The Place de la Concorde connects the Champs-Elysées avenue to the Tuileries garden and Église de la Madeleine to Palais Bourbon. The public square covers 21 acres or so in the midst of Paris city, bordering on the River Seine. The square is one of the best areas to visit when on private tours Paris, and below are some of the most fascinating things about it.
The French Revolution
In the year 1793, during the months-long Reign of Terror, Place de la Concorde was renamed to Place de la Revolution. More than a thousand people, comprising Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Charlotte Corday, Madame du Barry, and the leader of the Revolution Georges Jacques Danton faced the sharp blade of the guillotine here. In 1794, natives gathered here to witness Maximilien Robespierre’s execution, which effectively ended the Reign of Terror. A year later, the square was renamed again to Place de la Concorde, which translates to “Square of the Concord”.
The Luxor Obelisk
The 75-foot tall obelisk in the midst of the square is the oldest existing monument in Paris city. It came there by way of the Luxor Temple, constructed in a prehistoric period. In 1831, the temple was gifted by Egypt’s Muhammad Ali Pasha to France. It took hundreds of men to dig a canal back in ancient Egypt in order to give shipping access. To get close to the Luxor Obelisk, you have to carefully cross the bustling intersection using the crosswalk.
Statues and Fountains
Circling the square is a set of sculptures and figures that represent all points of the country; they are Brest, Bordeaux, Lille, Nantes, Rouen, Marseilles, and Strasbourg. Two fountains are there to the south and north of the Luxor Obelisk, while one of them stands for wartime navigation, and the other one represents river navigation. A travel bug or a history buff might identify the figures in fountains. Their replicas appear in the fountain in St. Peter’s Square, Rome.
Chevaux de Marly
It is hard to miss two equestrian statues at the entry to Champs-Elysées. Their originals were commissioned by Louis XV in the 18th Century for the Château de Marly, and they were relocated back then to the square. It took multiple horses and hours to bring them here. The vehicle wherein they were carried is in the “Arts et Metiers” museum. What you get to see now are reproductions of them; the original statues reside at the Cour Marly, the glass-roofed courtyard of the Musée du Louvre.
Place de la Concorde’s North Façade
When the architect of the French royalty Ange-Jacques Gabriel designed the square, he designed matching structures too that went on to form its north façade. In 1757, work started on two Neo-Classic façades, separated only by Rue Royale. Now, one of the structures is the historic Hotel de Crillon, and the other is home to the government offices. Visitors on Paris private tours can spot Eglise de la Madeleine at the Rue Royale’s far end.
Pont de la Concorde
This arch bridge was designed by Jean Rodolphe Perronet and constructed using the Bastille’s stones. Its construction started after a mob attack, pulled down the Bastille during the French Revolution, continued through the period, and was finished in 1791.
It crosses the River Seine at the square to connect Quai des Tuileries on the river’s left bank to Quai d’Orsay on its right bank. In the early 19th Century, sculptures of French generals were placed on the bridge, but the weight was very great for it and they were moved to Versailles.
The US Embassy Building
When on private tours Paris, you can also see the Embassy of the United States along Place de la Concorde. It is US’s oldest diplomatic mission, of which Benjamin Franklin was also one of the initial ambassadors. Situated at 2 Avenue Gabriel, the present building was designed back in 1933 by US architects.
Concorde Metro Station
Some people consider Concorde one of the most gorgeous metro stations in the City of Lights. It is also one of the biggest interchanges, which links the metro line one, starting at La Défense to the Château de Vincennes, with metro lines eight and twelve. The station’s interior is rife with alphabets and looks like a word search puzzle. Each tile on it has an alphabet from France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man, written in relatively brighter days of the 1789 Revolution.
Hotel de Crillon
Designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel in 1758, the building was once occupied by the Count of Crillon family through the tumultuous period; even a guillotine was instated essentially on their doorstep. A few years later, Louis XVI and US diplomats comprising Benjamin Franklin met here to sign the Friendship Treaty and trade agreement. At the start of the 20th Century, it was converted into the luxury hotel, and it reopened after four years of renovation in 2017.