(Photo via Wikipedia)
When my mom first came to Paris, we were in the Marais and as we walked past the Hôtel de Ville, I pointed it out to her and she said, "Wow, I wish we were staying in THAT hotel!"
Easy mistake, but it's not, of course, a hotel at all... the "hôtel de ville" of any French town is the city center or town hall. It's where you go to sort out administrative woes and pick up brochures for what's happening around town. But Paris takes the concept much further and its Hôtel de Ville goes way beyond its definition as a city center. This magnificent structure has been around since the 1357 and is so much more than "the city's local administration" (as Wikipedia has described it).
Inside, you can always find a free art exhibition, and outside in the massive courtyard (or parvis), the city of Paris has continually-changing free events. Ice skating in the winter, temporary gardens in the spring, man-made beaches in the summer. Occasionally they set up giant screens and comfy lounging chairs for passers-by to watch events like the French Open or the Olympics, and the Hôtel de Ville often hosts free live concerts (such as during the FNAC Festival each summer) from all genres of music.
The Hôtel de Ville is one of Paris' best spots for free entertainment all year round! Check out the agenda to find out what's happening and what's coming up at the ever-changing city center.
Hôtel de Ville
Place de l'Hôtel de ville 75004 Paris
Métro: M1, M11 to Hôtel de Ville