Grand Palais to Reopen for the Paris Summer Olympics

Hidden halls of the artistic monument will be made accessible to the public for the first time since 1937.

Apr 25, 2024By Emily Snow, MA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial Studies
The Grand Palais in Paris, France. Source: Wikipedia.


Boasting the largest glass roof in Europe, the Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées is set to reopen for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics. After a multi-year closure and $500 million renovation, the storied landmark will host Olympic fencing and taekwondo events, as well as part of the Centre Pompidou’s art collection, in the coming months. Parts of the building that were previously hidden have also been restored and will soon be made accessible for the first time in nearly a century.


From the 1900 World Fair to the 2024 Olympics

Photograph of the Alexandre III bridge in Paris with the Grand Palais (left) in the background, 1900. Source: Brown University Library.


According to an inscription on the building, the Grand Palais is “a monument dedicated by the Republic to the glory of French art.” It was built for the 1900 Paris Exposition, a world fair that welcomed millions of international visitors to the city. Designed in the Beaux-Arts architectural style, the Grand Palais features a barrel-vaulted glass roof, a Classical stone facade with several ornate sculptural elements, a grand interior staircase, and Art Nouveau ironwork. It also made use of period innovations in construction, including reinforced concrete and light iron and steel framework.


Since the start of the 20th century, the Grand Palais has hosted countless art exhibitions and other exciting cultural events, from equestrian performances to luxury fashion shows. It also served as a military hospital during World War I. During World War II, the Nazis used it first as a truck stop, and then as an exhibition hall for propaganda. Later, the Parisian resistance used the Grand Palais as headquarters during the Liberation of Paris. While the building is 70,000 square meters in total, only a small portion of it has been used in recent decades, mainly for art and cultural events.


The $500 Million Restoration

The renovated interior of the Grand Palais, photographed by Laurent Kronental. Source: Chatillon Architectes.


The first phase of the multi-year restoration of the Grand Palais adds a new pedestrian linkage to the Seine and Square Jean Perrin, reinstalls balconies in the nave, and fixes decades of ad hoc renovations. The delicate Art Nouveau details throughout, including the grand staircase, have also been carefully preserved. Chatillon Architectes, the group in charge of the project, said the Grand Palais will function “at ten times its previous capacity” after the second phase of renovations is completed in 2025.

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During a preview event, architect François Chatillon said, “The opportunity to redevelop an icon is amazing, but the Grand Palais feels like so much more. It’s the opportunity to return a permanent public use to the building, to redevelop the surrounding grounds, to connect the building back with the city, and to adapt it for the Olympics and future generations—this is truly a once in a lifetime project.”


Grand Palais to House Pompidou Art in 2025

Interior details of the renovation, photographed by Laurent Kronental. Source: Chatillon Architectes.


Following its initial three-year closure, the Grand Palais will temporarily reopen for the Olympics this summer. Afterwards, the building will close again for the second phase of restorations, fully opening to the public in the spring of 2025. The Centre Pompidou, Paris’s premiere museum of modern and contemporary art, will occupy part of the Grand Palais when its own building closes next year for a five-year renovation.

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By Emily SnowMA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial StudiesEmily Snow is a contributing writer and art historian based in Amsterdam. She earned an MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art and loves knitting, her calico cat, and everything Victorian.