Place Denfert-Rochereau, previously known as Place d’Enfer, is a public square named after Pierre Denfert-Rochereau, the French commander who organised the defense at the siege of Belfort during the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871). The square is frequently the place where demonstrations and protest marches in Paris either start or end.
The square is the location of the Paris Catacombs museum. The entrance to the catacombs is located next to a handsome stone building with three Romanesque arches across its façade, on the odd-numbered side of Avenue du Colonel-Henri-Rol-Tanguy (a street, one block in length, that hardly qualifies as an avenue.) This entrance is directly across the street from an identical even-numbered building that houses the Directorate of Roads and Transport (Direction de la Voirie et des Déplacements). These two buildings, classified as historical monuments, are the pavilions of the old Barrière d’Enfer, where taxes were collected on goods entering Paris. They are built to the design of the 19th-century architect, Claude Nicolas Ledoux, whose work can be found all over the city. This part of the square has enveloped the site of the Barrière d’Enfer, as well as part of the boulevards d’Enfer and Saint-Jacques, and a part of the boulevards Montrouge and Arcueil, roads which, at one time, led to those two southern suburbs but no longer exist.
The Place Denfert-Rochereau is planted with trees, mostly chestnuts, maples and locusts, and there are three named green spaces within it as well: Square Abbé Migne, Square Jacques Antoine, and Square Claude Nicolas Ledoux.
At the centre of the square, in the midst of the traffic circulation, is a one-third-scale replica of the Lion of Belfort statue by Frédéric Bartholdi, sculptor of the Statue of Liberty in New York. It symbolises the courage of the resistance raised by Colonel Denfert-Rochereau at Belfort.
The square is the place depicted on the backdrop at the beginning of the third act of “La Bohème” by Puccini.