About Napoleon I
Napoleon Bonaparte was the emperor of France (Napoleon I) from 1804 to 1815. He had a great impact on the world, but more importantly on France and in Paris. Napoleon was born in 1769 on Corsica Island and passed away in 1821 on the island of Saint-Helena.
In this post, we will walk through the most notable places related to Napoleon in Paris, where Napoleon left his mark in the city. Let’s enjoy the history of Paris under Napoleon through the top places related to this prolific character.
READ MORE: 55 Best Quotes about Napoleon to Help you Conquer the World!
Suggested Paris Napoleon Tours (Guided Tours)
If you want to extend your knowledge in Napoleon, Paris has many Napoleon tours to offer. If you really are into Napoleon, we recommend booking an in-depth Napoleon tour with a professional guide – usually an expert in History and Napoleon-passionate himself – to get the most out of Napoleon in Paris.
The Napoleon tours below are quite different, from animated Napoleon experiences (perfect to surprise the Napoleon-passionate of your life) to museum visits or city walks.
NAPOLEON PARIS TOUR
INVALIDES + TOMB OF NAPOLEON
Where Did Napoleon Live in Paris?
Here’s the list of Napoleon residences in Paris, from his first years in the capital to the Imperial residences.
- École Militaire
- Château de Malmaison
- Château de Saint Cloud (today disappeared)
- Tuileries Palace (today disappeared)
- Château de Fontainebleau (on the outskirts of Paris)
DID NAPOLEON LIVE IN THE LOUVRE?
During his time as a Consul and later Emperor, Napoleon never lived in the Louvre Palace. Here’s what he thought about the Louvre:
The Louvre will never be a comfortable dwelling. I see it as a parade palace in which you have to bring together all that you have in terms of objects of art and science, such as statues, bronzes, paintings, libraries, archives, medals – Napoleon I
However, Napoleon multiplied artistic acquisitions throughout Europe and ordered works at the Louvre in order to welcome and present these treasures with dignity.
Top Napoleon Sites in Paris
Below, is the list of the best Napoleon Sites in Paris in no particular order. Read the stories behind these places and some quirky anecdotes about his personal life.
In the past, École Militaire was an academic college for cadet officers from poor noble families. It was founded by King Louis XV after the War of the Austrian Succession.
Napoleon Bonaparte entered the École Militaire in 1784 when he was 15 years old. When his father’s death reduced his income, Napoleon was forced to complete the two-year course in only one year. He was the first Corsican to graduate from the École Militaire.
The École Militaire is located southeast of Champ de Mars. It is open to visitors only during special occasions like the European Heritage Days (usually on the 3rd week in September).
Address: 1 Place Joffre, 75007 Paris
Café Le Procope
This café-restaurant located at Cour du Commerce Saint-André, in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, dates from 1686. Le Procope was a common meeting place for Napoleon and some intellectuals of his time like Voltaire, Rousseau, or Montesquieu.
Bonaparte once left his hat at the restaurant, which you can still see in the window without entering the building.
Americans visiting Paris will be interested to know that Benjamin Franklin wrote a good part of the American Constitution at Le Procope.
Address: 13 rue de l’Ancienne Comédie / Cour du Commerce Saint André 75006 Paris
Les Invalides – Musée de l’Armée
The Musée de l’Armée in Paris, located inside Les Invalides, houses a fantastic collection of objects that belonged to Napoleon, as well as the uniforms and weapons of his soldiers. Make sure to see the statue of the emperor presiding over the main courtyard.
Les Invalides – Tomb of Napoleon in Paris
Wondering where Napoleon is buried? Les Invalides also has a part that is a church, Saint-Louis des Invalides Church. This is the burial site of Napoleon Bonaparte, where you can find the tomb of Napoleon.
Napoleon lays in a seven-layer coffin placed under the dome of the church. The remains of Napoleon were brought here from St-Helen in 1840, 19 years after his death.
Les Invalides hosts a mass at the tomb of Napoleon every year on May 5th to commemorate his death. The people behind the tomb, in the picture below, are Napoleon’s successors during the mass.
NAPOLEON’S ORIGINAL TOMB. The original tombstone, which was on Napoleon’s grave on the island of St. Helen, can be found also at Les Invalides. This tombstone was repatriated from the island in 1840, at the same time as the body, by the ship La Belle Poule.
The tombstone is located outside the Church, hidden by bushes in the garden. The garden is not open to the public, but you can see the tombstone from the windows, more precisely from the Nîmes Corridor or from the staircase leading to the Army Museum (GPS 48.855669; 2.312328).
Arc de Triomphe
In Paris, Napoleon commissioned the famous triumphal arc in 1806 to celebrate his victory at Austerlitz and to memorialize the heroes of the war. The Arc de Triomphe is located in the 8th Arrondissement of Paris, and you can climb up to the top for one of the best views of Paris!
Address: Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris
3 Rue d’Autin – Joséphine and Napoleon Get Married
In this building, the former Mairie of the 2nd Arrondissement, Napoleon and Joséphine got married. Their marriage banns were published on 7 February 1796, and the wedding was set for 9 March 1796 at 3 rue d’ Autin.
The wedding was to occur at 8 pm. Joséphine arrived on time, dressed in a simple but fashionable muslin dress and wrapped in a warm coat, but Napoleon was nowhere in sight. After a while, the public officer who was supposed to marry the couple got tired of waiting, and he went home.
Napoleon did not arrive at his wedding until 10 pm as he lost all track of time with his maps, and it was the acting registrar who married the couple. The marriage took less than 30 minutes to complete.
The wedding certificate purposely contained all sorts of false information. Joséphine was 6 years older than Napoleon. To avoid the humiliation she might feel, Joséphine’s birth date was changed from 23 June 1763 to 23 June 1767, which made her four years younger. As an act of gallantry, Napoleon also changed his birth date to make him 18 months older.
6 Rue Chantereine – The Wedding Night
For the wedding night, Napoleon went to Joséphine’s house that she was leasing at 6 rue Chantereine, located in a fashionable part of Paris called the Chaussee D’Antin (Paris 9). But just like the wedding ceremony, the wedding night did not go exactly as expected, and Napoleon found himself using his military skills rather than his lover’s skills. Here’s the story:
Joséphine owned a pug named Fortuné. Apparently, Fortuné was not inclined to share the bed (and Joséphine) with Napoleon, even on his wedding night! So when Napoleon attempted to get into bed, Fortuné bit him on the shin.
Napoleon’s war against Fortuné did not last long. Two days later, Napoleon had to leave Paris to join his army in Italy.
Joséphine’s house – also known as Hotel Bonaparte – was one of the most beautifully decorated in Paris. From this house, Napoleon orchestrated the coup d’etat, which brought him to power on 9 November 1799.
Unfortunately, the Hotel Bonaparte was demolished during the Second Empire to make way for the current rue de Châteaudun.
Today, rue Chanteraine is named Rue de la Victoire. It took this name in 1797 after the success of Napoleon’s campaign in Italy.
Château de Malmaison
Château de Malmaison was one of the Napoleon residences in the countryside, not far from Paris. The château was bought by his wife Joséphine in 1799 when Napoleon was First Consul.
One of the best castles near Paris, Malmaison was with the Tuileries the heart of the French government during the Consulate.
Napoleon spent long periods in Malmaison. When he became Emperor of France in 1804, the couple moved to Château of Saint-Cloud, more worthy of Napoleon’s new rank.
Napoleon and Joséphine, however, frequently visited Malmaison until their divorce in 1809. After the divorce, Joséphine kept Malmaison where she died.
This Napoleon residence makes a beautiful half-day trip from Paris. It is located 16 km east of Paris, and it is very easy to reach by public transportation.
Canal Saint-Martin – Bring them Water!
Canal Saint-Martin is today a lovely area for a stroll or a romantic cruise in Paris. The construction of the canal was ordered by Napoleon I in 1802 when he was First Consul. It is said that Napoleon asked Gaspard de Chabrol, prefect of the city of Paris: ‘What can I do for the Parisians?.’ And Chabrol answered: ‘Bring them water!.’
A new tax on wine funded the construction of Canal Saint-Martin. The canal is fed by the river Ourcq, located 100 km northeast of Paris.
This new source of fresh water and its fountains helped to avoid diseases such as dysentery and cholera. The canal was also used to transport different goods on big boats.
Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame of Paris was the place where Napoleon was crowned Emperor of France. The ceremony took place on December 2, 1804, in the presence of Pope Pius VII.
For this occasion, the Gothic interior of Notre Dame was turned into a Roman temple. On the facade, a triumphal arch was erected resting on four columns, two of which symbolized the Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties and the other two the ‘good towns of France.’ The Capetians were knowingly forgotten.
The future emperor and empress arrived at Notre Dame separately, and they received the triple anointing from the hand of the Pope.
Against all usage, Napoleon wished to crown himself before taking the constitutional oath at the end of the coronation. He also crowned Empress Josephine, so the Pope had to content himself with blessing the crown.
Address: 6 Parvis de Notre Dame, 75004 Paris
The Tuileries Palace and Tuileries Garden
The Tuileries Palace, located on the right bank of the River Seine, was home to many French kings, from King Henri IV to Napoleon III, until the Paris Commune burned it down in 1871.
Napoleon turned the Tuileries into the official residence of the First Consul. When he was crowned emperor, this Napoleon residence became the Imperial Palace.
The Tuileries Palace was redecorated in the Neoclassical Empire style by the best architects of that time. Today, visitors wandering around the Tuileries Garden can still see a few remains of the palace destroyed by the fire.
TIP: learn the history of the Tuileries Garden whilst having fun with this self-guided scavenger hunt!
Musée du Louvre
The Louvre Museum is one of the most famous museums in the world. Home to the Mona Lisa, or the Venus of Milo, also displays the 6×10 meter painting by Jacques-Louis David on Napoleon’s Coronation Ceremony. It is really impressive!
The resemblance of the characters and the detail of the costumes give this painting the realism of a portrait gallery.
Address: rue de Rivoli, 75001
Place Vendôme, in the 1st Arrondissement of Paris, is one of the royal squares in Paris. Here, you can see the column of the same name – the Colonne Vendôme – which was commissioned by Napoleon in honor of his victory at Austerlitz in 1805.
The column is of bronze, and many scenes of the battle are sculpted around it. On the top, there is a Napoleon statue represented as Caesar, overlooking the Tuileries and Paris.
Napoleon commissioned the Madeleine as a temple dedicated to his military services. However, the construction was finished long after his rule, and in the end, the city decided to turn the temple into a church.
Just in front of La Madelaine, but on the other side of the River Seine, there is the National Assembly building. Napoleon ordered to cover the back of the National Assembly, which is the side facing La Madeleine, with a similar colonnade, so today, these two buildings look like twin buildings.
Sleep Like Napoleon in Paris
Hotels can be so much more than a simple place to rest your head. For some travelers, the right hotel is part of what makes the travel experience an interesting one.
If you want to follow Napoleon’s steps in Paris, book at one of the Napoleon-themed hotels for a total Napoleon experience. These hotels certainly know how to give their guests a memorable stay in a ‘First Empire’ atmosphere.
Located in Paris 8, at a stone’s throw from the Champs-Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe, Hotel Napoleon Paris is a romantic and luxury hotel inspired by Emperor Napoleon’s history.
The spacious and beautiful rooms are decorated in an elegant Empire style with a contemporary touch. This is also one of the best hotels with Eiffel Tower view (from some rooms), Arc de Triomphe, or both!. Rare in Paris, the large connecting rooms are ideal for families.
Napoleon fans cannot go wrong with a hotel dedicated to the ‘Emperor.’ Hotel de l’Empereur is located in Paris 7, not far from the Eiffel Tower, and it features awesome views of Les Invalides and its imposing golden dome.
All the hotel is decorated in an elegant and luxurious Empire style, with beautiful fabrics and furniture. The rooms are spacious and with large and well-lit bathrooms. Most of the rooms come with a view of the Invalides Dome.
Located in the historic neighborhood of Le Marais and hidden behind a flamboyant courtyard, Hotel de Joséphine Bonaparte is the intimate and delightful refuge after a long and busy day following Napoleon’s steps.
Joséphine Bonaparte and the Directoire style inspire the hotel’s design right down to all the carpentry details. Rooms are individually decorated – each with its character – and they all have interesting fabrics, wallpapers, and unique carpets.
The hotel proposes connecting rooms to create your private apartment.
Napoleon Statues in Paris
In Paris, there are still some Napoleon statues or sculptures outdoors or in places easy to spot.
» The Genius of France in the guise of Napoleon. This sculptural set is located in the Louvre Museum at Cour Carrée. It decorates the fronton of the north wing.
» Goddess Minerva, surrounded by the muses of Victory, crowns the bust of Napoleon. This sculptural set is located in the Louvre Museum; it decorates the fronton of Pavillon Marsan.
» Napoleon Triumphant. This statue is found inside the Louvre Museum at Cour Puget.
» Napoleon as Cesar. This is the statue on the top of the Vendôme Column at Place Vendôme.
» Napoleon I dominating History and the Arts. This sculptural set is located in the Louvre Museum; it decorates the fronton of Pavillon Sully.
» Renowned, crowning the bust of Napoleon. This sculpture is located in Louvre Museum, at Cour Carrée, south wing.
» Napoleon I. Statue located at the Courtyard of Honor of Les Invalides.
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