Fodor's Paris - Fodor's (2016)
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Top Attractions | Worth Noting
Updated By Jack Vermee
At the heart of Paris, linked to the banks of the Seine by a series of bridges, are two small islands: Ile St-Louis and Ile de la Cité. They’re the perfect places to begin your visit, with postcard-worthy views all around. The Ile de la Cité is anchored by mighty Notre-Dame; farther east, the atmospheric Ile St-Louis is dotted with charming hotels, cozy restaurants, and small specialty shops.
At the western tip of Ile de la Cité is regal Place Dauphine, one of Paris’s oldest squares. The impressive Palais de Justice (courthouse) sits between Sainte-Chapelle, the exquisite medieval chapel of saintly King Louis IX, and the Conciergerie, the prison where Marie-Antoinette and other bluebloods awaited their slice of history at the guillotine.
The Gothic powerhouse that is Notre-Dame originally loomed over a medieval huddle of buildings that were later ordered razed by Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, the 19th-century urban planner who transformed Paris into the city we see today. In front of the cathedral is Place du Parvis, the point from which all roads in France are measured. On the north side of the square is the Hôtel-Dieu (roughly translated as “general hospital”): it was immortalized by Balzac as the squalid last stop for the city’s most unfortunate, but today houses a modern hospital. Just behind the cathedral lies Rue du Cloître-Notre-Dame, which cuts through the Ancien Cloître Quartier, on whose narrow streets you can imagine the medieval quarter as it once was, densely packed and teeming with activity. At 9-11 quai aux Fleurs, a plaque commemorates the abode that was the setting of the tragic, 12th-century love affair between the philosopher Peter Abélard and his young conquest, Héloïse.
At the farthest eastern tip of Ile de la Cité is the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation, all but hidden in a pocket-size park. A set of stairs leads down to the impressive and moving memorial to the more than 200,000 French citizens who died in Nazi concentration camps.
Nearby Pont St-Louis, which always seems to be occupied by street performers, leads to the Ile St-Louis, one of the city’s best places to wander. There are no cultural hot spots, just a few narrow streets that comprise one of the most privileged areas in Paris. Small hotels, eateries, art galleries, and shops selling everything from chocolate and cheese to silk scarves line the main street, Rue St-Louis-en-L’Ile. There were once two islands here, Ile Notre-Dame and Ile aux Vaches (“Cow Island,” an erstwhile grazing pasture), both owned by the Church. Speculators bought the islands, joined them, and sold the plots to builders who created what is today some of the city’s most elegant and expensive real estate. Baroque architect Louis Le Vau (who later worked on Versailles) designed fabulous private mansions for aristocrats, including the majestic Hôtel de Lauzun on lovely Quai d’Anjou.
La Charlotte de l’Isle.
Sip tea (or lusciously thick hot chocolate) and sample tasty cakes at this atmospheric salon. | 24 rue St-Louis-en-l’Ile, Ile St-Louis | 01-43-54-25-83 | www.lacharlottedelisle.fr | Wed.-Fri. 2-7, weekends 11-7 | Station: Pont Marie.
Le Saint Régis.
Wondering where locals take their coffee on touristy Ile St-Louis? Try this old-timer (cheerier now after an extensive reno). | 6 rue Jean de Bellay, Ile St-Louis | 01-43-54-59-41 | www.cafesaintregisparis.com | Daily 7 am-2 am | Station: Pont Marie.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Notre-Dame. This gorgeous Gothic cathedral has welcomed visitors to Paris for centuries. Gaze at its famed rose windows, climb the bell tower to mingle with gargoyles, or amble around back to contemplate the awe-inspiring flying buttresses from Square Jean-XXIII. At the end of the plaza in front of the cathedral, down the stairs, is the interesting Crypte Archéologique, a museum that showcases the city’s Roman ruins.
Sainte-Chapelle. Visit on a sunny day to best appreciate the exquisite stained glass in this 13th-century chapel built for King Louis IX.
Strolling the islands. Ile de la Cité is where Paris began. Start with the city’s oldest bridge, the Pont Neuf (incongruously called the “new bridge”) and give a nod to the statue of Henry IV, who once proudly said, “I make love, I make war, and I build.” From here, cross to Place Dauphine and make your way to Ile St-Louis, one of the city’s most exclusive enclaves.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
This little area of Paris is easily walkable and packed with sights and stunning views, so give yourself as much time as possible to explore. With Notre-Dame, the Conciergerie, and Sainte-Chapelle, you could spend a day wandering, but the islands are easily combined with the St-Germain quarter. On warmer days, Rue de Buci is an ideal place to pick up a picnic lunch to enjoy in leafy Square du Vert-Galant at the tip of Ile de la Cité. If you have limited time in the area, make sure you visit Notre-Dame and go for a stroll.
ICE CREAM VS. GELATO
Popping up all over—and winning converts faster than you can finish a double scoop—is the Amorino chain of gelaterias, which serves inventive frozen concoctions in the shape of a flower blossom. Popular flavors include rich bacio (dark chocolate with hazelnuts) and mascarpone with figs. | 47 rue St-Louis-en-l’Ile, Ile St-Louis | 01-44-07-48-08 | www.amorino.com | Station: Pont-Marie.
Parisian ice cream is served at cafés all over town, but it’s worth making a pilgrimage to the mecca of artisanal glacé to understand what all the fuss is about. The family-owned Berthillon shop features more than 30 flavors that change with the seasons, from mouth-puckering cassis (black currant) in summer to nutty marron (candied chestnut) in winter. Expect to wait in a lengthy line for a tiny scoop. | 31 rue St-Louis-en-l’Ile, Ile St-Louis | 01-43-54-31-61 | www.berthillon.fr | Station: Pont-Marie.
Ile de la Cité and Ile St-Louis are in the 1er and 4e arrondissements (Boulevard du Palais is the dividing line between the 1er and 4e arrondissements on Ile de la Cité). If you’re too far away to get here on foot, take the métro to St-Michel station or La Cité.
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Most of the Ile de la Cité’s medieval structures fell victim to wunderkind urban planner Baron Haussmann’s ambitious rebuilding program of the 1860s. Among the rare survivors are the jewel-like Sainte-Chapelle, a vision of shimmering stained glass, and the Conciergerie, the cavernous former prison where Marie-Antoinette and other victims of the French Revolution spent their final days.
Constructed by Philip IV in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, the Conciergerie—which takes its name from the building’s concierge or keeper—was part of the original palace of the kings of France before the royals moved into the Louvre around 1364. In 1391, it became a prison. During the French Revolution, Marie-Antoinette languished 76 days here awaiting her date with the guillotine. There is a re-creation of the doomed queen’s sad little cell—plus others that are far smaller—complete with wax figures behind bars. In the chapel, stained glass, commissioned after the queen’s death by her daughter, is emblazoned with the initials M. A. Outside you can see the small courtyard where women prisoners took meals and washed their clothes in the fountain (men enjoyed no similar respite). Well-done temporary exhibitions on the ground floor aim to please kids and adults alike; themes have included enchanted forests and Gothic castles. There are free guided tours (in French only) most days at 11 and 3. | 2 bd. du Palais, Ile de la Cité | 01-53-40-60-80 | www.conciergerie.monuments-nationaux.fr | €8.50; joint ticket with Sainte-Chapelle €12.50 | Daily 9:30-6 | Ticket window closes at 5:30 | Station: Cité.
Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation (Memorial of the Deportation).
On the eastern tip of the Ile de la Cité lies this stark monument to the more than 200,000 French men, women, and children who died in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. The evocative memorial, inaugurated by Charles de Gaulle in 1962, was intentionally designed to be claustrophobic. Concrete blocks mark the narrow entrance to the crypt, which contains the tomb of an unknown deportee killed at the Neustadt camp. A dimly lit narrow gallery studded with 200,000 pieces of glass symbolizes the lives lost, while urns at the lateral ends contain ashes from the camps. | Square de l’Île de France, 7 quai de l’Archevêché, Ile de la Cité | Free | Oct.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-5; Apr.-Sept., Tues.-Sun. 10-7 | Station: Cité, Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame.
Fodor’s Choice | Notre-Dame.
Looming above Place du Parvis on the Ile de la Cité is the iconic Cathédrale de Notre-Dame. Begun in 1163, completed in 1345, badly damaged during the Revolution, and restored by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century, Notre-Dame may not be France’s oldest or largest cathedral, but in beauty and architectural harmony it has few peers—as you can see by studying the facade from the square in front. The ornate doors seem like hands joined in prayer, the sculpted kings above them form a noble procession, and the west (front) rose window gleams with what seems like divine light. The most dramatic approach to Notre-Dame is from the Rive Gauche, crossing at the Pont au Double from Quai de Montebello, at the St-Michel métro or RER stop. This bridge will take you to the large square, Place du Parvis, in front of the cathedral, which serves as kilomètre zéro—the spot from which all distances to and from the city are officially measured. A polished brass circle set in the ground, about 20 yards from the cathedral’s main entrance, marks the exact spot.
A separate entrance, to the left of the front facade if you’re facing it, leads to the 387 stone steps of the south tower. These wind up to the bell of Notre-Dame—as tolled by the fictional Quasimodo, in Victor Hugo’s 1831 Notre-Dame de Paris. The incredible popularity of the book made Parisians finally take notice of the cathedral’s state of disrepair and spurred Viollet-le-Duc’s renovations. These included the addition of the gargoyles (though technically they are chimeras, as they lack the functioning waterspout of true “gargoyles”), among other things, and resulted in the structure we know today. Looking out from the tower, you can see how Paris—like the trunk of a tree developing new rings—has grown outward from the Ile de la Cité. To the north is Montmartre; to the west is the Arc de Triomphe, at the top of the Champs-Elysées; and to the south are the towers of St-Sulpice and the Panthéon. Lines to climb the tower are shortest on weekday mornings.
Notre-Dame was one of the first Gothic cathedrals in Europe and one of the first buildings to make use of flying buttresses—exterior supports that spread out the weight of the building and roof. At first people thought they looked like scaffolding that the builders forgot to remove. The most tranquil place to appreciate the architecture of Notre-Dame is from the lovely garden behind the cathedral, Square Jean-XXIII. By night, take a boat ride on the Seine for the best view—the lights after dark are magnificent.
The west (front) facade has three main entrances: the Portal of the Virgin on the left; the Portal of the Last Judgment in the center; and the Portal of St. Anne (the oldest of the three) on the right. As you enter the nave, the faith of the early builders permeates the quiet interior: the soft glow of the stained-glass windows contrasts with the triumphant glory of the exterior. The best time to visit is early in the morning, when the cathedral is at its brightest and least crowded. At the entrance are the massive 12th-century columns supporting the towers. Look down the nave to the transepts—the arms of the church—where, at the south (right) entrance to the choir, you’ll glimpse the haunting 12th-century statue of Notre-Dame de Paris, Our Lady of Paris, for whom the cathedral is named. On the south side of the choir is the Treasury, with a small collection of garments, reliquaries, crucifixes, and objects in silver and gold plate. Behind the choir you can see the Pietà, representing the Virgin Mary mourning over the dead body of Christ. The biblical scenes on the north and south screens of the choir depict the life of Christ and the apparitions of Christ after the Resurrection. On the north side, the north rose window is one of the cathedral’s original stained-glass panels; at the center is an image of Mary holding a young Jesus. If you’re lucky, you may hear the tolling of nine recentlyinstalled bronze bells, commissioned in 2013 for the cathedral’s 850th birthday celebration. English audioguides are available at the entrance (€5);free guided tours in English are offered on Wednesday and Thursday at 2, and on Saturday at 2:30 (call ahead to confirm).
Down the stairs in front of the cathedral is the Crypte Archéologique, an archaeological museum. It offers a fascinating subterranean view of this busy area from the 1st century, when Paris was a Roman city called Lutetia (note the ruins of houses, baths and even a quay), through medieval times, when the former Rue Neuve-Notre-Dame that passed through here was packed with houses and shops. A renovation in late 2012 cleaned the remains and added 3-D video touch-screen panels that bring the ruins to life. | Pl. du Parvis, Ile de la Cité | 01-42-34-56-10 | www.notredamedeparis.fr | Cathedral free, towers €8.50, crypt €6, treasury €4 | Cathedral weekdays 8-6:45, weekends 8-7:15. Towers Apr.-June and Sept., daily 10-6:30; July and Aug., Sun.-Thurs. 10-6:30, Fri. and Sat. 10 am-11 pm; Oct.-Mar., daily 10-5:30. Treasury weekdays 9:30-6, Sat. 9:30-6:30, Sun. 1:30-6:30. Crypt Tues.-Sun. 10-6 | Towers close early when overcrowded | Station: Cité.
Built by the obsessively pious Louis IX (1214-70), this Gothic jewel is home to the oldest stained-glass windows in Paris. The chapel was constructed over three years, at phenomenal expense, to house the king’s collection of relics acquired from the impoverished emperor of Constantinople. These included Christ’s Crown of Thorns, fragments of the Cross, and drops of Christ’s blood—though even in Louis’s time these were considered of questionable authenticity. Some of the relics have survived and can be seen in the treasury of Notre-Dame, but most were lost during the Revolution.
The narrow spiral staircase by the entrance takes you to the upper chapel where the famed beauty of Sainte-Chapelle comes alive: 6,458 square feet of stained glass is delicately supported by painted stonework that seems to disappear in the colorful light streaming through the windows. Deep reds and blues dominate the background, noticeably different from later, lighter medieval styles such as those of Notre-Dame’s rose windows.
The chapel is essentially an enormous magic lantern illuminating 1,130 biblical figures. Its 15 windows—each 50 feet high—were dismantled and cleaned with laser technology during a 40-year restoration, completed in 2014 to coincide with the 800th anniversary of St. Louis’s birth. Besides the dazzling glass, observe the detailed carvings on the columns and the statues of the apostles. The lower chapel is gloomy and plain, but take note of the low, vaulted ceiling decorated with fleurs-de-lis and cleverly arranged Ls for Louis.
Sunset is the optimal time to see the rose window; however, to avoid waiting in killer lines, plan your visit for a weekday morning, the earlier the better. Come on a sunny day to appreciate the full effect of the light filtering through all that glorious stained glass.
You can buy a joint ticket with the Conciergerie: lines are shorter if you purchase it there or online, though you’ll still have to go through a longish metal-detector line to get into Sainte-Chapelle itself.
The chapel makes a divine setting for classical concerts; check the schedule at www.infoconcert.com.
4 bd. du Palais, Ile de la Cité | 01-53-40-60-97 | www.sainte-chapelle.monuments-nationaux.fr | €8.50; joint ticket with Conciergerie €12.50 | Mar.-mid-May and mid-Sept.-Oct., daily 9:30-6; mid-May-mid-Sept., Thurs.-Tues. 9:30-6, Wed. 9:30 am-9:30 pm; Nov.-Feb., daily 9-5 | Ticket window closes 30 mins before closing | Station: Cité.
Fodor’s Choice | Ancien Cloître Quartier.
Hidden in the shadows of Notre-Dame is an evocative, often-overlooked tangle of medieval streets. Through the years lucky folks, including Ludwig Bemelmans (who created the beloved Madeleine books) and the Aga Khan have called this area home, but back in the Middle Ages it was the domain of cathedral seminary students. One of them was the celebrated Peter Abélard (1079-1142)—philosopher, questioner of the faith, and renowned declaimer of love poems. Abélard boarded with Notre-Dame’s clergyman, Fulbert, whose 17-year-old niece, Héloïse, was seduced by the compelling Abélard, 39 years her senior. She became pregnant and the vengeful clergyman had Abélard castrated; amazingly, he survived and fled to a monastery, while Héloïse took refuge in a nunnery. The poetic, passionate letters between the two cemented their fame as thwarted lovers, and their story inspired a devoted following during the romantic 19th century. They still draw admirers to the Père Lachaise Cemetery, where they’re interred ensemble. The clergyman’s house at 10 rue Chanoinesse was redone in 1849; a plaque at the back of the building at 9-11 quai aux Fleurs commemorates the lovers. | Rue du Cloître-Notre-Dame north to Quai des Fleurs, Ile de la Cité | Station: Cité.
Palais de Justice.
This 19th-century neoclassical courthouse complex occupies the site of the former royal palace of St-Louis that later housed Parliament until the French Revolution. It is recognizable from afar with the tower of Sainte-Chapelle, tucked inside the courtyard, peeking out. Some 4,000 magistrates, lawyers, state fonctionnaires, and police officials work on the property. Black-frocked judges can often be spotted taking a cigarette break on the majestic rear staircase facing Rue du Harlay. | 4 bd. du Palais, Ile de la Cité | www.ca-paris.justice.fr | Station: Cité.
The Surrealists called Place Dauphine “le sexe de Paris” because of its suggestive V shape; however, its origins were much more proper. The pretty square on the western side of Pont Neuf was built by Henry IV, who named it as a homage to his son the crown prince (or dauphin) who became Louis XIII when Henry was assassinated. In warmer weather, treat yourself to a romantic meal on a restaurant terrace here—the square is one of the best places in Paris to dine en plein air. | Ile de la Cité | Station: Cité.
Square du Vert-Galant.
The equestrian statue of the Vert Galant himself—amorous adventurer Henry IV—keeps a vigilant watch over this leafy square at the western end of the Ile de la Cité. The dashing but ruthless Henry, king of France from 1589 until his assassination in 1610, was a stern upholder of the absolute rights of monarchy and a notorious womanizer. He is probably best remembered for his cynical remark that “Paris vaut bien une messe” (“Paris is worth a Mass”), a reference to his readiness to renounce Protestantism to gain the throne of predominantly Catholic France. To ease his conscience, he issued the Edict of Nantes in 1598, according French Protestants (almost) equal rights with their Catholic countrymen. The square is a great place for a quai-side picnic. It’s also the departure point for Vedette Pont Neuf tour boats (at the bottom of the steps to the right). | Ile de la Cité | Station: Pont Neuf.
You can’t miss the unusual lacy spire of this church as you approach the Ile St-Louis; it’s the only church on the island and there are no other steeples to compete with it. It was built from 1652 to 1765 according to the Baroque designs of architect François Le Vau, brother of the more famous Louis, who designed several mansions nearby—as well as the Palace of Versailles. St-Louis’s interior was essentially stripped during the Revolution, as were so many French churches, but look for the odd outdoor iron clock, which dates from 1741. Check the church website for upcoming classical music events. | 19 bis, rue St-Louis-en-L’Ile, Ile St-Louis | 01-46-34-11-60 | www.saintlouisenlile.catholique.fr | Station: Pont Marie.
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Top Attractions | Worth Noting
Updated By Jack Vermee
One of Paris’s most upscale neighborhoods, the posh 7e arrondissement (where nearly every block affords a view of La Tour Eiffel) is home to the French bourgeoisie and well-heeled expats. Commanding the southwestern end of Paris, the Eiffel Tower was considered an iron-latticed monstrosity when it opened in 1889. Today it is a beloved icon, especially at night when thousands of twinkling lights sparkle at the top of every hour.
There are other monumental sights here, too, notably Hôtel des Invalides, a sprawling Baroque complex with a towering golden dome under which lies the enormous tomb of the pint-size dictator, Napoléon. Along the river, the Palais Bourbon, seat of the French Parliament, is an 18th-century homage to ancient Greek architecture. Nearby is the modern Musée du Quai Branly, built by star architect Jean Nouvel. Don’t miss the Musée Rodin, where the master’s sculptures ooze sensuality both outside in the garden and inside the elegant Hôtel Biron.
From the Eiffel Tower east, the walkway along the Seine will take you past Les Égouts (where you can embark on a subterranean tour of actual working sewers) and the American Church. For one of the best views in Paris, cross Pont Alexandre III, the city’s most ornate bridge spanning the Seine from Invalides to the Grand Palais. Named for the Russian czar to celebrate Franco-Russian friendship, it was built between 1896 and 1900, and is bedecked with gilded sculptures, cherubs, and Art Nouveau lamps.
The most romantic way to reach the Eiffel Tower is by boat. Alternately, you can head for RER C: Champs de Mars/Tour Eiffel. For the best view, get off at the Trocadéro station (métro Line 9 or 6) and make the short walk over the Pont (bridge) d’Iéna to the tower. For the Musée Rodin, get off at Varenne (Line 13). Use this stop, or La Tour Maubourg (Line 8), for Napoléon’s Tomb and Hôtel des Invalides.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Eiffel Tower. No question, the ultimate symbol of France is worth a visit at least once in your life.
Musée Rodin. A must-see for fans of the master sculptor, this magnificent 18th-century hôtel particulier (private mansion) was Rodin’s former workshop. The manicured garden is a perfect setting for his timeless works.
Napoléon’s Tomb. The golden-domed Hôtel des Invalides is a fitting place for Napoléon’s remains. Military history buffs will appreciate the impressive display of weaponry and armor in the adjoining Musée de l’Armée.
A boat ride. Whether you choose a guided Bateaux Mouche tour or a Batobus (water bus) trip, cruising the Seine is a relaxing way to see city highlights without traffic or crowds. Book a ride after dark when all of Paris is aglow.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
This neighborhood is home to one of the world’s most iconic sites, the Eiffel Tower. Depending on the time of year, you can wait hours to ascend La Tour (it helps to buy your ticket online or come at night, when lines are shorter), but even if you stay firmly on the ground, it’s worth a trip to see the landmark up close. Afterward, explore Rue St-Dominique’s shops, bakeries, and restaurants. If you’re up for a picnic, grab fixings on Rue Cler (between Rue de Grenelle and Avenue de La Motte Piquet), a pedestrian-only market street; then head back to the park at the foot of the tower.
If you have a day to spare, visit the Musée Rodin. If you’re pressed for time, do a quick tour of the garden, where some of the best-known sculptures can be seen. From here it’s a short walk to Napoléon’s over-the-top tomb at the Hôtel des Invalides, which also houses the Musée de l’Armée devoted to military history. To appreciate art from Asia, Africa, and Oceania, devote an hour or two to the Musée du Quai Branly.
If it’s apéritif time, this is the place to be. With soft lighting, loungy music, plus a generous selection of wines, cocktails, and beers, Café Central makes an ideal spot for an end-of-the-afternoon drink. | 40 rue Cler, Tour Eiffel/Invalides | 01-47-05-00-53 | www.cafecentralparis.com | Station: École Militaire.
Café du Marché.
On the quaint Rue Cler, this small but busy café is popular with residents. Savor your morning café and croissant here, or enjoy Paris after hours—it is one of the few establishments to stay open late (until 1 am daily). | 38 rue Cler, Tour Eiffel/Invalides | 01-47-05-51-27 | Station: La Tour-Maubourg, École Militaire.
Serving chic Parisians since 1927, this Art Deco tea salon on Place du Trocadéro is a hot spot for lunch or afternoon tea. Relish a salade composée of mixed leaves with warm goat cheese, or a sublime slice of raspberry charlotte. | 4 pl. du Trocadero, Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel | 01-47-27-98-85 | www.carette-paris.fr | Station: Trocadéro.
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Fodor’s Choice | Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel).
The Eiffel Tower is to Paris what the Statue of Liberty is to New York and what Big Ben is to London: the ultimate civic emblem. French engineer Gustave Eiffel—already famous for building viaducts and bridges—spent two years working to erect this iconic monument for the World Exhibition of 1889.
Because its colossal bulk exudes such a feeling of permanence, you may have trouble believing that the tower nearly became 7,000 tons of scrap (it contains 12,000 pieces of metal and 2.5 million rivets) when the concession expired in 1909. Only its potential use as a radio antenna saved the day; and it still bristles with a forest of radio and television transmitters. Given La Tour’s landmark status, it is equally hard to believe that so many Parisians—including arbiters of taste like Guy de Maupassant and Alexandre Dumas—initially derided the 1,063-foot structure. (De Maupassant reputedly had lunch in the tower’s restaurant every day because it was the only place in Paris from which the tower wasn’t visible.)
Gradually, though, the Tour Eiffel became part of the city’s topography, entering the hearts and souls of residents and visitors alike. Today it is most breathtaking at night, when every girder is highlighted in a sparkling display originally conceived to celebrate the turn of the millennium. The glittering light show was so popular that the 20,000 lights were reinstalled for permanent use in 2003. The tower does its electric dance for five minutes every hour on the hour until 1 am.
More recent enhancements are also noteworthy. A two-year, €30 million renovation of the first floor, completed in 2014, has added a vertigo-inducing “transparent” floor 187 feet above the esplanade, plus a pair of glass-facade pavilions that hug the side of the tower and house interactive educational areas. A new mini-turbine plant, four vertical-turbine windmills, and eco-friendly solar panels will minimize the tower’s carbon footprint over time, too.
You can stride up 1,700 steps as far as the third floor, but if you want to go to the top you’ll have to take the elevator. (Be sure to look closely at the fantastic ironwork.) Although the view of the flat sweep of Paris at 1,000 feet may not beat the one from the Tour Montparnasse skyscraper, the setting makes it considerably more romantic—especially if you come in the late evening, after the crowds have dispersed. Beat the crushing lines by reserving your ticket online. You can also book a guided tour. | Quai Branly, Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel | 08-92-70-12-39 €0.34 per min | www.tour-eiffel.fr | By elevator: 1st and 2nd levels €9; top €15.50. By stairs: 1st and 2nd levels only, €5 | Mid-June-early Sept., daily 9 am-12:45 am (11 pm for summit); early Sept.-mid-June, daily 9:30 am-11:45 pm (10:30 pm for summit) | Stairs close at 6 pm in off-season | Station: Bir-Hakeim, Trocadéro, École Militaire; RER: Champ de Mars.
Fodor’s Choice | Hôtel des Invalides.
The Baroque complex known as Les Invalides (pronounced lehz-ahn-vah-leed) is the eternal home of Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821) or, more precisely, the little dictator’s remains, which lie entombed under the towering golden dome.
Louis XIV ordered the facility built in 1670 to house disabled soldiers (hence the name), and at one time 4,000 military men lived here. Today, a portion of it still serves as a veterans’ residence and hospital. The Musée de l’Armée, containing an exhaustive collection of military artifacts from antique armor to weapons, is also here.
If you see only a single sight, make it the Église du Dome (one of Les Invalides’ two churches) at the back of the complex. Napoléon’s tomb was moved here in 1840 from the island of Saint Helena, where he died in forced exile. The emperor’s body is protected by a series of no fewer than six coffins—one set inside the next, sort of like a Russian nesting doll—which is then encased in a sarcophagus of red quartzite. The bombastic tribute is ringed by statues symbolizing Napoléon’s campaigns of conquest. To see more Napoléoniana, check out the collection in the Musée de l’Armée featuring his trademark gray frock coat and huge bicorne hat. Look for the figurines reenacting the famous coronation scene when Napoléon crowns his empress, Josephine. You can see a grander version of this scene hanging in the Louvre by the painter David.
The Esplanade des Invalides, the great lawns in front of the building, are favorite spots for pickup soccer, Frisbee games, sunbathing, and dog walking—despite signs asking you to stay off the grass. TIP The best entrance to use is at the southern end, on Place Vauban (Avenue de Tourville). The ticket office is here, as is Napoléon’s Tomb. There are automatic ticket machines at the main entrance on the Place des Invalides. | Pl. des Invalides, Tour Eiffel | 01-44-42-38-77 | www.musee-armee.fr | €9.50 | Église du Dôme and museums Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov.-Mar., daily 10-5; closed 1st Mon. of every month Oct.-June | Ticket window closes 30 mins before museum | Station: La Tour-Maubourg/Invalides.
Musée du Quai Branly.
This eye-catching museum overlooking the Seine was built by star architect Jean Nouvel to house the state-owned collection of “non-Western” art, culled from the Musée National des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie and the Musée de l’Homme. Exhibits mix artifacts from antiquity to the modern age, such as funeral masks from Melanesia, Siberian shaman drums, Indonesian textiles, and African statuary. A corkscrew ramp leads from the lobby to a cavernous exhibition space, which is color coded to designate sections from Asia, Africa, and Oceania. The lighting is dim—sometimes too dim to read the information panels (which makes investing in the €5 audioguide a good idea).
Renowned for his bold modern designs, Nouvel has said he wanted the museum to follow no rules; however, many critics gave his vision a thumbs-down when it was unveiled in 2006. The exterior resembles a massive, rust-color rectangle suspended on stilts, with geometric shapes cantilevered to the facade facing the Seine and louvered panels on the opposite side. The colors (dark reds, oranges, and yellows) are meant to evoke the tribal art within. A “living wall” comprised of some 150 species of exotic plants grows on the exterior, which is surrounded by a wild jungle garden with swampy patches—an impressive sight after dark when scores of cylindrical colored lights are illuminated. The trendy Les Ombres restaurant on the museum’s fifth floor (separate entrance) has prime views of the Tour Eiffel—and prices to match. The budget-conscious can enjoy the garden at Le Café Branly on the ground floor. | 37 quai Branly, Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel | 01-56-61-70-00 | www.quaibranly.fr | €9; €11 with temporary exhibits | Tues., Wed., and Sun. 11-7; Thurs.-Sat. 11-9 | Ticket office closes 1 hr before museum | Station: Alma-Marceau.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Paris’s most ornate Art Nouveau front door can be found at 29 avenue Rapp, a few minutes’ walk from the Pont de l’Alma. The six-story hôtel particulier to which it’s attached was built in 1901 by Jules Lavirotte, who used brick, stone, and ceramics to create whimsical motifs inspired by nature. The historical plaque in front of the building notes that the architect’s rebellious style added a “breath of youth and fantasy.” Notice the expressions of the pair of nude sculptures: she with a smirk and a jaunty hand on hip; he with a hand cupped to his mouth, calling out to someone. The house was owned by ceramics expert Alexandre Bigot, who frequently teamed up with Lavirotte. The door is the most intriguing feature: carved wood with large oval windows resembling an owl’s eyes. The metal handle takes the shape of a curled lizard, its head arching back. Twisting leaves and vines curl around the stone door frame; a woman’s head (possibly the architect’s wife) is centered at the top, a furry critter crawling down her neck, its pointed nose suspended just above the door. Walk around the corner to 3 square Rapp to see the house Lavirotte later built for himself.
Not to be confused with the American Cathedral, across the river at 23 avenue George V, this pretty neo-Gothic Protestant church was built between 1927 and 1931. It features a pair of Tiffany stained-glass windows—a rare find in Europe. Besides ecumenical services, the church hosts architectural tours, free classical and acoustic concerts, plus popular exercise classes (including yoga). You can check event listings and download a self-guided PDF tour at the church website. | 65 quai d’Orsay, Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel | 01-40-62-05-00 | www.acparis.org | Mon.-Sat. 9-noon and 1-10:30, Sun. 3-7:30 | Station: Alma-Marceau; RER: Pont de l’Alma.
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) briefly made his home and studio in the Hôtel Biron, a grand 18th-century mansion that now houses a museum dedicated to his work. He died rich and famous, but many of the sculptures that earned him a place in art history were originally greeted with contempt by the general public, which was unprepared for his powerful brand of sexuality and raw physicality. During a much-needed, multiyear renovation that has closed parts of the Hôtel Biron (it’s set to finish in the second half of 2015), the museum is showcasing a pared-down, “greatest hits” selection of Rodin’s works.
Most of his best-known sculptures are in the gardens. The front garden is dominated by The Gates of Hell (circa 1880). Inspired by the monumental bronze doors of Italian Renaissance churches, Rodin set out to illustrate stories from Dante’s Divine Comedy. He worked on the sculpture for more than 30 years, and it served as a “sketch pad” for many of his later works. Look carefully and you can see miniature versions of The Kiss (bottom right), The Thinker (top center), and The Three Shades (top center).
Inside the museum, look for The Bronze Age, which was inspired by the sculptures of Michelangelo: this piece was so realistic that critics accused Rodin of having cast a real body in plaster. There’s also a room (condensed during the renovation) of works by Camille Claudel (1864-1943), Rodin’s student and longtime mistress, who was a remarkable sculptor in her own right. Her torturous relationship with Rodin eventually drove her out of his studio—and out of her mind. In 1913 she was packed off to an asylum, where she remained until her death.
If you want to linger, the Café du Musée Rodin serves meals and snacks in the shade of the garden’s linden trees. As you enter, a gallery on the right houses temporary exhibitions. An English audioguide (€6) is available for the permanent collection and for temporary exhibitions. Buy your ticket online for priority access (€1.80 extra fee).
| 79 rue de Varenne, Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel | 01-44-18-61-10 | www.musee-rodin.fr | €9; €2 gardens only; free 1st Sun. of month | Tues. and Thurs.-Sun. 10-5:45, Wed. 10-8:45 | Station: Varenne.
Champ de Mars.
Flanked by tree-lined paths, this long expanse of grass lies between the Eiffel Tower and École Militaire. It was previously used as a parade ground and was the site of the world exhibitions in 1867, 1889 (when the tower was built), and 1900. Today the park, landscaped at the start of the 20th century, is a great spot for temporary art exhibits, picnics, pickup soccer games, and outdoor concerts. You can also just sprawl on the center span of grass, which is unusual for Paris. There’s a playground where kids can let off steam, too. Visiting during Bastille Day? If you can brave the crowds, arrive early to get a premier viewing position for the spectacular July 14th fireworks display, with the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop. Be vigilant at night. | Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel | Station: École Militaire; RER: Champ de Mars.
Les Égouts (The Sewers).
Leave it to the French to make even sewers seem romantic. Part exhibit but mostly, well, sewer, this 1,650-foot stretch of tunnels provides a fascinating—and not too smelly—look at the underbelly of Paris. Visitors can stroll the so-called galleries of this city beneath the city, which comes complete with street signs mirroring those aboveground. Walkways flank tunnels of whooshing wastewater wide enough to allow narrow barges to dredge sand and sediment. Lighted panels, photos, and explanations in English detail the workings of the system. Immortalized as the escape routes of the Phantom of the Opera and Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, the 19th-century sewers have a florid real-life history. Since Napoléon ordered the underground network built to clean up the squalid streets, they have played a role in every war, secreting revolutionaries and spies and their stockpiles of weapons. Grenades from World War II were recovered not far from where the gift shop now sits. The display cases of stuffed toy rats and “Eau de Paris” glass carafes fold into the walls when the water rises after heavy rains. Buy your ticket at the kiosk on the Left Bank side of the Pont de l’Alma. Guided one-hour tours by friendly égoutiers (sewer workers) are available in French only; call or email ahead for details. | Opposite 93 quai d’Orsay, Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel | 01-53-68-27-81 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.paris.fr | €4.30 | May-Sept., Sat.-Wed. 11-5; Oct.-Apr., Sat.-Wed. 11-4; closed 2 wks in Jan. | Station: Alma-Marceau; RER: Pont de l’Alma.
The most prominent feature of the Palais Bourbon—home of the Assemblée Nationale (or French Parliament) since 1798—is its colonnaded facade, commissioned by Napoléon to match that of the Madeleine, across the Seine. Jean-Pierre Cortot’s sculpted pediment portrays France holding the tablets of Law, flanked by Force and Justice. Inside is an exquisite library with a soaring ceiling of cupolas painted by Delacroix. Visits are by guided tour only (free, in French with an English audioguide); reservations, which are essential, can be made by phone or online. Security is tight. When visiting, bring your passport as proof of identity. | 33 quai d’Orsay, Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel | 01-40-63-56-00 | www.assemblee-nationale.fr | Tours 10, 11, 2, and 3 (tour days vary from week to week); Sat. only when Parliament is in session | Station: Assemblée Nationale.
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Top Attractions | Worth Noting
Updated By Jack Vermee
Make no mistake: the Champs-Élysées, while ceding some of its elegance in recent times, remains the most famous avenue in Paris—and, perhaps, the world. Like New York’s Times Square or London’s Piccadilly Circus, it is a mecca for travelers and locals alike. Some Parisians complain that fast-food joints and chain stores have cheapened Avenue des Champs-Élysées, but others are more philosophical, noting that there is something here for everyone. If you can’t afford lunch at Ladurée, there’s always McDonald’s (and the view from its second floor is terrific).
Anchoring the Champs is the Arc de Triomphe, Napoléon’s monument to himself. At the other end, the exquisitely restored Grand Palais plays host to some of the city’s grandest art exhibitions. Across the street, the permanent art collection is free at the Petit Palais, and there’s also a quiet garden café. Between here and Place du Trocadéro, a busy traffic circle, you can find several museums housed in some of Paris’s most impressive buildings: at the Palais de Chaillot complex is the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, a must for architecture buffs, and across the plaza is the charming nautical-theme Musée National de la Marine. Farther on, the Musée Guimet has a superlative Asian art collection. The Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, on Avenue du Président Wilson, contains a free permanent collection of 20th-century pieces. Contemporary-art lovers should also check out what’s showing next door at the trendy Palais de Tokyo. These twin Art Nouveau buildings, constructed for the 1937 World’s Fair, are notable for their monumental facades. Across the street is the Palais Galliera: framed by a lovely garden outside, it has a museum inside that focuses on fashion.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Avenue Champs-Élysées. Splurge in the upscale boutiques on and around this fabled avenue, or simply practice the fine art of lèche-vitrines (literally “window licking,” the French term for window-shopping).
Palais de Chaillot. A favorite of fashion photographers, this statue-lined plaza-terrace at Place du Trocadéro boasts the city’s best view of the Eiffel Tower.
Musée Guimet. One of Paris’s finest smaller museums has a world-class collection of art from all over Asia. Don’t miss the rare Khmer sculptures from Cambodia.
Macarons from Ladurée. Is it worth lining up for 30 minutes to get a little taste of heaven? You decide. But rest assured: the round meringue cookies made by this famous pâtissier since 1862 are as scrumptious as ever.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
This neighborhood is an essential stop for every first-time visitor to Paris, and returning travelers will find plenty to do, too. Leave yourself a full day to tour some of the museums around Place du Trocadéro before heading to the Champs-Élysées, worth a walk from end to end. Stop for lunch or dessert at one of the cafés or tea salons en route; then detour down Avenue Montaigne, Paris’s answer to Rodeo Drive. If your time is limited, you can just come for a stroll at night, when the Champs is alight: there are bars and nightclubs for all tastes, plus movie houses showing French films and English-language blockbusters (look for v.o., meaning version originale, if you prefer to see an undubbed one).
Café La Belle Férronnière.
A favorite of Parisians for morning noisettes, business lunches, and after-work apéros, this popular spot is a short walk from the Champs-Élysées. Settle in at a sidewalk table or retreat to the quieter interior. The enigmatic painting for which the café is named—da Vinci’s Portrait of an Unknown Woman—hangs in the Louvre. | 53 rue Pierre Charron, Champs-Élysées | 01-42-25-03-82.
With 40-plus locations worldwide, the most opulent branch of the Ladurée tea salon empire is worth the splurge. Reserve a table upstairs or grab a bite in the Art Nouveau bar in the back. The menu promises generous salads and flavorful plats du jour. Sweets are a house specialty. In addition to more than a dozen flavors of macaron, it has assorted cakes, pastries, and beautifully boxed treats ideal for gift-giving. | 75 av. des Champs-Élysées, Champs-Élysées | 01-40-75-08-75 | www.laduree.com | Station: George V.
Leave it to the French to put a restaurant in a car showroom, then outfit it with a Michelin-starred chef. Pair the subtly exotic cardamom coffee with one of Virginie Basselot’s seasonal desserts for an afternoon pick-me-up, or nibble on appetizers (“les miniatures”). People-gazing from the second floor is not to be missed. | 53 av. des Champs Élysées, Champs-Élysées | 08-11-88-28-11 | www.atelier.renault.com | Sun.-Thu. 10:30 am-11 pm, Fri. and Sat. 10:30 am-1 am | Station: Franklin-D.-Roosevelt.
This neighborhood includes the 8e and 16e arrondissements. For the top of the Champs-Élysées/Arc de Triomphe, take métro Line 1, 2, or 6, or the RER A, to Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile. For the bottom of the avenue, near the Grand Palais, go to the Champs-Élysées-Clemenceau métro station (Line 1). For the Palais de Chaillot, use the Trocadéro métro station on Lines 6 and 9.
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Arc de Triomphe.
Inspired by Rome’s Arch of Titus, this colossal, 164-foot triumphal arch was ordered by Napoléon—who liked to consider himself the heir to Roman emperors—to celebrate his military successes. Unfortunately, Napoléon’s strategic and architectural visions were not entirely on the same plane, and the Arc de Triomphe proved something of an embarrassment. Although the emperor wanted the monument completed in time for an 1810 parade in honor of his new bride, Marie-Louise, it was still only a few feet high, and a dummy arch of painted canvas was strung up to save face. Empires come and go, but Napoléon’s had been gone for more than 20 years before the Arc was finally finished in 1836. A small museum halfway up recounts its history.
The Arc de Triomphe is notable for magnificent sculptures by François Rude, including The Departure of the Volunteers in 1792, better known as La Marseillaise, to the right of the arch when viewed from the Champs-Élysées. Names of Napoléon’s generals are inscribed on the stone facades—the underlined names identify the hallowed figures who fell in battle.
The traffic circle around the Arc is named for Charles de Gaulle, but it’s known to Parisians as “L’Étoile,” or the Star—a reference to the streets that fan out from it. Climb the stairs to the top of the arch and you can see the star effect of the 12 radiating avenues and the vista down the Champs-Élysées toward Place de la Concorde and the distant Musée du Louvre.
TIP France’s Unknown Soldier is buried beneath the arch, and a commemorative flame is rekindled every evening at 6:30. That’s the most atmospheric time to visit, but, to beat the crowds, come early in the morning or buy your ticket online (€1.60 service fee).
Pl. Charles-de-Gaulle, Champs-Élysées | 01-55-37-73-77 | arc-de-triomphe.monuments-nationaux.fr | €9.50 | Apr.-Sept., daily 10 am-11 pm; Oct.-Mar., daily 10 am-10:30 pm | Last admission 45 mins before closing | Station: Métro or RER: Étoile.
Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
Marcel Proust lovingly described the genteel elegance of the storied Champs-Élysées (pronounced chahnz- eleezay, with an “n” sound instead of “m” and no “p”) during its Belle Époque heyday, when its cobblestones resounded with the clatter of horses and carriages. Today, despite unrelenting traffic and the intrusion of chain stores and fast-food franchises, the avenue still sparkles. There’s always something happening here: stores are open late (and many are open on Sunday, a rarity in Paris); nightclubs remain top destinations; and cafés offer prime people-watching, though you’ll pay for the privilege—after all, this is Europe’s most expensive piece of real estate. Along the 2-km (1¼-mile) stretch, you can find marquee names in French luxury, like Cartier, Guerlain, and Louis Vuitton. Car manufacturers lure international visitors with space-age showrooms. Old stalwarts, meanwhile, are still going strong—including the Lido cabaret and Fouquet’s, whose celebrity clientele extends back to James Joyce. The avenue is also the setting for the last leg of the Tour de France bicycle race (the third or fourth Sunday in July), as well as Bastille Day (July 14) and Armistice Day (November 11) ceremonies. The Champs-Élysées, which translates to “Elysian Fields” (the resting place of the blessed in Greek mythology), began life as a cow pasture and in 1666 was transformed into a park by the royal landscape architect André Le Nôtre. Traces of its green origins are visible towards the Concorde, where elegant 19th-century park pavilions house the historic restaurants Ledoyen, Laurent, and the more recent Lenôtre. | Champs-Élysée | Station: Champs-Élysées-Clemenceau, Franklin-D.-Roosevelt, George V, Étoile.
QUICK BITES: Publicis Drugstore.
A stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe, this trendy spot—part mini-department store, part brasserie—is stocked with an ever-changing array of upscale wares from designer handbags and diamond bracelets to fine wine and cigars. When you’re done browsing, enjoy a quick bite at the on-site eatery (a prix-fixe menu is available) or stop by the bakery for food to take away. | 133 av. des Champs-Élysées, Champs-Élysées | 01-44-43-77-64 | www.publicisdrugstore.com | Station: Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile.
Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine.
The greatest gems of French architecture are represented at the City of Architecture and Heritage, which bills itself as the largest architectural museum in the world. Reopened in 2007 after an €84 million renovation, the former French Monuments Museum contains some 350 plaster-cast reproductions spread out over 86,000 square feet. While it may seem odd to see a collection comprised entirely of copies, these are no ordinary ones: they include partial facades from some of the most important Gothic churches, a gallery of frescoes and windows (among them a stained-glass stunner from the famous Chartres cathedral), plus an assembly of gargoyles practically leaping off the back wall of the soaring first-floor gallery. Video monitors with joysticks allow a 360-degree view of some of the grandest cathedrals. The upper-floor gallery is devoted to architecture since 1851, with a life-size replica of a postwar apartment in Marseille designed by the urban-planning pioneer Le Corbusier. It’s worth springing for the €3 English audiovisual guide. The museum’s small café offers a great view of the Eiffel Tower. | 1 pl. du Trocadéro, Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel | 01-58-51-52-00 | www.citechaillot.fr | €8; €10 with temporary exhibits | Fri.-Mon. and Wed. 11-7, Thurs. 11-9 | Station: Trocadéro.
With its curved-glass roof and gorgeously restored Belle Époque ornamentation, you can’t miss the Grand Palais whether you’re approaching from the Seine or the Champs-Élysées. It forms an elegant duo with the Petit Palais across Avenue Winston Churchill: both stone buildings, adorned with mosaics and sculpted friezes, were built for the 1900 World’s Fair, and, like the Eiffel Tower, were not intended to be permanent. The exquisite main exhibition space called le Nef (or nave) plays host to large-scale shows that might focus on anything from jewelry to cars. The art-oriented shows staged here—including the annual FIAC, Paris’s contemporary-art fair—are some of the hottest tickets in town. Previous must-sees included an Edward Hopper retrospective and “Picasso and the Masters.” To skip the long queue, book an advance ticket online for an extra euro. | Av. Winston Churchill, Champs-Élysées | 01-44-13-17-17 | www.grandpalais.fr | €14 (can vary) | Wed.-Mon. 10-8 or 10-10, depending on exhibit | Station: Champs-Élysées-Clemenceau.
Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (Paris Museum of Modern Art.)
Although the city’s modern art museum hasn’t generated a buzz comparable to that of the Centre Georges Pompidou, visiting can be a more pleasant experience because it draws fewer crowds. The Art Nouveau building’s vast, white-walled galleries make an ideal backdrop for temporary exhibitions of 20th-century art and postmodern installation projects. The permanent collection on the lower floor takes over where the Musée d’Orsay leaves off, chronologically speaking: among the earliest works are Fauvist paintings by Maurice Vlaminck and André Derain, followed by Pablo Picasso’s early experiments in Cubism. Other highlights include works by Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Chagall, Matisse, Rothko, and Modigliani. | 11 av. du Président Wilson, Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel | 01-53-67-40-00 | www.mam.paris.fr | Permanent collection free, temporary exhibitions €5-€12 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6, Thurs. until 10 for temporary exhibits | Station: Alma Marceau, Iéna.
Fodor’s Choice | Musée Guimet.
The outstanding Musée Guimet boasts the western world’s biggest collection of Asian art, thanks to the 19th-century wanderings of Lyonnaise industrialist Émile Guimet. Exhibits, enriched by the state’s vast holdings, are laid out geographically in airy, light-filled rooms. Just past the entry, you can find the largest assemblage of Khmer sculpture outside Cambodia. The second floor has statuary and masks from Nepal, ritual funerary art from Tibet, and jewelry and fabrics from India. Peek into the library rotunda, where Monsieur Guimet once entertained the city’s notables under the gaze of eight carytids atop ionic columns; Mata Hari danced here in 1905. The much-heralded Chinese collection, made up of 20,000-odd objects, covers seven millennia. Pick up a free English-language audioguide and brochure at the entrance. If you need a pick-me-up, stop at the Salon des Porcelaines café on the lower level for a ginger milk shake. Don’t miss the Guimet’s impressive Buddhist Pantheon, with two floors of Buddhas from China and Japan, and a Japanese garden; it’s just up the street at 19 avenue d’Iéna, and admission is free with a Musée Guimet ticket. | 6 pl. d’Iéna, Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel | 01-56-52-53-00 | www.guimet.fr | €7.50; €9.50 with temporary exhibition | Wed.-Mon. 10-6 | Station: Iéna, Boissiére.
Palais de Chaillot.
This honey-color Art Deco cultural center on Place du Trocadéro was built in the 1930s to replace a Moorish-style building constructed for the 1878 World’s Fair. Its esplanade is a top draw for camera-toting visitors intent on snapping the perfect shot of the Eiffel Tower. In the building to the left is the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine—an excellent architecture museum—and the Theâtre National de Chaillot, which occasionally stages plays in English. Also here is the Institut Français d’Architecture, an organization and school. The twin building to the right contains the Musée National de la Marine, a charming small museum showcasing nautical history; and the Musée de l’Homme, a natural history museum that’s closed for renovation until late 2015. Sculptures and fountains adorn the garden leading to the Seine. | Pl. du Trocadéro, Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel | Station: Trocadéro.
Palais de Tokyo.
The go-to address for some of the city’s funkiest exhibitions, the Palais de Tokyo is a stripped-down venue that spotlights provocative, ambitious contemporary art. There is no permanent collection: instead, cutting-edge temporary shows are staged in a cavernous space reminiscent of a light-filled industrial loft. The programming extends to performance art, concerts, readings, and fashion shows. Night owls will appreciate the midnight closing. The museum’s Tokyo Eat restaurant—serving an affordable French-Asian-fusion menu—is a haunt of hip locals, especially at lunch. Visit the offbeat gift shop for souvenirs that are as edgy and subversive as the exhibits. | 13 av. du Président Wilson, Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel | 01-81-97-35-88 | www.palaisdetokyo.com | €10 | Wed.-Mon. noon-midnight | Station: Iéna.
Fodor’s Choice | Palais Galliera, Musée de la Mode.
The city’s Museum of Fashion occupies a suitably fashionable mansion—the 19th-century residence of Marie Brignole-Sale, Duchess of Galliera; and, having emerged from an extensive makeover in 2013, it is now more stylish than ever. Inside, temporary exhibitions focus on costume and clothing design (a reopening retrospective, for instance, honored the visionary Azzedine Alaïa). Covering key moments in fashion history and showcasing iconic French designers, the museum’s collection includes 100,000 dresses and accessories that run the gamut from basic streetwear to haute couture. Details on shows (there are no permanent displays) are available on the museum website. Don’t miss the lovely 19th-century garden that encircles the palace. | 10 av. Pierre-1er-de-Serbie, Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel | 01-56-52-86-00 | palaisgalliera.paris.fr | €9 | Tues., Wed., and Fri-Sun. 10-6, Thurs. 10-9 | Station: Iéna.
Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris.
The “little” palace has a small, overlooked collection of excellent painting, sculpture, and objets d’art, with works by Monet, Gauguin, and Courbet, among others. Temporary exhibitions, beefed up in recent years (and often free), are particularly good—especially those dedicated to photography. The building, like the Grand Palais across the street, is an architectural marvel of marble, glass, and gilt built for the 1900 World’s Fair, with impressive entry doors and huge windows overlooking the river. Search directly above the main galleries for 16 plaster busts set into the wall representing famous artists. Outside, note two eye-catching sculptures: French World War I hero Georges Clemenceau faces the Champs-Élysées, while a resolute Winston Churchill faces the Seine. In warmer weather, head to the garden café with terrace seating. | Av. Winston Churchill, Champs-Élysées | 01-53-43-40-00 | www.petitpalais.paris.fr | Permanent collection free; temporary exhibits €5-€11 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6 (Thurs. until 8 for temporary exhibits) | Station: Champs-Élysées-Clemenceau.
QUICK BITES: Le Jardin du Petit Palais.
The quiet little café hidden in the lush garden inside the Petit Palais is one of this quarter’s best-kept secrets. | Av. Winston Churchill, Champs-Élysées | 01-53-43-40-00 | www.petitpalais.paris.fr | Tues.-Sun. 10-5:15 (Thurs. until 7:30 during temporary exhibitions) | Station: Champs-Élysées-Clemenceau.
QUICK BITES: Tokyo Eat.
Japan meets France in funky fusion at the Palais de Tokyo, which has one of the most popular museum cafés in town. It’s filled with hip locals, especially at lunch. | 13 av. du Président Wilson, Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel | 01-47-20-00-29 | Daily noon-midnight.
Aquarium de Paris.
An aquarium and cinema may seen like a strange combination, but the two coexist nicely in this attractive space beneath the Trocadéro gardens. In addition to 10,000 fish and a giant tank of small sharks, it promises puppet and magic shows, along with workshops for children in animation, art, and dance (these are offered in French, but the staff speaks English). There are also kid-oriented films showing on one big screen and, for the grown-ups, feature films playing on a second. Check the website for times and activities. Book tickets online to avoid lines. | 5 av. Albert De Mun, Champs-Élysées | 01-40-69-23-23 | www.cineaqua.com | €20.50; €16 ages 13-17; €13 ages 3-12; free under 3 | Daily 10-7 | Last entry 1 hr before closing | Station: Trocadéro.
Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent.
With his longtime business and life partner Pierre Bergé, the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent reopened his former atelier as a gallery and archive of his work in 2004. Unfortunately, YSL’s private collection of dresses can be viewed only on private group tours booked in advance. What you can see here are exhibitions staged twice annually. Themes include painting, photography and, of course, fashion—such as a retrospective on couture maven Nan Kempner. | 3 rue Léonce Reynaud, Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel | 01-44-31-64-31 | www.fondation-pb-ysl.net | €7 | Tues.-Sun. 11-6 during temporary exhibitions only | Last entry at 5:15 | Station: Alma-Marceau.
Maison de Baccarat.
Playing on the building’s Surrealist legacy, designer Philippe Starck brought an irreverent Alice in Wonderland approach to the HQ and museum of the venerable Baccarat crystal firm: Cocteau, Dalí, Buñuel, and Man Ray were all frequent guests of the mansion’s onetime owner, Countess Marie-Laure de Noailles. At the entrance, talking heads are projected onto giant crystal urns, and a lighted chandelier is submerged in an aquarium. Upstairs, the museum features masterworks created by Baccarat since 1764, including soaring candlesticks made for Czar Nicholas II and the perfume flacon Dalí designed for Schiaparelli. Don’t miss the rotunda’s “Alchemy” section by Gérard Garouste, showcasing the technical history of cutting, wheel engraving, enamelling, and gilding. If you’re in the mood for shopping, contemporary crystal by top-name designers as well as stemware, vases, tableware, jewelry, chandeliers, and even furniture are sold in the on-site shop. Set aside a few moments to enjoy the little park just outside in the Place des États-Unis with impressive statues of Washington and Lafayette. | 11 pl. des États-Unis, Champs-Élysées | 01-40-22-11-00 | www.baccarat.fr | €7 | Mon. and Wed.-Sat. 10-6:30 | Station: Iéna.
Dedicated to the art of Africa and the African diaspora, the Dapper Museum showcases an ever-changing selection of impressive temporary exhibitions, ranging from elaborate masks, traditional sculptures, and ceremonial jewelry to contemporary African designs. Opened in 1986 as a museum and cultural space by Christiane Falgayrettes-Leveau (a native of French Guyana) and her husband, Michel Leveau, the museum relocated to its current modern-design building in 2000. A visit to the Dapper makes a good pairing with a stop at the nearby Musée Guimet. Most of the visitor information is in French, but the website has English descriptions of current exhibitions. There is no permanent collection. | 35 bis, rue Paul Valéry, Champs-Élysées | 01-45-00-91-75 | www.dapper.fr | €6 | Mon., Wed., and Fri.-Sun. 11-7 during exhibitions only | Station: Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile.
Musée National de la Marine (Maritime Museum.)
Perfect for naval and history buffs, this underrated museum in the southwest wing of the Palais de Chaillot has a treasure trove of art and artifacts documenting maritime development pertinent to France over the centuries. It’s one of five national museums dedicated to all things nautical (other locations are in Brest, Port-Louis, Rochefort, and Toulon). Inside you’ll see impressive models of vessels from 17th-century flagships to modern warships. Kids can climb a step to get a closer look at a model aircraft carrier, cut in half to expose its decks. The main gallery features several figureheads recovered from sunken ships, including a giant Henri IV, with hand on heart, miraculously saved from a shipwreck in 1854 during the Crimean War. Another enormous representation of Napoléon, in his favored guise as a Roman emperor, was taken from the prow of the frigate Iéna in 1846. There is also a metal diving suit from 1882 and the menu from a 1935 voyage of the SS Normandie cruise ship. Free English audioguides are available. | 17 pl. du Trocadéro, Trocadéro/Tour Eiffel | 01-53-65-69-53 | www.musee-marine.fr | €8.50 permanent collection; €10 with temporary exhibits | Mon. and Wed.-Fri. 11-6, weekends 11-7 | Station: Trocadéro.
Palais de la Découverte (Palace of Discovery.)
The Palace of Discovery, a popular science museum in the rear of the Grand Palais complex, has a wide variety of exhibits spread out over two floors under an elegant glass-and-iron roof. Subjects include astronomy, chemistry, biology, physics, and earth sciences. Although most information is in French, there are plenty of buttons and levers to press and pull to keep little (and not so little) hands busy. This fun facility—a smaller cousin of the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Parc de la Villette—also features regularly scheduled demos and 3-D films, along with daily planetarium shows (in French only). | Av. Franklin-D.-Roosevelt, Champs-Élysées | 01-56-43-20-20 | www.palais-decouverte.fr | €9; €12 with planetarium | Tues.-Sat. 9:30-6, Sun. 10-7 | Station: Champs-Élysées-Clemenceau.
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Top Attractions | Worth Noting
Updated By Linda Hervieux
The neighborhoods from the très chic Faubourg St-Honoré to trendy Les Halles are a study in contrasts, with the Louvre in the midst of the bustle. The impossibly posh Rue Faubourg St-Honoré, once the stomping ground of kings and queens, is now home to the French president and assorted foreign ambassadors. Beloved by fashionistas for three centuries, it is as popular today as it was when royal mistresses shopped here—which explains the plethora of high-end stores (almost every luxury brand is represented). Not surprisingly, ritzy restaurants and haute hotels are located here as well.
To the east, Les Halles (pronounced leh- ahl) has risen from its roots as a down-and-out market district to become one of the city’s hottest, hippest neighborhoods. Vermin-infested cobbled streets have given way to trendy shops, cafés, and bars, centered on Rue Montorgueil; and a sweeping multiyear renovation of the former wholesale food market (which closed in 1969) is giving a much-needed face-lift to the plaza aboveground and the vast shopping mall below.
Between Faubourg St-Honoré and Les Halles, you can find some of Paris’s top draws—namely the mighty Musée du Louvre and, next door, the majestic Jardin des Tuileries. The garden is home to the Musée de l’Orangerie, with its curved galleries showcasing Monet’s Water Lilies, while nearby Les Arts Décoratifs is a must for design buffs. In Place Colette, the stately theater, the Comédie Française, is still going strong after 400 years, and at the edge of the square is the psychedelic sculpture—doubling as a métro entrance—of the kiosque des noctambules (kiosk of the nightcrawlers), designed by artist Jean-Michel Othoniel. Hidden just off Place Colette is the Palais-Royal, a romantic garden ringed by arcades with boutiques selling everything from old-fashioned music boxes to fashion-forward frocks. A stone’s throw away is Galerie Vivienne, an exquisitely restored 19th-century shopping arcade.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Musée du Louvre. The world’s first great art museum—which displays such renowned works as the serenely smirking Mona Lisa and the statuesque Venus de Milo—deserves a long visit.
Tuileries to Place de la Concorde. For centuries, Parisians and visitors alike have strolled the length of this magnificent garden to the gold-tipped obelisk at Place de la Concorde.
Galerie Vivienne. The prettiest 19th-century glass-roofed shopping arcade left in Paris, this passage is worth a stop for shopping, lunch, or afternoon tea.
Palais-Royal. Visit these arcades and the romantic garden to understand why the French writer Colette called the view from her window “a little corner of the country.”
Rue Montorgueil. This historic market street, lined with food shops and cafés, is at the heart of one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
Try to devote two days or more—one alone for the Louvre—to these vastly different neighborhoods. Along the narrow sidewalks of the Faubourg St-Honoré you’ll find some of the finest Parisian boutiques. Place de la Concorde is the gateway to the Tuileries garden. At the eastern end, Les Halles (the old market district) is booming with shops and eateries popping up around cobbled Rue Montorgueil, where traffic is mercifully restricted.
If you’re headed to the mammoth Musée du Louvre, it’s best to have a game plan in mind. First step: avoid the lines at the main entrance under the pyramid by using the underground entrance in the Carrousel du Louvre, 99 rue de Rivoli. Buy your ticket at one of the machines.
Au Rocher de Cancale.
As its impressive facade attests, this café has a special history. It opened in 1846, when Balzac was a regular and Rue Montorgueil was the place to buy oysters. | 78 rue Montorgueil, Beaubourg/Les Halles | 01-42-33-50-29 | www.aurocherdecancale.fr | Station: Les Halles.
Equal parts café, bar, and restaurant, Le Fumoir is a timelessly popular place to sip coffee and read the paper, or enjoy an after-dinner drink. Reservations are recommended for dinner and Sunday brunch. | Pl. du Louvre, 6 rue de l’Amiral-Coligny, Louvre/Tuileries | 01-42-92-00-24 | Station: Louvre.
Plan your day over a croissant and a café crème at this classic café with two long rows of tables overlooking lively Place Colette, just steps from the Palais-Royal and the Musée du Louvre. | 2 pl. Colette,Louvre/Tuileries | 01-42-61-34-14 | Station: Palais-Royal.
If you’re heading to the Louvre, take the métro Line 1 to the Louvre/Rivoli or Palais-Royal/Musée du Louvre stop. For the Tuileries, use the Tuileries stop on the same line. For Place de la Concorde, use the Concorde stop on Line 1, 8, or 12. This is a good starting point for a walk on Rue St-Honoré. If you’re going to Les Halles, take Line 4 to Les Halles or Line 1 to Châtelet.
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A lovely 19th-century passage that’s been gorgeously restored, the Véro-Dodat has a dozen artsy boutiques selling objets d’art, textiles, furniture, and accessories. The headliner tenant is Christian Louboutin, at Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose red-soled stilettos are favored by Angelina, Madonna, and other members of the red-carpet set. On the opposite end, at the Rue du Bouloi entrance, star cosmetics-maker Terry De Gunzburg has a boutique, By Terry. | 19 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Louvre/Tuileries | Station: Palais-Royal.
Considered the grande dame of Paris’s 19th-century passages couverts—the world’s first shopping malls—this graceful covered arcade evokes an age of gaslights and horse-drawn carriages. Once Parisians came to passages like this one to tred tiled floors instead of muddy streets and to see and be seen browsing boutiques under the glass-and-iron roofs. Today, the Galerie Vivienne still attracts top-flight retailers such as Jean-Paul Gaultier (6 rue Vivienne) and the high-quality secondhand clothes seller La Marelle (No. 21), as well as shops selling accessories, housewares, and fine wine. The Place des Victoires, a few steps away, is one of Paris’s most picturesque squares. In the center is a statue of an outsized Louis XIV (1643-1715), the Sun King, who appears almost as large as his horse. | Main entrance at 4 rue des Petits-Champs,Louvre/Tuileries | Station: Palais-Royal/Bourse.
QUICK BITES: A Priori Thé.
American Peggy Hancock opened A Priori Thé in 1980. She—and her delicious scones and cakes—have been comforting travelers ever since. Come for lunch, afternoon tea, or weekend brunch. | 35 Galerie Vivienne, Louvre/Tuileries | 01-42-97-48-75 | www.apriorithe.com | Station: Bourse.
Fodor’s Choice | Les Arts Décoratifs.
Sharing a wing of the Musée du Louvre, but with a separate entrance and admission charge, Les Arts Décoratifs is actually three museums in one. Spread across nine floors, it showcases a stellar array of decorative arts, design and fashion, and graphics. The collection includes altarpieces from the Middle Ages and furnishings from the Italian Renaissance to the present day. There are period rooms reflecting the ages, such as the early 1820s salon of the Duchesse de Berry (who actually lived in the building), plus several rooms reproduced from designer Jeanne Lanvin’s 1920s apartment. Don’t miss the gilt-and-green-velvet bed of the Parisian courtesan who inspired the boudoir in Émile Zola’s novel Nana. You can hear Zola’s description of it on the free English audioguide, which is highly recommended. The second-floor jewelry gallery is a must-see, and special events are often staged in the first-floor Nef (nave).
The center is also home to an exceptional collection of textiles, advertising posters, films, and related objects that are shown in rotating temporary exhibitions. Before leaving, take a break at Le Saut du Loup restaurant: its outdoor terrace is an ideal spot for lunch or afternoon tea. Shoppers should also browse through the tempting on-site store (107 Rivoli), which carries an interesting collection of books, paper products, toys, tableware, and jewelry. If you’re combining a visit here with the Musée du Louvre, note that the two close on different days, so don’t come on Monday or Tuesday. If you’re pairing it with the exquisite Nissim de Camondo, joint tickets are available at a reduced cost. | 107 rue de Rivoli, Louvre/Tuileries | 01-44-55-57-50 | www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr | €11; €15 with temporary exhibits; €13 joint ticket with Musée Nissim de Camondo | Tues.-Sun. 11-6 (Thurs. until 9 during exhibits) | Station: Palais-Royal.
Jardin des Tuileries.
The quintessential French garden, with its verdant lawns, manicured rows of trees, and gravel paths, was designed by André Le Nôtre for Louis XIV. After the king moved his court to Versailles in 1682, the Tuileries became the place for stylish Parisians to stroll. (Ironically, the name derives from the decidedly unstylish factories which once occupied this area: they produced tuiles, or roof tiles, fired in kilns called tuileries.) Monet and Renoir captured the garden with paint and brush, and it’s no wonder the Impressionists loved it—the gray, austere light of Paris’s famously overcast days make the green trees appear even greener.
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Jardin des Tuileries Highlights
The garden still serves as a setting for one of the city’s loveliest walks. Laid out before you is a vista of must-see monuments, with the Louvre at one end and the Place de la Concorde at the other. The Eiffel Tower is on the Seine side, along with the Musée d’Orsay, reachable across a footbridge in the center of the garden. A good place to begin is at the Louvre end, at the Arc du Carrousel, a stone-and-marble arch ordered by Napoléon to showcase the bronze horses he stole from St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice. The horses were eventually returned and replaced here with a statue of a quadriga, a four-horse chariot. On the Place de la Concorde end, twin buildings bookend the garden. On the Seine side, the former royal greenhouse is now the exceptional Musée de l’Orangerie, home to the largest display of Monet’s lovely Water Lilies series, as well as a sizable collection of early-20th-century paintings. On the opposite end is the Jeu de Paume, which has some of the city’s best temporary photography exhibits.
Jardin des Tuileries Tips
✵Garden buffs will enjoy the small bookstore at the Place de la Concorde entrance, open 10 am to 7 pm. Aside from volumes on gardening and plants (including some titles in English), it has gift items, knickknacks, and toys for the junior gardener.
✵The Tuileries is one of the best places in Paris to take kids if they’re itching to run around. There’s a carousel (€2.50), trampolines (€2.50) and, in summer, an amusement park.
✵If you’re hungry, look for carts serving gelato from Amorino or sandwiches from the chain bakery Paul at the eastern end near the Louvre. Within the gated part of the gardens are lovely cafés with terraces. Le Médicis near Place de la Concorde is a good place to stop for late-afternoon tea or apéritif.
Bordered by Quai des Tuileries, Pl. de la Concorde, Rue de Rivoli, and the Louvre, Louvre/Tuileries | 01-40-20-90-43 | Free | June-Aug., daily 7 am-11 pm; Apr., May, and Sept., daily 7:30 am-9 pm; Oct.-Mar., daily 7:30-7:30 | Station: Tuileries or Concorde.
For 800 years, Paris was fed by the acres of food halls overflowing with meats, fish, and vegetables that made up this district. Sensuously described in Émile Zola’s novel The Belly of Paris, Les Halles was teeming with life—though not all of it good. Hucksters and homeless shared these streets with prostitutes (who still ply their trade in diminishing numbers on nearby Rue St-Denis); and the plague of cat-size rats didn’t cease until the market moved to the suburbs in 1969. Today, you can still see stuffed pests hanging by their tails in the windows of the circa-1872 shop Julien Aurouze (8 rue des Halles) whose sign, Destruction des Animaux Nuisibles (in other words, vermin extermination), says it all. All that remains of the 19th-century iron-and-glass market buildings, designed by architect Victor Baltard, is a portion of the superstructure on the southern edge of the Jardins des Halles. The Fontaine des Innocents, from 1550, at rues Berger and Pierre Lescot, marks the site of what was once a vast cemetery before the bones were moved to the Catacombs.
After years of delays, Les Halles is undergoing one of the city’s most ambitious public works projects: a sweeping €500 million renovation intended to transform the plaza, and the much-maligned underground concrete mall called the Forum des Halles, into a must-go destination. While the project was not without opponents, even famously grumpy Parisians are finally happy about the prospect of a prettier Les Halles. In an echo of the past, a 48-foot iron-and-glass canopy suspended over the entrance was completed in 2015, flooding light into the caverns below. Renovations of the underground mall and bustling train station are slated to be finally finished by 2018. Aboveground, there’s a 10-acre park called the Jardin Nelson Mandela that’s dotted with trees, decorative pools, and play areas for kids. On the northern end, a redesigned Place René Cassin is surrounded by tiered steps centered around the newly scrubbed giant head and hand sculpture, L’Ecoute, by Henri de Miller. Looming behind is the magnificent church of St-Eustache, a Gothic gem. Film buffs with time to spare can stop by the Forum des Images, with some 7,000 films available for viewing on individual screens. To find it, enter the mall on the side of the church at the Porte St-Eustache.
The streets surrounding Les Halles have boomed in recent years with boutiques, bars, and restaurants galore that have sent rents skyrocketing. Historic Rue Montorgueil is home to food shops and cafés. Running parallel, Rue Montmartre, near the church, still has a few specialty shops selling foie gras and other delicacies, though these merchants, like the butchers and bakers before them, are slowly being pushed out by trendy clothing boutiques. | Garden entrances on Rues Coquillière, Berger, and Rambuteau. Mall entrances on Rues Pierre Lescot, Berger, and Rambuteau, Beaubourg/Les Halles | www.forumdeshalles.com | Mall Mon.-Sat. 10-8 | Station: Les Halles; RER: Châtelet Les Halles.
QUICK BITES: Although the mojito crowd now dominates in Les Halles, you can still find traces of this quarter’s rich history as a food hub. There’s a small cluster of shops stocking everything a well-dressed kitchen needs. During her years in Paris, American chef Julia Child was a regular at the legendary E. Dehillerin, at 18-20 rue Coquillière (www.e-dehillerin.fr).
Fodor’s Choice | The Louvre.
The most recognized symbol of Paris is the Tour Eiffel, but the ultimate traveler’s prize is the Louvre. This is the world’s greatest art museum—and the largest, with 675,000 square feet of works from almost every civilization on earth. The three most popular pieces here are, of course, the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory. Beyond these must-sees, your best bet is to focus on whatever interests you the most—and don’t despair about getting lost, for you’re bound to stumble on something memorable. Pick up an excellent color-coded map at the information desk. There are slick Nintendo 3DS multimedia guides at the entrance to each wing; for €5 you get four self-guided tours and details about 250 works of art, plus a function to help you find your bearings. There are also 90-minute guided tours (€12) in English daily at 11:15 and 2. Thematic leaflets (including some for kids) are available at the information desk.
Bear in mind that the Louvre is much more than a museum—it represents a saga that started centuries ago, having been a fortress at the turn of the 13th century, and later a royal residence. It was not until the 16th century, under François I, that today’s Louvre began to take shape, and through the years Henry IV, Louis XIII, Louis XV, Napoléon I, and Napoléon III all contributed to its construction. Napoléon Bonaparte’s military campaigns at the turn of the 19th century brought a new influx of holdings, as his soldiers carried off treasures from each invaded country. During World War II the most precious artworks were hidden, while the remainder was looted. Most of the stolen pieces were recovered, though, after the liberation of Paris. No large-scale changes were made until François Mitterrand was elected president in 1981, when he kicked off the Grand Louvre project to expand and modernize the museum.
Mitterrand commissioned I.M. Pei’s Pyramide, the giant glass pyramid surrounded by three smaller pyramids that opened in 1989 over the new entrance in the Cour Napoléon. In 2012, the Louvre’s newest architectural wonder debuted—the 30,000-square-foot Arts of Islam wing. Built into the Cour Visconti in the Denon wing and topped with an undulating golden roof evoking a veil blowing in the wind, the two-level galleries house one of the world’s largest collections of art from all corners of the Islamic world.
The Louvre comprises three wings—the Richelieu, the Sully, and the Denon—arranged like a horseshoe, with the Pyramide nestled outside in the middle. Entering from it, head upstairs to the sculpture courtyards in the Richelieu wing, where you’ll find the Marly Horses, four equine sculptures—two carved for Louis XIV and two for Louis XV—in Cour Marly. The ground floor and underground rooms in this wing contain 5th- to 19th-century French sculpture, and the Near East Antiquities Collection, including the Lamassu, carved 8th-century winged beasts. On the first floor of this wing you’ll find the Royal Apartments of Napoléon III, a dozen elaborately decorated reception rooms. Continue to the second floor for the French and Northern School paintings, including Vermeer’s The Lacemaker. The entrance to the Sully wing is the most impressive, as you can walk around the 12th-century foundations and vestiges of the original medieval moat. Belowground is also the largest display of Egyptian antiques in the world after that of the Cairo museum, featuring such artifacts as Ramses II, a beautifully proportioned statue from the site of Tanis. Upstairs in Salle 16 is the armless Venus de Milo , a 2nd-century representation of the goddess Aphrodite. She was cleaned and restored over six months in 2010, the work taking place after hours and on Tuesday, when the museum is closed. The first and second floors of the Sully Wing boast decorative arts from all over Europe, as well as 17th-century French paintings, including the Turkish Bath by Jean-August-Dominique Ingres. Don’t miss one of the newest additions, the contemporary ceiling in Salle 32 on the first floor by American Cy Twombly, unveiled in 2010. On the first floor, period rooms (reopened in 2014 after a multiyear renovation) contain 18th-century furnishings and objets d’art. To the south and east of the Pyramide entrance are galleries displaying early Renaissance sculpture in the Denon Wing. Don’t skip the coat checks on the ground floor of the Denon or Richelieu wings—much of the museum is hot and stuffy. Walk up the marble Escalier Daru to discover the sublime (and newly cleaned) Winged Victory of Samothrace, a statue found on a tiny Greek island that was carved in 305 BC to commemorate the naval victory of Demetrius Poliocretes over the Turks. In the paintings section of the Denon Wing, you’ll find three by Leonardo da Vinci, including the most famous painting in the world: the Mona Lisa , located in Salle 7. Head across to Salle 75 for the Coronation of Napoléon, or to Salle 77 for the graphic 1819 Raft of the Medusa, the first work of art based on a real news event, in this case the survivors of the wreck of a French ship.
The Louvre still hasn’t mastered easy online ticket sales, which are handled by outside vendors andmust be picked up at designated locations. The city’s tourism office will mail tickets worldwide or deliver them to your hotel for a fee. You can also pick them up for free at the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau office near the museum at 25 rue des Pyramides (use métro Pyramides).
If you arrive without a ticket, shorten your wait by avoiding the main entrance at the Pyramide and head for the entrance in the underground mall, Carrousel du Louvre. Automatic ticket machines are available. Aware of how frustrating it can be to enter the musem at busy times, the Louvre in 2014 launched a two-year, $67million renovation of the Pyramide entrance intended to ease bottlenecks with a fast-track line for advance ticket holders. Note that crowds are thinner on Wednesday and Friday nights, when the museum is open late.
Need a break? Visit an on-site café (like Café Richelieu, run by upscale confiseur Angelina); or pop out to an open-air café in the Jardin de Tuileries.
If you have your heart set on seeing a particular work, check the website for room closings; renovations are always taking place. Remember that the Louvre is closed Tuesday. | Palais du Louvre, Louvre/Tuileries | 01-40-20-53-17 information | www.louvre.fr | €12; €13 for Napoléon Hall exhibitions; €16 with all temporary exhibits and same-day entry to Musée Eugène Delacroix; free 1st Sun. of month | Mon., Thurs., and weekends 9-6, Wed. and Fri. 9 am-9:45 pm | Station: Palais-Royal-Musée du Louvre.
Musée de l’Orangerie.
The lines can be long to see Claude Monet’s huge, meditative Water Lilies (Nymphéas) , displayed in two curved galleries designed in 1914 by the master himself. But they are well worth the wait. These works are the highlight of the Orangerie Museum’s small but excellent collection, which includes early-20th-century paintings by Renoir, Cézanne, and Matisse. Many hail from the private holdings of art dealer Paul Guillaume (1891-1934), including Guillaume’s portrait by Modigliani entitled Novo Pilota, or “New Pilot,” signaling Guillaume’s status as an important presence in the arts world. Built in 1852 to shelter orange trees, the museum also includes a portion of the city’s 16th-century wall (you can see remnants on the lower floor). | Jardin des Tuileries at Pl. de la Concorde, Louvre/Tuileries | 01-44-77-80-07 | www.musee-orangerie.fr | €9 ($6.50 after 5); €16 joint ticket with Musée d’Orsay | Wed.-Mon. 9-6 | Station: Concorde.
Fodor’s Choice | Palais-Royal.
The quietest, most romantic Parisian garden is enclosed within the former home of Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642). It’s an ideal spot to while away an afternoon, cuddling with your sweetheart on a bench under the trees, soaking up the sunshine beside the fountain, or browsing the 400-year-old arcades that are now home to boutiques ranging from quirky (picture Anna Joliet’s music boxes) to chic (think designs by Stella McCartney and Marc Jacobs). One of the city’s oldest restaurants is here, the haute-cuisine Le Grand Véfour, where brass plaques recall regulars like Napoléon and Victor Hugo. Built in 1629, the palais became royal when Richelieu bequeathed it to Louis XIII. Other famous residents include Jean Cocteau and Colette, who wrote of her pleasurable “country” view of the province à Paris. Today, the garden often plays host to giant-size temporary art installations sponsored by another tenant, the Ministry of Culture. The courtyard off Place Colette is outfitted with an unusual collection of short black-and-white columns created in 1986 by artist Daniel Buren. | Pl. du Palais-Royal, Louvre/Palais-Royal | Station: Palais-Royal.
Pinacothèque de Paris.
The Pinacothèque, one of the city’s most original art spaces, stages a steadily rotating calendar of crowd-pleasing shows by marquee names such as van Gogh, Vermeer, Goya, and Munch. The exhibitions are often eclectic, bringing together masters and lesser-known artists whose works share a link, such as Modigliani and the French artist Chaïm Soutine. Director Marc Restellini is used to stirring things up. When he opened the Pinacothèque, skeptics wondered whether Paris needed another museum: the crowds massing out front answered those critics. Restellini followed up by opening Pincothèque 2 at 8 rue Vignon, just steps away from the main venue behind the Église de la Madeleine. It hosts temporary exhibitions and has a small but notable permanent collection blending periods and styles (imagine a Rembrandt paired with a Pollock). For popular shows, pay an extra €1.50 to buy your ticket online and cut the queue. | 28 pl. de la Madeleine, Opéra | 01-42-68-02-01 | www.pinacotheque.com | €8-€13 per exhibit | Thurs. and Sat.-Mon. 10:30-6:30, Wed. and Fri. 10:30-8.30 | Station: Madeleine.
Place de la Concorde.
This square at the foot of the Champs-Élysées was originally named after Louis XV. It later became the Place de la Révolution, where crowds cheered as Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, and some 2,500 others lost their heads to the guillotine. Renamed Concorde in 1836, it got a new centerpiece: the 75-foot granite Obelisk of Luxor, a gift from Egypt quarried in the 8th century BC. Among the handsome 18th-century buildings facing the square is the Hôtel Crillon, which was originally built as a private home by Gabriel, the architect of Versailles’s Petit Trianon. | Rue Royale, Champs-Élysées | Station: Concorde.
Jules-Hardouin Mansart, an architect of Versailles, designed this perfectly proportioned octagonal plaza near the Tuileries in 1702; and, to maintain a uniform appearance, he gave the surrounding hôtels particuliers (private mansions) identical facades. It was originally called Place des Conquêtes to extoll the military conquests of Louis XIV, whose statue on horseback graced the center until Revolutionaries destroyed it in 1792. Later, Napoléon ordered his likeness erected atop a 144-foot column modestly modeled after Rome’s Trajan Column. But that, too, was toppled in 1871 by painter Gustave Courbet and his band of radicals. The Third Republic raised a new column and sent Courbet the bill, though he died in exile before paying it. Chopin lived and died at No. 12, which is also where Napoléon III enjoyed trysts with his mistress; since 1902 it has been home to the high-end jeweler Chaumet. | Place Vendôme, Louvre/Tuileries | Station: Tuileries.
Fodor’s Choice | Rue Montorgueil.
Rue Montorgueil was once the gritty oyster hub of Les Halles. Now lined with food shops and cafés, the cobbled street whose name translates to Mount Pride is the heart of one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods. History runs deep here. Monet captured the scene in 1878 when Montorgueil was ablaze with tricolor flags during the World’s Fair (see it in the Musée d’Orsay). Honoré de Balzac and his 19th-century band of scribes frequented Au Rocher de Cancale at No. 78, whose famously crumbling facade has been painstakingly restored with gilt panache. Other addresses have been around for centuries: Stohrer at No. 58 has been baking elaborate pastries since 1730; and L’Escargot Montorgueil at No. 38, a favorite of Charlie Chaplin, is still graced by a giant golden snail. Relative newcomers include the luxury Nuxe spa at Nos. 32 and 34. Browse the boutiques on Rue Montmartre, which runs parallel, or shop for cookware at Julia Child’s old haunt, E. Dehillerin, still in business at 18-20 rue Coquillière. Rue Tiquetonne is rife with bistros, and once-sleepy Rue Saint-Sauveur became a destination when the Experimental (No. 37) cocktail lounge moved in, joined by other trendy eating and drinking spots. Even Rue St-Denis, once a scruffy red-light district, is now a hipster fave with bar-restaurants like Le Pas Sage at the entrance of the lovely covered arcade, Passage du Grand Cerf. | Rue Montorgueil, off Rue de Turbigo, Beaubourg/Les Halles | Station: Sentier, Les Halles.
Built as the market neighborhood’s answer to Notre-Dame, this massive church is decidedly squeezed into its surroundings. Constructed between 1532 and 1640 with foundations dating to 1200, the church mixes a Gothic exterior, complete with impressive flying buttresses, and a Renaissance interior. On the east end (Rue Montmartre), Dutch master Rubens’s Pilgrims of Emmaus (1611) hangs in a small chapel. Two chapels to the left is Keith Haring’s The Life of Christ, a triptych in bronze and white-gold patina: it was given to the church after the artist’s death in 1990, in recognition of the parish’s efforts to help people with AIDS. On the Rue Montmartre side of the church, look for the small door to Saint Agnes’s crypt, topped with a stone plaque noting the date, 1213, below a curled fish, an indication the patron made his fortune in fish. | 2 impasse St-Eustache, Beaubourg/Les Halles | www.saint-eustache.org for concert info | Weekdays 9:30-7, weekends 9-7 | Station: Les Halles; RER: Châtelet Les Halles.
Bibliothèque Nationale Richelieu.
Superseded by the Bibliothèque Nationale François-Mitterand, France’s longtime national library now hosts well-done temporary exhibits, often featuring photography from its vast collection of legends such as Cartier-Bresson and Man Ray. The library remains open (though some portions are off-limits) during a multiyear renovation that’s set to end in 2019. | 58 rue de Richelieu, Opéra/Grands Boulevards | 01-53-79-59-59 | www.bnf.fr | Free-€7, depending on show | Tues.-Sat. 10-7, Sun. 1-7 | Station: Bourse.
Bourse du Commerce.
Best approached from the rear, the old Commerce Exchange looks like a giant spaceship. Now home to an organization of food producers, it’s worth a stop inside to see the beautifully restored iron-and-glass dome, which Victor Hugo dismissively likened to a jockey’s cap. Built in 1809, this was the first iron structure in France. Behind it, the 100-foot-tall Colonne Medicis is a remnant of a mansion constructed in 1572 for Catherine de Medici. The column, which miraculously escaped destruction through the ages, was used as a platform for stargazing by her powerful astrologer, Cosimo Ruggieri. Legend has it that on stormy nights, a silhouetted figure can be seen in the metal cage at the top. To learn more about the building of the dome, check out the short video of its construction in the Musée des Arts and Métiers. | 2 rue de Viarmes, Halles | Station: Métro or RER: Les Halles.
Refined productions by Molière and Racine are staged regularly (though only in French) at the vintage venue where actress Sarah Bernhardt began her career. Founded in 1680 by Louis XIV, the theater finally opened its doors to the public in 1799. It nearly burned to the ground a hundred years later. The current building dates from 1900. | 1 pl. Colette, Louvre/Tuileries | 08-25-10-16-80 €0.15 per minute | www.comedie-francaise.fr | Station: Palais-Royal.
Église de la Madeleine.
With its rows of uncompromising columns, this enormous neoclassical edifice in the center of Place de la Madeleine was consecrated as a church in 1842, nearly 78 years after construction began. Initially planned as a Baroque building, it was later razed and begun anew by an architect who had the Roman Pantheon in mind. Interrupted by the Revolution, the site was razed yet again when Napoléon decided to make it into a Greek temple dedicated to the glory of his army. Those plans changed when the army was defeated and the emperor deposed. Other ideas for the building included making it into a train station, a market, and a library. Finally, Louis XVIII decided to make it a church, which it still is today. Classical concerts are held here regularly, some of them free. | Pl. de la Madeleine, Faubourg | 01-44-51-69-00 | www.eglise-lamadeleine.com | Daily 9:30-7 | Station: Madeleine.
QUICK BITES: Foyer de la Madeleine.
A cheap meal in the Madeleine? Even most Parisians don’t know it’s possible to find one in this posh place, yet a reasonable option awaits in the basement of the eponymous Église. On the Rue de Surène side of the church is the entrance to the Foyer, where friendly church ladies provide a three-course lunch for €13 (€8 plus €5 for a one-year membership card). The fare—served buffet style on weekdays, from 11:45 to 2—is solid, if not gourmet, and the wine is a great deal at €7 a bottle. Best to go early when the food is freshest. | 14 rue de Surène, Madeleine | 01-47-42-39-84 | Station: Madeleine.
Founded in 500 AD, this grand church across from the Louvre’s eastern end is one of the city’s oldest. It was destroyed during the Norman seige in 885-886, rebuilt in the 11th century, and subsequently expanded until the current edifice was finished in 1580. The bell, named Marie, dates from 1527. | 2 pl. du Louvre, Louvre/Tuileries | 01-42-60-13-96 | www.saintgermainauxerrois.cef.fr | Tues.-Sat., 9-7, Sun. 9:30-8:30 | Station: Louvre/Rivoli.
QUICK BITES: Angélina.
Founded in 1903 and patronized by literary lights like Marcel Proust and Gertrude Stein, Angélina is famous for its chocolat l’Africain, ultrarich hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. | 226 rue de Rivoli,Louvre/Tuileries | 01-42-60-82-00 | www.angelina-paris.fr | Station: Tuileries.
Jeu de Paume.
This Napoleon III-era building at the north entrance of the Jardin des Tuileries began life in 1861 as a place to play jeu de paume (or “palm game”), a forerunner of tennis. It later served as a transfer point for art looted by the Germans during World War II. Today, it’s been given another lease on life as an ultramodern, white-walled showcase for excellent temporary exhibits of photography featuring up-and-comers as well as icons such as Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Cindy Sherman, and Robert Frank. | 1 pl. de la Concorde, Louvre/Tuileries | 01-47-03-12-50 | www.jeudepaume.org | €10 | Tues. 11-9, Wed.-Sun. 11-7 | Station: Concorde.
Passage du Grand-Cerf.
This pretty glass-roofed arcade was built in 1825 and expertly renovated in 1988. Today it’s home to about 20 shops, many of them small designers selling original jewelry, accessories, and housewares. If it’s apéritif time, stop by the popular Le Pas Sage, with a wine bar and a restaurant flanking either side of the entrance at Rue St-Denis. | 8 rue Dussoubs, Beaubourg/Les Halles | Station: Étienne Marcel.
QUICK BITES: Ladurée.
There are few delicacies in Paris more enticing than a macaron at Ladurée, the elegant bakery and tea salon. | 16 rue Royal | 01-42-60-21-79 | www.laduree.com | Station: Madeleine, Concorde.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Tour Jean Sans Peur.
This fascinating little tower is the only remnant of a sprawling complex built on the edge of the original city walls in 1369. It is named for Jean Sans Peur (John the Fearless), the Duke of Burgundy, who gained power in 1407 after ordering the assassination of his rival, the king’s brother. In 1409, as civil war raged, he had the tower erected and put his bedroom on a high floor with a bird’s-eye view of approaching enemies. Carved into the vaulted second-floor ceiling—a masterwork of medieval architecture—is an ornate sculpture of an oak tree entwined with plants representing the duke’s family. Children will enjoy the climb up to see the restored red-velvet-lined latrine, a state-of-the-art comfort in its time. Costumed mannequins and medieval-themed exhibits covering subjects from food to furniture give the tower added kid appeal. Be sure to ask for English information at the entry. | 20 rue Étienne Marcel, Beaubourg/Les Halles | 01-40-26-20-28 | www.tourjeansanspeur.com | €5 | Wed.-Sun. 1:30-6 | Station: Étienne Marcel.
For centuries, this 170-foot bell tower guided pilgrims to a starting point of the Chemin de Saint Jacques (the Way of Saint James). Built in 1508 in the Flamboyant Gothic style, it’s all that remains of the Église Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie, which was destroyed in the French Revolution. Purchased by the city in 1836, the tower languished until a three-year renovation, completed in 2009, restored 660 tons of stone and statues, including the gargoyles hanging from the upper reaches and Saint Jacques, whose figures grace the top. Blaise Pascal was among the medieval scientists who conducted experiments here (his involved gravity), which is why his statue sits at the base. Call ahead for weekend visiting during the summer. | Rue de Rivoli at Rue Nicolas Flamel, Beaubourg/Les Halles | www.tour-saint-jacques-paris.com | Station: Chatelet.
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Top Attractions | Worth Noting
Updated By Jack Vermee
In Belle Époque Paris, the Grands Boulevards were the place to see and be seen: in the cafés, at the opera, or in the ornate passages couverts (glass-roofed arcades that served as the world’s first malls). If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine the Grands Boulevards immortalized on canvas by the Impressionists, with well-attired Parisians strolling wide avenues dotted with shops, cafés, and horse-drawn carriages—all set against a backdrop of stately Haussmannian buildings. Today, despite the chain stores, sidewalk vendors, and fast-food joints, the Grands Boulevards remain the city’s shopping epicenter, home to the most popular department stores, Galeries Lafayette and Au Printemps, near Place de l’Opéra.
Shopping aside, the Grands Boulevards are a cultural destination anchored by the magnificent Opéra Garnier, commissioned by Napoléon III. The neighborhood is also home to some of the city’s best small museums, all former private collections housed in 19th-century hôtels particuliers (or mansions) that alone are worth the trip. The exquisite Musée Jacquemart-André displays an impressive collection of Italian Renaissance art, while the jewel-box Musée Nissim de Camondo remembers one family’s tragic end. The Musée Cernuschi has a dazzling array of Asian art, and the Musée National Gustave-Moreau is an offbeat tribute to the Symbolist master.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Les Grands Magasins. Sample a new perfume under the magnificent dome at Galeries Lafayette; update your look, wander the sumptuous food halls, or gaze at Parisian rooftops from the outdoor café at Au Printemps.
Opéra Garnier. It may not be haunted by the Phantom, but this 19th-century opera house still dazzles. Enjoy a ballet or an opera, take the guided tour, or simply ogle the halls bedecked in marble and gold leaf.
Musée Jacquemart-André. Peruse the private collection of Italian Renaissance masterpieces and admire the elegant furnishings in one of the city’s grandest mansions.
Parc Monceau. Join the well-dressed children of well-heeled Parisians and frolic on some of the prettiest lawns in the city.
Les Passages Couverts. Stroll the passages Jouffroy, Verdeau, and Panoramas to experience what the original shopping malls were like 200 years ago.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
If you’re a serious shopper, plan on a day-long visit to this neighborhood, beginning with the department stores near the Opéra métro stop. Nearly every French chain has a shop dotting the boulevard, which changes names several times (Boulevard Haussmann, Montmartre, Poissonnière, de Bonne Nouvelle, etc.) as it stretches from west to east. If shopping isn’t your bag, plan on a long afternoon’s visit: tour the Opéra Garnier and one or two museums, or bring a picnic lunch to lovely Parc Monceau on the western edge.
Café de la Paix.
Once described as the “center of the civilized world,” this grand café was a meeting place for the glitterati of the Belle Époque. It’s an elegant place to enjoy a drink overlooking the Opéra Garnier. The terrace serves simpler fare. | 5 pl. de l’Opéra, Opéra/Grands Boulevards | 01-40-07-36-36 | www.cafedelapaix.fr | Station: Havre Caumartin, Opéra.
This edgy café is a favorite with locals. Open late, it’s best for an evening aperitif and snack. A DJ spins tunes at night, Thursday through Saturday. | 34 bd. de Bonne Nouvelle, Opéra/Grands Boulevards | 01-48-24-48-09 | www.delavillecafe.com | Station: Bonne Nouvelle.
Perched on the top floor of Printemps de la Maison, Déli-Cieux serves sandwiches, salads, and burgers. It’s not expensive, and the view from the outdoor terrace is priceless. | Bd. Haussmann and Rue du Havre, 9th fl., Opéra/Grands Boulevards | 01-42-82-62-76 | Station: Havre-Caumatin, Opéra.
This neighborhood covers parts of the 2e, 3e, 8e, and 9e arrondissements. Take the métro to the Opéra station, named for the opulent opera house. Just behind it, you can find the department stores Galeries Lafayette and Au Printemps, each with three buildings (women’s, men’s, home) along Baron Haussmann’s wide avenues known as the Grands Boulevards. If you’re planning to visit the numerous small museums, take the métro to Parc Monceau.
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Encompassing a trio of upscale department stores (Printemps de la Mode, Printemps de la Maison, and Printemps de l’Homme), this vast, venerable retailer has been luring shoppers since 1865. Besides the clothes, shoes, housewares, and everything else, there are appealing lunch options here. You can admire the Belle Époque green-and-gold dome in Brasserie Printemps on the sixth floor of the main store; Le World Bar on the fifth floor of the men’s store is a cozy pub with a cool vibe; and Le Déli-Cieux, the ninth-floor cafeteria-style restaurant at Printemps de la Maison, has a large outdoor terrace with a great view. | 64 bd. Haussmann, Opéra/Grands Boulevards | 01-42-82-50-00 | www.printemps.com | Mon.-Wed., Fri., and Sat. 9:35-8, Thurs. 9:35 am -10 pm | Station: Havre Caumartin, Opéra.
Chocostory: Le Musée Gourmand du Chocolat.
Considering that a daily dose of chocolate is practically obligatory in Paris, it’s hard to believe that this spot (opened in 2010) is the city’s first museum dedicated to the sweet stuff. Exhibits on three floors tell the story of chocolate from the earliest traces of the “divine nectar” in Mayan and Aztec cultures, through to its introduction in Europe by the Spanish, who added milk and sugar to the spicy dark brew and launched a Continental craze. There are detailed explanations in English, with many for the kids. While the production of chocolate is a major topic, there is also a respectable collection of some 1,000 chocolate-related artifacts, such as terra-cotta Mayan sipping vessels (they blew into straws to create foam) and delicate chocolate pots in fine porcelain that were favored by the French royal court. Frequent chocolate-making demonstrations finish with a free tasting. | 28 bd. de Bonne Nouvelle, Opéra/Grands Boulevards | 01-42-29-68-60 | www.museeduchocolat.fr | €9.50, €12.50 with a cup of hot chocolate | Daily 10-6 | Last entry at 5 | Station: Bonne-Nouvelle, Strasbourg, St-Denis.
The stunning Byzantine glass coupole (dome) of the city’s most famous department store is not to be missed. Amble to the center of the main store, amid the perfumes and cosmetics, and look up. If you’re not in the mood for shopping, sip a glass of Champagne at the Bar à Bulles at the top of the first-floor escalator; or have lunch at one of the restaurants, including a rooftop café in the main store (open in spring and summer). On your way down, the top floor of the main store is a good place to pick up interesting Parisian souvenirs. Next door, the excellent Lafayette Gourmet food hall, on the second floor of the men’s store, has one of the city’s best selections of delicacies. Try a green-tea éclair from Japanese-French baker Sadaharu Aoki. | 40 bd. Haussmann, Opéra/Grands Boulevards | 01-42-82-34-56 | www.galerieslafayette.com | Mon.-Wed., Fri., and Sat. 9:30-8, Thurs. 9:30-9 | Station: Chaussée d’Antin, Opéra; RER A: Auber.
Paris’s Covered Arcades
Before there were the grands magasins, there were the passages couverts, covered arcades that offered the early-19th-century Parisian shopper a hodgepodge of shops under one roof and a respite from the mud and grit of streets that did not have sidewalks. Until the rise of department stores in the latter part of the century, they would rule as the top places to wander, as well as shop. Technical and architectural wonders of the time, the vaulting structures of iron and frosted glass inspired artists and writers such as Émile Zola.
Of the 150 arcades built around Paris in the early 1800s, only about a dozen are still in business today, mostly in the 2e and 9e arrondissements. Two arcades still going strong are the fabulously restored Galerie Vivienne (4 rue Petits Champs, 2e) and the Galerie Véro-Dodat (19 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1er), both lined with glamorous boutiques such as Jean-Paul Gaultier and Christian Louboutin.
Three other modest passages enjoying a renaissance can be found end to end off the Grands Boulevards, east of Place de l’Opéra. Begin with the most refined, the Passage Jouffroy (10-12 bd. Montmartre, 9e), which is home to the Musée Grevin and the well-regarded, budget-friendly Hotel Chopin. There’s an eclectic array of shops such as M.G.W. Segas at No. 34, where the three Segas brothers sell a wildly eccentric collection of furnishings and canes capped with animal heads and whatnot. You can outfit your dollhouse at Pain D’épices (No. 29), which stocks thousands of miniatures. Pop out at the northern end of Passage Jouffroy and cross Rue de la Grange-Batelière into the Passage Verdeau (9e), where you can pick up some antique candlesticks—or a cow skull—at the quirky, red-walled Valence gallery at No. 22. On the southern end of the Passage Jouffroy, across Boulevard Montmartre, is the Passage des Panoramas (2e). The granddaddy of the arcades, opened in 1800, became the first public space in Paris equipped with gaslights in 1817. A few philatelist shops remain, though the arcade is now dominated by restaurants, including two popular wine bar-bistros (Racines at No. 8 and Coinstot at No. 26, bis), as well as Paris’s original gluten-free restaurant (Noglu, at No. 16).
Fodor’s Choice | Musée Cernuschi.
Wealthy Milanese banker and patriot Enrico (Henri) Cernuschi fled to Paris in 1850 after the new Italian government collapsed, only to be arrested during the 1871 Paris Commune. He subsequently decided to wait out the unrest by traveling and collecting Asian art. Upon his return 18 months later, he had a special mansion built on the edge of Parc Monceau to house his treasures, notably a two-story bronze Buddha from Japan. Today, this well-appointed museum contains France’s second-most-important collection of Asian art, after the Musée Guimet. Cernuschi had an eye not only for the bronze pieces he adored but also for Neolithic pottery (8,000 BC), mingqi tomb figures (300-900 AD), and an impressive array of terra-cotta figures from various dynasties. A collection highlight is La Tigresse, a bronze wine vessel in the shape of a roaring feline (11th century BC) purchased after Cernuschi’s death. Although the museum is free, there is a charge for temporary exhibitions: previous shows have featured Japanese drawings, Iranian sculpture, and Imperial Chinese bronzes. | 7 av. Velasquez, Parc Monceau | 01-53-96-21-50 | www.cernuschi.paris.fr | Free; temporary exhibitions €4-€11 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6 | Station: Monceau.
Fodor’s Choice | Musée Jacquemart-André.
Perhaps the city’s best small museum, the opulent Musée Jacquemart-André is home to a huge collection of art and furnishings lovingly assembled in the late 19th century by banking heir Edouard André and his artist wife, Nélie Jacquemart. Their midlife marriage in 1881 raised eyebrows—he was a dashing bachelor and a Protestant, and she, no great beauty, hailed from a modest Catholic family. Still, theirs was a happy union fused by a common passion for art. For six months every year, the couple traveled, most often to Italy, where they hunted down works from the Renaissance, their preferred period. Their collection also includes French painters Fragonard, Jacques-Louis David, and François Boucher, plus Dutch masters Van Dyke and Rembrandt. The Belle Époque mansion itself is a major attraction. The elegant ballroom, equipped with collapsible walls operated by then-state-of-the-art hydraulics, could hold 1,000 guests. The winter garden was a wonder of its day, spilling into the fumoir, where André would share cigars with the grands hommes (important men) of the day. You can tour the separate bedrooms—his in dusty pink, hers in pale yellow. The former dining room, now an elegant café, features a ceiling by Tiepolo. Don’t forget to pick up the free audioguide in English, and do inquire about the current temporary exhibition (two per year), which is usually top-notch. Plan on a Sunday visit and enjoy the popular brunch (€29.30) in the café from 11 to 3. Reservations are not accepted, so come early or late to avoid waiting in line. | 158 bd. Haussmann, Parc Monceau | 01-45-62-11-59 | www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com | €12 | Daily 10-6 (until 8:30 Mon. and Sat. during exhibitions) | Station: St-Philippe-du-Roule, Miromesnil.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Musée National Gustave-Moreau.
Visiting the quirky town house and studio of painter Gustave Moreau (1826-98) is well worth your time. With an eye on his legacy, Moreau—a high priest of the Symbolist movement—created an enchanting gallery to showcase his dark paintings, drawings, and sculpture. The newly refurbished first-floor rooms, closed to the public for more than a decade, now trace Moreau’s “sentimental journey”; their walls are festooned with family portraits and works offered by close friends and allies like Chassériau, Fromentin, and Degas. The two light-flooded top floors house Moreau’s vast workshops, where hundreds of paintings, watercolors, and more than 4,000 drawings give a broad overview of his techniques and subjects. Some of the pieces appear unfinished, such as Unicorns (No. 213) inspired by the medieval tapestries in the Musée de Cluny: Moreau refused to work on it further, spurning the wishes of a wealthy would-be patron. His interpretation of Biblical scenes and Greek mythology combine flights of fantasy with a keen use of color, shadow, and tracings influenced by Persian and Indian miniatures. There are wax sculptures and cupboards with sliding vertical doors containing small-format paintings. The Symbolists loved objects, and Moreau was no different. His cramped private apartment on the second floor is jam-packed with bric-a-brac, and artworks cover every inch of the walls. | 14 rue de la Rochefoucauld, Opéra/Grands Boulevards | 01-48-74-38-50 | www.musee-moreau.fr | €5 | Mon., Wed., and Thurs. 10-12:45 and 2-5:15, Fri-Sun. 10-5:15 | Station: Trinité.
Fodor’s Choice | Opéra Garnier.
Haunt of the Phantom of the Opera and the real-life inspiration for Edgar Degas’s dancer paintings, the gorgeous Opéra Garnier is one of two homes of the National Opera of Paris. The building, the Palais Garnier, was begun in 1860 by then-unknown architect Charles Garnier, who finished his masterwork 15 long years later, way over budget. Festooned with (real) gold leaf, colored marble, paintings, and sculpture from the top artists of the day, the opera house was about as subtle as Versailles and sparked controversy in post-Revolutionary France. The sweeping marble staircase, in particular, drew criticism from a public skeptical of its extravagance. But Garnier, determined to make a landmark that would last forever, spared no expense. The magnificent grand foyer is one of the most exquisite salons in France. In its heyday, the cream of Paris society strolled all 59 yards of the vast hall at intermission, admiring themselves in the towering mirrors. To see the opera house, buy a ticket for an unguided visit, which allows access to most parts of the building, including a peek into the auditorium. There is also a small ballet museum with a few works by Degas and the tutu worn by prima ballerina Anna Pavlova when she danced her epic Dying Swan in 1905. To get to it, pass through the unfinished entrance built for Napoléon III and his carriage (construction was abruptly halted when the emperor abdicated in 1870). On the upper level, you can see a sample of the auditorium’s original classical ceiling, which was later replaced with a modern version painted by a septuagenarian Mark Chagall. His trademark willowy figures encircling the dazzling crystal chandelier—today the world’s third largest—shocked an unappreciative public upon its debut in 1964. Critics who fret that Chagall’s masterpiece clashes with the fussy crimson-and-gilt decor can take some comfort in knowing that the original ceiling is preserved underneath, encased in a plastic dome.
The Opéra Garnier plays host to the Paris Ballet as well as a few operas each season (most are performed at the Opéra Bastille). If you’re planning to see a performance, tickets cost €5-€230 and should be reserved as soon as they go on sale—typically a month ahead at the box office, earlier by phone or online; otherwise, try your luck last minute. To learn about the building’s history, and get a taste of aristocratic life during the Second Empire, take an entertaining English-language tour. They’re offered most months at 11:30 and 3:30 on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday; tours go at the same times daily in summer, with an extra one added at 2. To complete the experience, dine at L’Opéra, the contemporary on-site restaurant run by chef Stéphane Bidi; or browse through the Palais Garnier gift shop for ballet-inspired wares, fine Bernardaud porcelain depicting the famous Chagall ceiling, and an exceptional selection of themed DVDs and books. | Pl. de l’Opéra, Opéra/Grands Boulevards | 08-92-89-90-90 €0.34 per min | www.operadeparis.fr | €10; €14.50 for tours | Sept.-mid-July, daily 10-5; mid-July-Aug., daily 10-6 | Station: Opéra.
This exquisitely landscaped park began in 1778 as the Duc de Chartres’s private garden. Though some of the land was sold off under the Second Empire (creating the exclusive real estate that now borders the park), the refined atmosphere and some of the fanciful faux ruins have survived. Immaculately dressed children play under the watchful eye of their nannies, while lovers cuddle on the benches. In 1797 André Garnerin, the world’s first-recorded parachutist, staged a landing in the park. The rotunda—known as the Chartres Pavilion—is surely the city’s grandest public restroom: it started life as a tollhouse. | Entrances on Bd. de Courcelles, Av. Velasquez, Av. Ruysdaël, Av. van Dyck, Parc Monceau | Oct.-May, 7 am-8 pm; June-Aug., 7 am-10 pm; Sept., 7 am-9 pm | Station: Monceau.
Chapelle Expiatoire (Atonement Chapel).
Built in 1815, this neoclassical temple marks the original burial site of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. After the deposed monarchs took their turns at the guillotine on Place de la Concorde, their bodies were taken to a nearby mass grave. A loyalist marked their place, and their remains were eventually retrieved by the dead king’s brother, Louis XVIII, who moved them to the Basilica of St. Denis. He then ordered the monument (which translates to Expiatory, or Atonement, Chapel) built on this spot, in what is now the leafy Square Louis XVI off Boulevard Haussmann. Two stone tablets are inscribed with the last missives of the doomed royals, including pleas to God to forgive their Revolutionary enemies. | 29 rue Pasquier, Opéra/Grands Boulevards | 01-44-32-18-00 | www.chapelle-expiatoire.monuments-nationaux.fr | €5.50 | Pre-arranged tours only. See website for booking information | Station: St-Augustin.
Fragonard - Musée du Parfum.
More of a showroom than a museum, the small exhibit run by parfumier Fragonard above its boutique on Rue Scribe is heavy on decorative objects associated with perfume, including crystal bottles, gloves, and assorted bibelots. The shop is a good place to find gifts, like the €14 floral-scented body lotion, myriad soaps, and, of course, perfume. There’s another mini museum in the Fragonard shop nearby at 39 boulevard des Capucines. | 9 rue Scribe, Opéra | 01-47-42-04-56 | www.fragonard.com | Free | Mon.-Sat. 9-6, Sun. 9-5 | Station: Opéra.
Hidden away in a small antiques district, not far from the Opéra Garnier, is Paris’s central auction house. With everything from old clothes to haute-couture gowns and from tchotchkes to ornate Chinese lacquered boxes, rare books, and wine, Drouot sells it all. Anyone can attend the sales and viewings, which draw a mix of art dealers, ladies who lunch, and art amateurs hoping to discover an unknown masterpiece. Check the website to see what’s on the block. Don’t miss the small galleries and antiques dealers in the Quartier Drouot, a warren of small streets around the auction house, notably on Rues Rossini and de la Grange-Batelière. | 9 rue Drouot, Opéra/Grands Boulevards | 01-48-00-20-20 | www.drouot.com | Free | Viewings of merchandise Mon.-Sat. 11-6; auctions usually begin at 2 | Station: Richelieu Drouot.
QUICK BITES: J’go. Steps from the Drouot auction house, J’go, one of two Paris outposts of the Toulouse wine bar/restaurant, is perfect for an aperitif or light dinner. The cozy bar serves impressive grignotages (tapas) from France’s southwest. | 4 rue Drouot, Grands Boulevards | 01-40-22-09-09 | www.lejgo.com | Station: Richelieu-Drouot.
Musée de la Vie Romantique.
A visit to the charming Museum of the Romantic Life, dedicated to novelist George Sand (1804-76), will transport you to the countryside. Occupying a pretty 1830s mansion in a tree-lined courtyard, the small permanent collection features drawings by Delacroix and Ingres, among others, though Sand is the undisputed star. Displays include glass cases stuffed with her jewelry and even a mold of the hand of composer Frédéric Chopin—one of her many lovers. The museum, about a five-minute walk from the Musée National Gustave-Moreau, is in a picturesque neighborhood once called New Athens, a reflection of the architectural tastes of the writers and artists who lived there. There is usually an interesting temporary exhibit here, too. The garden café (open March to October) is a lovely spot for lunch or afternoon tea. | 16 rue Chaptal, Opéra/Grands Boulevards | 01-55-31-95-67 | www.vie-romantique.paris.fr | Free; €7 temporary exhibits | Tues.-Sun. 10-6 | Station: Blanche, Pigalle, St-Georges.
If you like wax museums, this one founded in 1882 ranks among the best. Pay the steep entry price and ascend a grand Phantom-of-the-Opera-like staircase into the Palais des Mirages, a mirrored salon from the 1900 Paris Exposition that transforms into a hokey light-and-sound show the kids will love (it was a childhood favorite of designer Jean-Paul Gaultier). From there, get set for a cavalcade of nearly 300 statues, from Elvis to Ernest Hemingway, Picasso to Barack Obama. Every king of France is here, along with Michael Jackson and George Clooney, plus scores of French singers and celebrities. | 10 bd. Montmartre,Opéra/Grands Boulevards | 01-47-70-85-05 | www.grevin.com | €23.50 adults; €16.50 children 6-14 | Weekdays 10-6:30, weekends 10-7 | Station: Grands Boulevards.
Musée Nissim de Camondo.
The story of the Camondo family is steeped in tragedy, and it’s all recorded within the walls of this superb museum. Patriarch Moïse de Camondo, born in Istanbul to a successful banking family, built his showpiece mansion in 1911 in the style of the Petit Trianon at Versailles, and stocked it with some of the most exquisite furniture, wainscoting, and bibelots of the mid-to-late 18th century. Despite his vast wealth and purported charm, his wife left him five years after their marriage. Then his son, Nissim, was killed in World War I. Upon Moïse’s death in 1935, the house and its contents were left to the state as a museum named for his lost son. A few years later, daughter Béatrice, her husband, and two children were murdered at Auschwitz. No heirs remained and the Camondo name died out. Today, the house remains an impeccable tribute to Moïse’s life, from the gleaming salons to the refined private rooms. | 63 rue de Monceau, Parc Monceau | 01-53-89-06-50 | www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr | €9; €13 joint ticket with Les Arts Décoratifs | Wed.-Sun. 10-5:30 | Station: Villiers, Monceau.
Not as grandiose as the Arc de Triomphe, but triumphant nonetheless, Paris’s second-largest arch (76 feet) was erected by François Blondel in 1672 to celebrate the victories of Ludovico Magno (as Louis XIV is here styled) on the Rhine. The bas-reliefs by François Girardon include campaign scenes and trophies stacked on shallow pyramids. The arch faces Rue St-Denis, formerly the royal processional route into Paris from the north. Last used as such a route by Queen Victoria in 1855, it’s now known primarily for its sidewalk queens of the night, cheap eateries, and hip bars. | Bd. St-Denis, Opéra/Grands Boulevards | Station: Strasbourg St-Denis.
This 56-foot triumphal arch, slightly smaller and younger than the neighboring Porte St-Denis, was designed in 1674 by Pierre Bullet. Louis XIV’s victories at Limburg (in Flanders) and Besançon in Franche-Comté get bas-relief coverage from Martin Desjardins. | Bd. St-Denis, Opéra/Grands Boulevards | Station: Strasbourg St-Denis.
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Top Attractions | Worth Noting
Updated By Jack Vermee
Montmartre has become almost too charming for its own good. Yes, it feels like a village (if you wander off the beaten path); yes, there are working artists here (though far fewer than there used to be); and yes, the best view of Paris is yours for free from the top of the hill (if there’s no haze). That’s why on any weekend day, year-round, you can find scores of visitors crowding these cobbled alleys, scaling the staircases that pass for streets, and queuing to see Sacré-Coeur, the “sculpted cloud,” at the summit.
If you’re lucky enough to have a little corner of Montmartre to yourself, you’ll understand why locals love it so. Come at nonpeak times, on a weekday, or in the morning or later in the evening. Stroll around Place des Abbesses, where the rustic houses and narrow streets escaped the heavy hand of urban planner Baron Haussmann. Until 1860 the area was, in fact, a separate village, dotted with windmills. Always a draw for bohemians and artists, many of whom had studios at what is now the Musée de Montmartre and Bateau-Lavoir, Montmartre has been home to such painters as Suzanne Valadon and her son Maurice Utrillo, Picasso, van Gogh, Géricault, Renoir, and, of course, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, whose iconic paintings of the cancan dancers at the Moulin Rouge are now souvenir-shop fixtures. While you can still see shows at the Moulin Rouge in Place Blanche and the pocket-size cabaret Au Lapin Agile, much of the entertainment here is on the seedier side—the area around Pigalle is the city’s largest red-light district, though it’s far tamer than it used to be. Boulevard de Clichy was virtually an artists’ highway at the turn of the 20th century: Degas lived and died at No. 6, and Picasso lived at No. 11. The quartier is a favorite of filmmakers (the blockbuster Moulin Rouge was inspired by it), and visitors still seek out Café des Deux Moulins at 15 rue Lepic, the real-life café (unfortunately with a remodeled look) where Audrey Tautou waited tables in 2001’s Amélie. In 1928 Studio 28 opened as the world’s first cinema for experimental films.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Basilique du Sacré-Coeur. The best view of Paris is worth the climb—or the funicular ride—especially at twilight when the city lights create a magnificent panorama below the hill of Montmartre.
Place du Tertre. This bustling square behind Sacré-Coeur teems with crowds of tourists and hordes of street artists clamoring to paint them.
Place des Abbesses. Capture the village ambience that makes Montmartre special by exploring the tiny streets branching out from this picturesque square.
Carré Roland Dorgelès. Bring your camera to this little square overlooking a pair of classic Montmartre sights: the city’s only vineyard and the famous Au Lapin Agile cabaret.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
Devote a day to this neighborhood if you want to see more than the obligatory Sacré-Coeur Basilica. If possible, avoid weekends, when the narrow—and extremely hilly—streets are jam-packed.
This photo op-ready corner café draws a quirky mix of hipsters, artists, and discriminating tourists. The food is good and includes classics like steak tartare. For a weekday lunch, try the two-course menu du jour (€18). If you’re craving a taste of home, the excellent cheeseburger comes with a heap of crispy fries. | 7 rue des Trois Frères, Montmartre | 01-42-64-07-37 | Station: Abbesses.
Cave des Abbesses.
Locals head to this charming retro-looking caviste (wineshop) and wine bar for a glass of something special with a side of oysters, or perhaps La Grande Mixte, a platter of charcuterie, terrine, and cheese (€13). | 43 rue des Abbesses, Montmartre | 01-42-52-81-54 | Station: Abbesses.
Le Botak Café.
On the eastern side of Sacré-Coeur, at the bottom of the stairs, you’ll find the leafy Square Louise Marie and this little café, which serves a small, ever-changing menu of French home cooking. The daily lunch specials (about €14) are a great deal, but service can sometimes be slow when it’s busy. | 1 rue Paul Albert, Montmartre | 01-46-06-98-30 | Station: Anvers, Château Rouge.
Montmartre is in the 18e arrondissement. Take Line 2 to Anvers métro station, and then take the funicular (one métro ticket) up to Sacré-Coeur. Or take Line 12 to Abbesses station and take your time wandering the cobbled streets and staircases that lead up to the basilica. For a scenic tour, hop the public bus, Montmartrobus (one métro ticket). An easy starting point is the métro station Jules-Joffrin (Line 12): the bus winds up the hilly streets, with a convenient stop at Sacré-Coeur. Alternatively, pile the kids onto Le Petit Train de Montmartre (€4.50-€6.50), a bus disguised as a mini train that runs a circuit every 30 minutes from Place Blanche.
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Basilique du Sacré-Coeur.
It’s hard to not feel as though you’re climbing up to heaven when you visit Sacred Heart Basilica, the white castle in the sky, perched atop Montmartre. The French government commissioned it in 1873 to symbolize the return of self-confidence after the devastating years of the Commune and Franco-Prussian War, and architect Paul Abadie employed elements from Romanesque and Byzantine styles when designing it—a mélange many critics dismissed as gaudy. Construction lasted until World War I, and the church was finally consecrated in 1919.
Basilique du Sacré-Coeur Highlights
Many people come to Sacré-Coeur to admire the superlative view from the top of its 271-foot-high dome. If you opt to skip the climb up the spiral staircase, the view from the front steps is still ample compensation for the trip.
Inside, expect another visual treat—namely the massive golden mosaic set high above the choir. Created in 1922 by Luc-Olivier Merson, Christ in Majesty depicts Christ with a golden heart and outstretched arms, surrounded by various figures, including the Virgin Mary and Joan of Arc. It remains one of the largest mosaics of its kind. Also worth noting are the seemingly endless vaulted arches in the basilica’s crypt; the portico’s bronze doors, decorated with biblical scenes; and the stained-glass windows, which were installed in 1922, destroyed by a bombing during World War II (there were miraculously no deaths), and later rebuilt in 1946. In the basilica’s 262-foot-high campanile hangs La Savoyarde, one of the world’s heaviest bells, weighing about 19 tons.
Basilique du Sacré-Coeur Tips
✵The best time to visit Sacré-Coeur is early morning or early evening, and preferably not on a Sunday, when the crowds are thick. If you’re coming to worship, there are daily Masses.
✵Photographers angling for the perfect shot of the church should aim for a clear blue-sky day or arrive at dusk, when the pink sky plays nicely with the lights of the basilica.
✵To avoid the steps, take the funicular, which costs one métro ticket each way.
Pl. du Parvis-du-Sacré-Coeur, Montmartre | 01-53-41-89-00 | www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com | Basilica free; dome €6; crypt €2 | Basilica daily 6 am-10:30 pm; dome Oct.-Apr., daily 9-5; May.-Sept., daily 8:30-8; crypt Thurs.-Mon., daily 10-5 | Station: Anvers, plus funicular; Jules Joffrin plus Montmartrobus.
The birthplace of Cubism isn’t open to the public, but a display in the front window details this unimposing spot’s rich history. Montmartre poet Max Jacob coined the name because the original structure here reminded him of the laundry boats that used to float in the Seine, and he joked that the warren of paint-splattered artists’ studios needed a good hosing down (wishful thinking, since the building had only one water tap). It was in the Bateau-Lavoir that, early in the 20th century, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Juan Gris made their first bold stabs at Cubism, and Picasso painted the groundbreaking Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in 1906-07. The experimental works of the artists weren’t met with open arms, even in liberal Montmartre. All but the facade was rebuilt after a fire in 1970. Like the original building, though, the current incarnation houses artists and their studios. | 13 pl. Émile-Goudeau, Montmartre | Station: Abbesses.
Carré Roland Dorgelès.
This unassuming square is a perfect place to take in two of Montmartre’s most photographed sites: the pink-and-green Au Lapin Agile cabaret and Clos Montmartre, Paris’s only working vineyard. While the former, famously painted by Camille Pissarro, still welcomes revelers after 150 years, the latter is closed to visits except during the annual Fête de Jardins (Garden Festival) weekend in September. The stone wall on the northwestern edge of the square borders the peaceful Cimetière Saint-Vincent, one of the neighborhood’s three atmospheric cemeteries. | Corner of Rue des Saulnes and Rue St-Vincent, Montmartre | Station: Lamarck-Caulaincourt.
This elegant iron-and-glass 19th-century market hall at the foot of Sacré-Coeur stages dynamic exhibitions of art brut (raw art), or outsider and folk art. The international artists featured are contemporary in style and out of the mainstream. There’s also a good bookstore and a café serving light, well-prepared dishes, such as savory tarts and quiches with salad on the side, plus homemade desserts. | 2 rue Ronsard,Montmartre | 01-42-58-72-89 | www.hallesaintpierre.org | Museum €8 | Sept.-July, weekdays 11-6, Sat. 11-7, Sun. noon-6; Aug., weekdays 11-6 | Station: Anvers.
Moulin de la Galette.
Of the 14 windmills (moulins) that used to sit atop this hill, only two remain. They’re known collectively as Moulin de la Galette—the name being taken from the bread that the owners used to produce. The more storied of the two is Le Blute-Fin. In the late 1800s there was a dance hall on the site, famously captured by Renoir (you can see the painting in the Musée d’Orsay). A face-lift restored the windmill to its 19th-century glory; however, it is on private land and can’t be visited. Down the street is the other moulin, Le Radet. | Le Blute-Fin, corner of Rue Lepic and Rue Tholozé, Montmartre | Station: Abbesses.
Place des Abbesses.
This triangular square is typical of the countrified style that has made Montmartre famous. Now a hub for shopping and people-watching, the place is surrounded by hip boutiques, sidewalk cafés, and shabby-chic restaurants—a prime habitat for the young, neo-bohemian crowd and a sprinkling of expats. Trendy streets like Rue Houdon and Rue des Martyrs have attracted small designer shops, an international beer seller, and even a cupcake shop. Some retailers remain open on Sunday afternoon. | Intersection of Rue des Abbesses and Rue la Vieuville, Montmartre | Station: Abbesses.
Place du Tertre.
Artists have peddled their wares in this square for centuries. Busloads of tourists have changed the atmosphere, but if you come off-season—when the air is chilly and the streets are bare—you can almost feel what is was like when up-and-coming Picassos lived in the houses, which today are given over to souvenir shops and cafés. | East end of Rue Norvin, Place du Tertre, Montmartre | Station: Abbesses.
Au Rendez-Vous des Amis.
| Friendly but not fancy, this watering hole—halfway up the hill to Sacré-Coeur—is a good place to stop for a demi (small draft beer) or a glass of wine. If you want a snack, order the planche (wooden board) with a selection of cheeses and charcuterie (€10). There’s often live music on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. | 23 rue Gabrielle, Montmartre | 01-46-06-01-60 | Station: Abbesses.
A Scenic Walk in Montmartre
One of Paris’s most charming walks begins at the Abbesses métro station (Line 12), which has one of only two remaining iron-and-glass Art Nouveau canopies designed by famed architect Hector Guimard. Explore the streets ringing Place des Abbesses, or begin the walk immediately by heading west along Rue des Abbesses. Turn right on Rue Tholozé and note the historic movie house, Studio 28, at No. 10. At the top of the street is Le Blute-Fin, a windmill portrayed in a well-known work by Renoir. A right on Rue Lepic takes you past the only other windmill still standing, Le Radet. Take a left here onto Rue Girardon, to Place Dalida, marked with a voluptuous bust of the beloved French singer who popularized disco. (Yolanda Gigliotti, aka Dalida, lived until her death in 1987 at 11 bis, rue d’Orchampt, one of the city’s narrowest streets, opposite Le Radet.)
The stone house behind Dalida’s bust is the 18th-century Château des Brouillards, whose name, Castle of the Mists, is taken from the light fog that used to cloak this former farmland. Detour down the romantic alley of the same name. Renoir is said to have lived in the château before moving to the small house across the way at No. 8. From Place Dalida, head down the winding Rue de l’Abreuvoir, one of the most-photographed streets in Paris. Residents used to walk their horses to the abreuvoir, or watering trough, at No. 15. Pissarro kept a pied-à-terre at No. 12. The stone-and-wood-beamed house at No. 4 was once home to a historian of the Napoleonic wars whose family symbol was an eagle. Notice the wooden sundial with a rooster and the inscription: “When you chime, I’ll sing.” At the pink-and-green Maison Rose restaurant, committed to canvas by resident artist Maurice Utrillo, turn left on Rue des Saules where you’ll find Paris’s only working vineyard, Clos de Montmartre.
Across the street is the famous cabaret Au Lapin Agile, still going strong. On the opposite corner, a stone wall rings the Cimetière Saint-Vincent, one of the city’s smallest cemeteries, where Utrillo is buried (to see it, walk west along Rue St-Vincent, take a right, then another quick right). Backtrack up Rue des Saules and take the first left onto Rue Cortot to the Musée de Montmartre, once home to a bevy of artists. Renoir rented a studio here to store his painting of Le Blute-Fin. A few doors down, at No. 6, the composer Erik Satie, piano player at Le Chat Noir nightclub, lived during a penniless period in a 6-by-4-foot flat with a 9-foot ceiling (plus skylight). At the corner of Rue Mont-Cenis, the white water tower Château d’Eau still services the neighborhood. Turn right to reach Place du Tertre, a lively square packed with tourists and street artists. Easily overlooked is St-Pierre de Montmartre, one of the city’s oldest churches, founded in 1147. End your walk at the basilica Sacré-Coeur, and enjoy one of the best views of Paris from the city’s highest point. This butte, or hilltop, has been famous since the 3rd century: St-Denis (the first bishop of Paris) was martyred here, and after his decapitation he was said to have walked miles while holding his own head. For an easy descent, take the funicular, which has been ferrying people up and down since 1900.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Basilique de St-Denis.
Built between 1136 and 1286, St-Denis Basilica is one of the most important Gothic churches in France. It was here, under dynamic prelate Abbé Suger, that Gothic architecture (typified by pointed arches and rib vaults) was said to have made its first appearance. The kings of France soon chose St-Denis as their final resting place, and their richly sculpted tombs—along with what remains of Suger’s church—can be seen in the choir area at the east end. The basilica was battered during the Revolution; afterward, however, Louis XVIII reestablished it as the royal burial site by moving the remains of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette here to join centuries’ worth of monarchial bones. The vast 13th-century nave is a brilliant example of structural logic; its columns, capitals, and vault are a model of architectural harmony. The facade, retaining the rounded arches of the Romanesque that preceded the Gothic period, is set off by a small rose window, reputedly the oldest in France. Check out the extensive archaeological finds, such as a Merovingian queen’s grave goods. Guided tours in English are available by reservation. | 1 rue de la Légion d’Honneur, St-Denis | 01-48-09-83-54 | www.saint-denis.monuments-nationaux.fr | Basilica €4.50 with audioguide; choir and tombs €7.50 | Apr.-Sept., Mon.-Sat. 10-6:15, Sun. noon-6:15; Oct.-Mar., Mon.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. noon-5:15 | Station: Basilique de St-Denis.
Cimetière de Montmartre.
Overshadowed by better-known Père-Lachaise, this cemetery is just as picturesque. It’s the final resting place of a host of luminaries, including painters Degas and Fragonard; Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone; dancer Vaslav Nijinsky; filmmaker François Truffaut; and composers Hector Berlioz and Jacques Offenbach. The Art Nouveau tomb of novelist Émile Zola (1840-1902) lords over a lawn near the entrance—though Zola’s remains were removed to the Panthéon in 1908. | 20 av. Rachel, Montmartre | Mar. 16-Nov. 5, weekdays 8-6, Sat. 8:30-5:30, Sun. 9-6; Nov. 6-Mar. 15, weekdays 8-5:30, Sat. 8:30-5:30, Sun. 9-5:30 | Station: Blanche.
Espace Dalí (Dalí Center.)
One of several museums dedicated to the Surrealist master, the permanent collection in this black-walled exhibition space includes about 300 works, mostly etchings and lithographs. Among the two-dozen sculptures are versions of Dalí’s melting bronze clock and variations on the Venus de Milo. Since he was a multimedia pioneer ahead of his time, there are videos with Dalí’s voice, and temporary exhibits have included the mustachioed man’s foray into holograms. There’s plenty of information in English. | 11 rue Poulbot, Montmartre | 01-42-64-40-10 | www.daliparis.com | €11.50 | Sept.-June, daily 10-6; July and Aug., daily 10-8 | Station: Abbesses.
This self-described “fabric kingdom” has been selling Parisians their curtains for 60 years. With five floors, it actually stocks a lot more than draperies, including bolts of fine silk, feather boas, and spangled cushions. Among the regulars here are the designers who create the famous windows at Hermès. The Marché anchors a fabric district that extends to the neighboring streets; each shop is a bit different from the next. | 2 rue Charles Nodier, Montmartre | 01-42-06-92-25 | www.marchesaintpierre.com | Weekdays 10-6:30, Sat. 10-7 | Station: Anvers.
When this world-famous cabaret opened in 1889, aristocrats, professionals, and the working classes all flocked in to ogle the scandalous performers (the cancan was considerably more kinky in Toulouse-Lautrec’s day, when girls kicked off their knickers). There’s not much to see from the outside except for tourist buses and sex shops; souvenir seekers should check out the Moulin Rouge gift shop (around the corner at 11 rue Lepic), which sells better-quality official merchandise, from jewelry to sculpture, by reputable French makers. | 82 bd. de Clichy, Montmartre | 01-53-09-82-82 | www.moulinrouge.fr | Station: Blanche.
Musée de l’Érotisme.
What better place for the Museum of Erotic Art than smack in the heart of the city’s red-light district? Though the subject matter is rather limited, the collection features a respectable mix of world art (think carvings from Africa, Indonesia, and Peru, plus Chinese ivories and Japanese prints). It also has racy cartoons by Robert Crumb and photographs of Pigalle prostitutes and bordellos, some quite chic, from the 1930s and 1940s. Three floors are dedicated to temporary exhibits by contemporary artists and photographers. | 72 bd. de Clichy, Montmartre | 01-42-58-28-73 | www.musee-erotisme.com | €10; €8 per person or €14 per couple if purchased online | Daily 10 am-2 am | Station: Blanche.
Musée de Montmartre.
During its turn-of-the-20th-century heyday, this building—now home to Montmartre’s historical museum—was occupied by painters, writers, and cabaret artists. Foremost among them was Auguste Renoir, who painted Le Moulin de la Galette (an archetypal scene of sun-drenched revelers) while living here. Recapping the area’s colorful past, the museum has a charming permanent collection, which includes many Toulouse-Lautrec posters and original Eric Satie scores. An ambitious renovation, completed in late 2014, doubled its space by incorporating both the studio-apartment once shared by mother-and-son duo Suzanne Valadon and Maurice Utrillo (now fully restored) and the adjoining Demarne Hotel (which has been redesigned to house temporary exhibitions). The lovely surrounding gardens—named in honor of Renoir—have also been revitalized. An audioguide is included in the ticket price. | 12 rue Cortot, Montmartre | 01-49-25-89-39 | www.museedemontmartre.fr | €9.50 | Daily 10-6 | Station: Lamarck-Caulaincourt.
Monsieur Clément, a singer, was “Mayor of Montmartre” during the heady 70 days of the 1871 Commune, when this area actually seceded from Paris. Painter Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) had a studio at No. 7, and Picasso lived around the corner at 49 rue Gabrielle. Look for the octagonal tower at the north end of the square. It’s all that’s left of Montmartre’s first water tower, built around 1840 to boost the area’s feeble water supply. | Top of Rue Lepic, just before it intersects with Rue Norvins, Montmartre | Station: Abbesses.
Saint Jean L’Evangéliste de Montmartre.
This eye-catching church with a compact Art Nouveau interior was the first modern house of worship built in Paris (1897-1904) and the first to be constructed of reinforced cement. Architect Anatole de Baudot’s revolutionary technique defied the accepted rules at the time with its use of unsupported masonry; critics, who failed to stop construction, feared the building would crumble under its own weight. Today the church attracts a steady flow of visitors curious about its unusual Moorish-inspired facade of redbrick and curved arches. Note the tiny clock at the top left of the bell tower and the handsome stained-glass windows. Free concerts and art exhibitions are staged in the church from time to time. | 19 rue des Abbesses, Montmartre | 01-46-06-43-96 | www.saintjeandemontmartre.com | Mon.-Sat. 9-7, Sun. 9:30-6 (7 in summer) | Station: Abbesses.
St-Pierre de Montmartre.
Tucked in the shadow of mighty Sacré-Coeur is one of the oldest churches in Paris. Built in 1147 on the site of a 5th-century temple to the god Mars, this small sanctuary with its impressive sculpted metal doors was once part of a substantial Benedictine abbey. Besides the church, all that remains is a small cemetery, now closed (you can see it through the ornate metal door on the left as you enter the courtyard). Renovated multiple times through the ages, St-Pierre combines various styles. Interior elements, such as the columns in the nave, are medieval; the facade dates to the 18th century, with renovations in the 19th century; and the stained-glass windows are 20th century. Maurice Utrillo’s 1914 painting of the titular saint hangs in the Musée de l’Orangerie. | 2 rue du Mont Cenis, off Pl. du Tertre, Montmartre | 01-46-06-57-63 | www.saintpierredemontmartre.net | Daily 9-7 | Station: Anvers.
This little movie house has a distinguished history: when it opened in 1928, it was the first theater in the world purposely built for art et essai, or experimental film (Luis Bruñel and Salvador Dalí’s L’Age d’Or caused a riot when it premiered here). Through the years artists and writers came to see “seventh art” creations by directors such as Jean Cocteau, François Truffaut, and Orson Welles. Today it’s a repertory cinema, showing first-runs, just-runs, and previews—usually in their original language. Movies are screened from 3 pm daily, and tickets cost €9. In the back of the movie house is a cozy bar and café that has a quiet outdoor terrace decorated with murals of film stars. Oh, and those charmingly bizarre chandeliers in the salle? Cocteau designed them. | 10 rue Tholozé, Montmartre | 01-46-06-47-45 | www.cinemastudio28.com | Station: Abbesses.
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Top Attractions | Worth Noting
Updated By Jack Vermee
From swampy to swanky, the Marais has a fascinating history. Like an aging pop star, the quartier has remade itself many times, and today retains several identities. It’s the city’s epicenter of cool with hip boutiques, designer hotels, and art galleries galore; the hub of Paris’s gay community; and, though fading, the nucleus of Jewish life. You could easily spend your entire visit to Paris in this neighborhood—there is that much to do.
“Marais” means marsh, and that is exactly what this area was until the 12th century, when it was converted to farmland. In 1605 Henri IV began building the Place Royale (today’s Place des Vosges, the oldest square in Paris), which touched off a building boom, and the wealthy and fabulous moved in. Despite the odors—the area was one of the city’s smelliest—it remained the chic quarter until Louis XIV transferred his court to Versailles, trailed by dispirited aristocrats unhappy to decamp to the country. Merchants moved into their exquisite hôtels particuliers (private mansions), which are some of the city’s best surviving examples of Baroque architecture. Here you can see the hodgepodge of narrow streets that so vexed Louis Napoléon and his sidekick, Baron Haussmann, who feared a redux of the famous barricades that Revolutionaries threw up to thwart the monarchy. Haussmann leveled scores of blocks like these, creating the wide, arrow-straight avenues that are a hallmark of modern Paris. Miraculously, the Marais escaped destruction, though much of it fell victim to neglect and ruin. Thanks to restoration efforts over the past half century, the district is enjoying its latest era of greatness, and the apartments here—among the city’s oldest—are also the most in demand, with beaucoup charm, exposed beams, and steep crooked staircases barely wide enough for a supermodel. (Should you be lucky enough to find an elevator, don’t expect it to fit your suitcase.) Notice the impressive portes cochères, the huge doors built to accommodate aristocratic carriages that today open into many sublime courtyards and hidden gardens.
The 4e arrondissement, the Marais’s glitzier half, is sandwiched between two opposite poles—the regal Place des Vosges in the east and the eye-teasing modern masterpiece Centre Pompidou in the west. Between these points you’ll find most of the main sites, including the Musée Picasso, the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, and the Musée Carnavalet, which is the best place to see how the city evolved through the ages. To tour an exquisitely restored 17th-century hôtel particulier, visit the excellent Musée Cognacq-Jay or wander into the manicured back garden of the magnificent Hôtel de Sully. To the north, the quieter 3e arrondissement is a lovely neighborhood to explore. Techies will appreciate a stop at the Musée des Arts and Métiers, Europe’s oldest science museum.
Paris’s Jewish quarter has existed here in some form since the 13th century, and still thrives around Rue des Rosiers, even as hip boutiques encroach on the traditional bakeries, delis, and falafel shops. Not far away is the beating heart of the gay Marais, radiating out from Rue Vieille du Temple, along Rue St-Croix de la Bretonnerie to Rue du Temple, where you can find trendy cafés, shops, and cool nightspots aimed at gays but welcoming to all.
The 3e arrondissement half of the Marais, around Rue de Bretagne, has evolved into one of Paris’s most in-demand areas to live—and one of the most interesting areas to explore. Here you can find art galleries, boutiques, and funky cafés or bars off the tourist track.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Centre Pompidou. Paris’s leading modern art museum is also a vast (and architecturally ambitious) arts center that presents films, theater, and dance performances.
Place des Vosges. The prettiest square in the French capital surrounds a manicured park, where inviting patches of grass are accessible to those needing a siesta.
Musée Picasso. Spectacularly renovated, this museum is a must-see for fans of the Spanish master, who painted some of his best work while living in the city.
Jewish history tour. The old Jewish quarter has two world-class sites: Mémorial de la Shoah (the Holocaust Memorial) and the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme.
No reason at all. Lose yourself in simple pleasures, like exploring the tiny streets near the Centre Pompidou or people-watching in a café on Rue Vieille du Temple.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
The Marais has something for everyone, and how much time you spend here depends on how much time you have in Paris. One day seems painfully short, but it would allow you to take a do-it-yourself walking tour, peeking into private courtyards and picnicking in the Place des Vosges as you proceed. Leave at least two days if your itinerary includes the Centre Pompidou and the Musée Picasso. In three days you could cover some of the smaller museums, which are well worth visiting as many are housed in exquisite mansions. If time permits, wander to the 3e arrondissement to see the charming streets, away from the crowds, or drop into the quirky science-centric Musée des Arts et Métiers. Sunday afternoon is a lively time to come because many shops are open, notably on Rue des Francs-Bourgeois. This neighborhood thrives after dark as well; business is brisk at cafés and bars—particularly those aimed at the gay community.
Cafés abound around the Centre Pompidou, but this one—overlooking the Stravinsky fountain, with its colorful sculptures—is a good choice. You won’t go wrong with any of the many tartines, toasts topped with delicious ingredients. | 2 rue Brisemiche, Marais | 01-42-77-32-22 | Station: Rambuteau.
This calm café on busy Rue de Rivoli is a local favorite with an impressive wine list. Try the €8 French onion soup or indulge in classic French dishes like steak frites or even escargots. | 24 rue de Rivoli, Marais | 01-42-72-76-85 | Station: St-Paul.
Le Loir dans la Théière.
Sink into a comfortable shabby armchair at this popular tearoom, whose name translates to the Dormouse in the Teapot (from Alice in Wonderland). The savory tarts are stellar, but the real stars are desserts like the decadent chocolate crumble tart. | 3 rue des Rosiers, Marais | 01-42-72-90-61 | Station: St-Paul.
The Marais includes the 3e and 4e arrondissements. It’s a pleasant walk from the Beaubourg—the area around Centre Pompidou—into the heart of the Marais. Rue Rambuteau turns into Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, which runs right into Place des Vosges. If you’re going by métro, the most central stop is St-Paul on Line 1. If you’re going to the Pompidou, take Line 11 to Rambuteau. For the Musée Picasso, the closest stop is St-Sébastien-Froissart on Line 8. For the 3e arrondissement, get off at Arts et Métiers on Line 3 or 11, or Filles du Calvaire on Line 8.
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The thick crowds that flock to the Place des Vosges rarely venture to the other side of the Marais: the 3e arrondissement, which has morphed into one of the hottest neighborhoods in Paris. Good luck finding an apartment to rent here—most are small walk-ups with exposed wooden beams and lots of charm. But even if you can’t move in, you can enjoy this trendy quartier like a local. First, head to the Rue de Bretagne, the main drag. Stop for lunch at one of the food stalls in the Marché des Enfants Rouges (No. 39, open Tuesday through Sunday): it’s the oldest covered market in Paris. Next, explore narrow side streets, like Rues Charlot, Debelleyme, and Poitou, lined with art galleries and small boutiques. Stop for a real English scone at the Marais outpost of the popular Rose Bakery (30 rue Debelleyme); try a cup of Joe and a croissant at Poilâne (38 rue Debelleyme); or treat yourself to a gelato at Mary’s (1 rue Charles-Francois Dupuis). Across the street is the 19th-century iron-and-glass Carreau du Temple, which, after a long-overdue renovation, has reopened as a locally driven arts and sports community center. This is the site of the former Templar Tower, where Louis XIV and Marie-Antoinette were imprisoned before the king’s date with the guillotine (Napoléon later razed it). For your evening aperitif, make a beeline for the buzzy Café Charlot, at 38 rue de Bretagne. If you’re in the mood for couscous, try Chez Omar, a neighborhood institution at No. 47. | Marais.
This impressive Gothic church, in the shadow of the Centre Pompidou, was completed in 1550. Notable features include the turret (it contains the oldest bell in Paris, cast in 1331) and an 18th-century pulpit supported on carved palm trees. There are free concerts here Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 4 pm. See the website for more information. | 76 rue de la Verrerie, Beaubourg/Les Halles | 01-42-71-93-93 | www.accueilmusical.fr | Station: Hôtel de Ville.
Maison de Victor Hugo.
France’s most famous scribe lived in this house on the northeast corner of Place des Vosges between 1832 and 1848. It’s now a museum dedicated to the multitalented author of Les Misérables. In Hugo’s apartment on the second floor, you can see the tall desk, next to the short bed, where he began writing his masterwork Les Miz (as always, standing up). There are manuscripts and early editions of the novel on display, as well as others such as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. You can see illustrations of Hugo’s writings by other artists, including Bayard’s rendering of the impish Cosette holding her giant broom (which has graced countless Les Miz T-shirts). The collection includes many of Hugo’s own, sometimes macabre, ink drawings (he was a fine artist) and furniture from several of his homes. Particularly impressive is the room of carved and painted Chinese-style wooden panels that Hugo designed for the house of his mistress, Juliet Drouet, on the island of Guernsey, when he was exiled there for agitating against Napoléon III. Try to spot the intertwined Vs and Js (hint: look for the angel’s trumpet in the left corner). The first floor is dedicated to temporary exhibitions that often have modern ties to Hugo’s work. | 6 pl. des Vosges,Marais | 01-42-72-10-16 | www.musee-hugo.paris.fr | Free; €5-€7 for temporary exhibitions | Tues.-Sun. 10-6 | Station: St-Paul.
Maison Européenne de la Photographie (Center for European Photography.)
Much of the credit for the city’s ascendancy as a hub of international photography goes to MEP and its director, Jean-Luc Monterosso, who also founded Paris’s hugely successful Mois de la Photo festival (a biennial event held in November of even-numbered years). The MEP hosts up to four simultaneous exhibitions, changing about every three months. Shows feature the work of an international crop of photographers and video artists. Works by superstar Annie Leibovitz or designer-photographer Karl Lagerfeld may overlap with a collection of self-portraits by an up-and-coming Japanese artist. MEP often stages retrospectives of the classics (by Doisneau, Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray, and others) from its vast private collection. Programs are available in English, and English-language tours are sometimes given; check the website for details. | 5 rue de Fourcy, Marais | 01-44-78-75-00 | www.mep-fr.org | €8, free Wed. after 5 | Wed.-Sun. 11-8 | Station: St-Paul.
Love it or hate it, the Pompidou is certainly a unique-looking building. Most Parisians have warmed to the industrial, Lego-like exterior that caused a scandal when it opened in 1977. Named after French president Georges Pompidou (1911-74), it was designed by then-unknowns Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers. The architects’ claim to fame was putting the building’s guts on the outside and color-coding them: water pipes are green, air ducts are blue, electrics are yellow, and things like elevators and escalators are red. Art from the 20th century to the present day is what you can find inside.
The Musée National d’Art Moderne (Modern Art Museum, entrance on Level 4) occupies the top two levels. Level 5 is devoted to modern art from 1905 to 1960, including major works by Matisse, Modigliani, Marcel Duchamp, and Picasso; Level 4 is dedicated to contemporary art from the ‘60s on, including video installations. The Galerie d’Enfants (Children’s Gallery) on the mezzanine level has interactive exhibits designed to keep the kids busy. Outside, next to the museum’s sloping plaza—where throngs of teenagers hang out (and where there’s free Wi-Fi)—is the Atelier Brancusi. This small, airy museum contains four rooms reconstituting Brancusi’s Montparnasse studios with works from all periods of his career. On the opposite side, in Place Igor-Stravinsky, is the Stravinsky fountain, which has 16 gyrating mechanical figures in primary colors, including a giant pair of ruby red lips. On the opposite side of Rue Rambuteau, on the wall at the corner of Rue Clairvaux and Passage Brantôme, is the appealingly bizarre mechanical brass-and-steel clock, Le Défenseur de Temps.
The Pompidou’s permanent collection takes up a relatively small amount of the space when you consider this massive building’s other features: temporary exhibition galleries, with a special wing for design and architecture; a highly regarded free reference library (there’s often a queue of university students on Rue Renard waiting to get in); and the basement, which includes two cinemas, a theater, a dance space, and a small, free exhibition space.
On your way up the escalator, you’ll have spectacular views of Paris, ranging from the Tour Montparnasse, to the left, around to the hilltop Sacré-Coeur on the right. The rooftop restaurant, Georges, is a romantic spot for dinner. Be sure to reserve a table near the window.
Pl. Georges-Pompidou, Beaubourg/Les Halles | 01-44-78-12-33 | www.centrepompidou.fr | €11-€13; free first Sun. of month | Wed.-Mon. 11-9 | Station: Rambuteau.
Mémorial de la Shoah (Memorial to the Holocaust The first installation in this compelling memorial and museum is the deeply moving Wall of Names, tall plinths honoring the 76,000 French Jews deported from France to Nazi concentration camps, of whom only 2,500 survived. Opened in 2005, the center has an archive on the victims, a library, and a gallery hosting temporary exhibitions. The permanent collection includes riveting artifacts and photographs from the camps, along with video testimony from survivors. The children’s memorial is particularly poignant and not for the faint of heart—scores of back-lighted photographs show the faces of many of the 11,000 murdered French children. The crypt, a giant black marble Star of David, contains ashes recovered from the camps and the Warsaw ghetto. You can see the orderly drawers containing small files on Jews kept by the French police. (France only officially acknowledged the Vichy government’s role in 1995.) The history of anti-Semitic persecution in the world is revisited as well as the rebounding state of Jewry today. There is a free guided tour in English the second Sunday of every month at 3. | 17 rue Geoffroy l’Asnier, Marais | 01-42-77-44-72 | www.memorialdelashoah.org | Free | Sun.-Wed. and Fri. 10-6, Thurs. 10-10 | Station: Pont Marie, St-Paul.
Fodor’s Choice | Musée Carnavalet.
If it has to do with Parisian history, it’s here. A fascinating hodgepodge of artifacts and art, the collection ranges from the prehistoric canoes used by Parisii tribes to the furniture of the cork-lined bedroom where Marcel Proust labored over his evocative novels. Thanks to scores of paintings, nowhere else in Paris can you get such a precise picture of the city’s evolution through the ages. The museum fills two adjacent mansions, the Hôtel Le Peletier de St-Fargeau and the Hôtel Carnavalet. The latter is a Renaissance jewel that in the mid-1600s became the home of writer Madame de Sévigné. Throughout her long life, Sévigné wrote hundreds of frank and funny letters to her daughter, giving an incomparable view of both public and private life during the time of Louis XIV. The museum offers a glimpse into her world, but the collection covers far more than just the 17th century. The exhibits on the Revolution are especially interesting, with scale models of guillotines and a replica of the Bastille prison carved from one of its stones. Louis XVI’s prison cell is reconstructed along with mementos of his life, even medallions containing locks of his family’s hair. Other impressive interiors are reconstructed from the Middle Ages through the rococo period and into Art Nouveau—showstoppers include the Fouquet jewelry shop and the Café de Paris’s original furnishings. The sculpted garden at 16 rue des Francs-Bourgeois is open from April to the end of October. Extensive renovations, begun in 2013, may be ongoing; be prepared for room closures. | 23 rue de Sévigné, Marais | 01-44-59-58-58 | www.carnavalet.paris.fr | Free; around €7 for temporary exhibitions | Tues.-Sun. 10-6 | Station: St-Paul.
One of the loveliest museums in Paris, this 16th-century rococo-style mansion contains an outstanding collection of mostly 18th-century artwork in its rooms of boiserie (intricately carved wood paneling). A tour through them allows a rare glimpse into the lifestyle of wealthy 19th-century Parisians. Ernest Cognacq, founder of the now closed department store La Samaritaine, and his wife, Louise Jay, amassed furniture, porcelain, and paintings—notably by Fragonard, Watteau, François Boucher, and Tiepolo—to create one of the world’s finest private collections of this period. Some of the best displays are also the smallest, like the tiny enamel medallion portraits showcased on the second floor; or, on the third floor, the glass cases filled with exquisite inlaid snuff boxes, sewing cases, pocket watches, perfume bottles, and cigar cutters. Exhibits are labeled in French only, but free pamphlets and €5 audioguides are available in English. | 8 rue Elzévir, Marais | 01-40-27-07-21 | www.cognacq-jay.paris.fr | Free; €5 for temporary exhibitions | Tues.-Sun. 10-6 | Station: St-Paul.
Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme.
This excellent museum traces the tempestuous history of French and European Jews through art and history. Housed in the refined 17th-century Hôtel St-Aignan, exhibits have good explanatory texts in English, but the free English audioguide adds another layer of insight; guided tours in English are also available on request. Highlights include 13th-century tombstones excavated in Paris; a wooden model of a destroyed Eastern European synagogue; a roomful of early paintings by Marc Chagall; and Christian Boltanski’s stark, two-part tribute to Shoah (Holocaust) victims in the form of plaques on an outer wall naming the (mainly Jewish) inhabitants of the Hôtel St-Aignan in 1939, and canvas hangings with the personal data of the 13 residents who were deported and died in concentration camps. The rear-facing windows offer a view of the Jardin Anne Frank. To visit it, use the entrance on Impasse Berthaud, off Rue Beaubourg, just north of Rue Rambuteau. | 71 rue du Temple, Marais | 01-53-01-86-60 | www.mahj.org | €8; €10 with temporary exhibitions | Weekdays 11-6, Sun. 10-6 | Station: Rambuteau, Hôtel de Ville.
Musée des Arts et Métiers.
Science buffs should not miss this cavernous museum, Europe’s oldest dedicated to invention and technology. It’s a treasure trove of wonkiness with 80,000 instruments, machines, and gadgets—including 16th-century astrolabes, Pascal’s first mechanical calculator, and film-camera prototypes by the Frères Lumière. You can watch video simulations of groundbreaking architectural achievements, like the cast-iron dome, or see how Jacquard’s machine revolutionized clothmaking. Kids will love the flying machines (among them the first plane to cross the English Channel), and the impressive display of old automobiles in the high-ceilinged chapel of St-Martin-des-Champs. Also in the chapel is a copy of Foucault’s Pendulum, which proved to the world in 1851 that the Earth rotated (demonstrations are staged daily at noon and 5). The building, built between the 11th and 13th centuries, was a church and priory. It was confiscated during the Revolution, and, after incarnations as a school and a weapons factory, became a museum in 1799. Most displays have information in English, but having an English audioguide (€5) helps. There is a quiet café on the first floor. If you’re taking the subway here, check out the platform of métro Line 11 in the Arts and Métiers station—one of the city’s most elaborate—made to look like the inside of a machine, complete with rust-color metal walls, giant bolts, and faux gears. | 60 rue Réaumur, Marais | 01-53-01-82-00 | www.arts-et-metiers.net | €6.50; €7.50 with temporary exhibitions | Tues., Wed., and Fri.-Sun. 10-6, Thurs. 10-9:30 | Station: Arts et Métiers.
Musée Picasso Paris.
This immensely popular museum rose phoenix-like in late 2014, when it finally reopened after an ambitious (and often controversial) five-year makeover that cost an estimated €52 million. Home to the world’s largest public collection of Picasso’s inimitable oeuvre, it now covers almost 54,000 square feet in two buildings: the regal 17th-century Hôtel Salé and a sprawling new structure in the back garden that’s dedicated to temporary exhibitions. Diego Giacometti’s exclusively designed furnishings in the former are an added bonus.
Musée Picasso Paris Highlights
The collection of 200,000-plus paintings, sculptures, drawings, documents, and other archival materials (much of it previously in storage for lack of space) spans the artist’s entire career; and while it doesn’t include his most recognizable works, it does contain many of the pieces treasured most by Picasso himself. The renovated museum (which now has more than double the dedicated public space) is split into three distinct areas. The first two floors cover Picasso’s work from 1895 to 1972. The top floor illustrates his relationship to his favorite artists; landscapes, nudes, portraits, and still lifes taken from his private collection detail his “artistic dialogue” with Cézanne, Gauguin, Degas, Rousseau, Matisse, Braque, Renoir, Modigliani, Miró, and others. The basement centers around Picasso’s workshops, with photographs and engravings, paintings, and sculptures that document or evoke key pieces created at the Bateau Lavoir, Château de Boisgeloup, Grands-Augustins, the Villa La Californie, and his farmhouse, Notre-Dame-de-Vie, in Mougins. With plenty of multimedia components and special activities that cater to kids, this is ideal for both children and adult art lovers alike.
Musée Picasso Paris Tips
✵ Try to avoid visiting on weekends, when the crowds are thickest. Buy tickets online (there’s no extra charge) well in advance of your planned visit.
5 rue de Thorigny, Marais | 01-85-56-00-36 | www.musee-picasso.fr | €11; free 1st Sun. of the month | Tues.-Fri. 11:30-6 (until 9 every 3rd Fri.), weekends 9:30-6 | Station: St-Sébastien-Froissart.
QUICK BITES: Jardin Francs-Bourgeois-Rosiers. Tucked behind the Maison de l’Europe, the Jardin Francs-Bourgeois-Rosiers is a Zen gem in the heart of the bustling Marais. Bring a snack to enjoy in this quiet garden amid the roses and little trees. It’s open daily from 2 to 5:15 in winter, 2 to 7 in summer. | 35-37 rue des Francs-Bourgeois, Marais.
Agoudas Hakehilos Synagogue.
Art Nouveau genius Hector Guimard built this unique synagogue (also called Synagogue de la Rue Pavée) in 1913 for a Polish-Russian Orthodox association. The facade resembles an open book: Guimard used the motif of the Ten Commandments to inspire the building’s shape and its interior, which can only rarely be visited. Knock on the door and see if the caretaker will let you upstairs to the balcony, where you can admire Guimard’s well-preserved decor. Like other Parisian synagogues, the front door of this address was dynamited by Nazis on Yom Kippur, 1941. The Star of David over the door was added after the building was restored. | 10 rue Pavé, Marais | 01-48-87-21-54 | Station: St-Paul.
QUICK BITES: L’As du Falafel. Jewish food is tops in the Marais, where you can get a falafel sandwich to go, loaded with salad and sauce, for €6. You’ll find one of the best versions here. | 34 rue des Rosiers, Marais | 01-48-87-63-60 | Sun.-Thurs. 11 am-midnight, Fri. 11 am-sundown.
QUICK BITES: Sacha Finkelsztajn-La Boutique Jaune. Order a Yiddish sandwich (a poppy seed roll stacked with meats) or baba ghanoush (eggplant purée) at Sacha Finkelsztajn’s—a family-run favorite since 1946. It also sells delicious cakes and pastries like apple strudel. | 27 rue des Rosiers, Marais | 01-42-72-78-91 | www.laboutiquejaune.com | Wed.-Mon. 10-7.
QUICK BITES: Schwartz’s Deli. Schwartz’s Deli—a taste of New York’s Lower East Side—serves matzo ball soup, piled-high pastrami sandwiches, and strawberry cheesecake. You’ll find other locations around Place du Trocadéro and Place des Ternes. | 16 rue des Ecouffes, Marais | 01-48-87-31-29 | www.schwartzsdeli.fr | Weekdays noon-3 and 7:30-11, Sat. noon-5 and 7-11:30, Sun. noon-5 and 7-11.
Thousands of important historical documents are preserved inside Hôtel de Soubise and Hôtel de Rohan—a pair of spectacular buildings built in 1705 as private homes. Fans of the decorative arts will appreciate a visit to the former, where the well-preserved private apartments of the Prince and Princess de Soubise are among the first examples of the rococo style, which preceded the more somber Baroque opulence of Louis XIV. Hôtel de Soubise also has a museum that displays documents dating from 625 to the 20th century. Highlights include the Edict of Nantes (1598), the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), the wills of Louis XIV and Napoléon, and the Declaration of Human Rights (1789). Louis XVI’s diary is also here, containing his sadly clueless entry for July 14, 1789—the day the Bastille was stormed and the French Revolution was launched. The Hôtel de Rohan, open to the public only during Patrimony weekend in September, was built for Soubise’s son, Cardinal Rohan. Before you leave, notice the medieval turrets in the courtyard: this is the Porte de Clisson, all that remains of a stately 14th-century mansion. | 60 rue des Francs-Bourgeois, Marais | 01-40-27-60-96 | www.archives-nationales.culture.gouv.fr | €3 (free first Sunday of month); €6 temporary exhibitions | Mon. and Wed.-Fri. 10-5:30, weekends 2-5:30 | Station: Rambuteau.
Hôtel de Sens.
One of the few remaining structures in Paris from the Middles Ages, this little castle was most famously the home of Queen Margot, who took up residence here in 1605 after her marriage to Henry IV was annulled. Margot was known for her many lovers (she supposedly wore wigs made from locks of their hair) and reputedly ordered a servant beheaded in the courtyard after he ridiculed one of her companions. The street is said to be named after a fig tree she ordered cut down because it was inconveniencing her carriage. Perhaps for that reason there’s a fig tree planted in the elegant rear garden, which is open to the public. Notice the cannonball lodged in the front facade commemorating a battle here during the three-day revolution in July 1830. Built for Archbishop of Sens in 1475, the castle was extensively renovated in the 20th century and is today home to the Bibliothèque Forney, a library that also stages temporary exhibitions drawn from its extensive collection of fine and graphic arts. | 1 rue du Figuier, Marais | 01-42-78-14-60 | equipement.paris.fr/bibliotheque-forney-18 | Library free; €6 for exhibitions | Library Tues., Fri., and Sat. 1-7:30, Wed. and Thurs. 10-7:30; exhibitions Tues.-Sat. 1-7 | Station: Pont Marie.
Hôtel de Sully (Hôtel de Béthune-Sully.)
This early Baroque gem, built in 1624, is one of the city’s loveliest hôtels particuliers. Like much of the area, it fell into ruin until the 1950s, when it was rescued by the administration of French historic monuments (the Centre des Monuments Nationaux), which is based here. The recently renovated headquarters aren’t open to the public; however, you are welcome to enjoy the equally lovely garden. Stroll through it, past the Orangerie, to find a small passage into nearby Place des Vosges: Sully’s best buddy, King Henri IV, would have lived there had he not been assassinated in 1610. An on-site bookstore (with a 17th-century ceiling of exposed wooden beams) sells specialized English-language guides to Paris. | 62 rue St-Antoine, Marais | 01-44-61-21-50 | www.sully.monuments-nationaux.fr | Garden and bookstore daily 9-7 | Station: St-Paul.
Hôtel de Ville.
Overlooking the Seine, City Hall contains the residence and offices of the mayor. Reconstructed in 1873 after an attack by rioting crowds, it is one of Paris’s most stunning buildings, made all the more dramatic by elaborate nighttime lighting. The adjoining public library stages frequent free exhibits celebrating famous photographers like Doisneau or Atget and their notable subjects, often the city herself (the entrance is on the side across from the department store BHV). Alas, the impressive interior of the main administrative building, with its lavish reception halls and staircases, is only open for independent visits during Patrimony Weekend in September. If your French is good, however, free guided tours are given biweekly in summer, weekly in other seasons: call ahead for further information and reservations. The grand public square out front is always lively, playing host to events and temporary exhibitions. There’s a carousel and a beach volleyball court (or similar) in summer, and an ice-skating rink (with skate rental available) in winter. | Pl. de l’Hôtel-de-Ville, Marais | 01-42-76-43-43 for tours | Station: Hôtel de Ville.
La Gaîté Lyrique.
One of Paris’s newest contemporary-art venues combines innovative exhibits with live musical performances and a multimedia space that features a library, movies, and free video games. Think of it as a smaller, more interactive Centre Pompidou. La Gaîté Lyrique occupies three floors of a 19th-century theater—remnants of which are visible in the café upstairs. | 3 bis, rue Papin, Marais | 01-53-01-52-00 | www.gaite-lyrique.net | Free; €5-€7 for temporary exhibitions | Tues.-Fri. 2-8, weekends 11-7 | Tues. 2-10, Wed.-Sat. 2-8, Sun. 2-7; closed Mon. | Station: Réaumur-Sébastopol.
Place des Vosges.
The oldest square in Paris and—dare we say it?—the most beautiful, Place des Vosges represents an early stab at urban planning. The precise proportions offer a placid symmetry, but things weren’t always so calm here. Four centuries ago this was the site of the Palais des Tournelles, home to King Henry II and Queen Catherine de’ Medici. The couple staged regular jousting tournaments, and Henry was fatally lanced in the eye during one of them in 1559. Catherine fled for the Louvre, abandoning her palace and ordering it destroyed. In 1612 it became Place Royal on the occasion of Louis XIII’s engagement to Anne of Austria. Napoléon renamed it Place des Vosges to honor the northeast region of Vosges, the first in the country to pony up taxes to the Revolutionary government.
At the base of the 36 redbrick-and-stone houses—nine on each side of the square—is an arcaded, covered walkway lined with art galleries, shops, and cafés. There’s also an elementary school, a synagogue (whose barrel roof was designed by Gustav Eiffel), and several chic hotels. The formal, gated garden’s perimeter is lined with chestnut trees; inside are a children’s play area and a fountain.
Aside from hanging out in the park, people come here to see the house of the man who once lived at No. 6—Victor Hugo, the author of Les Misérables and Notre-Dame de Paris (aka The Hunchback of Notre-Dame).
TIP One of the best things about this park is that you’re actually allowed to sit—or snooze or snack—on the grass during spring and summer. There is no better spot in the Marais for a picnic: you can pick up fixings at the nearby street market on Thursday and Saturday mornings (it’s on Boulevard Richard Lenoir between rues Amelot and St-Sabin). The most likely approach to Place des Vosges is from Rue de Francs-Bourgeois, the main shopping street. However, for a grander entrance walk along Rue St-Antoine until you get to Rue de Birague, which leads directly into the square.
Off Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, near Rue de Turenne, Marais | Station: Bastille, St-Paul.
Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature.
Mark this down as one of Paris’s most bizarre—and fascinating—collections. The museum, housed in the gorgeous 17th-century Hôtel de Guénégaud, features lavishly appointed rooms stocked with animal- and hunt-themed art by the likes of Rubens and Gentileschi, plus antique weaponry and taxidermy animals. In a tribute to Art Nouveau, the decor includes chandeliers curled like antlers and matching railings. Older kids will appreciate the jaw-dropping Trophy Room with an impressive menagerie of beasts, not to mention the huge polar bear stationed outside. There is a lovely multimedia exhibit on the myth of the unicorn, as well as an interactive display of bird calls. Temporary exhibits and silent auctions take place on the first floor. | 62 rue des Archives, Marais | www.chassenature.org | €8 | Tues. and Thurs.-Sun. 11-6, Wed. 11-9:30 | Station: Rambuteau.
Musée de la Poupée (Doll Museum.)
Providing an impressive overview of dolls through the ages, this charming museum is a little girl’s dream. Here you’ll see dolls made from Bisque porcelain, sturdy wood, soft cotton, delicate papier mâché, plus the first plastic dolls from the early 20th century. Some play music, others make tea. Cases lining the walls are stocked with baby dolls, minidolls (mignonettes), and grown-up lady dolls in satin dresses—the foremothers of Barbie. There are also antique toy prams, high chairs, and tattered teddy bears in need of a hug. Too extensive to show at one time, the permanent collection changes frequently and can be arranged by period or theme. Temporary exhibitions might focus on Barbie’s evolution or offer a classic look at postwar French dolls. Workshops allow kids to make a doll to take home (they’re in French, but the mostly bilingual staff is happy to speak English; check the website for details). There’s also an on-site doll hospital and a well-stocked gift shop. | Impasse Berthaud, Marais | 01-42-72-73-11 | www.museedelapoupeeparis.com | €8; €14 with workshop | Tues.-Sat. 1-6 | Station: Rambuteau.
Musée Pierre Cardin, Passé-Présent-Futur.
Housed, appropriately, in a former necktie factory, this museum was opened in late 2014 by Cardin himself (then age 92). Covering three levels and six decades, it serves up the forward-thinking couturier’s most memorable fashion statements. You’ll see 200-plus designs—including the iconic “bubble dress”—as well as assorted accessories. | 4 rue St-Merri, 4e, Marais | 01-42-76-00-57 | www.pierrecardin.com | €25 | Wed.-Fri. 11-6, weekends 1-6 | Station: Hotel de Ville.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Nicolas Flamel’s Home.
Built in 1407 and reputed to be the oldest house in Paris (though other buildings also claim that title), this abode has a mystical history. Harry Potter fans should take note: this was the real-life residence of Nicolas Flamel, the alchemist whose sorcerer’s stone is the source of immortality in the popular book series. A wealthy scribe, merchant, and dabbler in the mystical arts, Flamel willed his home to the city as a dormitory for the poor, on the condition that boarders pray daily for his soul. Today, the building contains apartments and a restaurant. | 51 rue Montmorency, Marais | Station: Rambuteau.
The leading Baroque church in the Marais, its dome rising 180 feet above the crossing, was begun in 1627 by the Jesuits, who modeled it after their Gesù church in Rome. Recently cleaned on the outside but dark and brooding inside, it contains Delacroix’s Christ on the Mount of Olives in the transept and a shell-shape holy-water font at the entrance, which was donated by Victor Hugo. Hugo lived in nearby Place des Vosges, and his beloved daughter Léopoldine was married here in 1843—though she met a tragic end less than seven months later, when she fell into the Seine and drowned, along with her husband Charles, who tried to save her. | 99 rue St-Antoine, Marais | 01-42-72-30-32 | www.saintpaulsaintlouis.com | Weekdays 8-8, Sat. 8-7:30, Sun. 9-8 | Station: St-Paul.
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Top Attractions | Worth Noting
Updated By Jack Vermee
The Bastille used to be the star of this area, and a stop here—at the epicenter of the French Revolution—was obligatory. The small streets forking off Place de la Bastille still buzz at night, thanks to bars, music clubs, and the top-flight Opéra Bastille. There are also noteworthy attractions, like the nearby Viaduc des Arts, an urban-renewal project that transformed an old elevated rail line into arcaded, design-focused studios and shops. Along the top, the Promenade Plantée makes for a lovely stroll through the 12e arrondissement, which includes stately apartment buildings and pretty Square Trousseau, gateway to the Marché d’Aligre. But today the neighborhoods farther afield are the real draw, having evolved into some of Paris’s top destinations.
The Canal St-Martin, once the down-and-out cousin on the northern border, is now trend-spotting central, brimming with funky bars, cafés, art galleries, and boutiques. The scene is similar on Rues Oberkampf, St-Maur, and Jean-Pierre-Timbaud, where artists and small designers have set up shop, and where a substantial slice of the city’s bobo (bourgeois-bohemian) contingent is buying up the no-longer-so-affordable apartments.
Continuing east, you’ll find the city’s largest cemetery, Père-Lachaise, with a roster of famous tenants. Not far away is the impressively wild Parc Buttes-Chaumont, with grassy fields, a small Greek-style temple, and sweeping hilltop views of Paris. It’s the perfect place to eat a picnic lunch and let museum-weary kids blow off some steam. The eastern section is also home to two other popular parks: the Parc de la Villette, which contains a pair of engaging museums, and the Bois de Vincennes, home to the city’s largest zoo.
To the south of the Bastille, the old wine warehouses at Bercy have become a veritable village of shops and restaurants bordering Parc de Bercy. Directly across the Seine is the Bibliothéque National François Mitterand, the National Library of France, a sprawling complex of modern glass towers opened in 1998.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Canal St-Martin. This scenic canal is now one of the city’s hottest, hippest hangouts—it’s great for strolling, with plenty of galleries, shops, and cafés en route.
Place de la Bastille. The flashpoint of the French Revolution still draws agitators and their frequent, noisy demonstrations. It’s also a nightlife hub and home to the Opéra Bastille.
Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. Fans of celebrities, from Frédéric Chopin to Oscar Wilde to Jim Morrison, come to pay tribute at their final resting place.
Parc de la Villette. As the site of the city’s well-regarded science museum and planetarium, this is a good destinationfor both curious kids and grown-up science buffs.
Viaduc des Arts/Promenade Plantée. An abandoned rail line has been turned into a tree-fringed walkway perched atop a brick viaduct that’s bursting with boutiques.
The Maison de l’Architecture—a center for architectural advancement and an international artists’ residence—occupies a onetime monastery near the Canal St-Martin. Inside the elegant Renaissance building’s courtyard, Café A offers a seasonal menu at prices that are reasonable for this ever-gentrifying neighborhood. In warm weather, you can join trendy locals as they soak up some sun with a glass of wine or a cold beer in the enclosed garden. | 148 rue du Faubourg St-Martin, République | 09-81-29-83-38 | Tues.-Sat. 9 am-midnight, Sun. noon-5, Mon. 9-5 | Station: Gare de l’Est.
This ultracool café, with a restored zinc bar, mirrored walls, and mismatched chandeliers, is a neighborhood institution. | 109 rue Oberkampf, Oberkampf | 01-43-57-55-13 | Sun.-Wed. 9 am-2 am, Thurs.-Sat. 9 am-4 am | Station: Parmentier, Menilmontant.
Grab an outdoor table at this hot spot on the Canal St-Martin and watch the world go by. Chez Prune serves lunch from noon to 3 pm, then cold charcuterie plates after 7 pm. It also offers a weekend brunch and stays open late every day. | 36 rue Beaurepaire, Eastern Paris | 01-42-41-30-47 | Mon.-Sat. 8 am-2 am, Sun. 10 am-2 am | Station: Jacques Bonsergent, République.
Merci Cinema Café.
This sweet little café works wonders with a small menu of mostly organic, high-quality ingredients. Come for lunch, tea, or a freshly squeezed juice and watch a classic film projected on the wall. | 111 bd. Beaumarchais, Bastille | 01-42-77-79-46 | www.merci-merci.com | Mon.-Sat. 10-6:30 | Station: St-Sébastien-Froissart.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
The Canal St-Martin is one of the city’s most popular destinations, particularly on Sunday afternoon, when the streets are closed to cars. Have lunch in a café, grab a Vélib’ rental bike, and head to Parc de la Villette, or take a canal boat tour. A Sunday-morning trip to the picturesque Marché d’Aligre is also recommended, even if you’re not buying. The heaps of fresh produce and colorful flowers hawked by excited vendors are worth seeing. On any day Place de la Bastille is a lively place to stop for drinks or lunch; if time is limited, reserve this neighborhood for after dark, when the streets around Place de la Bastille and Oberkampf really come to life.
Canal St-Martin, Bastille, and Oberkampf include the 10e, 11e, 12e, 19e, and 20e arrondissements. The Bastille métro stop, on Lines 1, 5, and 8, is a good place to start. For the Canal St-Martin, use the Place de la République stop (Lines 3, 5, 8, 9, 11) and walk along Rue Faubourg du Temple, or go to Gare de l’Est stop (Lines 4, 5, 7) and walk along Rue des Récollets to the canal. For Oberkampf, go to the Parmentier stop on Line 3 or the Oberkampf stop on Line 9. For the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, take Line 2 or 3 to the eponymous stop.
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Tucked away south of the Gare de Lyon in the 12e arrondissement, blocks of stone warehouses that once stored wine are now home to Bercy Village, a collection of boutiques and eateries that stay open unusually late for Paris—shops until 9 pm, Monday to Saturday; restaurants until 2 am daily (28 rue François Truffaut, 08-25-16-60-75, www.bercyvillage.com). You can still see the old train tracks used to transport the wine barrels from the provinces. Adjacent to the shops is the tranquil Parc de Bercy, with lawns, ponds, and flower beds crisscrossed by gravel paths, and the Jardin Yitzhak Rabin, a garden named for the late Nobel Peace Prize winner. Nearby, at 51 rue de Bercy, a Cubist building by Frank Gehry houses the Cinémathèque Française, a film buff’s paradise, showing classic films, many in English; there are frequent homages to directors and actors, plus a cinema library and museum. | Bercy/Tolbiac | Station: Cour St-Emilion, Bercy.
QUICK BITES: Pink Flamingo. Pink Flamingo is an American-owned pizzeria that will deliver your pie directly to the banks of the canal—they spot you thanks to the pink balloon you’re holding. | 67 rue Bichat, Canal St-Martin | 01-42-02-31-70 | www.pinkflamingopizza.com | Station: Jacques Bonsergent, Colonel Fabien.
Fodor’s Choice | Canal St-Martin. This once-forgotten canal has morphed into one of the city’s trendiest places to wander. A good time to come is Sunday afternoon, when the Quai de Valmy is closed to cars and some of the shops are open. Rent a bike at any of the many Vélib’ stations, stroll along the banks, or go native and cuddle quai-side in the sunshine with someone special.
In 1802 Napoléon ordered the 4.3-km (2.7-mile) canal dug as a source of clean drinking water after cholera and other epidemics swept the city. When it finally opened 23 years later, it extended north from the Seine at Place de la Bastille to the Canal de l’Ourcq, near La Villette. Baron Haussmann later covered a 1.6-km (1-mile) stretch of it, along today’s Boulevard Richard Lenoir. It nearly became a highway in the 1970s, before the city’s urban planners regained their senses. These days you can take a boat tour from end to end through the canal’s nine locks: along the way, the bridges swing or lift open. The drawbridge with four giant pulleys at Rue de Crimée, near La Villette, was a technological marvel when it debuted in 1885.
In recent years gentrification has transformed the once-dodgy canal, with artists taking over former industrial spaces and creating studios and galleries. The bar and restaurant scene is hipster central, and small designers have arrived, fleeing expensive rents in the Marais. To explore this evolving quartier, set out on foot: Start on the Quai de Valmy at Rue Faubourg du Temple (use the République métro stop). Here, at Square Frédéric Lemaître facing north, there is a good view of one of the locks (behind you the canal disappears underground). As you head north, detour onto side streets like Rue Beaurepaire, a fashionista destination with several “stock” (or surplus) shops for popular brands, some open on Sunday. Rues Lancry and Vinaigriers are lined with bars, restaurants, and small shops.
A swing bridge across the canal connects Lancry to the Rue de la Grange aux Belles, where you’ll find the entrance to the massive Hôpital Saint-Louis, built in 1607 to accommodate plague victims and still a working hospital today. In front of you is the entrance to the chapel, which held its first Mass in July 1610, two months after the assassination of the hospital’s patron, Henry IV. Stroll the grounds, flanked by the original brick-and-stone buildings with steeply sloping roofs. The peaceful courtyard garden is a neighborhood secret.
Back on Quai Valmy, browse more shops near the Rue des Récollets. Nearby is the Jardin Villemin, the 10e arrondissement’s largest park (4.5 acres) on the former site of another hospital. The nighttime scene, especially in summer, is hopping with twentysomethings spilling out of cafés and bars and onto the canal banks. If you’ve made it this far, reward yourself with a fresh taco or burrito at the tiny and authentically Mexican El Nopal taqueria at 3 rue Eugène Varlin. Farther up, just past Place Stalingrad, is the Rotonde de la Villette, a lively square with restaurants and twin MK2 cinemas on either side of the canal, with a boat to ferry ticket holders across. Canauxrama (www.canauxrama.com) offers 2½-hour boat cruises through the locks (€17). Embarkation is at each end of canal: at Bassin de la Villette (13 quai de la Loire, La Villette) or Marina Arsenal (50 bd. de la Bastille, Bastille). | Canal St-Martin | Station: Jaurès (northern end) or République (southern end).
Cimetière du Père-Lachaise.
Bring a red rose for “the Little Sparrow” Edith Piaf when you visit the cobblestone avenues and towering trees that make this 118-acre oasis of green perhaps the world’s most famous cemetery. Named for Père François de la Chaise, Louis XIV’s confessor, Père-Lachaise is more than just a who’s who of celebrities. The Paris Commune’s final battle took place here on May 28, 1871, when 147 rebels were lined up and shot against the Mur des Fédérés (Federalists’ Wall) in the southeast corner.
Aside from the sheer aesthetic beauty of the cemetery, the main attraction is what (or who, more accurately) is below ground.
Two of the biggest draws are Jim Morrison’s grave (with its own guard to keep Doors fans under control) and the life-size bronze figure of French journalist Victor Noir, whose alleged fertility-enhancing power accounts for the patches rubbed smooth by hopeful hands. Other significant grave sites include those of 12th-century French philosopher Pierre Abélard and his lover Héloïse; French writers Colette, Honoré de Balzac, and Marcel Proust; American writers Richard Wright, Gertrude Stein, and Alice B. Toklas; Irish writer Oscar Wilde; French actress Sarah Bernhardt; French composer Georges Bizet; Greek-American opera singer Maria Callas; Franco-Polish composer Frédéric Chopin; painters of various nationalities including Georges-Pierre Seurat, Camille Pissaro, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Jacques-Louis David, Eugène Delacroix, Théodore Géricault, Amedeo Clemente Modigliani, and Max Ernst; French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli; French civic planner Baron Haussmann; French playwright and actor Molière; and French singer Edith Piaf.
TIP Pinpoint grave sites on the website before you come, but buy a map anyway outside the entrances—you’ll still get lost, but that’s part of the fun. One of the best days to visit is on All Saints’ Day (November 1), when Parisians bring flowers to adorn the graves of loved ones or favorite celebrities.
Entrances on Rue des Rondeaux, Bd. de Ménilmontant, and Rue de la Réunion, Père Lachaise | 01-55-25-82-10 | www.pere-lachaise.com | Weekdays 8-6, Sat. 8:30-6, Sun. 9-6 (closes at 5:30 in winter) | Station: Gambetta, Philippe-Auguste, Père-Lachaise.
QUICK BITES: Hôtel du Nord. With a retro white facade, the Hôtel du Nord looks like a movie set—in fact, it was famously used by Marcel Carné in his 1938 namesake film. The star, actress-icon Arletty, claimed to be unmoved by the romantic canal-side setting, uttering the memorable line “Atmosphere, atmosphere, I’ve had it with atmosphere!” Today the restaurant, beautifully restored, is a hipster favorite, though the food is not as fabulous as the ambience. | 102 quai de Jemmappes, République | 01-40-40-78-78 | www.hoteldunord.org | Station: Jacques Bonsergent.
La Maison Rouge.
One of the city’s premier spaces for contemporary art, La Maison Rouge art foundation was established by former gallery owner Antoine de Galbert to fill a hole in the Parisian art world. Always edgy, often provocative, the foundation stages several temporary exhibitions each year in a cleverly renovated industrial space anchored by a central courtyard building that’s painted bright red on the outside (hence the name). Past shows have included “Tous Cannibales,” themed around cannibalism, and “Memories of the Future,” a death-obsessed display featuring artists from Hieronymus Bosch to Damien Hirst. Check the website to see what’s on. Stop by the Rose Bakery near the entrance: it’s the latest Parisian outpost of the popular English café. | 10 bd. de la Bastille, Bastille | 01-40-01-08-81 | www.lamaisonrouge.org | €9 | Wed. and Fri.-Sun. 11-7, Thurs. 11-9 | Station: Quai de la Rapée/Bastille.
Place d’Aligre boasts two of Paris’s best markets: the lively outdoor Marché d’Aligre and the covered Marché Beauvau. Open every day but Monday, both are great places to pick up picnic essentials, which you can enjoy nearby in the small park at Square Trousseau or on the Promenade Plantée. The picturesque outdoor market has dozens of excitable vendors, their stands laden with fresh fruits and vegetables, flower bouquets, and regional products such as jam, honey, and dried sausage.The best bargains are had just before closing time, and many vendors are happy to give you a taste of whatever they’re selling. The covered market stocks everything from meats and cheeses to Belgian beer. Sunday morning, when the accompanying flea market is in full swing, is the liveliest time to visit. Don’t forget your camera. Stop for a plate of saucisse and a glass of rouge (even Sunday morning) at one of the city’s quirkiest wine bars, Le Baron Rouge, 1 rue Théophile Roussel. | Pl. d’Aligre, Bastille | marchedaligre.free.fr | Marché d’Aligre Tues.-Fri. 7:30-1:30, weekends 7:30-2:30. Marché Beauvau Tues.-Fri. 9-1 and 4-7:30, Sat. 9-1 and 3:30-7:30, Sun. 9-1:30 | Station: Ledru-Rollin/Bastille.
Paris’s main opera house opened its doors on July 14, 1989 to mark the bicentennial of the French Revolution. The fabulous acoustics of the steeply sloping, stylish auditorium have earned more plaudits than the modern facade designed by Uruguay-born architect Carlos Ott. If you want to see a show, reserve your ticket well in advance or take your chances snagging a same-day seat just prior to the performance. Once the doors open, 32 standing-room-only tickets also go on sale €5. Tickets for a 75-minute guided tour cost €12. | Pl. de la Bastille, Bastille/Nation | 08-92-89-90-90 for tickets (€0.34 per minute), 01-71-25-24-23 from outside of France, 01-40-01-19-70 for tours | www.operadeparis.fr | Station: Bastille.
Parc de la Villette.
This former abattoir is now an ultramodern, 130-acre park. With lawns and play areas, an excellent science museum, a music complex, and a cinema, it’s also the perfect place to entertain exhausted kids. You could easily spend a whole day here.
The park itself was designed in the 1980s by postmodern architecture star Bernard Tschumi, who melded industrial elements, children’s games (don’t miss the dragon slide), ample green spaces, and funky sculptures along the canal into one vast yet unified playground. Loved by picnickers, the lawns also attract rehearsing samba bands and pickup soccer players. In summer there are outdoor festivals and a free open-air cinema, where people gather at dusk to watch movies on a huge inflatable screen.
In cold weather you can visit an authentic submarine and the Espace Chapiteaux (a circus tent featuring contemporary acrobatic theater performances) before hitting the museums. The hands-on one at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie is a favorite stop for families and a must for science fans; its 3-D Omnimax cinema (La Géode) is housed in a giant mirrored ball. Arts-oriented visitors of all ages will marvel at the excellent, instrument-filled Musée de la Musique . The park has even more in store for music lovers now that the curtain has risen on the new Philharmonie de Paris, a striking 2,400-seat concert hall designed by Jean Nouvel.
As for the abattoir that once stood here, all that’s left of the slaughterhouse is La Grande Halle, a magnificent iron-and-glass building currently used for exhibitions, performances, and trade shows. | Parc de la Villette, 211 ave. Jean Jaurès | 01-40-03-75-75 | www.villette.com.
Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (Museum of Science and Industry).
This ambitious science museum, in a colorful three-story industrial space that recalls the Pompidou Center, is packed with things to do—all of them accessible to English speakers. Scores of exhibits focus on subjects like space, transportation, and technology. Hands-on workshops keep the kids entertained and the planetarium is invariably a hit. Temporary exhibitions, like a recent exploration of the human voice, are always multilingual and usually interactive. | 30 av. Corentin-Cariou, La Villette | 01-40-05-70-00 | www.cite-sciences.fr | €9; €12 for the permanent exhibition and one temporary exhibition; free for children under 6. | Tues.-Sat. 10-6, Sun. 10-7 | Station: Porte de la Villette.
Musée de la Musique.
The music museum inside the Philharmonie de Paris complex (formerly known as the Cité de la Musique) contains four centuries worth of instruments from around the world—about 1,000 in total, many of them exquisite works of art. Their sounds and story are evoked on numerous video screens and via commentary you can follow on headphones (ask for a free audioguide in English). Leave time for the excellent temporary exhibitions, like the recent one on the marriage between cinema and music. | 221 av. Jean-Jaurès, La Villette | 01-44-84-44-84 | www.philharmoniedeparis.fr | €7 permanent collection; €9 with temporary exhibits | Tues.-Sat. noon-6, Sun. 10-6 | Station: Porte de Pantin.
Café des Concerts.
Across the plaza from the Musée de la Musique, the outdoor terrace at Café des Concerts is an inviting place to have a drink on a sunny day. | 213 av. Jean-Jaurès, La Villette | 01-42-49-74-74 | Daily 9:30 am-midnight | Station: Porte de Pantin.
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont.
If you’re tired of perfectly manicured Parisian parks with lawns that are off-limits to your weary feet, this place is for you. The lovely 61-acre hilltop expanse in the untouristy 19e arrondissement has grassy fields, shady walkways, waterfalls, and a picturesque lake dotted with swans. Rising from the lake is a rocky cliff you can climb to find a mini Greek-style temple and a commanding view of Sacré-Coeur Basilica. A favorite of families, the park also has pony rides and an open-air puppet theater—Guignol de Paris (€4; shows at 3 pm and 4 pm Wednesday and at 4 pm and 5 pm weekends, year-round)—not far from the entrance at Buttes-Chaumont métro stop. Built in 1863 on abandoned gypsum quarries and a former gallows, this was northern Paris’s first park, part of Napoléon III’s planned greening of Paris (the emperor had spent years in exile in London, where he fell in love with the public parks). Major renovation work through 2016 will mean some unsightly construction, but it will remain open. Grab a snack at café Rosa Bonheur (www.rosabonheur.fr) or reserve a table for weekend lunch at Le Pavillon du Lac restaurant (www.lepavillondulac.fr). | Entrances on Rue Botzaris or Rue Manin, Buttes-Chaumont | May-Aug., daily 7 am-10 pm; Apr. and Sept., daily 7 am-9 pm; Oct.-Mar., daily 7 am-8 pm | Station: Buttes-Chaumont, Botzaris, Laumière.
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Place de la Bastille.
Almost nothing remains of the infamous Bastille prison, destroyed more than 225 years ago, though tourists still ask bemused Parisians where to find it. Until the late 1980s, there was little more to see here than a busy traffic circle ringing the Colonne de Juillet (July Column), a memorial to the victims of later uprisings in 1830 and 1848. The opening of the Opéra Bastille in 1989 rejuvenated the area, however, drawing art galleries, bars, and restaurants to the narrow streets, notably along Rue de Lappe—once a haunt of Edith Piaf—and Rue de la Roquette.
Before it became a prison, the Bastille St-Antoine was a defensive fortress with eight immense towers and a wide moat. It was built by Charles V in the late 14th century and transformed into a prison during the reign of Louis XIII (1610-43). Famous occupants included Voltaire, the Marquis de Sade, and the Man in the Iron Mask. On July 14, 1789, it was stormed by an angry mob that dramatically freed all of the remaining prisoners (there were only seven, including one lunatic), thereby launching the French Revolution. The roots of the revolt ran deep. Resentment toward Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette had been building amid a severe financial crisis. There was a crippling bread shortage, and the free-spending monarch was blamed. When the king dismissed the popular finance minister, Jacques Necker, enraged Parisians took to the streets. They marched to Les Invalides, helping themselves to stocks of arms, then continued on to the Bastille. A few months later, what was left of the prison was razed—and 83 of its stones were carved into miniature Bastilles and sent to the provinces as a memento (you can see one of them in the Musée Carnavalet). The key to the prison was given to George Washington by Lafayette and has remained at Mount Vernon ever since. Today, nearly every major street demonstration in Paris—and there are many—passes through this square. | Bastille | Station: Bastille.
Viaduc des Arts/Promenade Plantée (La Coulée Verte.)
Once a train line from the Paris suburbs to Bastille, this redbrick viaduct is now the green heart of the unpretentious 12e arrondissement. The rails have been transformed into a 4.5-km (2.8-mile) walkway lined with trees, bamboo, and flowers, offering a bird’s-eye view of the stately Haussmannian buildings along Avenue Daumesnil. Below, the voûtes (arcades) have been transformed by the city into artisan boutiques, many focused on decor and design. All tenants are hand-picked. There are also temporary galleries showcasing art and photography. The Promenade, which gained fame as a setting in the 2004 film Before Sunset, was the inspiration for New York’s High Line. It ends at the Jardin de Reuilly. From here you can continue your walk to the Bois de Vincennes. If you’re hungry, grab a bite at L’Arrosoir, a cozy café under the viaduct at 75 avenue Daumesnil. | Av. Daumesnil, Bastille | 01-44-75-80-66 | www.leviaducdesarts.com | Station: Bastille, Gare de Lyon.
Bibliothéque National François Mitterrand.
The National Library of France, across the sleek Simone de Beauvoir footbridge from Bercy Park, is a stark complex comprised of four 22-story L-shaped buildings representing open books. Commissioned by President Mitterrand, the €1 billion library was said to be the world’s most modern when it opened in 1998—a reputation quickly sullied when it was discovered that miles of books and rare documents were baking in the glass towers, unprotected from the sun (movable shutters were eventually installed). Some of the most important printed treasures of France are stored here, though the majority of them are available only to researchers. Visitors can see the impressive 17th-century Globes of Coronelli, a pair of 2-ton orbs made for Louis XIV. There’s a sunken center garden with tall trees (open to the public the first weekend in June) ringed by low-ceilinged reading rooms, which are nothing special. A first-floor gallery hosts popular temporary exhibitions on subjects such as the life of Casanova. Enter through the easternmost tower. | Quai François Mauriac, Bibliothèque | 01-53-79-40-43 | www.bnf.fr | Globes gallery free; reading rooms €3.50; exhibitions €9 (€14 for two) | Tues.-Sat. 10-8, Sun. 1-7 | Station:Bibliothèque, Quai de la Gare.
Bois de Vincennes.
Like the Bois de Boulogne to the west, this much-loved retreat on the city’s eastern border was landscaped by Napoléon III. Its roots, however, reach back to the 13th century, when Philippe Auguste created a hunting preserve in the shadow of the royal Château de Vincennes, which once ranked as the largest château in Europe. In 1731 Louis XV created a public park here, and the bois (or wood) now features lush lawns, a flower garden, and summertime jazz concerts. Rowboats are for hire at a pair of lakes: Lac Daumesnil, which has two islands, and Lac des Minimes, which has three. There’s also a Parc Zoologique, a racetrack (the Hippodrome de Vincennes), two cafés, and, in spring, an amusement park. You can rent a bike at the Château de Vincennes métro stop. To reach the park, use the Château de Vincennes stop (Line 1) or Porte Dorée (Line 8). | Bois de Vincennes.
Château de Vincennes.
The imposing high-walled Château de Vincennes, on the northern edge of the Bois, was France’s medieval answer to Versailles. Built and expanded by various kings between the 12th and 14th centuries, it is now surrounded by a dry moat and dominated by a 170-foot keep (the last of nine original towers). The royal residence eventually became a prison holding convicts, notably of both sexes—and “the doors did not always remain closed between them,” as one tour guide coyly put it. Inmates included the philosopher Diderot and the Marquis de Sade. Both the château and its cathedral, Sainte-Chapelle (designed in the style of the Paris church of the same name) have undergone a spectacular restoration, returning them to their previous glory. If you speak French, the free 90-minute tour is worthwhile. | Av. de Paris, Bois de Vincennes | 01-48-08-31-20 | www.chateau-vincennes.fr | €8.50 (audioguide €4.50 extra) | Mid-May-mid-Sept., daily 10-6; mid-Sept.-mid-May, daily 10-5 | Station: Château de Vincennes.
Parc Floral de Paris.
A lake, a butterfly garden, and seasonal displays of blooms make the Bois de Vincennes’s 70-acre floral park a lovely place to spend a summer afternoon. Kids will also enjoy the miniature train, paddleboats, ponies, pool, and game area, among other attractions (most of which cost extra). The park hosts jazz concerts most weekends from April through September, but other months many attractions are closed. | Rte. de la Pyramide, Bois de Vincennes | €5.50 Wed. and weekends, June-Sept.; free other days in season and every day off-season | Apr.-Sept., daily 9:30-8; Oct.-Mar., daily 9:30-5 | Station: Château de Vincennes.
Parc Zoologique de Paris.
The 35-acre Parc Zoologique is France’s largest zoo and, thanks to a major renovation, now promises a more hands-on experience. Its 1,000 animals are housed in newly designed environments (aka “biozones”) that mix species as Mother Nature intended: these include a free-range aviary you can walk through and a greenhouse that re-creates a slice of the rain forest. | Entrance at intersection of Av. Daumesnil and Rte. de Ceinture du Lac Daumesnil, 53 av. de St-Maurice, Bois de Vincennes | 08-11-22-41-22 | www.parczoologiquedeparis.fr | €22; €14 for children 3-11; €16.50 for those 12-25 | Apr.-mid-Oct., weekdays 10-6, weekends 9:30-7:30; mid-Oct.-Mar. daily 10-5 | Station: Porte Dorée.
Palais de la Porte Dorée & Tropical Aquarium.
One of the best examples of Art Deco architecture in Paris, this stunning building is home to an immigration museum and a tropical aquarium. It’s worth a visit just to see the Palais, built for the 1931 Colonial Exhibition (entry to the ground floor is free.) The ornate facade features bas-relief sculptures representing France’s erstwhile empire. Inside, the elaborate marble, ornate metalwork, and original lighting are all beautifully maintained. On either end of the ground floor are furnished salons, one representing Asia, the other Africa (a Gucci commercial was filmed in the latter). Peek into the central room, called the Forum, where restored Africa-inspired mosaics line the walls. The upper floors are occupied by the Cité Nationale de l’Historie de l’Immigration, a well-executed modern museum tracing the history of immigration in France. There are usually similarly themed temporary exhibitions. The basement contains L’Aquarium Tropical, an aquarium with a pair of alligators from Mississippi. There is little information available in English. | 293 av. Daumesnil, Bois de Vincennes | 01-53-59-58-60 | www.histoire-immigration.fr; www.aquarium-portedoree.fr | €4.50 museum; €5 aquarium; €8 combined ticket; prices vary during special exhibitions | Tues.-Fri. 10-5:30, weekends 10-7 | Station: Porte Dorée.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Le 104.
Le Cent Quatre takes its name from its address in a rough-around-the-edges corner of the 19e arrondissement, not far from the top of the Canal St-Martin. The former site of the city morgue, this cavernous art hub is home to an offbeat collection of performance venues, shops, and studios (artists of all genres compete for free studio space, and sometimes you can get a sneak peek of them at work). Contemporary art exhibits, some of which charge admission, are staged here, as are concerts. On-site you’ll also find a restaurant, a café, a bookstore, a natural-clothing boutique, a secondhand shop, and a play area for children. Check the website before going to see what’s on. | 104 rue d’Aubervilliers, Stalingrad | 01-53-35-50-01 | www.104.fr | Free; prices for exhibits and concerts vary | Tues.-Fri. noon-7, weekends 11-7 | Station:Stalingrad.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Musée Edith Piaf.
Devotees will appreciate the tiny two-room apartment where the “little sparrow” lived for a year, when she was 28 years old and sang in the working-class cafés on Rue Oberkampf. The flat was obtained by Les Amis d’Edith Piaf in 1978 and is now a shrine to the petite crooner, whose life-size photo (she was just 4 feet, 9 inches tall) greets visitors at the door. The red walls are covered with portraits of Piaf done by her many artist friends, and her personal letters are framed. On display, you’ll see her books and handbags, as well as a few dresses, her size 4 shoes, and a touching pair of old boxing gloves belonging to one of her great loves—champion pugilist Marcel Cerdan. | 5 rue Crespin du Gast, Oberkampf | 01-43-55-52-72 | Free, donations strongly encouraged | July, Aug., and Oct.-May, Mon.-Wed. 1-6, by reservation only (no English spoken) | Station: Ménilmontant.
Pavillon de l’Arsenal.
If your knowledge of Paris history is nul (nil), stop here for an entertaining free tutorial. Built in 1879 as a private museum, the Pavillion today is a restored structure of glass and iron that showcases the city’s urban development through the ages. A giant model of Paris traces its evolution (with information in English). There are photos, maps, and videos, plus a giant digital interactive model detailing what Paris is predicted to look like in 2020. The standout, created in partnership with Google, is a floor mosaic made up of 48 LED screens that allows visitors at stationary consoles to explore the city via Google Maps. There are frequent architecture-themed temporary exhibits, plus a café and bookstore. | 21 bd. Morland, Bastille | 01-42-76-33-97 | www.pavillon-arsenal.com | Free | Tues.-Sat. 10:30-6:30, Sun. 11-7 | Station:Sully-Morland, Bastille.
Piscine Josephine Baker.
This modern floating aquatic center, named after the much-beloved American entertainer, features a pool with a retractable glass roof, two solariums, a steam room, Jacuzzis, and a gym. Check the opening hours and schedule of classes online. | Porte de la Gare, 21 quai François Mauriac, Bibliothèque | 01-56-61-96-50 | www.carilis.fr/centre/piscine-josephine-baker | €3 for pool (€5 in summer); fees may apply for other activities | Mon., Wed., and Fri. 7-8:30 am and 1-9 pm, Tues. and Thurs. 1-11, Sat. 11-8, Sun. 10-8; extended hrs during school vacations | Station: Quai de la Gare, Bibilothèque François Mitterrand.
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Top Attractions | Worth Noting
Updated By Jack Vermee
The Quartier Latin is the heart of student Paris—and has been for more than 800 years. France’s oldest university, La Sorbonne, was founded here in 1257, and the neighborhood takes its name from the fact that Latin was the common language of the students, who came from all over Europe. Today the area is full of cheap and cheerful cafés, bars, and shops.
The main drag, Boulevard St-Michel, is a busy street where bookshops have given way to chain clothing stores and fast-food joints—but don’t let that stop you! There are (almost) as many French people wandering the streets here as there are tourists. At Place St-Michel, the symbolic gateway to the quartier, notice the 19th-century fountain depicting Saint Michael slaying the “great dragon,” Satan—a symbolic warning to rebellious locals from Napoléon III. Today the fountain serves as a meeting spot and makes a rather fine metaphor for the boulevard it anchors: a bit grimy but extremely popular.
When you’ve had enough of the crowds, turn off the boulevard and explore the side streets, where you can find quirky boutiques and intimate bistros. Or stop for a demi (a half pint of draft beer) at one of the cafés on Place de la Sorbonne, ground zero for students (and their many noisy demonstrations). Around the winding streets behind the Panthéon, where French luminaries are laid to rest, you can still find plenty of academics arguing philosophy while sipping espresso, but today the 5e arrondissement is also one of Paris’s most charming and sought-after (read: expensive) places to live.
Shop along Rue Mouffetard as Parisians do—all the while complaining about the high prices—for one of the best selections of runny cheeses, fresh breads, and charcuterie. Grab a seat in a bustling café,or follow the locals’ lead and stand at the bar, where drinks are always cheaper. Film buffs won’t have to look far to find one of the small cinema revival houses showing old American films in English (look for v.o., for version originale). Not far from le Mouffe is the gorgeous white Grande Mosquée de Paris with its impressive minaret. Just beyond the mosque is the Jardin des Plantes—a large, if somewhat bland, botanical garden that is home to three natural-history museums, most notably the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution. Inside, kids can marvel at enormous whale skeletons, along with all sorts of taxidermy. Some of Paris’s most intriguing sites are in this neighborhood, including the Musée de Cluny and the innovative Institut du Monde Arabe. See ancient history mingle with modern life at the Arènes de Lutèce, a Roman amphitheater and favorite soccer pitch for neighborhood kids.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Musée de Cluny. On the site of an ancient Roman bath, this former abbey is home to the famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries; the building, tranquil garden, and extensive collection have the hush of a medieval monastery.
Shakespeare & Company. This legendary English-language bookstore is more than a shopping destination; it’s a meeting place for young expats and literature-loving travelers alike.
Rue Mouffetard. Whether you’re a gastronome or just plain hungry, you’ll be enthralled by the array of characteristically French edibles sold on this winding market street.
Jardin des Plantes. This garden is a great spot to enjoy a picnic or to rest your tired feet on one of the many shaded benches.
La Grande Mosquée de Paris. Relax with a little glass of mint tea in the leafy courtyard café at Paris’s most beautiful mosque.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
The Quartier Latin is the perfect place to wander sans itinerary, though there is no shortage of sites worth seeing. Shopping here is generally more affordable (but less original) than in other neighborhoods, and there are lots of new- and used-book stores, many of which stock English-language titles. Pick up picnic supplies in the food shops along Rue Mouffetard (mostly closed Monday) or the open-air market at Place Monge (Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday morning), then savor your booty on a bench at the Jardin des Plantes. Linger over mint tea at the lovely Grande Mosquée (Mosque) de Paris or take in a terrific view from the roof of the Institut du Monde Arabe (closed Monday). Stroll the hilly streets around the Panthéon on your way to see the treasures at the Musée de Cluny (closed Tuesday). Finish with a sunset aperitif on one of the barge cafés (open spring to fall) along the Seine, across from Notre-Dame.
Cave La Bourgogne.
Settle in on the terrace of this old-school bistro for lunch, or join the locals at the zinc bar. | 144 rue Mouffetard, Latin Quarter | 01-47-07-82-80 | Closed Mon. | Station: Monge.
If you’re young—or young at heart—come here to hang with the Sorbonne crowd. | 5 pl. de la Sorbonne, Latin Quarter | 01-43-54-34-43 | Station: Cluny-La Sorbonne.
This café with an outdoor terrace on the top floor of the Institut du Monde Arabe has a fantastic view. | Institut du Monde Arabe, 1 rue des Fossés-St-Bernard, Latin Quarter | 01-55-42-55-42 | www.imarabe.org/restaurants | Closed Mon. | Station: Jussieu.
The Quartier Latin is in the 5e arrondissement. Take métro Line 4 to St-Michel to start exploring at the Lucifer-slaying fountain near Shakespeare & Company, across the Seine from Notre-Dame. Go to the Cluny stop on Line 10 if you’re heading to the Musée de Cluny. The Place Monge stop on Line 7 puts you near the Panthéon and Rue Mouffetard, the Mosquée de Paris, and the Jardin des Plantes. Les Gobelins neighborhood straddles the 5e, 13e, and 14e arrondissements, but is considered part of the 5e because of the Manufacture des Gobelins.
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Grande Galerie de l’Évolution (Great Hall of Evolution).
With a parade of taxidermied animals ranging from the tiniest dung beetle to the tallest giraffe, this four-story natural history museum in the Jardin des Plantes will perk up otherwise museum-weary kids. The flagship of three natural-history museums in the garden, this restored 1889 building has a ceiling that changes color to suggest storms, twilight, or the hot savanna sun. Other must-sees are the gigantic skeleton of a blue whale and the stuffed royal rhino (he came from the menagerie at Versailles, where he was a pet of Louis XV). Kids 6 to 12 will enjoy La Galerie d’Enfants (The Children’s Gallery): opened in 2010, it has bilingual interactive exhibits about the natural world. A lab stocked with microscopes often offers free workshops, and most of the staff speaks some English. Hang on to your ticket; it will get you a discount at the other museums within the Jardin des Plantes. | 36 rue Geoffroy-St-Hilaire, Latin Quarter | 01-40-79-54-79 | www.mnhn.fr | €7; €9 combined with Children’s Gallery | Wed.-Mon. 10-6 | Station: Jussieu, Place Monge.
Shakespeare & Company
The English-language bookstore Shakespeare & Company (37 rue de la Bûcherie 01-43-25-40-93 | www.shakespeareandcompany.com) is one of Paris’s most eccentric and lovable literary institutions. Founded by George Whitman, the maze of new and used books has offered a sense of community (and often a bed) to wandering writers since the 1950s. The store takes its name from Sylvia Beach’s original Shakespeare & Co., which opened in 1919 at 12 rue d’Odéon, welcoming the likes of Ernest Hemingway, James Baldwin, and James Joyce. Beach famously bucked the system when she published Joyce’s Ulysses in 1922, but her original store closed in 1941. After the war Whitman picked up the gauntlet, naming his own bookstore after its famous predecessor.
When Whitman passed away in 2011, heavy-hearted locals left candles and flowers in front of his iconic storefront. He is buried in the literati-laden Père-Lachaise cemetery; however, his legacy lives on through his daughter Sylvia, who runs the shop and welcomes a new generation of Paris dreamers. Walk up the almost impossibly narrow stairs to the second floor and you’ll still see laptops and sleeping bags tucked between the aging volumes and under dusty daybeds; it’s sort of like a hippie commune. A revolving cast of characters helps out in the shop or cooks meals for fellow residents. They’re in good company; Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett, and William Burroughs are among the famous writers to benefit from the Whitman family hospitality.
Institut du Monde Arabe.
This eye-catching metal-and-glass tower by architect Jean Nouvel cleverly uses metal diaphragms in the shape of square Arabic-style screens to work like a camera lens, opening and closing to control the flow of sunlight. The vast cultural center’s layout is intended to reinterpret the traditional enclosed Arab courtyard. Inside, there are various spaces—among them a museum, inaugurated in 2012, that explores the culture and religion of the 22 Arab League member nations. With the addition of elements from the Louvre’s holdings and private donors, the museum’s impressive collection includes Islamic art, artifacts, ceramics, and textiles, which are displayed on four floors. There is also a performance space, a sound-and-image center, a library, and a bookstore. Temporary exhibitions usually have information and an audioguide in English. Glass elevators whisk you to the ninth floor, where you can sip mint tea in the rooftop café, Le Zyriab, while feasting on one of the best views in Paris. | 1 rue des Fossés-St-Bernard, Latin Quarter | 01-40-51-38-38 | www.imarabe.org | €8 | Tues.-Thurs. 10-6, Fri. 10-9:30, weekends 10-7 | Station: Cardinal Lemoine.
Fodor’s Choice | Jardin des Plantes (Botanical Gardens).
Opened in 1640 and once known as the Jardin du Roi (or King’s Garden), this sprawling patch of greenery is a neighborhood gem. It’s home to several gardens and various museums, all housed in 19th-century buildings whose original architecture blends glass with ornate ironwork. If you have kids, take them to the excellent Grande Galerie de l’Évolution or one of the other natural-history museums here: the Galerie de Paléontologie, stocked with dinosaur and other skeletons, and the newly renovated, rock-laden Galerie de Minéralogie. The botanical and rose gardens are impressive, and plant lovers won’t want to miss the towering greenhouses (serre in French)—they are filled with one of the world’s most extensive collections of tropical and desert flora. If the kids prefer fauna, visit the Ménagerie, a small zoo founded in 1794 whose animals once fed Parisians during the 1870 Prussian siege. The star attractions are Nénette, the grande-dame orangutan from Borneo, and her swinging friends in the monkey and ape house. If you need a break, there are three kiosk cafés in the Jardin. | Entrances on Rue Geoffroy-St-Hilaire, Rue Cuvier, Rue de Buffon, and Quai St-Bernard, Latin Quarter | 01-40-79-54-79 | www.jardindesplantes.net | Museums €5-€9; zoo €9-€11 (ages 3 and under free); greenhouses €4-€6; gardens free | Museums Wed.-Mon. 10-5 or 6; zoo daily 9-5; gardens daily 8-7 (hrs vary by season) | Station: Gare d’Austerlitz, Jussieu.
Fodor’s Choice | Musée de Cluny (Musée National du Moyen-Age [National Museum of the Middle Ages]).
Built on the ruins of Roman baths, the Hôtel de Cluny has been a museum since medievalist Alexandre Du Sommerard established his collection here in 1844. The ornate 15th-century mansion was created for the abbot of Cluny, leader of the mightiest monastery in France. Symbols of the abbot’s power surround the building, from the crenellated walls that proclaimed his independence from the king, to the carved Burgundian grapes twining up the entrance that symbolize his valuable vineyards. The scallop shells (coquilles St-Jacques) covering the facade are a symbol of religious pilgrimage, another important source of income for the abbot; the well-traveled pilgrimage route to Spain once ran around the corner along Rue St-Jacques. The highlight of the museum’s collection is the world-famous Dame à la Licorne (Lady and the Unicorn) tapestry series, woven in the 16th century, probably in Belgium, and now presented in refurbished surroundings. The vermillion tapestries (Room 13) are an allegorical representation of the five senses. In each, a unicorn and a lion surround an elegant young woman against an elaborate millefleur (literally, 1,000 flowers) background. The enigmatic sixth tapestry is thought to be either a tribute to a sixth sense, perhaps intelligence, or a renouncement of the other senses. “To my only desire” is inscribed at the top. The collection also includes the original sculpted heads of the Kings of Israel and Judah from Notre-Dame, decapitated during the Revolution and discovered in 1977 in the basement of a French bank. The frigidarium (Room 9) is a stunning reminder of the city’s cold-water Roman baths; the soaring space, painstakingly renovated, houses temporary exhibits. Also notable is the pocket-size chapel (Room 20) with its elaborate Gothic ceiling. Outside, in Place Paul Painlevé, is a charming medieval-style garden where you can see flora depicted in the unicorn tapestries. The free audioguide in English is highly recommended. | 6 pl. Paul-Painlevé, Latin Quarter | 01-53-73-78-00 | www.musee-moyenage.fr | €8; €9 during temporary exhibitions; free first Sun. of month | Wed.-Mon. 9:15-5:45 | Station: Cluny-La Sorbonne.
QUICK BITES: Place de la Contrescarpe. This popular square behind the Panthéon attracts locals, students, and Hemingway enthusiasts (he once lived around the corner). It has a small-town feel during the day and a lively atmosphere after dusk when the bars and eateries fill up. Try Café Delmas (2 pl. de la Contrescarpe, 01-43-26-51-26), which features a large terrace and serves food daily until 2 am; there’sa diner-style restaurant next door for more relaxed meals. | Latin Quarter | Station: Place Monge.
There is a saying: “Everyone has two countries, his or her own—and France.” For the Lost Generation after World War I, these words rang particularly true. Lured by favorable exchange rates, free-flowing alcohol, and a booming arts scene, many American writers, composers, and painters moved to Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, Ernest Hemingway among them. He arrived in Paris with his first wife, Hadley, in December 1921 and headed for the Rive Gauche—the Hôtel de l’Angleterre, to be exact (still operating at 44 rue Jacob). To celebrate their arrival the couple went to the Café de la Paix for a meal they nearly couldn’t afford.
Hemingway worked as a journalist and quickly made friends with expat writers such as Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. In 1922 the Hemingways moved to 74 rue du Cardinal Lemoine, a bare-bones apartment with no running water (his writing studio was around the corner, on the top floor of 39 rue Descartes). Then, in 1924, they and their baby son settled at 113 rue Notre-Dame des Champs. Much of The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway’s first serious novel, was written at nearby café La Closerie des Lilas. These were the years in which he forged his writing style, paring his sentences down to the pith—as he noted in A Moveable Feast, “hunger was good discipline.” There were some especially hungry months when Hemingway gave up journalism for short-story writing, and the family was “very poor and very happy.”
They weren’t happy for long: in 1926, as The Sun Also Rises made him famous, Hemingway left Hadley. The next year, he wed his mistress, Pauline Pfeiffer, and moved to 6 rue Férou, near the Musée du Luxembourg.
For gossip and books, and to pick up his mail, Papa would visit Shakespeare & Company. (then at 12 rue de l’Odéon). For cash and cocktails, Hemingway usually headed to the upscale Rive Droite. He collected the former at the Guaranty Trust Company, at 1 rue des Italiens. He found the latter, when he was flush, at the bar of the landmark Hôtel de Crillon, on Place de la Concorde next to the American Embassy, or, when poor, at the Caves Mura, at 19 rue d’Antin, or Harry’s Bar, still in brisk business at 5 rue Daunou. Hemingway’s loyal and legendary association with the Hôtel Ritz was sealed during the Liberation in 1944, when he strode in at the head of his platoon and “liberated” the joint by ordering martinis all around. Here Hemingway asked Mary Welsh to become his fourth wife, and here also, the story goes, a trunk full of notes regarding his first years in Paris turned up in the 1950s, giving him the raw material for writing A Moveable Feast.
Rome has St. Peter’s, London has St. Paul’s, and Paris has the Panthéon, whose enormous dome dominates the Left Bank. Built as the church of Ste-Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris, it was later converted to an all-star mausoleum for some of France’s biggest names, including Voltaire, Zola, Dumas, Rousseau, and Hugo. Pierre and Marie Curie were reinterred here together in 1995. Begun in 1764, the building was almost complete when the French Revolution erupted. By then, architect Jacques-German Soufflot had died—supposedly from worrying that the 220-foot-high dome would collapse. He needn’t have fretted: the dome was so perfect that Foucault used it in his famous pendulum test to prove the Earth rotates on its axis. Time, however, has taken its toll on the Panthéon, and the structure is now in the midst of an extensive, multiyear overhaul. The crypt and nave remain accessible to the public, but the pendulum won’t return to its place of honor until 2016. | Pl. du Panthéon, Latin Quarter | 01-44-32-18-00 | www.pantheon.monuments-nationaux.fr | €7.50 | Apr.-Sept., daily 10-6:30; Oct.-Mar., daily 10-6 | Station: Cardinal Lemoine; RER: Luxembourg.
Fodor’s Choice | Rue Mouffetard.
This winding cobblestone street is one of the city’s oldest and was once a Roman road leading south from Lutetia (the Roman name for Paris) to Italy. The upper half is dotted with restaurants and bars that cater to tourists and students; the lower half is the setting of a lively morning market, Tuesday through Sunday. The highlight of le Mouffe, though, is the stretch in between where the shops spill into the street with luscious offerings such as roasting chickens and potatoes, rustic saucisson, pâtés, and pungent cheeses, especially at Androuët (No. 134). If you’re here in the morning, Le Mouffetard Café (No. 116) is a good place to stop for a continental breakfast (about €10). If it’s aperitif time, head to Place de la Contrescarpe for a cocktail, or enjoy a glass of wine at Cave La Bourgogne (No. 144). Prefer to just do a little noshing? Sample the chocolates at de Neuville (No. 108) and Mococha (No. 89). For one of the best baguettes in Paris and other delicious organic offerings, detour to nearby Boulanger de Monge, at 123 rue Monge. Note that most shops are closed Monday. | Latin Quarter | Station: Place Monge, Censier-Daubenton.
Arènes de Lutèce (Lutetia Amphitheater).
This Roman amphitheater, designed as a theater and circus, was almost completely destroyed by barbarians in AD 280. The site was rediscovered in 1869, and you can still see part of the stage and tiered seating. Along with the remains of the baths at Cluny, the arena constitutes rare evidence of the powerful Roman city of Lutetia that flourished on the Rive Gauche in the 3rd century. It’s a favorite spot for picnicking, pickup soccer, or boules. | 47 rue Monge, or Rue de Navarre, Latin Quarter | Free | Daily 8-dusk in summer, 9-dusk in winter | Station: Place Monge, Cardinal Lemoine.
La Grande Mosquée de Paris.
This awe-inspiring white mosque, built between 1922 and 1926, has tranquil arcades and a minaret decorated in the style of Moorish Spain. Enjoy sweet mint tea and an exotic pastry in the charming courtyard tea salon or tuck into some couscous in the restaurant. Prayer rooms are not open to the public, but there are inexpensive—and quite rustic—hammams, or Turkish steam baths, with scrubs and massages on offer (women only; check website for prices). | 2 bis, pl. du Puits de l’Ermite, entrance to tea salon and restaurant at 39 rue Geoffroy Saint-Hillaire, Latin Quarter | 01-45-35-97-33, | www.la-mosquee.com | €3 | Sat.-Thurs. 9-noon and 2-7 (until 6 in winter) | Station: Place Monge.
La Sorbonne (Paris IV.)
Unless your French is good enough to justify joining a 90-minute group tour (€9, by reservation only), you can’t get into the city’s most famous university without a student ID—but it’s still fun to hang out with the young scholars. Although La Sorbonne remains the soul of the Quartier Latin, it is only one of several campuses that make up the public Université de Paris. | 1 rue Victor Cousin, Latin Quarter | email@example.com for tour reservations | www.sorbonne.fr | Station: Cluny-La Sorbonne.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Le Musée de la Préfecture de Police.
Crime buffs will enjoy this museum hidden on the second floor of the 5e arrondissement’s police station. Although the exhibits are in French only, the photographs, letters, drawings, and memorabilia pertaining to some of the city’s most sensational crimes are easy enough to follow. Among the 2,000-odd relics you’ll find a guillotine, old uniforms, and remnants of the World War II occupation—including what’s left of a firing post, German machine guns, and the star insignias worn by Jews. | 4 rue de la Montagne Ste-Geneviève, Latin Quarter | 01-44-41-52-50 | Free | Weekdays 9-5:30 | Station: Maubert-Mutualité.
Manufacture des Gobelins.
Tapestries have been woven at this spot in southeastern Paris, on the banks of the long-covered Bièvre River, since 1662. The Galerie des Gobelins stages exhibitions on two light-flooded floors, highlighting tapestries, furnishings, timepieces, and other treasures mostly drawn from the state collection. Guided visits to the Manufacture (in French only) allow a fascinating look at weavers—from students to accomplished veterans—as they work on tapestries and rugs that take years to complete. Also on-site is a highly selective school that teaches weaving, plus a workshop charged with repairing and restoring furnishings belonging to the French government, which are also stored here in a vast concrete warehouse. | 42 av. des Gobelins, Les Gobelins | 01-44-08-53-49 | www.mobiliernational.culture.gouv.fr | €6 temporary exhibits; €9 workshop visit; €11 workshop and exhibits; free last Sun. of month | Galerie, Tues.-Sun. 11-6. Workshop, guided tours in French by reservation only, Sat. at 2:30 and 4 | Station:Gobelins.
This square was named for Gabriel Davioud’s grandiose 1860 fountain sculpture of St. Michael vanquishing Satan—a loaded political gesture from Napoléon III’s go-to guy, Baron Haussmann, who hoped St-Michel would quell the Revolutionary fervor of the neighborhood. The fountain is often used as a meeting point for both local students and young tourists. | Latin Quarter | Station: Métro or RER: St-Michel.
This jewel box of a church has been visited by several popes, owing to the fact that Ste-Geneviève (the patron saint of Paris) was buried here before Revolutionaries burned her remains. Built on the ruins of a 1st-century abbey founded by Clovis, the first King of the Franks, it has a unique combination of Gothic, Renaissance, and early Baroque elements, which adds a certain warmth that is lacking in other Parisian churches of pure Gothic style. Here you’ll find the only rood screen left in the city—an ornate 16th-century masterwork of carved wood spanning the nave like a bridge, with a spiral staircase on either side. Observe the organ (dating from 1631, it is the city’s oldest) and the marker in the floor near the entrance that commemorates an archbishop of Paris who was stabbed to death here by a defrocked priest in 1857. | 30 rue Descartes, Latin Quarter | 01-43-54-11-79 | www.saintetiennedumont.fr | Station: Cardinal Lemoine.
This tiny shrine in the shadow of Notre-Dame is one of the three oldest churches in Paris. Founded in 1045, it became a meeting place for university students in the 12th century and was Dante’s church of choice when he was in town writing his Divine Comedy. Today’s structure dates mostly from the 1600s, but keep an eye out for older pillars, which crawl with carvings of demons. You can maximize your time inside by attending one of the classical or gospel concerts held here. Alternately, go outside and simply perch on a bench in the garden to relish the view of Notre-Dame. | 1 rue St-Julien-le-Pauvre, Latin Quarter | 01-43-54-52-16 | Station: St-Michel.
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Top Attractions | Worth Noting
Updated By Virginia Power
If you had to choose the most classically Parisian neighborhood, this would be it. St-Germain-des-Prés has it all: genteel blocks lined with upscale art galleries, storied cafés, designer boutiques, atmospheric restaurants, and a fine selection of museums. Cast your eyes upward after dark and you may spy a frescoed ceiling in a tony apartment. These historic streets can get quite crowded, especially in summer, so mind your elbows and plunge in.
This quartier is named for the oldest church in Paris, St-Germain-des-Prés, and it’s become a prized address for Parisians and expats alike. Despite its pristine facade, though, this wasn’t always silver-spoon territory. Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir shared a cramped studio at 20 rue Visconti, and the young Picasso barely eked out an existence in a room on Rue de Seine. By the 1950s St-Germain bars bopped with jazz, and the likes of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir puffed away on Gauloises while discussing the meaninglessness of life at Café Flore. Nearby in the 7e arrondissement, the star attraction is the Musée d’Orsay, home to a world-class collection of Impressionist paintings in a converted Belle Époque railway station on the Seine. It’s famous for having some of Paris’s longest lines, so a visit to the Orsay should be planned with care. There are also several smaller museums worth a stop, including the impressive Musée Maillol, a private collection in an elegant mansion dedicated to the work of sculptor Aristide Maillol. The Musée Delacroix, in lovely Place Furstenburg, is home to a small collection of the Romantic master’s works. Not far away is the stately Église St-Sulpice, where you can see two impressive Delacroix frescoes.
Paris is a city for walking, and St-Germain is one of the most enjoyable places to practice the art of the flâneur, or stroller. Make your way to the busy crossroads of Carrefour de Buci, dotted with cafés, flower markets, and shops. Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie is so named because it was the first home of the legendary Comédie Française; it cuts through to busy Place de l’Odéon and Rue St-André des Arts. Along the latter you can find the historic Cour du Commerce St-André (opposite No. 66), a charming cobbled passageway filled with cafés—including, halfway down on the left, Paris’s oldest, Le Procope.
Make sure you save some energy for the exquisite Jardin du Luxembourg, a vintage French garden whose tree-lined paths have attracted fashionable fresh-air fans through the ages.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Musée d’Orsay. The magnificent vaulted ceiling and abundant natural light inside this train station-turned-art museum are reminders of why the Impressionist painters thought les gares were the cathedrals of the 19th century.
Jardin du Luxembourg. Take in a puppet show, wander the tree-lined gravel paths, or simply laze by the fountain in one of the city’s most elegant gardens.
Boulevard St-Germain. The main artery of this chic neighborhood is edged with shops and galleries. The top boutiques are clustered just off it, around Rue de Rennes.
Café life. This is prime people-watching territory. So pull up a seat at a comfy café, order a coffee, beer, or boisson, and prepare to watch the world go by.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
Aim for an early start—savor a café crème at a café along the river and get to the Musée d’Orsay early, when crowds are thinner. Leave some time for window-shopping around Boulevard St-Germain and Rue de Rennes on your way to the Jardin du Luxembourg. You might want to plan your visit on a day other than Monday, when the Orsay, many of the art galleries, and even some shops are closed. The Maillol museum is open every day and late on Friday, while the Delacroix is closed Tuesday.
Café de la Mairie.
Overlooking the St-Sulpice church, this slightly shabby café recalls the Latin Quarter of yesteryear before the proliferation of luxury boutiques and trendy eateries. | 8 pl. St-Sulpice, St-Germain-des-Prés | 01-43-26-67-82 | Station: St-Sulpice.
Café du Métro.
You can refuel at this friendly café-brasserie after an exhausting round of shopping around the Rue de Rennes. Main menu items are pricey, but the free Wi-Fi compensates. Closed Sunday. | 67 rue de Rennes, St-Germain-des-Prés | 01-45-48-58-56 | www.cafedumetro.com | Station: St-Sulpice.
The terrace of this corner café, opened in 1902, is a favorite haunt of local gallery owners and Beaux Arts students. Light fare is available throughout the day. | 43 rue de Seine, St-Germain-des-Prés | 01-43-26-68-15 | www.cafelapaletteparis.com | Station: Mabillon, Odéon.
Le Bar du Marché.
Grab a sidewalk table—if you’re lucky—or stand at the bar, skip the food, and order an aperitif at this constantly packed little place. The feel is classic French with a splash of kitsch, right down to the waiters in overalls and berets. | 75 rue de Seine, St-Germain-des-Prés | 01-43-26-55-15 | Station: Mabillon.
The St-Germain neighborhood is in the 6e arrondissement and a bit of the 7e. To get to the heart of this area, take the Line 4 métro to St-Germain-des-Prés. For shopping, use this station or St-Sulpice. It’s a short walk to the Jardin du Luxembourg, or take the RER B line to the Luxembourg station. For the Musée d’Orsay, take the Line 12 métro to Solferino or the RER C line to the Musée d’Orsay.
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Fodor’s Choice | Carrefour de Buci.
Just behind the neighborhood’s namesake St-Germain church, this colorful crossroads (carrefour means “intersection”) was once a notorious Rive Gauche landmark. During the French Revolution, the army enrolled its first volunteers here. It was also here that thousands of royalists and priests lost their heads during the 10-month wave of public executions known as the Reign of Terror. There’s certainly nothing sinister about the area today, though; brightly colored flowers are for sale alongside take-out ice cream and other sweet treats. Devotees of the superb, traditional bakery Carton (at 6 rue de Buci) line up for fresh breads and pastries (try the pain aux raisins, tuiles cookies, and tarte de citron). | Intersection of rues Mazarine, Dauphine, and de Buci, St-Germain-des-Prés | Station: Mabillon.
Paris’s oldest church was built to shelter a simple shard of wood, said to be a relic of Jesus’ cross brought back from Spain in AD 542. Vikings came down the Seine and sacked the sanctuary, and Revolutionaries used it to store gunpowder. Yet the elegant building has defied history’s abuses: its 11th-century Romanesque tower continues to be the central symbol of the neighborhood. The colorful 19th-century frescoes in the nave are by Hippolyte Flandrin, a pupil of the classical master Ingres; and the Saint Benoit chapel contains the tomb of philosopher René Descartes. Step inside for spiritual nourishment, or pause in the square to people-watch—there’s usually a street musician tucked against the church wall, out of the wind. The church stages superb organ concerts and recitals. See the website for details. | Pl. St-Germain-des-Prés, St-Germain-des-Prés | 01-55-42-81-10 | www.eglise-sgp.org | Daily 8-7:45 | Station: St-Germain-des-Prés.
Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore
Les Deux Magots (6 pl. St-Germain-des-Prés) and the neighboring Café de Flore (172 bd. St-Germain) have been duking it out on this bustling corner in St-Germain for more than a century. Les Deux Magots, the snootier of the two, is named for the two Chinese figurines, or magots, inside, and has hosted the likes of Oscar Wilde, Hemingway, James Joyce, and Richard Wright. Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone du Beauvoir frequented both establishments, though they are claimed by the Flore. The two cafés remain packed, but these days you’re more likely to rub shoulders with tourists than with philosophers. Still, if you’re in search of that certain je ne sais quoi of the Rive Gauche, you can do no better than to station yourself at one of the sidewalk tables—or at a window table on a wintry day—to watch the passing parade. Stick to a croissant and an overpriced coffee, or enjoy an early-evening aperitif; the food is expensive and nothing special.
Fodor’s Choice | Église St-Sulpice.
Dubbed the Cathedral of the Rive Gauche, this enormous 17th-century Baroque church has entertained some unlikely christenings—among them those of the Marquis de Sade and Charles Baudelaire—as well as the nuptials of novelist Victor Hugo. The church’s most recent appearance was a supporting role in the best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code, and it now draws scores of tourists to its obelisk (part of a gnomon, a device used to determine exact time and the equinoxes, built in the 1730s). Other notable features include the exterior’s asymmetrical towers and two magnificent Delacroix frescoes, which can be seen in a chapel to the right of the entrance. In the square just in front, view Visconti’s magnificent 19th-century fountain. It’s especially beautiful at night. | Pl. St-Sulpice, 2 rue Palatine, St-Germain-des-Prés | 01-42-34-59-60 | www.paris.catholique.fr/-saint-sulpice | Daily 7-7:30 | Station: St-Sulpice, Sèvres Babylone, Mabillon.
QUICK BITES: Les Editeurs. Once favored by the Parisian publishing set, Les Editeurs is a casual, occasionally noisy café where you can sip a kir (white wine with black-currant syrup) from a perch on the skinny sidewalk or at an inside table shadowed by book-lined walls. The menu offers a twist on French classics. | 4 carrefour de l’Odéon, St-Germain-des-Prés | 01-43-26-67-76 | www.lesediteurs.fr | Station:Odéon.
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Jardin du Luxembourg.
Everything that is charming, unique, and befuddling about Parisian parks can be found in the Luxembourg Gardens: cookie-cutter trees, ironed-and-pressed walkways, sculpted flower beds, and immaculate emerald lawns meant for admiring, not necessarily for lounging. The tree- and bench-lined paths are a marvelous reprieve from the bustle of the two neighborhoods it borders: the Quartier Latin and St-Germain-des-Prés. Beautifully austere during the winter months, the garden grows intoxicating as spring brings blooming beds of daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths, and the circular pool teems with boats nudged along by children. The park’s northern boundary is dominated by the Palais du Luxembourg, which houses the Sénat (Senate), one of two chambers that make up the Parliament.
Jardin du Luxembourg Highlights
The original inspiration for the gardens came from Marie de Medici, nostalgic for the Boboli Gardens of her native Florence. She is commemorated by the Fontaine de Medicis.
Les Marionettes du Théâtre du Luxembourg is a timeless attraction, where, on weekends at 11 and 3:15 and Wednesday at 3:15 (hours may vary), you can catch classic guignols (marionette shows) for €4.80. The wide-eyed kids might be the real attraction—their expressions of utter surprise, despair, and glee have fascinated the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson and François Truffaut. The park also has a merry-go-round, swings, and pony rides; the bandstand hosts free concerts on summer afternoons.
Check out the rotating photography exhibits hanging on the perimeter fence near the entrance on the Boulevard St-Michel and Rue Vaugirard.
Jardin du Luxembourg Tips
✵If the grass is en repos, a nice way of saying “stay off,” feel free to move the green chairs around to create a picnic spot or people-watching perch.
✵If you want to burn off that breakfast pain au chocolat, there’s a well-maintained trail around the perimeter that is frequented by gentrified joggers.
✵If you’re looking for a familiar face, one of the original (miniature) casts of the Statue of Liberty was installed in the gardens in 1906.
✵Gendarmes regularly walk the grounds to ensure park rules are enforced; follow guidelines posted on entry gates.
Bordered by Bd. St-Michel and Rues de Vaugirard, de Medicis, Guynemer, and Auguste-Comte, St-Germain-des-Prés | Free | Daily 7:30-dusk (depending on season) | Station: Odéon; RER: B Luxembourg.
Musée du Luxembourg.
Located in the northwestern corner of the Luxembourg Gardens, this former orangery for the Palais du Luxembourg became the city’s first public painting gallery in 1884. It now features excellent temporary exhibits that are well worth a visit. | 19 rue de Vaugirard, Luxembourg | 01-40-13-62-00 | www.museeduluxembourg.fr | €12 | Mon. and Fri. 10-10, Tues., Wed., and Thurs. 10-7, weekends 9-8 | Station:Rennes, St-Sulpice.
Opened in 1986, this gorgeously renovated Belle Époque train station displays a world-famous collection of Impressionist and Postimpressionist paintings on three floors. To visit the exhibits in a roughly chronologic manner, start on the first floor, take the escalators to the top, and end on the second. If you came to see the biggest names here, head straight for the top floor and work your way down. English audioguides and free color-coded museum maps (both available just past the ticket booths) will help you plot your route.
Ground floor: Galleries off the main alley feature early works by Manet and Cézanne in addition to pieces by masters such as Delacroix and Ingres. Later works by the likes of Toulouse-Lautrec are found in Salle 10. The Pavillon Amont has Courbet’s masterpieces L’Enterrement à Ornans and Un Atelier du Peintre. Hanging in Salle 14 is Édouard Manet’s Olympia, a painting that pokes fun at the fashion for all things Greek and Roman (his nubile subject is a 19th-century courtesan, not a classical goddess).
Top floor: Impressionism gets going here, with iconic works by Degas, Pissarro, Sisley, and Renoir. Don’t miss Monet’s series on the cathedral at Rouen and, of course, samples of his water lilies. Other selections by these artists are housed in galleries on the ground floor.
Second floor: An exquisite collection of sculpture as well as Art Nouveau furniture and decorative objects is housed here. There are rare surviving works by Hector Guimard (designer of the swooping green Paris métro entrances), plus Lalique and Tiffany glassware. Postimpressionist galleries include work by van Gogh and Gauguin, while Neo-Impressionist galleries highlight Seurat and Signac.
TIP Lines here are among the worst in Paris. Book ahead online or buy a Museum Pass, then go directly to entrance C. Otherwise, go early. Thursday evening the museum is open until 9:45 pm and less crowded. The elegant Musée d’Orsay Restaurant once served patrons of the 1900 World’s Fair; Café du Lion offers quick fare on the ground floor by the entrance; there’s also a café and a self-service cafeteria on the top floor just after the Cézanne galleries. Don’t miss the views of Sacré-Coeur from the balcony—this is the Paris that inspired the Impressionists. The d’Orsay is closed Monday, unlike the Pompidou and the Louvre, which are closed Tuesday.
| 1 rue de la Légion d’Honneur, St-Germain-des-Prés | 01-40-49-48-14 | www.musee-orsay.fr | €11; €8.50 after 4:30, except Thurs. after 6 | Tues., Wed., and Fri.-Sun. 9:30-6, Thurs. 9:30 am-9:45 pm | Station: Solférino; RER: Musée d’Orsay.
Cour du Commerce St-André.
Like an 18th-century engraving come to life, this charming street arcade is a remnant of ancien Paris with its uneven cobblestones, antique roofs, and old-world facades. Famed for its rabble-rousing inhabitants—journalist Jean-Paul Marat ran the Revolutionary newspaper L’Ami du Peuple at No. 8, and the agitator Georges Danton lived at No. 20—it is also home to Le Procope, Paris’s oldest café. The passageway contains a turret from the 12th-century wall of Philippe-Auguste, which is visible through the windows of Un Dimanche à Paris, a chocolate shop-pastry atelier at No. 4. | Linking Bd. St-Germain and Rue St-André-des-Arts, St-Germain-des-Prés | Station: Odéon.
École Nationale des Beaux-Arts.
Occupying three large mansions near the Seine, the national fine arts school—today the breeding ground for painters, sculptors, and architects—was once the site of a convent founded in 1608 by Marguerite de Valois, the first wife of Henri IV. After the Revolution the convent was turned into a museum for works of art salvaged from buildings attacked by the rampaging French mobs. In 1816 the museum was turned into a school. Today its peaceful courtyards host contemporary installations and exhibits. The courtyard and school galleries are accessible on 90-minute guided tours. | 14 rue Bonaparte, St-Germain-des-Prés | 01-47-03-50-00 | www.beauxartsparis.com | €13.50 | Weekdays 9-8:30 | Station: St-Germain-des-Prés.
Institut de France.
The Institut de France is one of the country’s most revered cultural institutions, and its golden dome is one of the Rive Gauche’s most impressive landmarks. The site was once punctuated by Tour de Nesle (forming part of Philippe-Auguste’s medieval fortification wall, the tower had many royal occupants—including Henry V of England). Then, in 1661, wealthy Cardinal Mazarin willed 2 million French livres (pounds) for the construction of a college here. It’s also home to the Académie Française: protectors of the French language. The edicts issued by this esoteric group of 40 perpétual (lifelong) members are happily ignored by the French public. The interior is off-limits to visitors. | Pl. de l’Institut, St-Germain-des-Prés | www.institut-de-france.fr | Station: Pont Neuf.
Mairie du 6e.
The “town hall” of the 6e arrondissement (as “mairie” is roughly translated) often stages impressive free art exhibitions and other cultural offerings. Stop by the accueil (reception desk) on the ground floor to see what’s on or to pick up information on other timely happenings around this artsy district. | 78 rue Bonaparte, St-Germain-des-Prés | 01-40-46-75-06 | www.mairie6.paris.fr | Free | Mon.-Wed. and Fri. 8:30-5, Thurs. 8:30-7:30, Sat. 9-12:30; hrs can vary based on exhibit | Station: Saint-Sulpice.
Musée de la Monnaie.
Louis XVI transferred the royal mint to this imposing mansion in the late 18th century. It was moved again (to Pessac, near Bordeaux) in 1973; however, weights and measures, medals, and limited-edition coins are still made here, and the site houses a museum devoted to currency. Reopened in 2014 following a two-year renovation, the Musée de la Monnaie has an extensive collection of coins and related artifacts, plus workshops where you can watch artisans in action as they mint, mold, sculpt, polish, and engrave using century-old techniques. Refreshed public spaces host cultural programs and temporary contemporary art exhibitions. | 11 quai de Conti, St-Germain-des-Prés | 01-40-46-56-66 | www.monnaiedeparis.fr | €8 | Fri.-Wed. 11-7, Thurs. 11-10 | Station: Pont Neuf, Odéon.
The final home of artist Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) contains only a small collection of his sketches and drawings. But you can check out the lovely studio he had built in the large garden at the back to work on frescoes he created for St-Sulpice Church, where they remain on display today. The museum also plays host to temporary exhibitions, such as Delacroix’s experiments with photography. France’s foremost Romantic painter had the good luck to live on Place Furstenberg, one of the smallest, most romantic squares in Paris: seeing it is reason enough to come. | 6 rue Furstenberg, St-Germain-des-Prés | 01-44-41-86-50 | www.musee-delacroix.fr | €6; €7.50 with temporary exhibitions; €12 with same-day admission to the Louvre | Wed.-Mon. 9:30-5 | Station: St-Germain-des-Prés.
Bronzes by Art Deco sculptor Aristide Maillol (1861-1944), whose voluptuous, stylized nudes adorn the Tuileries Gardens, can be admired at this handsome mansion lovingly restored by his former model and muse, Dina Vierny. The museum is particularly moving because it’s Vierny’s personal collection. She met Maillol when she was a teenager and he was already an old man. The stunning life-size drawings upstairs are both erotic and tender—age gazing on youth with fondness and longing. The museum often stages temporary exhibits that are worth the wait. | 61 rue de Grenelle, St-Germain-des-Prés | 01-42-22-59-58 | www.museemaillol.com | €13 | Mon.-Thurs. and Sun. 10:30-7, Fri. 10-9:30 | Station: Rue du Bac.
Musée National de la Légion d’Honneur (Hôtel de Salm.)
A must for military-history buffs, the National Museum of the Legion of Honor is dedicated to French and foreign military leaders. Housed in an elegant mansion just across from the Musée d’Orsay, it features a broad collection of military decorations, themed paintings, and video tributes to various luminaries—including U.S. general Dwight Eisenhower, a Légion member who led the Allied liberation of France in 1944. The palatial complex was completed in 1788 and acquired by the Legion of Honor in 1804. Admission includes an English audioguide. | 2 rue de la Légion d’Honneur, St-Germain-des-Prés | 01-40-62-84-25 | www.musee-legiondhonneur.fr | Free | Wed.-Sun. 1-6 | Station: Solférino; RER: Musée d’Orsay.
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Top Attractions | Worth Noting
Updated By Virginia Power
Once a warren of artists’ studios and swinging cafés, much of Montparnasse was leveled in the 1960s to make way for a gritty train station and the Tour Montparnasse, Paris’s only—and much maligned—skyscraper. Nevertheless, the neighborhood has maintained its reputation as a hub for its lively cafés and the kind of real-life vibe lost in some of the trendier sections of the city.
Despite its soulless modern architecture, the Tour Montparnasse has an upside—after all, the rooftop terrace provides a prime panoramic view of Paris. It’s okay to feel smug during your ascent, as you consider yourself savvy for having avoided long lines at Tour Eiffel; afterward, congratulate yourself with a fancy cocktail at Le Bar Américain on the 56th floor.
The other star attraction of Montparnasse is underground. The labyrinthine tunnels of the Paris Catacombs contain the bones of centuries’ worth of Parisians, moved here when disease, spread by rotting corpses, threatened the city center.
The café society that flourished in the early 20th century—Picasso, Modigliani, Hemingway, Man Ray, and even Trotsky raised a glass here—is still evident along Boulevard du Montparnasse. The Art Deco interior of La Coupole attracts diners seeking piles of golden choucroute.
Along Boulevard Raspail you can see today’s art stars at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson and the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, or pay your respects to Baudelaire, Alfred Dreyfus, or Simone de Beauvoir in the Cimetière du Montparnasse.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Catacombs. History buffs, lovers of the macabre, and the just plain curious can make an unforgettable descent into Paris’s underground bastion of bones. Claustrophobic folks, however, need not apply.
Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain. Connoisseurs of cutting-edge art will appreciate what’s on view here. The building itself was designed by Jean Nouvel, the avant-garde darling of Paris architecture.
Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson. Photography fans shouldn’t miss the chance to see Cartier-Bresson’s restored atelier, featuring a small collection of his work plus photographs from young artists.
The Tour Montparnasse. Even though this 680-foot black behemoth of a skyscraper is considered one of the biggest eyesores in Paris, its open-air roof terrace is still one of the best spots to see the City of Light.
This hot spot is on one of Montparnasse’s most lively streets, aptly named Rue de la Gaîté (or “Cheerful Street”). Settle into a comfy chair and order a creation from the extensive cocktail list or choose from a menu of affordable French and international standards. | 31 bis, rue de la Gaîté, Montparnasse | 01-43-20-68-59 | www.backstagecafe.fr | Station: Edgar Quinet.
La Rotonde Brasserie.
A second home to foreign artists and political exiles in the ‘20s and ‘30s, La Rotonde has a less exotic clientele today, but it’s still very pleasant to have coffee or a quick bite on the sunny terrace. If you want a heartier meal, head inside for a traditional French experience. | 105 bd. Montparnasse, Montparnasse | 01-43-26-48-26 | www.rotondemontparnasse.com | Station: Vavin.
Le Sélect Café and Brasserie.
Isadora Duncan and Hart Crane used to hang out here, and now it’s a popular place for a beer, glass of wine, or well-made cocktail. Emmentaler cheese lovers should try the croque madame with a bowl of French onion soup. | 99 bd. Montparnasse, Montparnasse | 01-45-48-38-24 | Station: Vavin.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
If you can get to the top of Tour Montparnasse on a clear day, you’ll be rewarded with a vista unmatched in all of Paris. The viewing deck is open until 10:30 pm (11:30 on Friday and Saturday), so you can watch the lights sparkle on the Eiffel Tower at the top of the hour. The Catacombs and the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson are closed Monday. The Cimetière du Montparnasse is open daily.
Montparnasse includes the 14e and 15e arrondissements. Take Line 4, 6, 12, or 13 to Montparnasse-Bienvenue for the Tour Montparnasse; walk along Boulevard du Montparnasse to reach the cafés. Take Line 4 or 6 to the Raspail métro stop for the Cimetière du Montparnasse or the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson. To visit the Catacombs, take the 4 or 6 lines to Denfert-Rochereau. Other nearby métro stops include the Edgar Quinet stop on the 6 line and the Gaîté stop on the 13 line.
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Cimetière du Montparnasse.
Many of the neighborhood’s most illustrious residents rest here, a stone’s throw from where they lived and loved: Charles Baudelaire, Frédéric Bartholdi (who designed the Statue of Liberty), Alfred Dreyfus, Guy de Maupassant, and, more recently, photographer Man Ray, playwright Samuel Beckett, writers Marguerite Duras, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir, actress Jean Seberg, and singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. Opened in 1824 and spread over 47 acres, the ancient farmland is the second-largest burial ground in Paris. | Entrances on Rue Froidevaux, Bd. Edgar Quinet, Montparnasse | Mid-Mar.-early Nov., weekdays 8-6, Sat. 8:30-6, Sun. 9-6; early Nov.-mid-Mar., weekdays 8-5:30, Sat. 8:30-5:30, Sun. 9-5:30 | Station: Raspail, Gaîté.
Fodor’s Choice | Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain.
There’s no shortage of museums in Paris, but this eye-catching gallery may be the city’s premier place to view cutting-edge art. Funded by luxury giant Cartier, the foundation is at once an architectural landmark, a corporate collection, and an exhibition space. Architect Jean Nouvel’s 1993 building is a glass house of cards layered seamlessly between the boulevard and the garden. The foundation regularly hosts Soirées Nomades (Nomadic Nights) featuring lectures, dance, music, film, or fashion on Thursday evenings. Some are in English. Family tours and creative workshops for children ages 9 to 13 are available. | 261 bd. Raspail, Montparnasse | 01-42-18-56-50 | www.fondation.cartier.com | €10.50 | Tues. 11-10, Wed.-Sun. 11-8 | Station: Raspail.
Fodor’s Choice | Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Photography has deep roots in Montparnasse, as great experimenters like Louis Daguerre and Man Ray lived and worked here. In keeping with this spirit of innovation, Henri Cartier-Bresson, legendary photographer and creator of the Magnum photo agency, launched this foundation with Martine Franck and their daughter Melanie. The restored 1913 artists’ atelier holds three temporary exhibitions of contemporary photography each year. Be sure to go to the top floor to see a small gallery of Cartier-Bresson’s own work. | 2 impasse Lebouis, Montparnasse | 01-56-80-27-00 | www.henricartierbresson.org | €7; free on Wed. 6:30 pm-8:30 pm | Tues., Thurs., Fri., and Sun. 1-6:30, Wed. 1-8:30, Sat. 11-6:45 | Station: Gaîté, Edgar Quinet.
This is just the thing for anyone with morbid interests. What you’ll see after a descent through dark, clammy passages is Paris’s principal ossuary, which also once served as a hideout maze for the French Resistance. Bones from the defunct Cimetière des Innocents were the first to arrive in 1786, when decomposing bodies started seeping into the cellars of the market at Les Halles, drawing swarms of ravenous rats. The legions of bones dumped here are stacked not by owner but by type—rows of skulls, packs of tibias, and piles of spinal disks, often rather artfully arranged. Be prepared for lots of steep stairs and a long underground walk. Wear nonslip shoes, too, as the floor can be damp. The good news is that you won’t be shrouded in tomb-like darkness since the tunnels are well lighted. Among the nameless 6 million or so are the bones of Madame de Pompadour (1721-64), laid to rest with the riffraff after a lifetime spent as the mistress of Louis XV. Unfortunately, one of the most interesting aspects of the catacombs is one you probably won’t see: cataphiles, mostly art students, have found alternate entrances into its 300 km (186 miles) of tunnels and here they make art, party, and purportedly raise hell. Arrive early as the line can get long and only 200 people can descend at a time. Audioguides are available for €3. Not recommended for claustrophobes or young children. | 1 ave. du Colonel Henri Roi-Tanguy, Montparnasse | 01-43-22-47-63 | www.catacombes.paris.fr | €8 | Tues.-Sun. 10-8 (last entry at 7) | Station: Métro or RER: Denfert-Rochereau.
Fodor’s Choice | Musée Zadkine.
Sculptor Ossip Zadkine spent nearly four decades living in this bucolic retreat near the Jardin du Luxembourg, creating graceful, elongated figures known for their clean lines and simplified features. Zadkine, a Russian-Jewish émigré, moved to Paris in 1910 and fell into a circle of avant-garde artists. His early works, influenced by African, Greek, and Roman art, later took a Cubist turn, no doubt under the influence of his friend, the founder of the Cubist movement: Pablo Picasso. The thoughtfuly renovated museum displays a substantial portion of the 400 sculptures and 300 drawings bequeathed to the city by his wife, artist Valentine Prax. There are busts in bronze and stone reflecting the range of Zadkine’s style, and an airy back room filled with lithe female nudes in polished wood. The leafy garden is worth the trip alone: it contains a dozen statues nestled in the trees, including The Destroyed City, a memorial to the Dutch city of Rotterdam, destroyed by the Germans in 1940. | 100 bis, rue d’Assas, Montparnasse | 01-55-42-77-20 | www.zadkine.paris.fr | Free; fee for temporary exhibitions | Tues.-Sun. 10-6 (last entry 5:40) | Station: Vavin, Notre-Dame-des-Champs.
One of continental Europe’s tallest skyscrapers offers a stupendous view of Paris from its 56th-floor observation deck, and the upwardly mobile can climb another three flights to its open-air roof terrace. Completed in 1973, the 680-foot building attracts 800,000 gawkers each year because, on a clear day, you can see for 40 km (25 miles). Well-placed plaques and a glossy brochure, “Paris Vu d’en Haut” (“Paris from on High”), explain what to look for. Have a cocktail as you drink in the view at Le Bar Américain on the 56th floor, which also serves light food, or splurge on dinner in Le Ciel de Paris restaurant. Purchase tickets in advance to avoid lines. | Rue de l’Arrivée, Montparnasse | 01-45-38-52-56, 01-40-64-77-64 Le Ciel de Paris | www.tourmontparnasse56.com | €14.50 | Apr.-Sept., daily 9:30 am-11:30 pm; Oct.-Mar., Sun.-Thurs. 9:30 am-10:30 pm, Fri. and Sat. 9:30 am-11 pm; last elevator 30 mins before closing | Station: Montparnasse Bienvenüe.
Artists, Writers, and Exiles in Paris
Paris became a magnet for the international avant-garde in the mid-1800s and remained Europe’s creative capital until the 1950s. It all began south of Montmartre, when Romantics, including writers Charles Baudelaire and George Sand (with her lover, Polish composer Frédéric Chopin), moved into the streets below Boulevard de Clichy. Impressionist painters Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, and Mary Cassatt had studios here, near Gare St-Lazare, so they could commute to the countryside. In the 1880s the neighborhood dance halls had a new attraction: the cancan, and in 1889 the Moulin Rouge cabaret was opened.
The artistic maelstrom continued through the Belle Époque and beyond. In the early 1900s Picasso and Braque launched Cubism from a ramshackle hillside studio, the Bateau-Lavoir, and a similar beehive of activity was established at the south end of the city in a curious studio building called La Ruche (the beehive, at the Convention métro stop). Artists from different disciplines worked together on experimental productions. In 1917 the modernist ballet Parade hit the stage, danced by impresario Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, with music by Erik Satie and costumes by Picasso—everyone involved was hauled off to court, accused of being cultural anarchists.
World War I shattered this creative frenzy, and when peace returned, the artists had moved. The narrow streets of Montparnasse had old buildings suitable for studios, and the area hummed with a wide, new, café-filled boulevard. At 27 rue Fleurus, Gertrude Stein held court with her partner, Alice B. Toklas. Picasso drew admirers to La Rotonde, and F. Scott Fitzgerald drank at the now-defunct Dingo.
The Spanish Civil War and World War II brought an end to carefree Montparnasse. But the literati reconvened in St-Germain-des-Prés. Café de Flore and Deux Magots had long been popular with an alternative crowd. Expat writers Samuel Beckett and Richard Wright joined existentialists Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus in the neighborhood, drawn into the orbit of literary magazines and publishing houses.
Although Paris can no longer claim to be the epicenter of Western artistic innovation, pockets of outrageous creativity still bubble up. The galleries on Rue Louise Weiss in Tolbiac and the open-studio weekends in Belleville and Oberkampf, for instance, reveal the city’s continuing artistic spirit; and the Ménilmontant district, where past arts icons rest in peace at the Père Lachaise Cemetery, is considered a new mecca for creative souls.
Closerie des Lilas.
Now a popular and pricey bar-restaurant, the Closerie remains a staple of all Parisian literary tours. Commemorative plaques are bolted to the bar as if they were still saving seats for their former clientele: an impressive list of literati including Zola, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Apollinaire, Beckett, and, of course, Hemingway. (“Papa” wrote pages of The Sun Also Rises here and lived around the corner at 115 rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs.) Although the lilacs that once graced the garden—and shaded such habitués as Ingres, Whistler, and Cézanne—are gone, the terrace still opens onto a garden wall of luxuriant foliage. There is live music in the piano bar. | 171 bd. du Montparnasse, Montparnasse | 01-40-51-34-50 | www.closeriedeslilas.fr | Station: Vavin; RER: Port Royal.
Built above the tracks of Gare Montparnasse, this park nestled among tall modern buildings is named for its assortment of trees and plants typically found in coastal regions near the Atlantic Ocean. At the far end of the garden are small twin museums devoted to World War II: the Mémorial du Maréchal-Leclerc, named for the liberator of Paris, and the adjacent Musée Jean-Moulin, devoted to the leader of the French Resistance. Both feature memorabilia and share a common second floor showing photos and video footage (with English subtitles) of the final days of the war. Admission is free, though temporary exhibitions cost a few euros. In the center of the park, what looks like a quirky piece of metallic sculpture is actually a meteorological center, with a battery of flickering lights reflecting temperature, wind speed, and monthly rainfall. | 1 pl. des Cinq-Martyrs-du-Lycée-Buffon, Montparnasse | 01-40-64-39-44 | www.equipement.paris.fr | Jardin weekdays 8-dusk, weekends 9-dusk; museums Tues.-Sun. 10-6 | Station: Montparnasse Bienvenüe.
Marché Edgar Quinet.
To experience local living in one of the best ways, visit this excellent street market that sells everything from fresh fruit to wool shawls on Wednesday and Saturday. It’s a good place to pick up lunch on the go before paying your respects at Cimetière du Montparnasse across the street. | Bd. du Edgar Quinet at métro Edgar Quinet., Montparnasse | Wed. 8-2, Sat. 8-2 | Station: Edgar Quinet.
Place du 18-Juin-1940.
Next to Tour Montparnasse, this square commemorates an impassioned radio broadcast Charles de Gaulle made from London on June 18, 1940. In it he urged the French to resist Nazi occupiers (who had invaded the month prior), thereby launching the French Resistance Movement. It was also here that German military governor Dietrich von Choltitz surrendered to the Allies in August 1944, ignoring Hitler’s orders to destroy the city as he withdrew. | Montparnasse | Station: Montparnasse Bienvenüe.
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Top Attractions | Worth Noting
Updated By Jack Vermee
Meet Paris at its most prim and proper. This genteel area is a study in smart urban planning, with classical architecture and newer construction cohabitating as easily as the haute bourgeoisie inhabitants mix with their expat neighbors. There’s no shortage of celebrities seeking some peace and quiet here, but you’re just as likely to find well-heeled families who decamped from the center of the city in search of a spacious apartment. Passy, once a separate village and home to American ambassadors Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, was incorporated into the city in 1860 under Napoléon III.
A walk along the main avenues gives you a sense of Paris’s finest Art Nouveau and Modernist buildings, including Castel-Béranger, by Hector Guimard, and the Fondation Le Corbusier museum, a prime example of the titular architect’s pioneering style (it was one of Corbusier’s first Paris commissions). This neighborhood is also home to one of the city’s best and most overlooked museums—the Musée Marmottan Monet—which has an astonishing collection of Impressionist art. Enjoy a dégustation (tasting) at the Musée du Vin or simply find a café on Rue de Passy and savor a moment in one of the city’s most exclusive enclaves. For outdoor adventures, the Bois de Boulogne is the place to be, especially if you have kids in tow. At le Bois, you can explore the Pré Catelan and peacock-filled Bagatelle gardens, both meticulously landscaped and surrounded by woods. You can also admire the contemporary art in the new Fondation Louis Vuitton, head to the old-fashioned amusement park at the Jardin d’Acclimatation,take a rowboat out on one of the park’s two bucolic lakes, or rent a bike and hit 14 km (9 miles) of marked trails.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Fondation Louis Vuitton. Contemporary art meets iconoclastic architecture at the sculptural new steel-and-glass museum designed by Frank Gehry.
Musée Marmottan Monet. If you’re a fan of Claude Monet, don’t miss this gem of a museum tucked away deep in the 16e near the Jardin du Ranelagh.
Bois de Boulogne. Whether you spend your afternoon in a rowboat or wandering gardens filled with foliage, the Bois is a perfect escape from the city.
Jardin d’Acclimatation. There’s not a child under the age of five who won’t love this amusement park on the northern edge of the Bois de Boulogne.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
If this isn’t your first time in Paris, or even if it is and you’ve had enough of the touristy central part of the city, this neighborhood is a great choice and can be treated like a day trip. Spend the morning admiring the Monets at the uncrowded Musée Marmottan Monet (closed Monday), then take in the Art Nouveau architecture on Rue Jean de la Fontaine; or while away the day in the leafy Bois de Boulogne.
Housed in a former train station, this restaurant-lounge is frequented by business types and chic youth alike. Sit on the large terrace or descend the wide staircase to a room bathed in natural light by day and warm golden tones at night. Reasonable set menus feature traditional and inventive French cuisine. | 19 chausée de la Muette, Western Paris | 01-42-15-15-31 | restaurantlagare.com | Station: La Muette.
Café Le Passy.
The plush chestnut-and-cream decor of this café is the work of one of Givenchy’s nephews. Cocktails are classy, there’s a good variety of beer on tap, and the food (bistro fare such as steaks, fish, and frites) is tasty. In the evening, candlelight makes everyone look that much more glamorous. | 2 rue de Passy, Passy | 01-42-88-31-02 | Station: Passy or Trocadéro.
The courtyard of this bucolic café just off Rue de Passy may make you think you’ve stumbled into a small village. Sit outside on a cushioned banquette shaded by ivy and order the plat du jour, prepared with fresh market ingredients. On Sunday, a €25 brunch is served from noon to 3:45 pm. | 4 impasse des Carrières, (opposite 31 rue de Passy), Passy | 01-45-27-68-76 | Closed Mon. | Station: Passy.
Western Paris includes the 16e and 17e arrondissements. Take Line 9 to La Muette métro stop for the Musée Marmottan Monet, or to the Jasmin stop (also Line 9) to explore Rue Jean de la Fontaine. Take Line 6 to the Passy stop for the Musée du Vin or to reach the main drag, Rue de Passy; alternately, take Bus 72 from the Hôtel de Ville or 63 from St. Sulpice. For the Bois de Boulogne, take Line 2 to the Porte Dauphine stop or RER C to Avenue Foch. For the Jardin d’Acclimatation, enter the park from the Les Sablons or Porte Maillot métro stops on Line 1. If you’re heading out to La Défense, it’s the terminus of Line 1.
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Fodor’s Choice | Castel-Béranger.
It’s a shame you can’t go inside this house, which is considered the city’s first Art Nouveau structure. Dreamed up in 1898 by Hector Guimard, the wild combination of materials and the grimacing grillwork led neighbors to call it Castle Dérangé (Deranged). Yet the project catapulted the 27-year-old Guimard into the public eye, leading to his famous métro commission. After ogling the sea-inspired front entrance, go partway down the alley to admire the inventive treatment of the traditional Parisian courtyard, complete with a melting water fountain. Just up the road at No. 60 is the Hotel Mezzara, designed by Guimard in 1911 for textile designer Paul Mezzara. You can trace Guimard’s evolution by walking to the subtler Agar complex at the end of the block. Tucked beside the stone entrance at the corner of Rue Jean de la Fontaine and Rue Gros is a tiny café-bar with an Art Nouveau glass front and furnishings. | 14 rue Jean de la Fontaine, Passy-Auteuil | Station: Ranelagh; RER: Maison de Radio France.
Fondation Le Corbusier (Le Corbusier Foundation.)
Maison La Roche is a must-see for architecture and design lovers. Built as a private residence in 1923, it’s a stellar example of Swiss architect Le Corbusier’s innovative construction techniques based on geometric forms, recherché color schemes, and a visionary use of iron and concrete. The sloping ramp that replaces the traditional staircase is one of the most eye-catching features. Hour-long English tours are available at 2 pm every Tuesday and must be reserved online. | 8-10 sq. du Docteur Blanche, Passy-Auteuil | 01-42-88-75-72 Maison La Roche | www.fondationlecorbusier.fr | €8 (€12 for combined visit with Le Corbusier’s studio-apartment) | Mon. 1:30-6, Tues.-Sat. 10-6 | Station: Jasmin, Michel-Ange-Auteuil.
Bois de Boulogne.
When Parisians want to experience the great outdoors without going too far from home, they head to the Bois de Boulogne. Once a royal hunting ground, the Bois is not a park in the traditional sense—more like a vast tamed forest where romantic lakes and wooded paths are complemented by formal gardens and family-friendly amusements. On nice days, it’s filled with cyclists, rowers, rollerbladers, joggers, pétanque players, picnickers, and hordes of preschoolers. Art lovers are also flocking here thanks to the opening of the Louis Vuitton Foundation, a stunning exhibition space dedicated to contemporary art near the Jardin d’Acclimatation.
Bois de Boulogne Highlights
The Parc de Bagatelle is a floral garden with irises, roses, tulips, water lilies, and roaming peacocks that is at its most colorful between April and June. Pré Catelan contains one of Paris’s largest trees: a copper beech more than 200 years old. The romantic Le Pré Catelan restaurant, where le tout Paris used to dine on the elegant terrace during the Belle Époque, still draws diners and wedding parties—especially on weekends. The Jardin Shakespeare inside the Pré Catelan has a sampling of the flowers, herbs, and trees mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays, and it becomes an open-air theater for the Bard’s works in spring. The Jardin d’Acclimatation, on the northern edge of the Bois, is an amusement park that attracts seemingly every local preschooler on summer Sunday afternoons. Boats or bikes can be rented for a few euros at Lac Inférieur. You can row or take a quick “ferry” to the island restaurant Le Chalet des Iles. Two popular horse-racing tracks are also in the park: the Hippodrome de Longchamp and the Hippodrome d’Auteuil. Fans of the French Open can visit its home base, Stade Roland-Garros.
Bois de Boulogne Tips
✵The main entrance to the Bois is off Avenue Foch near the Porte Dauphine métro stop on Line 2; it is best for accessing Pré Catelan and Jardin Shakespeare, both located off the Route de la Grande-Cascade by the lake.
✵For the Jardin d’Acclimatation, off Boulevard Des Sablons, take Line 1 to Les Sablons or Porte Maillot, where you can walk or ride the Petit Train to the amusement park.
✵The Parc de Bagatelle, off Route de Sèvres-à-Neuilly, can be accessed from either Porte Dauphine or Porte Maillot, though it’s a bit of a hike.
✵You’ll want to leave the park by dusk, as the Bois—seedy and potentially dangerous after dark—turns into a distinctly “adult” playground.
Porte Dauphine for main entrance; Porte Maillot or Les Sablons for northern end; Porte d’Auteuil for southern end, Western Paris | 01-53-64-53-80 Parc de Bagatelle, 01-40-67-90-85 Jardin d’Acclimatation | www.jardindacclimatation.fr | Parc de Bagatelle free except during exhibitions, otherwise €5.50; Jardin Shakespeare free; Jardin d’Acclimatation €3 entry, €2.90 per person for rides | Daily; hrs vary according to time of yr but are generally around 10-dusk | Station: Porte Dauphine for main entrance; Porte Maillot or Les Sablons for northern end; Porte d’Auteuil for southern end.
Fodor’s Choice | Fondation Louis Vuitton.
Rising up out of the Bois de Boulogne like a magnificent ship sporting billowing crystal sails, Frank Gehry’s new contemporary-art museum and cultural center is the most captivating addition to the Parisian skyline since the unveiling of the Centre Pompidou in 1977. Commissioned by Bernard Arnault (chairman and CEO of luxury-goods conglomerate LVMH), it houses Arnault’s substantial private collection, including pieces by Pierre Huyghe, Gerhard Richter, Thomas Schütte, Ellsworth Kelly, Bertrand Lavier, Taryn Simon, Sarah Morris, and Christian Boltanski, among others. La Fondation Louis Vuitton also hosts extensive temporary exhibitions, like the mesmerizing light installations of Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. Le Frank, the pricey on-site restaurant overseen by Michelin-starred chef Jean-Louis Nomicos, is rapidly gaining fans for its mix of French and international cuisine. The museum is a 12-minute walk from Les Sablons métro on Line 1; alternatively, you can catch the Fondation shuttle (€1), which leaves every 10 to 15 minutes from Avenue de Friedland at Place de l’Étoile. | 8 av. du Mahatma Gandhi, Western Paris | 01-40-69-96-00 | www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr | €9, €14 during temporary exhibitions. includes entrance to Jardin d’Acclimatation | Mon., Wed., and Thurs. noon-7, Fri. noon-11, weekends 11-8 | Station: Les Sablons.
Fodor’s Choice | Musée Marmottan Monet.
A few years ago the underrated Marmottan tacked “Monet” onto its official name—and justly so, as this is the largest collection of the artist’s works anywhere. More than 100 pieces, donated by his son Michel, occupy a specially built basement gallery in an elegant 19th-century mansion, which was once the hunting lodge of the Duke de Valmy. Among them you can find such works as the Cathédrale de Rouen series (1892-96) and Impression: Soleil Levant (Impression: Sunrise, 1872), the painting that helped give the Impressionist movement its name. Other exhibits include letters exchanged by Impressionist painters Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt. Upstairs, the mansion still feels like a graciously decorated private home. Empire furnishings fill the salons overlooking the Jardin du Ranelagh on one side and the private yard on the other. There’s also a captivating room of illuminated medieval manuscripts. To best understand the collection’s context, buy an English-language catalog in the museum shop on your way in. | 2 rue Louis-Boilly, Passy-Auteuil | 01-44-96-50-33 | www.marmottan.fr | €11 | Wed. and Fri.-Sun. 10-6, Thurs. 10-9 | Station: La Muette.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: La Défense.
First conceived in 1958, this Modernist suburb just west of Paris was inspired by Le Corbusier’s dream of high-rise buildings, pedestrian walkways, and sunken vehicle circulation. Built as an experiment to keep high-rises out of the historic downtown, the Parisian business hub has survived economic uncertainty to become the city’s prime financial district. Visiting La Défense gives you a crash course in contemporary skyscraper evolution, from the solid blocks of the 1960s and ‘70s to the curvy fins of the ‘90s and beyond. Today 20,000 people live in the suburb, but 180,000 people work here, and many more come to shop in its enormous mall. Arriving via métro Line 1, you’ll get a view of the Seine, then emerge at a pedestrian plaza studded with some great public art, including César’s giant thumb, Joan Miró’s colorful figures, and one of Calder’s great red “stabiles.” The Grande Arche de La Défense dominates the area: it was designed as a controversial closure to the historic axis of Paris (an imaginary line that runs through the Arc de Triomphe, the Arc du Carrousel, and the Louvre Pyramide). Glass-bubble elevators in a metal-frame tower whisk you a heart-jolting 360 feet to the viewing platform. At the end of June, La Defense hosts an annual weeklong jazz festival with free concerts and events. See ladefensejazzfestival.hauts-de-seine.net for details. | Parvis de La Défense, La Défense | 01-49-07-27-27 | www.grandearche.com | Grande Arche €10 | Apr.-Aug., daily 10-8; Sept.-Mar., daily 10-7 | Station: Métro or RER: Grande Arche de La Défense.
Maison de Balzac.
Literature aficionados can visit the modest home of the great French 19th-century novelist Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), which contains exhibits charting his tempestuous yet prolific career. Balzac penned nearly 100 novels and stories known collectively as The Human Comedy, many of them set in Paris. You can still feel his presence in his study and pay homage to his favorite coffeepot—his working hours were fueled by a tremendous consumption of the “black ink.” He would escape his creditors by exiting the flat through a secret passage that led down to what is now the Musée du Vin. | 47 rue Raynouard, Passy-Auteuil | 01-55-74-41-80 | www.balzac.paris.fr | Free; temporary exhibitions vary | Tues.-Sun. 10-6 | Last entry at 5:30 | Station: Passy, La Muette.
Musée du Vin.
Oenophiles with some spare time will enjoy this quirky museum housed in a 15th-century abbey, a reminder of Passy’s roots as a pastoral village. Though hardly exhaustive and geared to beginners, the small collection contains old wine bottles, glassware, and ancient wine-related pottery excavated in Paris. Wine-making paraphernalia shares the grotto-like space with hokey figures retired from the city’s wax museum, including Napoléon appraising a glass of Burgundy. But you can partake in a thoroughly nonhokey wine tasting, or bring home one of the 200-plus bottles for sale in the tiny gift shop. Check online for a calendar of wine tastings and classes offered in English. You can book ahead for a casual lunch, too (restaurant open Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 3, reservations required). | Rue des Eaux/5 sq. Charles Dickens, | 01-45-25-63-26 | www.museeduvinparis.com | €10, €15 with a glass of wine, €25 with 3 wine tastings | Tues.-Sun. 10-6 | Station: Passy.
Visiting graveyards in Paris can become addictive. The Passy Cemetery dates to 1821 and sits in the shadows of Trocadéro. Here you’ll find the tombstones of famous aristocrats and artists such as composer Claude Debussy and Impressionist painters Édouard Manet and Berthe Morisot. | 2 rue du Commandant Schlœsing, Passy | Mid-Mar.-Oct., weekdays 8-6, Sat. 8:30-6, Sun. 9-6; Nov.-mid-Mar., weekdays 8-5:30, Sat. 8:30-5:30, Sun. 9-5:30 | Station: Trocadéro (lines 6, 9).
Porte Dauphine métro entrance.
Visitors come here to snap pictures of the queen of subway entrances—one of the city’s two remaining Art Nouveau canopied originals designed by Hector Guimard (the other is at the Abbesses stop on Line 12). A flamboyant scalloped “crown” of patina-painted panels and runaway metal struts adorns this whimsical 1900 creation. Porte Dauphine is the terminus of Line 2. The entrance is on the Bois de Boulogne side of Avenue Foch, so take the Boulevard de l’Amiral Bruix exit. | Western Paris | Station: Porte Dauphine.
This narrow shopping street escaped Haussmann’s urban renovations and today still retains the country feel of old Auteuil, a sedate bourgeois enclave. Molière once lived on the site of No. 2, while Racine was on nearby Rue du Buis: the pair met up to clink glasses and exchange drama notes at the Mouton Blanc Inn, now a traditional brasserie, at No. 40. Numbers 19-25 and 29 are an interesting combination of 17th- and 18th-century buildings. At the foot of the street, the scaly dome of the Église Notre-Dame d’Auteuil (built in the 1880s) is an unmistakable small-time cousin of Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre. Rue d’Auteuil is at its liveliest on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, when a much-loved street market crams onto Place Jean-Lorraine. | Western Paris | Station: Michel-Ange-Auteuil, Église d’Auteuil.
This sprawling museum, sponsored by the French Tennis Federation, claims to house the world’s largest collection of tennis memorabilia. Hidden underneath the Stade Roland Garros (site of the French Open), it also has an archive relating to the sport’s 500-year history and hosts themed art and photo exhibits. If you’re a serious tennis buff, the museum is worth the short walk from the métro station. Guided stadium tours (€10.50) are available in English on Wednesday and Friday through Sunday at 11 and 3, reservations required. | 2 av. Gordon-Bennett, Auteil | 01-47-43-48-48 | www.rolandgarros.com | €8; €15.50 with stadium entry | Wed. and Fri.-Sun. 10-6 | Station: Porte d’Auteil.