If you’ve been to Paris there’s a good chance you’ve stood at the top of the main steps of this building to take a few photographs of the city’s most famous building, the Eiffel Tower.
Situated on the hill of Chaillot, the Palais de Chaillot is just across the river Seine from the Eiffel Tower and we can confirm that it does indeed offer excellent views of the tower, and as a bonus, the lovely Trocadéro Gardens with its many fountains helping to frame the view. The Palais itself though is well worth a look. It's located between the Place du Trocadéro, another great location to take photos of the Eiffel Tower, and the Trocadéro Gardens that gently slope down toward the Seine from the Palais.
It was built in 1937, toward the end of the classic Art Deco era, for the International Exhibition of Arts and Techniques Applied to Modern Life. The building is actually a mix of old and new, with the previous Palais du Trocadéro being partly demolished and rebuilt to create it.
The palace was designed by architects Louis-Hippolyte Boileau, Jacques Carlu and Léon Azéma in the ‘moderne’ style of Art Deco that emerged in the 1930s. The two sweeping arc wings have been created from the previous Palais with new taller sections built in front. The large central towers either side of the central esplanade, that we stood on to get our photos of the Eiffel Tower, are also based on the former Palais. The existing towers were basically encapsulated by the new design.
Incidentally, the wide open esplanade was originally the site of the large central hall and towers of the original Palais. It was also the site of one of the countries darker moments when Adolf Hitler was photographed here with the Eiffel Tower in the background, a truly iconic image of the Second World War. On a more positive note, it was also the site of the city’s V-E Day celebrations where thousands of allied troops listened to a speech delivered by US President Harry S. Truman.
The present day Palais is adorned with quotations by the French poet and philosopher Paul Valéry and another feature you definitely won’t miss as you’re wandering around the esplanade are the eight gilded statues on either side of the open area. They were produced by the sculptors Alexandre Descatoire, Marcel Gimond, Jean Paris dit Pryas, Paul Cornet, Lucien Brasseur, Robert Couturier, Paul Niclausse, and Félix-Alexandre Desruelles.
The Palais de Chaillot today is home to four major cultural institutions; the Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine, the Musée national de la Marine, the Musée de l'Homme and Chaillot - Théâtre national de la Danse.