My favourite place: Paris, France

In the February 2018 issue of BBC History Magazine, David Andress selects Paris, France, as his favourite place. History Extra caught up with him to find out more

Paris. (Getty Images)

Q. When did you last travel to Paris and why were you there?

A. My last Paris trip was as the resident expert on a tour for sixth-form students. We had a very rewarding and tiring time traversing the major revolutionary landmarks, and finding suitable spots for outdoor lectures in the glorious spring weather. The absolute highlight was doing an impromptu recreation of the Tennis Court Oath in the actual tennis court at Versailles.


Q. Why do you love the city?

A. Paris is a beautiful, complicated city, so often traumatised, but always bouncing back. It carries a torch for romance, for great art and culture, but also for protest, resistance, questioning authority and for trying to make the world anew. It always has something for everyone.

Q. What top three sights would you recommend people visit in Paris?

A. Firstly, always find the time to walk along the Seine – on the Left Bank you can get right down to the water’s edge and be almost alone in the heart of the city, looking up at Notre Dame. Then as a revolutionist I’d say visit the Conciergerie museum, which does a good job of explaining the 1790s, in the very medieval building in which the Revolutionary Tribunal sat. And you can’t visit Paris without some great art, so brave the queues at the Louvre.

Q. During what period of its history would you most wanted to have visited Paris?

A. I always start thinking about the availability of antibiotics and vaccines when this kind of question comes up, so I’m not sure I’d want to stay anywhere long. And Paris has had so many golden ages to choose from, so perhaps a whistle-stop tour taking in the salons of the 1750s, the clubs of the 1790s, the wild bohemians of the mid-19th century, the Belle Epoque, the Jazz Age…

Q. Where else in the world would you most like to visit and why?

A. I’m never very comfortable when the weather goes much above room-temperature, so what really appeals to me are things like the Norwegian fjords for the scenery, and Scandinavian and Baltic cities for their architecture. For a real dream trip, it would have to be Antarctica, before it all melts.

David Andress is professor of modern history at the University of Portsmouth. He is the author of The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France (FSG, 2006).


You can read more about David’s experiences in Marrakech in the February 2018 issue of BBC History Magazine – on sale now.