Suggested visits... (#3)
 Museums    Local colour

 Paris has hundreds of museums. You'll find everything you like ! Among them :

  • Musée de Cluny (Musée National du Moyen-Age) : This is one of our favorite small museums in Paris. Located right in the Latin Quarter, it contains the oldest Roman baths and the renowned Lady and Unicorn tapestry ; a medieval garden has been designed around it ; 6 place Paul-Painlevé 75005.
  • Musée Carnavalet: in the Marais, this is the museum of the history of Paris. For a close look at the French Revolution and the history of Paris throughout the centuries, this is the place to go. ; 23 rue de Sévigné 75003.
  • Do not miss the (newly refurbished) Musée Guimet (one of the best, if not the best, collections of Oriental Art in the world) ; 6 place d'Iéna 75016. Try the restaurant. Do not miss the "Annex", one block away on Avenue d'Iéna (the "Pantheon Bouddhique" and its Japanese Garden).
  • Musée Rodin : a very inviting museum, a charming garden and outdoors café, with the most famous sculptures by Rodin (The Kiss, The Burghers of Calais, etc..) ; do not miss the sculptures by his mistress Camille Claudel ; 77 rue de Varenne 75007.
  • The Music Museum is part of the Cité de la Musique, in the Parc de la Villette ; it displays a collection of almost one thousand instruments and you can hear their sound (221 avenue Jean Jaures 75019 tel 01 44 84 45 45)
  • Read Little Known Museums... (see bibliography) and visit Paris Muse, a great site for private guided tours of the city's most famous museums.

USEFUL TIPS.... If you have enough time, make several short visits instead of a very long one to the Louvre and remember that the entrance fee is lowered after 3pm ; the Carte Musées Monuments pass gives you direct access without waiting in line to 710 monuments and museums in Paris (one day 12 Euros, two days 24 Euros,...).

  • Père Lachaise cemetery : it may sound morbid, but we (and thousands of other Parisians) like to stroll here on a Sunday. The cemetery features beautiful centuries old trees and the tombs of the most famous people who ever lived in Paris (Frédéric Chopin, Yves Montand, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison to name but a few). Héloïse and Abélard are also buried there. The best guidebook to the Père Lachaise and other Parisian cemeteries is Permanent Parisians by Judi Culbertson & Tom Randall, Chelsea Green, 1986. Read "a walk in the Père-Lachaise" by Harriet and sign up for a tour of the cemetery.
  • Eat a couscous ! This typical Arabic specialty has become one of the most appreciated dishes (by the French). It is a large portion of semoule, with several different vegetables (carrots, egg-plants, zucchini, chick-peas, etc...) and meat (chicken, spicy sausages, shish-kebab, lamb, name it) in a rather spicy sauce. You can find it in many places in Paris, such as Chez Bebert, Place du 18-Juin (in Montparnasse), Chez Omar, near Place des Vosges, Chez Wally in the 9th arrondissement, whose real Saharian couscous, although expensive, is by far the best in our opinion.
  • A walk in the old village of Montmartre, many tourists, but it is always fun and you can have a sketch of yourself for EUR 25. Watch out for pickpockets though!
  • Les catacombes : this was the Municipal Ossuary of Paris and is filled with the skulls and bones of millions of ordinary Parisians and a few famous ones such as Mirabeau and Rabelais. Claustrophobes may not warm to the experience but it is a very unusual expedition underneath Paris and young people generally love it. It's said (and it's true) that at night young people enter the Catacombs clandestinely and have "underground" parties. French cops are there to arrest them - so better not try to join them. Click here for more details.
  • Instead of going to over-crowded places, try an "instead of"
  • Read about architecture and historical landmarks in Paris
  • More later...
 Off the beaten path (some ideas....)    Theaters, concerts etc...
  • Basilique de Saint Denis (North, on the metro line N° 13) : all the kings of France were buried here and in spite of its location in a rather depressing suburb, this basilica is breathtakingly beautiful and a rich historical experience. We highly recommend it. Nearby, the largest (multy-ethnic) market in Paris (Tuesdays, Fridays, Sundays).
  • For the young and/or the adventurous : cities of the first ring around Paris (Montreuil, Saint-Ouen, Le Pré-Saint-Gervais,...) have many small restaurants, sometimes with live music (like jazz manouche). Something like Brooklyn... Check on any city magazine and try for example La Grosse Mignonne in Montreuil.
  • Le musée du Romantisme, the Museum of Romantic Life,, in a very romantic garden off the street, this museum recreates the atmosphere of the times of Georges Sand among others (see Rachel Kaplan's excellent book, Little-Known Museums in and around Paris, for more on this and other museums in Paris)
  • A walk along the Canal Saint Martin where you can watch boats glide by, boats which you can take for an unusual tour from La Villette to Musée d'Orsay through a series of locks (count 3 hours). Read about it in Paris Diary.
  • Shopping along rue Rue Mouffetard. Harriet used to live here ; she describes that experience in her book French Fried and still loves to go back to this wonderful market street to soak up the village atmosphere which reigns here.
  • Chez Paul (30 Euros) 22 rue de la Butte aux Cailles 75013 Paris Tel. 33-(0)1 45 89 22 11 : here's a restaurant where you can eat all the weird things the French eat (pigs feet, tripes, blood sausages, etc...). If you like innards, however, you'll love the food, the red-checked tablecloths, the friendly service, and warm atmosphere.
  • You buy all your tickets for theater, sometines at reduced price) at one of the two "Paris Théatre" kiosks, one Place de la Madeleine 75008 (on the left side of the church), one just in front of the Montparnasse Train Station
  • To attend a play in English, check the English section in Pariscope.
  • There is always at least one major art exhibition going on in Paris : they take place either at the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais (down the Champs Elysées) or at the Centre Pompidou (price : around 10 Euros) ; to avoid queueing, reserve in advance through FNAC ;
  • Jazz is alive and well in Paris......
  • Why not go to a horse-race in Vincennes, Auteuil or Longchamp ?
  • More to come

USEFUL TIPS.... As you walk in the Quartier Latin, check the posters on the walls, announcing the above-mentioned concerts.

DID YOU KNOW THAT.....? It is a tradition in France : each President (and before, each King!) builds a monument in Paris. For Jacques Chirac, it was in 2006 the "Musée des Arts Premiers" (devoted to primitive arts), for François Mitterrand several "Grands Projets" (including the Pei Pyramid and the new Louvre, the Grande Arche at la Défense, the Opéra Bastille, the La Villette Science Museum, etc...), for Valery Giscard d'Estaing the Musée d'Orsay, for Georges Pompidou the Centre Beaubourg, etc... Nicolas Sarkozy (who was not re-elected...) was the first president who did not follow this implicit rule and his successor Francois Hollande was the second. It is remarkable to observe 1/ that both are much less cultured than their predecessors and 2/ that their terms were the worst in the history of France in the past 60 years. One may observe also that, although taxes are very high in France, building a monument never raises any controversy by taxpayers : there is a consensus that each president must beautify Paris.

  • La mosquée : this is one of our favorite places for mint tea and delicious cakes in a real Arab mosque right in the heart of Paris near the Natural History Museum (30 rue Geoffroy-St-Hilaire, 5005 Paris)
  • The Parc de Bercy along the banks of the Seine, opposite the new Bibliothèque Nationale, is a new creatively landscaped 26-acre garden with different "houses" devoted to exhibitions of gardening and wine. Logical - the Parc is located on the site of the former Paris wine warehouses. This is a good place to come for a stroll, a drink at one of the "chais", and perhaps a film at the enormous Ciné-Cité.
  • The Parc de la Villette, a modern park in the northeast of Paris, which houses the Conservatory of Music with the carefully appointed and very interesting Music Museum. These are but two of the edifices in this large and lively park (there is also the Science Museum).
  • Restaurant La Maison Fournaise : a reasonably-priced restaurant where the Impressionists did some of their most famous paintings , very enjoyable in Spring and Summer (in the Ile de Chatou, down the Seine, 20 minutes from Paris Tel.33-(0)1 30 71 41 91)
  • See some unknown spots in Paris...
  • More to come...

DID YOU KNOW THAT.... ? The story of Héloïse and Abélard is one of the most fascinating stories of the French Middle Ages. In the XIIth Century, Pierre Abélard was one of the most illustrious philosophers of the Western world ; he seduced one of his students, Héloïse, and married her secretly. Her uncle had him emasculated. Separated, both continued their lives as scholars, living in two different monasteries as abbot and abbess and exchanging hundreds of letter over twenty years. They are the symbol of absolute spiritual love. Their remains were transferred into the Père Lachaise cemetery in the XIXth century to give it a glamorous image....

USEFUL TIPS.... : Stroll at night, it is safe (Place de la Bastille and around, Notre Dame and nearby Latin Quarter and Mouffetard, ...) and try to avoid the most obvious tourist traps (Pigalle sex "shows", most restaurant in the Latin Quarter, Place du Tertre and its artists, the little shops under the Eiffel Tower, ...)

DID YOU KNOW THAT ...? The word "bistrot", which means a Parisian "café" (and generally a "café" serving food) comes from the invasion of the Allied armies after Napoleon's defeat in 1814. The Russian Cossacks would rush into French inns and scream "bistro" then rush out. In Russian, "bistro" means : quick. Parisians kept the name and that's why you can always get a quick bite of food in a bistrot ! More about "bistrots"

 Sometimes, you can experience a magic moment in Paris...    Outside Paris...
  • A concert in the Sainte Chapelle : this is a colorfully decorated thirteenth century church, with wonderful stained glass windows. A concert there is a magical experience. You can also attend concerts in the beautiful churches of Saint Julien le Pauvre, the oldest church in Paris, and Saint Séverin, both of which are in the Latin Quarter
  • A dinner on a Bateau-Mouche , a magnificent view of Paris with a typical French meal. Click here for more details.
  • Vaux-le-Vicomte, a castle not to be missed on summer Sat. nights, when it is illuminated by 2,000 candles! 17th-c. chamber music is played in the gardens starting at 22h30.
  • More to come (read a letter, see our page Unknown Paris and romantic places in Paris)... 

USEFUL TIPS .... Two monthly magazines in English will give you invaluable information on Paris. FUSAC (France USA Contact) : free, with thousands of classified ads about averything (including employment, For Sale, housing, etc...) , available in most English-language bookstores and restaurants frequented by the English-speaking crowd Paris. FREE VOICE : also free, lists coming events, ....


 Some suggestions....

  • Around Paris, 30 to 60 miles away, there is a whole ring of medieval or Renaissance (or both) cities, all picturesque and so different from the big city : clockwise from the West Saint Germain en Laye, Chantilly, Senlis, Compi├Ęgne, Provins, Fontainebleau, and several others. All of them are worth a day trip.
  • In Chartres, you can take an informative tour of the Cathedral with Malcolm Miller who has devoted his life to the study of this twelfth century cathedral. For hours and rates, call him at 33-(0)2 37 28 15 58 or fax him at 33-(0)2 37 28 33 03. Chartres is only a one-hour train ride from Paris, the city is beautiful, and the cathedral is an absolute must-see.
  • In the Loire Valley, Chambord is probably the most impressive (440 rooms!) and the most beautiful Renaissance castle ; right in front, the Hotel du Grand Saint Michel is wonderfully located ; the hotel and the food (game) are very acceptable and reasonably priced (Tel. 33-2 54 20 31 31)
  • What about a whole day in Versailles, and not only in the castle? It might help you to better understand France and the French.
  • More to come.....

 Some places mean something particular for Americans : click for American landmarks in Paris ! What to do ? Where to shop ? Click for practical tips on life in Paris and visit the Paris Diary page.

To related pages : restaurants (#1) and other suggested places (#2), links to American - run businessesin Paris, etc...

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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

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