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 favourite French squares…
1. Place de la Concorde, Paris
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
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
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 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
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
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
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 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
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
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:
- Place Kléber, Strasbourg
- Place de la Comédie, Metz
- Place du Tertre, Montmartre, Paris
- Place Dauphine, Paris
- Place de la Libération, Dijon
- Grand-Place, Lille
- Place de la Comédie, Montpellier
(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)