Paris past and present

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You might have scrimped together enough centimes to take yourself off to Paris, which is an impressive enough feat in itself. However, unless you’re Marty McFly or some other time-travelling wise guy, you’ve probably only seen the city in its present state. Not many of us can say we’ve played witness to the City of Light during the Dark Ages (see what I did there) or the Roman occupation, or through the French Revolution.

Panoramic view of the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1900
Panoramic view of the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1900 (1)

Here’s a chance to compare some of your favourite attractions as they look today alongside how they looked roughly one hundred years ago. Sometimes the changes over the past century are only slight; sometimes they are monumental. Our tireless investigator Sandrine has done her best to find perspectives that match as closely as possible in order to provide the best comparison. Hold on to your corset as you step back into the past with us.

1st Arrondissement

Place du Carrousel and Musée du Louvre (1910/2007)

Place du Carrousel and Gambetta Statue 1910
Place du Carrousel and Gambetta Statue 1910 

Before the Louvre pyramid was built in 1988, the courtyard held a huge statue in honour of Gambetta. In 1941, all bronze elements were removed for use in the war effort.

Place du Carrousel and Musée du Louvre 2007
Place du Carrousel and Musée du Louvre 2007 (2)

Arc de Triomphe de Carrousel (1899/2007)

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel 1899
Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel 1899 (3)

The Triumphal Arch was built between 1806 and 1808. This was to commemorate Napoleon’s military victories of the previous years.

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel 2007
Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel 2007 (4)

Jardin des Tuileries (1895/2008)

Jardin des Tuileries 1895
Jardin des Tuileries 1895 (5)

In the early 16th Century this area was a clay quarry for tiles (hence its name). In 1559, after the death of Catherine de Médici’s husband Henri II, she built a palace at the Tuileries place and named it Tuileries Palace. The palace featured a large garden referring to the Italian style in order to remind Catherine of Tuscany, her native place.

Jardin des Tuileries 2008
Jardin des Tuileries 2008 (6)

2nd Arrondissement

Place de La Victoire (1910/2008)

Place de La Victoire 1910
Place de La Victoire 1910 (7)

A lovely old square with an equestrian statue representing King Louis XIV (also called the Sun King).

Place de La Victoire 2008
Place de La Victoire 2008 (8)

3rd Arrondissement

Place de la République (1910/2008)

Place de La République 1910
Place de La République 1910 (9)

This square was named after the French Third Republic. Here is where most  demonstrations in Paris start or finish, including those on 1st May for la Fête du Travail.

Place de la République 2008
Place de la République 2008 (10)

4th Arrondissement

Cathédrale Notre Dame (also called “Our Lady of Paris”) (1900/2007)

Cathédrale Notre Dame 1900
Cathédrale Notre Dame 1900 (11)

Did you know that the three doors at the front have a name? The middle is called “The Door of Judgment”, the right is “Sainte Anne’s Door” and the left is “The Door of the Virgin”. Notre Dame Cathedral is the most visited building in France!

Cathédrale Notre Dame 2007
Cathédrale Notre Dame 2007 (12)

Place de la Bastille with la Colonne de Juillet (1906/2004)

Place de la Bastille 1906
Place de la Bastille 1906 (13)

This square is where the Bastille prison stood until it was destroyed in the Storming of the Bastille on the 14th July 1789 during the French Revolution. The Bastille was known to be a place of horror and oppression; it was a symbol of authority of the King. The July Column was built in 1830 to commemorate the memory of all victims of two other Revolutions (in 1830 and in 1848) in honor of the fall of Charles X and the commencement of the “July Monarchy” of Louis-Philippe.

Place de la Bastille 2004
Place de la Bastille 2004 (14)

5th Arrondissement

Pantheon (1865/2007)

Le Pantheon 1865
Le Pantheon 1865 

The Pantheon was originally built as a church dedicated to, and containing the relic of, St. Genevieve. However, after many changes the Pantheon became a secular mausoleum. The Pantheon offers views over all of Paris.

Le Pantheon 2007
Le Pantheon 2007 (15)

6th Arrondissement

Jardin and Palais du Luxembourg (1900/2008)

Palais Luxembourg 1900
Palais Luxembourg 1900 (16)

Luxembourg Palace stands north of Jardin du Luxembourg. It was originally built for Marie de Medici (who was the mother of Louis XIII, king of France). However, when the building was finished, Marie had been banished. Nowadays this building is used as the French Senate.

Palais Luxembourg 2008
Palais Luxembourg 2008 (17)

Odeon Theater (1910/2008)

Théâtre de L'Odeon 1910
Théâtre de L’Odeon 1910 (18)

This building was constructed in 1782. The statue in front of the theater represented Emile Augier, a dramaturge French poet who was very famous in 1878. He wrote a lot of plays that appeared at Odeon. The statue was destroyed during the second world war.

Théâtre de L'Odeon 1910
Théâtre de L’Odeon 1910 (19)

7th Arrondissement

Musée d’Orsay (1920/2008)

Musée d'Orsay 1920
Musée d’Orsay 1920

Musée d’Orsay was originally a train station from 1900 to 1945, before it was finally turned into a museum and art gallery, which hosts statues and paintings, in 1986.

Musée d'Orsay 2008
Musée d’Orsay 2008 (20)

Tour Eiffel (1937/2007)

La Tour d'Eiffel 1937
La Tour d’Eiffel 1937 (21)

The Eiffel Tower was built between 1887 and 1889. These photos have been taken from the Palais de Chaillot. You can see that two structures are missing on the recent photo; both were constructed in 1937 for the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne (International Exposition dedicated to Art and Technology in Modern Life) and were removed in 2003. The Nazi German pavilion on the left was built by an architect under Hitler, and was capped by a huge eagle. The USSR pavilion on the right held a 25m statue of the ‘Worker and Kolkhoz Woman’. The International Exhibition was supposed to promote peace between these three countries in a difficult economic situation, whereas the world would witness quite a different relationship in the murderous years that followed. And as a free gift you have two Parisian pigeons!

La Tour d'Eiffel 2007
La Tour d’Eiffel 2007 (22)

Hôtel des Invalides (1830/2008)

Hôtel des Invalides 1830
Hôtel des Invalides 1830 

Hôtel des Invalides was once protected by a row of canons; now they are just decorative pieces. However, their position is not meaningless. The canons point to the north – toward the Seine, the old King’s courtyard and the Champs Élysées – reminding visitors of the sovereignty of the French population. The original purpose of Hôtel des Invalides was a hospital and retirement home for war veterans; nowadays it is a complex of museums about France’s military history. You can also discover burial sites for some of France’s war heroes, such as Napoleon Bonaparte.

Hôtel des Invalides 2008
Hôtel des Invalides 2008 (23)

8th Arrondissement

Avenue des Champs Élysées (1890/2007)

Avenue des Champs Elysées 1890
Avenue des Champs Elysées 1890 (24)

This street runs Place de la Concorde to Arc de Triomphe. You can see two equestrian statues on either side of each picture. They have marked the beginning of Avenue des Champs Élysées since 1794 (from 1745 to 1794 they stood in Marly Park according to the wishes of King Louis XV). The current statues are just copies; since 1984 the originals have been placed in the Louvre museum.

Avenue des Champs Elysées 2007
Avenue des Champs Elysées 2007 

Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile (1910/2007)

Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile 1910
Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile 1910 (25)

This was built to commemorate all victims of war. The arch stands over the tomb of an unknown soldier, which is set in the floor, with a flame that never dies burning over it. France’s significant military victories are depicted in frescoes carved in the stonework of the Arch.

Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile 2007
Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile 2007 (26)

Arc de Triomphe is associated with numerous quirks of history, such as the man who cooked eggs over the eternal flame, or the time French aviator Charles Godefroy flew his Nieuport biplane through the arch to protest against the lack of aviation in the 14th July Parade in 1919. The plane’s wingspan reached 9 metres, whilst the arch’s pillars stand 14 metres apart. This particular feat is likely to remain uncontested, thanks to Paris’ ban on low-flying aircraft.

9th Arrondissement

Galeries Lafayette (1871/2011)

Galeries Lafayette 1914
Galeries Lafayette 1914 (27)

Along with shops such as Berlin’s KaDeWe and London’s Harrods, Galeries LaFayette is one of the most famous shops in the world. Its beginnings can be traced back to 1893, when Alphonse Khan and Théophile Bader founded a haberdasher’s shop. The shop has seen its fair share of famous visitors throughout its history, including Edith Piaf, who sang there in 1950. Inside, Galeries LaFayette boasts an impressive Art Nouveau design, with a glass and steel dome in the roof and steel staircases ascending ten floors.

Galeries Lafayette 2011
Galeries Lafayette 2011 (28)

10th Arrondissement

Porte Saint Denis (1910/2007)

Porte St. Denis 1910
Porte St. Denis 1910 (29)

This building, inspired by the Arc of Titus in Rome, was commissioned in 1673 by king Louis XIV to celebrate his military victories.

Porte St.Denis 2007
Porte St.Denis 2007 (30)

11th Arrondissement

Place de la Nation and Triomphe de la République (1910/2008)

Place de la Nation 1910
Place de la Nation 1910

This square was built in 1899 by Aimé Jules Dalou; the statue of Marianne represents an allegory of the French Republic. A figure of Liberty, with a torch in his hand, guides the chariot of universal suffrage drawn by two lions. The statue remains on the new photo, but the crocodiles in the water pond have disappeared. They symbolised the opponents of the Republic. Is it still safe?

Place de la Nation 2008
Place de la Nation 2008 (31)

14th Arrondissement

Parc Montsouris (1910/2011)

Parc Montsouris 1910
Parc Montsouris 1910 (32)

This lovely park was built in 1868 by Jean Charles Alphand under the orders of the Baron Haussmann. Haussman had the task of destroying Paris in order to rebuild it according to the wishes of Napoleon III. Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte wanted to offer green spaces to Parisians because at this time Paris was devoid of nature.

Parc Montsouris 2011
Parc Montsouris 2011 (33)

18th Arrondissement

Moulin Rouge (1900/2009)

Moulin Rouge 1900
Moulin Rouge 1900 (34)

Everyone knows of this famous cabaret in Paris, which was built in 1889 by Joseph Oller. The Moulin Rouge is the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of can-can dancing, which was introduced by courtesans as a seductive dance. The Moulin Rouge was more recently brought into the limelight thanks to Baz Luhrman’s musical film.

Moulin Rouge 2009
Moulin Rouge 2009 (35)

L’Eglise du Sacré Coeur at Montmartre (1905/2011)

L’Eglise du Sacré Coeur 1905
L’Eglise du Sacré Coeur 1905 

This Church is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city, and is a very popular religious building. Basilique du Sacre-Coeur is a Roman Catholic Church and minor basilica that was dedicated to the heart of Jesus. Construction began in 1875 and finished in 1914. Many people from all over the world come to visit it. This is the second most visited monument in France after the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral.

L’Eglise du Sacré Coeur 2011
L’Eglise du Sacré Coeur 2011 (36)

It’s fascinating to see the changes that our environments have gone through, even in recent history. We hope you’ve enjoyed looking through our little window into time. Which city would you like to see next? Feel welcome to leave a comment below. A thousand thanks to Sandrine, whose insight into Paris has once again proved invaluable. We’ll be back soon. Until then, bon voyage.

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