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.
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 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.
Please visit out Louvre page for more information.
Address: Cour Napoleon, 1st; phone : 40 20 50 50 – Open Mon-Wen-Sat 9am-3pm, Sun 9am-6pm.
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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