magical area with a huge shopping center, lots of restos and bar ,a gorgeous modern arche, and great views over the other arc and the Champs-Elysées.
line 1 metro takes you there and out, plus bus 73 is lovely as a tourist idea to take a regular bus line, and the RER trains.Also the tramway if you want a ride around Paris to the porte de St Cloud passing from gorgeous Suresnes
see official site of dept 92 la Defense, is not Paris but close very close.
It is big, it is modern, it is nice. Better than that, it is several kilometers far from the historic Paris.
La Defense is a wise solution to build an impressive modern quarter without spoiling the image of the city.
Though out of central circuit, the common tourist tickets include it as an exception - the many commercial structures need costumers...
Have an idea where from « La Défense » got its name ? Of course something to do with defence! It has been called like that as remembering the war against the Prussian (and the Bavarian; funny, one of the very rare occasions Bavarian and Prussian did something together!) in 1870, when the German (in general, as Bisma rck managed to group them in a single country) crushed the French armies.
On fourth of September 1870 the Parisian proclaimed the republic, being informed the French troops had been defeated by Von Moltke in Sedan; the Parisian began to build defence places around Paris, brought cannons and build barricades around Paris; it was the beginning of “La Commune de Paris”, the romantic (and dramatic!) revolutionary time, so beautifully described by Victor Hugo in “Les Misérables”, or Jules Valles in “L’Insurgé”. It was the birth of the third republic and that is why you may notice “Rue du 4 septembre (4th of September street) in many cities of France.
The German armies occupied the surroundings of Paris, and most of Northern France as far west as Normandy (many short novels of Guy de Maupassant relate this period in his beloved Normandy), “won” this war, and made Alsace and Lorraine German again, after they had been annexed to France by Louis XIV, and later again by Napoleon.
So, La Defense is firstly a place where the French resisted against the German troops in 1870 and the statue on the main picture commemorates that event. Today, this statue is a bit lost in the futurist surroundings of this business quarter. This statue (by L.E. Barras) has been inaugurated in 1883, when the area of the nowadays La Défense was just few houses and fields, then inaugurated again, after the first big works in the business district, in 1983.
It looks really tiny in the midst of the big skyscrapers, like the EDF (French National Power company) building (pictures 2 and 3); so tiny statue in front of multinational corporations buildings. . . (picture4).
Metro: Line 1, go out at Esplanade de la Défense station, at the Eastern end of La Défense, not at La Grande Arche station, and walk up West the central alley beginning with the Takis Basin (Picture 5); 400 meters in direction of La Grande Arche, you will arrive at the Agam basin; it’s there, you can’t miss!
RER: Ligne A, station La Défense; be aware that you are in 2nd zone for public transportation and the fare from Paris is higher than with the metro.
The official website of La Défense has a good introduction in English, but the links to practical information, shopping, restaurants, transportation, architecture. . . are in French; it is more for business visitors rather than for tourists.
La Défense is quite well known for its modern skyscrapers, the Grande Arche, and other famous buildings, but, while looking at the big buildings, may I suggest to keep the eyes down from time to time, and look at statues, paintings, and other modern art objects, hidden or not, between the big steel, concrete and glass buildings; some are very obvious, there were even parts of them on the pictures of the previous tip, and here are some more.
It is even possible to make a special modern art tour in La Defense: at the information centre of the museum located on the right (looking West, toward the Grande Arche) of the Agam Basin, next to a green bistro (Called Globe Trotter!), you can ask for a little flyer containing an inventory of most of the art works displayed at La Défense; it is free! You then can follow the indications of the guide (or not follow, it is more fun!) and discover some hidden gems in La Défense. You find them everywhere, even in the RER and metro stations.
If you visit the information centre, have a look in the basement of the building, and visit the museum of La Défense; there, you will have an insight to the history of this business district, with many posters, vintage photographs, and lots of scale models of the individual buildings or the whole area and how it changed with time. You will notice that La Défense is constantly evolving, new buildings are rising every year!
Metro: Line 1, go out at Esplanade de la Défense station, at the Eastern end of La Défense, not at La Grande Arche station, and walk up West the central alley beginning with the Takis Basin; 400 meters in direction of La Grande Arche, you will arrive at the Agam basin; Right (North) is the information centre.
Once you visited the information centre, do not forget to take a map of La Défense and the little folder helping to identify the artworks and to find them between the buildings. Some are very obvious, like the Spider (l’Araignée) from Calder, or the people (personages) from Joan Miro, located on the main square (Place de la Défense), and many smaller ones; many other are hidden between the buildings, on sideways, or even in the Metro or RER stations. I am of course totally incompetent to write about modern art; for some artworks, I almost do not notice, and others, I stop in front and have a long look every time I pass by, and I even make sometimes a detour, just to have a look! Some works of art tell me something, other not. . . . I show here a few I like, and I just can tell you to look at the folder and map, you certainly will find some you like, hidden here or there, or even notice only at the third time you pass by, as some of them are unnoticeable at first glimpse, and then you can’t go away. . . . look at, from every possible perspective. . . So, here, but not in order of preference, a walking tour of a few I like.
Dame Lune (Lady Moon), from Siva is hidden in a garden behind the Tour Générale, East of the Place de la Défense (picture 148°53’21.00”N 2°13’38.78”E).
Le Moretti (from Moretti), a coloured tower you will see on your right when you walk from the Takis Basin (Metro Esplanade); it reflects sometimes beautifully in the windows of the neighbouring buildings (picture 2 48°53’20.74”N, 2°14’52.23”E).
On picture 3 (48°53’25.42”N, 2°14’45.11”E ) is the Cloud Sculptor, by Atila, a coloured tiles fresco, a bit in Latin American style with the bright colours; I like it a lot, but the area is almost shady all times, between the buildings; next by is the “Fontaine des Corolles” (Corola fountain), from Leygue.
One of my preferred, on my HP since long time, is “Le Grand Toscano” from Mitoraj, with this serene mouth. . . (picture 4, 48°53’31.23”N, 2°14’30.72”E)
In the RER station (Eastern end) is a painted glass from Mathieu-Bachelot and Rapian, which shows nice geometries (Traits d’Union) (Picture 5, no coordinates, your GPS will not work!). There is modern art everywhere in La Défense, watch out!
Metro: Line 1, go out at Esplanade de la Défense station, at the Eastern end of La Défense, not at La Grande Arche station, and walk up West the central alley beginning with the Takis Basin.
RER: Ligne A, station La Défense; be aware that you are in 2nd zone for public transportation and the fare from Paris is higher than with the metro.
There are 65 “works of art” listed on the guide you can get at the Information Centre, and if you are patient and look well up and down (the guide is “flat”, and some artworks are underground or high on a building) you may discover a lot of them; La Défense is also a constant workplace, and some of the works are temporarily removed or hidden behind high barriers. . . . But there are at least 50 you can see within a few hours. . . . .
There is of course the famous Thumb (picture 2 48° 53’36.77”N; 2°14’19.47”E) of César, located west of the CNIT building, you may reach passing by the aerial structures of Miyawaki: Les Utsurahi. If you go further west, you will see two giant statues of Mitoraj, Icare on your right and Ikaria(picture 3, 48°53’43.04”N; 2°14’13.08”) on your left; I find a lot of humour in this sculpture. . . . Going to the West side of the Grande Arche, you will pass by other artworks, you can even walk across the boulevard, on a wooden and steel bridge, along the Puteaux cemetery, discover some works hidden here or there (another Mitoraj, a pyramid, . . . . flowers), and come back to the Grande Arche, and then walk East, and see this broken steel sphere, with a seedling growing between the towers: Point Growth, from Lim Dong Lak, a photographers attraction (picture 4, 48°53’24.54”N; 2°14’32.99”E). . . . . Weather is not always “fine” in Paris, but it can give you some nice surprises, like the opportunity to compare the colours of the rainbow and the Agam Fountain , from Agam (picture 5, 48°53’25.36”N; 2°14’33.63”E). But among the most beautiful sculptures, is Le Somnambule (the Sleepwalker, main picture; 48°53’20.98”N; 2°14’54.24”E) from De Miller, you have to discover a bit off the beaten path and looking to the sky. . . . . I see a poetic dreamer rather than a sleepwalker. . . and I sometimes make a detour, just to see it once again. . . . with other light, other weather, other mood. . . . . c*
I am not at all architect, have only very basic knowledge in construction and civil engineering, and I look at the buildings for just their elegance, their beauty, their shapes, the glass and the reflexions, how they cut the horizon line; just somebody who looks and likes. La Défense has been subject for controversies long time, in France, but with time, people more than getting used to it, begin to like it and people working in that business district feel even some pride to work there, as other in the City in London, or in the business centre of Frankfurt, or Downtown Dallas. Many architects have the “work of their life” here, and indeed, some buildings are unique.
The most unique to me is the CNIT (Centre des Nouvelles Industries et Technologies ) building, not the most spectacular, but. . . . have a close look: no, these are not three intersecting hyperbolic paraboloids, but parabolic cylinders, convolved with higher frequency paraboloids. . . . ;)) Well, if the architects are very renowned (Prix de Rome) without structural engineer Robert Esquillan who is the real inventor of the double shell concrete roof, we would not see this incredible building, largest concrete shell in the world which deserves a close look and a visit inside, specially as it has been emptied in 1988; it was originally designed and constructed in 1956-1958 as an exhibition hall, as the Grand Palais in Paris was too small for big modern exhibitions (I have seen a nautical exhibition there, in 1983, and huge boats were on display, there was space almost as on the ocean!
On the first picture is the CNIT seen from the Grande Arche stairs. On the second picture, reflecting in the Takis basin is the Tour Generale, hiding the O2 (former Credit Lyonnais) tower, itself hiding the EDF tower; left the “Lesser Total” tower. You can have a very good overview of the perspective of La Défense in the broken steel sphere of “Point Grow” (picture 3), even during rainy weather! La Défense statue in front of Agam fountain and the Northern side buildings line on picture 4.
If you go on the western side of La Grande Arche, you will have a view over the Puteaux cemetery and, standing in the midst of the Takis screws (light signals) you almost see them drill trogh the sky in the midst of the glass towers (picture 5)
Whatever the season, whatever the weather, there is always something happening at La Défense! I tell here about the “outdoors” events which take place during the year. If you want to know what happens, go to the French version of the website and click on the calendar of the web page, or on the Actualités tab at the bottom of the page; there is information about exhibitions, concerts, conferences. . . . you can combine your visit to La Défense with some event you would like to attend, or are lucky to find there when you visit!
Coming out from the metro station in the morning, you may have the surprise to see new (new for the persons who work in La Défense) statues (first picture) just for a change; this one here was part of a polystyrene statues which were designated to “die” within a few days. . . loosing their shape and getting soft. . . .possibly representing the poor white collar workers under the yoke of their capitalist exploiters?
In May is a famous Jazz festival, free, in open space, and at lunch time lots of people enjoy a bit of light music before returning to work. . . and lots of surprised tourists enjoy too (picture 2). Sometimes, music bands perform totally informally on the Esplanade, generally at lunchtime, like here in September, at the feet of the Grande Arche (picture 3).
A big oil company sponsored an exhibition about the fate of the planet, in the frame of “the Year of the Planet” and a 50m X50 m satellite image of the planet was exhibited, and you could walk on future travel destinations and have a close look (like here, on picture 4, Papua island). Many sculptures are on display during the year, and these marble columns (picture5) are just an example of temporary decoration the administration of La Défense promotes and displays.
This is of course the building you cannot miss in La Défense! Coming from the lower metro station you have it in Front of you, 500 m away, and you walk to it looking around at statues, buildings, perspectives, and slowly approach, approach and notice how it grows in the sky.
This hollow cube has been designed by Danish architect Johan Otto von Spreckelsen and structural engineer Erik Reitzel, who won the tender emitted by French government, under President Mitterand; the purpose was to extend the “historical axis” of Paris, going on one straight line from Louvre Palace to the Concorde Obelisk, the Champs Elysées, the Arc de Triomphe, and now very far, the Head of Defense. The Grande Arche has been inaugurated in July 1989, bicentennial of the French Revolution.
The website below gives lots of information (tabs are in French!) about the building, technical details, and more little stories, like the fact Notre Dame Cathedral could fit in the hollow of the cube.
Nice is to make a visit on the roof from where you can have a great view over Paris and the western suburbs, using the fast panoramic lifts. There are three ways to get up, in fact:
1) pay the fare for the lift: 10 Euros, and you can go to the roof museum and go on the roof.
2) Make a reservation at the roof restaurant “ô 110”, and you can use the lift free. The menu of the restaurant looks good, but expensive.
3) Tell the lift attendant you made a reservation at the restaurant with a big smile. . . use the lift free, and don’t go to the restaurant. . . . . :) I had no problem last time (Sept 2008, bad weather day), with another VT-er, but there may be checks upstairs. . . . take risk. . . . . :)))
I like this big cube with simple and perfect shapes, at day or night, from far or from close. . . . . This monument, hosting mainly government offices has character.
During day time there are lots of ways to look at the Grande Arche, like for example from the Agam Fountain (picture 1), see it from under Calder’s Spider (picture 2), or in Spring with Cherry blossoms (picture 3). I love it a lot at night, lit by bright lights, and hidden behind the water plays of the Agam fountain, in rhythm with classical music (picture 4), or when it appears so brightly in the dark blue sky (picture 5), displaying a sort of a crystalline shape. . . .
Europe is identical with old buildings, architecture european style. Paris as well. On the centre of Paris most of the building are old one. But surprised surprised at La Défense you will see modern high buildings i.e. The remarkable cube Grande Arche, Parvis&Esplanade, A HUGE tumb monument (but I don't know the story behind it, why they only make a tumb :-)), Shopping shops, Jardin de l'Arche, etc. Lifts will whisk you up to the 35th floor of the Grande Arche and view panorama from the top. Come and visit this area if you want to sense different view of Paris.
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