I’ve been to Paris a few times already, but during my last trip, I wanted to cover an area I had never been to before: La Défense.
La Défense is Europe’s largest purpose-built business district, and, not unlike Canary Wharf in London, is holds some of the country’s most prestigious headquarters within its tiny 1.6 square kilometer area.
Hop on the metro, direction: the end of line 1.
And when you exit, it’s like you’ve set time forward 200 years. A different city altogether.
While Paris is filled with 5-story buildings with romantic iron balconies that date back from previous centuries, La Défense screams modernity, with its countless skyscrapers, quirky sculptures and random pops of colors. Definitely two worlds apart.
La Grande Arche is the icon of La Defense. Recognizable from a few vantage points all over 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. I had no idea just how much the French people love symmetry!
That round building certainly made me raise an eyebrow. Halfway between the Montreal’s biosphere and the Universal Studio’s globe, it’s tucked in a corner between skyscrapers, perhaps in a attempt to be discreet (which clearly failed – round buildings are always hard to miss).
Funky sculptures that reminded of the of Stravinsky Fountain near the Pompidou center in Paris – the same artist, perhaps?
Shiny buildings! I love me a good flare on a sunny day, and since they don’t come by too often in Northern France, I indulged.
La Defense is actually very well designed – there’s a very long central place, with fountains and green spaces, that runs from one end to another, and buildings of all sizes and colors on each side. The central place thus becomes a natural meeting point, for a few bites or a break in the sun, for all the buildings around. No segregated parks here – everybody mingles. And I kind of like that.
Have you been to La Defense in Paris? For business purposes or for pleasure? Do you like the contrast with romantic Paris?