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With its golden dome and ornate features, this 17th century hospital stands as an example of Baroque architecture and is home to the richly decorated tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte.
With its shimmering golden dome, grand esplanade and distinctive Baroque features, the Hôtel des Invalides is an unmistakable landmark in the chic 7th arrondissement of Paris. Situated near the Left Bank of the Seine, the origins of this sizeable complex date back to the 17th century when it was originally built by Louis XIV as a hospital and retirement home for France’s war veterans. Today Les Invalides houses a collection of museums and monuments related to the country’s long military history. Some of the most notable points of interest within the complex include the Musée de l'Armée (Army Museum), Musée des Plans-Reliefs (Museum of Military Models), Musée d'Histoire Contemporaine (Museum of Contemporary History) and the Tomb of Napoleon I.
The ornate Pont Alexandre III points directly to the expansive esplanade and grand entrance of the Hôtel des Invalides. The former military hospital is one of the City of Light’s most recognizable sites. The sprawling historic complex has a lot to offer visitors. From fascinating museums to stunning marble-clad tombs, here are the highlights of Les Invalides.
Musée de l'Armée (Army Museum)
The Army Museum collection is made up of 500,000 artifacts, including numerous weapons, uniforms and other French military paraphernalia. Stretching over 12,000 square meters, the exhibition space is divided into seven departments that take visitors from antiquity all the way through the end of World War II.
Musée des Plans-Reliefs (Museum of Military Models)
The Museum of Military Models is a part of the Army Museum and showcases about 100 three-dimensional models of fortified cities dating from 1668 to 1870. The models were originally built and used for military purposes, and provide a fascinating glimpse into this little known aspect of military history.
Musée d'Histoire Contemporaine (Museum of Contemporary History)
A must for any history buff, the Museum of Contemporary History houses over one million items in its collection, spanning from 1870 to the modern day. The museum focuses primarily on social and political issues relating to both French and world history.
Tomb of Napoleon I
The Hôtel des Invalides complex includes a large church called the Dôme des Invalides. The church is the final resting place of many French war heroes, including Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon died in exile on the remote island of St. Helena, but his remains were moved to the Dôme des Invalides in 1861. The Tomb of Napoleon pays tribute to his many military conquests in the form of marble bas-reliefs and Victory statues. At the center of the tomb lies Napoleon’s ornate sarcophagus carved from red stone.
The Hôtel des Invalides was commissioned by Louis XIV in 1670 and opened in 1678. The complex operated as a hospital and retirement home for French war veterans up until the early 20th century. By the early 1900s the dwindling number of veterans led to the building being deemed too large for its purpose. The remaining veterans were transferred to other facilities in Paris and this paved the way for the museums to open in place of the hospital.
During its years of operation Les Invalides played a role in several major events. On July 14th, 1789, amidst the frenzy of the French Revolution, rioters broke into the cellars of the building, taking cannons and muskets. Later that day, these weapons were used in the famous storming of the Bastille - a moment in history that is today celebrated as France’s national holiday.
There is a lot to see at Les Invalides, so make sure you schedule enough time in your itinerary for your visit. Admission to the site gives you access to the Army Museum, Museum of Military Models, Tomb of Napoleon and several other exhibitions. Like many other cultural and historic sites in Paris, children under 18 are entitled to free entry. If your Paris plans include lots of museums and other points of interest, we recommend purchasing the Paris Pass, which grants you access to 60 museums and monuments throughout Paris for a single price! Paris Perfect’s Personal Tip
Address: 129 Rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris, France
Closest Metros: Varenne, Invalides, École Militaire, La Tour-Maubourg
Opening Hours: 1 April to 31 October: Monday to Sunday, 10 am to 6 pm; 1 November to 31 March: Monday to Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. Some parts of Les Invalides are closed on the first Monday of each month. We recommend checking the official website to confirm opening times before planning your visit.