Hôtels Particuliers are private mansions that were once city houses for nobles. Ordinary maisons or houses were built with shared walls to the adjacent houses whereas the mansions were built free standing. There are many of these beautiful hôtel particuliers located in the Marais of Paris (click here to read about them). Don’t be confused by Hôtel de Villes which are where the local mairie (town hall) is located or by Hôtel-Dieu which is the name given to the principal hospital in a town.
I will do a bit of royal name dropping as we look at these historic town houses in Paris called “hôtels”. Mme Sévigné (1626 – 1696) was born here in the royal Vosges but Hôtel Carnavalet at 23 rue de Sévigné is where she spent the last 13 years of her life. She is best known for the letters she wrote to her daughter.
This private mansion, one of several hôtels particuliers in Paris, is now a museum dedicated to the history of Paris with both fixed and rotating exhibits. I visited specifically to view the Eugene Atget exhibit, which was a fascinating look at old Paris. Even if you are not in a museum visiting mood you should take the time to see some of these amazing maisons.
At #6 Place des Vosges the Musée Victor Hugo is located in the former Hôtel du Rohan-Guéménée. By the time Hugo was living here, the area had become a working class neighborhood.
Hôtel Lamoignon, which was built in 1584 for the daughter of King Henri II, now houses the Bibliothéque Historique de la Ville de Paris.
Hôtel de Sully at 62 rue de Saint Antoine is not far from Hôtel Lamoignon. It was built by the duc de Sully and is now Center for National Monuments which is responsible for historic buildings and monuments in the state’s care. Be sure to walk through to the orangerie (garden).
Hôtel de Sens at 1 rue Figuier is medieval castle in the heart of Paris that was the home of Queen Margot after her marriage to Henry IV was annulled. Be sure to take a look at the formal gardens. They even have benches so that you can stop and enjoy a rest. Hôtel de Sens houses an art library and also has exhibitions for a nominal viewing fee.
Hôtel de Soubise now houses the National Archives and the Museum of French History (Musée d’histoire de France). Located at 60 rue des Francs Bourgeois this amazing set of buildings dates from the 14th century.
Perhaps my favorite of these hôtel particuliers would be Hôtel de Beauvais at 68 rue François Miron. It houses the administrative court of appeal and is inaccessible to the public but the curvature of the exterior architeture is what draws me as well as the fact that my favorite composers, Mozart, visited there as a child.
While you are on rue François Miron go to #15 to look at the medieval timber-framed houses. These are distinctly different from the Hotels Particuliers because they are attahced houses, not detached. A short stroll on past these historic houses you will come to one of the oldest churches in Paris, Saint Gervais et Saint Protais.
More info and photos on other Hôtel Particuliers can be found here.