Have you ever wondered where the leaders of the French Revolution kept their prisoners before they were sent to Place de la Concorde and the inevitable guillotine?
If yes, then look no further than La Conciergerie also know as the, “ante-chamber to the guillotine.” Tucked away on the North side of the same Île de la cité as Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle. The former medieval fortress is now part of the Palais de Justice, but also houses a small museum filled with exhibits regarding the French Revolution.
The rebuilt interior of the prison facility is an astonishing look at the gruesome nature of the French Revolution and its subsequent Reign of Terror. A remade version of Marie Antoinette’s cell, a blade from the guillotine, and a list of names of those executed are available to look at inside. The massive Hall of the Guards is a reminder of the building’s medieval past. La Conciergerie is the oldest remaining part of the Île de la cité originally built as the Merovingian palace.
Surprisingly only a small part of La Conciergerie is open to the public as the surrounding areas of the building are still used today by the (thankfully much kinder) Paris court system.
Update: As of May 2017, Marie Antoinette’s room and the guillotine blade have been closed off. No word on if they will be reopened.
Update as of April 2023: Marie Antoinette’s room and blade are available for viewing again.
Know Before You Go
Metro: lines 1, 4, 7, 11 and 14 Bus: 21, 24, 27, 38, 58, 81, 85 and Balabus RER: lines B and C Follow the Seine banks to Ile de la Cité