The Domaine National du Palais-Royal, or Palais Royal as it’s colloquially called, is a former royal palace turned public park located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. It’s one of my favorite places to visit in the city because the architecture is so typically Parisian and elegantly French.

The palace was designed and constructed over 10 years during the 17th century by Jacques Lemercier. It served as the personal residence of Cardinal Richelieu, who left it to King Louis XIII upon his death. Queen Anne of Austria continued to reside in the home with her son, the young King Louis XIV.

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Inside the Palace, you can find a beautiful courtyard: Cour d’Honneur, a park with a flower garden, a flowing fountain, and plenty of chairs. The garden is surrounded by restaurants, boutiques, and cafés along the perimeter under the arcades.

There are so many things to do in Palais Royal! Here are my recommendations for how to make the most of this exquisite gem in central Paris.

Palais Royal History

The Palais-Royal in Paris has a rich and multifaceted history that traces back several centuries. Originally named the Palais-Cardinal, it was the personal residence of Cardinal Richelieu, one of the most powerful figures in early 17th-century France. Here’s a brief overview of its history:

Construction and Early Days (1624-1642)

1624: Cardinal Richelieu commissioned the construction of the Palais-Cardinal. It was designed by the architect Jacques Lemercier. Besides the main palace, the complex also included a large garden and the Théâtre du Palais-Royal.

1642: Upon Cardinal Richelieu’s death, the palace became the property of the French Crown and was renamed the Palais-Royal.

Palais Royal Paris

Royal Residence (17th Century)

The palace served as a residence for members of the royal family for several decades. Notably, the young Louis XIV lived there for a period of time before moving to the Louvre and, subsequently, the Palace of Versailles.

18th Century Changes

The Palais-Royal underwent significant changes in the late 18th century under the Duke of Orléans, Philippe Égalité. He transformed the gardens and the surrounding buildings into a commercial complex, with shops, cafes, and entertainment venues.

By the French Revolution, the Palais-Royal had become a hub of political and social activity. It was a popular gathering place for radicals and saw many revolutionary events and discussions.

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19th Century and Beyond

Throughout the 19th century, the Palais-Royal housed various governmental entities and continued to evolve architecturally.

Its significance as a royal and political center slowly waned, especially with the rise of other prominent Parisian sites.

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Today, while it no longer serves a royal function, the Palais-Royal remains an iconic structure in Paris. It houses the State Council (Conseil d’État), the Constitutional Council (Conseil constitutionnel), and the Ministry of Culture (Ministre de la Culture).

Throughout its history, the Palais-Royal has borne witness to significant cultural, political, and societal shifts in France. Its architecture, gardens, and associated institutions make it an enduring symbol of Paris’s layered history.

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Things to Do In and Around Palais Royal

Here are the best things to do in Palais Royal.

Les Colonnes de Buren

If you enter from Rue de Rivoli, on the south side, you’ll pass by Les Deux Plateaux, or the Buren Columns.

Les Colonnes de Buren Palais Royal Paris

You can’t miss spending time in this public art installation dating back to 1986: Les Colonnes de Buren, by French artist Daniel Buren.

Palais Royal, Paris

Fontaines de Pol Bury

Next, you’ll pass by the Fontaines de Pol Bury, or La Fontaine des Spheres, located in the smaller Cour d’Orléans. This fountain was commissioned under the presidency of François Mitterand back in 1985. Belgian artist Pol Bury was chosen to design the two courtyard fountains.

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Jardin du Palais-Royal

The Jardin du Palais Royal, or the Royal Palace Garden, is truly magnificent to see during springtime in Paris, when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, along with dozens of other colorful flowers.

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Pay attention to the green chairs in the park. You may get to read a line of prose from one of the country’s many poets like this one from Charles Baudelaire!

Palais Royal Chair Paris with poetry by Charles Baudelaire

“La mer est ton miroir: tu contemples ton âme.” –Charles Baudelaire

Contemporary Public Art

The Palais Royal is often host to various contemporary public artwork installations. I happened to visit while one such artwork had taken place.

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Café Kitsuné

Café Kitsuné is also a popular place to grab a cup of coffee and relax in the quiet park.

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Le Grand Véfour

Le Grand Vefour is one of the best restaurants in Paris and is located inside Palais Royal. Try to snag a reservation here to eat one of the best French meals of your life.

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Comédie Française

The Théâtre du Palais-Royal has its own storied history. Today, it’s known as the Comédie-Française, one of the oldest and most esteemed theatrical companies in the world. The Comédie Française, the most prestigious national French theater company, is located outside the park on the Place Colette near Rue de Rivoli.

Café Nemours

Café Nemours is one of my favorite cafés in all of Paris, and it’s right outside the Palais Royal entrance near Rue de Rivoli. It overlooks the small but beautiful Place Colette and is a great place to have breakfast or lunch before exploring Palais Royal! The opening scene of the Angelina Jolie movie The Tourist was filmed here!

Palais Royal is one of the best public spaces in Paris you must visit!

Domaine national du Palais Royal
8 Rue de Montpensier
75001 Paris, France

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