Finding an oasis in the City of Light
Rue de Rivoli, in the 1st. 01 40 20 50 50. Seeing the entire Louvre in one day is just too much unless you can zip through the museum like a roadrunner. If you want to soak in centuries of art and sculpture, we advise taking your time, only visiting a few of the galleries per day, perhaps starting with the Cour Napoléon, the outdoor plaza encased by the Louvre’s walls. Here you can take in views of the famous glass pyramid designed by I. M. Pei and the incredible architecture of the museum.
Hôtel de Ville (pictured above)
Place de l’Hotel de Ville, near rue de Rivoli, in the 4th, by the metro station Hôtel de Ville.
01 42 76 40 40. This is Paris’s city hall, where Robert Doisneau shot the famous picture of the kiss after the end of the war. Hôtel de Ville was built in 1357 by Etienne Marcel, rebuilt in the 16th century by King François and, finally, reconstructed between 1872 and 1882, following a fire. In summer you can find beach volleyball here on imported sand, which coincides with the Plage de Paris, when the banks of the Seine are set up like a beach, from mid-July to mid-August. The winter brings an ice rink, and often there are carousels—so this is a must for the kids if you are traveling with your daughter or son. They often have free exhibitions as well. During the summer of 2008 there was a Grace Kelly show mounted, and a delightful eco-conscious garden was set up in the square. The building is quite impressive in its own right, and just across the street is the famous department store BHV, where you can find every type of hardware or accessory for the home, plus everything else you can imagine.
Garden at the Palais Royal
9, rue de Valois in the 1st. 01 40 15 03 06. The famed writer Colette lived in an apartment here. You can sit outside on the terrace on a lovely day and enjoy the view of the courtyard of the Palace in all its splendor at the Restaurant du Palais Royal. Or spend an arm and a leg dining at Napoleon and Josephine’s favorite spot, le Grand Véfour. Try the 88 euros prix fixe lunch menu. Grand Véfour has recently been downgraded from three Michelin stars to two, but you’ll still be treated to a beautiful, delectable, 200-year-old historic restaurant. Or simply stroll around and take note of the plaque that tells you where the writer Colette lived (a daring woman in her day). Sit and enjoy a spot of sun, if you are lucky, on one of the park benches. Plus, you can bring your own picnic and stay awhile.
23, rue de Sévigné, in the 3rd. 01 44 59 58 58. Another tranquil and lovely place is the garden of the Musée Carnavalet, a Renaissance gem built in the 1500s. Once home to the writer Madame de Sévigné, it is a lovely little museum to see when you are in the Marais.
Panthéon Bouddhique 19, ave d’Iéna, in the Hôtel Heidelbach, in the 16th.
Try this peaceful oasis for a place to get away from it all. A charming annex of the Musée National des Arts Asiatiques Guimet, it’s about one block up the street from the main museum, and features a beautiful Japanese garden and tea room (there’s a regular schedule of tea ceremonies open to the public).
Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Rue Botzaris and rue Manin, in the 19th. This is one of the loveliest parks in Paris. On a hill and removed from the more tripisty areas, the charming neighborhood that surrounds the park is turning somewhat bobo, but the older immigrant population is still going strong. The park itself is fantastic, with a lake in the center and breathtaking views of the entire city at sunset. At the north end of the park is Rosa Bonheur , a bar, restaurant and nightclub of sorts, which is jam-packed in the summer. Did we mention that the fare is organic? Get there early, though, as the outside seating areas fill up faster than you can say “un vin rouge.”
Parc Floral de Paris
Bois de Vincennes, in the 12th. 01 48 08 13 00. The Parc Floral in the Bois de Vincennes boasts more than 300 species of plants, as well as playing areas for children and a stage for concerts. The park is great on a sunny day, especially for strolling, jogging or cycling. You’ll also find activities like classes and exhibitions.
Père Lachaise Cemetery
16, rue du Repos, in the 20th. 01 55 25 82 10. This huge cemetery is full of famous names—Jim Morrison, Camille Pissarro, Molière, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, Gustave Caillebotte, Georges Seurat, Louis Blanc and Simone Signoret among them. Not to be missed.
At the very tip of Ile de la Cite, near the Pont Neuf in the 1st. Place Dauphine is one of the prettiest squares in Paris, situated right in the center of the city. At the foot of Ile de la Cite (not nearest Ile St. Louis, but the other end) lies a lovely, quiet old square that is actually V-shaped. We like the Taverne Henri IV wine bar here.
Place des Vosges In the historic Marais district, just south of the rue Francs Bourgeois in the 4th, not too far from the Place de la Bastille. This is the oldest and most impressive square in Paris. See Must -Do’s.
Square Tino Rossi, in the 5th. Every evening from May through September, from sunset to midnight, Parisians take advantage of the warming weather and free tango classes on the quai St.-Bernard. The quai is essentially a walkway that stretches between the Pont Sully and the Pont d’Austerlitz. It is flanked by the Seine on the north side and the scenic Jardin des Plantes on the south. Take advantage of these free classes to soak in the spring and summer sunsets.
79, rue de Varenne, in the 7th. 01 44 18 61 10. Our absolute favorite museum—and one of our favorite spots in Paris—is the Rodin Museum, or Musée Rodin. It is sexy and as beautiful and sublime as Rodin’s sculptures are—Camille Claudel’s, which you’ll find here, are just as amazing. Her life as muse, student, devotee and lover of Rodin was not a walk in the park. If you haven’t seen the movie (Camille Claudel, 1988), rent it before you go. A trip to this museum is a must. And a walk, tea, or lunch in the garden in summer is one of our favorite pastimes in Paris. The garden with The Thinker is nearly as beautiful in winter. You can access just the garden for only 1 euro.
Tuileries Gardens Near the Arc du Carrousel, bordered by the Louvre, rue de Rivoli and, at the western end, the Place de la Concorde.
The Tuileries Gardens, designed by André Le Nôtre in 1664, make up one of the largest parks in Paris. The recent addition of a spectacular Louise Bourgeois spider sculpture (the same as the one at the Guggenheim Bilbao) adds a very slinky, sexy modern female touch to the other sculptures in the park. The nearby Orangerie houses Monet’s magnificent “Nympheas” series of paintings of water lilies, which were painted at Giverny and donated to the nation by the artist as a “spiritual testimony.” It also houses other great Impressionist and Ecole de Paris artists. The Jeu de Paume holds special exhibitions.
On Ile de la Cite, the bridge that goes from the back of Notre Dame to Ile St. Louis is called Pont St. Louis. On a more somber note—here behind Notre Dame is the beautifully done Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation, commemorating the Jewish citizens of Paris who from this very spot were whisked away, often to their deaths, during the Nazi occupation.