Rue de Rivoli is a famous, commercial street nearby the right bank of the River Seine. The shops on the Rue de Rivoli offer the most fashionable brands in the world. The street is named after Napoleon’s early victory against the Austrian army, at the battle of Rivoli, fought in 1797.
North of the rue de Rivoli, at the point where the Grands Boulevards crossed an enormous new square, the new opera house was built. Just behind the opera house the largest department stores can be found, like the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps.
East along the rue de Rivoli, at the Place des Pyramides, is the gilded statue of Joan of Arc situated close to the place where she was wounded at the Saint-Honoré Gate in her unsuccessful attack on English-held Paris. A little further along, towards the Place de la Concorde, the rue de Castiglione leads to the Place Vendôme, with its Vendôme Column surmounted by the effigy of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Rue de Rivoli is a compromise between an urbanism of prestige monuments and aristocratic squares, and the forms of modern city planning by official regulation. It’s famous for its uniformed arcaded facades and for one of the branches of the French National Library.
The new street that Napoleon Bonaparte pierced through the heart of Paris took for one side the north wing of the Louvre, which Napoleon extended, and the Tuileries Gardens. For the first time ever, a handsome, regular, wide street would face the north wing of the old palace. Napoleon’s original section of the street opened up eastward from the Place de la Concorde.
Builders on the north side, between rue de Mondovi and rue Saint-Florentin, had been constrained by letters patent to follow a single facade plan. The result was a nice uniformity, and Napoleon’s planners extended a similar program, which has resulted in the famous arcaded facades that extend for more than a kilometre.
The restored Bourbon King Charles X continued the rue de Rivoli eastwards from the Louvre, as did King Louis-Philippe. Finally, Emperor Napoleon III extended it on into the 17th-century quarter of the Marais. Beneath the rue de Rivoli runs one of the main brick-vaulted oval-sectioned sewers of Paris’ much-imitated system, with its sidewalks for the sewer workers.
In 1852, opposite the wing of the Louvre, Baron Haussmann enlarged the Place du Palais-Royal that is centred on the baroque Palais Royal, built for Cardinal Richelieu in 1624 and willed to the royal family, with its garden surrounded by chic commercial arcades. At the rear of the garden is the older branch of the Bibliothèque Nationale, in the rue Richelieu.