A piece of history
‘Le Ventre de Paris’, the belly of Paris. That is how famous 19th century writer Emile Zola referred to Les Halles. The location of the current shopping centre has been used to hold markets as early as the 12th century. The market area kept expanding and in 1269, King Louis IX commissioned the construction of the first market halls. Thanks to the market’s success, the ‘Rive Droit’, the right bank of the River Seine, grew quickly and developed into a whole new district. Once located on the outskirts of the city, this area soon became the heart of Paris. Once located on the outskirts of the city, the area became the heart of Paris.
At the end of the 19th century, Les Halles underwent a complete transformation. Its design was created by the famous architect Baltard, one of the pioneers of steel constructions and architecture. The new icon of Paris consisted of 12 elegant halls made of steel and glass, some as high as 25 metres. Unfortunately, the success of the market also led to its demise. The huge flow of goods in the area caused major traffic jams. Despite enormous objections by Parisians, a decision was made in 1960 to tear down the market. Eight hundred years of history was replaced by a gaping hole.
“Les Halles had become a no-go area avoided by most Parisians”
The market was replaced by a modern shopping centre with glass arcades and four underground floors packed with shops. Les Halles also became one of the largest subway hubs in the city. But many Parisians felt that the heart of the city had been destroyed. They voted with their feet and Les Halles slowly deteriorated into a no-go area. Eager to reverse this situation, the city tore down the modern complex in 2010. Over a period of six years a brand new shopping centre arose; the new heart of Paris. In April 2016, the city proudly inaugurated its new Forum des Halles.
From faded glory to radiant attraction
The most striking element of the new design is ‘La Canopée’, the undulated roof that connects the underground shopping centre with the streets of Paris. The term ‘canopée’ is a reference to a forest canopy, the top layer exposed to sunlight and oxygen. The roof gives visitors a sense of airiness, light and space. The large central atrium marks the entrance to the shops and allows daylight to pour into the underground shopping streets. Visitors feel they can just step outside, even though they are three floors below ground. The interior also underwent a major overhaul and now boasts higher ceilings, new store fronts and new light fixtures.
Les Halles also features a full entertainment and leisure complex with two cinemas, an Olympic-sized pool and a hip-hop centre. Outside crews are still working on a park that will be completed by early 2018, transforming Les Halles into an urban oasis.
In addition to many well-known chains that have set up shop in Les Halles, there are also various unique concepts. We highlight three shops that are worth a visit.
Lunch by app at…
Taste the future. Download the Za app, order by phone, pay and sit down at one of the long tables. Your lunch will emerge in no time on the neon-lit conveyor belt. No waiter required!
Shop for unique French design at..
‘Made in Paris’ is the motto of this design store. Fashion accessories, home decorations or cool bags: everything in this store has been created by young Paris designers. The store also boasts a trendy coffee bar where you can unwind.
Buying clothes at...
This is the first physical store of the online concept store L’Exception. Shop for clothing by French designers: from famous names to upcoming talent. L’Exception also has a coffee corner with delicious cakes.