We made our way across the wide Parisian boulevard and found our way to foot of the dome. This dome was originally the Royal Chapel. In 1840, it was designated to become Napoleon’s tomb. However, the required modifications to include a crypt took over 20 years to complete. The Dome in its current form was completed in 1861.
Inside, the underside of the Dome does not disappoint. Built in the grand decorative Baroque style, the dome is impressive inside and outside. It’s a vast space under the dome complete with the original remnants of the Royal Chapel towards the back.
Behind the chapel, one can find the stairs down to the crypt. Napoleon’s crypt holds centre stage in the subterranean level. The light from the dome above can still stream down upon the massive regal red quartzite mass that is Napoleon’s resting place.
Under the Dome, there is more than just Napoleon’s sarcophagus to see. There were also other many other French military folk interred here as well. To the side of the Chapel, one could find many other resting French military celebrities.
After the Dome, we went deeper into Les Invalides. I knew there were a couple more museums hiding within the large Invalides complex. We found the two museums I was looking for. These were the Musée de l’Armée (Army Museum) and the Musée des Plans-Reliefs.
The Musée de l’Armée had an extensive display of French military wares ranging from weapons to armour. There were also very detailed displays on various famous battles throughout French history. If you are military buff, especially for pre-20th Century warfare, then this museum would be attractive. There was also a special exhibit featuring Charles de Gaulle and Winston Churchill, the respective leaders of France and Great Britain during World War II.
The Musée des Plans-Reliefs has a very unique collection of scale models of fortifications and battlefields from across France. These models were developed for military purposes like planning the defense of these many fortified cities. One giant model was mostly an empty field. I imagine generals used the models to plan and simulate their potential battles. I love models like these. So I literally ran up to each model to take as many photos as possible.
Les Invalides is a huge tribute to the glory of France’s military past. If you have a Paris Museum Pass, then the Dome and the two museums are all included. If you are a history and/or military enthusiast, then Les Invalides is a very worthwhile visit. Just be prepared for a lot of walking and no air conditioning in the museums. Or you can just enjoy the lush green lawns like the local Parisian rabbits do.