The end of the 19th century and the beginning of WW I in 1914 is a very prosperous period for Europe and especially for France. “The Belle Epoque” as we call it is the time of social progress, innovation but also of all pleasures and Paris is the perfect example of it. Today, various visits of Paris are organized around the Belle Epoque.
The public works of the Baron Haussmann changed almost completely Paris. He totally reworked the architectural aspect of Paris, giving priority to large majestic avenues over small streets. As the public works were finished in 1870, Paris was renovated and clean. We can consider this as the beginning of the “Belle Epoque” in Paris. The district of the Opéra Garnier is the most representative of the work of the Baron Haussmann, particularly appreciated of the tourists during their Paris vacations.
During this period the Universal Exhibitions of 1889 and 1900 enabled Paris to build its spectacular and luxurious image. The Eiffel Tower and some other important monuments like the “Grand Palais” or the “Pont Alexandre III” were built during this period. In the same time several parks were created in the French capital city, Monceau’s park on the western side, the Montsouris’s park on the southern side and the Buttes-Chaumont on the northern side. Vincennes and Boulogne woods were also reorganized.
Even if the Eiffel Tower built for the universal exhibition of 1889, the Parisian Belle Epoque reaches its apogee at the exhibition of 1900 that welcomed 52 millions of visitors and had for main focus “Electricity”. The event was supposed to summarize 19th century science progress. The first metro line was inaugurated in 1900, and 14 years later there were 6 lines (it facilitated the life of the visitors during their Paris vacations). At the same time the “Bateaux-Mouches”, the famous Seine river cruise boats – which organize visit of Paris by the Seine -, were created.
Buses appeared in 1906.
Paris also became at that time the city of all pleasures, from the most aristocratic to the most popular, a lifestyle symbol. The theater became a place for public relations, many cafés-concerts were opened everywhere in Paris and the funfair became an important distraction for the popular classes. And the Belle Epoque left a legacy on the artistic side as well, contrasting with the classic art. It is the apparition of Art Nouveau, which distinguised with its original architectural design, the metro stations designed by Hector Guimard are typical “Art Nouveau”. Artists like Toulouse Lautrec or the impressionist Auguste Renoir are famous painter of this time.