My A-Z of Paris: Part II

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.

P: Panthéon

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.

X: Saint-François-Xavier-des-Missions-Etrangères

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.

My A-Z of Paris: Part I

Hands up I’m really missing my regular trips to Paris. I had imagined that I’d be visiting this autumn to see the recently renovated musée Carnavalet in my beloved Marais and the Pinault Collection at the newly opened Bourse de Commerce. With any luck, I’ll be able to visit both next year.

Consequently, to assuage my withdrawal symptoms, I’ve decided to do an A to Z about what I love in the City of Light. You might be surprised at my selection, as I’ve missed some obvious landmarks, but remember these are my choices.

A: Arrondissements

Over the years we’ve stayed in many of Paris’ different quartiers which I have doggedly and thoroughly explored on foot. There’s nothing better than getting to know every square metre of an area; investigating all the magnificent patisseries, traiteurs, street markets, restaurants, bars, shops and museums. I particularly love discovering the best tables to sip coffee (or cocktails) and people watch

In 1795 Paris was originally divided into 12 arrondissements (municipal districts), 1-9 on the Right Bank and 10-12 on the Left Bank. During the reconstruction of Paris in 1859 by Napoléon III and the inestimable Baron Haussmann, – more of whom later – eight more districts were added. The city’s map was redrawn in the form of a snail’s shell beginning with 1st arrondissement at the Louvre and ending with 20th on its eastern boundary.

B: Boulevards

These form an important part of the Parisian urban landscape. Constructed in several phases by central government as infrastructure improvements, and usually tree-lined on both sides, they are very much associated with strolling and leisurely enjoyment. The so-called Grands Boulevards are essentially the best of the Parisian boulevards and correspond to the Nouveau Cours built between 1668 and 1705 in place of the dismantled Louis XIII wall. Many Parisians would automatically include Boulevard Haussmann or the Champs Elysées amongst these, however, strictly speaking, les Grands Boulevards only comprise Boulevards Beaumarchais, Filles-du-Calvaire, Temple, Saint-Martin, Saint-Denis, Bonne-Nouvelle, Poissonnière, Montmartre, Italiens, Capucines and Madeleine.

C: Conciergerie

This magnificent listed building is located on the west of the Île de la Cité. It was formerly a prison but is presently used mostly for law courts. It was part of the former royal palace, the Palais de la Cité, which consisted of the Conciergerie, Palais de Justice and the beautiful Sainte-Chapelle. Hundreds of prisoners during the French Revolution were taken from the Conciergerie to be executed by guillotine at a number of locations around Paris.

After 19th century Restoration of the Bourbons, the Conciergerie continued to be used as a prison for high-value prisoners, most notably the future Napoleon III. The Conciergerie and Palais de Justice underwent major rebuilding during mid-19th century, drastically altering their external appearance. While the building looks like a brooding medieval fortress, this appearance actually only dates from about 1858.

D: Place Dauphine

One of the prettiest public squares in Paris, located near the western end of the Île de la Cité, Place Dauphine is just a short stroll from Notre Dame Cathedral and Pont Neuf, although the square is actually a triangle. The thick walls of the buildings surrounding the square contribute to its tranquil atmosphere along with a handful of charming cafés and restaurants. It was created by King Henry IV in 1607, the second of his projects for public squares in Paris, the first being the Place Royale (now the Place des Vosges). He named it for his son, the Dauphin of France and future Louis XIII, who had been born in 1601.

E: Eiffel Tower

Where would Paris be without its iconic Tour Eiffel? Though never supposed to stay on the Champ de Mars, Gustave Eiffel designed the tower as a temporary construction for the 1889 Universal Exposition. It took two years, two months and five days to build. It looked so strange yet became so popular that it fortunately wasn’t destroyed as planned. The tower’s ungainly appearance, that “disfigured” the cityscape, has 18,038 metal parts: 2,500,000 rivets, and 7,300 tons of iron, and is covered by 60 tons of paint.

F: Flame of Liberty

This is a full-sized, gold-leaf-covered replica of the flame of the torch from the Statue of Liberty which has stood at the entrance to New York City’s harbour since 1886. The monument is located near the northern end of the Pont de l’Alma, on the Place Diana, in the 16th arrondissement. Gifted to Paris in 1989 by the International Herald Tribune on behalf of donors who had contributed approximately US$400,000 for its fabrication to celebrate that newspaper’s hundredth anniversary of publishing an English-language daily newspaper in Paris. More importantly, the Flame was a token of thanks for the restoration work on the Statue of Liberty accomplished three years earlier by two French businesses.

G: Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées

Commonly known as the Grand Palais, this is a large historic site, exhibition hall and museum complex located at the Champs-Élysées in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, France. Construction of the Grand Palais began in 1897 following the demolition of the Palais de l’Industrie (Palace of Industry) as part of the preparation works for the Universal Exposition of 1900, which also included the creation of the adjacent Petit Palais and Pont Alexandre III. It has been listed since 2000 as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.

The structure was built in the style of Beaux-Arts architecture as taught by the École des Beaux-Arts of Paris. The building reflects the movement’s taste for ornate decoration through its stone facades, the formality of its floor planning and the use of techniques that were innovative at the time, such as its glass vault, its structure made of iron and light steel framing, and its use of reinforced concrete.

H: Baron Haussmann

Much of what I love about the City of Light is down to the singular brilliance of Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann (1809-1891). Working in collaboration with Napoleon III, he was the city’s innovative and daring planner who gave Paris the Gare de Lyon, Gare du Nord, Gare de l’Est, Les Halles, Hötel Dieu Hospital, The Paris Opéra, the Fountain and Place Saint-Michel, the Rue de Rivoli; boulevards Raspail, Haussman, Saint-Germain, Voltaire and countless others; avenues des Gobelins, Mouffetard, Soufflot, Malesherbes, Victor Hugo, Kleber and Georges V; the Bois de Boulogne, Bois de Vincennes, Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Parc Montsouris, Parc Monceau, Jardin du Luxembourg, The Grande Hôtel du Louvre, the “modern” Champs-Elysées, and Père Lachaise Cemetery, where he was buried in 1891.

I: Les Invalides

This complex of buildings in the 7th arrondissement encompasses the military history of France: a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the military museum of the French Army as well as the Dôme des Invalides, the tallest church in Paris housing the tombs of some of France’s war heroes, most notably Napoleon. It’s easily my beloved’s favourite museum and one we last visited in April 2018.

J: Jardins de Paris

With some 480 parks and gardens, Paris’s green spaces offer something for everyone, covering more than 3,000 hectares and containing more than 250,000 trees. Two of Paris’s oldest and most famous gardens are the Tuileries Garden (created in 1564 for the Tuileries Palace and redone by André Le Nôtre between 1664 and 1672) and the Luxembourg Garden, for the Luxembourg Palace, built for Marie de Medici in 1612, which today houses the Senate. The Jardin des plantes was the first botanical garden in Paris, created in 1626 by Louis XIII’s doctor Guy de La Brosse for the cultivation of medicinal plants.

Between 1853 and 1870, Emperor Napoleon III and the city’s first director of parks and gardens, Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand, created the Bois de Boulogne, Bois de Vincennes, Parc Montsouris and Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, located at the four points of the compass around the city, as well as many smaller parks, squares and gardens. Since 1977, the city has created 166 new parks, most notably the Parc de la Villette (1987), Parc André Citroën (1992), Parc de Bercy (1997) and Parc Clichy-Batignolles (2007). One of the newest parks, the Promenade des Berges de la Seine (2013), is built on a former highway on the left bank of the Seine between the Pont de l’Alma and the Musée d’Orsay, which has floating gardens and a view of the city’s landmarks.

K: Avenue Kléber

In the 16th arrondissement, it’s one of the 12 avenues leading out of the Arc de Triomphe. It was named after Jean Baptiste Kléber, a French general during the French Revolutionary Wars. Before 1879, it was called l’avenue du Roi-de-Rome, in memory of Napoleon II. It is lined with grand examples of the type of  buildings favoured by Baron Haussmann, particularly The Peninsula hotel at Number 19 (pictured above).

L: Librarie 7L

Bookshops are often my first point of call and this one located in 7th arrandissement, not far from Saint Germain des Prés and the Musée d’Orsay was created in 1999 by Karl Lagerfeld and provides a step inside the creative mind of the late bibliophile and fashion designer. The selection follows Lagerfeld’s own interests: photography, design, architecture, and interior design, fashion catalogues and monographs, plus a collection of books published under his own imprint. In addition, there is a large choice of books on gardens, landscapes, as well as beautiful cookery books. Lagerfeld was known for his home library, which was stacked from floor to ceiling with books spanning genres. This is an extension of that wonderful world.

M: Métro

Paris’ mass transport system is known for its density within the city limits, uniform architecture and unique entrances influenced by Art Nouveau. It is mostly underground and 214 kilometres (133 miles) long with 302 stations. It’s the second busiest metro system in Europe, after the Moscow Metro. The first line opened without ceremony in 1900, during the World Fair (Exposition Universelle). The system expanded quickly until WWI and the core was complete by the 1920s. The network reached saturation after WWII with new trains to allow higher traffic, but further improvements have been limited by the design of the network and in particular the short distances between stations.


Part II follows tomorrow.

Sculpture Saturday #19

You’ll find La Fontaine des Spheres or Spherades in the Galerie d’Orleans section of the garden within the Palais Royale, Paris. Sculpted by Belgium Pol Bury (1922 – 2005) the stainless steel spheres form a kinetic fountain which, with its mirror finish, reflects the architecture of its magnificent surroundings.

This challenge used to be hosted by the Mind over Memory blogger but, sadly, he no longer has the time. However, I take loads of photos of statues and sculptures so I’m pressing on regardless!

Share a photo of a sculpture – go on, give it a go, you know you want to!

Sculpture Saturday #13

This equestrian statue of Louis XIII is made from marble and was done Jean-Pierre Cortot (1821). It’s been on duty in the centre of Square Louis-XIII (Place des Vosges) since 1825, replacing an earlier statue, commissioned by Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu which was destroyed during the French Revolution.

If you want to join in this challenge hosted by the Mind over Memory blogger:-

  • Share a photo of a sculpture
  • Link to the Mind over Memory’s post for Saturday Sculpture

Go on, give it a go, you know you want to!

Sculpture Saturday #1

I’m kicking off participation in this challenge hosted by the Mind over Memory blogger with a pretty iconic example.

I’m always looking for fun challenges and I’ve decided I might as well join in with this one.

If you’d also like to take part:-

  • Share a photo of a sculpture
  • Link to the Mind over Memory’s post for Saturday Sculpture

Go on, give it a go, you know you want to!

Thursday doors #55

We return to Paris, this time to the Père-Lachaise Cemetery where there are doors aplenty!

Architect Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart won the commission to design the cemetery, a prestigious honour never before bestowed on either an architect or landscape designer. No expense was spared and no extravagance overlooked in creating the winding streets of this citiscape which became a revolutionary concept in memorial parks, with statuary, chapels, and mausoleums designed by the leading artisans of the day, rivaling works in both museums and private collections.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Thursday doors #52

With Paris being such fertile territory for doors, here are a few more:-

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Thursday doors #51

With Paris being such fertile territory for doors, here are a few more:-




Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).