Hôtel des Invalides

Hotel des Invalides, as this Baroque complex is known, is made up of the largest single collection of monuments in Paris, no less than 4 museums, including Musée de l'Armée and 2 churches.

Hotel des Invalides also has the honor of being the eternal resting place of Napoléon Bonaparte (1769 - 1821). The dictator's tomb lies under the towering golden dome of the very obviously Eglise du Dôme and if you see only one sight here, it should be this.

Louis XIV ordered the construction of the Hotel des Invalides in 1670 as he wanted it to house wounded soldiers, and at one time it housed as many as 6,000 invalids. Libéral Bruand was chosen as the designer and the foundations were laid in 1671. The project was completed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart some years later.


The Hotel des Invalides may have been built with charitable intentions but in effect it is an ostentatious monument to Louis XIV and Napoleon (potentially two of the biggest egos France has ever seen).

There are two churches here, or rather a double church: Eglise St-Louis was for the soldiers and Eglise du Dôme for the King. Inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome the original for all Baroque domes, the Eglise du Dôme it is one of the triumphs of French Baroque architecture.

Flags captured from enemy troops hang from the ceiling in the church of St-Louis. For many years the majestic Eglise du Dôme has been a church devoted to the worship of Napoleon, whose tomb was moved here in 1840 from the island of Saint Helena.

Apparently no fewer than six coffins are necessary to protect Napoléon's body which is nestled at the center like some sort of Russian doll. The outer sarcophagus is made of a very modest and completely unassuming red quartzite. The vainglorious tribute is ringed by statues symbolizing Napoléon's campaigns of conquest.

If that is not enough Napoléoniana for you then the collection in the Musée de l'Armée should do it. You can even see the emperor's trademark gray frock coat and huge bicorne hat. Without a doubt the highlight is the slightly strange puppet reenactment of Napoléon crowning his empress, Josephine.

Even if the militarily is not your thing, the Musée de l'Armée is worth a look - it is in effect several museums in one. The building itself is splendid and there are some interesting portraits.

The World War I rooms are not for the faint hearted as no detail of the the harrowing conflict is left out. Exhibits, information and film footage about the Resistance, the Battle of Britain and the war in the Pacific are all found in the World War II wing. The most startling part is the replica of Little Boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.


The graceful Esplanade des Invalides (not to be confused with the Champs de Mars) stretches all the way to the Pont Alexandre III. It is a favorite spot for ball games and Frisbee games, sunbathing, and dog walking — everyone just seems to ignore the signs asking you to stay off the grass.


The Eglise du Dôme and the museums in Hotel des Invalides are open daily from 10am to 6pm April through September and then 10am to 5pm from October to March. It is important to note that the whole complex is closed on the first Monday of every month.

It is best to use the southern entrance, on Place Vauban (Avenue de Tourville). Practically the ticket office is here so its the quickest way in but Napoléon's Tomb is also just around the corner.

There are automatic ticket machines at the main entrance on the Place des Invalides. Under 18s go free.

The closest metro stations are La Tour Maubourg and Les Invalides.