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Things to Do in Paris - page 5

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Museum of Jewish Art and History (Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme)
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The Museum of Jewish Art and History 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.

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Gustave Moreau Museum (Musee Gustave Moreau)
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French Symbolist painter 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.

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Crazy Horse Cabaret
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The world of Parisian cabarets dates back to the late 1800s, but the iconic Crazy Horse didn’t make its debut until 1951. It has been making waves ever since as a way to pay homage to a long-standing part of Parisian nightlife.

Pulling back the curtain on this storied cabaret, patrons can expect an evening of provocative yet sophisticated entertainment. The sultry performances are grandiose; the talented female dancers move across the stage with ease and the colorful lighting plays a major role in the dance numbers.

The cabaret underwent a makeover in 2005, when new management brought in some of the world’s top names to perform, including Dita von Teese and even Pamela Anderson. It's all a bit cheeky, 100 percent classy and a one-of-a-kind show, the original Parisian event.

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Guimet Museum (Musée Guimet)
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Renowned as the biggest and most varied collection of Asian Art in the Western World, the Musée Guimet’s stellar reputation is well deserved, making it one of Paris’ most impressive museums. Founded by its namesake, industrialist and world traveller Emile Guimet, in Lyon in 1879, the museum originally housed his extensive private collection of Chinese and Japanese art and moved to Paris a decade later.

Since then, the Musée Guimet has amassed more than 45,000 objects dating right back to Neolithic times and including an incredible variety of antiquities including archaeological finds from Ancient Egypt, a huge collection of religious art, Afghan glassware, Moghul jewelry and Tibetan funeral masks. Laid out geographically, a tour of Musée Guimet offers a vibrant journey to the far corners of Asia, with highlights including the Buddhist Pantheon Galleries, the largest collection of Khmer sculpture outside Cambodia and a Japanese garden.

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Musée des Arts et Métiers
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The Musée des Arts et Métiers (The Museum of Arts and Crafts) should be well-known to fans of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum – it is here that the device that first showed how the earth rotates is housed.

But there's so much more to this museum. It's like a mix between an inventor's lab and an explorer's secret hideaway. You can see all kinds of tools and technology from throughout the centuries – making your current technology look even more like a dream from the future!

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Jardin des Plantes
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The Jardin des Plantes isn't just a pretty place to spend an afternoon. From its “humble” beginnings as King Louis XIII's herb garden, it has grown to well over 7,000 plants. In addition to being home to four museums and a zoo, it's also a working laboratory for a highly respected botanical school.

The gardens feature native French as well as worldwide species of decorative plants. Of particular note is the Rose Garden, at 22 years old, it's the “newest” garden in the collection; its heavenly view is bested by the heavenly scent of thousands of roses.

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Montparnasse Tower (Tour Montparnasse)
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Built from 1969 until 1972, this building was the tallest in France, from the moment it was built up to the year 2011. Tour Montparnasse may not be much to look at from the outside. After all, it shares the skyline with the Eiffel Tower and is in the same city as architectural gems like the Louvre, Notre-Dame, Sacre Coeur and the Panthéon. And the SNCF train station in its foundation doesn't have much to admire, either.

It's not until you get to the 56th observation floor that visiting Tour Montparnasse becomes entirely worth it. The view from the Eiffel Tower is wonderful, sure – but the view from Tour Montparnasse has the Eiffel Tower in it! And on a nice day, the rooftop terrace on top of all 59 floors has a 360-degree view of Paris that is nothing short of breathtaking.

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More Things to Do in Paris

Printemps

Printemps

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Printemps is a major luxury department store in Paris with 25 floors located in three different buildings. The shopping center has more than 470,000 square feet dedicated to luxury goods, glamour, and fashion, as well as home goods, beauty products, and more. You'll find French and international brands here, including over 300 brands that are sold exclusively at Printemps. There is also a food hall with the biggest brands in luxury gastronomy, plus an eating area where you can stop for a meal while you shop.

Aside from shopping, Printemps is worth visiting to see the impressive building. It has a huge art deco cupola, a Haussmannian facade, a panoramic terrace with views of Paris, and artistic window displays. The facade was registered as a Historic Monument in 1975. Though the shopping center is proud of its heritage and history, it strives to keep up the tradition of a modern image and experience.

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7th Arrondissement

7th Arrondissement

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Odéon-Théatre de l'Europe

Odéon-Théatre de l'Europe

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Designed by architects Marie-Joseph Peyre and Charles de Wailly, the Odeon, Théatre de L'Europe, or the European Theatre of Paris, was opened by Marie-Antoinette in 1782 and remains one of the city’s most popular theaters. The oldest theater auditorium in Paris, the Odeon was inaugurated in 1971 as one of France’s six national theaters and boasts a rich history of Parisian arts, including hosting the famous Comédie Française.

Located in the heart of the city’s atmospheric Left Bank, in the 6th arrondissement, the theater maintains its original colonnaded neoclassical façade and dramatic foyer, masterminded by Chalgrin, celebrated architect of the Triumphal arch. Today, the theater showcases a range classical, contemporary and experimental plays, with performances held regularly throughout the year and the emphasis on promoting national theater and nurturing upcoming talent.

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Grands Boulevards

Grands Boulevards

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Grands Boulevards is an area in Paris situated in close proximity to Opéra Garnier and Grands Boulevards metro station. The plural form is not a coincidence; these lavish avenues and boulevards all exemplify the Parisian style created by the Baron Haussmann, whose work completely changed the city’s allure during the second Napoleonic empire in what is now considered a primitive form of urbanism. The grand scale, transformative works saw Paris welcome wider avenues, numerous fountains, intricately ornate buildings, and plentiful green spaces. But Haussmann did not create those spaces out of thin air; most of the Grands Boulevards now stand on what used to be the Louis XIII wall, which explains their remarkable size, uncommon for Paris at the time.

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Chapelle Expiatoire

Chapelle Expiatoire

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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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Bastille Opera House (Opéra Bastille)

Bastille Opera House (Opéra Bastille)

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Paris’ most eye-catching modern theatre is the Opéra Bastille, located in the 12th Arrondissement of Paris and cutting a striking silhouette against the city’s many traditional baroque theatres.

It was the 20th century composer Pierre Boulez who spearheaded the campaign for a new government-built opera house, initially intended to replace the historic Opera Garnier, or Palais Garnier, and encourage a new generation of concertgoers to enjoy classical music. The two theatres now compete for the title of Paris' most prestigious classical venue, with the original Opera house remaining the home of the Paris National Ballet and the celebrated Opéra National de Paris moving to the contemporary Opéra Bastille. Designed by the previously unknown Canadian-Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott, who beat 1,700 other design proposals submitted via an international competition in 1983, the Opéra Bastille was inaugurated in 1989 on the 200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille.

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La Cinémathèque Française

La Cinémathèque Française

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Housed within a building designed by renowned Canadian-born American architect Frank Gehry, La Cinematheque houses one of the largest collections of films and cinema-related objects in the world. Through a series of permanent exhibits, visitors to the 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.

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Grevin Museum (Musée Grevin)

Grevin Museum (Musée Grevin)

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Fashioned from the blueprint of London's world famous Madame Tussauds, Paris's own waxwork museum, the Musée Grévin (Grevin Museum), has been sculpting famous faces since it was founded back in 1882. A collection of some 500 waxwork figures are on display, alongside an exhibition on the making of the waxworks and the renowned 'Hall of Mirrors,' where deforming mirrors and a bizarre lightshow add to the curiosities.

The waxworks feature an array of famous faces, with American film stars like Brad Pitt and George Clooney, political figures like Barack Obama and legendary singers like Celine Dion and Michael Jackson, posed alongside homegrown heroes like French rally driver Sebastian Loeb. There are plenty of unique celebrity photo opportunities, too: cuddle up to Bridget Bardott's sultry statuette, pick Albert Einstein's brains or compare your moves with Elvis Presley (though his might seem a little stiff).

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Paris Story

Paris Story

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A unique museum devoted to telling 2,000 years of Paris’ history through multi­media displays and interactive exhibitions, the Paris­-Story offers a fascinating and fun introduction to the French capital.

The Paris­-Story features three main exhibition areas, starting with a unique film of the city by Yann Arthus-­Bertrand, including magnificent aerial views and exclusive behind-­the-­scenes footage of landmarks like the Sacré Coeur, Notre-­Dame, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. There’s also the Paris-Miniature exhibit, where visitors can explore a 3D-interactive model of Paris, and the Paris­-Experience, with videos and quizzes about the city.

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5th Arrondissement

5th Arrondissement

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Parc de Bercy

Parc de Bercy

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Laid out along the River Seine in the 12th arrondissement of Paris, the 14-hectare Parc de Bercy is one of the city’s newest parks, laid out in 1994–97 as part of an urban rejuvenation project on the site of former wine warehouses. The park has three themed zones: the fountain-filled Grande Prairie is shaded by mature trees and is overlooked to the northeast by the Cinémathèque Française, designed by Frank Gehry of Guggenheim Bilbao fame; Les Parterres are laid out in formal style, with vegetable and flower gardens as well as an orchard and vineyard; the Jardin Romantique (Romantic Garden) is adorned with lily ponds and bizarre statuary.

The Bercy Arena, one of Paris’s biggest cultural and sporting venues, stands at the northwest side of the park. Opposite is the cute BercyVillage, built in the remnants of the Bercy wine cellars, which now house a shopping mall with bars and restaurants.

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Notre-Dame Cathedral Towers (Tours de la Cathédrale Notre-Dame)

Notre-Dame Cathedral Towers (Tours de la Cathédrale Notre-Dame)

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The cornerstone of Paris's Notre-Dame Cathedral was laid in 1163, but it wasn't until almost a hundred years later, in 1250, that the towers were finished (and almost another hundred until construction was completed, in 1345). Its bells, the largest of which actually have a name – Emmanuel – have rung in the hour and some of Paris's most historical events ever since.

Hearty visitors to Notre-Dame Cathedral shouldn't miss the chance to climb the 387 stairs to the two western-facing towers. If you were impressed by the cathedral's soaring interior, you will be awestruck by what you find up there. Other than meeting the famous Emmanuel, make sure to say hello to the creepy gargoyles that guide the flow of rainwater away from the structure.

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