Hôtel de Sully

Lonely Planet review

In the southwestern corner of place des Vosges is the back entrance to this aristocratic mansion, built in 1625 and home to the headquarters of the Centre des Monuments Nationaux, responsible for many of France's historical monuments. From the square, duck beneath the arch and be instantly wooed by two beautifully decorated, late-Renaissance courtyards, both festooned with allegorical reliefs of the seasons and the elements.

In the northern courtyard look to the southern side for spring (flowers and a bird in hand) and summer (wheat sheaves); in the southern courtyard turn to the northern side for autumn (grapes) and winter, with a symbol representing both the end of the year and the end of life. In the second courtyard are symbols for the elements: on the western side 'air' on the left and 'fire' on the right and on the eastern side 'earth' on the left and 'water' on the right.