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Paris is a city that is often romanticized. From the sewers to the Eiffel Tower, love stories have been told for generations! That makes it the perfect place for a couple to connect or reconnect with each other, but Paris has so much more to offer as well.
It is also called the City of Light and the Capital of Fashion, making Paris a mecca for modern cosmopolitan influence. Every curve of its very streets has innate beauty that shines from within.
The History of Paris Is Well Preserved
History is the foundation upon which any city must stand. France is known worldwide for its ability to preserve history in a contemporary way! Two of the best ways to get a glimpse of history in this city, especially Parisian history, is by visiting the Musee Carnavalet and the Musee de l’Armee.
- Musee Carnavalet: What is wonderful about this museum is that fact that it has been open for over 130 years as a museum dedicated to history. It is comprised of two mansions, featuring collections from French and Parisian history that date back to the 15th The collection has been ever expanding since 1880 when the Musee Carnavalet first opened and today one of the most outstanding exhibitions explores the French Revolution through memorabilia.
- Musee de l’Armee: Paris has always been a city of strategic importance, which means it has been involved in more than just a conflict or two over the ages. This museum is dedicated to the military history of the area and features over 500,000 unique artifacts. As an added bonus, your admission to this museum gives you a free admission to the Musee de l’Ordre de la Liberation, which focuses on the Second World War.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of visiting the various historical museums and locations within Paris is the focus that there is on art. History and art are moulded uniquely within the city limits, giving people the opportunity to relate as they explore, which is just another reason why people should go to Paris at least once in their lives.
The Art of Paris Is Truly Spectacular!
Niche artist colonies are developing around the globe today, offering artists the chance to develop and explore together. That attitude is what helped to create Paris into the city it is today! You could say, in fact, that it is one of the world’s first true artist colonies.
The world’s most visited museum is in Paris and it is dedicated to the best art that humanity has ever produced. The Musee de Louvre has millions upon millions of visitors every year that come to see the original works of some of the world’s most famous period artists. The most requested piece of art to be seen while visiting the Louvre? The Mona Lisa by Da Vinci.
Once you’re done exploring the Louvre, don’t pass on a visit to the Musee d’Orsay. It explores all things French when it comes to art and holds original works by both Monet and Renoir. The Pompidou Centre explores the history of European art and explores some of today’s modern concepts that are used for contemporary art. If that wasn’t enough for you, there’s also an art history tour that can guide you through the city to find some of the hidden gems of art that have truly come to define this city.
You Can’t Visit Paris Without Seeing the Landmarks!
The iconic landmarks of Paris seem to beckon visitors to the city, calling out to visitors to stand beside them in awe. Perhaps the most well known of these landmarks is the Arc de Triomphe, standing guard over the Champs-Elysees. Initially commissioned in 1806 to honor the French military, it took three decades to finalize its completion. What most people don’t know about the Arc de Triomphe, however, is that it houses several military artifacts inside of it and offers visitors a one-of-a-kind view of perhaps the most famous boulevard in the world today.
Another landmark that beckons to visitors, this time from a more spiritual side, is the Cathedral of Notre Dame. The Gothic spires of this cathedral, complimented by a Renaissance design, help to tell the sometimes tormented stories of the people who once came inside these walls to worship. The artistic masterpieces inside are museum quality and help people really see what Parisian life is like, both then and now.
The Chateau de Versailles, which was Louis XIII’s hunting lodge, offers an alternative to those who wish to avoid the crowds at the Eiffel Tower. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and offers a glimpse at the majesty of royal living. Gardens, fountains, and expansive spaces are all offered for viewing during a tour of these educational, yet adventurous grounds.
Are You Ready To Go To Paris?
Last but not least, a visit to Paris is incomplete if it doesn’t include one of the many grand performances of the stage. For many, this means a trip to the Palais Garnier for opera, a symphony, or ballet. If there isn’t a show to behold, there’s still the painting by Chagall on the ceiling of the Palais Garnier to view that is world famous. Follow your visit up with a trip to the Cite de la Musique for an exploration of the historical impact of music.
For your final stop, the Cinematheque Francaise seems fitting. This museum of French cinematography has one of the most extensive film collections in the world. It’s not just French films that are offered for viewing here, but those are the films that do finalize a trip to this beautiful city in the most complete way.
Why go to Paris? There is much that this city offers in return for a visit. From the cosmopolitan centers to the historical foundations on display, everyone has the opportunity to fall in love… not with a new partner, but with the city of Paris itself.
The best sights and more information
A Seine River Cruise
Paris’s popular river is the Seine. Seine River (Seine means Fishing) is one of Paris’s main attractions. Seine passes by the beautiful Eiffel Tower and the lovely Place de la Concorde. Paris rests at the north or Seine arc bending and winding over inhabited inlets. At the heart of Paris are the joining islands that take you through paramount of hills, mountains, seas, parks, squares, exhibits, architecture, rivers, and more.
One of Paris’s main attractions is the Eiffel Tower, which you will see traveling down the Seine River. The historical centers include Champs-Elysées, Montaigne, L ‘Opéra, Les Halles, Faubourg Saint-Honoré, La Défense, Place de la Concorde, and so on.
You can enjoy panoramic views of Paris. Along the channels, you will enjoy the well-lit Saint-Michael Bridge. This beautiful well-lit bridge is near the grand Notre-Dame of Paris. The bridge when lit up at night has a wide array of glamorous colors, including blues, yellow, gold, peach, turquoise, greens, orange, and so on.
Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe stands at the western end of the Champs-Élysées and honours the soldiers who fought for france. The arch is over 165 ft (51 meters) in height and is 145 ft (45 meters) wide. It is the second largest triumphal arch in all of the world. The viewing platform fifty metres above the ground offers an excellent panorama of the city, especially along the breathtaking line of buildings stretching from the futuristic ‘Grande Arche’, which serves as a window on the world of La Défense, to the venerable buildings of the Louvre. The Arc de Triomphe was erected as a symbol of Napoleon I’s famous military triumphs. The construction started in 1806, but it took another 30 years before the arch was finished. The emperor had long since gone, of course. The square of which this gigantic monument is the centre used to be called originally ‘Place de l’Etoile’, because of the twelve elegant boulevards that form a star at their point of joining the square.
Place Charles de Gaulle
Underground: Charles de Gaulle – Etoile
Basilique St-Denis is France’s first Gothic building built in 1137 and 1281, the first spiritual patron of the state. On the front are rose stained glass windows restored in the 19th century. See the inscription on the bronze door saying, “Marvel not at the gold and expense but at the craftsmanship of the work.” The basilica from the 12th century is not only a leading example of the Gothic, it is also the place where almost all French kings were crowned and buried. For many centuries it was the spiritual center of France. In the 5th century a church was built here and as the legend goes, it is where Saint Dionysus walked around with his head under his arm, after he had been decapitated at Montmartre. Sundays are known for the beautiful organ concerts to enjoy.
Rue de la Légion d’Honneur 1, 93200 Saint-Denis
Underground: Basilique de Saint-Denis
Centre Georges Pompidou
Centre Georges Pompidou is a steel and glass construction. Its pipes, iron supports and tubes remind you more of a spaceship than of an important work of art. It was erected between 1972 and 1978 during the presidency of Georges Pompidou. This colossus, which gave the old district of Beaubourg a completely new outlook, was for many years one of the most hotly debated architectural structures in France.
Yet, in spite of this, or perhaps because of this, the controversial Centre has become one of the country’s leading crowd pullers. The array of cultural events offered on its five floors is staggering. The souterrain houses IRCAM, the music research institute. Current exhibitions are held in the grand hall. A bookshop sells an impressive amount of books and posters.
The Bibliothèque Publique d’Information or BPI (Public Information Library) offers free entrance on its first and second floors, whereas the upper floors house the permanent collection of 20th century art comprising in total 34,000 pieces. From the terrace or whilst having a snack at the fifth floor restaurant the visitor has a magnificent panoramic view across the roofs of Paris, as far as the cream cake church of Sacré Coeur. The colourful hustle and bustle on the square in front of the Centre is an attraction in itself during the summer months: young backpackers from all over the globe exchange their experiences, lovers of the arts take a rest from a tiring visit to the museum, and street musicians and acrobats entertain the crowds.
Underground: Rambuteau, Châtelet
This famous stretch of road goes through the center of Paris. It starts at the Arc de Triomphe and goes outward to the Place de la Concorde and is lined with shops, cafes, and 5 star hotels. Bring comfortable shoes since you’ll want to walk down this avenue to get the full experience. Christmas and New Years are favorite times to visit the Champs Elysees for the lights and hustle and bustle of the holidays.
This important example of medieval architecture was built in the 14th century as a palace for the Capetian dynasty. Fate took a dramatic turn in 1431. The Conciergerie became a state prison. During the Revolution the dungeons were on the point of overflowing. The historical rooms are on view: the guardroom, armoury, the kitchen and dining rooms, Marie-Antoinette’s cell and a number of pieces from the Revolutionary era.
Quai de l’Horloge 1
Underground: Cité, Châtelet
Forum des Halles
On the spot of the old market halls, the belly of the earth was ripped open in the seventies. A hypermodern shopping centre was constructed, with restaurants, boutiques, cultural institutions, discotheques, a museum, an indoor swimming pool, a tropical glasshouse and several cinemas. Under this complex of mirror glass buildings lies Europe’s biggest underground station.
Porte Berger 101
Underground: Underground: Les Halles
Hotel de Ville
This beautiful renaissance building was erected between 1533 and 1628. During the Revolution of 1871 it was burnt down and completely gutted. It rose from its ashes only eleven years later. Today it is the official residence of the mayor of Paris, as well as the place where the city administration convenes. The reception rooms with their opulent ornamentation are exceptionally beautiful.
Place de l’Hôtel de Ville
Underground: Hôtel de Ville
Hotel Des Invalides
It was built in the 1670’s to house disabled soldiers and later a layer of thin gold was laid over the top. Upon entering the hotel, you’ll walk down a cobblestone walk lined with many different cannons. Once inside the hotel you’ll be greeted with a museum of weapons, uniforms, and equipment – anything that will kill. Building the cathedral and its golden dome took over 50 years, and it is visible from miles away. In 1735 the baroque building was finally finished. It has become kind of a national sanctuary to the French: Napoleon, the beloved ánd hated emperor, has been laid to rest in the open crypt, in a sarcophagus of red porphyry. When he was transferred in 1840 every wrath had already disappeared, only the memory of the glorious France was still present. Therefore it is only normal that visitors seem to bow when they come to the balustrade to see the sarcophagus below them.
Esplanade des Invalides
Underground: Varenne, La Tour Mabourg
Jardin du Luxembourg
The park around the palace of Mary de Médici, the widow of Henry IV, was used as a prison during the Revolution. With its ancient trees, romantic fountains and many monuments it is today a peaceful island in the hubbub of city life.
Boulevard Saint-Michel or Rue de Vaugirard
La tour Eiffel
Built in 1889, the Eiffel Tower is the icon of Paris. The entire structure towers over the city with the height of 324 meters. In 1889 the tower was named the tallest structure in the world and held its title until 1930. It was erected as tribute to the end of the French Revolution, but today it is one of the most well-known and most recognizable buildings in the world. The magic of the Eiffel Tower can truly be felt when you venture to the top to get a spectacular view of Paris. Going to the top of the Tower right before sunset provides the best views. Please don’t try to take the stairs. You can reach the first two levels of the observation decks by foot, but why settle for that when you can ride the elevator to the very top. Somehow the sweat and gasps for breath as you hike up the flights of stairs steals from the romantic mood of the Eiffel Tower but there are the odd fitness gurus who attempt the walk or even run up. After it gets dark, you can see the lights on the Tower twinkle in the twilight.
Champs de Mars
Underground: Bir Hakeim, Trocadéro
The Louvre is a top attraction in Paris and one of the most famous art museums in the world. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can see it in a day. It will likely take you three days to peruse the famous art work, and take in the majesty of the Louvre.
Along the way, you will enjoy many outstanding scenes, which include the popular water fountains. As you move along you will come upon the La Pyramid in Paris. The shape of this pyramid will leave you standing astonished. The museum is Paris’s largest tourist attraction. Near the mid 1540s, this building was the Regal Palace that marked the fortress for kings and queens of Paris. In the 1700s, this building marked the Grand Museum Gallery of Paris. During the night, you want to visit the area if possible to see the Pyramid lit up. The beauty of the lighted building will astound you. If you have the opportunity, go inside the Pyramid. Here you will view a beautiful staircase that winds straight and carries you to the top. Inside the pyramid is a wide array of shops.
This museum has a quantity of the world’s most prized sculptures, paintings, utensils & other antiques. If there is the globally treasured Mona Lisa of Leonardo Da Vinci, there’s also the three giant winged bulls that long ago used to guard the palace of Sragon II & the Hammurabi Code. Other antiquities from Babylon, Mesopotamia, Sumeria etc. can also be seen. Amongst the several bedazzling galleries like Prints & Drawings Gallery, arts gallery etc. the sculpture gallery is also garlanded by the bewitching Michaelangelo Courtyard. On the whole, the Louvre Museum is a spectacular place to stop at. Be sure not to miss a trip to the Louvre on your visit to Paris.
Palais du Louvre
Underground: Palais Royal, Louvre-Rivoli
Since 1786, bones from old tombs were stored in the stone quarries that were carved from under the city You will find the bones of about 6 million people, decoratively piled up in part. For whoever’s fond of horrors.
If you are interested in learning and reliving Paris’s uncivilized history, and don’t mind visiting the dead, you must check out Paris’s Les Catacombs. The tunnels are not suited for everyone, only for those with an open mind to see what it is like to walk in the grave and visit the dead. The tunnels have a disturbing, yet unique pattern of bones and skulls, fashioned to bring the dead back to life.
Areas around Paris, during the late 1800s discouraged the average person, since its history of overpopulated cemeteries and deceased souls made the area, one of Paris’s uncivilized environments. The area was filled with filth. For this reason the councils of the Parisians transferred the deceased to the tunnels of Les-Catacombs. In this, tunnel the bones of millions of dead souls rest. Parisian counsels of France transferred the bones, piling them in various areas around the tunnel. The skull of these dead people are piled in areas of the tunnel, and put together in reverse/front fashion. The bones are disturbing to many, since these dead peoples structures were fashioned in a way that it appears as faces and transverse structures, i.e. in the shape of crosses.
Throughout the tunnels are spiral stairways. Once you begin walking down the stairs, you will spot eye sockets of the deceased. The tunnels become present as you continue down the stairs. As you continue down the stairs and into the dirt tunnels, you are approaching the graves of many deceased souls. Throughout the walk, you will notice the walls. The walls are filled with plagues.
Place Denfert-Rochereau 1
Visiting Le Marais you will find yourself in a very colorful and cheerful place, that can actually be very contrasting with other local attractions which might be more formal and calm, such as the Louvre or the Sorbonne. The French term “le marais” means swamp and that name was given to this neighborhood due to the appearance it had at its origins. Nowadays, this district has a very charming appearance which transmits the magic and the essence of a very particular and unique Paris area, where people from different cultures and lifestyles live together in harmony and tourists are always welcome.
Le Marais started becoming a neighborhood in the 12th century, when religious institutions where built in it. After that, it started gaining an important amount of population when Henry the IV built La Place Royale within this area and made the Hotel Saint Pol his new home by leaving the Louvre. Since that time, Le Marais started becoming a very important spot of Paris, highly populated and full of activities.
Although Le Marais lost part of its beauty and attractive in the 17th century, it gained it back in the 19th. During the 1960’s, some of Le Marais historical places were destroyed, although an important amount of others were left, and the district was given a new appearance since it received new buildings and attracted many artists to the area.
Marais, the land where the King Henry II took his last breath, is the home for a quantity of the most archaic italian buildings. The Musee Carnavalet museum has plenty of archaeological discoveries along with breathtaking historical paintings, sculptures etc. Other eminent museums include-The Musee Cognaq Jay, The Musee de la Serrure Briccard, Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature (famous for stone age weapons) & last but not the least The Musee Picasso that has the worlds largest number of Picasso paintings. The Jewish Quarter that nestled in the Marais region & that familiarizes you with the Jewish customs & traditions has always been an apple of every visitor’s eyes.
Paris 3 and 4 arr.
Underground: Chemin Vert, Rambuteau, Saint-Paul
La Grande Arche
This ‘Arch of the Future’ was inaugurated in 1989, and is one of the most controversial of all buildings that President Mitterrand erected for himself. This brandnew Paris attraction is seen as a futuristic continuation of the historical royal axis from the Louvre via Place de la Concorde to this triumphal arch. The viewing platform offers a gigantic panorama across the city. Inside the arch exhibitions are regularly staged.
Parvis de La Défense 1
Metro: Grande Arche de La Défense
The area is bedecked by the Sacre Coeur Church, that has scaled to the height of the Eiffel Tower. The place is also more often visited for it is being the land of illustrious artists like Zola, van Gogh, Turgeney & Degas. Apart form this, the Montmarte region has an exclusive cemetery where the great souls of Degas, Stendhal, La Golie etc. lie in peace. there is also the famous The Musee de Montmartre where people like Renior, Dufy & Suzanne Valada had resided.
Musée de la Poupee
This is a popular museum among children. Even if you do not have children, you may enjoy the cluster of beautiful dolls on the displays. The dolls will take you back to the day when life was filled with men and women dressed in traditional attire. During certain months at this museum, Paris gives a Quel Spectacle show. The staff uses the dolls to deliver themed arts show. Inside the museum, you will enjoy fashions, dolls, textile, arts, decorative exhibits and more.
Fans of Picasso can admire his private collection at the historic ‘Hôtel Salé’ in the Marais district. Inaugurated in 1985, the Musée Picasso mainly shows drawings, paintings, sculptures and collages donated by Picasso’s heirs to the French state.
Rue de Thorigny 5
Underground: Saint-Paul, Chemin Vert, St – Sébastien
The museum shows the history of Paris from the beginning until now. It is accommodated in two beautiful mansions in the Marais district.
Rue de Sévigné 23
The former station on the Seine embankment is now the home of a large collection of pieces of art from 1848 to 1914. The exhibition space covers around 17,000 square metres. Paintings, sculptures, architecture and urban planning are on show. There is also an extensive library-cum-information centre.
Rue de Bellechasse 1
In the beautiful 18th century mansion 500 pieces of art of the great sculptor Rodin, and part of the artwork of Camille Claudel are being displayed. The garden around the house is worth visiting as well.
Rue de Varenne 77
Notre Dame de Paris
The cathedral Notre Dame de Paris is found on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité and is easily considered one of the best examples of French Gothic architecture. Notre Dame is translated into “Our Lady” from French. The Notre Dame was one of the first buildings in the whole world to use arc-boutant. The cathedral started being built in 1163 and was completely finished in 1250-1345. In its time, this gigantic structure was the largest cathedral in the world. Apart from the magnificent side walls of the northern and southern transept, there is also the three-part façade of the gothic church to admire: three beautiful portals, a king’s gallery, a wonderful rose window, and finally two church towers, which offer a great panorama across the sea of houses.
The Museum Cathedral of de Notre-Dame
This is one of Paris’s fine exhibiting atmospheres. The Notre-Dame is an outstanding arena where some of the famous concerts take place. You will experience an unbelievable day as you walk through the arena that has left a stamp around the world.
Parvis de Notre-Dame
This gigantic glass cage has seats for a 2,700 strong audience. The opera has totally transformed the character of the district. Is not your average museum, yet you may enjoy visiting this remarkable opera house. If you enjoy ballet, you must visit the Opéra Bastille.
Place de la Bastille
Opéra de Paris
In 1861, construction began and 14 years later the building was complete.
For eight months, the site had to undergo constant pumping before the base could be put down and it was said to have formed an underground reservoir. This reservoir became the idea behind the setting of “The Phantom of the Opera”. January 15, 1875 marked the opening of the Palais Granier. There was a performance of La Juive with Fromental Halevy and excerpts of Les Hugentos with Gaicomo Meyrebeer.
The interior is filled with gold leaf and velvet. There are cherubs and nymphs everywhere. The chandelier is over six tons in weight. The ceiling itself was painted by Marc Chagall in 1964. The Opera House is 11000 square meters (11844 square feet) with a platform that can fit more than 400 artists and there are over 2000 seats for the audience. The Opera House is now thought to be a masterpiece because Garnier had made wonderful use of the difficult and cramp site. The carriage ramps, the steps, the foyers and staircases were both planned and sectioned with skill and confidence.
This mighty building with its dome and Corinthian columns is above all the work of the Parisian master builder Jacques-Germain Soufflot. It is one of the most important expressions of French classicism. Originally the church of Sainte-Geneviève, the building became a mausoleum for deserving Frenchmen after the Revolution.
Place du Panthéon
Underground: Cardinal Lemoine, Jussieu
Palais des Tuileries
Tuileries Palace. Perhaps you would enjoy visiting this lovely area-neighboring Louvre. Sadly, this beautiful area was ruined by fire in the early 1870s, yet it was restructured by some of Paris’s finest designers. Today you will visit the beautiful palais (Palace) where Catherine de Médicis bespoke the structure. At present, this lovely environment is filled with Paris’s most beautiful grounds filled with garden plants, flowers and more.
Seat of the Council of State, therefore the interior of the building is not open to the public. But still it is worth visiting. The palace was built in 1634 for cardinal Richelieu, after which it was the centre of power for a short period of time. The cardinal died here, and Louis XIV spent a great deal of his childhood between these walls. When the building was taken over by his brother, the duke of Orleans, the demi monde moved in: the girls of pleasure settled in the palace and the gambling game flourished.
Place du Palais Royal
Underground: Palais Royal
Paris’s largest cemetery is the last resting-place of the great and famous, such as La Fontaine, Frédéric Chopin, Alfred de Musset, Marcel Proust, Honoré de Balzac, Molière, Sarah Bernhardt, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. The most famous cemetery in the world Pere Lachaise is worth the visit.
Boulevard de Ménilmontant
Underground: Père Lachaise
Place de la Bastille
Is graced by the Colonne de Juillet (July Column), erected in 1840. The column is 47 metres high, and was built to commemorate the victims of the revolution of 1830. The square was originally the location of a medieval fortress. Cardinal Richelieu later turned it into a state prison. In July 1789 the Bastille was stormed by the enraged citizens of Paris. They literally tore down this symbol of aboslutist monarchy. Today the area is dominated by another manifestation of the building rage of statesmen, the new Opéra de Paris or Opéra-Bastille.
Place des Vosges
This tree-lined romantic square is one of the oldest and most handsome in Paris. Surrounded by the arcades of splendid palaces, it was a meetingplace in the 17th century of its elegant and wealthy population. Originally called ‘La Place Royale’ in 1612, it received its present name after the Revolution.
Paris, 4 arr.
In spite of its name this bridge, constructed under Henry IV, is the oldest bridge across the River Seine in Paris. Its arches connect the west tip of the small Île de la Cité with both banks of the river.
Paris, 1 arr
Underground: Pont Neuf
This small church, a masterpiece of French gothic style, is located on a courtyard of the present Palace of Justice. Sainte-Chapelle was originally part of the former royal palace. Louis IX wanted a shrine for his valuable relics, amongst which were the crown of thorns of Jesus Christ and a splinter of the Holy Cross. The chapel was erected between 1245 and 1248. An architectural curiosity are the two chapels: the chapel below served as a place of prayer for the populace, the chapel above was reserved for the nobility.
Boulevard du Palais
Bois de Boulogne
To the west of the metropolis lies a green lung of more than 2,000 acres (845 hectares). This beloved resort of the stressed-out Parisian offers a vast array of leisure activities: promenade walks take you along the two lakes, and the little palace of La Bagatelle has a wonderful rose garden. The hungry and thirsty can find solace at one of the many little restaurants and cafés. Riders can galop through the extensive woods. Professional jockeys and horse racing lovers find their entertainment on the race courses at Longchamps and Auteuil.
Underground: Porte Dauphine, Porte Maillot, Porte d’Auteuil
Chateau de Versailles
One of the largest castles in the world, The Chateau de Versailles has more than 700 rooms, 1250 fireplaces, 2000 windows, 67 staircases, and over 1,800 acres of gardens. It is a magnificent home which has now been transformed into a museum. You can take a tour of the castle or walk the grounds yourself.
Off the beaten track sights in Paris
Less known but very interesting sights in Paris
Arènes de Lutèce
Before Paris became Paris, the city was the capital of the territory occupied by the Parisii, the Gallic tribe after which Paris will take its name in the 4th century A.D. There is some controversy about the original Celtic name of the city, but when the Romans invaded it in 52 B.C. under Emperor Julius Caesar, they called it Lutecia (or Lutetia). In the 2nd century A.D., the Romans built in its middle an amphitheater of about 25,000 square feet, which could hold about 16,000 spectators. During the next century, gladiator fights and other less palatable games (e.g. offering early Christians for lunch to beasts of prey) were held for the benefit of the local Roman population.
With the fall of the Roman Empire, such games became much less popular, and as Christianity became the State religion, man-eating events ceased to be held altogether. The arena was demolished during the barbarian invasions of 280 A.D., and the site later became a cemetery. In the late 12th century, the ruins were buried under a large rampart built to defend Paris. They remained forgotten until 1869 when they were unearthed to the greatest surprise of all historians.
At the time, the City Council decided Paris did not have the funds necessary to excavate and preserve the antique discovery, and the development project which had dug out the ruins was green-lighted. Later on, in 1883, the site was repurchased and rehabilitated under the guidance of French novelist Victor Hugo (author of ‘Les Miserables’). A further rehabilitation project began in 1916 which unearthed the site completely. Vicious attempts at taking over the site and destroying it by unashamed, greedy, low-life real-estate developers were thwarted by the local dwellers in 1980.
Orient yourself on a map, take the subway to the ‘Monge’ station, and walk to No. 47 Rue Monge. Enter the hallway, walk along the corridor and there you are! Right on the sandy ground of the arena where ghosts of ferocious lions still roam in search for a human prey!
Jardin des Plantes (Botanical Gardens)
In 1640 A.D., under the reign of King Louis the 14th (the same king who presided over the development of the Versailles Palace), the Royal Garden of Medicinal Herbs opened its doors ‘to the general public and students’. The project had been green-lighted in 1626 by King Louis the 13th. It is actually a collection of individual gardens — each with a peculiar charm and specific plants. It houses several old structures, including the Botanical School and the Magny Mansion (built in 1650). The Botanical Gardens are a huge site with a total surface area of about 2,600,000 square feet.
Each of the individual gardens is unique and deserves your attention for each one is home to specific species of flowers, vegetables, trees, and medicinal plants. On the Botanical School’s plot alone some 4,500 plants are grown. The Rose Garden (La Roseraie) counts some 170 species of roses! Amongst these beauties, the Alpine Garden stands out. Between the Otter Basin and the Cuvier alley (Cuvier was a famous French botanist), a 40,000 square foot parcel was delineated in 1931 for the growing of a diversity of mountain plant species. Today, the gardeners of the Alpine Garden tend to the health of plants coming from places as diverse as the United States, China, Japan, the Balkans, Morocco, the Caucasian mountains, Spain, and the Himalaya Mountains! A total of some 2,000 species to look after.
Among the hallmarks of the Alpine Garden is its 18th century Pistachio tree. The Botanical Gardens house several historical trees: the oldest one was directly imported from the Eastern United States and planted here in 1636 (an acacia). Among other ancient trees, you can also admire a Lebanese cedar, which was brought back to France in 1734. A visit to the Botanical Gardens and its Alpine Gardens is a whole afternoon affair. Ten minutes into the place and its quietness will make you oblivious of the hustle-bustle of the city. You will come out of your stroll absolutely ravished, marveling at the job the gardeners do to maintain this privileged environment in full bloom.
Take the subway to the ‘Gare d’Austerlitz’ station. Walk to the Austerlitz Bridge (Pont d’Austerlitz) and you will find yourself on a semi-circular plaza (Place Valhubert). The entrance to the Botanical Gardens is here.
Off the beaten track museum, former home and studio of the sculptor (1861-1929) for whom the street is named. The style is somewhere between rough-hewn Rodin (with whom he collaborated for a while) and Art Déco’s wind-swept streamlining. On view are samples of his inclination for antiquity and exoticism that range from statues of Sappho and Archer Heracles to a monumental portrayal of Polish national poet Mickiewicz and bas-reliefs of music, drama, etc. for the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, inaugurated in 1913. It was inaugurated with a scandalous premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, danced by a rather lightly clad Nijinsky. That year Bourdelle exhibited work at New York’s landmark Armory Show.
18 rue Antoine Bourdelle
Paris 15th district
Metro stations: Montparnasse, Falguière.
Musée de la Poste
Off the beaten track museum, the Musée de la Poste, an offshoot of the postal administration. Opened in 1973, it’s a museographical surprise: you take an elevator to floor five then spiral down, room-to-room, to the ground floor. on display an articulated-arm Chappe semaphore, part of a France-wide network enabling messages to come 10 km. station-to-station in clear weather from, say, Calais to Paris in just over an hour until France imported Samuel Morse’s system in 1856; a lovely 1900 ceramic post office counter. And very interesting an explanation of Paris pneumatique system that, 1866>1984, air-propelled correspondence via underground tubes at a speed of up to 700 meters a minute.
34 boulevard Vaugirard
Metro station: Montparnasse.
The Comédie Française is one of the most famous theatres in Europe. It goes all the way back to the time of Molière. The poet died here while he was starring in one of his own plays: ‘Le Malade imaginaire’. The building at the Royal Palace stems from 1790. The current repertoire of the theatre includes classical French plays, as well as modern stage.
Rue de Richelieu 2
Underground: Palais Royal
Shopping in Paris is a must
Paris is divided into quarters or arrondissements, each with its own shopping opportunities. Marais is the place for elegance, St-Germain for international fashion brands and Montmartre is dripping with romance. Paris is of course home to the large French department stores, les grands magasins such as Galeries Lafayette and Printemps and you can spend whole days browsing them. But the sheer joy of shopping in Paris comes from visiting the galleries or passages, the 19th-century glass-roofed shopping arcades that just ooze charm and transform rainy days into shopping adventures.
Checkout the markets. A daily Parisian ritual is to rumble through the open air markets to buy fresh food. A not to be missed market is on Rue Montorgueil beginning at Rue Rambuteau (Metro: Les Halles). Flower Market in Ille de la Cite, there is no better way to make your home feel like yours than with fresh flowers purchased along the Seine. Fauchon, gourmet shopping with over 20,000 specialty food items from all over the globe is a guaranteed way to hone your kitchen skills or bring out your inner chef.
The flea market at Porte de Montreuil is one of the cheaper ones. It specialises in old garments, furniture and other household objects. Porte de Vanves flea market sells a bit of everything. The flea market at Saint-Ouen / Porte de Clignancourt is the most celebrated and is often just referred to as the Paris Flea Market. This is the best place to buy antiques. It’s location in a low-rent area so costs are low. Plus it’s a cash only business. This makes it a great place to pick up a bargain but you really need to know what you’re doing.
Some recommended festivals and fairs
There is always something happening in Paris, some recommendations could be:
Paris Book Fair that will bring together authors literally from around the world, to the internationally renown Paris jazz festival in June and July or the open-air Summer Arts Festival up to the classic Bastille Day on 14 Jul. For sporty people Paris offers some important events too. In April it is possible to assist to the Paris Marathon starting at the top of the Champs Elysees and ending at the bottom of Avenue Foch. Not to mention the French Open Tennis (Roland Garros).
And cherry on top, while in Paris you can assist to the famous arrival of the Tour de France (Final Stage of the cycle race). But dates have to be confirmed. If you like races you also have the chance to see the Great Paris Steeplechase at the Auteuil Hippodrome. It is a Parisian jump racing held at one of the city’s bigger and famous Hippodromes.
Some other music events like the Music Festival, held on the summer solstice on the 21st of June, are worth a visit to the France Capital. There is also the Saint Denis Festival running from June to the end of July, during which time concerts are held in the Saint Denis Basilica. In the gorgeous frame of the Chateau of Versailles you could be the spectator of some venues organized by the Baroque Music Festival, usually held from the middle of September to the middle of October.