Things to Do in Paris - page 5
French Romantic artist Eugene Delacroix moved into a studio on Rue de Furstenberg on Dec. 28, 1857, and lived there until his death in August of 1863. After his death, a group of painters and art collectors created the Friends of Eugene Delacroix Society (Société des Amis d’Eugène Delacroix) in order to save his former flat from destruction. The society purchased the building in 1952 and donated it to the French government for use as a museum two years later.
Musee Eugene Delacroix opened as a national museum in 1971 and today showcases paintings from nearly every stage of Delacroix’s career (most famously Magdalene in the Desert), as well as his furniture, souvenirs brought back from a trip to Morocco and personal items. A downloadable mobile app in English includes a free guide to the museum collection.
Fashioned from the blueprint of London's world famous Madame Tussauds, Paris's own waxwork museum, the Musée Grévin (Grevin Museum), has been sculpting famous faces since it was founded back in 1882. A collection of some 500 waxwork figures are on display, alongside an exhibition on the making of the waxworks and the renowned 'Hall of Mirrors,' where deforming mirrors and a bizarre lightshow add to the curiosities.
The waxworks feature an array of famous faces, with American film stars like Brad Pitt and George Clooney, political figures like Barack Obama and legendary singers like Celine Dion and Michael Jackson, posed alongside homegrown heroes like French rally driver Sebastian Loeb. There are plenty of unique celebrity photo opportunities, too: cuddle up to Bridget Bardott's sultry statuette, pick Albert Einstein's brains or compare your moves with Elvis Presley (though his might seem a little stiff).
One of largest and most varied antiques and flea markets in world, stretching over an incredible seven hectares, the Marché aux Puces de Saint Ouen (Saint Ouen Flea Market) is more than just a market: it’s a Parisian institution. Listed as a French urban heritage site, the weekend market encompasses up to 3,000 exhibitors and is split into fifteen separate sections, each with a unique atmosphere and array of goods.
With everything from antique furnishings retailing for tens of thousands of Euros to cheap and cheerful souvenirs for less than a Euro, the variety at the market is truly unbeatable. For antique and vintage pieces, the Marché Malassis and Marché Paul Bert areas are most popular, while eccentric treasures abound in the Marché Vernaison, where Moroccan rugs, Chanel perfume decanters, 19th-century ornaments and even French military wares are among the unique finds.
Europe has no lack of Picasso museums, but the Musée Picasso in Paris should be at the top of your list. The Hotel Salé, a mid-17th-century home in Le Marais, was renovated from residence to museum, starting in 1968, and since then has developed a world-class collection of more than 3,000 of Picasso's works spanning his entire, prolific career.
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was the outstanding genius of 20th-century art: he painted, drew, and otherwise created from his early youth until his death at the age of 91. Much of his prolific and prodigious legacy can be found in the wonderful Musée Picasso.
The Spanish-born artist spent a great deal of his life in Paris, and while this museum may not hold his big name works, it does offer the most complete overview of his oeuvre, and highlights his playfulness and humor. Tucked away in the chic Marais neighborhood, the museum is housed in the Hôtel Salé, a wonderfully restored 17th-century mansion.
Les Halles began as a central covered food market, nicknamed “the stomach” of Paris for its winding, tightly packed networks of vendors selling, fish, meat and produce for eight centuries. In 1971 the market was dismantled and relocated to the Parisian suburb of Rungis, and in 1979 the partially underground Forum des Halles shopping center and a connecting metro station opened at the east end of the site.
While Paris’s iconic, beloved market exists only in memory, the neighborhood remains a popular destination for both locals and visitors. Points of interest include the sixteenth century Saint Eustache Church (home of the largest pipe organ in France) and the Pompidou Centre, home of the Musee National d’Art.
Renowned as the biggest and most varied collection of Asian Art in the Western World, the Musée Guimet’s stellar reputation is well deserved, making it one of Paris’ most impressive museums. Founded by its namesake, industrialist and world traveller Emile Guimet, in Lyon in 1879, the museum originally housed his extensive private collection of Chinese and Japanese art and moved to Paris a decade later.
Since then, the Musée Guimet has amassed more than 45,000 objects dating right back to Neolithic times and including an incredible variety of antiquities including archaeological finds from Ancient Egypt, a huge collection of religious art, Afghan glassware, Moghul jewelry and Tibetan funeral masks. Laid out geographically, a tour of Musée Guimet offers a vibrant journey to the far corners of Asia, with highlights including the Buddhist Pantheon Galleries, the largest collection of Khmer sculpture outside Cambodia and a Japanese garden.
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!
The palatial stables at Château de Chantilly were created in 1719 for the aristocratic Louis-Henri de Bourbon, the seventh prince of Condé. Legend dictates that this deeply eccentric equine lover believed that he would be reincarnated as a horse and he commissioned architect Jean Aubert to create stabling to suit a horse of his princely rank; the results are a masterpiece of restrained neo-classical architecture and are the largest — and certainly most luxurious —stables in Europe. They span some 4,000 square meters (43,000 square feet), with wooden stalls for 250 horse as well as kennels for several packs of hounds – they even escaped destruction in the French Revolution of the 1790s, when they were used as barracks. The centerpiece of the stables is the magnificent circular manège (riding school), where equestrian shows are held daily, showcasing the fine art of high dressage.
Visitors shouldn’t let the somewhat enigmatic name fool them into thinking this is a peculiar museum; the Carnavalet Museum is indeed one of Paris’ finest. Initially an idea of Baron Haussmann, who carried out extensive renovation works all around Paris in the late 1800s, the museum retraces Paris’ history all the way from the Lutèce Roman village it once was to the vibrant metropolis it has now become. Located in two 16th-century lavish townhouses – formerly known as Hôtel de Carnavalet (where an icon of French literature, the famous marquise de Sévigné, lived) and Hôtel d’Orgeval – in Le Marais, the architectural setting of the museum is just as captivating at the collection it houses.
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The Museum of Jewish Art and History 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.
French Symbolist painter 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.
Housed within a building designed by renowned Canadian-born American architect Frank Gehry, La Cinematheque houses one of the largest collections of films and cinema-related objects in the world. Through a series of permanent exhibits, visitors to the museum trace the history and technology of film from its infancy through its Hollywood glory days and into the modern age, including magic lanterns, cameras, iconic costumes, props, movie posters and cult objects. Classic film clips accompany many of the displays, and an on-site theater screens several films daily from its huge archive.
Highlights of the museum collection, particularly for the die-hard movie buff, include Mrs. Bates’s head from the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Psycho, the robot from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and a camera that belonged to the Lumiéres brothers. Temporary exhibits often feature a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a particular film.
Also included on the grounds, and until recently under the supervision of the Senate, is the Musée du Luxembourg, France's first public museum. The works originally shown there have since been moved to the Louvre, and today it shows important exhibitions by classic and contemporary artists. It has a constantly changing exhibition schedule, so even repeat visitors can see something new.
A 75-foot monumental pillar fashioned from pink granite, the Obelisk of Luxor looms over Place de la Concorde, Paris’ largest and most famous square, flanked by the idyllic Jardin des Tuileries. Erected in 1836, the monument was gifted to King Charles X by the Viceroy of Egypt, one of the twin obelisks marking the entrance to the Temple of Luxor (its double remains seated at the temple entrance). Following the turbulence and bloodshed of the French Revolution, the Obelisk was erected in Place de la Concorde as a symbol of peace, replacing the former statue of Louis XV that was famously substituted for a guillotine during the uprisings and effectively erasing some of the square’s gruesome history.
Framed by fountains, the Luxor Obelisk, often-nicknamed Cleopatra’s Needle, is reminiscent of ancient Egyptian obelisks later exhumed in London and New York, and features original hieroglyphic tributes to the pharaoh Ramses II.
Orly Airport (ORY; official name, Aéroport de Paris-Orly) was built in 1932 and has always served as a secondary airport, first to Le Bourget and now to Charles de Gaulle. However, with almost 30 million passengers per year, it could hardly be considered a lesser airport. Orly mostly serves low-cost and regional airlines that fly within Europe, with many flights to former and current French colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. One airline goes to North America (Open Skies to New York's JFK).
Travelers should note that because of its regional dominance, Orly serves as a major connecting flight hub. This means that although a long-haul flight may land at Charles de Gaulle, the connecting flight could take off from Orly. Check itineraries carefully before booking, and make sure that there is at least six hours between flights to ensure proper immigration/customs/baggage claim/check-in time.
Legendary for harbouring some of Paris’s most iconic artists and intellectuals, Montparnasse lies on the city’s Left Bank, in the 14th aggrandisement, and remains a popular tourist attraction. Taking its name from the Greek Mount Parnassus, home to ‘the Muses’ (the nine Greek Goddesses of the arts and sciences), Montparnasse was the central hub of Paris’s creativity throughout the 20th century. Home to a vibrant population of penniless artists and grass roots intellectuals, the area was a meeting ground for the era’s burgeoning arts scene. Future icons like Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce were among the immigrants who flocked to the area, along with a number of key French figures, many of whom are now buried in the Montparnasse cemetery. While the golden era might be long gone, the neighbourhood retains much of its gritty charm, with its many traditional cafés and creperies (pancake houses) recreating some of the vibe of historic Paris.
Laid out along the River Seine in the 12th arrondissement of Paris, the 14-hectare Parc de Bercy is one of the city’s newest parks, laid out in 1994–97 as part of an urban rejuvenation project on the site of former wine warehouses. The park has three themed zones: the fountain-filled Grande Prairie is shaded by mature trees and is overlooked to the northeast by the Cinémathèque Française, designed by Frank Gehry of Guggenheim Bilbao fame; Les Parterres are laid out in formal style, with vegetable and flower gardens as well as an orchard and vineyard; the Jardin Romantique (Romantic Garden) is adorned with lily ponds and bizarre statuary.
The Bercy Arena, one of Paris’s biggest cultural and sporting venues, stands at the northwest side of the park. Opposite is the cute BercyVillage, built in the remnants of the Bercy wine cellars, which now house a shopping mall with bars and restaurants.
Designed by architects Marie-Joseph Peyre and Charles de Wailly, the Odeon, Théatre de L'Europe, or the European Theatre of Paris, was opened by Marie-Antoinette in 1782 and remains one of the city’s most popular theaters. The oldest theater auditorium in Paris, the Odeon was inaugurated in 1971 as one of France’s six national theaters and boasts a rich history of Parisian arts, including hosting the famous Comédie Française.
Located in the heart of the city’s atmospheric Left Bank, in the 6th arrondissement, the theater maintains its original colonnaded neoclassical façade and dramatic foyer, masterminded by Chalgrin, celebrated architect of the Triumphal arch. Today, the theater showcases a range classical, contemporary and experimental plays, with performances held regularly throughout the year and the emphasis on promoting national theater and nurturing upcoming talent.
Nearly a dozen streets converge at Place de la Republique—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.
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.
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