These fascinating historical pictures show Les Halles, Paris’ former fresh food market, which sprawled haphazardly over the city’s center and was known as “the Belly of Paris.” The 900-year-old marketplace that used to stand at Les Halles in the heart of Paris used to be alive with the cries of fruit sellers, fish vendors, butchers, and florists, the scent of vibrant flower bouquets intermingling with the smell of freshly baked bread, and heaving with swarms of market-goers. A Royal Decree established the capital’s great market in the twelfth century. Despite the city’s rapid growth, the area was unsuitable for a market. Les Halles was officially born during the nineteenth century. Designed in an avant-garde style with cast iron and glass, Les Halles de Baltard consisted of twelve pavilions. Victor Baltard, a renowned architect, designed the buildings. One hundred years have passed since these pavilions were built. Many market stalls were overflying the streets, offering a specialty, such as fish, vegetables, or meat. Its high beams, paint-encrusted rivets, and glass awnings symbolize the fading beauty of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The markets were most interesting at night when the meat and fish markets were in full swing. At night, thousands of tons of meat and fish were bought, butchered, traded, and sold. Unfortunately, the market’s success led to its demise. In the 1960s, traffic congestion at and around the market caused severe bottlenecks in the city center and was slated for demolition. Due to the new market economy and the need for massive repairs, Les Halles was dismantled in 1971; the wholesale market was moved to Rungis, resulting in the colorful ambiance once associated with the bustling area. Two glass and cast iron pavilions were dismantled and reconstructed in Yokohama, Japan, and Nogent-sur-Marne, a suburb of Paris. In the 1960s, the site became the point of convergence of the RER, a network of new express underground lines. A new underground station was planned to connect three lines from the city to the south, east, and west.
Some stunning historical photos show Les Halles from the 1900s to the 1940s.