville by Pir6mon
Place des Héros, Town-Hall and Belfry, Arras © Pir6mon, licence [CC SA 1.0], from Wikimedia Commons.

Arras is famous for its two grand arcaded Flemish-style squares: Grand’Place and Place des Héros which, with Rue de la Taillerie form a monumental architectural ensemble unique in Europe.

The squares have an historic and harmonious character surrounded by restored 17th and 18th century baroque houses with their curved rooflines.

The two squares were initially built to host markets which reflected the prosperous trading economy of Arras.

Read more about Arras.

9. Place Plumereau, Tours

Place Plumereau Tours © Thierry de Villepin - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Place Plumereau Tours © Thierry de Villepin – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The little square dedicated to Charles Plumereau (1818-1885) is set at the centre of the old district of Tours. It is bordered with beautiful half-timbered houses from the 15th century which now houses cafés and restaurants.

10. Place du Capitole, Toulouse

Toulouse Capitole © Benh LIEU SONG - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons
Toulouse Capitole © Benh LIEU SONG – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

The Place du Capitole is the symbol of Toulouse’s independence. The project of the square began in 1676 by order of the Capitouls, but construction only started in 1750 and was not completed until the 19th century. It took many years to expel the occupants of the houses which once stood on the site of the square. The Occitan cross paving at the centre of the square was designed by Raymond Moretti in 1995. The branches are said to represent the signs of the zodiac and refer to the seal of the Counts of Toulouse.

Find out more about the Place du Capitole.

There are other interesting squares in France worth mentioning:

Dijon in Burgundy © French Moments
Place de la Libération and the Ducal Palace of Dijon © French Moments

English-French Vocabulary

(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin, (adj) for adjective and (v) for verbs

  • arch = arc (m)
  • city-hall = hôtel de ville (m)
  • church = église (f)
  • monument = monument (m)
  • palace = palais (m)
  • roundabout = rond-point (m)
  • square = place (f)
  • statue = statue (f)
  • street = rue (f)
  • triumphal arch = arc de triomphe (m)


Gems of Paris by French Moments
About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of the Discovery Course on the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas book "Voyage au Pays de Noël".

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