The Palais Royal: A great attraction steeped in history

Enjoy a two-hour visit of this site located only 10 minutes from the Relais du Louvre. The Palais Royal is a historical and cultural monument, which also features a charming garden, a cour d’honneur, a gallery of luxury shops, a theatre and an haute-cuisine restaurant.  

History of the Palais Royal

The Palais Royal was built by Richelieu in 1628 and then inherited by King Louis XIII upon his death. Louis XIV spent part of his childhood there. The palace was later bequeathed to Philippe d’Orléans, a cousin of Louis XVI.

In 1781, Philippe d’Orléans, on the verge of financial ruin, decided to subdivide the Palais Royal garden, which until then had been free of any dwelling. Construction took five years, after which 90 merchants moved in. The area was a popular place for loiterers, betters, pickpockets and prostitutes.

Camille Desmoulins at the Palais Royal on 12 July 1789

At the Palais Royal on 12 July 1789, revolutionary Camille Desmoulins gave a speech that ignited the people and triggered the storming of the Bastille two days later.

In 1814 the Palais Royal was returned to Louis Philippe, son of Philippe d’Orléans, King of France during the Restoration. After 1871, the Palais Royal was allocated to various government departments: the Ministry of Culture, the Council of State and the Constitutional Council.

The Palais Royal Theatre to the right of the foreground

The Palais Royal also has a long theatrical history:

  • Richelieu built a theatre in the palace wing, which Molière occupied from 1662 to 1673. Lully moved the Opera in there but it burned down in 1763.
  • The Comédie-Française’s modern history started there in 1799.

The Montansier Theatre was officially opened in 1790 and became the Palais Royal Theatre, with a focus on boulevard theatre.

What to see at the Palais Royal ?

The Cour d’Honneur, Buren columns and French garden

The Buren columns were vehemently opposed by various bodies

In the Cour d’Honneur (main courtyard) you will see the famous Buren columns, an artwork commissioned by Jack Lang, Minister of Culture in 1985.

At that time, the courtyard was a dirty, poorly arranged car park and Jack Lang was determined to clean it up. The project was completed in 1986 but generated a public outcry and endless court proceedings. The artwork covers 3,000m² and comprises 260 marble columns. It was designed on two levels, with a fountain on the lower level.

You can continue your walk by crossing the French garden and enjoying a rest near the pond.

The pretty pond in the French garden

The Palais Royal Galleries

Galleries enclose the palace on three sides and provide a pleasant and picturesque walk. Here, you will find many stores and cafés including the Corraza Café, where the Jacobins gathered during the revolution. 

Bacqueville has sold medals, decorations, barrettes, ribbons, badges and scarves for two centuries
The Corazza Café was the meeting place for Jacobins during the revolution

Eating at the Grand Véfour Restaurant

The Grand Véfour is one of the last of the large group of restaurants, taverns and brasseries that could previously be found at the Palais Royal. Chef Guy Martin is the maestro at this two Michelin star restaurant. Highly regarded by all its patrons, you are guaranteed a culinary experience of the utmost standard.

Rue Montpensier and its theatre and cafés

When you leave the Palais Royal, you can take Rue Montpensier. This street is typical of old Paris and has two interesting landmarks: the Palais Royal Theatre, a classified historical monument, and the L’Entracte Bar.

The theatre also holds concerts every Monday:

The Palais Royal Theatre’s architecture is worth a closer look
The L’Entracte Bar exudes Parisian charm

Practical info:

Opening hours for main courtyard and gardens:

Every day: 

  • October 1 – March 31: 7.30am – 8.30pm
  • April 1 –  May 31: 7.00am – 10.15pm
  • June 1 –  August 31: 7.00am – 11.00pm
  • September 1-30: 7.00am – 9.30pm 

The galleries do not close at midday.

More information about guided tours of the Palais Royal:

The Comédie Française can only be visited via pre-booked tours in French.

19, rue des Prêtres-Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois
75001 Paris

+33 (0)1 40 41 96 42

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