A walk in first class in Paris

The opening of the Pinault Collection and the parallel renovations of the Louvre Post Office and the Samaritan Post Office shone the spotlight on a perimeter of the capital, in full transformation. The historic heritage of the 1st district is now combined with luxury and culture, in harmony.

Its name might suggest otherwise, but the Pont-Neuf is the oldest in Paris. A lot of water has flowed since its construction, at the turning point of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, auguring a new “area” in the matter: for the first time, stone replaced wood, the bridge is uncovered, devoid of dwellings and equipped with “real” sidewalks. In 1985, the artist Christo elevates it to the status of a masterpiece in packaging, and last year, the 238-metre building rewrote the headlines, its name now added to that of the department store La Samaritaine, which faces it. The flagship, designed by the famous Cognacq-Jay family in 1870, was “docked” for almost two decades and was refloated on June 23, 2021, under the flag of the LVMH Group. Titanic bet made. The renovation of this jewel of Art Nouveau and Art Deco has been done in accordance with the rules of the art – and with a budget of 750 million euros. The merry bazaar of yesteryear has given way to a temple of luxury, including a store of 20,000 m2 and, on the Seine side, offering a spectacular view, the first Parisian address of the hotel brand Cheval Blanc.

Paris centre

With this new Samaritan woman (named after a water pump located on the Pont-Neuf), the rehabilitation of the Halles, the Bourse de Commerce, the Poste du Louvre, the Théâtre du Châtelet, from the church of Saint-Eustache – a few hundred metres apart – the well-named heart of Paris finds a new lease of life. The number one boroughs even merged two years ago with its neighbours, the second, third and fourth, to form a single administrative sector, called Paris Centre. Which can make you dizzy: the remains of history are legion, experiences and contrasts, too!

Between the Louvre and the Forum des Halles, whether you are a nonchalant onlooker, a fierce shopper, an art lover or a well-known historian (or all that at the same time!), there are now many horizons. Starting with the one proposed by this Canopy, a funny flying saucer of 18,000 scales of glass, vast as the Place des Vosges, which overlooks the said Forum, the nerve point of an area (formerly interlopped…) transfigured at the end of a gigantic ten-year project. The development of a 4-hectare garden (Nelson-Mandela) and a 22-metre wide courtyard connecting the “mall” to the Bourse de Commerce (resurrected as a cathedral of contemporary art through the Pinault-Collection) completes the metamorphosis – which took less time (more than a century!) than it took to complete the construction of the riverside church in the middle of the 18th century. Today, the beautiful Saint-Eustache is getting a makeover…

Art and Luxury

The neighborhood is getting better and better, but the traces of the past remain. Rue Saint-Honoré (with that of Rivoli, one of the most emblematic shopping streets in Paris) is full of old houses and picturesque shops with listed facades, like that of the Bourdon d’or, at number 93, address of the apothecary of Henri IV, where the murdered king received first aid, in vain, on 14 May 1610…

Another place of memory, the Louvre Post Office, located a few cables away from the Bourse de Commerce and the Place des Victoires (lined with fashion stores), most of whose users probably never noticed the splendour of the building, It also boosts the neighbourhood’s habits. At the end of seven years of work, the huge 32,000 m2 block, a paragon of industrial architecture (1886), in which the historic post office still sits under the peristyle, has since this year welcomed the five-star Madame Rêve hotel, shops, offices, a nursery, a small police station. What to complete a mutation combining Art and Luxury that has not yet said its last word: in 2024, for its 40 years, the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art will move to the former Louvre des Antiquaires, located rue de Rivoli, close to the Place du Palais-Royal.

By Mireille Sartore - Published the

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