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Paris Architecture Tour: Haussmann's Transformation

Discover how the City of Lights transformed into a contemporary metropolis
From US$490 privately
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Tour Details
3 hours
Product Type
  • Palais Royal
  • Opera Garnier
  • Grands Boulevards
  • Galerie Vivienne
Photos & Highlights
  • Paris city planning tour led by an architectural or cultural historian
  • Discover how Haussmann transformed Paris and his impact on the modern city
Tour Description
On this three-hour tour, we'll explore how the face of Paris was completely changed by 19th-century city prefect Baron Haussmann and explain why the city looks the way it does. Guided by an expert in architecture, we’ll discuss the urban planning revolution Haussmann engineered by restructuring entire neighborhoods and creating many wide avenues in place of narrow, twisting streets.

Disclaimer: The Opéra Garnier is currently undergoing exterior renovations and a large part of the façade is covered with scaffolding. This tour does not visit the interior of the opera.

We’ll begin our discussion at the Palais-Royal, which was constructed in 1781 by Louis-Phillipe d'Orléans, Duc de Chartres, as the city's first purpose-built shopping and leisure complex. Today a charming oasis of calm, Palais-Royal caused quite the kerfuffle when it opened, revolutionizing shopping in a city whose narrow, congested, medieval streets were a danger to any pedestrian foolish enough to set foot in them. Palais-Royal was also the site of the city's first covered passage, or shopping arcade, which we’ll discuss as we wander through some those still in existence.

From here, we'll enter modern Paris, stepping out onto one of the wide, straight-as-an-arrow Grands Boulevards created during the Second Empire by Napoleon III and Haussmann. We'll discuss how Haussmann's boulevards were modeled on those created by Louis XIV in the 17th century, and how the rise of the bourgeoisie in the 19th century led to Napoleon III's radical rebuilding of Paris. Moving on, we'll find ourselves in front of what is perhaps the most iconic example of Second Empire urbanism, the Opéra Garnier. Completed in 1875, the Opéra is the jewel in the crown of Parisian Beaux Arts architecture. We will explore the exterior of the building in detail, placing it in the context of the architectural movements of the day. Depending on time and interest, we may also visit one of the late 19th-century department stores, Printemps or Galeries Lafayette, or even the Société Generale bank building to explore art-nouveau glass domes.

For those interested in modern Parisian architecture, we suggest our Modernist Paris Architecture Tour.

Is this seminar walking-intensive, and/or wheelchair accessible?
We do cover extensive territory on this seminar. Please contact us with any questions or concerns.

Will we visit the interior of the Opera Garnier on this walk?
We will not visit the interior of the Opera, though we will certainly spend concerted time outside discussing the importance of the site.

Where do we meet? Where does it end?
The walk begins near the Palais Royal in the first arrondissement. Your confirmation email will have the exact meeting point details along with a map. The walk typically ends near the Opéra Garnier, Grands Boulevards, or Saint Lazare.

What if it’s raining?
Tours operate rain or shine, but in the case of inclement weather, your guide will modify the tour so more time is spent indoors. It never hurts to have an umbrella on hand.
Where You'll Start
253 Reviews (4.62)

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Marie was amazing! We’ve had many tour guides over the years, but Marie was the best. Her knowledge, personality, and ability to talk about the pre-Haussmann to post-Haussmann time frame was impressive. In short, the tour was exactly what we had hoped,
Everything was perfect no reason for improvement. Marie was very knowledgeable and her presentation leading up to viewing the buildings was very informative, without being overwhelming. We really enjoyed the day.
Asli was incredible. We had a great day with her!