Fodor's Expert Review Les Halles

Around the Louvre Business District

For 800 years, Paris was fed by the acres of food halls overflowing with meats, fish, and vegetables that made up this district. Sensuously described in Émile Zola's novel The Belly of Paris, Les Halles was teeming with life—though not all of it good. Hucksters and the homeless shared these streets with prostitutes, and the plague of cat-size rats didn't cease until the market moved to the suburbs in 1969. Today, you can still see stuffed pests hanging by their tails in the windows of the circa-1872 shop Julien Aurouze (8 rue des Halles) whose sign, Destruction des Animaux Nuisibles (Vermin Extermination), says it all. All that remains of the 19th-century iron-and-glass market buildings designed by architect Victor Baltard is a portion of the superstructure on the southern edge of the Jardins des Halles. The Fontaine des Innocents, from 1550, at Rues Berger and Pierre Lescot, marks the site of what was once a vast cemetery before the bones were moved to the Catacombs.

After... READ MORE

For 800 years, Paris was fed by the acres of food halls overflowing with meats, fish, and vegetables that made up this district. Sensuously described in Émile Zola's novel The Belly of Paris, Les Halles was teeming with life—though not all of it good. Hucksters and the homeless shared these streets with prostitutes, and the plague of cat-size rats didn't cease until the market moved to the suburbs in 1969. Today, you can still see stuffed pests hanging by their tails in the windows of the circa-1872 shop Julien Aurouze (8 rue des Halles) whose sign, Destruction des Animaux Nuisibles (Vermin Extermination), says it all. All that remains of the 19th-century iron-and-glass market buildings designed by architect Victor Baltard is a portion of the superstructure on the southern edge of the Jardins des Halles. The Fontaine des Innocents, from 1550, at Rues Berger and Pierre Lescot, marks the site of what was once a vast cemetery before the bones were moved to the Catacombs.

After years of delays, Les Halles finally underwent one of the city's most ambitious public works projects: a sweeping €500 million renovation, completed in 2018, that has transformed the plaza, and the much-maligned underground concrete mall called the Forum des Halles, into a must-go destination. While the project was not without opponents, even famously grumpy Parisians were satisfied by the prospect of a prettier Les Halles—and a spruced-up train station underground. (The métro and RER station at Les Halles is one of the city's busiest transport hubs.) In an echo of the past, a 48-foot iron-and-glass canopy floats over the entrance, flooding light into the caverns below. Aboveground, a 10-acre park called the Jardin Nelson Mandela is dotted with trees, decorative pools, and play areas for kids. On the northern end, a redesigned Place René Cassin has tiered steps centered around L'Ecoute, Henri de Miller's giant head and hand sculpture. Looming behind is the magnificent church of Saint-Eustache, a Gothic gem. Movie buffs should check out the Forum des Images, which stages screenings of quirky or older films, often with notables on hand such as director Oliver Stone. Or sample some of the 7,000 films available for viewing on individual screens. To find it, enter the mall on the side of the church at the Porte Saint-Eustache.

The streets surrounding Les Halles have boomed in recent years with boutiques, bars, and restaurants that have sent rents skyrocketing. Historic Rue Montorgueil is home to food shops and cafés. Running parallel, Rue Montmartre, near the church, still has a few specialty shops selling foie gras and other delicacies, though these merchants, like the butchers and bakers before them, are slowly being pushed out by trendy clothing boutiques. Steps away, Rue du Nil has recently become a foodie haven thanks to the Frenchie family of restaurants as well as shops from locavore trendsetters Terroirs d'Avenir. The area is also well-known for kitchen supply stores frequented by cooking amateurs and professionals alike; E. Dehillerin (18 rue Coquillière) is rife with old-fashioned charm, while Mora (13 rue Montmartre) is a bit more sterile but easier to navigate.

READ LESS
Business District Service Historical

Quick Facts

Paris, Île-de-France  75001, France

What’s Nearby