Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Les Halles

In the very heart of Paris is a neighborhood called Les Halles. The name translates to "market halls" and, until the 1970s, the neighborhood was the site of the city's central wholesale food market. I can only imagine how difficult the daily traffic in and around the markets was back then. In 1971, the market was relocated to Rungis in the southern suburbs. The iconic iron and glass market pavilions, designed in the mid-nineteenth century by Victor Baltard, were demolished (save two, one reconstructed in Paris' eastern suburbs as a performance space, and another reconstructed in Japan.).

Under the canopy at Les Halles, street level, April 2018. More photos from my visit here.

What replaced the markets were a new regional rail hub and a huge underground shopping mall. The district became mostly pedestrianized. The new complex was in its final phases of construction when I first went to Paris in 1981. I remember coming out of the Les Halls subway station and making my way on plywood planks through the often muddy site to the nearby neighborhood where Ken lived then.

The the sixties and seventies style design of the complex did not age well and was itself demolished in 2010 then totally rebuilt, opening in 2018. I was in Paris in 2016 and took a walk around the place to see how it had changed. The reconstruction of the ground-level gardens and park were still not complete, but stores in the shopping center were beginning to open under a huge steel and glass canopy, with access to the reconfigured transit hub several levels below.

One day I'll go back and check it out again.


  1. That canopy is stunning. I’ll have to search for current photos. I was at first saddened that the original structures were demolished, but was then happy to read they were rebuilt elsewhere. Pedestrianizing that area sounds like a great idea.

  2. We were there in 2017 and it seemed pretty complete... but maybe that was just the mall stores part that was complete. We went because we needed to get something chez Fnac :)

  3. The space seems very light and airy - quite attractive.

  4. I have visited both the first and the second "replacement" malls. The first was a disaster and the second is somewhat but not much better. I regret never having been to the original Les Halles. A pity it was not renovated and reutilized, but I expect that to have done so would have been very expensive with probably no one in authority wanting to preserve it. Roderick

  5. mitch, I'm sure there are newer photos out there.

    judy, that FNAC was always a madhouse. I used to go to the one on the rue de Rennes. Come to think of it, it was a madhouse, too.

    wilma, I think that's what they were shooting for.

    roderick, with what was put underground (rail lines, stations, and roads), I wonder what if it would have been possible to save the structures. Still, the big green park is a nice public space in the center of the city.


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