Today the stately building is the city hall, housing the offices of the Mayor and the Parisian city council and maintaining the building's rich political history. While marveling at the magnificent façade (particularly atmospheric at night when its floodlit with multi-colored lights) is a popular pastime among tourists, guided tours of the interiors are also available, and the impressive exhibition hall hosts regular exhibitions of French art and history. During the winter months, a huge outdoor ice rink is erected in front of the Hotel de Ville, offering free ice-skating and a number of ice hockey and figure skating spectaculars over the holiday season.
It was a gray day with the Paris skies periodically crying on us. However, our guide Gil Soltz made the trip well worth the visit. We started at the Pompidou Center of Art (which looks like it's still under construction...with all it's 'insides' hanging out). We ended at the site of the Bastille. In between, we wandered the Paris streets, a warren of randomly connected neighborhoods. We lingered at the the Hotel de Ville, the city hall and heard of its many lives. We saw preservation efforts, sites saved, sites lost and replaced with character-less buildings, a church, a Kosher neighborhood, and an eclectic array of shops, restaurants, and architecture. Our guide lives not far from the end of our journey and his love for the area was evident. With our small group of four, it was easy to ask questions and have the tour adapted to our needs. We return to Paris in two week and plan to return to the Marais District to do further looking since we have been well oriented by our guide. Paris is so big, being able to take a 'small bite' like this is very helpful in appreciating why Paris is so well loved.