As the building was to face on to the river, the architect decided to break with established practice and ensure a pleasant view over the Seine from the great reception rooms, by placing the entrances at the side, with the main one on the right. In fact, although the left-hand one can be used as an exit, its main purpose is to establish the symmetry of the façade.
The façade itself has two orders one above the other: the Doric order at ground-floor level and the Ionic order at first and second floor level.
The wooden bas-reliefs on the tympana of the entrance doors are by Hubert Lavigne. They depict the spirits of war and peace bearing an imperial crown.
The statues in the niches are by Triqueti and represent the four continents. Commissioned at the time of the building’s construction, they were not installed until 1870.
Over the first floor windows are marble medallions depicting the coats of arms of the various powers. A balustrade in the Italian style crowns the edifice.