The Place Joachim du Bellay, a stone’s throw from Les Halles, is a popular crossroads for people to just hang out. But unbeknownst to many of its current users, this little square has an extraordinarily deep and textured history. It is a premiere example of how Paris today is the sum of many layers of remarkable and at times unexpected history.
“The transformation of the Chaumont hill into a grandiose park, with viewpoints as varied as they are picturesque, is one of the most surprising changes brought about by the Paris administration since it undertook the renewal of the old neighborhoods of Paris,” wrote the Almanach du Magasin Pittoresque in its review of the major events of 1867.
The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is certainly the most spectacular of Paris’s Second Empire parks. Due to its location, however, it is not very much visited by tourists. If one is interested in what Second Empire urbanism really meant for Paris – and is at the same time curious about the dynamic neighboring area of Belleville and what it has to offer – one should absolutely leave the beaten path and head to the north-east of the city.
Construction begins this week on the new Place de la République, a project 150 years in the making.
At 300 yards by 130 yards, the Place de la République is one of the largest squares in Europe. But its lay-out has been a problem that has bedeviled urban designers since Gabriel Davioud was first entrusted with its design in the 1860s.