Part 2: Dining on the Champs-Élysées, gardens strolls and beautiful sights
In part one I took you from the beautiful yet touristy Montmartre to the quietly hipper Canal St Martin via the Île de la Cité and Notre Dame. Phew that was quite a trip in itself and that took care of most of the first two days in Paris, except for lunch on the Champs-Élysées which we managed to visit several times.
In part two we’re going to hit up some of the most beautiful Parisian sights this time around. For our second and third day’s we had a ‘guided tour’ from a cousin of Hana’s who lives and works in Paris so we really got a local’s eye view of the city whilst still seeing the big draw attractions.
One thing about visiting Paris on a Sunday was that, unlike London, the city is much quieter than during the week. You can walk down main shopping streets such as the Rue de Rivoli, famous for it’s beautiful department stores such as Galeries Lafayette and Printemps – which we visited later.
On to the next areas we visited.
Palais Opera and Boulevard Haussmann
Many year ago and very early in the morning I stepped of the coach for a school trip to Paris. The first thing I saw, the department stores which line Boulevard Haussmann. We looked in the windows of shops like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps before going inside and picking up souvenirs and gifts to take home.
This time around we didn’t get to step inside any of those stores but I do highly recommend you do if you have time. Even if you aren’t looking for anything to buy they are so wonderfully presented and decorated that it’s worth having a look around. I think the best time to visit has to be around Christmas. I remember taking my gran here years ago. The magic of seeing the huge Christmas tree standing in the middle of the opulent main hall is a magical sight.
Across the street you’ll notice the back of an ornate looking building, the setting for a famous novel, musical and film, the Palais Garnier Opera house. Walk around to Place de l’Opéra to see the fantastic main facade. The best view is in the centre of the square by the Metro entrance. Take a walk over and you can get a great shot like the one above, though a little sun wouldn’t go a miss!
Inside it is every bit as you may imagine a building of such majestic opulence might look like. You can poke around the building by buying a entrance ticket, it won’t get you into a show but you can join the crowds wandering around an enjoying the buildings beauty. I loved the large central staircase and foyer area as well as the long corridor which runs along the front of the building.
The art work on display is absolutely stunning, don’t forget to look up from the walls to the ceiling which is often magnificently painted.
One thing which may surprise you is the size of the theatre itself. For such a grand building it isn’t that large, in face less than half the capacity of London’s Albert hall and in a much small space. You can only walk into one of the lower boxes to view the theatre but it feels so much more intimate a venue than the big draw locations in London.
I highly recommend a trip.Top sights around Place de l’Opera and Boulevard Haussman
- Galleries Lafayette
- Palais Garnier
- Place de l’Opera
The Champs-Élysées and Place de la Concord
IMAGE CHRIS WAITS
Named for the paradisaical resting place for heroes in Greek mythology the Elysian Fields, Paris most famous boulevard spans the 2 kilometers east to west between Place Charles de Gaulle home to the imposing Arch de Triomphe and Place de la Concorde.
I’ve always imagined it to be the height of chic designer shops and restaurants you can only dream of eating in. It turns out that today it is more like the main shopping streets of any European capital. I think the point when I thought it had lost some of it’s former magic was seeing a Marks and Spencer outlet.
That being said, the Champs-Élysées is still a beautifully wide and long boulevard and what you imagine before coming to Paris. Yes it is filled with shoppers and tourists but there is still a bit of the magic which made it so special left. We ate here a couple of times, both a restaurants which are part of small chains and I have to say the food was really nice. It may not be the most authentically ‘French’ but it came pretty close.
At the ‘top’ end you decamp the Metro right by the Arch de Triomphe, site of many a tourist breaking down as they desperately work out how to cross the manic unmarked lanes of traffic which span the chasm (tip: take the underpass!).
From here you get a great view down past the shops and on towards Place de la Concorde. It is worth a walk down the boulevard. Perhaps mid way down you’ll pass the end of the shops and come upon the Jardin des Champs-Élysées running adjacent. Strolling down the road you’ll see the Grand Palais (spectacular glass roof), the Petit Palais (it’s not that small!), the Théâtre Marigny (watch out or you’ll miss this one), as well as restaurants, gardens and various monuments.
Finish your walk in the largest square in Paris, Place de la Concorde by seeing the magnificent Luxor Obelisk which is in excellent condition. You can clearly see the hieroglyphics and the point is still covered in gold. Flanking it are two fountains. The Place is pretty imposing with some truly impressive buildings which have variously held different ministries, hotels and palaces.
This walk neatly takes me into the next area the Tuileries gardens, Louvre and Rue de Rivoli.Top sights around the Champs-Élysées & Place de la Concorde.
- Shop and dine on the Champs-Élysées
- Climb the Arch de Triomphe
- Jardin de Champs-Élysées
- Grand Palais
- Petit Palais
- Pont de la Concorde
- Place de la Concorde
- Luxor Obelisk and fountains.
The Louvre and the Tuileries Garden
IMAGE: ROBERT S DONOVAN
One of the worlds largest museums, a historical monument, a Parisian landmark. Wikipedia’s description won’t prepare you for rolling up along side the massively imposing facades. Walk in through the side entrance to the imposing central square with the museum buildings on three sides around to and the Louvre Pyramid which houses the museum main entrance in front of you.
The grounds are quite beautiful in their own right, even if you aren’t planning on visiting the museum it is worth coming to walk around here. With 35,000 artifacts (including a certain portrait) it would take almost forever to see it all.
One thing you might want to check out is the surprising underground shopping mall which sits under the gardens above and beneath the Place du Carrousel which separates the museum grounds from the Jardin Tuileries. The mall is quite nice and modern and a bit of a surprise. What is more surprising are the amazing loo’s there. Seriously I know this sounds very odd but they are boutique toilets. There are several across the city but this was my first encounter with them. You can find a bit about them on this great post and their website – Point WC.
Onward and out of the loo. Crossing the Place du Carrousel (which is pretty, well…pretty) and into the Tuileries garden. The gardens are more a series of gardens which have been here since the 16th century. Over the centuries the gardens have been landscaped and re-landscaped many times.
In the gardens there are beautiful ponds, tree lined paths and close by is the The Musée de l’Orangerie. We wandered through the gardens at sunset, a perfect time of day to visit and watch the sun go down on a wonderful view past Place de la Concorde and on up to the Arch de Triomphe.
It is a simply beautiful part of the city, whilst London has a lot of green space and park land is isn’t laid out in the same way. At home parks are much more natural, left to the wild where as here it is much more regulated and maintained.Top sights around the Louvre
- The Louvre Museum
- The Louvre Pyramid and Inverted Pyramid
- Jardin Tuileries
- Place du Carrousel
From one picturesque garden to another. Paris certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to pristinely laid out and immaculately kept gardens. Another garden in the shadow of a former royal palace, the Luxembourg Palace, which was owned built by a Medici.
Today the Palace and gardens are owned by the French Senate and the gardens are open to the public. Again a great time to visit the gardens is for sunset. We visited in the early evening when the sun was beginning to go down and took a seat by the side of the large pond in front of the palace. It felt an almost magical place to just sit and unwind after a hectic day of sight seeing. Wandering around, later we saw a healthy number of joggers and club runners making use of the park and gardens. There were also tennis courts and play areas. All in all you could have a pretty healthy afternoon out here.
The Parisians really do know how to perfectly plan and lay out a garden. I’m going to step back and let the gardens speak for themselves with these gorgeous pictures.
Coming up in the part three of my guide to Paris:
Guided tours of Paris: A river trip on the River Sein and a Velocycle tour through a wet Paris.
The Musée d’Orsay, home of the modernists.