Paris is a pretty expensive city, but did you know you can get free drinking water around the city from these beautiful Wallace fountains? One of the iconic symbols of Paris, they owe their English sounding name to the philanthropist Sir Richard Wallace who financed them. These fountains were installed from 1870, during the reconstruction of Paris that followed the ravages of the Franco Prussian war and the ensuing Commune. Aqueducts had been destroyed, the price of water was high and it was usually brought from the Seine, meaning it was dirty and spread disease. Liquor was cheaper and the poor turned to drink.
Sir Richard designed the fountains himself, there are 4 different models. The most well known feature 4 caryatids representing charity, kindness, simplicity and sobriety. Each of the four is slightly different, look at the way she bends her knee or the folds of her robe. They were placed close enough together so that horses could not fit their heads in between!
The original fountains are dark green to blend in with their surroundings, although you may come across some nowadays painted bright pink or yellow! The water is safe and healthy, and is still today helping those in need – they are a source of free drinking water for the homeless. So they continue to fulfill Sir Richard’s dream, of beautifying Paris and helping her inhabitants, and nowadays visitors too.
They run from March 15 to November 15, in the winter they are switched off due to the risk of frost. Keep your eyes open as you wander around the city, there are still around 120 of them and the water is fresh and clean, just bring a bottle!