The streets of Pau!

Believe it or not, one of my most precious moment is to walk the cities, towns and villages I have visited. Sure the monuments are seen and I am an amateur of architecture and history, but walking brings all that in much better. And once you are in town walking beats anything else. This is no different in one of my memorable cities of my belle France, Pau. Therefore, let me tell you something about some memorable streets of Pau. Hope you enjoy it and do walk it!!

The Place de la Déportation, a few steps from the Castle, is a pretty square in the pedestrian part of the city . Surrounded by old buildings, which give it all its charm, offers a superb view of the whole city below and is organized around a still running fountain which dates from 1620, at the time when it still housed the Navarre Palace. Today it has been renamed in memory of those who died during WWII. Several flower beds, brightening up the square, the start of the tour of the little train and a monument in memory of Louis Barthou. The benches were ideally placed there: the square overlooking the Boulevard des Pyrénées, you just have to sit down for a moment to enjoy the breathtaking view of the mountain. Observation which, for the most curious, can be supplemented by the binocular station which is right next to it. One of these typical places that makes the charm of Pau! And it has been said “Memories are our strengths. Never let memorable dates fade away. When the night tries to return, you have to light the big dates, as you light torches. » by Victor Hugo. « Les souvenirs sont nos forces.Ne laissons jamais s’effacer les anniversaires mémorables. Quand la nuit essaie de revenir, il faut allumer les grandes dates, comme on allume des flambeaux. »


The Place de Verdun is located in the city center of Pau. to the south, in a one-way direction west-east, is rue Antoine de Bayard. You descend by rue Corisande towards Place Gramont with its fountains and arcades. To the east is Rue de Liège, in a south-north direction in circulation. North of the square, Cours Camou has an east-west direction. Rue Michelet links the square to the Pau exhibition center. To the west is Rue du Maquis du Béarn, which runs alongside the sports grounds of the Bernadotte barracks. The square is cut in two by rue Ambroise Bordelongue.


The site of the present Place de Verdun was originally occupied by a vast, unsanitary swamp. Under the leadership of Henri d’Albret, this area became one of the royal gardens of the Château de Pau in the 16C. It was then called the Haute-Plante, on which were planted chestnuts, fruit trees, vines, flowers etc. The Haute-Plante hosted the most important cattle fair in Béarn until the end of the 19C. The Bernadotte barracks were completed in 1875 after work spread over almost 50 years, this was wanted during the Restoration to defend from Spain. The barracks could accommodate up to 5,000 men, making it one of the largest in France. The current Place de Verdun was then used as a field of practice and maneuvers. It welcomes arrivals from the Tour de France. And we have waited here for it with the family!


At the back, the statue represents three hairy men from the Great War (WWI). The plaques pay tribute to the victims of the various conflicts. One of them testifies to the presence of the 18th line infantry regiment alongside the Americans at the Battle of Yorktown during the War of Independence (USA). This statue is a gift made by Miss Alice Cushing in 1925 to symbolize the Franco-American friendship, the latter was resident in Pau and owner of the Villa Beverly (current Saint-Dominique school). The monument is cut in white stone, it is the work of the American sculptor Charles Ayton.

The Place Reine-Marguerite is the oldest square in Pau, it was built in 1590 by order of Catherine de Bourbon, sister of King Henri IV. The square plan, consists of 27 arches surmounted to the west by three-story buildings dating from the 18C and to the east by Art Deco style building dating from the 1940s. Built on three sides, it is open on rue du Maréchal Joffre. It is also accessible via rue de Foix. A fountain dating from the 19C takes place in the center of the square. On December 31, 1590, Catherine de Bourbon orders the construction of a new halle, on this occasion several houses will be acquired then demolished in order to create the site of said halles, which will be held in the open air for a little over twenty years. In 1619, after the acquisition of the last plots, a wooden halle on stone pillars will be built to cover the population of bad weather. This one, on two levels, accommodates the merchants on the ground floor and a printing works on the first floor. The current Rue de Foix was then opened at the same time to facilitate exchanges. In 1711, the land around the square was sold to neighboring owners. They will have to build at their expense and according to a pre-established architectural plan a series of arcades, in front of a gallery welcoming shops and stalls qualified at the time as hangars intended to later accommodate the rest of the halles . The plans for these hangars drawn up around 1730 have now disappeared. In 1751, after the completion of the hangars   (arcades and their galleries), the wooden halles is demolished and it is only at this time there and after many deliberations, that the owners will be authorized to build buildings above these arches. During the French revolution the square was used for public capital executions on the gallows or the wheel. In 1826, the construction of new hallse on the current Place Clemenceau reduced its frequentation until becoming a simple commercial square at the end of the 19C. It was renamed Place Reine-Marguerite in 1897 in honor of Queen Marguerite de Valois, wife of King Henri IV. The eastern part of the square was devastated by a fire in the 1940s, the arcades were removed in favor of a late Art Deco style building. In 1970, on the occasion of the construction of the Place de la République halles(see post), the city bought the eastern part of the square, and in a historical concern, decided to restore the arcades while preserving the modern building. The Place Reine Marguerite square, then a large parking lot, will then undergo a renovation and will be moved in and provided with a fountain on the site of an old well.


The Place Royale is the central point of the city, it is notably bordered by the City/Town hall of Pau, by the old Hôtel de France and by the Boulevard des Pyrénées. (where you can climb stairs to the square) .Commissioned by the States of Béarn, the Place Royale was fitted out in 1688, as in many other cities in France, to accommodate the statue of Louis XIV. The square also had a church who will be named Saint-Louis. This, which was in place of the current City Hall was started but will never be finished and the land will remain in ruins for several centuries. In 1793, the statue of Louis XIV was shot down during the French revolution. The square is now known as Place de l’Égalité, and a few years later, Place Bonaparte. The 19C will be that of the opening and the enlargement of the square, which then takes its current proportions following a decree of Napoleon Bonaparte which orders in 1808, during a passage in Pau, the destruction of the wall to reveal the view of the Pyrenees. In 1831, the pavillon des bains (bathhouse pavilion) was built below the square and in 1839 it was decided to cut down all the trees and replace them with rows of lime trees.


In 1843 at the request of king of the French, Louis-Philippe, a standing statue of King Henry IV was made out of Carrara marble. In 1854, the private ruins of the unfinished church were bought by a private company of shareholders. The building was provided with a casino, with its concert and game rooms and its large ballroom as well as the small Italian theater. A few years later, the town of Pau which had its eye on the building bought it in 1876 and settled there in 1878 (city hall) after some renovation work, judging its premises from the city hall of Place Clémenceau, too cramped.


Adjoining the emblematic Boulevard du Midi (current Boulevard des Pyrénées), it experienced an unprecedented boom in the 19C. Marked in particular by the construction of the Splendide Hôtel in 1861, the Hôtel de la Paix in 1863 where the ex-first lady Mary Todd Lincoln (wife of US pres Abraham Lincoln) settled from 1877 to 1880. The Hôtel de France was built from of 1868 then by its symmetry in 1901 and finally by the portico which connects them in 1910. The cercle Anglais or English circle club making the angle with the rue Louis Barthou in 1870 before becoming in 1900 the current Consulate of Spain. The Place Royale will be provided with its emblematic kiosk in 1887 and the small pavilion of the baths was transformed into a temporary casino in 1884 and will remain so until 1899 when it was transferred to the Palais d’hiver (winter palace) built the same year. This pavilion, which is now baptized the Pavilion of the Arts, was radically altered in 1907 in order to accommodate the funicular the following year and consequently to extend the surface of the square deemed to be too small on public holidays. Today it still remains an important square in Pau, which illustrates the harmony between the city and the exceptional character of the landscape facing it.

The Place Clemenceau is one of the central squares in Pau. It links the historic axis of rue Joffre to the east of the city. It is connected to the Boulevard des Pyrénées by the Palais des Pyrénées and the Boulevard d’Aragon.


Originally, the site was occupied by a set of religious buildings including the Notre-Dame-des-Morts Chapel, a cemetery, the Church and Convent Notre-Dame founded around 1616. At the beginning of the 19C, the Notre-Dame Church is very degraded, and a gendarmerie barracks will be installed in part of the building. The new halles was built in 1837 and was inaugurated the following year, also welcoming the services of the City/Town Hall before their move in 1876. The square was then also equipped with several hotels including the Henri IV Hotel ,(current Bourbon Hotel) as well as the Hôtel des Pyrénées. It also welcomed in 1908, the Galeries Moderne, subsequently Nouvelles Galeries then Galeries Lafayette. The new halles was dismantled from 1929 in order to be moved to the second halles, built in 1876, place des Écoles (now Place de la République). The space freed up then constitutes the current floor space of the square. The church was however spared and was dismantled stone by stone and reassembled between 1930 and 1932, left bank in the quarter of XIV Juillet under the name of Notre-Dame-Du-Bout-Du-Pont Church. The Palais des Pyrénées is built in the ocean liner style, a late version of the Art Deco movement, and it will be inaugurated on November 29, 1930. The Palais des Pyrénées will contain various shops such as a travel agency, furniture stores, cafes, a casino, mini golf and a car dealership. The concert hall hosts artists like Edith Piaf but also boxing fights with Marcel Cerdan. Between 1951 and 1958, the palace was largely altered. The dome placed in the center of the building as well as the covered colonnade below were destroyed in 1952, thus making it possible to clear the view of the Pyrenees from Place Clemenceau by means of a pedestrian crossing becoming Avenue de Lattre de Tassigny. In 2006, the town decided to completely renovate Place Clemenceau and the Palais des Pyrénées. An underground car park with 400 spaces is built and the square therefore becomes entirely pedestrian with the installation of a fountain and water jets. The Palais des Pyrénées is completely renovated to accommodate 16 commercial brands over 10,000m² and offices over 2,500m. At Place Clemenceau see the Le Carrousel Palois !


The official city of Pau on its history and heritage in French: City of Pau on history and heritage

The Tourist office of Pau on heritage in English: Tourist office Pau Pyrenees on heritage

And there you go now you can have a better view of the wonders and architecture/history of this wonderful city of the Pyrénées, Pau! We are very fond of it and many family trips that thankfully to this blog will remain for a long time with us. Hoping it helps you make it part of  your history too. Hope you have enjoy the post.

And remember, happy travels, good health,and many cheers to all!!!

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2 Comments to “The streets of Pau!”

  1. Thank you for your post. I currently live about 50km from Pau and had been planning to visit but then lockdown came in. Hopefully I’ll be able to get there soon. Lovely to read a bit more about it

    Liked by 1 person

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