Venture Back In Time At The Palais Royal in Paris
I know it’s predictable for me to say that every corner and place you experience in Paris is like a movie set dream and I’m delighted to say that yet again of the opulent and magnificent 17th century Palais Royal, its arcades and glorious gardens. Situated in the heart of Paris’ old world 1st arrondissment a cobble stone throw away from the Louvre, Tuileries Gardens, Rue Rivoli and Place Collette you will discover the Palais Royal in all its entrancing glory and majesty. Here is where the great Cardinal Richelieu resided until the widowed Queen Anne of Austria – mother to the future king Louis IV and his brother Phillipe moved in after Richelieu’s death so that her young boys could play in the palace’s gardens. The Palais Royal was purchased by the Bourbon royals from the Richelieu heirs and housed the royal family up until the completion of the Versailles palace. As a way to replenish funding into the ever depleting extravagant royal purse, the innovative architects of the Palais Royal were commissioned to design and build under cover arcaded galleries, that would host market stalls and shops, became a project and notion ahead of its time. Galleries Vivienne and Colbert are still a Parisian attraction and a must when visiting Paris for a taste of old world elegance.
The galleries attracted people of all ranks of society and here they would come to congregate, shop, dine, stroll in the gardens and be in a pristine setting while in close proximity to the royal family. During its royal occupation, particularly when it became the primary residence of Louis IV brother Phillipe Regent d’Orleans, who loved to host extravagant and lavish parties with his wife the Duchess Henrietta, the Palais Royal went through a number of alterations and renovations to become the glorious place it is today for a little escape back in time. Andre Le Notre later redesigned the original gardens created by Pierre Desgotz for Richelieu, in his classical symmetrical and structured vignette garden style to fulfill Duchess Henrietta’s vision transforming it into one of Paris’ most spectacular ornamental gardens where later additions were made by other commissioned gardeners.
Here is where you will become mesmerised by the old and modern fountains that dance to the peaceful rhythm of their surrounds and where long double rows of lime trees sway gracefully in the breeze offering shade to Parisians’ as they casually stroll with their pampered dogs. The Palais Royal with its regal covered arcades and architecture encompass the beautiful garden vignettes within where you will be delighted by 260 modern black and white uneven octagonal columns in the grand courtyard that call to mind court jesters bopping up and down creating a whirling sense of whimsy. This contemporary black and white column art installation has now become one of the symbols of Paris and seem to attract the attention of young and old but especially tourists who enjoy posing atop the taller columns for a picture perfect photo opportunity. Young boys use the column garden as a playground and can be seen zig zagging in and out of the columns on their skateboards or rollerblades and where you will find lovers kissing as they lean on the taller columns for support. The Colonnes de Buren, as they’re referred to in French, create a striking contrast against the neutral sand toned stone of the historic architecture around it and seem to comfortably belong in the main courtyard of the Palais Royal. Buren’s columns are outlined by rows of more stone columns that once housed the Orleans Gallery where now its function is to majestically frame the courtyard and act as a window and walkway to the heart of the garden. The Palais Royal originally had four functioning arcaded galleries – the Valois Gallery (east), the Montpensier Gallery (west) the Beaujolais gallery (north) and the Orleans Gallery (south) the only gallery that was demolished and where the aforesaid stone columns remain. As you continue your exploration of the gardens you will discover that these very walkways actually lead to the passages outlining the perimeter of the Palais Royal that host little shops and cafes which hide in the shadows of the grand building structure that stand above.
As you continue your pleasurable stroll through the central garden you will come across delightful rose gardens with a marble statue feature inspired by mythological legend and surrounded by perfectly pruned dense hedges. Take a peek inside the hedges and spot Parisians relishing in some much deserved leisure time whilst sitting on old mint green wrought iron benches engaged in a novel or simply daydreaming while taking in the surrounding beauty. Be sure to find a moment to rest your feet on a bench and gaze at the old world large scale circular fountain as well as the two modern fountains, created by Pol Bury, where over sized metallic spherical balls appear to be suspended in air. After an enchanting break by the water fountains make your way into the dense pathway created by double rows of lime trees where you will probably feel the urge to twirl and dance but don’t forget to glance upwards and notice how the trees on either side meet as if locked in a permanent romantic embrace. The row of majestic trees will lead you to the final chapter of the Palais Royal’s enchanting garden where you will find another little enclosed vignette with delightful bench seats and a rubbly ground where elderly men gather to partake in another favourite French pastime of boule.
Famous writers, artists and nobles of various eras gravitated to the galleries that once hosted over 100 shops including boutiques, bookshops, museums, specialty stores, cafes and restaurants within the passages of the Palais Royal. The Grand Vefour was the first restaurant to have opened within the arcades of the Palais Royal by head chef to Louis-Phillipe-Joseph d’Orleans Jean Vefour and entertained the likes of Napolean, Victor Hugo, Jean-Paul Satre, Simone de Beauvoir and later Cocteau and Colette known as “the lady of the Palais-Royal” who were also regulars at the Vefour as well as celebrity tenants who lived in the Palais Royal apartments above in their old age. Fans of Colette were known to have congregated under her window that overlooked a part of the Palais garden in hope to catch a glimpse of her. Today the palace and its gardens continue to attract celebrities like Catherine Deneuve and Audrey Tautou and is unsurprisingly a popular location with film directors and has been featured in many movies such as Interview with a Vampire, Da Vinci Code, Mission Impossible and Charade with Audrey Hepburn to name a few.
The Palais Royal and its superb gardens is an absolute must see when visiting Paris. Here is where you will without a doubt glory in the opulence, beauty and charm of an era where royals lived in extravagance and unbridled desire for luxury. There is so much to take in and to do at the Palais Royal whether its taking a stroll in the gardens, relaxing by the glorious fountains, shopping in the finest boutiques and galleries, sitting in the rose gardens with a lover or good book, playing boule or sitting at a café overlooking the gardens. With its close proximity to other old world attractions you could easily plan your day to accommodate the Place Colette and La Comedie Francaise adjacent to the palace and be blown away by the most beautiful art nouveau Palais Royale/Musee du Louvre metro station entrance the “Kiosque des Noctambules” created by Jean-Michel Othoniel (be sure to go down into the platform area to glimpse at marble replicas exhibited in the Louvre). Close by is the Louvre Museum, Tuileries Gardens, the spectacular Garnier Opera House or shop at the exclusive Rue Saint-Honore or Rue Cambon and the magnificent Place Vendome – Hotel Ritz and Chanel territory. You will also enjoy a stroll along the Rue Rivoli or have a cinematic moment at Le Grand Colbert nearby the palace where Something’s Gotta Give was filmed or a cocktail in the Nemours Café where the French celebrities go for a rendezvous. Dear readers, are you entranced by the Palais Royal in Paris France?
Le Palais Royal
8 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris
Open Monday-Sunday 7am-11pm