Place Dauphine – Named for the Dauphin of France


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Henri IV’s Place Dauphine by Myrabella/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-3.0

Place Dauphine, near the western end of the Île de la Cité, was another of his civic projects. The “Good King Henry” built the public square in 1607 and named it for his son Louis XIII, the Dauphin of France, a title for the heir apparent to the throne of France. Place Dauphine is the French capital’s second Royal Square after the Place des Vosges.

A Triangular Square

We happened upon Place Dauphine when we were trying to work our way around the huge Palais de Justice (Palace of Justice) complex of buildings fronting the Quai de l’Horloge. On Pont Neuf, across the equestrian statue of Henri IV, a pair of buildings flank the entrance to Place Dauphine. We walked through this gap to find that Place Dauphine is actually triangular in shape and not square.

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Most visitors to Paris admire the beautiful architecture and town planning of central Paris and Place Dauphine is significant because it was one of the earliest city-planning projects of Henri IV. In fact it was the second of Henri IV’s public squares project, the first being Place Royale which we know as Place des Vosges today. Place Royale was still in the building stage when work on Place Dauphine began.

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Turgot map of Paris

This black and white 1739 Turgot map of Paris best describes what Place Dauphine originally looked like. It was built as an enclosed space with 32 identical houses framing the square. There were two entrances to the square, one in the middle of the base of the triangle and the other where we entered. Although the houses were more modest than those in Place Royale, they were nevertheless adequately luxurious and were occupied by bankers and merchants. From within the square, the public looking out towards Pont Neuf, will see the equestrian statue of Henri IV.

During the French Revolution, Place Dauphine was renamed Place Thionville, but in 1814, the name of the square reverted to Place Dauphine. During the brief period of the “Paris Commune”, another revolutionary government, fire damaged the eastern row of buildings and the square now has an open view towards the Palais de Justice, which funnily enough was the view we came in search of.

Place Dauphine Today

The only two houses that have retained their original appearance are the two facing Pont Neuf. All the others have been raised in height or given new facades. I don’t know if it’s still bankers and merchants who occupy the buildings in Place Dauphine today, but when Yves Montand and Simone Signoret took up residence at no. 15, they brought fame to the square.

There are several art galleries and cafés on the square which has a cosy feel. It’s a nice place to enjoy a quiet break and it seems that Place Dauphine is a popular haunt with couples. After all, the romantic Square du Vert-Gallant is also close by. You may also catch locals playing pétanque here.

Hopefully these tips have been helpful. What do you think?

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