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Palais Royal, 1st Arr.

France 75001
Metro: Palais Royal's insider take:

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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