Five locations that follow in Napoleon's footsteps

Following the release of Ridley Scott's hit film last month, we explore the French emperor's birthplace, the islands on which he was exiled, in Europe and beyond...

6 mins

If you want to follow in Napoleon Bonaparte's footsteps, where should you go? Last month, a movie about the French emperor's life, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon, inspired us to take a look at the destinations across the world where he once walked. 

From his birthplace of Corsica to the remote islands where he was exiled, there are many significant locations and historic homes from throughout his life that are available for the public to visit.

Corsica, Napoleon's birthplace

Calvi, Corsica (Shutterstock)

Calvi, Corsica (Shutterstock)

Travel in the young Napoleon’s footsteps and lose yourself in the colourful streets of Ajaccio’s old town. The fountain on the main square, Place Foch, hosts a statue of Napoleon dressed as a Roman consul. 

Admire the baroque cathedral and find your way to the Maison Bonaparte – Napoleon’s birthplace and now a national museum. Exhibits illustrate life in 18th century Corsica while giving an insight into the future leader’s family and upbringing.

Ajaccio’s Palais Fesch Museum – famous for its collection of Italian art – has been lighting up with new exhibitions exploring the art-loving Bonaparte family.

In Calvi, a celebration dedicated to the five senses will be taking place: think firework displays (15 August) and botanical tours of an island with a scent that Napoleon said he could recognise with his eyes closed.

Belgium, where Napoleon was defeated

The Lion's Mound, Waterloo, Belgium - where Napoleon was defeated (Shutterstock)

The Lion's Mound, Waterloo, Belgium - where Napoleon was defeated (Shutterstock)

You don't necessarily have to go to Corsica to follow in Napoleon's footsteps. He conquered most of Central Europe until his defeat at Waterloo.

In Belgium, there will be a two-day event to mark the anniversaries of both Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington – also born in 1769 – at the Waterloo Memorial 1815 (17 to 18 August).

Discover more about the two foes, and delve into the lives of 18th century civilians and soldiers with military displays on Lion’s Mound, as well as leather tanning, basket weaving and embroidery sessions.

Elba, Italy, where Napoleon was exiled (temporarily)

Napoleon's residence in Elba, Italy (Shutterstock)

Napoleon's residence in Elba, Italy (Shutterstock)

Elba is one of the most idyllic islands to be exiled to – but Napoleon skipped town after less than a year. He escaped Elba after just 300 days. While there he revolutionised island life, so much so that when he boarded the boat to leave people were waving him off.

Explore the terraced garden at Portoferraio’s Palazzina dei Mulini – his one-time home – where he enjoyed the view while keeping a watchful eye over the port.

St Helena, where Napoleon was exiled (permanently)

Longwood House, St Helena (Shutterstock)

Longwood House, St Helena (Shutterstock)

St Helena – where Napoleon was banished post-Waterloo – contained the exiled emperor much better than Elba ever did.

He lived out his days at Longwood House on this remote Atlantic island, once only accessible by RMS St Helena via Cape Town (the boat no longer runs). The island’s airport has been open since 2016, and it's renowned for having one of the most exciting landings you'll ever experience. 

Read next St Helena's fascinating history with Napoleon

Paris, France, where Napoleon was buried

Napoleon's tomb at Les Invalides (Shutterstock)

Napoleon's tomb at Les Invalides (Shutterstock)

Napoleon’s body was returned to Paris in 1840 to be buried in Les Invalides, originally built by Louis XIV as a home for wounded veterans. Twelve marble angels stand over his quartz and granite tomb, representing the general’s greatest victories. You can visit both the tomb and Les Invalides by purchasing tickets in advance.

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