Les Halles

LINKS to other pages in the 'Christmas in Paris' site and to the Travelling Days series:

1 : Welcome to Paris
2 : Les Halles
3 : St Eustache Church
4 : Louvre
5 : River Journey
6 : Notre Dame
7 : Paris Market
8 : Paris by Night


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Les Halles is an area located in the 1st arrondissement. It is named for the large central wholesale marketplace, demolished in 1971 and replaced with an underground modern shopping precinct, the 'Forum des Halle''. The open air area in the centre contains sculpture, fountains, and mosaics. Beneath it lies the underground station, Châtelet-Les-Halles, whiich forms the hub of Paris's express urban rail system, the RER.

Les Halles was the traditional central market of Paris. In 1183, King Philippe II Auguste enlarged the marketplace and built a shelter for the merchants, who came from all over to sell their wares. In the 1850s, the massive glass and iron buildings that made Les Halles famous were constructed. Émile Zola's 1873 novel, 'Le Ventre de Paris' (The Belly of Paris) revolves around Les Halles.

Unable to compete in the new market economy and in need of massive repairs, the colourful ambience prevoiously associated with this thriving area of merchant stalls disappeared in 1971 when Les Halles was dismantled and the market relocated to the suburb of Rungis. For several years, the site of the markets was an enormous open pit and regarded as an eyesore at the foot of the historic church of Saint-Eustache.

Construction of Châtelet-Les-Halles, Paris's new urban railway hub, was completed in 1977. The Forum des Halles, a partly underground multiple storey commercial and shopping centre, was opened in 1979. The building has been widely criticized for its design.

Recently (2007) Mayor Bertrand Delanoë unveiled the winners of the latest architecture competition for a new Forum. And the pledge is that the project, expected to cost 120 million euros will be completed by 2012. The design by architects Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti is aimed at creating new commercial and cultural spaces beneath a vast glass roof, 'variously described as a canopy, layered leaves or a shell but perhaps most evocative of the undulating movements of a manta ray'.ParisHalles1.jpg - 91786 BytesThe structure will cover an area 396 feet by 462 feet and will open on to almost eleven acres of gardens, which another French architect, David Mangin, was chosen to redesign in 2004.

The Forum’s 'canopy', rising 36 feet above ground level, will not compete in height with two older neighbouring landmarks, the Church of St Eustache on the southern edge of the gardens and the 18th-century Commodities Exchange to the west.

A long-standing problem in the Halles area was drug trafficking. Drug addicts and dealers would meet in the neighbourhood. For this reason, the area was reported unsafe at dark. However, the issue appears to have died down in recent years.

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A modern apartment complex is situated close to Les Halles (left)

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The magnificent church of Saint Eustache lies to the north west of Les Halles (right)

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The large underground shopping mall (left and below)

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Farewell to .......

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