Les Halles  

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Les Halles, Paris, photograph by Charles Marville
Les Halles, Paris, photograph by Charles Marville

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Les Halles is an area of Paris, France, located in the 1st arrondissement. It is named for the large central wholesale marketplace, which was demolished in 1971, to be replaced with an underground modern shopping precinct, the Forum des Halles. It is notable in that the open air center area is below street level, like a pit and contains sculpture, fountains, and mosaics. Émile Zola's 1873 novel Le Ventre de Paris (The Belly of Paris) revolves around Les Halles.


Les Halles was the traditional central market of Paris. In 1183, King Philippe II Auguste enlarged the marketplace in Paris and built a shelter for the merchants, who came from all over to sell their wares. In the 1850s, the massive glass and iron buildings that Les Halles became known for were constructed. Les Halles was known as the "stomach of Paris".

Unable to compete in the new market economy and in need of massive repairs, the colorful ambience once associated with the bustling area of merchant stalls disappeared in 1971, when Les Halles was dismantled; the wholesale market was relocated to the suburb of Rungis.

The site was to become the point of convergence of the RER, a network of new express underground lines which was completed in the 1960s. Three lines leading out of the city to the south, east and west were to be extended and connected in a new underground station. For several years, the site of the markets was an enormous open pit, nicknamed "le trou des Halles" (trou = hole), regarded as an eyesore at the foot of the historic church of Saint-Eustache.

Construction was completed in 1977 on Châtelet-Les-Halles, Paris's new urban railway hub. The Forum des Halles, a partially underground multiple storey commercial and shopping center, opened in 1979. The building was criticized for its design and, as of 2005, the city of Paris has undertaken consultations regarding the remodeling of the area.

A long-standing problem in the Halles area was drug trafficking. Drug addicts and dealers would meet in the neighbourhood. For this reason, the area was reported unsafe at dark. However, the issue appears to have died down in recent years.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Les Halles" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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