Les Invalides is a historic military complex that includes several museums, monuments and churches. Brush up on French military history at its trio of museums, stroll along the grand lawns of the Esplanade des Invalides and see the ostentatious tomb of the famous French dictator Napoleon Bonaparte.
The structure was originally built as an army hospital between 1670 and 1676 under orders from Louis XIV. During the French Revolution, the complex was stormed by rioters who seized weaponry on their way to the Bastille. Today, parts of the complex are still reserved for French war veterans, with a hospital and military retirement residence on-site.
Before entering Les Invalides, stroll along the lawns of Esplanade des Invalides, which stretch for 1,640 feet (500 meters) in front of the main entrance. This space is a popular picnic and sunbathing spot.
Inside the complex, explore three separate museums: the Musée de l’Armée (the Army Museum), the Musée des Plans-Reliefs (the Museum of Military Models) and the Musée d’Histoire Contemporain (the Museum of Contemporary History). Devote most time to the Musée de l’Armée, the largest and most comprehensive of the three. Examine military armor and artifacts from ancient to modern times, including Napoleon’s lavish pistols and Joseph Parrocel’s Battle of Cassel painting.
Save time to see the Église du Dôme church, located at the back of the complex. Gaze up at its dazzling gold cupola, which was a source of inspiration for the United States Capitol building. Investigate Napoleon Bonaparte’s extravagant tomb, which is located in the church. The emperor’s remains are entombed in six Russian doll-style coffins located inside a red quartzite sarcophagus that sits on a green granite base.
Les Invalides is located in the 7th arrondissement. Reach it with a short walk from the La Tour Maubourg, Invalides, Varenne or Saint-Françoise-Xavier metro stations. Les Invalides is open daily, although the Musée de l’Armée is closed on the first Monday of every month between October and June.