Paris, France: What to See & Do if You've Been There Before
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Paris only gets better with each visit. I just got back from a January trip and discovered three excellent museums during my stay- and the best part? No lines. All of them are located in neighborhoods where you can explore to your heart’s content after getting your art history fix.
Rule #1: Don’t be afraid to wander and get a bit “lost” in any of the city’s old neighborhoods. Part of the beauty of being in a place so rich in history is discovering hidden treasures like tiny alleys, buildings that are centuries old, and friendly locals. It's okay if you don't speak French. Hand gestures, a sincere smile, and laughter goes very far. Be sure to enjoy the early happy hour specials, which usually offer discounted drink prices (and live music, if you're lucky).
Musée Carnavalet has an outstanding array of art and artifacts from Parisian history. The admission is free, but I advise leaving a contribution or you’ll feel guilty (yes, it’s that good). In addition to fine paintings, sculptures, and furnishings, one can trace the evolution of the iconic Chat Noir. The museum itself is actually one of the historic mansions in the Le Marais district- a perfect place to take a leisurely stroll and appreciate the fine architecture.
There are some cool vintage stores in the area, too, like Tilt Vintage Paris on 8 Rue de Rivoli, and The King of Fripp on 33 Rue du Roi de Sicile. Across from the latter is a trendy bar called Le Pick Clops (where Art Deco meets Kitsch) on 16 Rue Vieille du Temple. The staff and clientele are interesting and friendly. If you're feeling peckish, you can order a yummy croque-monsieur, and wash it down with a nice glass of wine or a refreshing pint of beer.
Musée de Cluny boasts an impressive medieval collection, including the famous tapestry series: The Lady and the Unicorn, which is literally jaw-dropping. Ivory drinking vessels, gilded reliquaries, and even board games are cleverly displayed within a castle that is located across from the Sorbonne.
Afterward, you can walk to the charming Latin Quarter where winding cobbled streets and quaint buildings make the perfect backdrop for photographs. This is the place to get a delicious crepe, or take advantage of free music and special drink prices for a fun happy hour.
We enjoyed amazing live jazz performances two nights in a row in the 6th arrondissement. The first was at the low-key Le Caméléon on 57 Rue Saint-André des Arts where we discovered Camille Bertault. What a performance, what a voice! The second night we enjoyed Jazz Manouche played by Brunard Connexion at the retro Le Dante on 2 Rue Dante. I've posted two videos below for your listening pleasure.
If you like impressionism, you’ve probably already visited the Musée d’Orsay. If you haven’t then GO. Afterward, you can pop into the Musée de l’Orangerie, which is located nearby inside the elegant Jardin des Tuileries (you can see the Eiffel Tower, Obelisk, and the Arc de Triomphe from the gardens).
Monet is the definitely the featured superstar, and two huge oval rooms featuring his waterlilies offers a unique 360 degree viewing experience. Downstairs there is a large collection of paintings by masters such as Renoir, Gaugin, Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso (to mention just a few).
Don’t feel obliged to eat French food all the time, either- especially if you’re going to be there for several days. There are many ethnic populations in Paris, and their restaurants offer wonderful dining experiences.
For example, I had exceptionally good pho at a little place called Délice House on 81 Rue St. Antoine (between Hotel de Ville and Bastille). The place is simple, but it gets very busy during lunch hour. A big bowl of steaming pho costs only 8,00 euro, and it was the perfect meal on a winter day.
MUSEUM WEBSITES (copy & paste into your browser):
I hope this article inspires you to tuck your map in your pocket and just revel in serendipity, which is exactly what going on holiday is all about. If you plan too much and then try to stick to a rigid itinerary, it will feel like work instead of play. Explore, be adventurous, keep and open mind, and good things will surely come your way. As always, thank you for reading.
C. De Melo
Author & Artist