Many friends of mine from the states are visiting Paris over the next few months. I tend to get bombarded with questions about what sites to see, where do locals go, and what’s the best way to spend an afternoon? This post will detail a few of the many things I enjoy in Paris, and I hope that you will enjoy them too.
The Panthéon – is a building in the Latin Quarter in Paris. It was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve and to house the reliquary châsse containing her relics but, after many changes, now functions as a secular mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens. It is an early example of neo-classicism, with a façade modelled on the Pantheon in Rome, surmounted by a dome that owes some of its character to Bramante’s Tempietto. A few notable people buried there are Pierre and Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and my personal favorite, Alexandre Dumas.
The Louvre– is the world’s largest art museum and a historic monument in Paris, France. A central landmark of the city, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the city’s 1st arrondissement (district). Approximately 38,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 782,910 square feet. In 2016, the Louvre was the world’s most visited art museum, receiving 7.3 million visitors.
The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built as a fortress in the late 12th to 13th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. Due to the urban expansion of the city, the fortress eventually lost its defensive function and, in 1546, was converted by Francis I into the main residence of the French Kings. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace.
The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property. Because of structural problems with the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801. The collection was increased under Napoleon and the museum was renamed Musée Napoléon, but after Napoleon’s abdication many works seized by his armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces. Holdings have grown steadily through donations and bequests since the Third Republic. The collection is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.
Musée d’Orsay– is a museum on the Left Bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. Many of these works were held at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume prior to the museum’s opening in 1986. It is one of the largest art museums in Europe.
Musée Rodin– is a museum that was opened in 1919, dedicated to the works of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. It has two sites: the Hôtel Biron and surrounding grounds in central Paris and just outside Paris at Rodin’s old home. The collection includes 6,600 sculptures, 8,000 drawings, 8,000 old photographs, and 7,000 objets d’art. The museum receives 700,000 visitors annually.
The Musée Rodin contains most of Rodin’s significant creations, including The Thinker, The Kiss, and The Gates of Hell. Many of his sculptures are displayed in the museum’s extensive garden. The museum includes a room dedicated to the works of Camille Claudel.
Rooftop at Galeries Lafayette– The Galeries Lafayette is a shopping mall. If you go to the top floor, the La Terrasse offers a spectacular view of Paris. This view is amazing at sunset. I highly recommend getting there early, grab a drink from the bar up there and just relax and watch the beautiful sunset over Paris.
Arc de Triomphe– The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, standing at the western end of the Champs-Élysées at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, formerly named Place de l’Étoile — the étoile or “star” of the juncture formed by its twelve radiating avenues. (The Arc de Triomphe should not be confused with a smaller arch, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which stands west of the Louvre. That’s another of my favorite places.)The Arc de Triomphe honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
As the central cohesive element of the Axe historique (historic axis, a sequence of monuments and grand thoroughfares on a route running from the courtyard of the Louvre to the Grande Arche de la Défense), the Arc de Triomphe was designed by Jean Chalgrin in 1806, and its iconographic program pits heroically nude French youths against bearded Germanic warriors in chain mail. It set the tone for public monuments with triumphant patriotic messages.
It has an incredible view from the top and below the top floor is a fantastic room with images of French uniforms from many different battles and wars.
Jardin du Luxembourg– Le Jardin du Luxembourg, or the Luxembourg Garden, located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, was created beginning in 1612 by Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France, for a new residence she constructed, the Luxembourg Palace. The garden today is owned by the French Senate, which meets in the Palace. It covers 23 hectares and is known for its lawns, tree-lined promenades, flowerbeds, model sailboats on its circular basin, and picturesque Medici Fountain, built in 1620. My absolute favorite part of the garden are the statues of French queens and other important women of France. Surrounding the central green space are twenty figures of French queens and illustrious women standing on pedestals. They were commissioned by Louis-Philippe in 1848 and include: Anne of Austria, Anne of Brittany, Anne of France, Anne Marie Louise of Orléans, Bertha of Burgundy, Blanche of Castile, Clémence Isaure, Jeanne III of Navarre, Laure de Noves, Louise of Savoy, Margaret of Anjou, Margaret of Provence, Marguerite of Navarre, Marie de’ Medici, Mary, Queen of Scots, Matilda, Duchess of Normandy, Saint Bathild, Saint Clotilde, Saint Genevieve, and Valentina Visconti. Pack a picnic, a book and spend an afternoon enjoying this beautiful space. You will see many locals jogging here.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris– also known as Notre-Dame Cathedral or simply Notre-Dame, is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France. The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and best-known church buildings in the Catholic Church in France, and in the world. The naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass serve to contrast it with earlier Romanesque architecture.
The cathedral treasury contains a reliquary, which houses some of Catholicism’s most important relics, including the purported Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross, and one of the Holy Nails.
In the 1790s, Notre-Dame suffered desecration in the radical phase of the French Revolution when much of its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed. An extensive restoration supervised by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc began in 1845.
Paris by Boat– I highly recommend that anyone going to Paris, jump on one of these boat tours. It really is a great way to see the city. Read my full blog about it here!
Café République– This is a great café for a double espresso and to sit and people watch.
Le Grand Colbert– OH MAH GAH. This is my absolute most favorite restaurant in the entire world. The food is spectacular, the service is the absolute best and the ambiance is warm and inviting. This isn’t just a meal, it’s an experience! If you are going to visit Paris, you MUST have dinner here!
Café de Flore– A fabulous café with a great location, but it is overpriced and do not expect friendly staff. It is said to be one of the oldest coffee houses in Paris, and made famous by its celebrity clientele.
Maison Georges Larnicol– If you have a sweet tooth like me, this is a great place to stop in. The chocolatiers here do amazing work, and at (somewhat) reasonable prices.
(See what I mean)
Le Hibou– This is a lovely café/ restaurant.
Place des Vosges– originally Place Royale, is the oldest planned square in Paris. It is located in the Marais district, and it straddles the dividing-line between the 3rd and 4th arrondissements of Paris. It was a fashionable and expensive square to live in during the 17th and 18th centuries, and one of the central reasons Le Marais became so fashionable for the Parisian nobility. The square is beautiful and from there you can go and see the Maison de Victor Hugo (V. Hugo’s Paris Apartment) and the Hotel de Sully Garden.
Legay Choc– This is a gay boulangerie in the Marais. When I say gay, I mean GAY. You can get penis shaped baguettes and more. For a brief while they were making ribbon shaped baguettes for AIDS Awareness.
(This link might be NSFW)
Cimetière du Père-Lachaise– Beautiful tree-lined cobblestone walkways here make for a wonderful day paying respects to the deceased. Many great and wonderful people are buried here. It is quite large and I do suggest doing your homework before you go, that includes finding a map and planning the specific graves you wish to visit.
Wikipedia has an extensive list of all who are buried here.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris– commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica and often simply Sacré-Cœur, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Paris, France. A popular landmark, the basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. Sacré-Cœur is a double monument, political and cultural, both a national penance for the defeat of France in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War and the socialist Paris Commune of 1871 crowning its most rebellious neighborhood, and an embodiment of conservative moral order, publicly dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was an increasingly popular vision of a loving and sympathetic Christ. The basilica was designed by Paul Abadie. Construction began in 1875 and was completed in 1914. The basilica was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919.
The area around here is full of cheats on the streets. Watch your wallet and/or purse, if you need to ask directions speak to a police officer, there are plenty around the area.
Place de la Concorde– is one of the major public squares in Paris, France. Measuring 21.3 acres in area, it is the largest square in the French capital. It is located in the city’s eighth arrondissement, at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées. It was the site of many notable public executions of royalty during the French Revolution. In the center of the place is the Luxor Obelisk, a gift to France in the 19th century. It is over three thousand years old and is by far the oldest monument in Paris.
Pizzeria Popolare– You’re going to wait in line anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes. That aside, the Italian food is delicious and the staff very friendly.
Shakespeare and Company– is the name of two independent English-language bookstores that have existed on Paris’s Left Bank. The first was opened by Sylvia Beach, an American, on 19 November 1919, at 8 rue Dupuytren, before moving to larger premises at 12 rue de l’Odéon in the 6th arrondissement in 1922. During the 1920s, Beach’s shop was a gathering place for many then-aspiring writers such as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, Djuna Barnes, James Joyce and Ford Madox Ford. It closed in 1941 during the German occupation of Paris and never re-opened.
The second bookstore is situated at 37 rue de la Bûcherie, in the 5th arrondissement, and is still in operation today. Opened in 1951 by American George Whitman, it was originally called “Le Mistral,” but was renamed to “Shakespeare and Company” in 1964 in tribute to Sylvia Beach’s store and on the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth. Today, it continues to serve as a purveyor of new and second-hand books, as an antiquarian bookseller, and as a free reading library open to the public. Additionally, the shop houses aspiring writers and artists in exchange for their helping out around the bookstore. Since the shop opened in 1951, more than 30,000 people have slept in the beds found tucked between bookshelves. The shop’s motto, “Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers Lest They Be Angels in Disguise,” is written above the entrance to the reading library.
Quai de Valmy & Pont de la Grange aux Belles– This is an intersection. Doesn’t sound too exciting, but hear me out. This is a great place to sit along the Canal Saint Martin and drink either coffee, tea, hot chocolate or even better a bottle of wine. On a warm day its a perfect place to sit and relax and just watch the boats go by.
The François-Mitterrand Library– Another beautiful library to explore inside and out. The walk overlooking the seine is very tranquil.
Hôtel de Ville– is the building housing the city’s local administration. Standing on the place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville in the 4th arrondissement, it has been the headquarters of the municipality of Paris since 1357. It serves multiple functions, housing the local administration, the Mayor of Paris (since 1977), and also serves as a venue for large receptions. This is a fantastic place to sit and read a book, catch up with friends and enjoy activities that might be planned here throughout the year.
Bocamexa– a delicious Mexican food restaurant, seriously, out of this world good. They have 3 locations across Paris, so if you are craving good Mexican cuisine, give it a go.