Things to Do in Paris - page 2
Glass-sheathed, modern towers house a world-class book collection at the French National Library in Paris. More than 15 million volumes are here, including royal book collections that date back to the Middle Ages, and the library hosts rotating exhibitions that range from artistic masterpieces to historic manuscripts and artifacts.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
More Things to Do in Paris
With a history dating back to the 1940s and a prime location on the glittering Champs-Élysées, Lido de Paris is one of Paris’ most famous and celebrated cabarets. The legendary show is a feast for the senses, with mesmerizing choreography, dazzling costumes, a medley of foot-stomping show tunes, the famous Bluebell Girls—and, in true French fashion, Champagne.
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.
Fronting the magnificent Jardin des Tuilieries and looking out across the Seine River, the Musée de l'Orangerie (Orangerie Museum) is situated in one of Paris’ most idyllic locations. The prestigious art museum is home to a number of masterpieces, but it’s most famous for its series of MonetWater Lilies paintings.
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.
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.
The Parc des Princes stadium is the home turf of one of Europe’s top soccer teams, Paris Saint-Germain. When it’s not hosting matches, the 49,000-capacity arena in the southwest corner of Paris hosts concerts by international music acts, such as the Rolling Stones and Green Day.
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.
Across the river from the Eiffel Tower, the grand Trocadéro is one of Paris’ most visited areas—an expanse of manicured gardens and monumental walkways set around the Place du Trocadéro and crowned by the Palais de Chaillot. It offers one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
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.
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.
Pont de l’Alma (Alma Bridge) is a Parisian bridge built in 1854 in commemoration of the Franco-British alliance’s victory over the Russian army during the Crimean War. The bridge underwent complete rebuilding in the 1970s in order to accommodate the rapidly increasing road and river traffic – only the statues were retained from the original structure. The arch bridge is now 42 meters large and 153 meters long, and links the right and left banks of the Seine River.
Pont de l’Alma offers splendid views of the Eiffel Tower and is often the go-to location for photographers wanting to capture Paris. What made the bridge a household name worldwide, however, is the role it played in Lady Diana’s death; indeed, she perished in a car crash at the entrance of the bridge’s tunnel in 1997. The Flame of Liberty at the bridge's north end has become an unofficial memorial to her memory.
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.
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.
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