Things to Do in Paris - page 5
The Seine separates Paris into two halves: to the north is the Right Bank, and to the south is the Left Bank. Also known as the Rive Gauche, the Left Bank is home to some of the city’s top landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower. Thanks to its universities and famous former residents, the Rive Gauche retains a romantic, literary reputation.
A UNESCO World Heritage site and one of France’s largest châteaux, the magnificent Château de Fontainebleau boasts a rich resume of royal inhabitants, including Henry IV, Louis XV, and Napoleon. Built in the 12th century, the palace displays a remarkable variety of architectural styles, all set within 130 hectares (321 acres) of parks and gardens.
Nearly a dozen streets converge at Place de la Rpublique—a popular square in the heart of Paris. This historic town center may measure fewer than 10 acres but was once home to impressive military barracks. Though the grounds are relatively small, there are numerous points of interest including intricate fountains, monuments paying homage to the grand republic and artistic relief-panel depicting some of the city’s most impressive political feats.
Once a port for industry and trade, the Bassin de la Villette is now a Parisian hub for travelers looking to explore the arts and culture that make the City of Lights so unique. A popular youth hostel, three-star hotel, famous restaurants and plenty of live performance venues draw travelers to Bassin de la Villette, where it’s possible to escape the hustle of Paris streets and relax into the scenic waterway.
While this destination is worth a visit any time of year, the summer’s month-long Paris-Plage festival is among the best reasons to make a stop. Seaside banks become almost resort like as local rolls out deck chairs and floating wooden cafes pass by selling strong coffees and warm pastries. Public picnic areas and classic dance floors draw locals and tourists out of doors to pass summer nights swaying in the ocean breeze.
From its neoclassical facade to its rich interior, the Odéon-Théatre de l'Europe radiates Parisian grandeur in the heart of the Left Bank. This is where Mozart’sMarriage of Figaro premiered in 1784, and the theater has been active ever since. Now, it’s a premier destination for a wide range of cultural events, whether classic or contemporary.
Located on the picturesque Place des Vosges in the Marais district of Paris, the Maison de Victor Hugo pays tribute to the French poet and novelist famous for such classics asLes Miserables andThe Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Today, the Hugo family apartment is a museum dedicated to the author’s life and works.
Built by King Louis XIII in 1615, Le Marché des Enfants Rouges (the ‘Market of the Red Children') is Paris’ oldest covered food market, taking its name from a 16th-century orphanage nearby, where the kids were dressed in red. Today, the historic market remains among the top attractions of the Marais district and it’s a lively introduction to Parisian life, with stalls heaped with seasonal produce and a steady stream of locals passing through its doors.
As well as picking up fresh flowers, fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood, the market is a top spot to sample regional produce like cheese, saucisson, foie gras and wine. There are also several street food stalls and food counters to eat lunch, serving a range of different cuisine, from Moroccan couscous to Japanese sushi or fresh oysters.
Founded in 1750 and housed in a wing of the Palais du Luxembourg, the Musée du Luxembourg was once the first public painting gallery open to the French public before becoming one of the first museums of contemporary art. No longer dedicated to only contemporary works, the museum now occupies the former orangery, a standalone building in the Jardin du Luxembourg, and showcases several temporary exhibitions each year.
In a northern suburb of the City of Light, the Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis is a stone abbey dating back to the medieval time period. Construction began as early as 1135, so it’s a remarkable landmark to see still standing today. The cathedral was the first built in France in the Gothic architectural style, noted for its intricate stained glass and a statue collection representative of the era. It is attributed with signaling the shift from Romantic to Gothic styles of architecture. Though it is one of the lesser known churches of France, it is respected both for its beauty and historical and cultural significance.
The church is also the final resting place for much of France’s royalty. A walk past the burial chambers and tombs of kings and queens of France tells centuries of the country’s history. Long a place of pilgrimage, all but three of France’s monarchs from the 10th to 18th century were buried there. With all of its history, many opt to take a guided tour through the church or add it on to a day of sightseeing in Paris.
Originally known as the Jardin du Roi, the Jardin des Plantes was founded in 1626, and was used as King Louis XIII’s personal herb garden. Today, the expansive botanical garden is the largest and most important in France. It encompasses several gallery spaces, a zoo, numerous garden areas and hothouses, and a working botany school.
More Things to Do in Paris
Of France’s 62 million residents, it’s estimated that as many as 7 million of them have Arabic roots. In appreciation of this multiculturalism, France partnered with 22 Arabic nations to found the Arab World Institute (Institut du Monde Arabe) in Paris in 1980. Housed within a contemporary building designed by renowned French architect Jean Nouvel, the museum houses a collection of Arabic art, scientific objects, textiles and other items spanning thousands of years.
Spread across four floors, the newly renovated museum’s collection includes everything from pre-Islamic ceramics to modern Palestinian art. The building itself is noteworthy, as the intricate latticework on the building’s southern exterior was inspired by a traditional Moorish screen.
The museum regularly hosts large temporary exhibitions, with past topics such as contemporary Moroccan art, silks of al-Andalus and hip-hop in the Bronx Arab streets. The museum’s Center for Language and Civilization offers Arabic classes for both children and adults.
French Symbolist painted Gustave Moreau (1826-1898) spent the last years of his life alone in a small provincial house he’d purchased in 1852. Since he had no family to pass along his artwork to, he decided to bequeath his estate and all the paintings and drawings found within to the state of France.
Today, this former private home serves as a museum for Moreau’s work. Set up by Moreau himself and opened in 1903, the museum showcases the artist’s private collection of family portraits, souvenirs and personal mementos on the first floor and his paintings, inspired by fantastical scenes from Greek mythology and the Bible in the light-filled studios on the top two floors. Six rooms on the ground floor, previously closed to the public, were recently opened after extensive renovation and offer a look at life during the nineteenth century.
Among the largest Asian art museums outside of Asia, the Guimet Museum (Musée Guimet)houses thousands of artifacts, including sculptures, paintings, porcelain, and scrolls that date back more than 5,000 years. The museum was founded by adventurer and industrialist Émile Étienne Guimet and features several temporary exhibitions each year.
Hidden below one of the most admired attractions in Paris isthe Archaeological Crypt of Notre Dame Cathedral and a 262-foot (80-m) descent into the history of Paris' city center. The result of more than a hundred years of excavations, the crypt reveals the city's architectural layers, including ancient ruins from the Gallo-Roman town of Lutetia—the predecessor of present-day Paris. Follow one of two itineraries through the ruins to see 3rd-century homes, a 4th-century bathhouse, and the ancient port on the River Seine. Also inside the crypt are the remains of a two-story, 12th-century home, an 18th-century hospital, and shops built along the rue Neuve Notre Dame in the second half of the 12th century.
Multimedia exhibits inside the crypt guide visitors through centuries of historical development in Paris, making it a must-see for archaeology- and history-buffs. The crypt also contains an exhibit on the construction of Notre Dame Cathedral, and can be visited free of charge with the Paris Museum Pass.
The Mémorial de la Shoah—Paris’ official Holocaust museum—was opened in 2005, on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Located in the Marais district (the city’s historical Jewish quarter), the museum features both permanent and temporary exhibitions, the commemorative Wall of Names, and other moving monuments and tributes.
A stark, industrial space overlooking the Seine River and adjoining the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Palais de Tokyo offers a striking canvas for contemporary art installations. The gallery has no permanent exhibition; instead, it hosts an ever-changing series of contemporary art exhibitions in its gigantic exhibition hall, with past artists including Mika Rottenberg, Jean-Michel Alberola, Simon Evans, Stéphane Calais and Sara Favriau.
A modern meeting place for artists, the Palais de Tokyo has earned a reputation for its innovative and interactive exhibitions, with works ranging from thought-provoking conceptual pieces to offbeat graffiti works and large-scale avant-garde pieces. Alongside the main exhibition hall, there’s also the Pavilion, a space devoted to upcoming artists; an art bookshop; and a terrace restaurant and café with views across the river to the Eiffel Tower.
Housed inside the Bel Air House, the oldest building in Paris's charming Montmartre area, the Montmartre Museum offers a stunning permanent collection of art from some of the neighborhood's most celebrated and prolific artists. The Renoir Gardens here are equally worth visiting, with a beautiful pond and meandering pathways.
Home to museums, concert venues, green spaces, and architectural wonders, La Villette Park (Parc de la Villette) is one of Paris’ largest and most dynamic public parks. Stretching across 87 acres (35 hectares), the park attracts upwards of 10 million visitors each year and is a destination for education, leisure, culture, and family-friendly activities.
Walking the quaint cobbled streets of Butte-aux-Cailles, it’s easy to forget that you’re in Paris. With its rows of petite painted houses, family-run bistros and tiny boutiques, the lively neighborhood maintains the feel of a rural village, despite being just minutes south of the Seine.
The best way to exploreButte-aux-Caillesis on a walking tour, starting along the main streets of Rue des Cinq Diamants and Rue de la Butte aux Cailles, then ducking off to explore the maze of side streets and alleyways. Along the way, pay a visit to the Sainte-Anne de la Butte aux Cailles church, admire the pretty timber-fronted houses along Rue Daviel or take a dip at the famous Piscine de la Butte aux Cailles, fed by natural hot springs.
Most importantly, take the time soak up the ambiance of local life in the quartier – stop for a coffee in one of the terrace cafés, browse the small shops for local produce like honey and handicrafts, or buy a bag-full of croissants and pain au chocolats to munch on as you stroll through the Jardin Brassaï park.
Fittingly located within the Paris-Le Bourget business airport, the Air and Space Museum is one of the world’s largest and oldest museums dedicated to aeronautics. Inside the cavernous hanger, there’s a planetarium with flight simulators, and more than 150 aircraft—including a 747, Concorde, DC3, Mirage, and an Ariane rocket—displayed alongside rare aviation memorabilia dating back as far as the 16th century.
Famed for its romantic ambiance and tranquility, the Buttes-Chaumont Park (Parc des Buttes-Chaumont)—located in northeastern Paris’ 19th arrondissement—may not be one of the city’s most-visited green spaces, but it’s all the better for it. Commissioned by Napoleon III, the park features a lake, waterfalls, ornamental gardens, and the Temple de la Sibylle.
The former residence of Joséphine de Beauharnais and Napoléon Bonaparte, Château de Malmaison is both an opulent palace and an important historical landmark. The château is located roughly nine miles (15 kilometers) west of Paris in Rueil-Malmaison and was once used as government headquarters, but it’s most famous for its elegant gardens.
Just steps from the Boulevard Saint-Germain in the heart of the Latin Quarter, the Paradis Latin is one of Paris’ liveliest and most history-saturated cabaret venues. Originally built in 1803 and restored by Gustave Eiffel in 1887, the cabaret still hosts its revue show—which blends can-can dancing, music, acrobatics, and more—today.
More portal to the past than typical museum, Paris’ Nissim Camondo Museum (Musée Nissim De Camondo) is home to one of the world’s best collections of 18th-century decorative arts. Comte Moise, the father of World War I soldier Nissim de Camondo, donated the family's legendary collection to France in honor of his fallen son, and the museum opened in 1936.
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