A visit to the City Hall might sound like an afterthought in a city bursting with history and incredible architecture. But the majestic Hôtel de Ville in Paris is no ordinary city hall. We dive into why the Hôtel de Ville is a compelling destination for vacationers seeking a sense of Paris, old and new.
In Paris, the Hôtel de Ville has housed the city’s administration since 1357 and is still the Mayoral office. Expanded under several kings, destroyed by revolutionaries, and rebuilt with even more splendor, it’s a building that encapsulates Parisian history. Yet where once the guillotine stood and De Gaulle addressed the nation, people now gather for outdoor events, concerts, and Christmas markets.
What is Paris’s Hôtel de Ville
The Hôtel de Ville is inaccessible to the public except for a couple of open-door days. The main reason to visit is to admire the striking architecture or join regular events in the forecourt.
Happily, the Hôtel de Ville is within walking distance of various other Parisian attractions, making it a minor detour for city explorers. It’s a worthy detour. Inspired by the Loire châteaux like Chambord and Villandry, the Renaissance design finished in 1628 is an impressive sight. Set ablaze during the Paris Commune of 1871, it was rebuilt in the original style but made even more impressive.
Tickets and entrance to Hôtel de Ville
Because the Hôtel de Ville is a functioning city hall, much of the building is off-limits throughout the year. There are some exceptions. Although not always viable for vacationers, organized tours are available via their Protocol Office. The office recommends booking tours (French, English, and German) at least 2 months in advance, but also suggests checking for last-minute cancellations. More practical are the occasional citywide events when public buildings are opened to the public.
The first is the wonderful Nuit Blanche (white night, or Sleepless Night in other countries) annual cultural event. Taking place across the city and throughout the night (June 3, 2023), the Hôtel de Ville joins museums and other public institutions in offering free access. It is a popular destination for visitors curious to see the off-limits interior. Journées du Patrimoine is a weekend similar to Nuit Blanche. Part of the European Heritage Days program, Hôtel de Ville joins other landmarks and museums in welcoming visitors for free. Typically happening on the 3rd weekend in Paris in September, the next is scheduled for September 16-17, 2023.
Exhibitions can be viewed at all times in the Saint Jean room set aside for events. Typically free, they often offer an intriguing perspective on Parisian living. Hôtel de Ville expositions typically run for months and can be found on the city’s website.
Tours of Hôtel de Ville
There is so much to see in this enormous piece of history Hôtel de Ville and if you like to see more and hear more about the revolution than a tour is the best you can do. A guide will tell you everything you absolutely need to know, and even more!
La Marais District & Jewish Qurtier walking tour
Charming Nooks and crannies biketour
Private half-day historic tour
A walking tour of the atmospheric Le Marais quartier, home to numerous museums and galleries.
This tour starts at the Hôtel de Ville and takes you on two wheels over the cobbled stones of Le Marais.
Dive deep into Paris’ beguiling heritage with a passionate expert responding to your questions.
Tours of the Hôtel de Ville: The Details
Paris Bike Tour in the Latin Quarter & Le MaraisBike Tour in Quartier LatinAdd to myTravel added
The Latin Quarter and Le Marais are great for walking, but jumping on a bike means you can fit all the main sights into one tour. Bikes, helmets, and knowledgeable tour guide included. Explore this vibrant city like a local on this 4-hour bike tour through the Latin Quarter and the Jewish quarter of Le Marais. The tour starts in the heart of the Latin Quarter and ends at the Hotel de Sens. On the tour you will stop at, among others: Sant-Sulpice, Pantheon, Place Monge, Arenes de Lutece, Place des Vosges and many more.
Charming Nooks and Crannies Bike TourBike Tour in Quartier Saint-Germain-des-PrésAdd to myTravel added
Sweeping through several small but essential quartiers clustered on the left bank, this 3-hour bike tour promises to pack in all the local highlights while absorbing the chic ambiance of the lively streets. Discover the forever trendy central areas Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the Latin Quarter, Odéon and Luxembourg.
Languages: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Dutch
Private Half-Day Historic TourWalking Tour in ParisAdd to myTravel added
Dive deep into Paris’ beguiling heritage with a passionate expert responding to your questions. This tour is the perfect stroll throughout the beautiful cobbled streets and magical scenic of Paris.
Throughout the year, the Hôtel de Ville attracts visitors to admire the ornate structure and feel the weight of 6 centuries of Parisian history. The other leading reason is to see an exhibition in the resplendent Salle Saint-Jean. Exhibitions are always free and deliver typically inventive perspectives on city culture, like street art or Parisian architecture. Plus, you get a little taste of the sumptuous interior thrown in.
The Paris’s Hôtel de Ville is a city hall like no other.
Tour of the interior of Hôtel de Ville
The city recognizes there is interest of visitors in seeing more of the interior. The tours last 1 hour and must be booked via email, ideally at least 2 months in advance.
Look out for other city events taking place in the courtyards of the Hôtel de Ville. For example, the free FNAC Live music festival is held at the end of June.
Christmas is another time when the Hôtel de Ville lights up. One of the city’s finest Christmas markets fills le parvis de l’Hôtel de Ville every December in Paris. It’s a magical festive setting.
Tips for visiting Hôtel de Ville.
A few local tips will help you make the most of seeing the Hôtel de Ville.
- Don’t be dissuaded from inquiring about a scheduled tour of the building. When available, the city hall recommends booking a place at least 2 months ahead. But cancellations happen, and spaces appear at short notice. Send an email if you’re keen to see the interior (email@example.com).
- Hôtel de Ville is a splendid target on a day, exploring Le Marais neighborhood, which bursts with noted landmarks and world-class museums.
You want to explore the truly magical neighborhoods of Paris? Take a look at the article about the best neighborhoods of Paris!
Stunning views from this rooftopbar
Head to Le Perchoir, the rooftop bar above the BHV Marais department store, for glorious views over the Hôtel de Ville and Paris skyline. But it’s only open during the summer.
Is Hôtel de Ville worth visiting?
While access to the interior is restricted, the ornate architecture and imposing building has witnessed momentous events. Situated in the vibrant Le Marais neighborhood, it earns a place on tourist itineraries.
Hosting frequent cultural activities in its courtyard, exhibitions in the dedicated Saint Jean room, and the occasional open-door event, a well-timed visit can be even more rewarding.
Historic facts about Hôtel de Ville
The Hôtel de Ville was a home transformed into a city hall in 1357 by Étienne Marcel, the merchant’s provost who was effectively the mayor of Paris. The ‘House of Pillars’ was later transformed into a grander building alongside the adjacent public square once used for public executions.Notable changes took place from 1533 to 1628 under the orders of several monarchs who wanted a city hall worthy of a world capital.
The city hall, one of the grandest buildings in the city and the center of local government, was at the center of numerous momentous events: The murder of the last Merchant’s Provost, Jacques de Flesselles, on July 14, 1789, was one of the sparks of the French Revolution. The city hall would later become the headquarters of the revolution. In the same halls just five years later, one of the architects of the subsequent Terror, Maximilien Robespierre, was arrested. Revolutionaries again targeted their anger on the Hôtel de Ville during the short yet explosive Paris Commune of 1871. First used as headquarters, the building was set ablaze as the French army moved into Paris. Archives were destroyed, and the historic building was left a smoldering ruin.
The building façade was restored in all its original glory. But new wings and an even more sumptuous interior were added. Making the city hall an even more impressive monument to Paris’s legacy. The building has survived unscathed since then. The city hall became a national symbol of unity in 1944 when the leader of the Free French, Charles de Gaulle, delivered his famous speech marking France’s liberation. The immortal opening line encapsulates much of what the Hôtel de Ville has represented over 6 centuries.
What to do after visiting the Hôtel de Ville
The Hôtel de Ville is well-positioned for exploring some of the most diverting parts of Paris. Situated in the multi-faceted Le Marais neighborhood, there are several top attractions nearby.
- Just minutes away across the Pont D’Arcole are Notre-Dame Cathedral and the historical wonders of Île de la Cit.
- Head in other directions to comfortably walk to the Pompidou Center or the absorbing Carnavalet Museum.
- Paris’s oldest planned square, Place des Vosges, is also nearby. It’s a relaxed spot for a picnic, as is the Seine running alongside the Hôtel de Ville.
- There are numerous cozy bistros and modern eateries in the surrounding streets. The traditional Le Trumilou serves bistro favorites, just moments from the city hall and overlooking the Seine.
When can you visit Hôtel de Ville?
As the city hall of Paris, the Hôtel de Ville is only open for pre-reserved tours. However, the doors are open to the public on European Heritage Days and during the Nuit Blanche. Free events are often hosted in the courtyard, including a leading Christmas market and the FNAC Live concert. You can also see regular free exhibitions in the Salle Saint-Jean, a striking space set aside for expositions.
What is the nearest Métro stop?
The impossible to forget Hôtel de Ville Métro station (Lines 1, 11) lands visitors in the forecourt right outside the building.
Is there anything else to do near Hôtel de Ville in Paris?
On the edge of the spirited Le Marais neighborhood and a short distance from historic Île de la Cité. Hôtel de Ville is within walking distance of several world-class museums, including the Pompidou Center, and several iconic monuments, like Notre-Dame cathedral and Sainte-Chapelle.
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