Palaces, manors and town halls in France

Château de Versailles

The Château de Versailles, which has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for 30 years, is one of the most beautiful achievements of 18th-century French art. The site began as Louis XIII’s hunting lodge before his son Louis XIV transformed and expanded it, moving the court and government of France to Versailles in 1682. Each of the three French kings who lived there until the French Revolution added impr ...
Founded: 1682 | Location: Versailles, France

Grand Palais

The Grand Palais is an exhibition hall and museum complex located at the Champs-Élysées. Construction of the Grand Palais began in 1897 following the demolition of the Palais de l"Industrie (Palace of Industry) as part of the preparation works for the Universal Exposition of 1900, which also included the creation of the adjacent Petit Palais and Pont Alexandre III. The structure was built in the style ...
Founded: 1897 | Location: Paris, France

Conciergerie

The Conciergerie is a former prison and part of the former royal palace, the Palais de la Cité, which consisted of the Conciergerie, Palais de Justice and the Sainte-Chapelle. Hundreds of prisoners during the French Revolution were taken from the Conciergerie to be executed on the guillotine at a number of locations around Paris. The west part of the island was originally the site of a Merovingian palace, and was initia ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Paris, France

Palais Garnier

The Palais Garnier is a opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. The architect was Charles Garnier (1825–1898). It was originally called the Salle des Capucines because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, but soon became known as the Palais Garnier in recognition of its opulence and its architect, Charles Garnier. The theatre is also often referre ...
Founded: 1861-1875 | Location: Paris, France

Panthéon

Panthéon was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve, but after many changes now combines liturgical functions with its role as a famous burial place. It is an early example of Neoclassicism, with afacade modelled after the Pantheon in Rome surmounted by a dome that owes some of its character to Bramante"s 'Tempietto'. Among those buried in its necropolis are Voltaire, Rousseau, Victo ...
Founded: 1758-1790 | Location: Paris, France

Les Invalides

Les Invalides is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building"s original purpose. The buildings house the Musée de l"Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d"Histoire Contemporaine, as well as ...
Founded: 1670 | Location: Paris, France

Palais-Royal

The Palais Royal was built in 1629 by Cardinal Richelieu, an influential French minister. It became a royal palace after the cardinal bequeathed the building to King Louis XIII. Louis XIV, the Sun King, spent his youth here before moving to the nearby Louvre and later to Versailles. Between 1871 and 1874, Louis-Philippe d"Orléans, cousin of King Louis XVI expanded the palace by adding arcades and shops. At th ...
Founded: 1629 | Location: Paris, France

Palais des Papes

The Palais des Papes is one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. Once a fortress and palace, the papal residence was the seat of Western Christianity during the 14th century. Six papal conclaves were held in the Palais, leading to the elections of Benedict XII in 1334, Clement VI in 1342, Innocent VI in 1352, Urban V in 1362, Gregory XI in 1370 and Antipope Benedict XIII in 1394. The pal ...
Founded: 1252 | Location: Avignon, France

Hôtel de Ville

The Hôtel de Ville is the city hall of Lyon and one of the largest historic buildings in the city. In the 17th century, Lyon was developed and the Presqu"île became the city center with the place of Terreaux, and the Lyon City Hall was built between 1645 and 1651 by Simon Maupin. Following a fire in 1674, the building was restored and modified, including its facade, designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and ...
Founded: 1645 | Location: Lyon, France

Luxembourg Palace

The famous Italian Medici family have given two queens to France: Catherine, the spouse of Henry II, and Marie, widow of Henry IV, who built the current Luxembourg palace. Maria di Medici had never been happy at the Louvre, still semi-medieval, where the fickle king, did not hesitate to receive his mistresses. The death of Henry IV, assassinated in 1610, left the way open for Marie"s project. When she became regent, ...
Founded: 1615 | Location: Paris, France

Capitole de Toulouse

The Capitole is the heart Toulouse, the town"s hôtel de ville (city hall). The town hall was supposedly located on the spot where St Saturninus was martyred. The bishop was said to have been tied to the legs of a bull, which was driven down the steps of the town"s capitol, causing his head to be dashed open. The Capitouls (governing magistrates) of Toulouse embarked on the construction of the original bui ...
Founded: 1750 | Location: Toulouse, France

Palais Rohan

The Palais Rohan represents not only the high point of local baroque architecture, but has also housed three of the most important museums in the Strasbourg since the end of the 19th century: the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Museum of Fine Arts. The city gallery, Galerie Robert Heitz, is also in a side wing of the palace. The palace was commissioned by Cardinal Armand Gaston Maximilien de ...
Founded: 1731-1742 | Location: Strasbourg, France

Château de Fontainebleau

The architecture and decor of the Fontainebleau palace exerted considerable influence on the artistic evolution not only of France but also of Europe. François I intended to make a new Rome of this royal residence. It was in this spirit that he brought artists of renown from Italy, whose intervention marks the decisive stage in the introduction of the aesthetic formulas of the Renaissance into France. Used by the kings ...
Founded: 1528 | Location: Fontainebleau, France

Palais Bourbon

The Palais Bourbon is the seat of the French National Assembly, the lower legislative chamber of the French government. The palace was originally built for the legitimised daughter of Louis XIV and Françoise-Athénaïs, marquise de Montespan - Louise-Françoise de Bourbon, duchesse de Bourbon, to a design by the Italian architect Lorenzo Giardini, approved by Jules Hardouin-Mansart. Giardini oversaw ...
Founded: 1722-1728 | Location: Paris, France

Palais Lascaris

The Palais Lascaris is currently a musical instrument museum. Located in the old town of Nice, it houses a collection of over 500 instruments, which makes it France’s second most important collection. Built in the first half of the 17th century and altered in the 18th century, the palace was owned by the Vintimille-Lascaris family until 1802. In 1942, it was bought by the city of Nice to create a museum. The restora ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Nice, France

Arras Town Hall

The Gothic town hall of Arras and its belfry were constructed between 1463 and 1554 and had to be rebuilt in a slightly less grandiose style after World War I. The belfry is 75 meters high and used to serve as a watchtower. Nowadays tourists can enjoy ascending the belfry. The belfry of the town hall is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of The Belfries of Belgium and France (the group of 56 historical buildings).
Founded: 1463-1554 | Location: Arras, France

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le ...
Founded: 1658-1661 | Location: Maincy, France

Archbishop's Palace

The Palais des Archevêques was the Archbishop"s Palace in Narbonne. It consists of an old Romanesque palace with Gothic alterations. It has three square towers dating from the 13th and 14th centuries. Today the palace hosts a city hall, the museum of art and history and the archaeological museum.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Narbonne, France

Palace of the Dukes of Lorraine

The Ducal Palace of Nancy was built in the 15th century for René II, Duke of Lorraine. In the 18th century the palace was extended by Baroque architects. Under the rule of Leopold, Duke of Lorraine parts of the building were pulled down, in preparation of greater projects, he intended. After the House of Habsburg had ceded Lorraine to French control in exchange for Tuscany, the ducal palace in Nancy became the home ...
Founded: 1502 | Location: Nancy, France

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild was designed by the French architect Aaron Messiah, and constructed between 1905 and 1912 by Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild (1864–1934) . A member of the Rothschild banking family and the wife of the banker Baron Maurice de Ephrussi, Béatrice de Rothschild built her rose-colored villa on a promontory on the isthmus of Cap Ferrat overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The Baroness ...
Founded: 1905-1912 | Location: Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Church of the Savior on Blood

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.

Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.

The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.

In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.

In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.