Boulevards of Paris form an important part of the urban landscape of the city. They were constructed in several phases by central government and in the minds of Parisians they are very much associated with strolling and leisurely enjoyment. Unlike smaller roads, Parisian boulevards and avenues are usually tree-lined on one or both sides.
The Grands Boulevards are considered as ‘the best’ of the Parisian boulevards. Which ones exactly are classed amongst the Grands Boulevards is somewhat unclear. Many Parisians would automatically include Boulevard Haussmann, as the large department stores are located there. Strictly speaking, however, ‘les Grands Boulevards’ include only the Boulevard Beaumarchais, Filles-du-Calvaire, Temple (also known as ‘boulevard du Crime’), Saint-Martin, Saint-Denis, Bonne-Nouvelle, Poissonnière, Montmartre, Italiens, Capucines and the Madeleine boulevards. Parisians made the boulevards into promenades which have remained popular through the ages and changes in the city.
From 1784 to 1791, Claude Ledoux (a French neo-classical architect) built the Wall of the Farmers-General, with boulevards running along its exterior. Haussmann’s renovation of Paris brought the boulevard to the heart of Paris, whereas they had hithertofore been limited to uninhabited or sparsely inhabited zones. Le boulevard, whose initial function was to go around the capital, became structural urban thoroughfares.
The boulevards from Haussmann and before now define Paris, with their uniform façades and overhanging balconies stretching along them. These are immediately recognizable, and are under the strict control of Paris’ urban planners.