Paris Architecture Tour: Haussmann's Transformation

Discover how the City of Lights transformed into a contemporary metropolis
From US$546 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
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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 of 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
(4.64) 274 Reviews

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Asli was incredible. We had a great day with her!
We had such a wonderful experience with Lindsey. We agreed with her that it was so important to lay the framework of Haussman’s Paris at the Louvre. The history that influenced the architecture of the city was fascinating. We did have the benefit of glorious weather, but we loved discovering the covered passages and weaving our way through ‘old’ narrow streets and the ‘new’ grands boulevards just deepened our deep affection for Paris. As a side note, Lindsay mentioned the exhibit on Notre Dame at the Museum of Architecture near Trocadero which we visited independently later in the week. It was a real treat! We hope to spend more time with Lindsay in the future (perhaps once Notre Dame reopens). Lindsay was relateable, knowledgeable and her passion was evident and infectious. We learned and had fun! Thank you!
Georgia's breadth of knowledge & thoughtful exposition enriched our tour throughout. Equally gifted at explaining AND listening, Georgia would refer back to earlier questions we had, weaving what we saw later with what caught our eye us earlier. And she artfully employed 21st century comparisons to bring the Haussmann era to life. Thank you Georgia. Brava!