La Défense

City description

The alignment of La Défense with the Obelisk, the Champs-Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe embodies the beauty and vitality of Paris. The silhouette of its lofty towers, visible from Place de la Concorde, is an emblematic view of the capital – and a sure-fire winner on social media.

The imposing skyscrapers of Europe’s largest business district mingle with the many cultural, residential, artistic, tourist and commercial infrastructures that are scattered amongst headquarters of CAC 40 companies. Started in the 1960s, the project has continued its transformation to become a real place to live, following the current trends and upending the vision of a time when urban planners intended to clearly separate the different dimensions of the city. Spread over some 160 hectares, originally intended to be just a very attractive administrative and financial centre, this part of Paris has since become a district in its own right. At the doorway of Paris proper, where Haussmannian harmony reigns, La Défense takes advantage of its distinctiveness to become all the more interesting, unique and appealing.

Have you ever wondered where its name comes from? It’s all because of a sculpture, La Défense de Paris, that was erected well before the eponymous district got off the ground. This monument is also an excellent starting point for discovering the largest open-air contemporary museum in the world: La Défense Art Collection. Conceived at the same time as the district, the project has been added to over the years and now boasts 69 works forming a circuit that is both fun and poetic. Among them are masterpieces by prestigious creators: Fountain by Yaacov Agam, Red Spider by Alexander Calder, Thumb by César and Two fantastic characters by Joan Miró. All were inspired by the special atmosphere of these spaces that they are instrumental in shaping, like the Takis Basin. The peaceful waters of this moving installation open onto an incredible view of the capital. The Takis Basin marks the beginning of the Esplanade de La Défense, an enormous and entirely pedestrian concrete pavement that extends to the famous Grande Arche. In 1989, to mark the 200th anniversary of the Revolution, France wanted to give itself a monument worthy of celebrating the event while turning a new page in its history. Resolutely oriented towards the future, this 110m-tall aerial structure, simple yet grandiose, also pays homage to the timeless majesty of the capital by evoking the Arc de Triomphe, located on the Historical Axis and extending the view. A symbol to meditate on while flipping through a good book or picnicking on the lawns of the esplanade.

At the foot of the Grande Arche, Les Quatre Temps is the most frequented shopping centre in the country. This temple of commerce is home to more than 200 stores on four levels. Fashion, design, technology, gastronomy... the choice is vast. The complex has extended beyond the original building to the Centre of New Industries and Technologies (CNIT), on the other side of the plaza of La Défense. While contemplating the centre’s clean curves, who would suspect that this huge glass structure dates from 1958? Yet it is La Défense’s very first building. In addition to dozens of retailers, the CNIT houses numerous offices and a campus of ESSEC, the prestigious international business school.

After this day of discovery, it’s time to take a break. Bars and restaurants abound at La Défense, attracting Parisians and visitors who gather there after work or for a drink in an area offering the most spectacular views of the capital. Stay for dinner after sunset: at night, the sight is even more magical.

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