A dark relic of the Revolution, this famous prison commemorates the Reign of Terror, when murderous infighting between the various revolutionary factions engendered panic and paranoia that led to tens of thousands of people being arrested and executed. Many of the Revolution’s most pivotal characters spent their final days here before making their way to the guillotine, including Marie Antoinette.
Though it’s been a prison since the 15th century, the building itself is actually what remains of a 14th-century royal palace built by Philippe le Bel. The enormous Salle des Gens d’Arms, with its 8.4m-high (28-ft.) vaulted ceiling, is an impressive reminder of the building’s palatial past. As for the prison, though the cells have been outfitted with displays and re-creations of daily life (including wax figures), it’s a little difficult to imagine what it was like in the bad old days. However, the Cours des Femmes (the women’s courtyard) virtually hasn’t changed since the days when female prisoners did their washing in the fountain. In a curious attempt to spice up its offerings, the site has recently been hosting contemporary art exhibits.
- Margie Rynn