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Things to Do in Paris - page 5

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Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis (Basilique Cathédrale de Saint-Denis)
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1835
4 Tours and Activities

In a northern suburb of the City of Light, the Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis is a stone abbey dating back to the medieval time period. Construction began as early as 1135, so it’s a remarkable landmark to see still standing today. The cathedral was the first built in France in the Gothic architectural style, noted for its intricate stained glass and a statue collection representative of the era. It is attributed with signaling the shift from Romantic to Gothic styles of architecture. Though it is one of the lesser known churches of France, it is respected both for its beauty and historical and cultural significance.

The church is also the final resting place for much of France’s royalty. A walk past the burial chambers and tombs of kings and queens of France tells centuries of the country’s history. Long a place of pilgrimage, all but three of France’s monarchs from the 10th to 18th century were buried there. With all of its history, many opt to take a guided tour through the church or add it on to a day of sightseeing in Paris.

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Obelisk of Luxor
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35
1 Tour and Activity

Over 3,000 years old, the Luxor Obelisk (Obélisque de Louxor)—which stands 75 feet (23 meters) high and is decorated with hieroglyphic carvings—was gifted to France by Egypt in 1833. Situated in Place de la Concorde, where guillotine executions were carried out during the French Revolution, the obelisk has since become a symbol of peace.

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Bassin de la Villette (La Villette Basin)
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861
4 Tours and Activities

Once a port for industry and trade, the Bassin de la Villette is now a Parisian hub for travelers looking to explore the arts and culture that make the City of Lights so unique. A popular youth hostel, three-star hotel, famous restaurants and plenty of live performance venues draw travelers to Bassin de la Villette, where it’s possible to escape the hustle of Paris streets and relax into the scenic waterway.

While this destination is worth a visit any time of year, the summer’s month-long Paris-Plage festival is among the best reasons to make a stop. Seaside banks become almost resort like as local rolls out deck chairs and floating wooden cafes pass by selling strong coffees and warm pastries. Public picnic areas and classic dance floors draw locals and tourists out of doors to pass summer nights swaying in the ocean breeze.

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Left Bank (Rive Gauche)
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53
3 Tours and Activities

The Seine separates Paris into two halves: to the north is the Right Bank, and to the south is the Left Bank. Also known as the Rive Gauche, the Left Bank is home to some of the city’s top landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower. Thanks to its universities and famous former residents, the Rive Gauche retains a romantic, literary reputation.

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Maison de Victor Hugo
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29
6 Tours and Activities

Located on the picturesque Place des Vosges in the Marais district of Paris, the Maison de Victor Hugo pays tribute to the French poet and novelist famous for such classics asLes Miserables andThe Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Today, the Hugo family apartment is a museum dedicated to the author’s life and works.

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Marché des Enfants Rouges
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16
6 Tours and Activities

Built by King Louis XIII in 1615, Le Marché des Enfants Rouges (the ‘Market of the Red Children') is Paris’ oldest covered food market, taking its name from a 16th-century orphanage nearby, where the kids were dressed in red. Today, the historic market remains among the top attractions of the Marais district and it’s a lively introduction to Parisian life, with stalls heaped with seasonal produce and a steady stream of locals passing through its doors.

As well as picking up fresh flowers, fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood, the market is a top spot to sample regional produce like cheese, saucisson, foie gras and wine. There are also several street food stalls and food counters to eat lunch, serving a range of different cuisine, from Moroccan couscous to Japanese sushi or fresh oysters.

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Odéon-Théatre de l'Europe
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47
6 Tours and Activities

From its neoclassical facade to its rich interior, the Odéon-Théatre de l'Europe radiates Parisian grandeur in the heart of the Left Bank. This is where Mozart’sMarriage of Figaro premiered in 1784, and the theater has been active ever since. Now, it’s a premier destination for a wide range of cultural events, whether classic or contemporary.

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Chapelle Expiatoire
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147
3 Tours and Activities

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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Arab World Institute (Institut du Monde Arabe)
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2331
6 Tours and Activities

Of France’s 62 million residents, it’s estimated that as many as 7 million of them have Arabic roots. In appreciation of this multiculturalism, France partnered with 22 Arabic nations to found the Arab World Institute (Institut du Monde Arabe) in Paris in 1980. Housed within a contemporary building designed by renowned French architect Jean Nouvel, the museum houses a collection of Arabic art, scientific objects, textiles and other items spanning thousands of years.

Spread across four floors, the newly renovated museum’s collection includes everything from pre-Islamic ceramics to modern Palestinian art. The building itself is noteworthy, as the intricate latticework on the building’s southern exterior was inspired by a traditional Moorish screen.

The museum regularly hosts large temporary exhibitions, with past topics such as contemporary Moroccan art, silks of al-Andalus and hip-hop in the Bronx Arab streets. The museum’s Center for Language and Civilization offers Arabic classes for both children and adults.

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Guimet Museum (Musée Guimet)
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1822
4 Tours and Activities

Among the largest Asian art museums outside of Asia, the Guimet Museum (Musée Guimet)houses thousands of artifacts, including sculptures, paintings, porcelain, and scrolls that date back more than 5,000 years. The museum was founded by adventurer and industrialist Émile Étienne Guimet and features several temporary exhibitions each year.

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More Things to Do in Paris

Gustave Moreau Museum (Musee Gustave Moreau)

Gustave Moreau Museum (Musee Gustave Moreau)

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1823
4 Tours and Activities

French Symbolist painted 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.

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Archaeological Crypt of Notre Dame

Archaeological Crypt of Notre Dame

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1824
4 Tours and Activities

Hidden below one of the most admired attractions in Paris isthe Archaeological Crypt of Notre Dame Cathedral and a 262-foot (80-m) descent into the history of Paris' city center. The result of more than a hundred years of excavations, the crypt reveals the city's architectural layers, including ancient ruins from the Gallo-Roman town of Lutetia—the predecessor of present-day Paris. Follow one of two itineraries through the ruins to see 3rd-century homes, a 4th-century bathhouse, and the ancient port on the River Seine. Also inside the crypt are the remains of a two-story, 12th-century home, an 18th-century hospital, and shops built along the rue Neuve Notre Dame in the second half of the 12th century.

Multimedia exhibits inside the crypt guide visitors through centuries of historical development in Paris, making it a must-see for archaeology- and history-buffs. The crypt also contains an exhibit on the construction of Notre Dame Cathedral, and can be visited free of charge with the Paris Museum Pass.

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Jardin des Plantes

Jardin des Plantes

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2397
3 Tours and Activities

Originally known as the Jardin du Roi, the Jardin des Plantes was founded in 1626, and was used as King Louis XIII’s personal herb garden. Today, the expansive botanical garden is the largest and most important in France. It encompasses several gallery spaces, a zoo, numerous garden areas and hothouses, and a working botany school.

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Musée du Luxembourg

Musée du Luxembourg

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3 Tours and Activities

Founded in 1750 and housed in a wing of the Palais du Luxembourg, the Musée du Luxembourg was once the first public painting gallery open to the French public before becoming one of the first museums of contemporary art. No longer dedicated to only contemporary works, the museum now occupies the former orangery, a standalone building in the Jardin du Luxembourg, and showcases several temporary exhibitions each year.

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Mémorial de la Shoah (Shoah Memorial)

Mémorial de la Shoah (Shoah Memorial)

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204
5 Tours and Activities

The Mémorial de la Shoah—Paris’ official Holocaust museum—was opened in 2005, on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Located in the Marais district (the city’s historical Jewish quarter), the museum features both permanent and temporary exhibitions, the commemorative Wall of Names, and other moving monuments and tributes.

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Air and Space Museum

Air and Space Museum

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1822
3 Tours and Activities

Fittingly located within the Paris-Le Bourget business airport, the Air and Space Museum is one of the world’s largest and oldest museums dedicated to aeronautics. Inside the cavernous hanger, there’s a planetarium with flight simulators, and more than 150 aircraft—including a 747, Concorde, DC3, Mirage, and an Ariane rocket—displayed alongside rare aviation memorabilia dating back as far as the 16th century.

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Montmartre Museum (Musée de Montmartre)

Montmartre Museum (Musée de Montmartre)

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344
5 Tours and Activities

Housed inside the Bel Air House, the oldest building in Paris's charming Montmartre area, the Montmartre Museum offers a stunning permanent collection of art from some of the neighborhood's most celebrated and prolific artists. The Renoir Gardens here are equally worth visiting, with a beautiful pond and meandering pathways.

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Palais de Tokyo

Palais de Tokyo

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101
5 Tours and Activities

A stark, industrial space overlooking the Seine River and adjoining the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Palais de Tokyo offers a striking canvas for contemporary art installations. The gallery has no permanent exhibition; instead, it hosts an ever-changing series of contemporary art exhibitions in its gigantic exhibition hall, with past artists including Mika Rottenberg, Jean-Michel Alberola, Simon Evans, Stéphane Calais and Sara Favriau.

A modern meeting place for artists, the Palais de Tokyo has earned a reputation for its innovative and interactive exhibitions, with works ranging from thought-provoking conceptual pieces to offbeat graffiti works and large-scale avant-garde pieces. Alongside the main exhibition hall, there’s also the Pavilion, a space devoted to upcoming artists; an art bookshop; and a terrace restaurant and café with views across the river to the Eiffel Tower.

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Château de Malmaison

Château de Malmaison

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1681
3 Tours and Activities

The former residence of Joséphine de Beauharnais and Napoléon Bonaparte, Château de Malmaison is both an opulent palace and an important historical landmark. The château is located roughly nine miles (15 kilometers) west of Paris in Rueil-Malmaison and was once used as government headquarters, but it’s most famous for its elegant gardens.

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La Villette Park (Parc de la Villette)

La Villette Park (Parc de la Villette)

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845
2 Tours and Activities

Home to museums, concert venues, green spaces, and architectural wonders, La Villette Park (Parc de la Villette) is one of Paris’ largest and most dynamic public parks. Stretching across 87 acres (35 hectares), the park attracts upwards of 10 million visitors each year and is a destination for education, leisure, culture, and family-friendly activities.

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Butte-aux-Cailles

Butte-aux-Cailles

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5
4 Tours and Activities

Walking the quaint cobbled streets of Butte-aux-Cailles, it’s easy to forget that you’re in Paris. With its rows of petite painted houses, family-run bistros and tiny boutiques, the lively neighborhood maintains the feel of a rural village, despite being just minutes south of the Seine.

The best way to exploreButte-aux-Caillesis on a walking tour, starting along the main streets of Rue des Cinq Diamants and Rue de la Butte aux Cailles, then ducking off to explore the maze of side streets and alleyways. Along the way, pay a visit to the Sainte-Anne de la Butte aux Cailles church, admire the pretty timber-fronted houses along Rue Daviel or take a dip at the famous Piscine de la Butte aux Cailles, fed by natural hot springs.

Most importantly, take the time soak up the ambiance of local life in the quartier – stop for a coffee in one of the terrace cafés, browse the small shops for local produce like honey and handicrafts, or buy a bag-full of croissants and pain au chocolats to munch on as you stroll through the Jardin Brassaï park.

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Buttes-Chaumont Park (Parc des Buttes-Chaumont)

Buttes-Chaumont Park (Parc des Buttes-Chaumont)

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9
6 Tours and Activities

Famed for its romantic ambiance and tranquility, the Buttes-Chaumont Park (Parc des Buttes-Chaumont)—located in northeastern Paris’ 19th arrondissement—may not be one of the city’s most-visited green spaces, but it’s all the better for it. Commissioned by Napoleon III, the park features a lake, waterfalls, ornamental gardens, and the Temple de la Sibylle.

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Nissim Camondo Museum (Musée Nissim De Camondo)

Nissim Camondo Museum (Musée Nissim De Camondo)

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1822
3 Tours and Activities

More portal to the past than typical museum, Paris’ Nissim Camondo Museum (Musée Nissim De Camondo) is home to one of the world’s best collections of 18th-century decorative arts. Comte Moise, the father of World War I soldier Nissim de Camondo, donated the family's legendary collection to France in honor of his fallen son, and the museum opened in 1936.

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Discovery Palace (Palais de la Découverte)

Discovery Palace (Palais de la Découverte)

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1822
3 Tours and Activities

Though Paris may be best known for arts and culture, Discovery Palace (Palais de la Découverte) is a must-see attraction for science enthusiasts. Open since 1937, the Palais hosts exhibits and interactive experiments on everything from acoustics to genetics. Though the planetarium show is only in French, English speakers enjoy a Palais tour.

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