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Famous Paris Places and Neighborhoods

The Eiffel Tower

When the Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889, it was the tallest building in the world at just over 300 meters high. The tower was originally built as a temporary structure to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution for the 1889 World’s Fair exposition.  What was once a temporary exhibit became permanent and now the monument is the enduring symbol of the city of Paris and France itself.

Back in the 1880’s, the tower’s steel construction defied all traditional rules of architecture.  Gustave Eiffel’s design was considered quite bold at the time. Today the tower is the main television transmitter for the city of Paris and the most visited site in France.

An angled black and white image of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
An angled black and white image of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

In 1986 external night-time floodlighting was replaced by a system of illuminating controllable lights.  The tower casts off quite an amazing light show just after dark on most nights.

Eiffel Tower Visitor Hours

From January 1 to June 18: 9:30 am – 8:30 pm (11:00 pm via lift)
From June 19 to August 29: 9:00 am – midnight 
From August 30 to December 31: 9:30 am – 8:30 pm (11:00 pm via lift)
Last entrance: 1 hour before closing.

Behind the Scenes Eiffel Tower Tour

Visit the engine room and up travel to the top of the tower via a private elevator with a guided Behind the Scenes visit to the Eiffel Tower.  Call or email for details: 424-386-5222

Note: Is it recommended to book your Eiffel Tower tickets in advance.

Where is the Eiffel Tower?

AddressChamps-de-Mars, Paris 75007
Bir-Hakeim, Trocadero, Ecole Militaire 
Line C – Station Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel
42, 69, 72, 82, 87

The Arc De Triomphe

Shortly after his victory at Austerlitz in 1805, Napoleon commissioned the Arc de Triomphe’s construction; it was completed in 1836. There are four huge relief sculptures at the bases of the four pillars that make up the structure. These commemorate The Triumph of 1810 (Cortot); Resistance, and Peace (both by Etex); and The Departure of the Volunteers, more commonly known by the name La Marseillaise (Rude).

An image of the Arc de Triomphe with cars in the foreground.
An image of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris with cars in the foreground.

Engraved around the top of the Arc de Triomphe are the names of major victories won during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods. The names of lesser victories, as well as those of 558 French generals, are found on the inside walls of the arc. The names of generals killed in battle are underlined.

Beneath the Arch is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and an eternal flame commemorating the dead of both world wars.

Every Armistice Day (November, 11) the President of France lays a wreath at the tomb. On 14 July – the French National Day (referred to as Bastille Day everywhere except in France) – a military parade down the Champs Elysees begins here. For important occasions of state, and national holidays, a huge French tricolor is unfurled and hung from the vaulted ceiling inside of the Arch.

The Arch is most easily (and safely) reached by tunnel from the north side of the Champs Elysees. 

From the roof of the Arch there are spectacular views of Paris. Looking east, down the Champs Elysees, toward the Louvre, is the Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries Gardens, and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. In the opposite direction to the west stands the Arc de Triomphe’s larger and newer cousin, the modern La Grande Arche de la Defense.

Visiting the Arc de Triomphe

AddressPlace Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris 
Lines 1, 2, and 6 – Charles de Gaulle-Etoile 
Line A – Charles de Gaulle-Etoile 
22, 30, 31, 52, 73, and 92

The Champs-Élysées, the grand boulevard of Paris.

The river Seine divides this grand section of Paris, stretching from the imposing 18th century buildings of Les Invalides to the Art Nouveau Avenues surrounding the Eiffel Tower.

Tourists hanging out on the Champs Elysees in Paris.
Tourists hanging out on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

Two of Paris’s most impressive thoroughfares dominate the neighborhood to the north of the Seine: the ultra chic Champs-Élysées, and the rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré. St. Honoré is where you’ll find the well-guarded Palais de l’Élysée. It’s hard to believe this classy part of Paris was once a village (Chaillot), albeit a posh one, absorbed into the city in the 19th century. Not surprisingly, many of its opulent Second Empire mansions are now embassies or multi-national corporate headquarters.

The Champs-Élysées (Elysian Fields rendered in French) was designed to be a Royal promenade stretching from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. Now filled with cars and mall-like shops, the new vision is to bring back the promenade feel, but without the royalty. Read more about it at Conde Nast Traveler.

Palais de Chaillot and Trocadero:

This immense Palais de Chaillot was built for the international exhibition of 1937 and is now home to four very different museums; with sections devoted to French monuments, the history of cinema, ethnology, anthropology and human biology, and to marine and naval history.

Tourists on the promenade at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris.
Tourists on the promenade at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris.

The complex also contains the Cinematheque repertory cinema and the huge Theatre National de Chaillot.

The fountains and statues in the Trocadero gardens below line up with the Eiffel Tower across the river and together form a gorgeous panorama when impressively lit up at night. 

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Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Get to know the charming Saint-Germain-des-Prés area of Paris

After World War II, Saint-Germain-des-Prés became synonymous with the intellectual life of Paris centered on the open bars and charming cafes. Philosophers, writers, actors and musicians mingled in the cellar nightspots and brasseries, where existentialist philosophy coexisted with American jazz.

The area is now wealthier than in the heyday of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, or enigmatic singer Juliette Grécot and the new-wave film makers (such as Godard and Truffaut).  However, the writers and wannabe poets are still around, enjoying the pleasures of sitting in Les Deux magots, Café de Flore and other haunts, or in the Jardins du Luxembourg, just behind the Odeon Theatre.

On the border of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter is the Jardins du Luxembourg in Paris.
The main section of the Jardins du Luxembourg in Paris on a summer day.

Most of the 17th century buildings have survived, but signs of change are evident in the number of affluent shops dealing in antiques, books and fashion. Somehow, Saint-Germain-des-Prés has become an up-to-date place, through which runs it’s namesake Boulevard Saint Germain.

The boulevard is the most celebrated of the entire left bank, and curves across three districts from The Ile Saint Louis to the Pont de la Concorde. The architecture in the area is quite homogeneous because the Boulevard was another of Baron Haussmann’s bold strokes of 19th century urban planning.

Jardins and Palais du Luxembourg

With its statuary, formal gravel paths and benches, the Luxembourg is the quintessential Paris park. Usual sights can include an apiary, joggers and martial art practitioners.   Tennis courts, pétanque pitches, basketball courts, pony rides and puppet shows add to the fun. During summer weekends, the octagonal pond in front of the palace is surrounded by smartly dressed Parisian children bearing batons to guide the progress of their sailing boats. Fronting rue de Vaugirard, the Palais du luxembourg was designed by Salomon de Brosse in the early 17th century for Queen Mary de Medicis, the florentine wife of Henry IV. Today, the palace houses the French Senate.

The main entrance to the Luxembourg gardens is at the corner of bd St. Michel and rue de Medicis, 6th. Open daily, dawn until dusk.

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Tuileries and Opera

The 19th-century grandeur of Baron Haussmann’s Grands Boulevards offsets the bustle of bankers, theater-goers, sightseers and shoppers who frequent the area around the Opera. Throughout the neighborhood, a profusion of shops and department stores draw the crowds. Much of the area’s older character is found in the early 19th-century shopping arcades, with elaborate steel and glass roofs which are known as “galleries” or “passages” and were restored to their former glory in the 1970s. Gallery Vivienne, which is the choicest, has an elaborate, patterned mosaic floor. the Passage des Panoramas, Passage Verdeau and the tiny Passage des Princes are more old school Parisian.

The streets abound with food shops of all kinds, noted for their mouthwatering displays of expensive jams, spices, pates, mustards and sauces.

Golden statues atop the Palais Garnier opera house.
Golden statues atop the Palais Garnier opera house.

Elegant squares and formal gardens, among which the famous Tuileries park, give the area its special character. Parallel to the Jardin des Tuileries are two of Paris’s foremost shopping streets, the rue de Rivoli and rue St-Honore, full of expensive boutiques, bookshops and five-star hotels.

Monuments to monarchy and the arts coexist with modern luxury at its most ostentatious: the best example of this coexistence remains the Musee du Louvre, though other places, like place Vendome, home to exquisite jewelry shops and the luxurious Ritz Hotel, also are a heady mix of wealthy and chic.

The Palais Garnier (Opéra): The palace, often referred to as “l’Opera”, with its sumptuous grand staircase, is a monument of the ostentatious wealth of the French Haute Bourgeoisie under the Second Empire (1851-1870). It was built by Charles Garnier, with added decoration from Chagall (1964), who painted a false ceiling.

Address: Place de l’Opera, 9th; phone : 40 01 25 14- Open for visits daily 10am-4.30pm; museum daily 10am-5pm.

The view of the Louvre from the Tuileries Gardens in Paris.
The view of the Louvre from the Tuileries Gardens in Paris.

The Tuileries Gardens

Between the Opera and the river Seine, bounded by the vast Place de la Concorde to the west and the Louvre to the east. The gardens replaced the Tuileries Palace, that burnt down during the 1871 Paris Commune unrest, leaving only the real tennis court, the Jeu de Paume, which is now used for contemporary art shows, and the Musée de l’Orangerie.

Address: Entrances along rue de Rivoli, 1st. Open summer daily 7am-9pm ; winter daily 7.30am-7.30pm.

The Louvre Palace: This complex combines one of the world’s greatest art collections with IM Pei’s avant-garde glass pyramid. It was built over several centuries, from the 12th century (foundations) to the 19th century ( building of the last wing). The main form of the Palace is due to King François I, who began the Cour Carrée in the 16th century.

Although the Louvre first opened to the public as a museum in 1793, it was President Mitterrand ‘s Grand Louvre Project, beginning in 1987 with IM Pei’s glass pyramid in the Cour Napoléon, that made this venerable museum one of the world’s most modern.

Address: Cour Napoleon, 1st; phone : 40 20 50 50 – Open Mon-Wen-Sat 9am-3pm, Sun 9am-6pm.

The center fountain at the Place de la Concorde in Paris, France.
The center fountain at the Place de la Concorde in Paris, France.

Place de la Concorde

Between the Champs Elysees and the Tuileries Gardens, lies the historic Place de la Concorde. First planned as a grand setting for a statue of Louis XIV, the Place has had many names, and been the site of many grim moments in French history, most famously during the French revolution.

The size and grandeur of the Place made it the ideal setting for the guillotine where more than a thousand aristocrats and enemies of the Revolution were beheaded, among them, of course, Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, and finishing with the once exalted, then disgraced, Robespierre.

After Napoleon I and III successfully righted the ship of state, the square was officially renamed Place de la Concorde in 1830.

At one end of the square is the magnificent Hotel Crillon; dead center is the priceless pink granite Obelisk of Luxor, presented to France in 1829 by the Egyptian Viceroy. The 3300 year old obelisk depicts the life and exploits of Ramses II in hieroglyphics.

Throughout the Place are statues representing the major cities of France: Brest and Rouen (in the northwest), Lille and Strasbourg (to the northeast), Lyon and Marseille (on the Quai des Tuileries) and Bordeaux and Nantes (in the southwest).

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The Historic Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral

Known as a gothic masterpiece, the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris was conceived by Maurice de Sully in the 12th century. The cathedral took over 200 years to build. Construction was finally completed in 1345.  In April of 2019, the cathedral was damaged in an inferno that ruined much of the structure.  Rebuilding efforts are underway.

A short video about the cathedral:

Notre Dame is the spiritual and geographical center of France. All road distances in France are calculated on the basis of the “0 km” marked on the square in front of the cathedral. It is also one of the most visited sites in France. For those so inclined, it is unlikely that a “hunchback” ever rang the bells, so don’t waste any precious vacation time looking.

Stained Glass mosaic at Notre Dame in Paris, France.
Stained Glass mosaic at Notre Dame in Paris, France.

Notre Dame is located on an island in the Ile de la Cite neighborhood of Paris.

Historical Events at Notre Dame

  • Construction of the cathedral takes place between 1163 and 1345 A.D.
  • 1452 – A multi-day stage play called “The True Mystery of the Passion” is performed in the square at the front of Notre Dame. The performance continues non-stop for four straight days.
  • 1558 – Mary Stuart, (Mary Queen of Scots), is crowned Queen of France at the cathedral of Notre Dame.
  • 1793 – During the French revolution, the cathedral becomes known as a “temple of reason” and is spared from destruction.
  • 1795 – The cathedral is sold to a private citizen who intended to destroy the building and use its stone as a quarry. Luckily his plans never come to fruition.
  • 1802 – Napoleon Bonaparte saves the cathedral from demolition.
  • 1804 – Napoleon Bonaparte is crowned Emperor of France in the cathedral.
  • 1940-1944 – Notre Dame square becomes the center of French resistance against the Nazis. Later the cathedral withstands a four day German siege.

Visit the official website of Notre Dame for more information.

AddressPlace du parvis de Notre Dame , 75004 Paris 
Line 1 – Hotel de VilleCite, Line 4 – Cite, Line 7,11, and 14 – Chatalet
Line B – Châtelet-Les Halles, Line C – Saint Michel-Notre Dame 
21, 38, 47, 58, 70, 72, 74, 81, 82

Ile de la Cite

Ile de la Cite is considered the birthplace of Paris (read our complete Paris history). Notre Dame Cathedral, the Palais de Justice, and Sainte Chapelle are all located on the Ile de la Cite. Ile de la Cite translates into “Island of the City” in English.

Along with the Sainte Chapelle, la Conciergerie was part of the original royal Palace in Paris on the Ile de la Cite. The Gothic vaulted Salle des Gens d’Armes and massive kitchens remain from the medieval period.

The palace became a prison under the watch of the Concierge during the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. Outside, la Conciergerie is the Tour de l’Horloge which contains the first public clock built in Paris. The clock, built in 1370, has been restored recently. It is a sight to see.

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At the eastern end of the island, a bridge connects with the smaller Ile Saint Louis. The island, a former swampy pasture, was transformed into a residential area with pretty, tree lined streets. Though Ile Saint Louis hosts no remarkable monuments, it’s considered one of the most pleasant places in Paris for a stroll or lunch. It has retained it’s charm and authenticity throughout the centuries.

  • Sainte-Chapelle: 4, bd du Palais, 1st; phone : 43 54 30 09 – open Oct-Mar daily 10am-5pm; Apr-Sep daily 9.30am-6.30pm.
  • La Conciergerie: 1, quai de l’Horloge, 1st; phone :

Musée d’Orsay

After the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay is the most famous museum in Paris. It’s hard to believe that this light-filled building with a collection of amazing art was once a train station, but it was.   

The original rail station was built by Victor Laloux and inaugurated in 1900 for that year’s Universal Exhibition. The first ever electric trains in France terminated at d’Orsay. The station was closed in 1939, a victim of progress as newer and bigger stations were built in Paris.

The structure was registered as a listed and protected building in 1978. The Musée d’Orsay opened on the site in December 1986. The museum was dedicated to housing works of art created during the period of 1848 through 1914. The vast collection containing paintings, pastels, sculptures, furniture and objets d’art, photography and documentary objects reflect the richness and diversity of this era.

Looking down on the main gallery of the Museum d'Orsay in Paris, France.
Looking down on the main gallery and the famous Musée d’Orsay clock in Paris

The museum has a great restaurant and gift shop on site. Audio guides are available in many languages. 

Museum hours: Winter: 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., Sunday: 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. Summer: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., Late Night: Thursdays until 9.45 p.m.

Closed: Christmas day, May day (May 1st), and New Year’s day

Address1, rue de Bellechasse, 62, rue de Lille, Paris, 75007
Solférino
Musée d’Orsay
24, 63, 68, 69, 73, 83, 84, 94

Visit the official Musée d’Orsay website.

Marais, Beaubourg, Les Halles, Bastille

Beaubourg and Les Halles are Paris’s most thriving public areas, with millions of tourists, shoppers and students flowing between them each year. Young people flock to Les Halles, shopping for the latest street fashions beneath the concrete and glass bubbles of the underground arcades.

All roads from Les Halles appear to lead to the Pompidou Centre, an avant-garde assembly of pipes, ducts and cables which houses the Musée National d’Art Moderne (Museum of Modern Art).

The smaller streets around the center are full of art galleries which make there home in crooked gabled buildings.

The neighboring Marais, with some of the oldest surviving streets and buildings in Paris, was abandoned by its royal residents during the 1789 Revolution, and it descended into an architectural wasteland before being rescued in the 1960’s.

It has since become a very fashionable address. Small cafés, bakeries and artisans still survive in its streets. Enchanting sites, like Place des Vosges, as well as the surrounding XVIIth-century buildings are must-sees, just like Place de la Bastille, with its brand new opera house.

Centre Pompidou

Opened in 1977, Centre Pompidou remains one of the most revolutionary contemporary buildings in Paris. Architects Richard Roger and Renzo Piano put the lifts, escalators, heating and air conditioning pipes on the outside, color coding them by their different functions and leaving the inside free for arts activities.

The modern exterior of the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
The modern exterior of the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

The policy of free entry, implemented by the governments Culture Department, means that the ground floor often resembles a rough and tumble speaker’s corner, a de facto extension of the street acts from the piazza outside. But do not let that put you off visiting the superb art collection, temporary exhibitions and the many other events.

Address: Plateau Beaubourg, 4th; phone : 44 78 12 33 – Open Mon, Wed-Fri noon-10pm; Sat, Sun 10am-10pm.

Place des Vosges

The square Louis XIII was planted in the midst of the elegant Place des Vosges.

A fountain in the center of the Place des Vosges, Paris.
A fountain in the center of the Place des Vosges, Paris.

The Ginard fountain, whose waters are drawn from the Canal de l’Ourq, was inaugurated in 1811, and was replaced in 1835, when the four Ménager fountains were installed.

The arcades around house expensive antique shops, chic restaurants and the Maison de Victor Hugo.

Bastille and the Opera:

Apart from a few chunks of the foundations inside the métro station, nothing remains of the infamous Bastille prison, which was stormed by the revolutionary masses in 1789.

The Place de la Bastille column in Paris, France.
The Place de la Bastille column in Paris, France.

But the Place de la Bastille is still the scene of a lively street activity every Bastille day (on July 14th). The column in the center of Place de la Bastille commemorates the Parisians killed during the riots of 1830 and 1848, and is crowned by the gilded génie de la Bastille.

On the south side of the square, Carlo Ott built his granite and glass, 2700 seat Opera Bastille in 1989, commemorating the 1789 French Revolution.

Sacré-Cœur Cathedral

After the Franco-Prussian War ended in 1870, the people of France decided to construct a church in honor of the Sacred Heart in Paris on the butte Montmartre. Originally the funds for the construction of Sacré-Cœur basilica were to come only from wealthy donors. However in 1873, the government of France decreed its construction to be a state undertaking. Seventy-eight different architects entered a competition for the right to design the church. The winning design was submitted by a veteran architect named Paul Abadie. Abadie was already well known for his restoration of the St. Front Cathedral in Perigueux.

The edifice of Sacré-Cœur church in Paris, France.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Coeur Basilica

When Was the Sacré-Cœur Church Built?

The plans for the new basilica called for an edifice of Roman-Byzantine style, and the first stone was laid in 1875. Abadie died in 1884 with only the foundation of the church built. (Side Note: we offer a great private walking tour of Sacré-Cœur and the surrounding area)

Completed in 1914, the church, was not consecrated until 1919 after the end of World War I. The total cost to build the church was 40 million francs.

The interior art of Sacre Coeur church in Paris.
The interior art of Sacré-Cœur church in Paris.

The interior of the church contains one of the world’s largest mosaics, which depicts Jesus Christ with outstretched arms. The nearby bell tower contains the “Savoyarde”, the majestic bell, which was cast in the city of Annecy in 1895. It is one of the world’s heaviest bells weighing over 19 tons.

Sacré-Cœur is one of the best places in Paris to visit, rivaled only Montparnasse Tower and the Eiffel Tower, for a birds eye view of the city.

Sacré-Cœur – Places to See

  • Montmartre
  • The Basilica of the Sacred Heart
  • Perpetual Adoration – uninterrupted prayer each day and night since 1885
  • The “artists” square at Place du Tertre

Mass schedule at Sacré-Cœur

Every Sunday: 11 am High Mass with the Little Singers of Montmartre – 6 pm and 10:15 pm Last masses. Every Friday: 3 pm biblical meditation sung in French. Chaplain at the disposal of all to the right of the entrance.

Sacré-Cœur Visitor Information

Parvis du Sacré-Cœur, 75018 Paris 

AddressParvis du Sacré-Cœur, 75018 Paris
Anvers, Abbesses, Château-Rouge, Lamarck-Caulaincourt
30, 54, 80, 85, Montmartrobus

The Latin Quarter in Paris

On the Rive Gauche (Left Bank) you’ll find the lively student area known as the Latin Quarter, so-named a few centuries ago because the students at the Sorbonne were speaking and learning Latin. Winding streets and few wide avenues make for a great walking area. Wandering will reveal cute shops and the remains of a Roman Amphitheater (Paris was once called Lutetia Parisiorum by the Romans. It’s a reference to the swamps beside the Seine. The look has improved over the centuries.

Besides students, the Latin Quarter is all about music. You go down into a cellar for the most part. Maybe that’s where we get the term dive bar? Mostly jazz but definitely pop-up raves as well.

The Latin Quarter area is home to many famous monuments, museums and gardens, ranging from the brand-new Institut du Monde Arabe to the Musee de Cluny, and the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle (Museum of Natural History) in the Jardin des Plantes.

The exterior of the Pantheon in the Latin Quarter.
The exterior of the Pantheon in the Latin Quarter.

Pantheon:

The domed landmark now known as the Pantheon was commissioned around 1750 as an abbey church. Due to financial problems the massive structure wasn’t completed until 1789. Two years later, the Constituent Assembly converted it into a secular mausoleum for the great men of the era of French liberty. Permanent guests of the Pantheon include Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Louis Braille, Emile Zola, Jean Moulin, René Cassin and Pierre et Marie Curie. The Pantheon’s ornate marble interior is less than cheerful, but you get a great view of the city from around the colonnaded dome, visible from all over Paris. 

Address: Place du Panthéon, 5th arrondissement. Open year round from 10 am-6 pm.

Sorbonne:

Paris’s most famous university, the Sorbonne, was founded in the Latin Quarter in 1253 by Robert de Sorbon, confessor of Louis IX (Saint Louis), as a college for 16 poor theology students.

A marble arch on the grounds of the Sorbonne in Paris, France.
A marble arch on the grounds of the Sorbonne in Paris, France.

After centuries as France’s major theological center, it was closed in 1792 by the Revolutionary government but was reopened under Napoleon. Today, the Sorbonne’s main complex (bounded by Rue de la Sorbonne, Rue des Ecoles, Rue Saint Jacques and rue Cujas) and other buildings in the vicinity house several of the 13 autonomous universities created when the Université de Paris was reorganized following the violent student protests in 1968.

Place de la Sorbonne links Blvd Saint Michel with Chapelle de la Sorbonne, the University’s domed church, which was built between 1635 and 1642. It is closed except for special exhibitions. Visit the Sorbonne online for more information.

Musée de Cluny (musée du Moyen Age):

This crenelated building was the Paris home of the medieval abbots of Cluny. It was built on the ruins of a Gallo-Roman baths complex, which is now partly restored.

The front of the Musée de Cluny (musée du Moyen Age) in Paris, France.
The front of the Musée de Cluny (musée du Moyen Age) in Paris, France.

The museum houses an exceptional collection of artifacts, including the celebrated “Lady and the Unicorn” tapestries, medieval statuary, enamels, ivory, fabrics, illuminated manuscripts and precious metalwork.

Address: 6 place Paul Painlevé, 5th. Phone 43 25 62 00. Open Mon, Wed-Sun 9:15am – 5.45pm.

Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle (Museum of Natural History):

Within the Jardin des Plantes botanical garden, the reopened Grande Galerie de l’Evolution has taken Paris’s Natural History Museum out of the dinosaur age, with the latest lighting and audiovisual techniques. An extensive fossil and geology collection are housed in a separate building.

Address: 57 rue Cuvier, 5th. Phone : 40 79 30 00. open Mon, Wed, Fri-Sun 10am-6pm; Thur 10am-10pm.

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The Louvre Museum

Over seven million people visited the Louvre museum in 2005. Covering an area of some 40 hectares right in the heart of Paris, the museum offers almost 60,000 square meters of exhibition rooms dedicated to preserving items representing 11 millennia of civilization and culture, bridging the very old and the very new.

Two women take in an old painting Inside the Louvre museum in Paris.
Two women take in an old painting Inside the Louvre museum in Paris.

The museum is the biggest and most visited in the world, at close to 800,000 square feet and with 10 million visitors a year.  Since the French crown had amassed literally priceless Roman and Greek relics over centuries, that is a core collection that is absolutely a must to visit.  Oh and a gentleman named Leonard Da Vinci spent many years in France working on castle designs in the Loire Valley.  The French king thought owning one of his paintings, the Mona Lisa, was a good purchase.  And he proved correct.  It’s just off the main hall, encased in plexiglass and always surrounded by rows of tourists.  

An early morning jogger runs near the Louvre in Paris, France.
An early morning jogger runs near the Louvre in Paris, France.

The 100 years the museum spent as the site of the French Academy of Painting and Sculpture, means the works of  French artists such as David are also housed in staggering numbers. When Napoleon conquered Egypt, voila, a wonderful  collection of Egyptian art was now at the Louvre.  And of course when the museum bought Baron Rothschild’s storehouse of prints, drawings and books, you instantly have quite a collection for the public to see. 

In the collection of decorative arts and Islamic artifacts you have not just French, but the world’s history.  It’s a must to visit  as well.  So far we have recommended a couple of days worth of sights.  Feel free to go more than once.

Quick tip: you can enter off Metro Line 1,  on which the museum has its own very  elegant metro stop.  But that means you miss lining up to pass through security in the famed glass Pyramide, erected by French President Mitterrand in 1989.  It created shock and hatred.  Now it is embraced.

Much like the art you will see in the Louvre.

Though the Eiffel Tower represents the very spirit of Paris, the Louvre Museum is all about the story of France and arguably, the world.  The Louvre began as a fortress (by Philip the II in the 12th century ), was converted to a palace (by Francis the I), and became a storage place for the crown’s treasures when Louis XIV moved the Royal household to Versailles after Paris got too built-up (by 15th century standards!) and, as European cities were in those days, disease-ridden.  

An ancient Sanskrit papyrus.  One of many housed in the Louvre.
An ancient Sanskrit papyrus. One of many housed in the museum.

Versailles became a symbol of all that had to change during the French Revolution in 1789.  It was liberated by the people, the Royals and much of the Swiss Guard were guillotined, and the Louvre opened just 4 years later as a museum to display what the French people now collectively owned.  It closed again because it was unsafe structurally, and in the meantime, Napoleon came to power, repaired it, and named it after himself.  (Well and he moved to Versailles, too.)

Take a combination Paris Bike Tour and Louvre Visit or a private Louvre tour with us!

Visit the official Louvre website.

A short introduction video to the Louvre Museum in Paris

We offer a private Louvre museum visit.  Click for details.

AddressPyramide – Cour Napoleon, A.P. 34, 36 quai du Louvre, 75001 Paris
Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre
21, 27, 39, 48, 68, 69, 72, 76, 95

Open: Museum: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. – Pyramid: 9 a.m.-10 p.m. – Museum late night opening: Monday (Richelieu Wing) and Wednesday: until 9.45 p.m. 
Closed: Tuesday, certain bank holidays.

Take a combination Paris Bike Tour and Louvre Visit or a private Louvre tour with us!

The Louvre in History

Tracing its architectural origins back to the 12th century fortress of Philippe Auguste, the stunning palace stands along the right bank of the Seine. Since the Middle Ages, its development has been marked by both the major events of French history and the succession of architects and decorators who have left their mark on it.

A statue in the Egyptian wing of the Louvre in Paris.
A statue in the Egyptian wing of the Louvre in Paris.

The medieval fortress from which the present day palace originates was built by King Philippe Auguste at the end of the 12th century. The restoration work on the Cour Carree and the excavation work necessary for construction of the I. M. Pei pyramid and the Carrousel area allowed archaeological digs. Visitors can now walk along the moats of the medieval fortress under the Cour Carrée and pass around the base of the dungeon to get to the salle Saint-Louis (13th century). A visit to the carpark has its own appeal – you can walk along the so-called Charles V moats.

In 1528, François Ier had the “grand tower” destroyed, and decided in 1546 to transform the former fortress into a luxury residence. The transformation, which was supervised by Pierre Lescot, continued under Henri II and Charles IX, involved two new wings which occupy two sides of the former fortress. Jean Goujon decorated the facade and the great hall of this Renaissance wing.

To the west, in a place known as the Tuileries, Catherine de Médicis had a huge palace built, which she left incomplete. As soon as he arrived in Paris in 1594, Henri IV had the Louvre and Tuileries connected to form a gigantic palace. This was the “Grand Dessein” or Grand Design, of which he had the first stage completed, the Grande Galerie.

Under Louis XIII and Louis XIV, the architects Le Mercier and subsequently Le Vau built the “Cour Carrée”, four times the size of the former Renaissance courtyard. To the East, facing the city, a committee of architects, led by Perrault, planned the “colonnade”. Poussin, Romanelli and Le Brun decorated the apartments and the “galeries”. But this golden age enjoyed by the Louvre came to an abrupt end in 1678, when Louis XIV chose Versailles as his centre of power. The double palace remained incomplete for a long time. During the entire 18th century, new projects contributed to the “Grand Dessein” of the Bourbons.

Though the Eiffel Tower represents the very spirit of Paris, the Louvre Museum is all about the story of France.  After all, it began as a fortress (by Philip the II in the 12th century ), was converted to a palace (by Francis the I), and became  a storage place for the crown’s treasures when Louis XIV moved the Royal household to Versailles after Paris got too built-up and, as European cities were in those days, disease-ridden.  

Versailles became a symbol of all that had to change during the French Revolution in 1789.  It was liberated by the people, the Royals were guillotined, and the site opened just 4 years later as a museum to display what the French people now owned.  It closed again because it was unsafe structurally, and in the meantime, Napoleon came to power, repaired it, and named it after himself.  (Well and he moved to Versailles, too.)

The Musée du Louvre is the biggest and most visited museum in the world, at close to 800,000 square feet and with over 10 million visitors a year.  Since the French crown had amassed literally priceless Roman and Greek relics over centuries, that is a core collection that is absolutely a must to visit.  Oh and a gentleman named Leonard Da Vinci spent many years in France working on castle designs in the Loire Valley.  The French king thought owning one of his paintings, the Mona Lisa, was a good purchase.  And he proved correct.  It’s just off the main hall, encased in plexiglass and always surrounded by rows of tourists.  

The Louvre Today

The 100 years the museum spent as the site of the French Academy of Painting and Sculpture, means the works of  French artists such as David are also housed in staggering numbers. When Napoleon conquered Egypt, voila, a wonderful  collection of Egyptian art was now in Paris.  And of course when the museum bought Baron Rothschild’s storehouse of prints, drawings and books, you instantly have quite a collection for the public to see. 

In the collection of decorative arts and Islamic artifacts  you have not just French, but the world’s history.  It’s a must to visit as well.  So far we have recommended a couple of days worth of sights.  Feel free to go more than once.

Quick tip: you can enter off Metro Line 1,  on which the museum has its own very elegant metro stop.  But that means you miss lining up to pass through security in the famed glass Pyramide, erected by French President Mitterrand in 1989.  It created shock and hatred.  Now it is embraced. Much like some of the the art you will see in this amazing museum.

Visit the official Louvre website in English.

Nearby, in the Tuileries – Orangerie Museum

Location: Jardin des Tuileries, Place de la Concorde
75001

AddressJardin des Tuileries, Place de la Concorde 75001
 Concorde on the 1, 8, 12 lines 

Set in the southwest end of the Tuileries Gardens is the Orangerie Museum. The collection is made up of 144 paintings, predominantly by André Derain. There are also around 24 Renoirs, and about 24 of Soutines, fourteen Cezannes, a dozen by Picasso and Matisse, and some by Henri Rousseau, Utrillo, Modigliani, Marie Laurencin Van Dongen, Sisley, Soutine and Monet (Monet’s water lillies at the Orangerie).

The Monet gallery at the Orangerie Museum in Paris, France.
The Monet gallery at the Orangerie Museum in Paris, France.

The collection was given to France by Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume, on the stipulation that the works must always be exhibited together. It is very much a reflection of the fine and eclectic tastes of these two art mavens.

Don’t neglect to visit the basement Oval Rooms, where Monet’s Waterlily series is on permanent display.

This jewel of a museum doesn’t require marathon endurance to see it all and then return to your favorites for a second look.

Explore the amazing Louvre collection online.

La Defense

As the economy grew during the early 1960’s, the French government made the decision that instead of further crowding the city center of Paris they would create a business district outside the city. With tall buildings, colossal modern art, and concrete plazas, La Defense was regarded for a long time as a laboratory of contemporary architecture, with mixed results.

The modern Arch at La Defense in Paris.
The modern Arch at La Defense in Paris.

The district which extends along the communes from Puteaux, Courbevoie and Nanterre, is Paris’s business center and draws about 200,000 each work day.

La Defense is decorated by The Grande Arche. Finished in 1989 (one hundred years after the Eiffel Tower’s completion), the Arch is a modern salute to the Arc de Triomphe.

While the area offers good hotel deals at name brand hotels we recommend not staying in this area if you want to visit Paris on vacation. It’s a ghost town at night and quite far from all of the famous Paris sites. Is La Defense safe? Yes, it generally is a safe area, but it is still part of a large city so, as always, pay attention in large urban areas.

The area actually has a tourism site visit it for more information.

La Defense Neighborhood Ratings

“Must See”
Area Hotel Quality:
Safety
Convenience
Overall Travel Experience and Recommendation

(“Five Towers” is the highest rating possible)

Historic Montparnasse

In the 18th century, students began reciting open air poems like the Greeks they admired. They named the hill where they gathered Mount Parnassus…. and voila, Montparnasse was born. This area has one of the grander boulevards of Paris, Boulevard Montparnasse, and also has the dubious honor of having Paris’s lone, reviled high rise, the Tour Montparnasse. The view of Paris from the observation deck is undeniably phenomenal, however.

Montparnasse was the favored neighborhood of artistic luminaries from Picasso to Hemingway, Chagall to Cocteau, until construction of the giant rail station meant blocks and blocks of cheap lodging was wiped away. Still, old school cafe life can be found at Le Dôme and La Coupole. Affordable crepe restaurants and stands are all over the area. This humble meal of Bretons took root since Montparnasse is where work-seekers from the region arrived in Paris in the 1930’s.

A sign in the metro at Gare Montparnasse in Paris, France.
A sign in the metro at Gare Montparnasse in Paris, France.

The area is neither fancy nor struggling, and is a haven for families that live and work in Paris. As such it’s a good destination for tourists looking for safe and decently-priced lodging.

About Montparnasse Tower:

It may be jarring to the eye amid the charm of Paris, but a visit to the tower is the only way to get those famous high shots of Paris without boarding a helicopter.

From the air-conditioned observation deck on the 56th floor, you can soak in the view, and then visit the restaurant and cocktail bar.

Open daily from 9:30 am to 10.30 pm in winter, 11.30 pm in summer.

Addressrue de l’Arrivée, 75015
Gare Montparnasse (lines 4, 6, 12, 13)

Montparnasse Neighborhood Ratings

“Must See”
Area Hotel Quality:
Safety
Convenience
Overall Travel Experience and Recommendation

(“Five Towers” is the highest rating possible)

Take a private Montparnasse area walking tour with us.

Les Invalides

History and Visitor Information

In 1670 King Louis XIV (the “Sun King”) founded a hospital for his old and injured “invalid” soldiers. Les Invalides was designed by architect Liberal Bruant. The hospital was completed in 1676. It was designed to house up to 4,000 soldiers. Today, Les Invalides is a museum and national monument, however, the French military still uses part of the complex as a base.

Les Invalides: A suit of armor worn by an unfortunate soul in the middle ages.
A suit of armor worn by an unfortunate soul in the middle ages.

Beneath Invalides impressive gold dome are two churches. One for the common soldiers and the other for the King to be entombed upon his death. The King’s church is now the site of Napoleon’s tomb.

Les Invalides Visitor Hours and Location

The museum at Les Invalides is open every day of the year except January 1st, May 1st, November 1st, and Christmas day, as well as the first Monday of every month.

October to March 31: Open from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.
April 1 to September 30: Open from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.

During the summer, the dome church, including the Tomb of Napoleon I, stays open until 6:45 p.m.  

Open until 9 pm on Tuesdays, during temporary exhibition periods only.

AddressEsplanade des Invalides, Paris, 75007
Line 8 : Latour-Maubourg or Invalides
Invalides
32, 63, 93

Visiting Les Invalides: 
A ticket for the Musee de l’Armee (Army Museum) offers visitors entrance to the museum and all temporary exhibitions, the Dome Church and the Tomb of Napoleon I, the museum of Relief Maps and the museum of the Order of the Liberation, also located in the Hotel national des Invalides.

For current pricing please visit the Musee-Armee website.

The Bibliothèque Nationale de France

The National Library of France

The mission of the French national library, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, is to collect and conserve all works published in France, regardless of media, with the explicit purpose of making them available to researchers and journalists. Under French law, all publishers must deposit several copies of each work they publish in the library upon publication.

In 1368, Charles V, “the Wise”, had his own personal library moved into the Louvre. The collection contained nine hundred and seventeen manuscripts. In those days, however, royal collections were transient in nature as they were irretrievably dispersed on their owner’s death. It was not until Louis XI, who reigned from 1461 to 1483, that continuity was established – reflecting the continuity of the royal dynasty. Charles VIII and Louis XII each added more manuscripts as well as the first printed books to the archive. The collection was never again to be dispersed.

Bibliothèque Nationale de France Richelieu
Bibliothèque Nationale de France Richelieu

On the 28th of December 1537, the king introduced a new principle by royal decree, whereby all printers and booksellers were ordered to deposit copies of any printed book put on sale in the kingdom with the Château de Blois library. This obligation was known as the “Depot Légal” and its creation marks a fundamental date in the history of the library. Even though the decree was by no means uniformly enforced in the early stages, it marks an important date in French history.

The Bibliothèque Nationale de France was moved several times. First to Amboise and then to Blois and later to Fontainebleau. In the second half of the 16th century, the library was transferred to Paris. An inventory at the time listed just 4,712 manuscripts and printed works. In 1988, ground broke on a new site for the library in the 13th arrondissement of Paris. The much larger new building contains 3,600 reading units.

Significant Works

  • About 12 millions books, among them two copies of Gutenberg Bible
  • The world’s largest collection of geographical maps
  • The richest collection of engravings (12 million) and photos (2 million). 
  • 250,000 manuscripts including the Dead Sea Papyrus and medieval psalm books.
  • Painted works such as the Carolus Magnus and Louis IX’s private collections.
  • Over 600,000 coins, medals and antiquities.

Visitor Hours for the Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Tuesday to Saturday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday: noon to 6 p.m.

 Quai Francois-Mauriac 75013

AddressQuai Francois-Mauriac, 75013
line 14, Grande Bibiliothèque, line 6, “Quai de la Gare” 
 62, 89.

 For more information about the Bibliothèque Nationale de France visit the library’s official website.

Heading to Paris? Contact us to plan an amazing vacation to Paris.

 Hotel “Stayability” Index 

(Five is the highest rating possible)

For more information and mass times, visit the Paris tourist office.