La Defense Paris is a modern, skyscraper dotted district, creating a wonderful contrast to the nearby historical center.
The arrondissement, city district, is located on the westernmost parts of the 10 km long “axe historique” (historical axis), which starts from the Louvre museum, continuing through Champs-Élysées, ending at La Défense.
PHOTO: A view to the gleaming La Defense skyscrapers and Boulevard Circulaire…as seen from pedestrian Passerelle de l’Iris bridge, near Paris metro station “Esplanade de La Défense” (M1 line).
Within the highlights in the arrondissement are its 110-meter tall Grande Arche, as well as the main esplanade, “le Parvis”.
Also, here, you’ll be able to enjoy the sights of some of the tallest buildings in Europe…
…as the district has 72 glass-and-steel skyscrapers, many among the tallest in Europe — including 14 skyscrapers over 150 meters in height.
As an arrondissement, La Defense is unique, at is a purpose-built commercial district, the biggest such district in Europe, in fact.
Name for the place comes from the iconic statue, “La Défense de Paris”, build (in 1884) to commemorate soldiers who defended Paris through the Franco-Prussian war.
Construction work on La Defense began in 1958. Before the new, modern buildings, the area had…
- historical factories,
- run-down villages, and
- a few of the remaining Parisian farms.
First building to see daylight in the development was “Tour Esso”. Tour Esso has since (from 1993) been replaced by the Cœur Défense skyscraper.
“Centre des nouvelles industries et technologies” (CNIT, www.cnit.com), one of the top highlights in the district, also opened its doors in 1958.
First wave of construction at La Defense Paris was limited to the height of 100 meters…and many of these buildings were not only as tall, but they also looked very similar to one another.
The 2nd generation skyscrapers, with more varied designs, were built in early 1970s, followed by the 3rd generation buildings in the early 1980s.
Tallest skyscraper here (and in France, in fact) is the 225 meter-tall Tour First…
…with Eiffel tower, however, still being the tallest structure in Paris (at 324 m).
Among the 3rd generation La Defense buildings was Les Quatre Temps (www.les4temps.com), the biggest shopping center in Europe (at the time of completion, 1981).
Unique to Paris’ axe historique, for a long time, the district did not contain a anchor monument to entice tourists to come here.
For that particular purpose, the city held a competition, “Tête Défense“, to complement the historic axis…
…leading to the building of a massive new monument, Grande Arche, completed in 1990.
1990s was a period of rapid development at La Defense, with scores of new hotels being built to the district, and with the extension of the Paris Metro line M1 to the arrondissement, in 1992.
In fact, the expansion and development of the district has continued to this day.