Paris L. Golender, Paris, 2003

Travel To Paris

* Maps
Paris is split into two halves by the Seine. On the north of the river, the Right Bank (rive droite) is home to the grand boulevards and most monumental buildings, many dating from Haussmann's nineteenth-century redevelopment, and is where you'll spend most time, during the day at least. The top museums are here - * the Louvre and * Beaubourg , to name just two - as well as the city's widest range of shops around rue de Rivoli and Les Halles; and there are also peaceful quarters like the Marais for idle strolling. The Left Bank (rive gauche) has a noticeably different feel, its very name conjuring Bohemian, dissident, intellectual connotations, and something of this atmosphere survives in Paris' best range of bars and restaurants, and its most wanderable streets. The areas around St-Germain and St-Michel are full of nooks and crannies to explore.

Parts of Paris, of course, don't sit easily in either category. Montmartre, rising up to the north of the centre, has managed to retain a village-like, almost rural atmosphere with its colourful mixture of locals and artists despite the daily influx of tourists. Undisturbed by tourism, the dilapidated working-class quarters of eastern Paris offer a rich ethnic slice of Parisian street life and in direct contrast, technological wonder is paraded at the ground-breaking science museum constructed in the recently renovated Parc de La Villette. If you're planning to visit any museums, it's worth knowing that many have reduced fees for under-25s, are often free for children and reduce their fees by up to half on Sunday. They are often closed on Mondays or Tuesdays and, if you plan to see more than a few during your stay, it's a good idea to invest in a museum pass (one day F80, three consecutive days F160, five consecutive days F240). You can get them from participating museums, some tourist offices, the larger metro stations and FNAC ticket offices (there's one in Les Halles) and they'll certainly encourage you to be more adventurous with the vast choice of museums and monuments in Paris.

Like most Parisians, you may find there's enough in Paris to keep you from ever thinking about the world beyond. However, like any large city, Paris can get claustrophobic, and if it does there are one or two places in the countryside around that are worth making the trip out for. The most visited of these is undoubtedly Versailles, the most hyped currently Disneyland Paris, and the most rewarding is without question the cathedral at Chartres.

Tour Eiffel

Though no conventional beauty, this is nonetheless an amazing structure, at 300m the tallest building in the world when it was completed in 1889, by Gustave Eiffel. Reactions to it were violent, but it stole the show at the 1889 Exposition, for which it had been constructed. It's possible to go right to the top (July & Aug daily 9am-midnight; rest of year 9.30am-11pm; by lift it's F20 to the first floor, F42 to the second and F59 to the third; to walk its F14, but you can only go as far as the second floor; metro Bir Hakeim/RER Champ de Mars). Although the queues for the final stage can be massive during high season it is only really worth it on an absolutely clear day. The queues are much smaller at night when the view is even more impressive.

Louvre

This enormous building, constructed around 1200 as a fortress and rebuilt in the mid-16th century for use as a royal palace, began its career as a public museum in 1793. As part of Mitterand's grands projets in the 1980s, the Louvre was revamped with the addition of a 21m (67ft) glass pyramid entrance. Initially deemed a failure, the new design has since won over those who regard consistency as inexcusably boring. Vast scrums of people puff and pant through the rooms full of paintings, sculptures and antiquities, including the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and Winged Victory (which looks like it's been dropped and put back together). If the clamour becomes unbearable, your best bet is to pick a period or section of the Louvre and pretend that the rest is somewhere across town.

Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

in the Palais de Tokyo, no. 11, av du Président-Wilson (Tues-Fri 10am-5.30pm, Sat & Sun 10am-6.45pm; F30; metro Trocadéro) displays examples of the schools and trends of twentieth-century art, as well as sculpture and painting by contemporary artists. Among the most spectacular works on show are Robert and Sonia Delaunay's huge whirling wheels and cogs of rainbow colour, the leaping figures of Matisse's La Danse and Dufy's enormous mural, La Fée Électricité (done for the electricity board), illustrating the story of electricity from Aristotle to the modern power station, in 250 colourful panels.

Beaubourg(Pompidou Centre)

This seminal design by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers was the first public structure to manifest the hi-tech notion of wearing its innards - colourful tubing - on the outside, and has an average of 25,000 visitors a day.
* Musée National d'Art Moderne
(metro Rambuteau). This is a permanent exhibition of twentieth-century art from the late Impressionists to late 1980s. Early paintings include canvases by Henri Rousseau - La Charmeuse de Serpent - and Picasso, whose Femme Assise of 1909 introduces Cubism, represented in its fuller development by Braque's L'Homme à la Guitare and Léger's Les Acrobates en Gris. Among abstracts, there's the sensuous rhythm of colour in Sonia Delaunay's Prismes Électriques and a good showing of Kandinsky at his most playful. Dalí disturbs, amuses or infuriates with Six Apparitions de Lénine sur un Piano and there are further Surrealist images by Magritte and de Chirico. One of the most compulsive German pictures is the portrait of the journalist Sylvia von Harden by Otto Dix. Among the more recent canvases, Francis Bacon's work figures prominently, as do the provocative images of the Pop Art movement - not least Warhol's Electric Chair.

Musee Rodin

at no. 77 on the corner of rue de Varenne, housed in a beautiful eighteenth-century mansion which the sculptor leased from the State in return for the gift of all his work at his death (April-Sept Tues-Sun 9.30am-5.45pm, garden until 6.45pm; rest of year museum & garden 9.30am-4.45pm; F28, garden only F5; metro Varenne), represents the whole of Rodin's work. Larger projects like The Burghers of Calais and The Thinker are exhibited in the garden, while indoors are works in marble like The Kiss, The Hand of God and The Cathedral.
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* Maison de Verre

built as a home for invalided soldiers on the orders of Louis XIV and topped by a distinctive gilded dome which is a real Paris landmark. One of its two churches was intended as a mausoleum for the king but now contains the mortal remains of Napoleon, enclosed within a gallery decorated with friezes of execrable taste and captioned with quotations of awesome conceit from the great man, while the main part of the building houses the vast Musée de l'Armée (daily 10am-5/5.45pm; F37; metro La Tour Maubourg/Varenne).

Hotel des Invalides

Links

* Paris hotels
* Paris.org
* Metro
* Paris - Anglo
* Paris tourist office
* PariServe
* Guide to Paris Museums
* Paris Airports

Last updated : 28-Aug-07