No, it’s not a hotel. This enormous Neo-Renaissance wedding cake is Paris’s city hall, and you can’t go inside. But even if you can’t get in to see the sumptuous halls and chandeliers, you will be able to feast on the lavish exterior, which includes 136 statues representing historic VIPs of Parisian history. Since the 14th century, this spot has been an administrative seat for the municipality; the building you see before you dates from 1873, but it is a copy of an earlier Renaissance version that stood in its place up until 1870, when it was burned down during the Paris Commune. The vast square in front of the building, which used to be called the place du Grève, was used for municipal festivals and executions, and it was also the stage for several important moments in the city’s history, particularly during the Revolution: Louis XVI was forced to kiss the new French flag here, and Robespierre was shot in the jaw and arrested here during an attempted coup. Today the square is host to more peaceful activities: There’s usually a merry-go-round or two to captivate the little ones, and in winter an ice-skating rink is set up.
- Margie Rynn