Shopping at the Forum les Halles
If you come to Paris with teens in tow one of the best teen hangouts to bring your kids to is the Forum Les Halles shopping center near the flamboyant gothic church, St-Eustache. The place is just teeming with teens & young adults. The gardens are up top, the mall is down below with tons of shops geared to teens. So if your kids are looking for something French to bring home (besides the ubitquitous Paris t-shirts) then this is the place to be.
For centuries, this area was the Les Halles market area where all the food from different parts of France came in daily (it's since moved outside the city to Rungis). Many shops, bars & restaurants stayed open all night long in deference to the workers who came in during the wee hours of the morning. If you've ever seen the Audrey Hepburn/Cary Grant movie Charade, you'll remember this spot was a scene where Reggie meets up with Bartholomew "near St-Eustache" for a late-night supper of onion soup in one of the all-night brasseries. Indeed there are still many late-night places to eat at such as Au Pied de Cochon, which is open 24/7 year-round, and A la Tour de Montlhéry (Chez Denise) at 5 rue des Prouvaires that caters to the open-all-night Les Halles image in the effort to retain its former flavor.
Rue Montogeuil runs off this area and still is a great foodstuff shopping street with shops open late. Avoid rue St-Denis late at night as this is a street where hookers hang out. However, rue Montorgeuil is quite safe and tourist friendly.
The website has a great interactive boutique menu so that you can decide where you want to shop before you get there. Run your mouse over the map to see which boutiques are where.
Photos: April 2003 & Feb 2006
In the aisle of St Eustache's Church close to the site of the former wholesale fruit and vegetable markets, is a carving by Raymond Mason of the departure of the workers towards the clean and modern facilities at Rungis in the southern suburbs.
This carving, called "The departure of the fruit and vegetables from the heart of Paris on the 28th February 1969", is quite remarkable, and apparently portrays a number of well-known characters.
Raymond Mason, born in Britain, has lived in France for the last 50 years, much of it in the neighbourhood of the "Halles" and came to know and to love the atmosphere, frenzied and hearty as it was, and to know intimately many of the people working there.
This carving is protected by a high railing, and I had to take some half dozen photos and merge them together to get any result, so apologies for the quality! Also it has been compressed horizontally, so you get a better idea with the larger version
I'm afraid this was closed when I was here but it was great to see it. I hear there are over 180 stores here. The whole place is pretty amazing. We came up from the Les Halles metro station into a glass roofed area that eventually wound its way up to street level. On the way we saw a lot of modern art including the pygmalion sculpture.
Les Halles was Paris's main food market for over eight hundred years until it was moved out to the suburbs in 1969 and replaced by a large shopping centre (much of it underground). Most of the area above ground was landscaped into a park.
On the other side of the Forum des Halles (the shopping centre), is the Fontaine des Innocents, a beautiful Renaissance fountain, which takes its name from the cemetery that once occupied this site, the Cimitiere des Innocents. In use from the 12th century, and by then full to overflowing, this cemetery was closed down in 1786 and its roughly two million 'inhabitants' exhumed and transferred to the unused subterranean quarries now known as the Catacombes.
The soil of the cemetery had a reputation for decomposing a body rapidly, apparently with 24 hours (although more likely it would have taken at least 5 years!).
Des Innocents was probably also the site of the earliest Danse Macabre (Dance of Death), painted on the wall of the cemetery (see the website below).
Les Halles housed once a general market that took place twice a week. This market was replaced in the 16C by one specialized mainly on food products.
The new market, consisting in ten iron and glass halls, was build between 1854-1874 becoming a model of covered markets.
On this place once called "the belly of Paris" stands now a modern crowdy shopping centre, for myself personally, difficult to associate with the old animated market described in Emile Zola's novel.
I don't exactly know where Chatelet is, as long as I got out of the Chatelet metro station, I know am already in Chatelet! This is a very busy area for reasons that most of the chillout places are here and alfresco restos as well as shopping, and people hanging out in and around the fountain area, near McDonalds.
I dunno if black is the color of weekends here, but young people in black (MIB?) converge here just to....hmmm ...I don't know again.... lick the melting icecream beneath the fountain? (why not do it at home beneath the kitchen sink?).
I come here to watch people. I enjoyed taking photos of people (my favorite subject), from pretty normal to a bit on the edge (figure it out!).
Writer Emile Zola used to call Les Halles the “Belly of Paris”. More then 800 years ago, in the 12th century, there was built a fully roofed market hall. Throughout the centuries the market developed into the ultimate centre of food for Paris. In the 19th century the market had become so rich, that Napoleon III decided that it deserved a new, more solid building. Completely like the leading construction style of that moment, the new market halls were made out of iron. A total of 12 halls were built were the salesmen did their work.
After de Second World War the Halles were more and more becoming old fashioned. Not according to their looks, but according to their location and their surface. That why in 1969 the market function was transferred to a new area close to the airport Orly, at the south of Paris. To make a new function possible, the old Halles were broken down in the beginning of the 70´s to make place for a modern shopping centre: Forum Les Halles. This was a project of prestige by the president Gescard-d´Estaing.
The new Forum Les Halles also had iron and glass as leading construction materials. Coming from a central square, the countless shops make a stairs-shape all the way up, with four levels. This way it´s a very spacious building, that also is decorated by many statues and other pieces of modern art.
Chatelet les Halles is the heart of the north bank of Paris. Lot of shops and good restaurants.
Nightlife : you'll find good pubs in this district, some of them are a little bit expensive but you can a have a good time in this quarter.
WARNING!!! This quarter is very nice during the day and evening, but take care at night. Try not to walk alone if you're a girl. Especially, if you are in the street "rue Saint-Denis" (the most famous street for prostitution). No big dangerat all but take care.
Métro : Châtelet
RER or métro : Châtelet-Les-Halles
When I visited the Forum des Halles there was most of the times something going on. So I saw this perfomance of music. In the park and the area around there are always streetartists around like musicians, mime players, fire-eaters, jugglers.
In the Forum des Halles are also some museums like Musée Grévin about the Belle Epoque and the Musée d' Holographie. In the Vidéotheque de Paris you can see movies of the historical Paris.
The Forum des Halles, designed by the architects Vasconi and Pencreac'h, has four underground levels. The first two floors have all kind of shops, the third one was made for leasure and culture with cinemas, small concerthalls and restaurants. At the fourth floor are the metrostations.
Like in the former days of the old Halles the Forum des Halles with all the new functions became again a lively meetingcentre. Most of the times I'm in Paris I come there for some shopping or just to look around what's going on.
The first time I learned about Paris at school and visited the City of Light with a group from school the original Halles still existed, but I did never visit them. Les Halles formed the huge food market for Paris. In 1969 the market was moved to a suburb.
It took ten years after the removal of the markethalls before this huge area got its new destination, a huge underground shopping centre. This centre of different levels, was designed around a huge crater, forming a central square with a lots of glass and chrome. From there starts a huge labyrinth of underground streets with shops, snackbars and restaurants.
Besides the shopping part there are also cultural centres like the 'Maison de la Poesie' and the 'Pavillion des Arts'. Atop of the underground shoppingcentre, directly south of the Eglise St Eustache is a green park at streetlevel. This park is popular with visitors and performers. At several places in the Forum des Halles you can find also all kind of sculptures and artworks.
This is one of my favourite parts of Paris, I loved walking down the main street with the locals, buying cheese and meats, bread and wine all on display from their shops lining the street - amazing experience!
The Les Halles was actually the main food hall in Paris for 800 years, in 1969 in was moved to the suburbs, and this place now is a huge shopping centre.
Have a look at Chatelet on a sunday. We heard loud drums, so we took a look and we saw a great spectacle. There was a group of young people playing with drums, you actually felt like being in Rio at Carneval!!!
Chatelet is one of the oldest districts in Paris, tucked behind Rue de Rivoli.
Lots of bars and cafes, it is quite a maze to navigate but it is well worth doing it in order to really get a feel for Central Paris.
I took this pic cos I couldnt believe my eyes seeing this guy jump into the Fountain of Innocents (Fontaine des Innocents) fully clothed in the middle of the day.... heatwaves do strange things to people! :-)
One of the most spectacular example of Paris contemporary architecture. It is compose by four floors under the ground and one on the surface. From the outside the building looks like a glass gallery, rounded, sustained by a metal structure.
In the forum are located 220 shops, 8 cinemas, and the access to the station, a bank and the post office.