You’ll find A-M in Part I of my selection of Parisian landmarks. I’ve been visiting Paris regularly since I was 15 years old and over the years, having stayed in many of Paris’ different quartiers, there’s not much I haven’t seen. However, when i was writing this I was very conscious that I couldn’t include all the places I love. So, maybe I’ll do some more posts. This time by arrondissement.
N: Notre Dame
This is the medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement, France’s most visited monument and considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Its pioneering use of the rib vault and flying buttress, its enormous and colourful rose windows, as well as the naturalism and abundance of its sculptural decoration set it apart from the earlier Romanesque style.
While undergoing renovation and restoration, the roof of Notre Dame caught fire in April 2019, sustaining serious structural damage. Stabilizing the structure against possible collapse is expected to continue until the end of 2020, with restoration beginning in 2021. The government hopes the relatvely faithful reconstruction can be completed by Spring 2024, in time for the opening of the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
O: Musée d’Orsay
Easily one of my favourite museums and one of the largest art museums in Europe. It’s in 7th arrondissement on the Left Bank of the Seine and housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914, including paintings, sculptures, furniture and photography. It houses the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin, and Van Gogh.
Located in 5th arrondissement, it was originally built as a church dedicated to Ste. Genevieve, but now functions primarily as a mausoleum for famous French heroes. It is an early example of Neoclassicism realised by the architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot, with its facade modeled after the Pantheon in Rome. Its large crypt, covering the whole surface of the building accommodates the vaults of some of Frances most famous: Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Jean Moulin, Madame Curie, Louis Braille, Jean Jaurès, Soufflot, and most recently, Simone Veil.
Q: Les Quais de la Seine
The river Seine tells the story of Paris, from its birthplace on the Île de la Cité to the transformation of the quays at Bercy upstream and the triumphant Eiffel Tower downstream. When wandering around Paris, I rarely bother with the Metro, preferring to wander along the riverbanks (UNESCO World Heritage Site) to my chosen destination. That way I can more easily enjoy the river, its bridges and islands. Daytime or night time, Left Bank or Right Bank, there’s always a buzz of activity along the quaysides with people enjoying themselves whatever the weather. It’s the life blood of the city.
R: Place de la République
The square, which borders 3rd, 10th and 11th arrondissements, was originally called the Place du Château d’Eau, took its current shape as part of Baron Hausmann’s vast renovation of Paris. In the centre of the Place de la République is a 9.4m (31 feet) bronze statue of Marianne, the personification of the French Republic, “holding aloft an olive branch in her right hand and resting her left on a tablet engraved with Droits de l’homme (the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen).” The statue sits atop a 23 m (75 feet) pedestal. Marianne is surrounded by three statues personifying liberty, equality, and fraternity, the values of the French Republic.
The monument was created by the brothers Charles and Léopold Morice from an art competition announced in early 1879 by the Paris City Council, which sought to create a “Monument to the French Republic” in honour of the 90th anniversary of the French Revolution, to be erected on the Place de la République. In 2013 the square was transformed into a pedestrian zone. The square is frequently used as a location for crowds to gather whether they’re mourning the terrorist attacks in 2015 or wearing gilets jaunes and protesting against President Macron.
S: Sacré-Cœur Basilica
This is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, though a popular landmark and the second most visited monument in Paris. The basilica stands at the summit of Montmartre, the highest point in the city. It was designed by Paul Abadie. Its construction was completed in 1914 but it wasn’t consecrated until after the end of WWI in 1919.
The overall style of the building is Romano-Byzantine, a conscious reaction against the neo-Baroque excesses of buildings such as the Palais Garnier. It’s built of travertine stone quarried in the Seine-et-Marne and the basilica complex includes a garden for meditation, with a fountain. The top of the dome is open to tourists and affords a spectacular panoramic view of the city of Paris, which is mostly to the south of the basilica.
T: Le Train Bleu
Regular readers of my blog know that most of our trips to Paris are punctuated by lunch at this iconic restaurant in the Gare de Lyon. Le Train Bleu is a majestic setting where one steps back in time to a more genteel era and the show takes place in the kitchen as well as the restaurant. Steeped in history, this establishment showcases France’s finest cuisine but with a lighter touch.
U: Officine Universelle Buly 1803
This is a Paris-based beauty emporium, reflecting a certain French art-de-vivre and elegance with shops in 3rd and 6th arrondissements which are heavenly to wander around. Buly offers products that draw on the most innovative cosmetic techniques and the virtues of natural ingredients. The brand takes inspiration in forgotten or unsung beauty secrets, sometimes from the most remote geographies.
The brand harks back to late 18th century and the famed Jean-Vincent Bully, established in 1803 on rue Saint-Honoré in Paris, who made a name for himself (which he then wore with a double consonant) with his perfumes and scented vinegars. It was (re-)founded and is operated by Victoire de Taillac and Ramdane Touhami, within the LVMH stable, and has stores across the globe.
V: Place des Vosges
Easily one of my favourite spots in Paris which is surrounded by some beautiful and eye wateringly expensive Parisian property porn. The Place des Vosges, originally Place Royale, is the oldest planned square in Paris and it’s located in my beloved Le Marais district, straddling the dividing-line between 3rd and 4th arrondissements. It was built by Henri IV on the site of the Hôtel des Tournelles and its gardens.
It is surrounded by 36 houses of considerable historical significance built between 1605 and 1612. This was the first urban planning project, designed in perfect symmetry, with a continuous ground floor arcade and opposing gateways, probably by Jean Baptiste Androuet du Cerceau and was a prototype of the residential squares of European cities that were to come.
In the late 18th century, while most of the nobility moved to the Faubourg Saint-Germain district, the square managed to keep some of its aristocratic owners until the Revolution. It was renamed in 1799 when the département of the Vosges became the first to pay taxes supporting a campaign of the Revolutionary army. The Restoration returned the old royal name, but the short-lived Second Republic restored the revolutionary one in 1870. Today the square is planted with a bosquet of mature lindens set in grass and gravel, surrounded by clipped lindens, and is much visited.
W: World Heritage Centre (UNESCO)
The Unesco HQ in 7th arrondissement was inaugurated in 1958. The building combined the work of three architects: Bernard Zehrfuss (France), Marcel Breuer (Hungary) and Pier Luigi Nervi (Italy). The main building, which houses the secretariat, consists of seven floors forming a three-pointed star. There are two other buildings designated for permanent delegations and non-governmental organisations. These buildings occupy a trapezoidal area of land measuring 30,350 square metres (326,700 sq ft), cut into the northeast corner of the Place de Fontenoy.
The Church is located in 7th arrondissement, a stone’s throw from the Hôtel des Invalides. It is dedicated to Francis Xavier of Basque origin, one of the founders of the Jesuit Order. The church was completed in 1873 and over the years has gathered a wealth of religious art objects, including The Last Supper by Tintoretto. But what makes Saint-François-Xavier Church so special is that it houses the shrine containing the preserved body of Sainte Madeleine-Sophie Barat, the holy woman who from 1806 to her death in 1865, worked tirelessly to help educate young girls. As a result, several girls’ schools were founded during the reign of Napoleon III. She is considered one of the earliest feminists in French history.
Y: Musée Yves Saint Laurent
The Musée exhibits the late couturier’s body of work on the legendary premises of his former haute couture house, in 16th arrondissement. Over fifteen years after the haute couture house closed, the Musée opened in 2017 in the legendary hôtel particulier where Yves Saint Laurent spent nearly thirty years designing his collections from 1974 to 2002. The same building serves as the headquarters of the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent.
The Musée focuses on both the couturier’s creative genius and the process of designing a haute couture collection. Beyond its monographic ambitions, the museum seeks to address the history of the twentieth century and the haute couture traditions that accompanied a way of life that no longer exists. The museum is the first of this scale dedicated to the work of one of the twentieth century’s greatest couturiers to open in the capital of fashion.
Z: Musée Zadkine
Close to the Jardin du Luxembourg – another of my favourite spots – in 6th arrondissement, the Musée Zadkine, tucked away in the greenery of a sculpture-filled garden, is the home and workshop of Ossip Zadkine (1890-1967). He was a Russian sculptor and a major figure at the Ecole de Paris who lived and worked in Paris from 1928 to 1967. I particularly like small museums dedicated to the work of one artist or a tightly curated theme. Here the museum offers a tour of his evolution of a sculptor from the ‘primitivism’ of his first sculptures carefully carved in wood or stone to the strict geometry of Cubism works. Above all, Zadkine’s work has an endless freedom and vitality.