Things to Do in Paris - page 4
La Madeleine church in Paris is one of the most striking building in the entire Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Rumour has it that it was built in order to mirror the Palais Bourbon – which houses the French National Assembly - on the opposite bank of the Seine river in order to create harmony between the clergy and the republic.
But in reality, La Madeleine was designed as a temple to Napoleon’s army and its glorious victories back in the early 1800s – which would certainly help explain why the church doesn’t actually look like a church (it doesn’t have a spire or bell-tower) but rather a lavish Greek temple. It was completed in 1828 and built in the Neo-Classical style and was inspired by an exceptionally well preserved Roman temple named Maison carrée in Nîmes; it now dominates the entire Faubourg Saint-Honoré, with its 52 20-meters high Corinthian columns.
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). As if this weren’t enough to keep an inquisitive visitor occupied, the Palais de Chaillot also has an aquarium (called Cinéaqua), accessible from the Trocadero gardens. The aquarium is home to 10,000 fish and invertebrates, a shark tunnel, and its own movie theater.
Affectionately known as “the belly of Paris,” Les Halles was once the sight of Paris’s bustling central food market, where vendors sold fresh meats, fish, and vegetables. A focal point of Paris since the 11th century, the food stalls were dismantled in 1971 to make room for the newForum des Halles shopping center and metro station.
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.
One of central Paris’ storied thoroughfares, Rue Montorgueil—located in the 1st and 2nd arrondissements—has a reputation for culinary excellence. Once home to Les Halles (Paris’ major food market, demolished in 1971), Rue Montorgueil is still lined with bistros, pastry shops, and other delectable addresses today.
Architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier, made this weekend retreat outside Paris into a modernist masterwork. From the facade to the concrete columns, Villa Savoye exemplifies Le Corbusier’s ‘Five Points of Architecture,’ and it’s included among his other finest achievements on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Fragonard Perfume Museum (Musée du Parfum), located just steps from Opéra Garnier, provides an immersive and multi-sensory introduction to the world of fragrance. Sponsored by Maison Fragonard—a legendary French perfume house founded in 1926—the museum provides a behind-the-scenes look at the perfume-making process.
Housed within a building designed by renowned Canadian-born American architect Frank Gehry, La Cinematheque Francaise museum trace the history and technology of film from its infancy through its Hollywood glory days and into the modern age, including magic lanterns, cameras, iconic costumes, props, movie posters and cult objects. Classic film clips accompany many of the displays, and an on-site theater screens several films daily from its huge archive.
Highlights of the museum collection, particularly for the die-hard movie buff, include Mrs. Bates’s head from the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Psycho, the robot from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and a camera that belonged to the Lumiéres brothers. Temporary exhibits often feature a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a particular film.
One of Paris’ highlight cultural attractions, the Picasso Museum boasts a collection of over 5,000 works by the world-renowned artist, including paintings, sculptures, prints, and sketches. Following a recent renovation, the museum’s expanded gallery spaces house both a permanent collection and temporary exhibitions.
Held in an intimate underground venue, the Crazy Horse cabaret’s provocative yet sophisticated burlesque-style show celebrates femininity and specializes in the art of seduction, with a series of elaborately choreographed routines performed by highly trained dancers wearing custom-made red-soled Louboutins, bob wigs, bright red lipstick—and often little else. Avant-garde artist Alain Bernardin established the venerated Crazy Horse de Paris in 1951.
More Things to Do in Paris
Among the world’s largest flea markets, the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen is located just north of central Paris. Established in 1870, the popular shopping destination now comprises 15 different sub-markets, each of which specializes in different items. Prepare to spend hours browsing, bantering, and bargaining.
Home to art museums, major monuments, and Paris’ only skyscraper, eclectic and edgy Montparnasse is one of the city’s most interesting districts. Located in the 14th arrondissement on the Left Bank, it was famously the stomping grounds of artists and intellectuals in the 1910s and 20s, many of whom now rest in the Montparnasse Cemetery.
Celebrated French Romantic artist Eugène Delacroix spent the final years of his life in this house in Paris’ 6th arrondissement. The Musée National Eugène Delacroix also known as Musée Delacroix features works from every stage of the artist’s life, including over a thousand paintings, drawings, and writings. The museum also features works by artists inspired by his legacy.
In the heart of the Latin Quarter, Rue Mouffetard is one of Paris’ busiest and most beloved market streets. The thoroughfare hosts cheese sellers, vegetable vendors, bakeries, and other artisanal food outlets, as well as numerous bars and cafes. Its proximity to the Sorbonne makes it popular among local students.
Paris’ largest public park, the sprawling Bois de Vincennes was first used as royal hunting grounds and was later renovated by Baron Haussmann during Napoleon’s reign. Today, the park hosts a zoo, several lakes, botanical gardens, a working farm, and a Buddhist temple; the medieval fortress Château de Vincennes stands at its northern edge.
One of Europe’s largest science museums, the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, located in the Parc de la Villette, comprises an enormous range of family-friendly exhibitions, workshops, and other attractions. Designed by architect Adrien Fainsilber and opened in 1986, the museum attracts millions of visitors each year.
Open since 2010, Choco-Story Paris is a delectable museum dedicated to the history and production of chocolate. Learn about chocolate’s Maya and Aztec origins, watch chocolatiers at work, admire chocolate sculptures, and enjoy plenty of tastes along the way. Workshops are also hosted on-site for those who wish to make their own treats.
There are few railway stations more photo-worthy than Gare Stain-Lazare—Paris’ busiest train station. Its iconic architecture, sky-high halls and old-world charm have inspired the likes of impressionist painters Edouard Manet and Calude Monet. With 27 platforms servicing more than 100 million passengers a year, this transport hub will likely be a part of any traveler’s visit to the City of Lights. And while the station’s easy eticket system, pay toilets and well-kept grounds are a delight for travelers, visitors should also plan to spend some time taking in the people, the architecture and the energy that inspired an entire generation of artists.
Housed in two grand manors in the Marais, the Musée Carnavalet is one of Paris’ most important institutions. The official museum of the history of Paris, it houses over 600,000 objects, from rare paintings to articles once owned by Napoleon. An intensive renovation is currently expanding its galleries and modernizing its facilities.
Over 3,000 years old, the Luxor Obelisk (Obélisque de Louxor)—which stands 75 feet (23 meters) high and is decorated with hieroglyphic carvings—was gifted to France by Egypt in 1833. Situated in Place de la Concorde, where guillotine executions were carried out during the French Revolution, the obelisk has since become a symbol of peace.
A highlight of the sixth arrondissement, the Palais du Luxembourg was built as a residence for former Queen of France Marie de’ Medici in 1625. Though the palace has lost none of its luster in the ensuing centuries, its purpose has changed: the once-regal address now houses the Senate, the upper house of the French parliament.
Across the River Seine from the Eiffel Tower, Architecture and Heritage City (Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine) is a museum dedicated to monumental sculpture and architecture. The permanent collection here features a mix of scaled-down models of important structures, along with casts of sculptures and architectural features from famous monuments.
TheMuseum of Jewish Art and History (Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme) opened its doors in 1998. The collection, buoyed by the inheritance of a private collection from rue des Saules, traces the history and culture of Europe’s Jewish communities from the Middle Ages to the present, with highlights that include a torah ark from the Italian Renaissance, a Dutch torah scroll from the 1600s, a German menorah crafted from gold and silver, documents from the Dreyfus scandal and an exhibit dedicated to presenting what life was like for a Jewish residents of Paris in 1939.
The museum is housed within the Hotel de Saint-Aignan, a magnificent mansion built between 1644 and 1650 for the Count of Avaux. The building, considered one of the most beautiful private mansions in Paris, served as a government building and commercial space before it was purchased by the city of Paris in 1963.
With its somber neoclassical façade framed by rows of white rose bushes and capped with a striking green dome, the Chapelle Expiatoire has a timeless elegance befitting its origins. The little-visited landmark is one of Paris’ most significant chapels – built in 1826 to mark the location of the former Madeleine Cemetery, where King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were originally buried after their untimely executions during the French Revolution.
The iconic royals are now buried at the Saint Denis Basilica, but the chapel stands as a poignant reminder of the victims of the French Revolution, commissioned by King Louis XVIII to honor his brother and sister-in-law. The work of architect Pierre-Léonard Fontaine, the Chapelle Expiatoire is renowned for its unique architecture and elaborate interiors, which include white marble sculptures of the King and Queen, and an exquisite altar that marks the exact site of Louis XVI’s burial.
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