Paris offers many delightful sights in unexpected places. One such place is the rue Réaumur that runs through Paris’ second and third arrondissements. It offers a glimpse of the new urban architecture that emerged in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century. The strict rules laid down by Baron Haussmann, requiring that buildings be of uniform height, were relaxed in the 1880’s, and architects took advantage of this new freedom. The street was a commercial thoroughfare, with wholesalers and textile companies; the new architecture had to design buildings that served both to manufacture and to sell. While the rue Réaumur has kept its downtown, commercial feel, it’s worth taking a closer look at some of the buildings:
At 61-63, rue Réaumur, you’ll see an extraordinary building, which resembles a neo-gothic cathedral. An early example of Art Nouveau, the building was designed by the architects Philippe Jouannin and Edouard Singery and was completed in 1900. A monumental clock graces the façade of the building; the clock is decorated with signs of the zodiac, and designs representing the months and the seasons. Step inside the building and climb the winding staircase to view the clock from another angle.
82-92, rue Réaumur
The rue Réaumur was inaugurated in 1897, and the department store, A Réaumur, opened at that time. The building, founded by Jean-Baptiste Gobert-Martin, was typical of 19th century department store construction. It remained open until 1960; today you’ll find outlet stores on the ground floor. Cast your eyes upward at the corner of the rue Réaumur and the rue Saint-Denis and admire the beautiful clock, surrounded by polychrome mosaics.
While in the neighborhood, walk down the rue Saint-Denis to number 120, and enter the Passage du Bourg l’Abbé, 120 rue Saint-Denis, & 3, rue Palestro.
The Passage du Bourg l’Abbé, built in 1828 by Auguste Lusson, connects the rue Saint-Denis and the rue Palestro. It is rather quiet, having no doubt seen better days. One is tempted to compare it with the Passage du Grand Cerf on the other side of the rue Saint-Denis, a much livelier passage with more interesting shops. Be that as it may, the Passage du Bourg l’Abbé has a certain elegance, due in part to its unusual curved glass roof (most other passages have a roof composed of two flat sides). Due also, to the barometer and clock that face each other at either end of the passage.
Retrace your footsteps and turn left to go to number 134, rue Réaumur. The architect Jacques Hermant designed a building for the bank Société Générale; built of freestone, it has an award-winning façade topped by a dome and a clock. Step inside the bank to admire the glass roof’s metal structure.
A nice way to end your walk would be to turn left onto the rue Richelieu. In a few minutes you’ll have arrived at the rue du Petits-Champs, near the entrance to the Jardin du Palais Royal, for a well-deserved rest before continuing on to other better-known attractions, such as the Musée du Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries.