This neoclassical masterpiece is the home of five prestigious French educational institutes, the tomb of a respected cardinal and a superb library.
The palace building of the French Academy (Académie Française) is one of the most jaw-dropping landmarks of a city blessed with numerous architectural wonders. Gaze at the arresting façade of the French Academy, which sits on the bank of the Seine River. Take a guided tour of elegantly furnished rooms and browse the private book collection of Cardinal Jules Mazarin.
Appreciate the longevity of the structure. Dating back to 1661, this neoclassical monument was originally the site of the Collège des Quatre-Nations. In 1805 it became the headquarters of the Institut de France, a collection of five important art, humanities and science academies. They are the Academy of Fine Arts, Academy of Humanities, Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, Academy of Sciences and the French Academy.
Position yourself in the cobblestone piazza to enjoy a panoramic view of the building’s crescent-shaped façade. Its symmetrical wings run along either side of a glorious entrance and huge cupola. Highlights include Corinthian pillars and pilasters adorned with artistic capitals. Look for an image of the coat of arms of Cardinal Mazarin.
The interior is accessible via guided tour only. Look up to see the oval-shaped inside of the cupola, which contrasts with its round exterior. Visit the tomb of Cardinal Mazarin, brought from the Louvre Museum in 1962. Surrounding the tomb are statues that portray the virtues of fidelity, peace and prudence.
Don’t miss the chance to tour the Bibliothèque Mazarine, which stores thousands of books and manuscripts that belonged to Mazarin’s private collection. The site also holds over 200 works of art by Augustin Pajou, Jean-Jacques Caffieri and Jean Varin, among other French artists.
Find the attraction on the riverbank of the 6th arrondissement. The Mabillon and Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame metro stations are a 10-minute walk away. Pont des Arts is the bridge crossing the Seine from in front of the building to the Louvre Museum.
Free tours of the French Academy take place during the third week of September as part of European Heritage Days. Access to the Bibliothèque Mazarine is also by guided tour. Check the library’s official website for details.