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Paris, Summer 2011

Paris, Summer 2011

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Destinations: 
14th Arrondissement,
16th Arrondissement,
1st Arrondissement,
3rd Arrondissement,
4th Arrondissement,
5th Arrondissement,
7th Arrondissement,
Europe,
France,
Paris,
Versailles

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See + Do

Vedettes du Pont Neuf, France

Square du Vert Galant
Paris 75001, France
Tel: 33 1 46 33 98 38
Website: www.vedettesdupontneuf.com

Sure, a boat ride on the river is as touristy as an Eiffel Tower hat made of foam rubber, but the fact is that you get a completely different view of Paris, and a very romantic one at that, from the water. Several companies offer Seine cruises, but this one has the advantage of a charming, central, and easily reached location on the northwestern edge of the Île de la Cité, and the boats are smaller than the troop-carrier affairs deployed by most other companies. They don't serve meals, either, which is a good thing: The food on lunch and dinner cruises is unfailingly mediocre, and if it's harmless enough to be a tourist out in the fresh air, it's a sad business in an enclosed stock-pen of a dining room.

See + Do

Palais Royal, France

Paris 75001, France

The Palais Royal is just across the Rue de Rivoli from the mobbed Louvre, yet surprisingly few people wander into the compound's quiet, colonnaded courtyard. The 18th-century palace itself—which has a blood-soaked history but now houses numerous government offices and lavish private apartments (Colette and Cocteau both lived here in the 1950s)—is off limits. But the garden is the ideal place to recharge after the Louvre. In the 1990s, American designer Mark Rudkin revived the courtyard's 1730 layout and added small "scented sitting rooms" within earshot of the fountain; you can also wander around and view the controversial fountain-art installation Les Deux Plateaux by Daniel Buren (under the Culture Minister's windows). The elegant arcades enclose cafés, restaurants, and shops.

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See + Do

Notre-Dame de Paris, France

Place du Parvis-Notre-Dame
Paris 75004, France
Tel: 33 1 42 34 56 10, Tel: 33 1 53 10 07 02 (towers)
Website: www.monum.fr

Faith may have helped Bishop Maurice de Sully get Notre-Dame underway in 1160, but ceaseless toil is what finished the job by the end of the century. Despite severe damage during the Revolution of 1789 and clumsy 19th-century restorations and additions (including the faux-medieval spire, much of the statuary, and the stained glass), this great Gothic masterpiece ranks among the most moving and important Christian sites in the world. After a ten-year, largely successful restoration (finished in 2002), the blond-stone facade is again free of grime. In high season, you'll have plenty of time to admire the exterior as you wait to get in. And wait again, if you want to gaze down on Paris with a 230-foot-high gargoyle's-eye view: The 400-step climb up the north tower, passing the cathedral's giant bells and Gallery of Chimeras, is worth the effort—and the long lines. Your best chance to beat the queue is to avoid Sundays and holidays, and arrive before opening hours or at the end of the day. On weekends in July and August, the towers are open until 11 p.m., so do the interior first then get in line for the climb. Notre-Dame's buttressed back is best seen from the adjoining Pont de l'Archevêché or the Quai d'Orléans midstream on the Île Saint Louis.

April 1 through June 30: 9:30 am to 7:30 pm.
July 1 through August 31: 9 am to 7:30 pm (11 pm Saturdays and Sundays)
Sept. 1 through Sept. 30: 9:30 am to 7:30 pm.
October 1 through March 31: 10 am to 5:30 pm.

See + Do

Musée Rodin, France

79 Rue de Varenne
Paris 75007, France
Tel: 33 1 44 18 61 10
Website: www.musee-rodin.fr

Rodin's powerful bronze and stone sculptures would be stunning even if they were displayed in a parking lot, but here, they're housed in a 1728 private mansion, just across the boulevard from the Invalides. The gorgeous grounds are studded with old trees and amazing roses circled by winding paths, and the handsome salons are filled with the furniture, art, and objects Rodin collected (including works by Monet, Renoir, Camille Claudel, and Van Gogh). More than a half million visitors troll through the house and garden annually, but its openness means that you rarely feel crowded when contemplating the master's sketches, plaster casts, waxworks, and finished statues. There's a nice little snack bar under the trees, plus a boutique and bookstore out front.

Open 9:30 am to 4:45 pm, October through March; 9:30 am to 5:45 pm, April through September. Closed Mondays.

See + Do

Musée National du Moyen Age, France

6 Place Paul Painlevé
Paris 75005, France
Tel: 33 1 53 73 78 00
Website: www.musee-moyenage.fr

The best museums in Paris awe with beauty or provide a deepened understanding of the city. The Musée National du Moyen Age (also known as the Musée de Cluny) does both, but perhaps due to its slightly great aunt–like appearance and personality, it's not as well known as other museums. That means you'll often have this former home of the bishops of Cluny to yourself. The star attraction is the magnificent Lady and the Unicorn tapestry cycle, and though the word "tapestry" is a surefire yawn-puller, the delicate beauty of these six late-15th-century Flemish works depicting allegories of the five senses is very moving. The 12th-century illuminated manuscript The Ascension of Christ, which was produced at the Abbey of Cluny, is another must, though it's the mundane medieval objects like tools, dishes, and shoes that have a way of making a remote slice of history immediate.

Open Mondays and Wednesdays through Sundays 9:15 am to 5:45 pm.

See + Do

Musée Marmottan Monet, France

2 Rue Louis-Boilly
Paris 75016, France
Tel: 33 1 44 96 50 33
Website: www.marmottan.com

Only in Paris could the world's single largest collection of Monet paintings (along with works by Pissarro, Sisley, and Renoir) be overshadowed by other museums. But don't ignore this little-known gem, tucked away in the leafy, residential 16th Arrondissement. Housed in an atmospheric old hunting lodge—the area was once wooded—the ballast of the collection came from two bequests. The first was a trove of canvases donated by the daughter of Georges de Bellio, Monet's doctor; the second came from Monet's son Michel. The real prize here is Impression Soleil Levant, a magnificent work from 1873 recording Monet's impression of a sunrise at Le Havre.

Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Mondays.

ALT HERE

See + Do

Musée du Quai Branly, France

37 Quai Branly
Paris 75007, France
Tel: 33 1 56 61 70 00
Website: www.quaibranly.fr

After a decade of dithering, Parisian star architect Jean Nouvel's $300 million Seine-side complex finally opened in June 2006. Built to embody President Jacques Chirac's politically correct dream of French multiculturalism, Quai Branly is a provocative architectural and cultural statement, and the city's latest must-see. Imagine a comic-strip cargo ship with rust-red and yellow containers jutting from one side, the rusty louvers of a tobacco-drying barn on the other, and a freeway underpass below. That's the main building. Plants cascade junglelike from adjacent twin office towers; behind high glass walls, sinuous garden paths coil toward the dark, tangled, Halloween nightmare within. Wild proliferations of artwork and objects (masks, totems, sculptures) from the non-European world are swirled, stacked, or hung with apparently methodless madness (though they're actually organized by geographical region and date). Many are gorgeous, others downright disturbing—a 19th-century Nigerian headdress made from a skull and human hair, for instance. Intense spotlights cast shadows everywhere, and multimedia pods add acoustic confusion. Of course, it's all intentional: By observing yourself and others struggling to make sense of it all, you become a player in Nouvel's neo-mannerist game. The final challenge is to find the one unqualified success here: glass-domed Les Ombres restaurant, where talented young chef Arno Busquet turns out innovative Franco-world meals made from fair-trade ingredients. (There's a separate, badly marked entrance at 220 Rue de l'Université; 33-1-47-53-68-00.) The indoor-outdoor café is also a good place to snack or lunch, and to watch others hunt for the entrance. Go clockwise; you'll find it eventually.

Open 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (until 9:30 p.m. on Thursdays). Closed Mondays.

P.S. Take a virtual spin around the museum in our "24 Hours in Paris" video.

ALT HERE

See + Do

Musée du Louvre, France

Rue de Rivoli
Paris 75001, France
Tel: 33 1 40 20 53 17
Website: www.louvre.fr

The world's most famous museum, originally a royal residence, usually elicits one of two strong reactions from those who've never been before—exhilaration or dread. The most reasonable response may be a mixture of the two, since it's a lot of work to see even a small part of it. What's needed is some strategy. Download a floor plan from the website before you show up, and arrive with a list of what you absolutely can't miss (Leonardo's masterpieces, Veronese's like-it-or-loathe-it Wedding at Cana, Caravaggio's superb Fortune Teller, Michelangelo's Dying Slave sculpture, etc., etc.). If you're coming in summer, buy your ticket in advance on the website, and use an alternative entrance instead of I.M. Pei's mobbed glass pyramid (the best access point for first-timers is the Porte des Lions entrance, which drops you off almost directly at the Mona Lisa). No matter how you find your way in, prepare yourself for crowds: Attendance at the Louvre has gone up by over a million a year since the release of The Da Vinci Code, which is the subject of the most popular tours and audio guides now, much to the chagrin of authentic art lovers and historians. Try to see the most famous pieces at lunchtime or during dinner on Wednesday and Friday, when the museum is open until 10 p.m. Keep in mind that some rooms are closed on a rotating weekly basis; if you have your heart set on seeing something beyond the traditional masterpieces, check the website to make sure it'll be accessible. And don't forget that your ticket is valid all day long—you're not a bad person if you want to go sit on a bench in the gardens of the Tuileries or the Palais Royal for a time-out.

Open 9 am to 6 pm (until 10 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays). Closed Tuesdays.

See + Do

Musée d'Orsay, France

1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur
Paris 75007, France
Tel: 33 1 40 49 48 14
Website: www.musee-orsay.fr

Since opening in 1986, the Musée d'Orsay has become one of the most successful and beloved museums in the world. The grandiose limestone edifice was originally built as a train station to process the throngs who came for the World Fair of 1900. It stood idle for many years before Italian architect Gae Aulenti remodeled the interior without annihilating its original heritage; coats of arms on the main concourse's elaborate ceiling represent the cities served by the old station, for example. The collection represents that fruitful era from 1848 to 1914—approximately the incubation period of modern art and, as luck and late socialist president François Mitterand would have it, also concurrent with the birth and flowering of socialism. Politics aside, it's a great institution, with a terrific collection of Impressionist canvases, including Manet's famous Déjeuner sur l'Herbe and Van Gogh's first Starry Night. Don't miss the Art Nouveau furniture collection, or views of Paris from behind the glass clock faces on the Seine side of the building.

Open 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (9:45 p.m. on Thursdays). Closed Mondays.

See + Do

Musée Carnavalet, France

23 Rue de Sévigné
Paris 75003, France
Tel: 33 1 44 59 58 58
Website: www.carnavalet.paris.fr

Ignore the Mona Lisa's prima donna claim on the world's imagination. The first museum you should go to in Paris is this superb 140-room collection dedicated to the history of the city itself. Once you've been here, you'll have a rough historical scaffolding in the back of your mind and everything else about the city will make sense. The beautiful structure was built in 1548 and turned into a museum in 1866 by that famous architectural busybody Baron Haussmann (did he ever take a day off?). The story of the city begins with wooden canoes used by the Parisii, who fished the Seine in the Neolithic age. The Roman collections are outstanding, as are exhibits devoted to 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century Paris. Whatever you do, don't miss the Carnavalet's weirdest treasure—writer Marcel Proust's bedroom, cork-lined so he could write in silence.

Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Mondays.

ALT HERE

See + Do

Luxembourg Gardens, France

Entrances: Place Auguste-Comte, Place Edmond-Rostand, or Rue de Vaugirard
Paris 75014, France

On that inevitable day when you don't want to go to a museum and you're sick of shopping, come to the Luxembourg Gardens. Quite simply, there's no better people-watching in Paris, and it changes all day long. In the morning, you'll see joggers, early tennis players, dog-walkers, and students; around 11 a.m. or so, a more mature crowd arrives—elegantly dressed women out for a stroll, men playing chess or checkers in the northwest corner—along with nannies pushing baby carriages and scolding toddlers. At noon, secretaries from the surrounding art galleries and publishing houses come to picnic, followed by academics carrying heavy books and heading for the park's quietest corners. By afternoon, all of Paris is present, and the genius of this park becomes undeniable—you can do everything from riding a merry-go-round or a pony to learning how to keep bees (a beekeeping school produces honey for the French Sénat, which occupies the palace on the park's northern flank). Just south of the park on the Rue d'Assas is in one our favorite little museums: Musée Zadkine, the former home and studio of Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine. Zadkine ran with the wild, absinthe-swilling Montparnasse crowd of the early 20th century; as interesting as his stylized figures in bronze and marble is the studio itself, which rambles around a leafy garden court and gives a glimpse of what the artists' colony of the Left Bank—made famous by Picasso, Modigliani, et al—was like (100 bis Rue d'Assas; 33-1-55-42-77-20; www.zadkine.paris.fr; closed Mon.).

Open daily from dawn to dusk (but never before 7 a.m.).

See + Do

Maison Européene de la Photographie, France

82 Rue François Miron
Paris 75004, France
Tel: 33 1 44 78 75 00
Website: www.mep-fr.org

Paris was one of the pioneering cities in the birth of photography: It was recognized as an art form here long before anywhere else. This handsome 17th-century stone mansion in the Marais holds a collection of 15,000 photographs, prints, and films by artists from the 1950s to the present day (Robert Frank, Depardon, Salgado, and Cartier Bresson among them). Temporary shows are often based on the permanent collection or contemporary photographers. There might be a retrospective of VU magazine between 1928 and 1940, or works from the interwar period by Hungarian photographer André Kertész. There is also an extensive library, individual video viewing stations, and a film series.

Open Wednesdays through Sundays 11 am to 8 pm.

ALT HERE

See + Do

Eiffel Tower, France

Champ de Mars
Paris 75007, France
Tel: 33 1 44 11 23 23
Website: www.tour-eiffel.fr

It's hard to imagine just how avant-garde this tower of cast-iron girders was when it was built in 1889 to celebrate the World's Fair and the centenary of the French Revolution. The great majority of Parisians loathed it, and the press brayed on about how it was an industrial pimple on the face of the city. But a century and then some later, the elegant slope-legged tower has become the quintessential symbol of the City of Light. Its latest attraction is a mantle of 20,000 flashbulbs, originally installed to celebrate the new millennium, that glitter for ten minutes every hour on the hour after dark. So, do you need to actually visit it? Well, yes, and not just if you happen to be proposing publicly to Katie Holmes. It's a fascinating example of early industrial architecture, and the panoramas really are swell. Go at night to skip at least some of the teeming masses. Or better still, book a table perched 400 feet up on the second level, at the Jules Verne restaurant. Now part of the Alain Ducasse empire, it attracts savvy local families and visitors alike with French classics (33-1-45-55-61-44).

Open 9 am to 12 midnight between June 15 and September 1; open 9:30 am to 11 pm during the rest of the year.

ALT HERE

See + Do

Château de Versailles, France

Versailles 78000, France
Tel: 33 1 30 83 76 20 or 33 8 92 68 46 94 for advance ticket sales
Website: www.chateauversailles.fr

People visit Versailles in the hopes of being absolutely dazzled by opulence. They're rarely disappointed. The palace is glorious, but unless you already have a good grasp of French history, it's a good idea to bone up, since the endless references to seemingly out-of-sequence kings and their queens, mistresses, and children can dull the magic if you can't keep up. Get here as early as you possibly can to avoid the tour-bus herds, and don't just troop through the most famous rooms—the Hall of Mirrors, the Grand Appartement where Louis XIV held court, and the queen's bedroom. The lavish private apartments of Louis XV, Louis XVI, and Marie-Antoinette give a glimpse of why the Revolution took place, and the Opera House and Royal Chapel tell you plenty about the gilded-lily, ancien régime lifestyle. Do check out Madame de Pompadour's gorgeously restored "secret" apartments, wander the sublime gardens, and visit the Petit Trianon, where Marie Antoinette futilely, fatuously, famously attempted to re-create the simple life of her subjects. Also stop by the Potager du Roi, the vegetable garden to the west of the palace that supplied the court. The palace compound is currently undergoing extensive renovations, which have added new must-sees to a visit, including the gilded salle de bain (bathroom) of Louis XV.

Open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. November through March; 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. April through October. Palace closed Mondays; gardens open daily.

See + Do

Centre Georges Pompidou, France

Rue St-Martin
 75004, France
Tel: 33 1 44 78 12 33
Website: www.centrepompidou.fr

When it opened in 1977, the intention of this inside-out modern art museum—the staircases and pipes are famously exposed on its exterior—was to snatch back Paris's role as the art capital of the world, a title it lost to New York after World War II. The Pompidou fell short of that goal (the contemporary art scene in Paris remains puckish), but it has become one of the top tourist attractions in France. Beaubourg, as Parisians call it, has a permanent collection that runs from 1905 to the present and includes such "isms" as primitivism, Cubism, Fauvism, surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism. Making the most of those riches, it mounts outstanding exhibits that cover everything from Andy Warhol to the films of Alfred Hitchcock. The complex also includes an open-to-the-public library, cinemas, children's programs, and Georges, a trendy if expensive and slightly snooty restaurant with fabulous vistas from its top floor—it's great for lunch (33-1-44-78-47-99).

Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.