Baron Haussmann’s Legacy: 10 Things He Did for Paris

   1218    2
Baron Haussmann’s Legacy: 10 Things He Did for Paris
It’s exactly 170 years since Baron Haussmann began his radical transformation of Paris, and the city is marking the occasion with a wide range of lectures and events. Although he had his critics, Haussmann had an enormous impact on Paris, perhaps more than any other individual in history. Surely this anniversary year is a moment to pay tribute to his work. It’s difficult to overstate how different the city was before his era. The roads in mid-19th century Paris were narrow and dark, travel through the city was difficult and living conditions for most Parisians were grim. The cholera epidemic of 1832 had hit the city especially hard. When Louis Napoléon Bonaparte returned from exile in London in 1852, one of his very first priorities was to oversee vast improvements in the capital. The Rue des Marmousets, a narrow and dark medieval street on the Île de la Cité, in the 1850s, before Haussmann’s work. Photo credit: Charles Marville/ Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons So, in 1853, just a year after declaring himself Emperor, Napoléon III engaged Georges-Eugène Haussmann as his chief planner and, having been so impressed with London, explained his vision: “Let’s make this city beautiful and improve the life of its citizens.” He wanted rid of the crowded little streets, which, as he commented “lack air and daylight”; he wanted wide new avenues to open up the city. Soon 80,000 workers were engaged to make it all happen. Henri Lehmann, Portrait of Baron Haussmann. Credit: Paris Musées / Musée Carnavalet/ Wikimedia Commons Haussmann certainly had his critics, some objecting to the costs involved, others to the demolition of parts of medieval Paris. But, between 1853 and 1870, the year of his resignation, he transformed the French capital, enlarging it, modernizing its infra-structure, and adding many stunning new avenues, parks, squares and public buildings. Now 170 years on, it’s easy to get lost in the detail, but here are 10 fundamental changes made as Haussmann, following his Emperor’s instructions, sought to “beautify” Paris. The Rue du Jardinet on the Left Bank, demolished by Haussmann to make room for the Boulevard Saint Germain. Photo credit: Charles Marville/ Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons 1. Enlarging the city Napoléon III annexed whole new areas to the city of Paris – including Montmartre, Passy and Belleville – added eight arrondissements, making a total of 20, as is still the case today. These new Parisians brought in extra taxes which helped with the costs being incurred, for example for the wide new roads needed to connect up all the different areas of the city.

Lead photo credit : Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann (1809-1891). Author unknown. Bibliothèque nationale de France. Wikimedia Commons

Previous Article Step into a Sculptor’s World: The Bourdelle Museum Reopens in Paris
Next Article Day Trips from Paris: A Fairytale Walk to Château of Ecouen

Recently retired from teaching Modern Languages (French and German), Marian now has time to develop her interests in travel and European culture and history. She will be in Paris as often as she can, visiting places old and new, finding out their stories and writing it all up as soon as she gets home. Marian also runs the weekly podcast series, City Breaks, offering in-depth coverage of popular city break destinations, with lots of background history and cultural information. She has covered Paris in 22 episodes but looks forward to updating the series every now and then with some Paris Extra episodes.


  • maria medina
    2023-04-06 05:28:28
    maria medina
    T Bonjour París is a pleasure to read well written,great themes and the more u read the more u love París, I have learn so much of the city that I can’t wait to return back which now after being a member I now want to go see all the new places u taught us merci beacoup,,


    • Marian Jones
      2023-04-06 08:55:32
      Marian Jones
      Merci, bien Maria. Thank you for taking the trouble to write this lovely comment. We are very happy to hear how much you are enjoying your membership and we fully intend to continue researching and writing up interesting aspects of Paris. There are lots to choose from!