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Things to Do in Paris - page 5

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Gustave Moreau Museum (Musee Gustave Moreau)
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French Symbolist painter 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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Museum of Jewish Art and History (Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme)
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The Museum of Jewish Art and History opened its doors in 1998. The collection, buoyed by the inheritance of a private collection from rue des Saules, traces the history and culture of Europe’s Jewish communities from the Middle Ages to the present, with highlights that include a torah ark from the Italian Renaissance, a Dutch torah scroll from the 1600s, a German menorah crafted from gold and silver, documents from the Dreyfus scandal and an exhibit dedicated to presenting what life was like for a Jewish residents of Paris in 1939.

The museum is housed within the Hotel de Saint-Aignan, a magnificent mansion built between 1644 and 1650 for the Count of Avaux. The building, considered one of the most beautiful private mansions in Paris, served as a government building and commercial space before it was purchased by the city of Paris in 1963.

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Buttes-Chaumont Park (Parc des Buttes-Chaumont)
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One of Paris' most picturesque picnic spots, the tree-lined Parc des Buttes Chaumont was commissioned by Napoleon III back in 1867, adding a welcome splash of greenery to the bleary residential streets of Paris' 19th arrondissement. The park’s 25 hectares rise and fall over a series of hills, pocked with hidden caves, vibrant flower displays and gurgling streams. One of the largest parks in the city, Parc des Buttes Chaumont offers around 5 km of walking and cycling tracks, blazing a trail between attractions like the Chinese and English-style gardens and an atmospheric grotto housing a 20-meter waterfall. The majestic Temple of Sybil (Belvedere Sybil), a Greco-Roman homage to the Temple of the Sibyl in Tivoli, is the striking centerpiece of the park, perched on a 30-meter grassy pedestal in the center of the park’s lake. Visitors can visit the island via a 63-meter long suspension bridge, from where the views stretch over the park and its surroundings.

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Nissim Camondo Museum (Musée Nissim De Camondo)
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The Musée Nissim de Camondo is more of a portal into the past than it is your run-of-the-mill museum. It is housed in the Hôtel Camondo, not a hotel but a home built in 1911 in the style of the Petit Trianon at Versailles on the strict instructions of its owner, Comte Moïse de Camondo. Comte Camondo was a Parisian banker with a penchant for 18th-century art and furniture, and his home was a kind of showcase for his extensive collection. Today the Musée Nissim de Camondo is kept just as it was when he lived there, and it's a fascinating tour of life in the early 1900s as well as French design in the 1700s.

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Guimet Museum (Musée Guimet)
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Renowned as the biggest and most varied collection of Asian Art in the Western World, the Musée Guimet’s stellar reputation is well deserved, making it one of Paris’ most impressive museums. Founded by its namesake, industrialist and world traveller Emile Guimet, in Lyon in 1879, the museum originally housed his extensive private collection of Chinese and Japanese art and moved to Paris a decade later.

Since then, the Musée Guimet has amassed more than 45,000 objects dating right back to Neolithic times and including an incredible variety of antiquities including archaeological finds from Ancient Egypt, a huge collection of religious art, Afghan glassware, Moghul jewelry and Tibetan funeral masks. Laid out geographically, a tour of Musée Guimet offers a vibrant journey to the far corners of Asia, with highlights including the Buddhist Pantheon Galleries, the largest collection of Khmer sculpture outside Cambodia and a Japanese garden.

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Musée des Arts et Métiers
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The Musée des Arts et Métiers (The Museum of Arts and Crafts) should be well-known to fans of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum – it is here that the device that first showed how the earth rotates is housed.

But there's so much more to this museum. It's like a mix between an inventor's lab and an explorer's secret hideaway. You can see all kinds of tools and technology from throughout the centuries – making your current technology look even more like a dream from the future!

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Grands Boulevards
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Grands Boulevards is an area in Paris situated in close proximity to Opéra Garnier and Grands Boulevards metro station. The plural form is not a coincidence; these lavish avenues and boulevards all exemplify the Parisian style created by the Baron Haussmann, whose work completely changed the city’s allure during the second Napoleonic empire in what is now considered a primitive form of urbanism. The grand scale, transformative works saw Paris welcome wider avenues, numerous fountains, intricately ornate buildings, and plentiful green spaces. But Haussmann did not create those spaces out of thin air; most of the Grands Boulevards now stand on what used to be the Louis XIII wall, which explains their remarkable size, uncommon for Paris at the time.

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Printemps
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Printemps is a major luxury department store in Paris with 25 floors located in three different buildings. The shopping center has more than 470,000 square feet dedicated to luxury goods, glamour, and fashion, as well as home goods, beauty products, and more. You'll find French and international brands here, including over 300 brands that are sold exclusively at Printemps. There is also a food hall with the biggest brands in luxury gastronomy, plus an eating area where you can stop for a meal while you shop.

Aside from shopping, Printemps is worth visiting to see the impressive building. It has a huge art deco cupola, a Haussmannian facade, a panoramic terrace with views of Paris, and artistic window displays. The facade was registered as a Historic Monument in 1975. Though the shopping center is proud of its heritage and history, it strives to keep up the tradition of a modern image and experience.

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Montparnasse Tower (Tour Montparnasse)
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Built from 1969 until 1972, this building was the tallest in France, from the moment it was built up to the year 2011. Tour Montparnasse may not be much to look at from the outside. After all, it shares the skyline with the Eiffel Tower and is in the same city as architectural gems like the Louvre, Notre-Dame, Sacre Coeur and the Panthéon. And the SNCF train station in its foundation doesn't have much to admire, either.

It's not until you get to the 56th observation floor that visiting Tour Montparnasse becomes entirely worth it. The view from the Eiffel Tower is wonderful, sure – but the view from Tour Montparnasse has the Eiffel Tower in it! And on a nice day, the rooftop terrace on top of all 59 floors has a 360-degree view of Paris that is nothing short of breathtaking.

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More Things to Do in Paris

7th Arrondissement

7th Arrondissement

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Jardin des Plantes

Jardin des Plantes

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The Jardin des Plantes isn't just a pretty place to spend an afternoon. From its “humble” beginnings as King Louis XIII's herb garden, it has grown to well over 7,000 plants. In addition to being home to four museums and a zoo, it's also a working laboratory for a highly respected botanical school.

The gardens feature native French as well as worldwide species of decorative plants. Of particular note is the Rose Garden, at 22 years old, it's the “newest” garden in the collection; its heavenly view is bested by the heavenly scent of thousands of roses.

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4th Arrondissement

4th Arrondissement

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Odéon-Théatre de l'Europe

Odéon-Théatre de l'Europe

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Designed by architects Marie-Joseph Peyre and Charles de Wailly, the Odeon, Théatre de L'Europe, or the European Theatre of Paris, was opened by Marie-Antoinette in 1782 and remains one of the city’s most popular theaters. The oldest theater auditorium in Paris, the Odeon was inaugurated in 1971 as one of France’s six national theaters and boasts a rich history of Parisian arts, including hosting the famous Comédie Française.

Located in the heart of the city’s atmospheric Left Bank, in the 6th arrondissement, the theater maintains its original colonnaded neoclassical façade and dramatic foyer, masterminded by Chalgrin, celebrated architect of the Triumphal arch. Today, the theater showcases a range classical, contemporary and experimental plays, with performances held regularly throughout the year and the emphasis on promoting national theater and nurturing upcoming talent.

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La Cinémathèque Française

La Cinémathèque Française

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Housed within a building designed by renowned Canadian-born American architect Frank Gehry, La Cinematheque houses one of the largest collections of films and cinema-related objects in the world. Through a series of permanent exhibits, visitors to the museum trace the history and technology of film from its infancy through its Hollywood glory days and into the modern age, including magic lanterns, cameras, iconic costumes, props, movie posters and cult objects. Classic film clips accompany many of the displays, and an on-site theater screens several films daily from its huge archive.

Highlights of the museum collection, particularly for the die-hard movie buff, include Mrs. Bates’s head from the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Psycho, the robot from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and a camera that belonged to the Lumiéres brothers. Temporary exhibits often feature a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a particular film.

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Chapelle Expiatoire

Chapelle Expiatoire

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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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Bastille Opera House (Opéra Bastille)

Bastille Opera House (Opéra Bastille)

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Paris’ most eye-catching modern theatre is the Opéra Bastille, located in the 12th Arrondissement of Paris and cutting a striking silhouette against the city’s many traditional baroque theatres.

It was the 20th century composer Pierre Boulez who spearheaded the campaign for a new government-built opera house, initially intended to replace the historic Opera Garnier, or Palais Garnier, and encourage a new generation of concertgoers to enjoy classical music. The two theatres now compete for the title of Paris' most prestigious classical venue, with the original Opera house remaining the home of the Paris National Ballet and the celebrated Opéra National de Paris moving to the contemporary Opéra Bastille. Designed by the previously unknown Canadian-Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott, who beat 1,700 other design proposals submitted via an international competition in 1983, the Opéra Bastille was inaugurated in 1989 on the 200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille.

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Grevin Museum (Musée Grevin)

Grevin Museum (Musée Grevin)

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Fashioned from the blueprint of London's world famous Madame Tussauds, Paris's own waxwork museum, the Musée Grévin (Grevin Museum), has been sculpting famous faces since it was founded back in 1882. A collection of some 500 waxwork figures are on display, alongside an exhibition on the making of the waxworks and the renowned 'Hall of Mirrors,' where deforming mirrors and a bizarre lightshow add to the curiosities.

The waxworks feature an array of famous faces, with American film stars like Brad Pitt and George Clooney, political figures like Barack Obama and legendary singers like Celine Dion and Michael Jackson, posed alongside homegrown heroes like French rally driver Sebastian Loeb. There are plenty of unique celebrity photo opportunities, too: cuddle up to Bridget Bardott's sultry statuette, pick Albert Einstein's brains or compare your moves with Elvis Presley (though his might seem a little stiff).

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Hard Rock Cafe Paris

Hard Rock Cafe Paris

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A rock music temple if there ever was one, the Hard Rock brand doesn’t require an introduction; not with 170 establishments worldwide! Both a restaurant, a bar and a museum, this peculiar Paris attraction has been drawing in rock music aficionados for over two decades now, thanks to an impressive collection of authentic memorabilia and mouth-watering American-themed menu (something seldom found in grands chefs-driven Paris). Loud rock music, a relaxed atmosphere, original cocktails and humongous quantities of food await at Paris’ most American institution.

Golden records, guitars, costumes and other iconic memorabilia can be found at the restaurant’s two-floor museum. Some of the most popular items include Jimmy Hendrix’s paisley jacket, Whitney Houston’s gown, AC/DC’s Angus Young’s iconic school boy costume, John Lennons’s fox coat, Trent Reznor’s broken Gibson Les Paul guitar, Eminem’s overalls, to name a few.

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Viaduc des Arts

Viaduc des Arts

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Few places offer travelers the unique shopping experience of Viaduc des Arts. This restored railway station in the heart of Paris is home to a wide variety of local artisans, from cabinet-makers to textile artists, fashion designers to painters. Dozens of one-of-a-kind shops are tucked beneath the picture-perfect arches of this old-world train station, providing travelers with one of Europe’s most idyllic shopping experiences.

After combing through the oddities and artwork of Viaduc des Arts, visitors can wander the gardens of nearby Paris’s Promenade Plantee—an elevated park just above the shops. Travelers agree this quintessential Paris walk is a must for anyone visiting the City of Lights.
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Notre-Dame Cathedral Towers (Tours de la Cathédrale Notre-Dame)

Notre-Dame Cathedral Towers (Tours de la Cathédrale Notre-Dame)

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The cornerstone of Paris's Notre-Dame Cathedral was laid in 1163, but it wasn't until almost a hundred years later, in 1250, that the towers were finished (and almost another hundred until construction was completed, in 1345). Its bells, the largest of which actually have a name – Emmanuel – have rung in the hour and some of Paris's most historical events ever since.

Hearty visitors to Notre-Dame Cathedral shouldn't miss the chance to climb the 387 stairs to the two western-facing towers. If you were impressed by the cathedral's soaring interior, you will be awestruck by what you find up there. Other than meeting the famous Emmanuel, make sure to say hello to the creepy gargoyles that guide the flow of rainwater away from the structure.

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Paris Story

Paris Story

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A unique museum devoted to telling 2,000 years of Paris’ history through multi­media displays and interactive exhibitions, the Paris­-Story offers a fascinating and fun introduction to the French capital.

The Paris­-Story features three main exhibition areas, starting with a unique film of the city by Yann Arthus-­Bertrand, including magnificent aerial views and exclusive behind-­the-­scenes footage of landmarks like the Sacré Coeur, Notre-­Dame, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. There’s also the Paris-Miniature exhibit, where visitors can explore a 3D-interactive model of Paris, and the Paris­-Experience, with videos and quizzes about the city.

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