Paris Things to Do Tips by Andraf
Paris Things to Do: 8,653 reviews and 17,199 photos
Musee d'Orsay opened in 1986 in a beautiful building which served as a train station until 1960's. The museum is devoted to the period dating from 1848 to 1914 providing a bridge between the classical Louvre and the modern Centre Pompidou. The main attraction of the museum are the Impressionists with numerous paintings by Renoir, Monet, Manet (which is considered to be in a class of his own), Pissarro, Sisley. Included here are also the post-Impressionist Cezanne, Degas and Vincent Van Gogh. I enjoyed my visit to the Orsay a lot. The collection of Impressionist art is amazing and Musee d'Orsay is one attraction of Paris that is well worth a visit.
Address: 1 Rue de Bellechase
L'Eglise du Dôme, Paris
The L'Eglise du Dome is part of the building ensemble known as Les Invalides. The beautiful church was designed by Hardouin-Mansart for Louis XIV and since 1840 it houses Napoleon's tomb and the tombs of other famous generals. The great architect, one of the most important European architects of the seventeenth century and a master of French Baroque architecture, began work on the church in 1677. It was finished in 1708. The impressive golden dome is the second tallest in Paris after the Pantheon and the church does resemble the Pantheon a little bit. The interior of the dome was painted by Charles de La Fosse with an allegory of heaven (from what I can tell). The painting was completed in 1705.
The "pièce de résistance" and the reason you will find it so crowded here is, of course, Napoleon's tomb but others are commemorated here as well, like Napoleon's brother Joseph the King of Spain, the French Allied Commander in WWI Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the Vicompte de Turenne, Marshal General of France under Louis XIV, Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle who wrote France's national anthem "La Marseillaise", and the author of "The Little Prince" Antoine Marie-Roger de Saint-Exupery.
Hotel des Invalides, Paris
Hotel des Invalides was created by Louis XIV, the Sun King, as a home meant to house wounded and homeless war veterans. Nowadays the complex includes Musee de l'Armee (the Military Museum), the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, the Musée d'Histoire Contemporaine and the L'Eglise du Dôme (the Dome Church) were some of France's war heroes, notably Napoleon Bonaparte are buried. The building still includes the national institution for disabled veterans. The complex is an outstanding example of French Baroque architecture, designed by Liberal Bruand in the 1670s. The Musee de l'Armee is one of the world's most outstanding military museum with a vast collection of weapons, armor, uniforms and in the building's cobblestone forecourt a massive display of cannons. Many of the weapons used by the revolutionaries to attack Bastille on 14 July 1789 were taken from Les Invalides on the morning of that day. You can spend hours here perusing through all the items men invented so they can hurt their enemies. The Musee des Plans-Reliefs' collection shows French towns and monuments done in scale models.
Napoleon's Tomb, Paris
Inside the L'Eglise du Dome, part of the Invalides complex, rests the great military and political leader, Napoleon Bonaparte. First buried at St. Helena, Napoleon's remains were returned to Paris in 1840 and placed within the church in 1861. The tomb and the high altar were designed by architect Visconti in 1842. The sarcophagus itself, located under Mansart's golden dome, is very pompous looking, or maybe I should say magnificent and sumptuous, giving one a sense of grandeur. It's made of red porphyry on a green granite base while Napoleon's remains are locked in a series of six coffins, one inside the next. The sarcophagus is circled by a crown of laurels and inscriptions and a dozen statues symbolizing Napoleon's military campaigns.
Champs Elysees, Paris
Avenue de Champs-Elysees is Paris's most famous thoroughfare. This street has its beginnings in about 1667, when the landscape garden designer Andre Le Notre created this broad tree-line avenue that eventually became known as the Champs-Elysees. Champs-Elysees has witnessed some important moments in French history and nowadays it's the scene for annual military parade on Bastille Day. Also since 1975 the Tour de France ends here every year in July. Parisians tend to congregate here every time there is something to celebrate, on New Year's Eve or with the occasion of winning a soccer championship.
The avenue is 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) long, running from the Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde. Presently Champs-Elysees - especially its upper part - is lined with expensive cafes and restaurants, as well as a multitude of chain stores and designer shops. It's a pleasant spot for a stroll.
Address: Metro: Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile, George-V
Musee Rodin, Paris
Musee Rodin is located in an elegant eighteen century mansion surrounded by a beautiful garden. The mansion, which is owned by the French government, was Rodin's studio from 1910 until his death in 1917. In return for being allowed to use this house Rodin left all his work to the state upon his death. Some of his most famous sculptures are on display in the garden: The Burghers of Calais, The Thinker, The Gates of Hell and Balzac. The indoor exhibits include numerous works, marble sculptures, plaster casts, reproductions, originals and sketches, all giving a sense of why Rodin is considered the father of the modern sculpture. The works have a certain fluidity, they appear to be emerging from marble into life. Particulary beautiful is his renowed "The Kiss" (which appears in the picture) and people will form a big crowd around it. One room inside the museum is devoted to Camille Claudel, Rodin's pupil, model and mistress. Her sculptures I believe display a touching delicacy which makes them look fragile and beautiful. Behind the mansion there is a rose garden, and an alley which winds its way around a pond, making this museum one of the most idyllic spots in Paris (Well, we were there off-season; maybe during the peak tourist season this place is not so quiet, but I hope that it retains its beauty even with the crowds).
Address: 77, rue de Varenne 75007
Directions: Line 13 : Varennes
Notre Dame de Paris
Located at the center of Paris and that of France (distances from Paris to all parts of France are calculated from the center of the plaza), Notre Dame had witnessed some of the greatest moments in the city's history. Its setting on the banks of the Seine is beautiful and inspiring. This spot had seen people praying for over 2000 years; a Roman temple, a Christian basilica and Romanesque church preceded the Gothic masterpiece that is the cathedral. Construction on Notre Dame was started in 1163 under the auspices of Bishop de Sully and completed around 1345, roughly 180 years later. Despite various changes during the following centuries, the cathedral remained largely unaltered until the French Revolution when it was damaged by the revolutionaries. Napoleon restored some of the cathedral's prestige by crowning himself emperor here in 1804, but even after this event the building was left in decline until 1840's when much needed restoration started (largely due to a petition written by Victor Hugo, who brought the public's attention to the poor state of the cathedral). The task of restoration was entrusted to Viollet-le-Duc, who carried out extensive works remaking much of the statuary on the facade and adding the gargoyles, which you can see up close if you brave the ascent of the towers (actually, the ascent wasn't the tough part, but waiting in line for an hour before the ascent was). Surely the view from the top was worth it (even though the gargoyles were surrounded by fences and you couldn't get very close).
The beautiful facade is divided neatly into three levels, with three overwhelmingly carved portals guiding your entrance (the Portal of the Virgin on the left, the Portal of the Last Judgement in the center and the Portal of St. Anne on the right). Don't forget to walk around the cathedral to see the array of flying buttresses supporting the choir. They are really beautiful.
Address: Ile de la Cité 6, Place du Parvis, 75004 PARIS
Directions: Métro: Cité or St-Michel (line 4) RER: St-Michel Notre Dame (line B) Buses: 21, 38, 47, 85
From around the middle of the 19th century to the World War I the slopes of Montmartre used to be the place where artists throve. Toulouse-Lautrec made Montmartre its home and so did Van Gogh, Cezanne, Degas and many others. It was cheap and pretty and it had an abundance of disreputable nightlife. The famouse Moulin Rouge is to be found here. After World War I the area lost its spark and today the area swings between being very touristic during the day and the same shady nightlife during the night. Among many things you'll find here make sure not to miss the Sacre-Coeur church. The views of Paris from its steps make you understand why artists will come here to find their inspiration.
I read in my travel guide that in the Middle Ages this church was likened to a "gateway to heaven"; once I got there I could see why with my own eyes. This is one of the most beautiful churches that I've seen in my life.
It was built in 1248 by Louis IX to house what was believed to be the crown of thorns from Christ's crucifixion and fragments of the true cross. The building is actually two chapels in one. The first floor chapel which was for servants and lower members of the court is beautiful with its flying buttresses but the upper chapel is infinite more striking. To get upstairs you have to climb a dark spiral staircase. Once you enter the chapel you'll be moved by the light that inundates the room created by the 15 magnificent stained glass windows separated by the narrowest columns. This chapel was for the king and important members of the court - I'm glad that simple folk like us can marvel at it today ;-)
The church is approached through the court of Palais de Justice.
Address: Boulevard du Palais
Directions: Sainte-Chapelle is inside the Palais of Justice on Ile de le Cite-- a few minute walk from Notre Dame. Metro : Cite, Staint-Michel, or Chatelet. RER: Chatelet -Les-Halles, Saint-Michel
Phone: 01 53 73 78 50
Atelier Brancusi, Paris
Atelier Brancusi is located in a small one level building in front of the Centre George Pompidou. Constantin Brancusi is a major figure in the history of modern sculpture. Born in Romania in 1876, he settled in Paris in 1904 at the age of 28 and lived there until his death in 1957. When he died, Brancusi left his 15e arrondissement studio to the state on the condition that it will be reconstructed exactly as the artist left it. This condition came from the artist's obsession with the spatial relationship of the sculptures in his studio, going so far as to replace each sold work to a plaster copy, and towards the end of his life with the refusal to sell his work. The atelier was reconstructed and opened in 1997 at the Pompidou Center in this small building designed by Renzo Piano. There are four interconnected rooms which faithfully adhere to Brancusi's arrangements. Studios one and two are crowded with fluid sculptures including his well known abstract bird and column shapes. In one of the rooms the artist's tools are displayed and they make an interesting sight. My only disappointment was that the rooms are behind glass. I believe that the impact of the works would have been even stronger if not for the glass shielding.
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