The Hôtel des Invalides and its museum are historical and architectural treasures located in the heart of Paris, in the 7th arrondissement, not far from the Seine, the Eiffel Tower and the Champ de Mars.
This impressive architectural complex, designed in the 17th century, was originally intended to provide shelter and care for wounded or disabled soldiers.
Today, this majestic site houses several institutions, including the Army Museum. The latter invites visitors to explore France’s military history through a collection of exceptional objects, uniforms and weapons. In addition, the Dome Church, with its harmonious lines, houses the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, adding a further historical dimension to this essential site.
The Hôtel des Invalides and the Army Museum are therefore a must for travellers in search of cultural and architectural discoveries in the French capital.
The construction of the Hôtel des Invalides was ordered on 24 February 1670 by King Louis XIV, with the main objective of providing accommodation and assistance to wounded or disabled soldiers. The latter, until then, had been housed in abbeys, under the auspices of the Church. The king thus wanted to restore the image of the army among the population by providing shelter for homeless disabled veterans.
This initiative was unprecedented at the time and testifies to the king’s desire to care for those who had served France. Over the centuries, the Hôtel des Invalides evolved and its role diversified.
Today, it is still a home for veterans, but it also houses several institutions and museums, including the prestigious Musée des Armées, which brings together an artillery museum and a section focusing on the history of the army: the museum traces France’s military history through an impressive collection of weapons, uniforms and works of art.
The Hôtel National des Invalides is a true masterpiece of classical French style. Conceived and designed by architect Libéral Bruant, the building covers a vast area and is organised around a series of courtyards and gardens. The main façade, imposing and harmonious, reflects the power and grandeur of the French monarchy.
The dome of the Invalides, built by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and decorated with paintings by Charles de la Fosse, is one of the most remarkable elements of the site: peaking at 107 metres, it overlooks the royal chapel, known as the chapel of Saint-Louis-des-Invalides and the cathedral church. It is here that several great figures from French history are buried, including Napoleon Bonaparte. The dome, gilded with gold leaf, is visible from afar and is a true landmark in the Parisian landscape.
The tomb of Emperor Napoleon I is the highlight of a visit to Les Invalides. Located in the heart of l‘Eglise du Dome, it is a highly symbolic place.
The building consists of the Saint-Louis Cathedral and a chapel formerly reserved for the royal family. This historic chapel with its golden dome is called Eglise du Dome and houses Napoleon’s tomb.
In addition to the imperial tomb, the Dome houses Vauban’s mausoleum. The remains of Napoleon II, Joseph Bonaparte, Jérôme Bonaparte, Generals Bertrand and Duroc and Marshals Foch and Lyautey also rest here.
The Army Museum houses one of the most important collections of military history in the world. It was created in 1905 with the merger of the Artillery Museum and the Army History Museum. Their combination houses a permanent exhibition of almost 10,000 square metres with a collection of around 500,000 objects.
The visit allows you to immerse yourself in the heart of the various conflicts of French History, from a military point of view. Never-before-seen collectors’ items are presented: weapons, armour, uniforms, everyday objects but also drawings and paintings. A tour that unfolds in chronological order: ancient weapons and armour from the 13th to 17th centuries, from Louis XIV to Napoleon (17th to 19th centuries), the two world wars, Charles de Gaulle.
Among the Museum’s treasures not to be missed during your visit are the Armor aux lions attributed to François Ier, the Armour of the Dauphin attributed to the future Henri II, the Canon with the effigy of Frédéric de Montbéliard, the Model Artillery offered to the king by the Franche-Comté Parliament or Marshal Lannes’ grand ceremonial dress.
The Musée des Plans-Reliefs offers incredible historical models, an exceptional and unique collection of marvellous relief maps of fortified towns to admire such as Antibes, Toulon, Perpignan, Le Mont Saint-Michel, Bayonne, Le Château d’If, Belle-Ile-En-Mer and Saint-Martin-de-Ré.
The museum is composed of 2 spaces: the first presents the models, the second allows visitors to discover the manufacturing techniques of these relief plans and the history of the models presented.
Inside the Hôtel national des Invalides is also the Museum of the Order of Liberation: it traces the history of free France from 1940 to 1945. A rather fascinating permanent collection, desired and conceived by General Charles de Gaulle.
The museum consists of 3 spaces: Free France, Internal Resistance and Deportation. A hall of honour is dedicated to General de Gaulle.
The Les Invalides complex is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with evening admission on the 1st Friday of each month from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Closed on 1 January, 1 May and 25 December.
With a single entrance ticket, you can visit all the museums.
Located in the 7th arrondissement, Les Invalides Army Museum is in the heart of the French capital. You can also take the opportunity to visit the nearby Rodin Museum, the Musée du Quai Branly, Champ de Mars and the Eiffel Tower, all less than a 15-minute walk away.
The complex can be easily reached using public transport such as the metro: line 13, station Varenne, line 8, station La Tour-Maubourg or stop Invalides.
Alternatively, you could take the RER C, Invalides station, exit rue de l’Université, or the numerous buses that stop nearby: lines 28 and 69, stop Invalides – La Tour Maubourg, lines 82 and 92, stop Vauban – Hôtel des Invalides, lines 83 and 93, stop Invalides, line 63, stop Pont Alexandre III.
City Card allow you to save on public transport and / or on the entrances to the main tourist attractions.