The Conciergerie is one of Paris' most important landmarks, tracing the course of French history since times. From the 10th to the 14th centuries, it was the main palace of the medieval Kings of France. Later when the royal seat moved to the Louvre, the building was mainly used as a prison. During the reign of Terror, it was used to house those awaiting the guillotine. The Revolutionary Tribunal was set up in the adjacent Palace of Justice, and between 2 April 1793 and 31 May 1795 sent nearly 2,600 prisoners to their deaths, including Marie Antoinette. Today, much of the building is still used for the Paris Law Courts.
Considered among the highest achievements of Gothic architecture, the Sainte-Chapelle was commissioned by King Louis IX of France to house his collection of Passion relics, including Christ's Crown of Thorns, and consecrated in 1248. It has one of the most extensive 13th century stained glass collections anywhere in the world.
This is the closest you can get to the feel of medieval Paris. The Marais has more pre-revolutionary buildings and streets left intact than any other area in Paris. Before Napoleon the Marais is what most of Paris looked like, a fascinating labyrinth of cobblestone alleys. In the 19th Century the rest of Paris would be razed by Napoleon and General Haussman, to be replaced by huge avenues and monumental squares like the Place Concorde. Among its treasures the Marais counts the Place des Vosges, considered by many to be the most beautiful square in Paris. It was built by Henry IV and soon became one of the most exclusive areas. Napoleon himself considered it the jewel of Paris. The Marais is also the Jewish quarter in Paris, still maintaining its strong traditions.
The magnificent Palace of Versailles needs no introduction. The principal royal residence of France from 1682 under Louis XIV the "Sun King" until the French Revolution in 1789, it is located 20 km southwest of Paris. The Palace is an historical monument and UNESCO World Heritage site, notable for the ceremonial Hall of Mirrors, the jewel-like Royal Opera, and for the more intimate royal residences, the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon within the park. The vast Gardens of Versailles with their fountains, canals, flower beds and groves were originally laid out by le Nôtre. The Palace was stripped of its furnishings in the French Revolution, but many pieces have now been returned.