9 Paris Cupolas and Unique Art Nouveau Architecture
1. Printemps Haussmann
2. Le Grand Palais & Le Petit Palais
3. Galeries Lafayette Haussmann
4. Institut de France
5. Bourse de Commerce
7. Hôtel National des Invalides
8. Sacré-Coeur Basilica
9. Sorbonne Chapel
The architect Hector Guimard is the mind behind the iconic metro entrances that can still be found all over Paris, which were constructed as a result of a competition for street architecture in 1899.
In line with the trend of the period, the Art Nouveau architect designed cast-iron Art Nouveau-style entrances of the metro stations – some with glass roofs and some without – all with the floral elements typical for the style. A total of 141 entrances were created 1900 – 1912 – many of them still exist.
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Everywhere in Paris you will stumble upon the wrought-iron and cast-iron balconies, gates, metro entrances, and building ornaments that date back to the turn of the 19th century.
Founded in 1865 by Jules Jaluzot and Jean-Alfred Duclos, Printemps was a novelty in Paris. With elevators from the 1867 Universal Exposition, electric lighting installed in 1888, as well as a direct metro access in 1904, the grand magasin pioneered in the French capital.
Due to prices affordable for the French middle class and introduction of season sales, the department store soon grew in popularity. Initiatives such as offering violets to the customers in spring supported the new Art Nouveau style with its floral motifs.
Over time there have been several transformations of the building, reflecting multiple architectural styles, including Art Noveau and Art Déco. The architectural highlight is the immense 20-metre diameter glass cupola which is a true Art Déco masterpiece. Under the dome heaven customers can enjoy a culinary meal in the elegant restaurant.
Le Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées is an exhibition hall that dates to 1897 when construction was initiated. Together with the adjacent Petit Palais and Pont Alexandre III, it was designed as a contribution to the Universal Exhibition of 1900 and won the competition held. The four French architects Henri Deglane, Albert Louvet, Albert Thomas, and Charles Girault were responsible for the comprehensive project. The Grand Palace was intended for shows and art exhibitions, as well as exhibitions of modern technological inventions such as automobiles, aviation, and more everyday appliances.
The 240-metre-long construction is a marvel of Art Nouveau ironwork, steel, and a glass-vaulted roof with a central flattened dome as the icing of the cake. The total weight is estimated to be around 8,500 tonnes (the amount of steel matches the amount of steel used to build the Eiffel Tower)! There is a spectacular colonnade and an outstanding frieze along the façade. The interior space includes an impressive staircase in Art Nouveau and classical styles and the exterior statues symbolise the classical Beaux Arts, the Renaissance, and the industrial engineering – a tribute to the new trends in architecture in Paris at the turn of the 19th century.
Today, the Grand Palais serves multiple purposes as it contains the Galeries Nationales, Société de Beaux Arts, Palais de la Découverte (exhibiting scientific discoveries) and more. It was also used for the Tour de France in 2017, undergoing restoration 2021-2024, and hosting fencing and taekwondo in the 2024 Olympic Games.
Together with the Grand Palais and the Pont Alexandre III, the Petit Palais was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900, replacing the former Palais de l’Industrie.
The competition announced for the ‘smaller’ palace, located opposite the larger Grand Palais, was won by the architect Charles Girault (among several winners of the palace complex). The Petit Palais became the Palais des Beaux-Arts of Paris and has collections of antiques, Renaissance artefacts, paintings, and other art items. The works of art on display include masterpieces by Delacroix, Renoir, Manet, and Monet among others.
The Petit Palais is topped by a beautiful dome and reflects the architecture of La Belle Epoque in Paris. Like the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais has an iconic colonnade of Ionic columns. Moreover, the palace features a gilded door, a semi-circular courtyard, as well as a lovely inner garden.
The Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann, existing on this address since 1903 (an expansion of the original store from 1893 on the corner of rue La Fayette and rue de la Chaussée d’Antin), is a popular upmarket department store in Paris.
The style of the time in Paris is reflected in the architecture: the Art Nouveau. A magnificent dome in a Neo-Byzantine style was completed a few years later by the architect Georges Chedanne and his apprentice, Ferdinand Chanut. In 1932, the store again underwent renovations, this time in the prevailing Art Déco style. The spectacular cupola is 43 metres high and is still today the centrepiece of the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann.
Five academies belong to the Institut de France which was established in 1795 by the National Convention. The societies are the Académie Française, the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques, the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-lettres, the Académie des Sciences, and the Académie des Beaux-arts. Besides, the Institut de France also houses the Bibliothèque Mazarine, which is the oldest library in the country.
Originally, the building with the beautiful cupola housed the Collège des Quatre-Nations which was a school for students from provinces related to France under the rule of Louis IIV. The Institut de France is considered a protector of arts, literature, and science – and manages a large number of foundations, museums and castles in France.
Erected in the late 18th century, the Bourse de Commerce (Trade Exchange) originally served as a traditional commodities exchange. It was built in a neoclassical style with Corinthian columns and a stunningly beautiful domed glass roof, as well as an interior space lined with frescoes and remarkable paintings.
Today the Bouse de Commerce is a cultural centre and home to the Pinault Collections of contemporary art. The building features a rooftop terrace where you can enjoy panoramic views of Paris while having a culinary lunch in the restaurant.
The foundation of the Panthéon was laid in 1758, commissioned by King Louis XV. The construction undertaken by the architect Jacques-German Soufflot was intended to be a church dedicated to St Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris. The architectural style was a neo-classical approach, striving to combine the Gothic with the classical Greek design. The Panthéon was not completed until 1790 – during the French Revolution.
As a temple of the French nation, the Panthéon became a patriotic monument and mausoleum for great French personalities including writers, revolutionaries, politicians, and scientists such as Voltaire, Jean-Paul Marat, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Alexandre Dumas, and Pierre and Madame Curie! Napoleon Bonaparte, and later Louis XVIII, restored the building during their reigns.
The interior is impressive with beautiful columns and art sculptures, and, not least, the spectacular dome rising towards the sky. In the centre, the famous Foucault’s Pendulum hangs to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth.
The Hôtel National des Invalides was originally a Royal chapel, which can be dated to 1677 under Louis XIV. The architect behind the dome was Jules Hardouin-Mansart and he erected the building as Paris’ tallest building at the time.
The Dome has a comprehensive history – from housing of disabled veterans in the 17th century to being a museum of the history of the French army today. In 1861, it became the resting place of Napoleon I, and under WWII it provided shelter for the Allied Forces. Covered with gold leaf, the Dome is one of the most striking structures in Paris, visible from many places in the city.
The white Roman-Byzantine Sacré-Coeur Basilica rises picturesquely on the top of the Butte Montmartre above all Paris’s roofs. The iconic basilica was designed by Paul Abadie, constructed 1875-1914, and consecrated in 1919. With its height of 83 m, it is still one of the most famous landmarks in Paris.
The Sacré-Coeur is renowned for its large mosaic inside, its crypt, and of course its mesmerizing white dome which is extremely beautiful against a blue sky. From the cupola visitors have panoramic views of all Paris. The nearby Place du Tertre is known for its painters and portraitists and is a very popular site to visit in Montmartre.
The Sorbonne Chapel is a national historical monument at Sorbonne in the Latin Quarter and it is part of the Sorbonne complex.
Replacing the former Collège de Calvy, construction began in 1635 and was completed eight years later as a part of Cardinal Richelieu’s reconstruction project in Paris. The architect behind the building was Jacques Lemercier and the dome was decorated by Philippe de Champaigne.
Hotel Le M Saint Germain is located a 15-minute walk from Jardin du Luxembourg in the Latin Quarter. Rooms include an en-suite bathroom. Close to the Maubert Mutualité metro station.
Europe Saint Severin-Paris Notre Dame is located in the Latin Quarter in Paris, 350 m from the Notre Dame Cathedral and a 20-minute walk to the Louvre. Rooms have a private bathroom, and a buffet breakfast is available in the morning. The hotels features an Italian restaurant with a terrace.
Hotel Saint Jacques is located in the Latin Quarter near the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Soundproofed and equipped with a private bathroom and satellite TV. Very close to the Maubert–Mutualite Metro and Boulevard Saint-Germain. The Roman amphitheatre, Arènes de Lutece, is only 600 m away.
Dauphine Saint Germain is situated between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and The Latin Quarter in a 17th century building, only a 10-minute walk from Notre-Dame Cathedral. The hotel features elegant rooms with en-suite bathroom and a breakfast with fresh pastries. Close to the Metro Station Saint-Michel. The Louvre is only a 20-minute walk away.
Hotel Ducs de Bourgogne is located a few minutes’ walk from the Louvre and the Notre-Dame Cathedral. The Louvre-Rivoli Metro Station is only 300 m away. Rooms have a Louis Philippe style décor, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels and a desk. A buffet breakfast is served each morning in the renovated cellar.
Hotel Atmospheres is located a 10-minute walk from the Luxembourg Gardens and 200 m from the Maubert Mutualité Metro. It offers en-suite accommodation, a garden, a fitness centre and a sauna. All rooms have a flat-screen TV with cable channels and free Wi-Fi.
Do you need to find the right neighbourhood to stay in Paris? – See Where to Stay – Parisian Neighbourhoods
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9 Paris Cupolas and Unique Art Nouveau Architecture
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