The Conciergerie in Paris – Palace and Revolutionary prison
A former royal palace and revolutionary prison
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Sandwiched between the soaring Notre-Dame cathedral and dazzling Sainte Chapelle, the Conciergerie is another historic jewel in the former royal heartland, Île de la Cité.
Situated atop a Roman fortress and expanded by generations of early French kings, the magnificent halls of the former royal palace would later house the country’s highest court. Under the Palais de Justice lies haunting prisons that held many victims of the French Revolution, including Marie Antoinette.
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Today, the French appeal court still presides there, yet there is much for visitors to enjoy. Not least the spooky prison. A millennium of history reverberates from the walls of the Conciergerie, making it one of the most fascinating destinations in Paris.
What is the Conciergerie in Paris?
Today, the Conciergerie is the oldest surviving structure from the historically important Palais de la Cité. In one part sits the Cour de Cassation, France’s appeal court, and the country’s most senior judiciary. On the other is what remains of a royal palace and atmospheric prisons, revealing different perspectives on Parisian history.
If you’re not involved in legal wranglings, your journey into the Conciergerie begins in the cavernous Salle des Gens d’Armes. The Hall of the Soldiers is a soaring-arched hall completed in 1302. It’s an arresting introduction to a landmark dripping in history.
Frankish kings ruled from the small Île de la Cité since the 6th century. In the 10th century, Hugo Capet ordered construction of the Palais de la Cité. Sainte Chappelle, ornate towers, and spaces like the Grand Hall would be added by later kings. The distinctive Tour de l’Horloge was installed by the mad king Charles VI and displayed the first public clock in Paris. It remains an eye-catching sight that you can set your watch by.
By the 13th century, Philip II had established a parliament in the Conciergerie, making it the center of royal justice. After placing the state archives there, he appointed a custodian, or a concierge. Half a century later, Charles V would move to the Louvre, and the monarchy never returned. But the judicial role of the Conciergerie continued expanding, with subterranean prisons later added. When fires were lit under the French Revolution, the Conciergerie would earn a grim legacy when the Revolutionary Tribunal condemned 2,780 prisoners to the guillotine. Among them was the queen, Marie Antionette.
The courthouse in the Palais de la Cité, popularly known as the Palais de Justice, remains to this day. The Conciergerie and its prisons were still in use until 1934. Remarkably, that’s 20 years after tourists started poking around the former royal palace. You can now poke around the restored cells, which are thankfully empty.
Tickets and entrance to the Conciergerie
Because the Conciergerie sits behind the security perimeter of the Palais de Justice, tickets must be booked online.
- Ticket entry costs €11.50 – includes the augmented reality ‘Histopad’ for self-guided tours (under 18s go free.)
- Free entry is also available for EU and EEA nationals aged 18-25.
- Dual-entry tickets to Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie cost €18.50 (a €3.50 saving.)
- Paris Museum Pass: The Conciergerie (and Sainte-Chapelle) is included in the 2/4/6-day Paris Museum Pass, along with 33 other museums and attractions. Passes cost €55.00 – €85.00 and offer real value if you plan to visit multiple landmarks.
Tours of the Conciergerie
Dive into the mysterious and exciting history of the Conciergerie of Paris with an expert on your side. One of the many local guides will tell you everything you need to know about the French Revolution and the different functions of the former prison.
"The History of Paris" TourWalking Tour in Île de la CitéAdd to myTravel added
Let a local paint revealing pictures, touring around the intoxicating streets of Île de la Cité and the Latin Quarter.
With centuries of history to unwrap in the heart of Paris, an expert speaking English or French will add color to a view-filled tour.
Sainte-Chapelle & Conciergerie Skip-the-Line TicketsBuilding in 14. ArrondissementAdd to myTravel added
Save time and money with skip-the-line Tickets to Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie. Two compelling destinations that are ideally seen together.
There are several options on tickets which include both must-see in Paris. You will be too stunned by the beauty of architecture and history of those places!
Bike tour with a local guideBike Tour in Île de la CitéAdd to myTravel added
Bike your way through the atmospheric streets of Île de la Cité and beyond on a comprehensive tour that checks off many must-see monuments. Just take a ride and enjoy the beautiful view’s ether in the morning or in the afternoon.
Tours of the Conciergerie: The details
Sainte-Chapelle & Conciergerie Skip-the-line Ticket
"The History of Paris" Exclusive Guided Walking Tour
Biketour with a local guide
Save time and money with skip-the-line Tickets to Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie.
Join an expert on a historical odyssey through Paris's oldest and most thrilling neighborhoods.
Bike your way through the atmospheric streets of Île de la Cité.
At least 3 hours
The Conciergerie is an enduring landmark in the heart of the French Captial.
Highlights of the Conciergerie
The imposing palace boasts several highlights for visitors. A voyage through the ages begins in the cavernous Salle des Gens d’Armes (Hall of the Men-at-Arms.) Built in the 14th century and one of the largest halls in the kingdom, it once served as a dining hall for 1-2,000 soldiers and courtiers. The kitchens that dished out the gruel are open to visitors.
Look out for the Rue de Paris corridor leading to the prisons, upsettingly named after Monsieur de Paris, title of the city’s executioner. The Palais de la Cité is fascinating, but the prisons and associated revolutionary legacy steal the limelight. Several rooms set the context, exploring the changes to the justice system during and after the French Revolution. It sets the mood for walking down the Prisoner’s Corridor, past the clerk’s desk, a room for cutting hair, and three cells.
Poignantly, the journey takes you to the Salle des noms, where the names of the 4,000 prisoners tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal are displayed. Among them is Queen Marie Antoinette. Equally, diverting are the chapels and women’s courtyard. The exploratory chapel of Marie Antoinette was converted into a memorial in 1815 when the Bourbon monarchy was restored. After coming back up fo
r air, stop at the Tour de l’Horloge completed in 1350. The clock tower once bore Paris’s first public clock.
Tips for visiting the Conciergerie
Make the most of your visit with a few tips for seeing the Conciergerie:
- Monday to Friday, bag searches and extra security for the courts next door slow visitors down. Add 15 minutes to your planned visiting time.
- Saint-Chapelle is the sister building to the Conciergerie. Chances are you’ll want to see the royal chapel and mesmerizing stained-glass windows, so buy the dual-entry ticket to save Euros.
- If you get hungry, the Brasserie Les Deux Palais opposite is decent. There is even more choice in Place Dauphine and in neighboring Île Saint-Louis.
Remember to reserve!
Remember to reserve online Monday to Friday, even if you qualify for free entry. Security precautions necessitate advance booking.
Is the Conciergerie worth visiting?
The Conciergerie ranks among the most absorbing historical sites in Paris. A palace to Frankish kings for centuries, later transformed into a courthouse and revolutionary prison, its towers have witnessed momentous events. Today, you can get a flavor of a Paris gone but not forgotten. It’s another unforgettable destination on the captivating Île de la Cité.
History facts about the Conciergerie in Paris
The long and twisting history of the Conciergerie hides many secrets from Parisian history.
A Gallo-Roman fortress from the 1st century AD once stood where the royal place was raised. France’s first king, Clovis, set up home there. But the Frankish kings moved on, only to return in the 10th century, when Hugh Capet established the capital of the Kingdom of France there. The Palais de la Cité followed, parts of which remain today. Subsequent kings enlarged and embellished the palace.
The flood-prone island was definitively abandoned by Charles V in the 15th century. Instead, a concierge was appointed to administer the former palace as a parliament and to administer the king’s justice. The Conciergerie’s name stuck for the parliamentary halls and prison. The adjacent courthouse became better known as the Palais de Justice.
The Conciergerie was later central to the French Revolution. First, after refusing to hand over members for interrogation under the King’s orders. Later, as a target of the swirling revolution. During the notorious September Massacre in 1792, the Revolution reached a fever pitch. Hundreds of prisoners were killed. Many were slain in the Women’s Courtyard of the Conciergerie, which you can visit today. Less than a year later, the Revolutionary Tribunal set up their infamous courthouse. 4,000 prisoners were tried. 2,780 were condemned to the guillotine.
Marie Antoinette was tried and imprisoned there before the execution. As was Robespierre, the blood-soaked tyrant who engineered the Terror that eventually consumed him. In 1814, following the Bourbon Restoration, the Palais de la Cité resumed its role as courthouse and prison. The prison remained in use until 1934, 20 years after the royal palace was opened to tourists. During that time, several notable were imprisoned there, including Marshal Ney, Napoleon Bonaparte’s ‘Bravest of the Brave’.
One other highlight of the Conciergerie are the towers added by different generations. Notably the clock tower unveiled in 1350.
What to do after visiting the Conciergerie
Visitors will find much to do in the vicinity of the Conciergerie. Sainte-Chapelle, the former royal chapels with extraordinary stained-glass windows, is part of the same royal complex.
- Moments away is the iconic Notre-Dame cathedral, soon to be fully restored after the devastating fire of 2019.
- If you’ve built an appetite, head to the tranquil Place Dauphine or across Pont Saint-Louis to the neighboring island.
- Take time to savor the views over Paris’s oldest bridge, Pont Neuf, from the Square du Vert Galant gardens.
- Across the bridges from Île de la Cité awaits some of the city’s most exciting neighborhoods, including Le Marais, the Latin Quarter, and Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
What is the Conciergerie today?
The Conciergerie forms one part of the historic Palais de la Cité, a former royal palace. In part of the complex sits France’s highest court. The Conciergerie has been preserved as a tourist attraction, letting visitors see the royal palace and the notorious prisons underneath.
Is there anything else to do near the Conciergerie?
Nowhere in Paris boasts such a concentration of celebrated landmarks and places to visit. The Conciergerie is minutes from Notre-Dame, Sainte Chapelle, Le Marais, and the Latin Quarter.
Is the Conciergerie included in the Paris Museum Pass?
Yes – The Conciergerie (and Sainte-Chapelle) is included in the Paris Museum Pass, along with 33 other museums and attractions.
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