Les Halles

Les Halles (27)

The district of Ile de la Cité is the oldest in Paris since it was where the city was founded. The second district that formed Paris is Les Halles, possibly the one most full of history. Today it is one of the most popular districts and frequented by Parisians.

During the Middle Ages, Paris grew spectacularly, and this meant more needs and more mouths to feed. In 1135 Louis VI ordered the market in Place de Greve to be moved to its current site in Les Halles. Its name comes from the two impressive buildings that Philippe-Auguste had built in 1183. The Parisians gave them the name of “halles”, which would translate as covered markets. This function was maintained over the centuries.

Firstly it was the traders who set up in Les Halles. And after them, the craftsmen began to take over the streets surrounding the market. As in so many other cities, these streets changed their names for those of the trade guilds that made their base there.

In 1851 Napoleon III, with his keenness for reform, commissioned the architect Baltard to modernise the markets. The project included the construction of ten metal and glass structures that were known as Baltard’s “umbrellas”. Napoleon called this project “The Louvre of the people”. The project, like many grand works in Paris, had a lot of detractors. 

In the mid-20th century, the population had increased greatly again, and Les Halles had become too small for its purposes. As the market could expand no further, commerce moved to another area in the 1960s and Les Halles was left empty. Leaving this gap in the very heart of the city required a deep transformation of the district.

The arts-loving president Georges Pompidou left his mark on Paris with many works which sometimes clashed with the incomprehension of the public for their boldness and modernity. They were the times in which Paris saw the Montparnasse Tower and the Pompidou centre emerge. Incomprehensibly, however, he turned his back on Les Halles.

It was the arrival of the Metro that would boost the remodelling of the area. Les Halles was founded as the largest Metro station on the continent and in fact it is one of the busiest as well. 

In 1979 the first hole was dug with pick and shovel that would result in the Forum des Halles. The commercial centre has five underground levels, two for car parks and three for commercial purposes. From the outside only one floor can be seen, everything being disguised by extensive gardens mixed with metallic structures.

There are also steel and glass buildings in the form of a palm tree that house the Pavillon des Arts which puts on temporary art exhibitions and the Maison de la Poésie.

Very close to here we recommend you visit some palces of interest: the church of St Eustache, the Fontaine des Innocents and the spectacular clock: the Defenseur du Temps.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website