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My family and friends know how much I love maps. When I visited for the first time the Relief Map museum in Paris, I was blown away by Louis XIV’s collection of historical military models. It just looked like a 17th C version of Google Earth! Here is a quick guide of the musée des plans-reliefs situated in the Hôtel des Invalides (7th arrondissement of Paris).

The Relief Map museum

Relief Map Museum Paris
Relief Map Museum Paris © French Moments

This is a royal and unique collection of maps, comprising scale models of towns, harbours and fortresses.

It was Louvois, Louis XIV’s Minister of War who took the initiative to make scale-models (1:600) of fortified sites. At that time Vauban directed the building and upgrading of hundreds of fortifications throughout the kingdom. 

>> Get your Tickets for Les Invalides: the Army Museum [Priority Entrance], Napoleon’s tomb and see war memorabilia! <<

Just look at the many details reproduced on the maps: they give an accurate illustration of the sites at a given date. The maps allowed for simulating sieges and/or to plan for fortification improvements.

At a time when Google Earth did not exist (!) these maps played a strategic role for the defence of the French territory, particularly on its borders.

Les plans reliefs au Louvre au 18e siècle

The collection was originally kept in the Tuileries Palace, then in the Grande Galerie at the Louvre. In 1777 the relief maps were transferred to the attics of Les Invalides. Some 260 relief maps were created between 1668 and 1870. The making of such maps ceased when no more bastioned fortifications were built. 

The collection of the Relief Map museum

The Relief Map museum has 28 relief models on display out of a collection of 100 maps.


THE ENGLISH CHANNEL                                 Construction time, scale & dimension
1 Mont Saint-Michel 1701 1:144 2.30×1.66m
2 La Conchée, Saint-Malo 1695 1:72 2.09×1.59m
3 Fort Chavagnac, Cherbourg 1866-1867 1:100 1,53 x 1,22 m
4 Belle-Île after 1762 1:600 2,43 x 2,43 m
5 Fort de la Prée 1703 1:600 2,40 x 1,72 m
6 Saint-Martin-de-Ré 1703 1:600 5,36 x 3,73 m
7 Fort de la Rade, Île d’Aix 1780 1:720 132 x 120 cm
8 Citadel of Saint-Martin-de-Ré 1827 1:200 1,56 x 1,50 m
9 Île d’Oléron 1703 1:600 4,56 x 3,59 m
10 Fort Pâté, Blaye 1703 1:187 1,67 x 1,32 m
11 Blaye 1703 1:600 4,06 x 3,16 m
12 Château-Trompette, Bordeaux 1705 1:200 2,26 x 2,00 m
13 Bayonne 1819-1822 1:600 6,62 x 8,52 m
14 Villefranche-de-Conflent 1701 1:600 4,20 x 3,25 m
15 Fort Lagarde 1691 1:600 1,67 x 1,05 m 
16 Fort les Bains 1691 1:600  1,62 x 1,12 m 
17 Perpignan 1686 1:600 4,86 x 4,63 m 
18 Château d’If, Marseille 1681 1:95  1,58 x 1,39 m
19 Fort Saint-Nicolas, Marseille c.1754 1:183 1,45 x 1,33 m
20 Toulon 1796-1800 1:600  6,61 x 4,26 m
21 Fort Lamalgue, Toulon 1800 1:300  0,49 x 0,41 m
22 Fort d’Artigues, Toulon 1800 1:216 0,49 x 0,41 m
23 Tour Balaguier, Toulon 1800 1:216 0,49 x 0,41 m
24 Fort des Pomets, Toulon c.1750 1:144 1,13 x 1,07 m
25 Citadel of Calvi 1887 1:600  1,43 x 1,42 m 
26 Îles de Lérins 1728 1:2200  1,61 x 1,40 m
27 Saint-Tropez 1716 1:600  1,58 x 1,40 m 
28 Antibes 1754 1:600  4,77 x 3, 55 m 


The collection was listed as a historic monument in 1927 and the museum created in 1943.

Relief Map museum: Practical Info

  • Les Invalides has two entrancesEsplanade des Invalides, 129 rue de Grenelle AND Place Vauban. Visitors with motor disabilities are invited to enter on the Place Vauban side. Check out google map for the exact location of the Relief Map museum at Les Invalides.
  • Open every day from 10 am to 6 pm from 1st April to 30th September and from 10am to 5pm from 1st October to 31st March.
  • The museum is closed on 1st January, 1st May and 25th December, and on the first Mondays of the month from January to June and from October to December.
  • Closest métro stations: Invalides (lines 8 and 13, RER C), La Tour Maubourg (line 8), Varenne (line 13).
  • Check out the official website of the Relief Map museum for more info (only in French). You can download the English version of the Museum’s presentation brochure here.
  • The entry ticket to the Relief Map museum gives you access to all museums located in the complex of Les Invalides: the Army museum, the Order of Liberation museum and Napoleon’s Tomb. You can buy your tickets (priority entrance) by clicking on the following link:
>> Get your Tickets for Les Invalides: the Army Museum [Priority Entrance], Napoleon’s tomb and see war memorabilia! <<

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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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