Things to Do in Paris - page 5
Open since 2010, Choco-Story Paris is a delectable museum dedicated to the history and production of chocolate. Learn about chocolate’s Maya and Aztec origins, watch chocolatiers at work, admire chocolate sculptures, and enjoy plenty of tastes along the way. Workshops are also hosted on-site for those who wish to make their own treats.
Affectionately known as “the belly of Paris,” Les Halles was once the sight of Paris’s bustling central food market, where vendors sold fresh meats, fish, and vegetables. A focal point of Paris since the 11th century, the food stalls were dismantled in 1971 to make room for the newForum des Halles shopping center and metro station.
From its neoclassical facade to its rich interior, the Odéon-Théatre de l'Europe radiates Parisian grandeur in the heart of the Left Bank. This is where Mozart’sMarriage of Figaro premiered in 1784, and the theater has been active ever since. Now, it’s a premier destination for a wide range of cultural events, whether classic or contemporary.
A stark, industrial space overlooking the Seine River and adjoining the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Palais de Tokyo offers a striking canvas for contemporary art installations. The gallery has no permanent exhibition; instead, it hosts an ever-changing series of contemporary art exhibitions in its gigantic exhibition hall, with past artists including Mika Rottenberg, Jean-Michel Alberola, Simon Evans, Stéphane Calais and Sara Favriau.
A modern meeting place for artists, the Palais de Tokyo has earned a reputation for its innovative and interactive exhibitions, with works ranging from thought-provoking conceptual pieces to offbeat graffiti works and large-scale avant-garde pieces. Alongside the main exhibition hall, there’s also the Pavilion, a space devoted to upcoming artists; an art bookshop; and a terrace restaurant and café with views across the river to the Eiffel Tower.
Housed in two grand manors in the Marais, the Musée Carnavalet is one of Paris’ most important institutions. The official museum of the history of Paris, it houses over 600,000 objects, from rare paintings to articles once owned by Napoleon. An intensive renovation is currently expanding its galleries and modernizing its facilities.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Located on the picturesque Place des Vosges in the Marais district of Paris, the Maison de Victor Hugo pays tribute to the French poet and novelist famous for such classics asLes Miserables andThe Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Today, the Hugo family apartment is a museum dedicated to the author’s life and works.
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In a northern suburb of the City of Light, the Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis is a stone abbey dating back to the medieval time period. Construction began as early as 1135, so it’s a remarkable landmark to see still standing today. The cathedral was the first built in France in the Gothic architectural style, noted for its intricate stained glass and a statue collection representative of the era. It is attributed with signaling the shift from Romantic to Gothic styles of architecture. Though it is one of the lesser known churches of France, it is respected both for its beauty and historical and cultural significance.
The church is also the final resting place for much of France’s royalty. A walk past the burial chambers and tombs of kings and queens of France tells centuries of the country’s history. Long a place of pilgrimage, all but three of France’s monarchs from the 10th to 18th century were buried there. With all of its history, many opt to take a guided tour through the church or add it on to a day of sightseeing in Paris.
Just steps from the Boulevard Saint-Germain in the heart of the Latin Quarter, the Paradis Latin is one of Paris’ liveliest and most history-saturated cabaret venues. Originally built in 1803 and restored by Gustave Eiffel in 1887, the cabaret still hosts its revue show—which blends can-can dancing, music, acrobatics, and more—today.
The Mémorial de la Shoah—Paris’ official Holocaust museum—was opened in 2005, on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Located in the Marais district (the city’s historical Jewish quarter), the museum features both permanent and temporary exhibitions, the commemorative Wall of Names, and other moving monuments and tributes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nearly a dozen streets converge at Place de la Rpublique—a popular square in the heart of Paris. This historic town center may measure fewer than 10 acres but was once home to impressive military barracks. Though the grounds are relatively small, there are numerous points of interest including intricate fountains, monuments paying homage to the grand republic and artistic relief-panel depicting some of the city’s most impressive political feats.
Home to art museums, major monuments, and Paris’ only skyscraper, eclectic and edgy Montparnasse is one of the city’s most interesting districts. Located in the 14th arrondissement on the Left Bank, it was famously the stomping grounds of artists and intellectuals in the 1910s and 20s, many of whom now rest in the Montparnasse Cemetery.
While Yves Saint Laurent is an icon of the fashion world, the name Pierre Bergé perhaps doesn't roll off the tongue quite as easily. But it was Bergé, Saint-Laurent's partner in life and business, who helped the YSL brand become synonymous with haute couture–and who, through the establishment of the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, ensures that the legacy lives on.
In addition to a well-curated roster of temporary exhibitions, visitors can also see and walk through Yves Saint Laurent's studio, which is filled with the items and ideas that inspired him, as well as personal art pieces and several of his award-winning fashion pieces. There is also the meticulously maintained couture salon, where clients would come to see private fashion shows of his latest collections. Some of his famous sketches are on display as well!
Walking the quaint cobbled streets of Butte-aux-Cailles, it’s easy to forget that you’re in Paris. With its rows of petite painted houses, family-run bistros and tiny boutiques, the lively neighborhood maintains the feel of a rural village, despite being just minutes south of the Seine.
The best way to exploreButte-aux-Caillesis on a walking tour, starting along the main streets of Rue des Cinq Diamants and Rue de la Butte aux Cailles, then ducking off to explore the maze of side streets and alleyways. Along the way, pay a visit to the Sainte-Anne de la Butte aux Cailles church, admire the pretty timber-fronted houses along Rue Daviel or take a dip at the famous Piscine de la Butte aux Cailles, fed by natural hot springs.
Most importantly, take the time soak up the ambiance of local life in the quartier – stop for a coffee in one of the terrace cafés, browse the small shops for local produce like honey and handicrafts, or buy a bag-full of croissants and pain au chocolats to munch on as you stroll through the Jardin Brassaï park.
Home to the world’s largest collection of works by Claude Monet, as well as numerous other Impressionist masterpieces, the Marmottan Monet Museum (Musée Marmottan Monet) offers a lesson in art and history. That’s because it’s housed in a hunting lodge that once belonged to the Duke of Valmy, and its historic, opulent setting is a draw in itself.
Fittingly located within the Paris-Le Bourget business airport, the Air and Space Museum is one of the world’s largest and oldest museums dedicated to aeronautics. Inside the cavernous hanger, there’s a planetarium with flight simulators, and more than 150 aircraft—including a 747, Concorde, DC3, Mirage, and an Ariane rocket—displayed alongside rare aviation memorabilia dating back as far as the 16th century.
The former residence of Joséphine de Beauharnais and Napoléon Bonaparte, Château de Malmaison is both an opulent palace and an important historical landmark. The château is located roughly nine miles (15 kilometers) west of Paris in Rueil-Malmaison and was once used as government headquarters, but it’s most famous for its elegant gardens.
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