Monday, 27 February 2017
Chronicles from Paris | City Guide
A Paris City Guide was long due, and with so many posts on the city is now time to bring it all together in one article. I've been twice in Paris and have yet a lot of places to visit. On this post, I'll try to present you some of the must go places and my favorite spots in the city. Visiting more specific posts, that you can reach trough the links, will bring you further information (and photos) that you may find useful while planning a visit to Paris.
The story of Paris started at the Île de la Cité and from there the city have grown along the river banks. Therefore, a visit to the small island in the centre of the Seine can be the natural starting point of your visit.
ÎLE DE LA CITÉ
Easy to reach, either by subway (Station Cité), by boat or walking along the river banks and crossing at one of the numerous bridges, the Île de la Citê is a tourist magnet with its impressive buildings and well known landmarks. There you can find several historical buildings like the Conciergerie or the Palais de Justice, monuments and museums. Notre Dame and the Sainte-Chapelle are unquestionably places to visit, but you must be prepared to wait some time in order to enter. Enjoying the sun in one of the small squares or stroll around in the Marché aux Fleurs et Oiseux can also be a great way to know better this part of the city.
Marais is the french word for marshland and this district, that once was a swamp, gained its importance due to the proximity of the Palace du Louvre. The sumptuous mansions built in the 17th century by the richest families of Paris are, today, house to modern boutiques, great art galleries, upscale hotels and restaurants, making the Marais one of the most dynamic districts of Paris.
There you can find Place des Vosges with its perfect symmetry and well manicured garden. This beautiful square can be the ideal place to start (or to finish) a walk in the Marais, currently one of the most charming districts of Paris. Some of the must visit spots include the Maison Victor Hugo, the Musée Picasso Paris, the Hotel de Ville and the Rue des Rosiers, the main street of the Jewish quarter.
Between the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre, the Tuileries area was built as a place of kings, queens and palaces. Today, famous squares like Place des Victories or Place Vendôme are the house of the most fashionable stores and of the most luxurious brands, and is also in this neighborhood that you can find the famous Ritz Hotel or the well known Buddha-Bar.
Whether you walk from somewhere else in the city or opt to use the Metro (Stations Concorde, Tuileries and Palais Royal - Musée du Louvre are some of the most central), this part of the city is easily reachable and one of the must go parts of Paris. Walking around the Jardin des Tuileries to look at the numerous statues or to act like a local and enjoy the sun or a good book in one of the chairs available all over the garden will be time well spend. For the art lovers, a visit to the Louvre and to the L'Orangerie museums are activities that must be planned ahead, depending on the time available, as there can be waiting lines for security and for buying the tickets.
Grown around the Sorbonne, this neighborhood is full of life and commerce. There you can find lots of bookstores (the famous Shakespeare & Company Bookstore is one of them), cafés, restaurants and jazz clubs. Depending on the days you can also visit some small street markets, where you can find fruits, vegetables and delicious delicatessens.
Among the major historic buildings there can be found, the highlight goes to the Pantheon, built in the eighteenth century, Le Musée National du Moyen Age, which is installed in a magnificent fifteenth century building, the church of St-Julien-le-Pauvre and the beautiful St-Séverin church, in Gothic style with its gargoyles and lancet windows.
To get there, if you are close to Notre Dame, you can cross the Seine at Pont au Double or at the Petit Point. If you come from some place far in the city you can take the subway to one of the stations in the neighborhood (Maubert, Cluny La Sorbonne or St-Michel).
One of the most captivating neighborhoods of Paris owes its charme to the beautiful old houses and to the tranquility of the gardens. The Palace and the Gardens of Luxembourg dominate this area of the city and attract many visitors with its beauty.
Inspired by the Boboli Gardens and by the Pitti Palace in Florence, the Gardens and the Palace of Luxembourg were created for Queen Marie de Medici in the 17th century, as a way for her to remember her native city. Today the gardens are open to the public and are the perfect place to spend a few relaxed hours in one of the most beautiful sceneries of the city.
TROCADÉRO AND TOUR EIFFEL
The Trocadéro with its gorgeous terraces and magnificent view of the city is one of my favorite places in Paris. From here you will probably take some of the best pictures of the Eiffel Tower and can enjoy a clear view of the iconic landmark.
The Palais the Chaillot and the freshness of the gardens and fountains of Trocadéro will keep you there for a long time, before you cross the bridge D'Iéna to go to the Eiffel Tower. If you want to go to the top of the tower is better to buy the tickets on line a few days in advance, avoiding the long queues to the ticket office on the base of the tower.
ETÓILE ET CHAMPS-ELISÉES
The Avenue des Champs Elisées is one of the most important and famous arteries of the city of Paris. With its wide sidewalks and large driving lanes, the avenue goes from the square Charles de Gaule (also known as Place Étoile) to the Place de la Concorde. At Place Charles de Gaule you can find another important landmark of the city, the Arc du Triomphe. The view you can reach from its terrace compensates the tiresome climbing of the stairs.
A walk down the Champs Elisées will take you along some of the most expensive stores and fancy cafés and restaurants. In the final part of the avenue you will get to the Rond Point of the Champs Elisées, with its leafy chestnut trees and colorful flower beds.
A trip to Paris is not complete without a stroll through Montmartre. From the Sacré-Coeur basilica to the typical streets, reminiscent of a provincial village, it is simply lovely. The artists on the streets, the shops, the art galleries, the numerous restaurants and bistros (do not forget to eat some Moules Marinières!), the hustle and bustle of tourists (yes is a bit overcrowded!), the color and the animation, transport us to a less sophisticated Paris, to a bohemian and more irreverent city that captivates you at the first look.
You can reach Montmartre by Metro (stations Anvers or Pigalle). If you feel that going up the hill is to much for you, there is a funicular, starting at Rue Foyatier, that can take you up to Sacré-Coeur (you can use the Metro tickets there). But if you want to take my suggestion, when coming down, opt for the iconic cobbled stone stairs.