Things to Do in Paris - page 2
As is common in Europe, the Saint Germain des Prés neighborhood is named after its church, in this case the sixth-century Benedictine Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés, named after Saint Germain, in honor of the Bishop of Paris. We have this church to thank for the student-led vibe of the area; they donated the land from the church to the Seine and to the University of Paris, thus creating the Latin Quarter that we know and love today.
The main street in the neighborhood, in the sixth arrondissement, is the Haussmann-designed Boulevard Saint Germain. It has chic stores and plenty of cafes for people watching. In fact, the romance of whiling away the hours at a cafe was practically born in Saint Germain des Prés, at historic Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore.
Built by King Louis IX to house a relic of the crown of thorns—now kept at nearby Notre Dame Cathedral—the 13th-century Sainte Chapelle is renowned for its striking Gothic architecture and some of the most exquisite stained glass windows in Europe.
With more than 61 acres (25 hectares) of flower-lined lawns, formal French gardens, and shady chestnut groves, the Luxembourg Gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg) are one of Paris’ most idyllic green spaces. On sunny afternoons, this is the Left Bank picnic spot of choice for fashionable Parisians.
Place du Tertre is a famous square in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris known for its artists and bohemian crowd. It is located just a few meters from Basilique du Sacré-Coeur and close to where painters like Picasso and Modigliani used to live and work; at the time, Montmartre was called the capital of modern art in the early 20th century. In fact, there is a museum dedicated to the works of Salvador Dali a few steps from Place du Tertre. Its other claim to fame dates back to 1898, when Louis Renault’s first automobile was driven up the steep Montmartre hills, kickstarting the lucrative automotive industry in France.
With its maze of cobbled lanes and medieval buildings sprawling along the banks of the Seine River, the historic district of Le Marais is one of Paris’ most atmospheric, with a lively Jewish Quarter, a great selection of museums and art galleries, and a thriving LGBTQ community.
An architecturally and politically important building, the Hôtel de Ville in Paris has housed various government bodies since the 14th century; it’s currently home to Paris’ mayor and city council. The landmark is famed for its decorative facade and well-appointed interiors, and it also hosts exhibitions and events throughout the year.
The Panthéon, which dates back to 1790, is one of Paris’ most striking monuments. A fine example of early neoclassical architecture, the mausoleum houses the remains of some of France's most revered artists and writers, among them Rousseau, Voltaire, Zola, and Dumas.
Paris has been around for millennia; but it wasn't until 1605, when King Henry IV built what was then-called Place Royale, that a public square was planned into the city's landscape. It's now known as the Place des Vosges, and to this day remains largely unchanged since its inauguration in 1612.
It's easy to call any public area in a major city an “oasis,” but Place des Vosges truly lives up to the description. It's in Le Marais, which is already a relatively quiet arrondissement; but once you step through the arches, the stately residences seem to absorb any city noise and the arcades that cover the sidewalks add to its hushed ambiance. It's a good place to go to take a load off after trekking around the city all day.
Home to elegant hotels, storied couturiers, jewelry houses, and even the Ministry of Justice, the sweeping Place Vendôme is one of Paris’ most rarefied public squares. Located in the first arrondissement and near the Louvre, the square is famed for its history, impressive architecture, and for the Napoleonic Vendôme Column.
From riding Space Mountain to flying with Peter Pan and snapping a selfie with Mickey Mouse, few theme parks serve up as much fairy-tale magic as Disneyland®. With some 14 million annual visitors, Disneyland® Paris is Europe’s biggest and busiest theme park, boasting adrenaline-fueled rides, state-of-the-art movie sets, and spectacular shows and parades that make it a fantasyland for kids and adults alike.
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The smaller companion to the neighboring Grand Palais, the aptly named Petit Palais is both an art venue and an architectural landmark. Like the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais was originally built for the World’s Fair in 1900. Today, it houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris (the Fine Arts Museum of the City of Paris).
An expansive green space that stretches between the Eiffel Tower and the École Militaire (Military School), the Champ de Mars has been an important public park since the 18th century. Key episodes of the French Revolution took place here, as did several World’s Fairs. Today, it’s a popular stop for relaxing and sightseeing.
In Paris’ Beaubourg district, Centre Pompidou is a multidisciplinary cultural venue that’s home to the National Museum of Contemporary Art. Visitors come to see famous paintings by legendary artists, such as Henri Matisse and Wassily Kandinsky, and to marvel at the building’s design.
Poised overlooking the Seine, the Palais Bourbon dates to 1722. Originally built for the Duchesse de Bourbon (a daughter of King Louis XIV), the Palais Bourbon has been used to house legislative bodies, including the French National Assembly—the lower house of the French Parliament—since the end of the 18th century.
Built under the orders of Louis XIV beginning in 1670, Les Invalides—also known as the Hôtel National des Invalides—was created as a hospital and care facility for wounded war veterans. Today, the site still serves that purpose, though the sprawling complex also comprises several museums, numerous courtyards, and Paris’ tallest dome.
Located across from the Louvre in the heart of Paris, the Palais-Royal is an architectural highlight known for its scenic gardens and regal heritage. Originally named the Palais-Cardinal—it was built for Cardinal Richelieu in 1633—the palace later housed French royalty until Versailles was completed in 1682.
With its mixture of gourmet markets, cutting-edge drinking holes, and historic landmarks, Paris' Bastille neighborhood allows travelers to escape the city's bustling center and discover the "Parisian's Paris." Boutique and bohemian, Bastille buzzes with creativity, most evident in the shops and artist studios that populate its streets. The heart of the area is Place de la Bastille, the former home of the Bastille fortress, where traffic whirls at a roundabout topped by the 170-foot (52-meter) Colonne de Juillet.
France’s splendid Château de Chantilly castle is located 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Paris. Rebuilt after the French Revolution, the palace that stands today dates to the 19th century and is renowned for its opulence. It is also home to the Musée Condé: considered one of the country's most important art collections.
The Wall of Love (Le Mur des Je T'aime) is a massive work of art featuring the words “I love you” written in over 250 languages. Composed of 612 dark-blue tiles, this work by artist Frédéric Baron and calligraphist Claire Kito is a favorite meeting spot for lovers and offers more evidence that Paris is in fact the City of Love.
One of only two Seine islands in Paris (the other is the neighboring Île de la Cité), Île Saint-Louis is a tranquil oasis in the city center. Among the first parts of the city to be organized by modern urban planning works during the 17th century, the island is known for its scenic quays, elegant residences, and unhurried pace.
Fontaine Saint-Michel was sculpted by Gabriel Davioud in 1860 and gives its name to the square where it’s located, Place Saint-Michel. The monumental fountain, located between boulevard Saint-Michel and Place Saint-Andres-des-Arts was commissioned by Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann as part of Napoleon III’s plans to bring more light and air to the city of Paris.
The fountain depicts the archangel Michael vanquishing Satan, a controversial political symbol at the time hinting at Napoleon vanquishing the revolutionary fervor of the neighborhood. Unlike many of Paris’s fountains, Fontaine Saint-Michel was made from various colors of materials, including red and green marble, blue and yellow stone, and bronze. Place Saint-Michel is a popular meeting spot among both the city’s youth and foreign visitors.
Located in the 2nd Arrondissement, the Galerie Vivienne is one of the most iconic covered passages in Paris. Built in 1823 in a neoclassical Pompeian style, the 176-meter long passage features an elegant canopy, mosaic tile floors, paintings and sculptures depicting trade-related scenes and a rotunda with images of goddesses and nymphs. The arcade was originally home to a variety of shops, including tailors, cobblers, wine shops, confectioners and bookstores and enjoyed a great deal of success due to its prime location near the Vanel de Serrant Hotel. While many of its most prestigious shops eventually moved elsewhere, the passage was reborn in the 1960s.
Today, it offers a sophisticated and cozy shopping experience, with shops ranging from clothing boutiques to grocery shops to the old Jousseaume bookstore, one of only two original stores remaining. The other, the Legrand Filles and Fils delicatessen, existed before the gallery was even built.
One of Paris’s most beloved cabarets, Au Lapin Agile has been delighting audiences in Montmartre for decades. The title translates to “The Nimble Rabbit” from French, originating from a painting of a rabbit jumping out of a hot frying pan. The small theater was once a hotspot for bohemian Parisian artists such as Picasso, Modigliani, Toulouse-Latrec, and Utrillo. Picasso helped to make the space famous with his 1905 painting of “At the Lapin Agile.”
The iconic pink cottage cabaret drew in some of Paris’s most eccentric characters, many of which carved their names into the original wooden tables that still remain today. Having opened in 1860, the Paris institution has long been a source of evening revelry, good food and drink, and French song and dance performance. It continues to be an authentic venue for all three today.
Wine may be an essential part of the Parisian mystique, but only one vineyard remains in the city: Clos Montmartre, whose origins date back nearly a century. A small plot located in hilly Montmartre, the vineyard grows pinot noir, gamay, and other grapes, which it harvests annually and makes into coveted wines.
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