Palais-Royal visitor guide

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Visit Palais-Royal, France

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The Palais-Royal and the associated gardens is a palace just a short distance north of the Louvre and at the southern end of the road that leads to the Opera. Although it doesn't take long to explore it is a lovely place and a tranquil escape from the crowds nearby, and free to enter, so certainly well worth a visit

History of the Palais-Royal (Royal Palace) at Paris

The Royal-Palace was originally built in 1636 by Cardinal Richelieu - so it is not surprising to learn it was at that time called the Palais-Cardinal. Richelieu bequeathed the palace to the King in his will, so it became Royal in 1642. Over the following decades it became a centre for meetings of the Royal court.

The palace was later extended to include the columned area behind the main palace, which was used for shops and subsequently became something of an area of ill-repute. This continued until King Louis-Philippe came to the throne in 1830 and decided to close the shops because of their bad reputation.

Courtyard of Palais Royal and artwork

The palace was burned in the Paris Commune uprising of 1870, then restored to be used as Government offices, a role it has retained until today.

Visiting the Palais-Royal (Royal Palace)

Before entering the main courtyard take a look at the original Palais-Royal from Rue Saint-Honorè. This large courtyard is not open to the public but can be seen through the ironwork gates. To the left of the palace entrance is the Comedie Francaise, created by an important group of actors in the 17th century and still active today.

You can now enter the courtyard, which falls into two separate sections. The first is a large square surrounded by stone columns called the Cour d'Honneur and now featuring a rather controversial artwork by Danial Buren which has placed black and white striped colums in straight rows throughout the courtyard.

It is true that these aren't the most inspiring artwork in the world but it is not without interest and it gives young people somewhere take selfies...


Just beyond the columns you will find large round fountains containing multiple big shiny bowls. Again apparently controversial but these actually give quite interesting multiple reflections of the columns and palace buildings and they provide an extra point of interest.

Beyond this first area the large second courtyard is where you can see the gardens of the Palais-Royal, also surrounded by buildings most of which are now small shops.

The gardens were once larger but they were reduced in size and the surrounding buildings erected in 1780 by the Duke of Orléans in an attempt to make money, mostly from cafes and brothels (and rather successfully, we are told).

columns and lights in Palais-Royal

The gardens are very pretty with lots of flower beds and a large water feature in the middle and a nice place to escape the crowds of the Louvre for a while.

We were surprised to see the warning sign next to the pond that warned that so many dangerous chemicals are used to treat the water that it is not safe to even put your feet in the water. I'm no expert but it sounds less than ideal to be using highly toxic chemicals here...

If you leave the Palais-Royal from the north end you can follow the Rue de la Bourse a short distance to see the Bourse (stockmarket) building.

You can find more travel ideas in the Paris guide and the Paris region guide.

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