Located not too far from Notre-dame, near the Seine River, this former Royal Palace & prison in Paris was built in the 14th century. This magnificent Gothic building was the first residence of the king of France and hard to imagine the "Reign of Terror" that occurred there where 40,000 people died of execution & imprisonment. on a span of 10 months.
Walking along the halls was eerie...creepy and my mind goes back during the french revolution and the brutal piece of French history that happened there. The dungeons were in stark contrast to the beautiful architecture of the palace. It was said that the quality of life of the prisoners depends upon the prisoners wealth and the jailors demands. So money talks then..as it is now...
It was hard to imagine once that one of the famous prisoners was a royalty...Marie Antoinette, the Queens of France, who lived grandiosely would end up there , was tried, detained & convicted there and was executed by guillotine on October 16, 1793.
Paris has a lot of history and the buildings around it tells a different story of a different time, so interesting and depressing at the same time...If only the walls can speak.....
All hat, no cattle, as they say in Texas.
Of all the museums I visited in Paris, and there were many, this was by far the least interesting. Not sure if something was lost in translation, or I expected too much.
All of my guide books played up the haunted aspects of the building's history and would say the ghosts of the guillotine must still wander the eerie halls. Oh, the menacing grandeur! And while it is beautiful outside and in, befitting its creation as a royal residence, the exhibits caused me to shake my head not in terror, but in bemusement.
The Conciergerie gained fame, more like infamy, by being the prison and execution point for most prisoners (4,000) during the French Revolution. All told, it operated as a prison from 1391 until 1914, and its most famous prisoner was Marie-Antoinette. In one of the upstairs galleries you can see a list of prisoners and their occupations. And I did find a friend's name (same surname and first initial) which was an unexpected surprise.
There are so many other museums that have well curated exhibits and such attention to detail, this was a let down. The only high point (or was it a low point), was the ridiculously flirtatious guard collecting tickets.
To give you an example, most of the "highlights" mentioned in my guidebook turned out to be recreations. So, while they attempt to reconstruct what Marie-Antoinette's cell would have looked like, there were renovations so it is a reasonable facsimile.
What was oddest to me is that the main hall was filled with all sorts of "prison art" most of which was just plain bad. And the topper were the castle recreations, by those masters at Playmobil and Lego. I really don't need to see Harry Potter's Hogwarts at a historic site in Paris.
I was doing some serious head scratching here.
The only good news for me was that I didn't pay much because it was part of my Paris Museum Pass. But, this was the only location where I didn't get to jump the ticket line with my pass because they do the security screening first and everyone queues up in the same line.
Saint-Chapelle is in the same complex, and I found that a bit more interesting. So the structure and surroundings were engaging, but the museum's contents were not.
Whatever the definition of a history buff is I'm pretty much the polar opposite. How weird then, that on this trip to France I found myself actually picking up some knowledge of French history and retaining it. Will wonders never cease.
Stumbling into this place only a few days after touring ALL of Versailles, I found myself interested to stand at ground zero for France's "Reign of Terror". Here's where "prisoners" were sent, tried, sentenced, and murdered all within a matter of days. Thousands of them.
Marie Antoinette, who had lived so grandly at Versailles, wound up in a cell here (on display) and was quickly tried, found guilty, and taken from here to meet her maker. Others were executed in the somber courtyard, despite the fact that no placque will actually tell you that fact.
There's a cost to enter the Conciergerie and unless you're really interested, this probably isn't worth it. If, however, you 1) have a multi-day Paris Museum pass (which will give you free admission) 2) are already about 1 minute away, viewing the stained glass of Sainte-Chapepelle (also free with museum pass), and 3) have already seen the way Marie lived at Versailles then check it out. It's kind of like those Enron biggies who lived so large and fell so far. Okay, I think I just exposed my dim understanding of history... gotta go before more is revealed.
If you have a pass and are interested in history go. If you don't have either it may not be your favorite place. It was kind of creepy, but interesting. There were a lot of "this may have happened here" moments though. Also, the staged Marie Antoinette room was kind of odd. It was definitely an experience to be there, as far as old prisons and death go. The Gothic architecture is quite remarkable.
I became enthralled with this building from the 1st time I saw it. I was walking across the Seine on one of the bridges when I noticed it. It looked just like a castle and I immediately stopped to take a picture of it. I didn't know what it was, but I decided I would find out. Back at the hotel, I showed the picture to one of the girls at the front desk and she told me that this was La Conciergerie and it was indeed a former palace and also a prison. My then partner and I went back the next day.
Entry is 7€ and concessions are available for select groups such as under 18s and young adults. There actually isn't too much to see compared to the vast size of the building because most of it is still a working part of the French judiciary system. There are some intresting displays on the French Revolution and on the French royals that inhabited the palace so many years ago.
A relly interesting place to visit, you can see the cell of Marie-Antoinette and how the poor prisoner were treat too.
The monument is beautiful too.
Only bad thing is it s a bit small and the visit is quickly done.
A must for anyone interested in the history of Paris and the French Revolution as this is where the prisoners (including Marie Antoinette, Danton, Saint Just and Robespierre et al) were kept before their rendezvous with the guillotine.
The interior is really bleak and quite gloomy as it hasn't been prettified at all. You can see the big vaulted hall where prisoners were kept, some cells and the chapel that has been erected over the site of Marie Antoinette's cell plus the yard where the female prisoners did their exercising. It is all just as it used to be and is very evocative. There is also a small room with the names of all the guillotine's victims written around the walls.
Paris is all about history. It's amazing to see historic buildings from centuries ago still standing and this was one spot I needed to see since I am a French history buff, specifically the French Revolution. I was fine until I walked into a small room that had the names of all the people at that time who were guillotined - and that's when my flesh started to crawl and I had to get out of there!!!! It's a must see - but I could not linger....felt so much better after I went to Berthillon for ice cream.
We happened to arrive just as a tour in English was beginning (they do one per day) and it ended up being a really interesting and educational experience. It is worth looking up when a tour is scheduled and plan your visit around that, I don't think we would have enjoyed the visit nearly as much without it. If not, be sure to read the history of the building, it was once a medieval royal castle and then was used as a prison. It has some of the finest examples of gothic architectures in the main hall, beautiful vaulted archways. You can see the actual cells where prisoners were detained - including the cell where Queen Marie Antoinette was held. You can also see an actual Guillotine blade.
It's a place with some rather sad and funny exhibits. Some mannequins in cells and a few bits of furniture that are 'similar' to those headless royals might have sat on, slept on or eaten at during their last days alive. I would not recommend, but like the palace of Versaille it's perhaps worth a visit but without any actual curating or artifacts its a dull and expensive short visit.
The conciergerie is a beautiful and interesting place to visit. It is full of history and the building is very impressive.
You barely believe it is a place where people were in jail.
The only bad thing is it s the visit will be quickly done.
It s also very easy to go there as it is in the middle of Paris and not really far from the cathedrale Notre Dame.
rad. the great hall (where you enter) is absolutely gorgeous with all the arches, grand fireplaces & great lighting. it's small, but they did a good job. it's nice & quiet, so you get a good feel for it. highly recommend.
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