Landmarks of Ile-de-France

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Chimera of Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Chimera of Notre Dame Cathedral / Brian Jeffery Beggerly, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Most interesting landmarks of Ile-de-France

Archaeological monuments

  • Fontainebleau Forest prehistoric art – Seine-et-Marne. One of richest collections of prehistoric rock art in the northern part of France, with distinct style. Includes Paleolithic art.
  • Pincevent – Seine-et-Marne. Important archaeological find – a settlement (summer camp) of Magdalenian reindeer hunters, who lived here 12,300 years ago. Remnants of their housing and other artifacts have been preserved in excellent condition.

Castles

Château de Vincennes, France
Château de Vincennes / Stephane Martin, Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Château de Blandy-les-Tours – Seine-et-Marne. Large, well preserved medieval castle, built in the 13th century. Now fully reconstructed. Site of ghost stories.
  • Château de Vincennes – Val-de-Marne. The 14th – 17th century royal castle – very impressive building. In the center stands 52 m tall keep, surrounded by a wall. Later surrounded with numerous buildings, forming a large complex.
  • Château La Roche-Guyon – Val-d’Oise. Castle with separate bailey up in the hilltop and castle itself at the foot of hill. Built in the 12th century. Part of the structure is cut into the cliff. The lower castle was added in the late 13th century. Surrounded by picturesque medieval town.
  • Conciergerie – Paris. Large castle in the center of Paris. Old Merovingian castle, extended in the 13th – 14th centuries. Now it forms a part of Palais de Justice.
  • Donjon de Houdan – Yvelines. Remnants of the medieval fortifications of Houdan town. This massive tower is 25 m high and has four towers on the corners.

Gothic and Renaissance palaces

Palace of Fontainebleau, Tapissery Salon
Palace of Fontainebleau, Tapissery Salon / ignis, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Château d’Ambleville – Val d’Oise. Large Renaissance palace, built in the 16th century. Around the castle are some of the best Italian Renaissance style gardens in France.
  • Château d’Écouen – Val d’Oise. Beautiful palace, built in Mannerist style in 1538 – 1550. Not it serves as a museum of Renaissance.
  • Château de Courances – Essonne. Beautiful palace, built in Renaissance style around 1630. Palace is surrounded by a beautiful garden.
  • Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye – Yvelines. Enormous royal palace, now – a museum of archaeology. Contains a chapel in Rayonnant Gothic style from the 1230s. The current palace was built starting from 1539. Flanked by some of the first French gardens.
  • Château de Thoiry – Yvelines. Renaissance palace, built in 1559 – 1580. Valuable interiors.
  • Meaux Episcopal Palace – Seine-et-Marne. Medieval episcopal palace, built in Gothic style around 1160 and rebuilt in Renaissance style in the 18th century. Flanked by a fine French garden. Fine art collection in the palace.
  • Palace of Fontainebleau – Seine-et-Marne. One of most impressive palaces in France, developed by Francis I in the first half of the 16th century in Renaissance – Mannerist style. One of the architects is Leonardo da Vinci. Architecture of palace and its interiors has left much influence on European art.

Baroque palaces

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, France
Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte / Olga Khomitsevitch, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Château de Dampierre – Yvelines. Large Baroque palace, built by Hardouin-Mansart in 1675 – 1683.
  • Château de Maisons – Yvelines. Large palace in Baroque style, built in 1630 – 1651. Predecessor of Versailles through the visual unity of the architecture of palace and surrounding gardens. This building and its harmony with the surrounding gardens left much impact on French architecture.
  • Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte – Seine-et-Marne. Beautiful Baroque palace, built in 1658 – 1661 and surrounded by large garden. Palace is surrounded by a moat from three sides.
  • Grand Trianon – Yvelines. Baroque palace in Versailles complex, built in 1670 – 1708. Palace has one floor.
  • Luxembourg Palace – Paris. Baroque palace, built in the early 17th century.
  • Palace of Versailles – Yvelines. The best known and possibly the most magnificent palace in the world. Developed in the suburbs of Paris since 1661 and served as a royal palace until 1789. With the development of Versailles there was developed a new style in many areas of life – architecture, planning, arts, governance, etiquette – thus the palace represents one of most important monuments of culture in Europe. Considered to be the largest palace in the world, with 700 rooms, facade is some 680 m long.
  • Petit Trianon – Yvelines. Smaller palace in Versailles complex, built as a retreat for Madame de Pompadour in 1762 – 1768. This harmonious building represents a shift from Rococo style to Neoclassical style.

Palaces in revival architecture styles

  • Château de Ferrières – Seine-et-Marne. Luxurious palace, built in Neo-Renaissance style in 1855 – 1859 by Rothschild family. The largest French palace from the 19th century.
  • Château de Malmaison – Hauts-de-Seine. A mansion, purchased by the wife of Napoleon in 1797 and refurbished in Empire style.
  • Château de Rambouillet – Yvelines. Summer residence of the Presidents of the French Republic. Originally a fortified manor, turned into a palace in the late 18th century.
  • Château de Sceaux and gardens – Hauts-de-Seine. Impressive country house, built in the middle of the 19th century in Neo-Renaissance style. Palace has large, beautiful gardens.

City palaces

Hôtel Biron, Paris
Hôtel Biron / Interzone00, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Élysée Palace – Paris. Urban palace, residence of the President. Palace built in 1722 and represents a fine example of Frenc Neo-Classical architecture. Sumptuous interiors.
  • Hôtel Biron – Paris. City palace, built in 1728 – 1731. Free standing building surrounded by a park. Now a museum of Rodin.
  • Hôtel de Beauvais – Paris. City palace – a beautiful example of French Baroque. Built in 1657. The building has irregular planning.
  • Hôtel de Sens – Paris. City palace, built in late Gothic – early Renaissance style in 1475 – 1507. Now contains art library.
  • Hôtel de Soubise – Paris. City palace, rebuilt in 1704 – 1730ies in Baroque style. Beautiful rococo interiors. Now – Museum of French history.
  • Hôtel de Ville de Paris – Paris. The office of the Mayor of Paris, a luxurious building, rebuilt in Neo-Renaissance style in the 1870s. The municipality of Paris has been here since 1357.
  • Hôtel Lambert – Paris. Urban residence – palace, built in 1640 – 1644. Beautiful interiors from the 17th century with exquisite paintings.
  • Hôtel Matignon – Paris. Urban residence – palace, now the official residence of the Prime Minister. Built in 1725, very ornate interiors. Includes also a park.

Churches

Inside the Panthéon, Paris
Inside the Panthéon / Alex E. Proimos, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Basilica of St. Denis – Seine-Saint-Denis. One of the earliest true Gothic buildings in world. Constructed in 1137 – 1141. Nave rebuilt in 1231 – and this rebuilding was one of the first examples of flamboyant Gothic style. Built in the site of earlier cathedrals, which existed here since the 7th century AD. Burial site of most French monarchs from the 10th century to 1789.
  • Église de la Madeleine – Paris. A beautiful Neo-Classical church, surrounded by 20 m tall Corinthian columns. Built in 1763 – 1842.
  • Notre Dame de Paris – Paris. One of most significant Gothic cathedrals and one of best known monuments of architecture in world, built in 1163 – the late 14th century. Especially beautiful is the stained glass and sculptures. One of the first buildings in the world where flying buttresses were used.
  • Panthéon de Paris – Paris. A church, built in Neo-Classical style. Now this beautiful building serves as a mausoleum of distinguished French citizens.
  • Saint-Germain-des-Prés church – Paris. One of the few early medieval buildings in France. The abbey, where this church belonged, was founded in the 6th century, church itself was built in 1014 (including the tower, which still stands), partly rebuilt in later times. Place, where Merovingian kings were buried.
  • St. Etienne Cathedral, Meaux – Seine-et-Marne. Comparatively huge and ornate Gothic cathedral. Construction started in 1175 – 1180 and lasted until 1540. Left unfinished.

Monuments and memorials

Eiffel Tower, sunset
Eiffel Tower, sunset / Angel James de Ocampo, Flickr. CC BY 2.0
  • Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile – Paris. Large monument, built to commemorate those who fought and died for France in the Napoleonic Wars and revolutions. Designed in 1806 and built in 1836 in Neoclassicism style. 50 m tall, 45 m wide. 12 avenues radiate from the arch.
  • Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel – Paris. Triumphal arch in Empire style, built in 1806 – 1808. This harmonious structure is 19 m high, 23 m wide.
  • Eiffel Tower – Paris. One of the best known landmarks in the world, a symbol of Paris and to some extent – whole France. This 324 m tall iron lattice tower was built in 1889 and was the tallest structure on Earth until 1930.
  • Porte Saint-Denis – Paris. A monument in a form of triumphal arch, built in 1672 to honor the military victories of Louis XIV. Arch is 24.65 m tall and 25 m long.
  • Vendôme Column – Paris. A monument to the victories of Napoleon, veneered with 425 spiraling bronze plates – reportedly, cannons taken out in the battlefields of Europe. Erected again in 1874.

Parks and gardens

Gardens of Versailles, France
Gardens of Versailles / Denis, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Gardens of Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte – Seine-et-Marne. Regular – French Baroque gardens around palace. In the design of gardens are used optical illusions (anamorphosis abscondita) which from some points make the garden to look smaller than it really is and from other points – larger.
  • Gardens of Versailles – Yvelines. Possibly the finest example of French Garden design – a Baroque style representation in landscape architecture. In the gardens is built complicated hydraulics system. Contains also some 1,400 fountains and 300 statues.
  • Jardin du Luxembourg – Paris. Beautiful public park. Creation of this park was started in 1612. Richly adorned with garden sculptures.
  • Tuileries Garden – Paris. Public garden, developed since 1564 and available to the public since 1667.

Industrial architecture

  • Hangar Y – Hauts-de-Seine. The first real airship hangar in the world, built in 1879. This 26 m tall building housed hot air balloons.
  • Menier Chocolate fabric in Noisiel – Seine-et-Marne. Beautiful chocolate factory building, constructed in 1872.
  • Murs à pêches – Seine-Saint-Denis. Unusual monument – the historical fruit gardens of Paris, consisting of wall enclosures. Summary length of walls is 600 km. Walls allowed to grow vegetables not characteristic for the open gardens of this area.
  • Pont Alexandre III – Paris. Very ornate bridge in Beaux Arts and Art Nouveau style, built in 1896 – 1900. Numerous sculptures.

Museums

  • Carnavalet Museum – Paris. Enormous museums of Parisian art, located in two beautiful city palaces – Hôtel Carnavalet (1560, Renaissance) and Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint Fargeau (middle of the 16th century, Renaissance).
    Musée d’Orsay – Paris. Museum, located in large Beaux-Arts railway station. The richest collection of French art from 1848 – 1915. Especially large are collections of impressionist and post-impressionist art.
  • Musée de Cluny and Thermes de Cluny – Paris. Museum of Medieval art, located in the historical Hôtel de Cluny, built in 1334 in Gothic style, rebuilt in Renaissance style in 1485 – 1510. This building in turn is constructed over Gallo – Roman baths from the 3rd century. Especially valuable artifact in museum is the 15th century tapestry cycle "The Lade and the Unicorn".
  • Musée du Louvre – Paris. One of the largest museums in the world with more than 35,000 objects exhibited. Many works belong to the most important artworks in the world. Located in a palace, which was started as a castle in the late 12th century. Gradually extended and now it is one of the largest palaces in the world.
  • Musée Jacquemart-André – Paris. Sumptuous Neo-Baroque city palace, built in 1869 – 1875. Now – a museum, contains beautiful collection of European paintings.

Other architecture monuments

Palais Garnier - Grand Salon, Paris
Palais Garnier – Grand Salon / Jim Trodel, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Catacombs of Paris – Paris. Former extensive Paris stone mines (approximately 400 km long network) since the late 18th century have been turned into underground cemetery where are located remains of approximately 6 million people.
  • Château d’Orgeval – Essonne. Beautiful Art Nouveau villa, built by Hector Guimard in 1905.
  • Fortifications of Provins – Seine-et-Marne. Well preserved parts of the medieval fortifications of Provins town. Most impressive is Tour Cesar tower and walls in the north-western part of town.
  • Grand Palais – Paris. Enormous public building, built in Beaux Arts style in 1900. It presents both very rich ornamentation and amazing achievements in structural engineering.
  • Les Invalides – Paris. A magnificent complex of buildings, built to house the war veterans. Constructed in Baroque style in 1670 – 1679. Most impressive is the royal chapel – beautiful domed structure.
  • Palais Garnier (Paris Opéra) – Paris. Very ornate Neo-Baroque building, built in 1862 – 1875. Grandeur and sumptuousness of this building is rarely surpassed in whole world.
  • Petit Palais – Paris. Magnificent public building in Beaux Arts style, built in 1900. Now it houses a museum of Fine Arts.
  • Sainte-Chapelle – Paris. A reliquary of French monarchy, this outstanding Gothic building was built in 1239 – 1248. Contains a unique set of Gothic stained glass.
  • Villa Savoye – Yvelines. A villa whose architecture left immense impact on the development of modernist architecture. Designed by Le Corbusier and built in 1928 – 1931.

Described landmarks of Ile-de-France

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St. Etienne Cathedral, Meaux: 48.960194, 2.878976
Notre Dame de Paris: 48.853187, 2.349355

For many centuries in the region of Île-de-France has been located one of the power centers of the world politics and culture – French monarchy. Thus it comes as no wonder that here are concentrated many of the most impressive buildings in the world, such as:

  • Palaces. Besides the most imposing palace in the world – Versailles – here are located many more palaces, which have left huge impact on Western European architecture – Palace of Fontainebleu, Château de Maisons and many others.
  • Buildings in Paris. Louvre, Tower of Eiffel, Notre Dame de Paris, Paris Opéra… Do we need to explain how beautiful, interesting and influential is Paris?

Featured: St. Etienne Cathedral, Meaux

Meaux Cathedral, choir
Meaux Cathedral, choir / Vassil, Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

Meaux Cathedral is an interesting example of the eternal battle between the aspirations for pure beauty and the sad and often tragic reality, preventing the realization of many ambitions and dreams.

This Gothic church remains unfinished up to this day – but its ornamentation and harmonious build is worth admiration.

Recommended books

Pierre Deux’s Paris Country: A Style and Source Book of the Ile-De-France, Linda Dannenberg


Internationally recognized as the leading chroniclers of the French Country Look, the Pierre Deux team now turns its attention to Paris and its surrounding province. 450 full-color and 24 black-and-white photographs.

The Ile-de-France (Routledge Revivals): The Country around Paris


First published in English in 1971, The Ile-de-France presents the reader with a study of the countryside around Paris through the eyes of Marc Bloch, a man with his own view of history. It looks at the area’s origins, extent, geographical features, archaeology, and past local histories.

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