Paris’ La Defense District
The Home to the Largest Open-Air Contemporary Art Space in France
As soon as we step out of the metro into the bright sunlight La Grande Arche is rising in front of us. The structure measuring 110 meters in height, width and depth is the landmark of Paris’ business district, La Defense. A landmark that connects with one of Paris’ other landmarks, the Arc de Triomphe, in one straight line via the Champs-Elysées, which is pretty well visible on this bright spring day when we decided to spend some time a bit outside the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
The main draw for us to visit La Defense this time around in the French capital is – besides the modern architecture – the art route running through it, which we were alerted to by the artist Guillaume Bottazzi, of whom an artwork was revealed here a bit earlier this year. His work is the 7oth addition to what is claimed to be the largest open-air contemporary art space in France.
The art route including works of world-famous artists like Calder and Miró now consists of 70 – mostly – contemporary art works and runs through the whole area encompassing some 5.6 million square meters. The route is an ambitious project which was initiated already in 1958 – at the commencement of the modernization of the La Defense area, where previously factories, shanties and, yes, even some farms were situated – and is meant to expand even more. Where you’ll find some of the art works on La Defense’s main square, others are somewhat more hidden in between the skyscrapers, ensuring its visitor to explore areas off the regular La Defense track.
When we visited the area it was quite remarkable to see that only few other tourists followed this art route and that most run up to La Grande Arche to immediately head back to the centre. A missed chance we would say, since this is really an enjoyable outing on a bright, sunny day, which there are plenty of in Paris.
Whereas La Defense mainly functions as a business district – more specifically Europe’s premier one, serving over 3,500 companies and an estimated 150,000 workers – there’s more to the area. In the heart of Paris’ business world you can also find a large shopping mall and different restaurants and other venues to entertain yourself. Apart from that, there are also some 25,000 people living permanently in the residential part of La Defense. So even if you come here during a weekend in wintertime, you’ll still have plenty options to relax and see people around, be it the residents of La Defense or tourists who flock here to see Paris’ modern side of town or want to escape Paris’ crazy crowds.
If you don’t want to miss any object or especially not the one of your favorite artist, we recommend you to pick up the art map from the Info Defense booth at the square, or download it in advance from the La Defense website. On this website you can also find information about guided tours and the art works themselves.
Serving that many people it’s hardly surprising that there are multiple ways to get to La Defense. You can take either the tram, the metro, the bus or the train. Here’s an overview of the options. La Defense is also relatively close to the Bois du Boulogne, where the new Louis Vuitton museum for contemporary art is situated. So if you happen to be in this part of town, why not combine the two!
Looking for more information on Paris? These are the other articles we wrote so far following our visit: