Paris; A Photographic Guide to Versailles and Sacré-Coeur

Sacre-Coeur
Sacre-Coeur

PALACE OF VERSAILLES, SACRE-COEUR, AND AERIAL VIEWS OF THE CITY

This is a photographic record in 3 pages of a 3 day vacation in Paris, focusing on the main tourist sites, and the challenges and possibilities for photographers. This is Page 2.

INTRODUCTION

In September 2011 I spent three days in the city of Paris, Capital of France, and regarded by many as the most romantic city on Earth. It was, as I say, only three days, so for me it became something of a whistle-stop tour, cramming as much into the time available, with my eye pressed too often to the viewfinder of my camera, when perhaps I should have been taking in the whole city panorama, and cementing memories of Paris in my mind. (But then, photography is my hobby, so that's what I do).

These pages are not an in-depth guide to the city (not possible after such a brief personal experience). The first two pages are a record of major attractions to be found in the heart of the city around the River Seine, and further afield towards the outskirts of the city. The pages also include accompanying notes on a few of the challenges involved in photographing these sites as seen from the point of view of an amateur with limited technical skills, but hopefully some compositional ability. The third page looks at some of the finer details of these attractions as these can also make excellent subjects for photography. The aim of all three pages is to encourage everyone to try a fresh approach to their photography when on vacation, and make the most of their holiday time in creating a lasting memory of the experience.

This page looks at two historic sites to be found towards the outskirts of Paris.

  • All photos on this page were taken by the author between 5th and 7th Sept 2011

The Golden Gateway which guards the entrance to the Palace of Versailles
The Golden Gateway which guards the entrance to the Palace of Versailles
Click thumbnail to view full-size
This is the main entrance to Versailles Palace via the Marble CourtyardThe building which houses the Hall of Mirrors as seen from the gardensThe South Wing photographed across the formal gardens of VersaillesLa Saone; a 17th century statue by Jean Baptiste Tuby with Versailles beyondThe South Wing of Versailles Palace with the gardens in the foreground
This is the main entrance to Versailles Palace via the Marble Courtyard
This is the main entrance to Versailles Palace via the Marble Courtyard
The building which houses the Hall of Mirrors as seen from the gardens
The building which houses the Hall of Mirrors as seen from the gardens
The South Wing photographed across the formal gardens of Versailles
The South Wing photographed across the formal gardens of Versailles
La Saone; a 17th century statue by Jean Baptiste Tuby with Versailles beyond
La Saone; a 17th century statue by Jean Baptiste Tuby with Versailles beyond
The South Wing of Versailles Palace with the gardens in the foreground
The South Wing of Versailles Palace with the gardens in the foreground

THE PALACE OF VERSAILLES

On the outskirts of southwest Paris stands the great Palace of Versailles, one of the most powerful expressions of regal indulgence and excess to be found anywhere on Earth. It was the 'Sun King' Louis XIV who decreed that the palace should be built - a place of splendour and glorification of himself. Built during the final decades of the 17th century and the early decades of the 18th, Versailles was to be his private home, as well as the court and administrative centre for all of France.

The Palace was barely completed by the time of Louis's death in 1715, and would remain the royal residence for just 74 years till the downfall of the monarchy during the French revolution of 1789. Then it was abandoned and many of the internal furnishings and works of art were sold off or rehoused in the Louvre. At this time Versailles could well have faced demolition, but eventually the building was reopened as an art museum, and restoration work in the 20th century returned the Palace to its former glory.

The Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles
Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Gardens of the Palace of Versailes, and the Grand Canal Buildings of the Royal Courtyard at the Palace of Versailles The exterior of the Hall of Mirrors as seen from the gardens behind the PalaceBuildings of the Royal Court at the Palace of VersaillesBuildings of the Royal Court and detail of the ornamental facade
The Gardens of the Palace of Versailes, and the Grand Canal
The Gardens of the Palace of Versailes, and the Grand Canal
Buildings of the Royal Courtyard at the Palace of Versailles
Buildings of the Royal Courtyard at the Palace of Versailles
The exterior of the Hall of Mirrors as seen from the gardens behind the Palace
The exterior of the Hall of Mirrors as seen from the gardens behind the Palace
Buildings of the Royal Court at the Palace of Versailles
Buildings of the Royal Court at the Palace of Versailles
Buildings of the Royal Court and detail of the ornamental facade
Buildings of the Royal Court and detail of the ornamental facade

THE GARDENS OF VERSAILLES

The gardens of Versailles are almost as famous as the Palace itself and were developed in tandem with the Palace under the direction of Louis XIV. Today the gardens range over 4 square kilometres and include a number of outbuildings and estates. The majority of tourists probably lack the time to explore too far away - a full day at least should be allowed for a tour - but there is plenty to see in the formalised statue adorned gardens, pools and fountains immediately behind the Palace.

The Gardens of Versailles and the South Wing of the Palace
The Gardens of Versailles and the South Wing of the Palace
Paintings, furnishings and sculpture, all have much to offer at Versailles
Paintings, furnishings and sculpture, all have much to offer at Versailles
The Queen's Chamber and bed where successive queens slept over 100 years. The last occupant was Marie-Antoinette who (briefly) escaped from the Palace during the revolution via a small door on the left of this room
The Queen's Chamber and bed where successive queens slept over 100 years. The last occupant was Marie-Antoinette who (briefly) escaped from the Palace during the revolution via a small door on the left of this room

PHOTOGRAPHING THE PALACE OF VERSAILLES

The Palace of Versailles is, from a photographer's standpoint, an ideal subject, where one could easily spend a day recording all aspects of this building and its grounds. The buildings are attractive, and the grounds are of course well maintained, and at the right time of year, extremely colourful. It's easy to photograph too, because the grounds are spacious and uncluttered, though of course it's not so easy to avoid a myriad of visitors getting in the way at the height of the tourist season. (More of my time is sometimes spent waiting for people to move out of the way than taking photos!)

The interior, however, is where the greatest and most personal history of the kings and queens of France is to be found. One thing for which we must be grateful is that photography is allowed inside the Palace as well as outside, as far too many museums and historic buildings seem to ban photography of their interiors these days. Inside the Palace of Versailles is one of the great collections of furnishings, paintings and decorative wall art in the world, and it's well worth spending as great much time as you can recording these.

Several photos of the internal décor and art of Versailles are to be found on Page 3 of this series.

' Abundance and Liberality' 1683. Ceiling painting from the Venus Room, created by Rene-Antoine Houasse. This is actually my favourite image from my time in Paris, due to the subtle beauty of the pastel shades. (All credit to M. Houasse - none to me)
' Abundance and Liberality' 1683. Ceiling painting from the Venus Room, created by Rene-Antoine Houasse. This is actually my favourite image from my time in Paris, due to the subtle beauty of the pastel shades. (All credit to M. Houasse - none to me)
Click thumbnail to view full-size
The church of Sacré-CoeurThe Church of Sacré-CoeurThe Church of Sacré-CoeurThe Church of Sacré-CoeurThe Church of Sacré-Coeur
The church of Sacré-Coeur
The church of Sacré-Coeur
The Church of Sacré-Coeur
The Church of Sacré-Coeur
The Church of Sacré-Coeur
The Church of Sacré-Coeur
The Church of Sacré-Coeur
The Church of Sacré-Coeur
The Church of Sacré-Coeur
The Church of Sacré-Coeur

SACRE-COEUR

Sited nearly 3 km to the north of the River Seine, the second great building on this page is every bit as much a symbol of modern Paris as the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe. The hill of Montmartre rises130m above the surrounding city, and perched upon the top of it, utterly distinctive in its white travertine limestone glory, is the pimply multi-domed basilica of Sacré-Coeur - the Sacred Heart Church. Construction of the Catholic church began in 1875, and ever since its completion in 1914, Sacré-Coeur has been - with the Eiffel Tower - the most visible of all Paris's landmarks.

Indubitably one of the most distinctive churches in the world, Sacré-Coeur unsurprisingly polarises opinion into those who love it and those who loathe it. It is, however, one of the must-see sights of Paris, deserving at least half a day to take in the church and also the legendary artists’ quarter of Paris which is to be found around the base of the church on Montmartre.

The domes and turrets of Sacré-Coeur
The domes and turrets of Sacré-Coeur
The church of Sacré-Coeur
The church of Sacré-Coeur
The Church of Sacré-Coeur
The Church of Sacré-Coeur

PHOTOGRAPHING SACRE-COEUR

It's not difficult to take photos of Sacré-Coeur, but we can use the building as an example of how to think about your images. Take a look at all the images here (and there's 7 or 8 which show most or all of the domes and the bulk of the building). All are different. Some are taken in relative close-up, some are more panoramic, the sky varies in tone, and some use the presence of trees to frame the building or obscure part of the background that I didn't want to include.

I'm not making any claim for any of these pictures - there are plenty of better pics on the Internet. The point is - there's 7 or 8 - and a whole lot more I discarded. In these days of digital imaging, taking pictures is cheap. You don't have to be satisfied with one shot. Take lots, from different angles with different lenses. Make sure you make the most of that once in a lifetime opportunity when travelling. (I didn't, because I left my wide-angle lens at home which was a stupid mistake). You can always chuck the rubbish once you're back in your hotel room. Take as many images as you can and keep thinking as you take them about alternative perspectives you could try.

The Paris skyline looking north from the Montparnasse Tower towards the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Hotel des Invalides
The Paris skyline looking north from the Montparnasse Tower towards the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Hotel des Invalides
The Montparnasse Tower as seen from the Jardin du Luxembourg. The outdoor viewing platform is shielded with glass (or clear plastic?), but with ample wide gaps to allow for clear viewing and photography
The Montparnasse Tower as seen from the Jardin du Luxembourg. The outdoor viewing platform is shielded with glass (or clear plastic?), but with ample wide gaps to allow for clear viewing and photography

AERIAL VIEWS OF PARIS

We will conclude this page with some aerial views of Paris.But from where to take them? Well, from a high-rise tower of course. But perhaps not the obvious one. Thousands of people ascend the Eiffel Tower each day, and those with the energy and a good heart can walk up much of the way. But there's three problems - there's a long long queue, it's expensive, and there's one building you can't see from the top - the Eiffel Tower itself.

2 km south is a big black office block which caused some controversy when it was built in the early 1970s. The Montparnasse Tower, was considered by some an eyesore, and a very big one - at 210m (689 ft) high, it is Paris's third tallest building. But there is an indoor viewing platform on the 56th floor (with a gift shop and a restaurant), and an outdoor platform on the 59th - ideal for photographing the city.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
View from Montparnasse. This image to the northeast includes the Palais and Jardin du Luxembourg top right, and the Church of Saint Sulpice to the top leftView from Montparnasse. This image  eastnortheast includes the Palais and Jardin du Luxembourg in the centre, and Notre Dame at the topView from Montparnasse east to the Montparnasse cemetery, which includes the graves of Jean-Paul Sartre, Susan Sontag and Camille Saint-SaënsView from Montparnasse. This image to the north includes the dome of Les invalides, the Esplanade des Invalides, Grand Palais top right, and Arc de Triomphe top leftView from Montparnasse. This image to the south includes the junction of Gare Montparnasse, the train station serving the south of Paris
View from Montparnasse. This image to the northeast includes the Palais and Jardin du Luxembourg top right, and the Church of Saint Sulpice to the top left
View from Montparnasse. This image to the northeast includes the Palais and Jardin du Luxembourg top right, and the Church of Saint Sulpice to the top left
View from Montparnasse. This image  eastnortheast includes the Palais and Jardin du Luxembourg in the centre, and Notre Dame at the top
View from Montparnasse. This image eastnortheast includes the Palais and Jardin du Luxembourg in the centre, and Notre Dame at the top
View from Montparnasse east to the Montparnasse cemetery, which includes the graves of Jean-Paul Sartre, Susan Sontag and Camille Saint-Saëns
View from Montparnasse east to the Montparnasse cemetery, which includes the graves of Jean-Paul Sartre, Susan Sontag and Camille Saint-Saëns
View from Montparnasse. This image to the north includes the dome of Les invalides, the Esplanade des Invalides, Grand Palais top right, and Arc de Triomphe top left
View from Montparnasse. This image to the north includes the dome of Les invalides, the Esplanade des Invalides, Grand Palais top right, and Arc de Triomphe top left
View from Montparnasse. This image to the south includes the junction of Gare Montparnasse, the train station serving the south of Paris
View from Montparnasse. This image to the south includes the junction of Gare Montparnasse, the train station serving the south of Paris
View from Montparnasse looking north at the domed church of Les Invalides
View from Montparnasse looking north at the domed church of Les Invalides

THE CITY OF PARIS - WHAT CAN YOU SEE IN 3 DAYS ?

This concludes my review of the major historic buildings and photographic attractions of Paris, though in Page 3, I will write about and illustrate some of the other aspects of architectural photography, with examples from Paris.

My visit to Paris was brief - just 3 days - and inevitably something has to suffer. As I don't have a deep, consuming interest in paintings and art forms other than photography, the interior of the Louvre had to be sacrificed for another day, as did the Musée d'Orsay and other museums. Indeed the Palace of Versailles was the only centre for art that I ventured into. However, I could not spend so long in the gardens of Versailles as I would have liked. Some other attractions also received scant attention. In Page 3 I include images of stained glass taken at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, but the Church of Sainte-Chappelle, also on the Ile de la Cite, reputably has some of the best stained glass windows to be seen anywhere. The Paris Opera House is also worthy of a visit.

The other problem with a short visit is that one is at the mercy of the weather. I was, for the most part, lucky, but at times such as during a visit to the Eiffel Tower, the sky was less than kind to photographers. Try to plan your trip but be flexible, according to the weather - if you can, pick sunny days for walking the streets, and save the dreary days for the museums and galleries.

MAP SHOWING THE LOCATION OF VERSAILLES AND SACRE-COEUR IN RELATION TO THE ILE DE LA CITE AND THE SEINE

show route and directions
A markerIle de la Cite -
Cité, 75004 Paris, France
[get directions]

B markerPalace of Versailles -
Versailles, France
[get directions]

C markerChurch of Sacre-Coeur -
Basilique du Sacre-Coeur, 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris, France
[get directions]

A GROUP TOUR, OR DO YOUR OWN THING ?

How to get the most out of a short break like this to a city like Paris? How to visit the most sites and get the best photos? Is it best to go your own way, or travel as part of a group?

The advantage of a tour group is several-fold. If you are an inexperienced traveller or lack confidence (particularly in a land with a foreign tongue) then a tour not only relieves you of the headache of organisation, it may help greatly with avoiding mistakes either of a financial nature or of a time management nature. The tour guide will be able to give useful information about all aspects of the country, currency, customs, finding your way around the transport systems, and he/she may also be able to negotiate the best deals for group bookings etc. Above all, on a short break like this one, the well organised tour will offer the most efficient way to get from A to B so you can experience the most possible on your visit. (Too often in the past when left to my own devices, I've wasted hours pouring over maps, or deciphering road signs, losing my way, or visiting attractions when the queues are the longest or the doors are closing).

On the other hand, tours cater for the group, not the individual. Not everyone wants to spend hours taking photos, or seek out obscure but artistically interesting subject matter. Many is the time I've been waiting patiently for the Sun to come out from behind a cloud, or for some annoying individual to move out of the way of my perfect, award-winning shot, whilst the tour group has been wandering off into the distance. As a result I've regretfully had to abandon the picture or take a less than satisfactory image. Many is the time also that I've spotted something through a coach window whilst driving along at 50mph which would make a great photo, but the driver and guide have a schedule to keep and others to think about.

I think the answer, unless you really know what you're doing, is aim for a happy compromise; an organised group visit with a guide, but with plenty of free time to do your own thing, and no obligation to stay with the group.

THANKS TO SARAH AND SANDRA

Thanks to Sarah Walsh for the loan of a guide book which helped to stop me getting lost in France, and which also provided some info for these pages.

Thanks to Sandra Treagus who provided a little company during my 3 days in Paris. Sandra, if I remember right, wasn't so keen on the Eiffel Tower as I was, so I dedicate all the pictures of the Tower on these 3 pages to her, in the real hope I can persuade her it's by far the most attractive building in Paris! (But she's an artist so she probably knows what she's talking about) http://sandratreagus.com/

CLOSING REMARKS

I hope that this page and the preceding page which covers the sites closer to the city centre will give those who are unfamiliar with Paris, a helpful overview of the buildings and the history which make France's capital one of the great cities of Europe. And I hope that the photographic notes are also of some value to those who would like to create a permanent and attractive record of their visit to Paris.

This concludes my review of the major historic buildings and photographic attractions, though in Page 3 I will write about and illustrate some other aspects of architectural photography, with examples from Paris.

More by this Author


PLEASE ADD COMMENTS IF YOU WILL. THANKS, ALUN 16 comments

Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 7 months ago from Essex, UK Author

visite parisienne; Thank you for your message, and for the information about guided tours. In any city with a long and colourful history like Paris, there are many sites and many stories to be investigated beyond the most familiar landmarks like Versailles and Sacré-Coeur, and perhaps a local tour is a great way to investigate these sites and stories. Alun


visite parisienne profile image

visite parisienne 8 months ago from Paris

A very documented hub, congrats. I will look at yours others sites related!

About the guided tours, I often have the same debate with relatives. A French acquaitnance once advised me a tour with the agency: www.desmotsetdesarts.com/offres/visites-guidees-paris

It is nice, afforbale and with really high level guides.

I talk about it in my hub too as I really appreiated the experience.


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Thanks so much oceansnsunsets for viewing this hub and leaving such a generous comment.

Hope you do get the chance to visit Paris sometime, because certainly it is a city well worthy of a visit. Considering I only live across the channel in England, there's so many great European cities I haven't visited at least since I was a child, and I must make the effort to see and photograph a few more of them.

Once again, thanks, and glad you liked the page.


oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 5 years ago from The Midwest, USA

This hub on Paris is stunning. I absolutely love the photos you included here, and it makes me want to visit there more than ever before. I actually had no idea of all the beauty and the intensity of it until I saw your photos. I had more of just a general idea. What a great way to share some beauty with the world. I really loved this hub and look forward to reading more and seeing more of your photos in the future. :)


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Until 3 years ago I was still taking transparencies Claudia, and even today I do prefer the bright, vibrant colour of a transparency. But there is no doubt that digital photography allows so much more flexibility and opportunity to achieve different effects when taking photos, and no worries about the cost of the photographs either. Perhaps most significant of all is the ability to see what you've taken, before you return home, when it's too late to repeat the shot.

Thanks for your comment Claudia


Claudia Tello profile image

Claudia Tello 5 years ago from Mexico

When I went to Paris I still used the analogue camera and I bet it would have been a richer photographic experience in this new digital era which I absolutely love.


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Hyphenbird, glad you liked the photos of Paris. I appreciate your really nice comments. Cheers. Alun.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

Just beautiful photographs! The golden gate is so glorious and indeed I loved all of them. And the information is interesting also. Thanks!


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Kitty;

I am so glad you wrote. Hope you will talk sometime. But thank you for your comment.

Take care. Alun


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Duchess OBlunt; thank you for your comments.

It's always good to get an aerial view of any city one visits - it puts all the sites into some sort of geographical perspective.

Sounds like your son did things the right way - preparation before a trip helps prevent mistakes and ensures the best use of one's time. But it's often the case that some unexpected experience or view proves to be the highlight rather than the much touted attractions!

Finally, you say 'if I were able to travel'. Whatever the reasons you cannot, I truly hope the opportunity arises in the future. If it doesn't, well I suspect you've discovered there's plenty of interest as well in one's own backyard and local region.

Thanks.


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Derdriu; I'm sure you're correct - 'Tour First' is on the right of the 'La Defense' district of skyscrapers at the top of the picture. Apart from the Eiffel Tower, it's the only building taller than 'Tour Montparnasse', though I believe plans are in the pipeline for some other very tall buildings.

I just hope they don't build one that robs the Eiffel Tower of its No 1 status. That would be unforgiveable!

Thanks as always Derdriu


LoverKitty profile image

LoverKitty 5 years ago

beautiful city....I know you will happy for this tirp

take care


Duchess OBlunt 5 years ago

It seems you have chosen some great shots to share with us. I enjoyed them all, but like the areal shots the most. They are so "busy" and show the bigger picture. Although, I do enjoy the details too.

My son just came back from his trip to Ireland. It was a 10 day whirlwind - at least that's the impression I got when he talked about it.

They chose to go it alone and spent hours on the internet and pouring over guide books for the best spots.

Oddly enough, their favourite spot was not on their list of things to see.

If I were able to travel, I think I would like to spend a week in one area. Spend time getting the know the people, listen to their stories and take whatever shots present themselves.


Derdriu 5 years ago

Greensleeves Hubs: Thank you for the architectural tour and aerial view of some of Paris' most historic and recognizable buildings. It is great fun to click on and thereby enlarge the panoramic shots: Does the skyline view include Tour First/First Tower in the distant right from the Tour Eiffel/Eiffel Tower? Additionally, your Montparnasse view to the north includes, towards the lower right corner, a building at whose top is extensive green roofing!

Thank you for the gorgeous photos, which work so well with your helpful, insightful observations.

Voted up, etc.,

Derdriu


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 5 years ago from Essex, UK Author

Thank you Stevarino for visiting and commenting. Certainly you're right about the advantages of going it alone, and in Paris the ease of using the Metro was a pleasant surprise, which made that an easier option. By nature I know I tend to be wary of finding my way around, even though I am now used to travel, so I tend to prefer going with a group - but only if it's a group which I can sometimes escape from. On this trip I went with a company called Riviera Travel but apart from the two visits on this page to Sacre-Coeur and Versailles, a brief sight-seeing coach tour and an evening show, I spent most of my time walking the streets alone.


stevarino profile image

stevarino 5 years ago from East Central Indiana

Great hub, brings back fond memories! Dad and I walked to the Montmarte area and took some photos of the Basilica. We walked over a bridge spanning a cemetery nearby, Dad said it was where Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Jim Morrison, etc... were, but I found out decades later that that was not the correct cemetery. They are in Pere LaChaisse to the east. I also found that going it alone was more of a learning experience than staying with the touristos. I tried to lose myself on the metro one evening, but couldn't because it's so well marked and color coded. That was still the highlight of my experience there.

Thanks for the article!

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