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La Conciergerie

Once a royal residence, the Conciergerie became a prison during the French revolution, a notable prisoner being Marie-Antoinette.

TravelCurious Tip

There’s a rather interesting film called Marie Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst and directed by Sofia Coppola. Check it out: it’s a stylised way into the history of the place

La Conciergerie is one of the iconic sights in Paris. Its medieval origin is clear from its architecture, and indeed this was once the royal palace, the Palais de la Cité, named after the island in the middle of the river Seine. In the 14th century it was abandoned by the monarchy and became a seat of administration, parliament and justice until the French Revolution.

Then the parliament was abolished and a revolutionary tribunal was established in its former rooms. Thus, La Conciergerie became a prison, funnelling captives to the Tribunal, where they were sentenced, more often than not, to death by guillotine.

A Special Guest

The prisoners held there were largely from the upper echelons of pre-revolution French society. Indeed, they held one especially privileged captive: Marie-Antoinette. The Queen became desperately unpopular as rumours went around that her lavish spending had bankrupted the country. She too was executed eventually. Her last words were supposedly “Pardon me, sir, I meant not to do it,” talking to Henri Sanson the executioner, whose foot she had accidentally trodden on.

La Conciergerie is open to visitors now and it has lost nothing of its medieval air. The Hall of the Men in Arms is splendid, and the Women’s Yard seems barely to have changed since the days of the revolution. You can even trace the last footsteps those hundreds of prisoners would have taken as they trudged up to the guillotine.

Quite apart from the gruesomeness of the Reign of Terror, the Sainte-Chapelle is an exquisite little Gothic chapel in the Palais de la Cité that was built during the 13th century. King Louis IX commissioned it to house his collection of relics, including Christ’s Crown of Thorns. It’s stained glass was recently restored and is among the most beautiful in the world.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Paris
Île de la Cité
This island in the middle of the River Seine is the historical heart of Paris.
Pont Neuf
Built to ease traffic congestion in the early 17th century, this iconic five-arch bridge is Paris' oldest bridge.
Square du Vert-Galant
A beautiful little park, the subject of many photographs and paintings, occupying the western tip of Île de la Cité.
Place St-Michel Fountain
One of the city's most well-known meeting places, the statue depicts the archangel Michael vanquishing the Devil.
One of the prettiest, most peaceful locations in Paris, the square is a hot-spot for families, dog walkers and petanque players.
Shakespeare and Co Bookshop
A legendary meeting place and boarding-house for many aspiring writers. Stocks everything from Shakespeare to Joyce.

Related Tours

The Latin Quarter: Parisian Authors & Thinkers
The Latin Quarter is one of Paris' most quirky and interesting neighbourhoods. It is an ambient juxtaposition of medieval backstreets, churches and grand Haussmman-style boulevards, which were built in the 19th century as part of Paris’ modernisation, the area takes its name from medieval times when the majority of local residents were clergy or students who spoke Latin. 

  • Begin at Île de la Cité and see the stunning Notre Dame.
  • Experience the artistic haunts of Sartre, Hemingway, and Camus.
  • Get off the beaten track at Paris’ best-hidden squares and parks.
  • Learn all about the area’s post-Medieval history.
  • End your tour in one of the most beautiful parks in the world - the Luxembourg Gardens.
This three-hour walking tour begins on the edge of the Latin Quarter, on the island Île de la Cité, the city’s historical medieval epicentre. Here you will see the famous Notre Dame and will explore some other architecturally notable sights on the island, including the Conciergerie, Place Dauphine, and Square du Vert-Galan, before venturing across the distinctively Parisian Pont Neuf bridge into the heart of the Latin Quarter.

The Latin Quarter was the scene of the student uprising in May ’68, even though its medieval facade strikes a strong contrast to its liberal, intellectual and artistic side. On Boulevard St-Michel and Boulevard St Germain, you will find many cafes where the likes of Camus, Orwell, and Hemingway passed hours discussing philosophy and literature. The area is also rich with interesting book shops, most notably the Shakespeare and Company - a legendary meeting place and boarding house for many aspiring writers.

Your tour guide will direct you through the neighbourhood’s best cultural haunts: experience the wonders of medieval backstreets that are adorned with theatres and jazz clubs, unchanged since their post-war beginnings, and see the narrowest street in Paris. Visit the city’s oldest church in St Julien le Pauvre and see one of the most famous academic institutions in the world - La Sorbonne. Next stop off at the Panthéon, a mausoleum where many distinguished French figures such as Voltaire, Braille, and Rousseau were laid to rest. Then wander through the grounds of the stunning Luxembourg Gardens and Palace, the perfect place to people watch, enjoy nature, and feel like a true Parisian.


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