One of the things I love most about Paris are the scores of fountains scattered throughout the city. Many are quite famous as tourist sights: the Fontaine Saint-Michel on the Left Bank, the Fontaine des Innocents near Les Halles, the Medici Fountain in the Jardin du Luxembourg, and the fountains at Place de la Concorde, Place des Vosges and the Louvre pyramid, to name just a few.
But one of my favorites–and one I came across completely by happenstance–is the Fontaine Louvais in the Square Louvois just a couple of blocks north of the Palais-Royal gardens. The tiny one-block square–all of it a park frequented by neighborhood families and kids from a nearby grammar school–is a bit off the tourist track, so it’s likely most visitors to the City of Light have no idea it even exists. Which is an absolute shame, because it is gorgeous.
The Fontaine Louvois at the center of the square was designed in the 1830s by Louis Visconti and sculpted by Jean-Baptiste-Jules Klagmann. The sculpture holding the top basic represents the four main rivers of France (the Seine, the Garonne, the Loire and the Saone), each illustrated by one of the four female statues that support the structure. Around the top marble basin are carvings representing the 12 signs of the zodiac, each separated from the others by spouts that spray water.
Yes, the fountain–and the square–are historic. But for me, they’re simply another of the many magical “surprises” that seemingly lie around every corner of Paris.