Outside Paris: Exploring Modern La Défense

Not that I would ever get enough of Paris‘ impossibly photogenic streets, but there was an area I desperately longed to visit during my last trip: La Défense. Soaring from the otherwise rather flat west side of Paris, this is Europe’s largest purpose-built business district, and, not unlike Canary Wharf in London, it holds some of the country’s most prestigious headquarters within its tiny 1.6 square kilometre area.

Hop on the metro, direction: the end of line 1. From the romantic Haussmann boulevards of central Paris, you exit 300 years later in what seems to not only be a different city but also a different planet. La Défense screams modernity, with its countless skyscrapers, quirky sculptures, and random pops of colours.

Things To Do In La Défense, Paris

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La Grande Arche is the icon of La Defense. Recognisable from a few vantage points across Paris, it houses government offices and its steps are the most popular spot to sit down, enjoy the view, and watch local businessmen and students have lunch al fresco. You can see as far as the Arc de Triomphe from there, which is perfectly aligned with La Defense.

La Défense is actually awash with not just modern architecture that is the polar opposite of the typical Parisian buildings with wrought iron balconies, but also with surprising artwork including funky sculptures (in fact, an art hunt is one of the most popular things to do in La Défense) that reminded of the of Stravinsky Fountain near the Pompidou centre in Paris—the same artist, perhaps?

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La Defense is actually very well designed – there’s a very long central square dotted with fountains and green spaces that run from one end to the other, and flanked by buildings of all sizes and colours on each side. Talk about ingenious urban design!

11 Comments on Outside Paris: Exploring Modern La Défense

  1. Laurence
    May 23, 2012 at 9:58 am (5 years ago)

    La Defense is such a funky looking building! I’ve only ever seen it from a distance, but it’s always intrigued me :)

    Reply
  2. Audrey | That Backpacker
    May 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm (5 years ago)

    I remember seeing it from the Arc de Triomphe, but I didn’t venture over to this area!

    Reply
  3. John
    May 23, 2012 at 1:16 pm (5 years ago)

    It almost looks like a North American city – such a departure from what we think of as typical Paris.

    Reply
  4. Alexa Meisler
    May 23, 2012 at 8:06 pm (5 years ago)

    This is definitely another side of France I never thought I’d discover. Thank you for that!

    Reply
  5. Christy @ Technosyncratic
    May 24, 2012 at 6:04 am (5 years ago)

    Whoa, this is so unlike the images we usually see of Paris! The La Grande Arche is super cool.

    Reply
  6. Andrea
    May 26, 2012 at 9:41 am (5 years ago)

    I always found La Defense so interesting – great photos!

    Reply
  7. Ayngelina
    May 29, 2012 at 12:04 am (5 years ago)

    Wow that doesn’t look like the Paris from my memories at all. Feels very American.

    Reply
    • Marie
      June 19, 2012 at 7:58 pm (5 years ago)

      It does feel American. Lots of them probably work there!

      Reply
  8. Cole @ Four Jandals
    May 29, 2012 at 10:07 am (5 years ago)

    Cool photos. We didn’t walk all the way down but got views from the top of the Arc de Triomphe back to the arch!

    Reply

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