Answer: they all lived here at Place Vosges, in my opinion, the prettiest square in Paris. It is ringed with 36 redbrick-and-stone houses—nine on each side, a salute to early urban planning. To love it is to know it’s history. Definitely a place to bring your sandwich (it’s okay to sit on the lawn), take in the sunshine and feel very far away from the traffic on nearby rue de Rivoli.
Four centuries ago this was the site of the Palais des Tournelles, home to King Henry II and Queen Catherine de Medici. The couple staged regular jousting tournaments, and Henry was fatally lanced in the eye during one of them in 1559. Catherine fled to the Louvre, abandoning her palace and ordered it destroyed. In 1612 the square became Place Royale on the occasion of Louis XIII’s engagement to Anne of Austria. Napoléon renamed it Place des Vosges to honor the northeast region of Vosges, the first in the country to pony up taxes to the Revolutionary government.
Place des Vosges is structured around two pavilions, that of the Queen at the north part of the square, and that of the King at the south part both built deliberately higher. They are not open to the public; however, you can still visit the house of Victor Hugo, author of “Les Misérables”, which is now a municipal museum. It is free and open daily from 9am to 6pm every day except Monday. To preserve this unity, the place has been protected since the 1960s by the “plan for the preservation and enhancement of the Marais” and no intervention, especially on the façades, can be made without the architect’s agreement.
Chic restaurants, boutiques and art galleries fill the arcade surrounding the park. A small private door, open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., will give you access to the garden of the stately Hotel de Sully, headquarters of the Center for National Monuments. Be sure to visit their well stocked bookstore. Unfortunately they don’t carry No Worries Paris, but you, of course, hopefully already purchased it before your trip to Paris. Place Vosges and all there is to do and see in the area starts on page 93 and is marked on the walking map.
Hungry? Here are some recommended restaurants
Au Bourguignon Du Marais, 52 Rue François Miron, 75004. Regional dishes from Burgundy.
La Tartine, 24 Rue de Rivoli, 75004
Chez Janou, 2 Rue Roger Verlomme, 75003
Les Cotelettes, Cafe Martini, Cafe Hugo