A grand square of symmetrical pink brick and stone mansions built over arcades, the place des Vosges, at the eastern end of rue des Francs-Bourgeois, is a masterpiece of aristocratic elegance and the first example of planned development in the history of Paris. It was built by Henri IV and inaugurated in 1612 for the wedding of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria; Louis’s statue – or, rather, a replica of it – stands hidden by chestnut trees in the middle of the grass and gravel gardens at the square’s centre. The gardens are popular with families on weekends – children can run around on the grass (unusually for Paris the “pelouse” is not “interdite”) and mess about in sandpits. Buskers often play under the arcades, serenading diners at the outside tables of restaurants and cafés, while well-heeled shoppers browse in the upmarket art, antique and fashion boutiques.
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