Palais Royal is a 17th-century building in Paris that has been at the centre of Parisian history, spanning from the intrigues of Cardinal Richelieu to the French Revolution. Over the centuries, it has housed shops, restaurants, gambling dens and theatres, as well as being the scene of radical political meetings. The palace's graceful neoclassical architecture transports you back to historic Paris, complemented by elegant formal gardens and a sparkling fountain.

Today, the Palais Royal is an upmarket shopping destination, with dozens of luxury brands filling its 3 charming arcades. It's also home to several modern art installations. The shops and gardens are set back a little from the main streets, so they tend to be relatively quiet even during the busiest tourist season. It's a great spot for a little leisurely window shopping, a picnic lunch, or just enjoying a beautiful day in Paris.

Palais Royal in Paris - one of the highlights of 14 Most Instagrammable Places in Paris (Read all about Paris here)

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A brief history of the Palais Royal

The Palais Royal was built in 1639 for Cardinal Richelieu, who was the Chief Minister to Louis XIII. After Richelieu died, the building was passed to the king, and many members of the French royal family lived in the palace over the next centuries. It was also sometimes a place of refuge for foreign royalty, and the wife and daughter of Charles I lived here after he was deposed.

There was a theatre in the east wing that was used by Molière's theatre troupe in the late 17th century. Many of his plays were staged there, too. During the French Revolution, the palace was a centre of political intrigue and hosted Jacobin and anti-royalist meetings. The colonnades were added in the 19th century to make space for shops. Today, they house some of Paris's most exclusive brands.

What are the highlights and features of the Palais Royal?

The chic shops of Palais Royal include both premier brands and eccentric independent stores. Take a look around Didier Ludot, a vintage boutique selling couture dresses from the last 50 years in almost perfect condition. Other stylish staples are Marc Jacobs, Manolo Blahnik, and luxury glove-maker Maison Fabre. Eat at Le Grand Véfour, an opulent old-school restaurant that's been in the Palais Royal since 1784, or try iced soba tea at Café Kitsuné.

Inside the inner courtyard, a striking art installation by Daniel Buren uses 260 black and white columns of varying heights to add a distinctively modern twist to the historical surroundings. There are also 2 quirky fountains of stainless-steel balls by Belgian artist Pol Bury. Next to the courtyard, the immaculate central gardens are filled with shaded avenues of lime trees, gorgeous rose bushes, and classical sculptures.

Good to know about the Palais Royal

Some entrances to the Palais Royal lead to government offices and are not open to the public. If you're approaching along Rue Saint-Honoré, take the arched entrance from Galerie de Nemours, to the left of the main gates. If you're coming from the north end, there are several entrances on the Rue de Beaujolais. The Palais-Royal–Musée du Louvre is the closest subway stop, on Lines 1 and 7, or you can take the Bourse subway stop that's a short walk away on Line 3.

Guided tours are available in French, English, and Spanish. Each tour is led by a guide from the Centre des Monuments Nationaux and takes around 2 hours. The Palais Royal is only a 6-minute walk from both the Louvre and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Afterwards, you can take a stroll around 17th-century gardens at the Jardin des Tuileries, which borders both museums.

Palais Royal in Paris

Location: 8 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris, France

Open: Daily from 8 am to 10.30 pm

Phone: +33 (0)1 47 03 92 16

Victoria Hughes | Contributing Writer