The unmissable gilded dome on the Paris skyline is the Cathedral of the Invalides, the final resting place of Napoleon since 1840. The building that surrounds it is now home to the museum of the Army, recounting the military history of France and her allies. Designed in the XVIIth century for the wounded veterans of the wars of Louis XIV, it is now the proud symbol of the French Armies. Meet your expert local guide for a fascinating tour of this magnificent building, dedicated to war since its origins. Also home to the awe-inspiring tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, you will learn about his incredible rise to power, glorious military victories and eventual downfall. From medieval armours to World War II machine guns, follow the path of history through conquests, invasions and resistance, jousts, duels and bombings.
Commissioned in 1670 by king Louis XIV for his retired and wounded soldiers, the Invalides had a social aim - in the XVIIth century this was very uncommon on the part of the State. The king knew that he owed his glory to his troops, and as a catholic, he had to build a church for the “invalides” or wounded veterans. He did much more than that, commissioning Jules Hardouin Mansart (who conceived the Hall of Mirrors in his palace of Versailles) to build a Cathedral named Saint Louis, after his most prestigious ancestor. Paris became the only city to have two cathedrals : Notre-Dame, the cathedral of the city, seat of the bishop of Paris on one hand and Saint Louis, the cathedral of the army and seat of the bishop of the armies on the other.
Inside the Invalides you will discover both the Army Museum and the Cathedral. The classical architecture may surprise you - the king literally built a Palace for his troops! Today, a few veteran soldiers still live in the building but most of it is dedicated to the museum of the military history of France. From the armours of the Renaissance rulers to the weapons of World War II, follow us on this journey that will show you world history from the French perspective. Francis I, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Georges Clémenceau and Charles de Gaulle are some of the major historical figures that you will be learning about on your visit. How did Napoleon end up being the master of Europe and what led to his spectacular fall ? How did the French and their allies resist the constant push of the German army on French soil during World War I ? When and why did Uncle Sam decide to come and help ? During World War II how did the French Resistance organise itself during the occupation ? Who was Charles de Gaulle, a strong figure of national pride nowadays ? How was D-Day organised and how was it perceived in France and particularly in Paris ? These and many more questions will be answered for you by our specialist guides.
After seeing the museum, your guide will take you into the spectacular Cathedral. Notre-Dame is gothic, with its stained glass windows, but Saint Louis is classical in style, the height of modernity in the XVIIth century. Most noticeable from the outside is of course the 107 meters (351 feet) high dome covered with 12 kgs of gold (26 lbs).Today, the Cathedral shelters the tomb of the most famous general in European history : Napoleon Bonaparte.
After crowning himself emperor in 1804, Napoleon conquered great swathes of Europe, until his defeat at the battle of Waterloo in 1815. The deposed emperor was sent away from Europe, and died in exile in 1821. Hitler brought to Paris the body of Napoleon's son, nicknamed ‘the Eaglet’ who had died aged 21 in Austria, and buried him next to his glorious father.
Learn about the mysteries surrounding the body resting in the Invalides. Did the British actually gave Napoleon’s body back or has it been exchanged with one of his servants who had died in Saint Helena ? Your guide will be on hand to help understand these tumultuous periods of war and conquest in Europe, and to bring to life the fascinating personalities who shaped history
Note that increased security measures may affect lines as we can't avoid them. However due to our Skip the Line privilege, we do have access to shortcuts to the security check.
Guided visit of the Invalides Museum
Entrance tickets to the Invalides
Expert, fully accredited English-speaking tour guides
Groups of 20 people or fewer
Headsets where necessary so you can always hear your guide