A city-break in Paris side by side with Napoleon
By Annick Dournes & Frédéric de Poligny
When Napoleon took power as France First Consul in 1799 he already knew that he wanted Paris to become the most beautiful capital in the world. At 30 years old, this young man who was to be Emperor only five years later by his sheer strength of will, had great ambitions for Paris. In only 15 years he dramatically changed the city and the French capital we can visit today owes him a lot. From the Arch of Triumph to the Vendome Column, from the Austerlitz Bridge to the Père Lachaise cemetery or from the Saint Martin Canal to the church of la Madeleine our path through Paris is filled with his dreams and works.
“Hotel Napoleon”, worthy of your imperial Parisian stay!
Ideally located on the Friedland Avenue close to the Arch of Triumph and the Champs Elysées, this 5-star hotel will set you into a Napoleonic mood as soon as you pass its doorway. The lobby-bar with its real fireplace, the warm dining room and all the rooms and suites have a Napoleon style decoration. Period furniture, striped green satin, embroidered gold bees, symbol of the First Empire, paintings and prints of famous historic episodes create a unique decor like no other Parisian hotel.
The hotel was built in 1923 in place of Count Tolstoï palace. In the late 1920’s Alexander Kliaguine, a wealthy Russian businessman, bought it for his wife, a pretty Parisian young lady he had madly fallen in love with. A romantic story for a romantic place! This unique decor, steeped in history, has attracted famous guests such as Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dali or Miles Davis and has been chosen as shooting location for several French feature films. The hotel still belongs to the Kliaguine family.
“The Bivouac” is the hotel’s restaurant. With its dark wood sheathing, deep sofas, soft carpets and subdued lighting it really a comforting and cosy place, ideal for a drink or a casual dinner. When weather allows you can also enjoy your meal on the outdoor terrace from where you’ll have a wonderful view over the Arch of Triumph. Chef Olivier Legentil makes a tasty cuisine inspired by his Mediterranean training. As you should expect in a 5-star hotel the menus are made with fresh products and everything is homemade.
Why not start with a “Roasted Camembert cheese with apples and bread sticks” or “Scrambled eggs tartufata”, continue with an “Old fashioned veal blanquette” or “Pan-fried scallops, steamed leaks and and fennel with Riesling” and end with a “Baba au Rhum with milk chocolate cream” or an “Apple confit pie with half-salted butter caramel”… and many other tempting and creative dishes. The wine list is short but carefully chosen and offers a great selection of wine by the glass.
The breakfast and brunch buffet is just amazing with a wide choice of almost everything you might want to have whatever your food preferences. Whether “omnivore”, vegan or gluten free you will find tasty and quality food to be nicely satisfied!
Napoleon style also is omnipresent in the 96 rooms and suits. With their luxurious fabrics, fluffy carpets and style furniture they are cosy nests where it feels good to relax after a Napoleonic tour in Paris or a busy shopping day in the nearby Champs Elysées and Avenue Montaigne. The rooms of the highest levels offer unique views over the Arch of triumph and the Place de l’Etoile. You can also enjoy a great view over the typical Paris’ roofs from the gym equipped with state-of-the-art exercise machines.
More about this unique Parisian hotel at www.hotelnapoleon.com/en/
Paris in the footstep of Napoleon
When Napoleon came to power in 1799 ten years after the French Revolution, Paris was in a sad state. Only 15 churches were still opened for worship (out of 150 before the revolution), the streets and houses were dirty and poorly maintained, public gardens looked abandoned and completely overgrown, many official buildings had been vandalised and the former palaces of the aristocrats had been ransacked.
Between his numerous military campaigns Napoleon devoted most of his reign to embellish and modernize Paris and to improve the life of its inhabitants. Ancient feudal structures were eliminated, the Louvre was turned into a huge museum, damaged buildings such as Notre Dame or Sainte-Genevieve church (that he will turned into a “Pantheon” dedicated to great French people) were restored and of course new buildings were put under construction all over the capital.
The list seems to be endless! After his great victory at Austerlitz in 1806 Napoleon wants to pay tribute to his Imperial Armies and has two arches of triumph built in Paris. The first one is built close to the Louvre and we can still see this beautiful Arc du Carrousel opening the way through the Gardens of the Tuileries and the Champs Elysées up to the Arch of Triumph. However Napoleon never saw this one finished as it was only completed in 1836.
Set in the middle of the magnificent Vendome Square, the Vendome Column was inspired by the Trajan’s Column in Rome. It was built using the 1,200 bronze cannons taken from the Russian and Austrian armies after Austerlitz battle. This first column was destroyed during the Commune of Paris in 1871 (another French revolution!), but was rebuilt shortly afterwards with, on its top, a copy of the original statue depicting Napoleon as a Roman emperor.
Set on the Madeleine Square the Madeleine Church was built in an ancient Greek style to honour Napoleon’s Great Army. He also built the Brongniart Palace that was to be and still was until recently the Paris Stock Exchange.
He also created famous streets and avenues such as the Rue de Rivoli, the Rue de Castiglione or the Rue des Pyramides that still are some of the most beautiful ones in Paris. Three bridges were built during his reign, the Pont des Arts, the Pont d’Austerlitz and the Pont d’Iena of which we can still admire the beautiful silhouettes spanning over the Seine.
He also embellished the Luxembourg Gardens, created the “Jardin des Plantes” that has been a major wild life museum ever since. To improve the Parisians’ life several dozens of fountains were built all over the city and to facilitate trade he had three canals built to link the main rivers of Paris region. The famous Père Lachaise cemetery was also created by this indefatigable man! Your Napoleonic tour in Paris wouldn’t be complete without a visit to his tomb under the dome of the Invalides. The Invalides are a complex of buildings created in the 17th century to welcome veterans of Louis XIV’s armies. Napoleon’s tomb was set here in 1861, forty years after his death.
It truly is amazing how much Paris owes to Napoleon. If we are all aware of how Paris was transformed by Napoleon’s great nephew, Napoleon III, and Baron Haussmann, we often forget that Napoleon Bonaparte was the one who initiated this metamorphosis. His works are everywhere to be seen. Even those who are not big fans of this historical figure should give credit where credit is due!