Things to Do in Paris - page 5
The Musée de la Musique, which was inaugurated in 1997, is part of the Cité de la Musique: a major multi-building complex dedicated to musical performance and education. The museum has a collection of thousands of rare instruments and artistic objects, and hosts free daily concerts in its galleries.
Fashioned from the blueprint of London’s world-renowned Madame Tussauds, the Grevin Museum (Musée Grevin), Paris’s own waxwork museum, has been sculpting famous faces since it was founded back in 1882. Today over 500 waxwork figures—including politicians, movie stars, and historic icons—are on display.
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.
Housed within the southwest wing of the Palais Chaillot, the National Marine Museum (Musee National de la Marine) appeals to naval and history buffs with its extensive collection of model ships, art and objects relating to 300 years of French maritime history and culture from the seventeenth century to the modern day.
Highlights of the collection include a cutaway model of a modern aircraft carrier, several figureheads recovered from shipwrecks, a metal diving suit from 1882, an imperial barge commissioned built for Napoleon in 1810, the prow of Marie Antoinette’s pleasure barge and models of the galleys of Louis XIV. Art aficionados will appreciate the collection of maritime paintings by eighteenth century artist Joseph Vernet.
Please note: The National Marine Museum (Musee National de la Marine) is currently closed for renovation.
This museum, once the home of the wealthy art lovers Edouard André and Nélie Jacquemart, offers a peek into 19th-century Parisian life at its most lavish. The art collection includes French and Italian master works, and the building itself is also a draw, with a light-filled winter garden, a double-helix staircase, and period furnishings.
Paris’s tropical aquarium was constructed in 1931 by French architect Albert Laprade and it was intended as a permanent reminder of the Paris Colonial Exposition; the building has a distinctive colonnaded façade designed to resemble a classical Greek temple and it is a monument to Art Deco styling. The exterior walls are covered in bas-relief carvings of more than 250 figures and animals depicting life in France’s colonies, which were created by sculptor Alfred Janniot. Today the aquarium makes a great family afternoon out, with over 5,000 animals and fish from more than 300 colorful species on display, from barracudas to turtles and starfish.
Recent additions to the aquarium are two rare young albino alligators, while temporary exhibitions take on weighty subjects such as global warming and conservation. Upstairs in the Palais de la Porte Dorée is a small museum showcasing the story of immigration into France from her colonies, but the most spectacular part of the Palais de la Porte Dorée is the ground floor, with walls adorned with friezes of colonial scenes and stylish Art Deco furniture on display in the banqueting hall.
Built by King Louis XIII in 1615, Le Marché des Enfants Rouges (the ‘Market of the Red Children') is Paris’ oldest covered food market, taking its name from a 16th-century orphanage nearby, where the kids were dressed in red. Today, the historic market remains among the top attractions of the Marais district and it’s a lively introduction to Parisian life, with stalls heaped with seasonal produce and a steady stream of locals passing through its doors.
As well as picking up fresh flowers, fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood, the market is a top spot to sample regional produce like cheese, saucisson, foie gras and wine. There are also several street food stalls and food counters to eat lunch, serving a range of different cuisine, from Moroccan couscous to Japanese sushi or fresh oysters.
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.
Of France’s 62 million residents, it’s estimated that as many as 7 million of them have Arabic roots. In appreciation of this multiculturalism, France partnered with 22 Arabic nations to found the Arab World Institute (Institut du Monde Arabe) in Paris in 1980. Housed within a contemporary building designed by renowned French architect Jean Nouvel, the museum houses a collection of Arabic art, scientific objects, textiles and other items spanning thousands of years.
Spread across four floors, the newly renovated museum’s collection includes everything from pre-Islamic ceramics to modern Palestinian art. The building itself is noteworthy, as the intricate latticework on the building’s southern exterior was inspired by a traditional Moorish screen.
The museum regularly hosts large temporary exhibitions, with past topics such as contemporary Moroccan art, silks of al-Andalus and hip-hop in the Bronx Arab streets. The museum’s Center for Language and Civilization offers Arabic classes for both children and adults.
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.
More Things to Do in Paris
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.
Home to museums, concert venues, green spaces, and architectural wonders, La Villette Park (Parc de la Villette) is one of Paris’ largest and most dynamic public parks. Stretching across 87 acres (35 hectares), the park attracts upwards of 10 million visitors each year and is a destination for education, leisure, culture, and family-friendly activities.
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.
The Paris Orly Airport (ORY), or Aéroport de Paris-Orly, was built in 1932 and is the city’s secondary airport, after Charles de Gaulle. With almost 30 million passengers per year, however, it could hardly be considered a small transportation hub. The airport primarily serves budget and regional airlines.
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.
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.
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.
Among the largest Asian art museums outside of Asia, the Guimet Museum (Musée Guimet)houses thousands of artifacts, including sculptures, paintings, porcelain, and scrolls that date back more than 5,000 years. The museum was founded by adventurer and industrialist Émile Étienne Guimet and features several temporary exhibitions each year.
French Symbolist painted 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.
With origins dating to the 18th century, the Musée des Arts et Métiers (the Arts and Crafts Museum) is one of Paris’ most unusual and fascinating cultural institutions. Housed in the former priory of Saint-Martin-des-Champs, the museum owns upwards of 80,000 objects that range from Foucault’s Pendulum to some of the world’s first planes.
More portal to the past than typical museum, Paris’ Nissim Camondo Museum (Musée Nissim De Camondo) is home to one of the world’s best collections of 18th-century decorative arts. Comte Moise, the father of World War I soldier Nissim de Camondo, donated the family's legendary collection to France in honor of his fallen son, and the museum opened in 1936.
While most visitors to Paris head to the Hotel des Invalides to see Napoleon’s final resting place, the Musee des Plans-Reliefs is a hidden gem in the same building that shouldn’t be missed. The museum is home to a collection of military models, some of which date to the mid-17th century when Louis XIV’s minister of war began collecting three-dimensional models of fortified cities to use for military planning. Known as plans-relief, the collection was previously at the Louvre and moved to the Hotel des Invalides in 1777. The earliest model was built in 1668 and continued for two centuries, with 260 models constructed over the years, including those of Luxembourg, La Spezia, Brest and Cherbourg.
The museum was established in 1943 and today displays about 100 models, including 28 plans-relief of fortifications along the English Channel, the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts and the Pyrenees Mountains. Built at a 1:600 scale, the models all use the same technique, which is explained in an accompanying exhibit. Watercolor paintings are used to show the color of the buildings and surrounding scenery at the time of construction.
Hidden below one of the most admired attractions in Paris isthe Archaeological Crypt of Notre Dame Cathedral and a 262-foot (80-m) descent into the history of Paris' city center. The result of more than a hundred years of excavations, the crypt reveals the city's architectural layers, including ancient ruins from the Gallo-Roman town of Lutetia—the predecessor of present-day Paris. Follow one of two itineraries through the ruins to see 3rd-century homes, a 4th-century bathhouse, and the ancient port on the River Seine. Also inside the crypt are the remains of a two-story, 12th-century home, an 18th-century hospital, and shops built along the rue Neuve Notre Dame in the second half of the 12th century.
Multimedia exhibits inside the crypt guide visitors through centuries of historical development in Paris, making it a must-see for archaeology- and history-buffs. The crypt also contains an exhibit on the construction of Notre Dame Cathedral, and can be visited free of charge with the Paris Museum Pass.
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