Things to do in La Défense

Today, head for La Défense! Behind its mineral landscape of enormous glass façades and modern squares, this vast business district has a few surprises in store. Guided tour of a gateway to Paris.
  1. Paris 2024
  2. (Re)discover the districts around the Olympic sites
  3. Things to do in La Défense

It’s 8 o’clock in the morning. The sun is rising slowly over the district of La Défense and hoards of commuters are already rushing about. And it’s no wonder, considering that this is Europe’s largest business hub and the 4th biggest in the world.

Fortunately, the La Défense district, which straddles 4 municipalities, has much more to offer than just offices. Officially recognised since 2019 as an international tourist attraction, the district stands on a loop of the Seine, just a stone’s throw from Paris. There’s no shortage of superlatives to describe its enormous tower blocks that rub shoulders with Europe’s biggest function venue and the most visited shopping centre in France. Not forgetting the Grande Arche de la Défense, the district’s great iconic arch standing 110 metres tall on the famous historical axis of Paris, perfectly lined up with its ancestor, the Arc de triomphe.

Another key fact: the La Défense district will have the honour of hosting the swimming competitions of the 2024 Olympic & Paralympic Games. Thanks to its modular design, the indoor stadium, Paris La Défense Arena, will be transformed for the occasion into an immense Olympic swimming pool worthy of this world event.

There’s no shortage of reasons to visit this multi-faceted district. Between two Olympic heats, make the most of your time in La Défense to visit its key attractions.

Paris La Défense Arena, at the cutting edge of modernity

So, why not begin your visit at an impressive venue, the Paris La Défense Arena located in the western part of the district, in Nanterre. Built in 2017 under the leadership of Christian de Portzamparc, this building resulted from a colossal project. With capacity for 40,000 spectators, the Paris La Défense Arena boasts the biggest modular auditorium in Europe. Every event hosted in the stadium offers an opportunity to enjoy a total immersion experience, thanks to its technological innovations. For example, the giant interactive screen is the biggest in the world, measuring 1,400 m² (equivalent to seven tennis courts). The promise of an extraordinary sports event for the Olympic & Paralympic swimming competitions!

Paris La Défense Arena
Paris La Défense Arena

Bucolic activities in the La Défense district

Longing to see some greenery? A stone’s throw from the stadium, you’ll find the Parc André Malraux, also in Nanterre. Deemed the green lung of La Défense, this park tucked between the glass tower blocks is the district’s answer to Central Park. Its 25 hectares offer a host of activities, including water games in the heat of summer, a merry-go-round for children, jogging, an afternoon nap by the lake… You may even come across some local employees who prefer working outdoors than enclosed between the partitions of their open-plan offices.

Lac du Parc André Malraux
André Malraux Park

And if you’re looking for something more bucolic, head towards the river Seine to visit the Ferme du bonheur. Located near Paris Nanterre University, this concept venue is a whole world by itself. The Ferme du Bonheur, a kind of vast stretch of countryside set between the towers, is a laboratory of both culture and urban agriculture. During a walk among the vegetable gardens and orchards, you’ll come across free-roaming goats and sheep. There’s no room for boredom here! With festivals, electro music, concerts, agriculture workshops, culinary activities and much more, this merrily undisciplined venue won’t fail to offer a change of scene.

La ferme du bonheur - Nanterre
La Ferme du bonheur

A trip into the past

Let’s go back to the heart of La Défense, beneath the Grande Arche to be precise. Here, in Puteaux, we find the Cité de l’Histoire, a huge interactive museum that you can visit alone or with the family to learn about key events in the history of humankind. Among other family-friendly activities, this is one of the most enjoyable. The tour is divided into three interactive sections that call upon the very latest technology to plunge you into a totally immersive time-travel experience. Relive the glory days of General de Gaulle through authentic reconstitutions, delve into the daily life of Victor Hugo with a 360° show, follow an enormous timeline to learn about key dates in French history… And the highlight is a unique tour inside Notre-Dame de Paris, through an amazing 45-minute interactive voyage. And if this adventure gives you an appetite, take this opportunity to stop off at the museum restaurant.

CIté de l&%2523039;Hitsoire
The Cité de l'Histoire

Time for a shopping spree in La Défense

Just a 2-minute walk from the Grande Arche you’ll find Europe’s biggest shopping centre which is also the most visited in France: Westfield Les 4 Temps. In this window-shopping temple of 130,000 m² and 230 shops, you’ll find everything you could possibly need… And even what you don’t! And because shopping makes you hungry, pop up to the 3rd floor for a quick snack and, while you’re there, treat yourself to a film at the cinema!

Centre commercial Westfield Les 4 Temps
Westfield Les 4 Temps

Works of art between the tower blocks of La Défense

Your walk continues along the esplanade de La Défense, still in Puteaux. This gateway to the district of La Défense, with its shimmering glass buildings and contemporary art installations dotted along the promenade, is like an open-air museum. If you’re into architecture or modern art, this walk is a feast for the eyes, providing a fabulous glimpse of the beautiful treasures this district has to offer.

Among the exhibited works you can admire two of Joan Miró’s fantastical characters Westfield Les Quatre Temps, the gigantic Public Bench by Lilian Bourgeat, and the Takis Pond at the esplanade entrance. Stop for a moment at the edge of this work of art to admire the façades of the buildings reflected on the water’s surface.

Quartier La Defense Paris
Esplanade de La Défense

Round off your evening in La Défense

As commuters leave the district of La Défense, stay a few more hours to dine at the Miroir, an exquisite restaurant on the 1st floor of the Melia hotel, in Courbevoie. Behind the enormous picture windows flooded in daylight, you’ll have the pleasure of gazing out at the Takis Pond as you savour the delicious Mediterranean cuisine.

And what better way to end your adventure among the skyscrapers than sipping at a cocktail with your head in the clouds? Head for the 19th floor of this hotel to visit the Skyline Paris Lounge & Bar. Admire the exceptional elegant setting and a view over Paris and the Seine that will take your breath away. The perfect way to round off your high-flying evening.

Vue sur Paris depuis le Skyline Paris Lounge & Bar
Skyline Paris Lounge & Bar

Also to be discovered

  • Copyright image: CPR / Helsly