Discover Paris in the footsteps of Napoleon

There are many places in and around Paris that still bear the hallmarks of the First Empire. (Re)discover them by following the guide.

Set off in the footsteps of Napoleon in the heart of the capital: from the Arc de Triomphe to the Madeleine church, via the Pont des Arts, Notre Dame, and Paris's canals, it was because of Napoleon that many monuments and sites were created.

On the occasion of the release of the epic ‘Napoleon’ movie, on 22 November 2023, Paris je t'aime invites you to discover Paris in the footsteps of the Emperor and the many places that still bear the imprint of Napoleon.

You can also download a bilingual (French and English) version of the leaflet In the footsteps of Napoleon created by Paris je t'aime :


Directed by Ridley Scott, the historical biopic ‘Napoleon’ traces the rise and fall of the first French emperor, played by Oscar-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix. His rise to power is presented through the prism of his passionate and tormented relationship with Josephine (the great love of his life), played by Vanessa Kirby. The filmmaker, who has produced some memorable epic films, evokes Napoleon's military genius and political strategies.

© Sony Pictures

A military genius and astute strategist, Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) had a meteoric rise to prominence and left an indelible mark on French history. After becoming First Consul in a coup d'état in 1799, he went on to become Emperor of France in 1804 and took the name of ‘Napoleon 1er’.
His great works and achievements shaped the architecture of the capital and its surroundings, and many monuments still bear witness to his glorious battles. Although there is not an Avenue Napoleon in Paris, there are many places in and around the capital that still bear the hallmarks of the First Empire.

Here is a selection:

1. Arc de Triomphe

© Pairs je t'aime - Photographe Angélique Clément

The Emperor laid the first stone of this monumental triumphal arch on 15 August 1806 to celebrate the military victories of his Grande Armée (‘Great Army’). It was completed in 1836. The vault, decorated with Roman-style coffering, bears the names of the 128 battles under the Republic and Empire, and those of the generals who took part in them. The high reliefs ‘Le Triomphe de 1810’, by Jean-Pierre Cortot, and ‘La Résistance’ and ‘La Paix’, sculpted by Antoine Etex, illustrate the major events that marked Napoleon's empire. Situated on Place Charles de Gaulle, this monumental triumphal arch offers a 360° panoramic view of the capital from its summit and provides a stunning sight from the Louvre.

Arc de Triomphe - place Charles de Gaulle, Paris 8th


2. Hôtel National des Invalides

© Thinkstock

The Hôtel National des Invalides, with its imposing golden dome rising to over 110 metres, was built in the 17th century by Louis XIV to house and treat wounded soldiers. It also tended to several thousand soldiers from Napoleon's armies. The Emperor visited them on several occasions. His tomb can be found in a crypt in the cathedral of Saint-Louis: Napoleon, who died in exile on the island of St Helena, was laid to rest in a red quartzite sarcophagus in 1861.

This military monument now houses the Musée de l'Armée, one of the world's largest collections of military art and history. Uniforms, weapons, trophies, and decorations dating from the Directoire and First Empire periods are on display. A chronological journey through Napoleon's campaigns, battles, conquests, and defeats. The Hôtel National des Invalides is also home to the Musée des Plans-reliefs and the Musée de l'Ordre de la Libération.

To coincide with the release of the film ‘Napoleon’, the Musée de l’Armée is showcasing, from 13 November to 7 January 2023, a number of authentic objects from the Napoleonic era, including the uniform worn by General Bonaparte at the battle of Marengo (14 June 1800), and at the battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815).

Hôtel National des Invalides - 129 rue de Grenelle, Paris 7th


3. Fellah Fountain

© Siren-Com via Wikimedia Commons

The Fontaine du Fellah, also known as the Egyptian Fountain was commissioned by Napoleon and is one of fifteen fountains installed after the opening of the Canal de l’Ourcq. Situated at the entrance to the Vaneau metro station, it is a reference to Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt. The neo-Egyptian style statue was inspired by a representation of Antinoüs, a favourite of the Emperor Hadrian.

Fontaine du Fellah - 42 rue de Sèvres, Paris 7th

4. Church of La Madeleine

© Pxhere

On 2 December 1806, Napoleon signed a decree for the construction of a temple to the glory of the French Armies, which later became the church of La Madeleine. The Emperor chose the design presented by the architect Vignon, who built it in the style of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, in Athens. This imposing religious building, with its monumental bronze doors and majestic Corinthian columns, is close to the Place de la Concorde. Richly decorated with marble, frescoes, and mosaics, it houses the famous grand organ by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.

Église de la Madeleine - Place de la Madeleine, Paris 8th

5. Vendôme Column

© Leo Serrat

This 44.3-metre-high monument, inspired by Trajan’s Column, was erected between 1806 and 1810 by Napoleon to commemorate his victory at Austerlitz and pay tribute to the Grande Armée. It was destroyed during the Paris Commune, then rebuilt. Its stone structure is covered with spiral bronze plaques decorated with trophies and battle scenes. A statue of the Emperor stands at the top.

Colonne Vendôme - Place Vendôme, Paris 1st

6. Palais Brongniart

© Paris je t'aime - Marc Bertrand

The Palais Brongniart was built on the Place de la Bourse at the request of Napoleon Bonaparte, who wanted an ‘Imperial Palace of the Stock Exchange’. It is named after the architect who designed it, Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart, who was inspired by the Palace of Vespasian in Rome. Construction started in 1808 and was completed in 1826. With its 66 Corinthian columns, it is a gem of neoclassical architecture of the First Empire. The monument housed the Bourse de Paris until 1998 and today is a congress and events centre.

Palais Brongniart - 28 place de la Bourse, Paris 2nd

7. Arc de triomphe du Carrousel

© I.M Pei - Musée du Louvre - dist RMN - Grand Palais - Olivier Ouadah

When in Paris, Napoleon stayed at the Tuileries Palace, today no longer in existence - it was destroyed by fire in 1871 during the Paris Commune. Situated on the garden side opposite the Louvre Museum and its glass pyramid, the Arc de triomphe du Carrousel, built between 1806 and 1808, marked the official entrance to the palace - an imperial residence and a seat of power. It commemorates Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz.

Arc de triomphe du Carrousel - Place du Carrousel, Paris 1st

8. Louvre Museum

© Musée du Louvre - Nicolas Guiraud

In 1803, ten years after its creation by the revolutionaries, the Louvre Museum was renamed the Napoleon Museum. Until 1814, the museum’s collections were unrivalled: in addition to the royal treasures and goods seized from the Church, they also contained the Emperor's spoils of war. Considered to be the largest museum in the world today, it exhibits almost 33,000 works of art, including masterpieces such as The Victory of Samothrace, The Crouching Scribe, The Mona Lisa, and the Napoleon-III Apartments.

Musée du Louvre - Cour Napoléon - Pyramide du Louvre, Paris 1st


9. Pont des Arts

© Pierre Blache - Unsplash

To connect the Louvre, then known as the ‘Palais des Arts’, and the Collège des Quatre-Nations (now the Institut de France), Napoleon decreed the construction of a new kind of footbridge. The first metallic bridge in France, and the third in the world, was inaugurated in November 1803. Today, it is frequented by musicians, painters, and walkers. The view of the Ile de la Cité and the Pont Neuf on one side and the Louvre and Orsay museums on the other is outstanding!

Pont des Arts - quai de Conti, quai François Mitterrand, Paris 6th

10. Fontaine du Palmier

© Paris je t'aime - Jacques Lebar

This fountain, situated on Place du Châtelet, was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon to commemorate his victories (notably in Italy, Prussia, and Egypt) and provide free drinking water for Parisians in 1808. Standing on top is a statue of Victory brandishing laurel wreath victory crowns. It is named after the palm leaves that decorate the column.

Fontaine du Palmier - Place du Châtelet, Paris 1st and 4th

11. Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris

© LeifLinding

As First Consul, Bonaparte returned Notre-Dame to the catholic faith in 1801, after the revolutionary period. This Gothic masterpiece is located in the historic centre of Paris, at the end of the Ile de la Cité. On 2 December 1804, in a building decorated with the symbols of his reign, Napoleon had himself crowned Emperor - and Josephine, Empress - by pope Pius VII.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris - 6 parvis Notre-Dame - Place Jean-Paul II, Paris 4th

12. Le Procope

© Groupe Bertrand

The oldest cafe in Paris (it opened in 1686) was popular with philosophers of the Enlightenment, then revolutionaries. Napoleon is said to have left his hat there in lieu of payment for a dinner. Today, the restaurant serves traditional French cuisine, and its walls are decorated with historic objects including a famous bicorn hat!

Le Procope - 13 rue de l'Ancienne Comédie, Paris 6th

13. Jardin des Plantes

© Studio TTG

Created in the 17th century, the Jardin des Plantes became an important centre for science under the Empire. Working within the Cabinet d’Histoire naturelle were Lacepède, Cuvier, Daubenton, Lamarck, Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire … The latter, along with 170 other savants, took part in Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt (1798-1801). Today, the garden is home to the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, the Galerie de Paléontologie et d’Anatomie comparée, the Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie of the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle as well as the Grandes Serres (‘Big Greenhouses’) and a small zoo!

Jardin des Plantes - Place Valhubert, Paris 5th


14. The Ourcq, Saint-Martin and Saint-Denis canals

© Philippe Levy

By a decree of 19 May 1802, Napoleon ordered the creation of three navigable waterways. The Canal de l’Ourcq, to provide the capital with water; the Canal Saint Martin, (from the Arsenal basin to La Villette), to facilitate river traffic; and the Canal Saint Denis, which joins the Seine avoiding a meander to the south-west of Paris. Today, their banks are a favourite leisure spot for Parisians, whether for a picnic or a leisurely stroll.

Canal de l’Ourcq - Bassin de la Villette, Paris 19th

Canal Saint-Martin - Quai de Jemmapes, Paris 10th and 11th

Canal Saint-Denis - quai de la Gironde, Paris 19th

15. Père Lachaise Cemetery

© Studio TTG

A unique monument and an unusual Parisian heritage site, Père Lachaise cemetery offers visitors a walk through nature and history. Many figures of the First Empire are laid to rest in this leafy 44-hectare area: generals and marshals of the Grande Armée (Murat, Masséna, Ney, Kellermann …), but also political, scientific, (Champollion, Cuvier…) and artistic figures (David, Ingres, Géricault, Brongniart, Cherubini).

Cimetière du Père Lachaise - Facing 21 boulevard de Ménilmontant, Paris 20th

16. Château de Malmaison

© Aurore Markowski

From 1799 to 1814, it was the private residence of Napoleon and Josephine. They had the house renovated in a refined style, as well as the gardens, which featured many new exotic plants and some 250 varieties of roses. A museum was opened here in 1906. Today, visitors can admire a rich collection of objects and items belonging to Bonaparte, Josephine, and her children Eugène and Hortense.

Château de Malmaison - Avenue du Château de la Malmaison - 92500 Rueil-Malmaison

17. Château de Rambouillet

© Laurent Gueneau

In 1804, Napoleon renovated and embellished this chateau built in 1374. The Emperor liked staying here, working and enjoying leisure time, in particular hunting in the surrounding forests. Very fond of the house, he spent his last night here before going into exile. The west wing of the chateau houses the Emperor's apartment (now closed and undergoing restoration).

Château de Rambouillet - 78120 Rambouillet

18. Château de Fontainebleau

© Fotolia

‘The true home of kings’, Fontainebleau is the only chateau to have been inhabited by every French sovereign for almost eight centuries. Charmed by the place, in 1803 the Emperor began refurbishing the chateau, stripped bare by the Revolution; he hosted his inner circle and heads of state here, even installing a throne room. It was in the main courtyard on 20 April 1814 that he bid farewell to his guard after abdicating. Today, the Château de Fontainebleau houses the Musée Napoléon 1er presenting his reign.

Château de Fontainebleau - Place du général de Gaulle - 77300 Fontainebleau


Did you know?

Today, Paris has no road named after ‘Napoleon’, only a ‘Bonaparte’ street, in the 6th arrondissement. The Avenue de l'Opéra was to have been called Avenue Napoléon’. The Quai de la Corse, on the Ile de la Cité, was for a time named after the Emperor, but in 1877, the Paris City Council decided to erase this legacy, so as not to offend republican sensibilities. Several avenues leading off from the Place Charles de Gaulle are named after imperial battles (Wagram, Jena, Friedland) and the Grande Armée. As for the boulevards des Maréchaux that encircle Paris, they all honour the Marshals of the Empire appointed by Napoleon

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