La Défense is a bustling urban development that’s home to tens of thousands of Parisians and, with its many hotels, is popular with business travellers. It’s outside the city’s 20 arrondissements, about 30 minutes on the Metro from the city center.
Thanks to its sleek, contemporary design, manicured green spaces and avant garde landmarks, this 77-acre (31-hectare) urban oasis attracts visitors seeking a modern Parisian experience.
The area’s biggest attraction is the brazen Grand Arche. This enormous cube-like structure was designed to be a modern version of the Arc de Triomphe. Standing 360-feet (109-meters) tall and 354-feet (107-meters) wide, the arch is large enough to fill the Notre Dame cathedral. It’s visible from the Arc de Triomphe’s viewing platform. Visit the monument at night when the glass and Carrara marble structure is lit up in all its glory. Check access to the viewing platform, however, as it has been closed to the public since 2011.
Another major attraction is the huge Les Quatre Temps shopping mall. With more than 2 million square feet (185,806 square meters) of retail space, it’s the largest mall in continental Europe. Here you will find well-known stores and brands, hundreds of restaurants to choose from and an enormous movie theater. If you’re craving a little fresh air, Les Quatre Temps has a breezy outdoor terrace area — Le Dome — with a handful of eateries and cafés in addition to the myriad options in the indoor food court.
Outside, you’ll find the statue that is the namesake of this district. Louis Ernest Barrias’s bronze statue La Défense de Paris was erected in 1883 to commemorate the soldiers who fought in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War. Positioned on the edge of a pedestrian esplanade near the multi-colored Agam fountain, the statue’s classical, weathered beauty stands out against the futuristic-looking high-rises.
Look out for more recent works, too, including César’s gigantic Le Pouce (The Thumb), the spectacular Le Grand Stabile Rouge (The Red Spider) by Calder, and Miró’s colorful Deux Personnages Fantastiques (Two Fantastic Characters) outside Les Quatre Temps.
La Défense is located on the western outskirts of Paris, along major bus and subway lines, as well as the railway. It’s about a 30-minute drive from the city center, and there’s plenty of street parking.