Last Updated on 24th February 2021 by Sophie Nadeau
Tour Saint Jacques sits, high and mighty above rue de Rivoli, imposing over the surrounding square and streets. All that remains of a medieval church which once stood in the district, the tower can be found on the fringes of Le Marais, a historic district known for its medieval architecture and winding lanes. Here’s a quick history of Tour Saint Jacques, as well as how to visit for yourself and things to know before you go.
A history of Tour Saint Jacques
Located within the grounds of a garden with the same name, Tour Saint Jacques is the solitary remainder of a once grand Gothic ecclesiastical building. The church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie was so-called because it was funded by wealthy patrons of the Butcher’s guild of the nearby Les Halles food market.
Though today Les Halles is home to a large shopping centre, during the Medieval period, and right up until the 1970s, the market was the largest food market in Paris. The flamboyant Gothic architecture of the Church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie was constructed between 1509 and 1523 and served the neighbourhood until the church was demolished during the French Revolution, leaving only the tower.
In times gone by, the church would have been one of the key Paris locations on the Tours branch of the pilgrimage on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle). Today, the tower is considered as a National Historic Landmark.
How to visit Tour Saint Jacques
Thanks to the fact that the tower rises up above the rest of the district, you can view the tower at all times of the day and night, rising up above the rest of the buildings along rue de Rivoli. However, the actual park surrounding the tower, Square de la Tour Saint Jacques, is open from 8 AM – 8:30 PM Monday to Friday and Saturday 9 AM to 8:30 PM on Saturdays and Sundays.
If you want to get a bird’s eye view of the best of Paris (including views onto the River Seine, Notre Dame Cathedral, and, of course, the Eiffel Tower), then you’ll be delighted to discover that you can actually ascend the medieval tower for a small fee.
A guided accompanied tour takes place every hour from 10 AM to 5 PM on Saturdays and Sundays. Prices are €12 for the full adult price and €10 for concessions. Tours last for 40 minutes and you’ll be required to climb around 300 steps to reach the top of the tower.
Tours can be booked on the website of Des Mots et Des Arts and children under 10 are not allowed to visit. If you want to attend a tour for free, then you should know that Tour Saint-Jacques is free to visit during European Heritage Days, which are usually held during a weekend in mid-September.
Due to its enviable position in the heart of Le Marais district of Paris, there’s no shortage of things to see and do nearby. As well as a quirky array of hidden gems that even many locals don’t know about, should you head to Le Marais, you’ll also find a large assortment of shopping experiences (including many a vintage shop) and eatery.