Things to Do in Île-de-France - page 3
In Paris’ Beaubourg district, Centre Pompidou is a multidisciplinary cultural venue that’s home to the National Museum of Contemporary Art. Visitors come to see famous paintings by legendary artists, such as Henri Matisse and Wassily Kandinsky, and to marvel at the building’s design.
The Wall of Love (Le Mur des Je T'aime) is a massive work of art featuring the words “I love you” written in over 250 languages. Composed of 612 dark-blue tiles, this work by artist Frédéric Baron and calligraphist Claire Kito is a favorite meeting spot for lovers and offers more evidence that Paris is in fact the City of Love.
One of only two Seine islands in Paris (the other is the neighboring Île de la Cité), Île Saint-Louis is a tranquil oasis in the city center. Among the first parts of the city to be organized by modern urban planning works during the 17th century, the island is known for its scenic quays, elegant residences, and unhurried pace.
With red marble columns and grandiose style, the Fontaine Saint-Michel is a beautiful fountain in the heart of the Quartier Latin (Latin Quarter. The statue at the center depicts the archangel Michael standing triumphantly over the devil—it’s said to be a symbol for Napoleon’s own triumphs—and the monument is flanked by spouting dragons.
First opened in 1895 by Theophile Bader, Galeries Lafayette is a department store in Paris that houses luxury fashion brands including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Christian Dior. In addition to a stained glass dome ceiling and rooftop terrace with views of the Eiffel Tower, Galeries Lafayette features weekly fashion shows on Friday afternoons.
Located across from the Louvre in the heart of Paris, the Palais-Royal is an architectural highlight known for its scenic gardens and regal heritage. Originally named the Palais-Cardinal—it was built for Cardinal Richelieu in 1633—the palace later housed French royalty until Versailles was completed in 1682.
The Grand Canal, a highlight of the 2,000-acre (800-hectare) Park at the Palace of Versailles, leads the eye to the farthest perimeter of the grounds. Designed by Andre Le Norte, the canal extends for nearly a mile and is the largest body of water on the palace grounds.
Originally built for the 1937 World’s Fair, the Palais de Chaillot houses an array of Paris’ top cultural attractions, including a national theater, multiple museums, and even an aquarium. The landmark, renowned for its art deco design, stands directly across the River Seine from the Eiffel Tower, and its terrace is a popular photo spot.
There have been five chapels throughout the history of the Palace of Versailles, but today only the Royal Chapel remains. The majority of its use took place throughout the 1700s with daily masses, royal weddings (including that of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette), birth announcements, and baptisms.
One of Paris’ top literary landmarks, Shakespeare and Company is an English-language bookstore in the Latin Quarter opened in 1951 by George Whitman. It was named after a bookstore founded in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, famous for hosting luminaries including Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein.
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Located in the elegant 2nd arrondissement, the Galerie Vivienne is one of the most iconic covered shopping arcades in Paris. The gallery had a lengthy heyday after it was built in 1823, its most prestigious shops later moved elsewhere. It was brought back to life in the 1960s and is today home to an array of luxury boutiques.
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.
Au Lapin Agile
Delighting audiences since 1860, Au Lapin Agile is one of the oldest and most beloved cabarets in Paris. The two-story cottage in Montmartre has been emblematic of the bohemian district, attracting a loyal following among artists such as Modigliani, Toulouse-Lautrec, Utrillo, and Picasso who immortalized their favorite haunt in his 1905 painting, At the Lapin Agile, which hangs inside.
Gare du Nord
Servicing over 700,000 passengers every day (for a total of 190 million a year) Gare du Nord is the busiest railway station in Europe—and the busiest in the world outside Japan. The building itself, with its neoclassical design and soaring skylights, is a magnificent mix of engineering prowess and aesthetic beauty.
Built in 1653 by Cardinal de Richelieu, the impressive La Sorbonne building in Paris’ Latin Quarter (Quartier Latin) houses classrooms for several universities, including the University of Paris. In addition to a historic library, the Sorbonne campus—the intellectual heart of the student-filled district—features a chapel and an airy courtyard.
Père Lachaise Cemetery
Paris’ largest and most prestigious cemetery, the Père Lachaise Cemetery (Cimetière du Père Lachaise) was founded in 1804. Today it contains more than 70,000 ornate tombs, including those of some of France’s most important public figures.
Rodin Museum (Musée Rodin)
Housed in the 18th-century mansion of Hôtel Biron, the Rodin Museum (Musée Rodin) is devoted to the life and works of French sculptor Auguste Rodin, and displays more than 6,600 sculptures throughout its exhibition rooms and garden.
Hidden inside a triangle of elegant townhouses on the tip of Île de la Cité, Place Dauphine is an elegant plaza in one of most prestigious addresses in Paris. Created as a royal garden, Henri IV named the space after his son, the Dauphin of France who would become Louis XIII.
Palais de Justice
Located on Île de la Cité, one of the two remaining natural islands in the River Seine, the Palais de Justice is what remains of the former Royal Palace. Situated between the Gothic royal Sainte-Chapelle chapel and the former Conciergerie prison, the Palais de Justice is infamous for its role as a public execution site during the French Revolution.
Arab World Institute (Institut du Monde Arabe)
Housed within a contemporary building designed by renowned French architect Jean Nouvel, The Arab World Institute (Institut du Monde Arabe houses a collection of Arabic art, scientific objects, textiles, and other items spanning thousands of years spread across four floors, from pre-Islamic ceramics to modern Palestinian art.
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.
Musée de l'Orangerie
Fronting the magnificent Jardin des Tuilieries and looking out across the Seine River, the Musée de l'Orangerie (Orangerie Museum) is situated in one of Paris’ most idyllic locations. The prestigious art museum is home to a number of masterpieces, but it’s most famous for its series of MonetWater Lilies paintings.
Royal Opera of Versailles (L'Opéra Royal du Château de Versailles)
An opera house fit for a king, recently renovated to its original splendor, the Royal Opera at the Palace of Versailles was built for the wedding of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Upon its completion in 1770 under the direction of architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel, it was the largest concert hall in all of Europe.
Wine may be an essential part of the Parisian mystique, but only one vineyard remains in the city: Clos Montmartre, whose origins date back nearly a century. A small plot located in hilly Montmartre, the vineyard grows pinot noir, gamay, and other grapes, which it harvests annually and makes into coveted wines.
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