Things to Do in Paris - page 2
Les Invalides began as the army hospital, initiated by Louis XIV in 1670 and finished six years later. These days, it is a complex of buildings including a collection of museums, a hospital and retirement home for war veterans, and a chapel which is a burial place of war heroes including Napoleon Bonaparte. The museums include Contemporary History, Maps, as well as Military History.
As is the way with French Kings and their projects, a simple idea to build a place for war veterans to retire grew into a massive and grand statement with fifteen courtyards, a chapel - the Eglise Saint-Louis des Invalides, and then a royal chapel - Eglise du Dome. Based on St Peter's Basilica in Rome, this latter became the prime example of French Baroque architecture.
The Avenue des Champs-Elysées (the name refers to the 'Elysian Fields' where happy souls dwelt after death according to Greek myth) links place de la Concorde with the Arc de Triomphe. The avenue has symbolized the style and joie de vivre of Paris since the mid-19th century and remains a popular tourist destination.
Basically a shopping strip, Avenue des Champs-Elysées is rue du Faubourg St-Honoré (8e), the western extension of rue St-Honoré. It has renowned couture houses, jewellers, antique shops and the 18th-century Palais de l'Elysée (corner rue du Faubourg St-Honoré & av de Marigny), which is the official residence of the French President.
At the bottom of Avenue des Champs-Elysées is an 11.8 ft (3.6m) tall bronze statue depicting General Charles de Gaulle in full military gear ready to march down the broad avenue to the Arc de Triomphe in a liberated Paris on 26 August 1944.
Bisected by the Axe Historique, the 70-acre (28-hectare) formal Jardin des Tuileries are where Parisians once paraded their finery. The gardens were laid out in the mid-17th century by André Le Nôtre, the green thumb behind the Palace of Versailles. Trees are capped at a height of 7ft (2.2m) and rigorously trimmed so the gardens maintain their formality. Flowers are planned to certain heights and color schemes with up to 70,000 bulbs planted each year.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the paths, ponds, and old-fashioned merry-go-round here are as enchanting as ever for a stroll. At the Louvre end, twenty sculptures by Maillol hide amongst the yew hedges.
An idyllic stretch of greenery encircling the iconic pinnacle of the Eiffel Tower, the Champs de Mars is one of the most popular of Paris' parks. Named after Rome’s Campus Martius, a tribute to the Roman God of War, Champs de Mars was originally designed as a military training area for the nearby Ecole Militaire (Military School), but became an important arena for national events when it opened to the public back in 1780. Many key moments throughout the French Revolution took place here - including the first Fête de la Fédération (Federation Day or Bastille Day) in 1790, the legendary Festival of the Supreme Being in 1794, and it was the site of the 1791 Champs de Mars massacre - a bloody demonstration against King Louis XVI.
The Pigalle quarter is located in Montmartre and has long nurtured its reputation for the risqué, even taking its name from the 18th-century artist Jean-Baptise Pigalle - famed for his nude sculptures. Pigalle is Paris' red light district, a lively area crammed with neon-lit sex shops, peep shows, expensive strip clubs, and of course, the city's now-legendary cabarets. Leave the kids at home and head out for an evening of adult entertainment, or at least, the opportunity to gasp and giggle at the outrageous displays of tongue-in-cheek erotica.
Don’t be put off by the area's seedy reputation -- a number of hip music clubs and less provocative venues are slowly revolutionizing the area. Many tourists simply want to peek at the infamous shop fronts or pay a visit to the fascinating Musee d'Erotisme (erotic museum), so there's no reason to stay away.
The Palais de Chaillot is located on the Place du Trocadéro in Paris’ 16th neighborhood (arrondissement). Because it is just across the river Seine from the Eiffel Tower, the terrace of the Palais de Chaillot provides one of the city’s best views of the tower — it is a great place to snap photos of the famous landmark. Visitors can easily spend an entire day visiting the Palais de Chaillot, the Eiffel Tower, and walking or taking a cruise along the Seine. The Palais’ surrounding gardens (Jardins du Trocadéro) are ten hectares surrounding Paris’ largest fountain, which is well worth viewing at night while lit up.
The Palais de Chaillot was originally built for the 1937 World’s Fair/Universal Expo, and today houses the national theater (Théâtre National de Chaillot) and a number of different museums: the Musée de la Marine (Naval Museum), the Musée de l'Homme (The Museum of Man), and a museum of architecture (Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine).
Paris’ Arts Bridge, or Pont des Arts (sometimes known as the Passerelle des Arts), runs across the Seine River, linking the Cour Carrée (central square) of the Palais du Louvre on the North Bank with the landmark Institut de France on the South Bank. The famous pedestrian bridge was first erected in 1802 under Napolean I, but today’s design dates back to 1984 when it was rebuilt following a series of boat collisions and collapses.
Designed by Louis Arretche, the metal arched bridge has not only become an important landmark of old age Paris, but a popular vantage point, affording spectacular views along the Seine. With its wide walkway and picnic benches, the bridge has long been used as more than just a crossing point – artists, photographers and painters flock to the area, and the bridge is regularly used for small-scale open-air art exhibitions.
Place de la Bastille is one of the more well-known squares in Paris and occupies an important place in French history. This is where the Bastille Prison stood until 1789, when this 'symbol of royalist tyranny' was stormed on July 14 during the French Revolution. No trace of the Bastille prison remains but the square is still a place where Parisians go to raise their voices in political protest.
In the middle of the square stands the July column, commemorating the three-day July Revolution of 1830. yet another overthrowing of a French king.
These days the Bastille is a large traffic roundabout and the surrounding area is known for its bars, cafes, and nightclubs. It is home to the Opera Bastille, a marina for pleasure boats and the Canal Saint Martin.
More Things to Do in Paris
The streets of Paris are filled with romance and excitement, but for travelers looking to escape the hustle of the city, a wander along the scenic Canal St-Martin, located near the River Seine, offers a welcome respite from the typical urban energy.
Visitors can stroll along the picturesque waterway where quaint storefronts and tiny homes nod to another era. Travelers can relax at one of the numerous café tables and sip on glasses of fine wine under a quiet city sky or float along the waterway in one of the city’s famous riverboats. Travelers agree that some of the best shopping is to be had along Canal St-Martin, making it an ideal place to spend a late afternoon in the open air.
Europe’s largest science museum and one of Paris’ most visited exhibition spaces, La Cite des Sciences et de L'lndustrie, or the City of Science & Industry, has been fascinating visitors with its hands-on exhibits since its inauguration in 1986.
An innovative edifice of glass and iron masterminded by architect Adrien Fainsilber, the museum’s shimmering façade sets the scene for a journey into the high-tech world of modern-day science. Set in the modern parklands of Parc de la Villette, Paris’ largest park, the City of Science & Industry is renowned for its pioneering exhibitions, covering everything from genetics to audio technology, and including an inventive Space exploration exhibit. Most impressive is the Cité des Enfants, aimed at children from 2-12 years, where an incredible range of child-friendly installations offer interactive demonstrations allowing children to operate robots, experiment with water conductivity and broadcast ‘news’ footage on a live television.
The park is characterized by its modernist sculptures and installations, including around 35 fire-engine red follies dotted along the canal banks, a striking sight against the futuristic silhouettes of the park’s buildings. Three concert halls reside in the park – the Zenith Concert Hall and the Cite de la Musique, both important music halls, and the striking Grand Hall, a former livestock showground transformed by architects Bernard Reichen and Philippe Robert into a popular cultural center and performance arena.
The City of Science and Industry, Europe’s largest science museum, is also on-site, fronted by the iconic Omnimax cinema, La Géode - a building constructed inside a giant silver ball. Film and music fans can even enjoy alfresco entertainment during the summer months, when the nearby Prairie du Triangle is transformed into an open-air cinema, and a number of music concerts and festivals are held in the park grounds.
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.
Each arrondissement in Paris has a number and a name; the fourth arrondissement is known as Le Marais. You'll probably find yourself in this neighborhood more than almost any other in the city.
The historical home of the Parisian aristocracy and the Pletzl, its Jewish community (as well as Victor Hugo and Robespierre), Le Marais includes the practically cloistered first square ever designed in Paris, known as Place des Vosges. Its stately homes surround a park so quiet, that the only sounds heard are from the fountain and bird-songs. But the rest of the arrondissement is much livelier, with the bustling Rue de Rivoli, the gay community along Rue des Archives and the funky labyrinth of stores, galleries and cafes in the Village Saint Paul (its entrance can be found at 12 Rue des Jardins Saint-Paul).
Tucked behind the Bastille in Eastern Paris, the Marché d’Aligre is one of the capital’s liveliest markets, mixing the traditional and the bohemian with plenty of rustic French charm. The market is split into two parts: the Marche Beauvau, one of the few remaining covered markets in the capital, and an outdoor flea market where everything from antiques and crafts (including many African and Asia works), to clothes and fresh flowers, is on sale. Seasonal fruits, vegetables and meat line the indoor stalls, alongside huge slabs of local cheeses, fresh oysters and delicious baked goods, and there are plenty of free samples available to challenge your taste buds.
The market is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9am-4pm, as well as Sunday mornings; although many stallholders take a break for lunch around 1pm. The surrounding streets are packed with bijou cafes and charming eateries where you can watch the world go by while sampling some fine cuisine.
Nearly a dozen streets converge at Place de la Republique—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.
Promenade Plantée’s well-manicured gardens, flowering shrubs and romantic views make it one of the most popular destinations for budget conscious travelers visiting the City of Lights. Athletic visitors jog along the 2.9-mile scenic pathway as the sun rises, and dozens of couples in love gather to watch in the evening as the sunsets over Paris streets.
The greenway winds through Viaduc des Arts, where interested travelers can explore high-end shops and exquisite galleries, or comb through handmade arts and crafts booths before relaxing into the urban oasis of Promenade Plantée’s incredible gardens.
Like most museums in Europe, the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris wasn't always an art space. As its name would imply, its original purpose in the 19th century was to house the orange trees away from winter weather. Later, it was used for just about everything from soldiers' quarters to sports to one-time exhibits. But it wasn't until 1922, when Nymphéas – known to the world as Monet's Water Lilies – found a permanent home in their specially designed, softly lit room.
But the Water Lilies aren't the only reason to stop in here on the way to Place Concorde after a stroll through the Tuilieries. There are also works by Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Cézanne and many others.
Officially known as Cimitière du Nord, the 19th-century Montmartre Cemetery is the third-largest necropolis in Paris, and the final resting place for many of Montmartre's famous artists and writers including Edgar Degas and Jacques Offenbach, Dumas, Hector Berlioz and Emile Zola's family.
Built in the early 19th century in an abandoned gypsum quarry at the foot of Butte Montmartre, Montmartre Cemetery was intended to take the strain off the inner-city cemeteries reaching dangerous levels of overcrowding. Today, the 25-acre site is a peaceful place crisscrossed by cobbled lanes shaded by cedars, maples, chestnuts, and limes. You can spend about an hour seeing the tombs with their ornate designs.
The 8th arrondissement (neighborhood), one of Paris’ 20 districts, is probably best known for the famous boulevard Champs-Élysées. With sidewalks lined by trees, high-end shops, and fashion boutiques, the boulevard is also home to the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde, as well as the Élysée Palace (the official residence of the President of France). On one end of the Champs-Élysées is the Arc de Triomphe, which offers sweeping views of the city from its top. On the other end of the Champs-Élysées is the Grand Palais, an historic building dedicated “to the glory of French art.” The Grand Palais is now a museum and an exhibition hall that is home to an impressive art collection. The 8th arrondissement is probably best known as a retail district, where posh shoppers come to sip a beverage at one of the area’s numerous cafes or restaurants, then browse name-brand boutiques like Chanel, Christian Dior, and Louis Vuitton.
The Petit Palais, as you can imagine, is the smaller of the two museums on Avenue Winston Churchill, between the Champs-Élysées and the Pont Alexandre III. Unlike many museums in Paris, it was built (in 1900) specifically as an exhibition space, as evidenced by its abundance of soft natural light and open spaces. It is now home to the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris.
Its collection covers a wide range of styles and eras, from medieval paintings to 19th-century sculpture. Fans of Monet and Cézanne will enjoy their lesser-known works, and there's plenty of Rubens, Rembrandt and Rodin to go around.
One of the most striking of Paris’ public squares, Place Vendome's historic architecture meets luxury shopping in a large octagonal space located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. The majestic ensemble of early 18th-century buildings designed by architect Jules-Hardouin Mansart encircles the plaza. At its heart, the 43-meter Vendome Column towers overhead, topped with a regal statue of Napoleon perched on a white marble pedestal.
The landmark statue was erected by Napolean himself, replacing the previous monument to King Louis XIV that had once dominated the square. Today a cluster of luxurious hotels, including the Bristol and Park Hyatt, have joined the Ritz, lending the square an air of grandeur and the surrounding buildings dazzle with exclusive jewelry showrooms.
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