Saint Etienne du Mont: A Gothic Gem

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There are many huge—and hugely popular—churches in Paris that make it onto most tourists’ must-see lists: Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Saint Sulpice, etc. But the City of Light is home to more than 125 churches, and some of the most interesting and most beautiful are among the less-popular and out-of-the-way houses of worship. One that’s definitely worth a visit is Saint Etienne du Mont in the Latin Quarter just a block from the more-often toured Pantheon. Why should you add Saint Etienne to your sight-seeing itinerary? Not only does the church’s history stretch back more than 1,500 years but it also contains the shrine of Saint Genevieve, the patron saint of the City of Paris. And it’s one of the rare churches in the world (outside of Italy) where two Popes have held Mass. Continue Reading →

Book a Stay Where Oscar Wilde Spent His Final Days

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Paris is a treasure trove for lovers of literature. The City of Light has been home—permanent or temporary—to novelists, playwrights and poets for centuries, including some of the best-known scribes of all time: Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Balzac, Victor Hugo and many, many more. And tourists can visit museums, homes, cafes and clubs linked with many of them. But one particular writer has a particular draw for many visitors to Paris: Oscar Wilde. And while lovers of other authors can dine where their heroes once ate, drink at the bars they frequented and view the buildings the called home, Wilde fans are offered a particular City of Light treat: They can book a stay in the hotel room where Wilde spent his final years—and where he died—in drunken exile. Continue Reading →

Quirky, Kinetic Fountain Honors Composer Stravinksy

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In addition to visiting Paris’s futuristic Pompidou Center, many tourists also enjoy the next-door Fontaine Stravinsky (Stravinsky Fountain), a quirky, kinetic public fountain designed to honor composer Igor Stravinsky, a Russian composer—later a naturalized French citizen—considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century. The Paris fountain that honors the composer was created in 1983 by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, known for his kinetic-art pieces, and his wife, French sculptor, painter and filmmaker Niki de Saint Phalle. The 580-square-meter basin is ornamented with 16 pieces of sculpture and water-movement installations that represent 16 of Stravinsky’s works, including those from his best-known ballet “The Rite of Spring.” Continue Reading →

Marais Institution Makes Europe’s Best Falafel

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If you’ve ever visited the Marais—specifically the Jewish neighborhood along the Rue des Rosiers—you’ve undoubtedly seen the long lines at Middle Eastern restaurant L’As du Fallafel. And virtually everyone orders the falafel pita—deep-fried balls of ground chickpeas seasoned with garlic and other spices and covered with fried eggplant, pickled red cabbage, hummus, hot sauce, cucumbers and tahini. This house specialty even led to the restaurant’s slogan “Toujours imite, jamais egale (Always imitated, never equaled)”—and draws raves from both locals and tourists who say the falafel is the best in Europe. Continue Reading →

Paris Is Home to Europe’s Largest Science Museum

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Cite des Sciences et de l’Industrie, one of the biggest museums in Paris—and, in fact, the largest science museum in all of Europe—is rarely visited by tourists, likely due to its location on the very outer edge of the distant 19th Arrondissement and the fact that there’s not much else to see in the blandly residential district. But that’s a shame, because the museum is terrifically entertaining and even offers occasional IMAX films and planetarium presentations in English (or with English subtitles). And more than 5 million annual visitors can attest to the universal appeal the sleek, modern and highly informative science center has for both adults and children alike. Continue Reading →

Off the Beaten Path: The Historic Square du Temple

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On the northernmost edge of the Marais is a fantastic public park that is quite literally an oasis in the midst of urban Paris—the Square du Temple. Because the Square is a considerable distance from any major tourist site, the garden and park is used almost exclusively by locals, particularly families living nearby. The park also provides a splendid view of the ornate Mairie du 3rd Arrondissement, the municipal offices for that district of the city. And for history buffs, the park occupies the site of a former fortified monastery of the Knights Templar and the infamous Tower of the Temple prison that served as the final “residence” of King Louis XVI before his execution. It’s well worth visiting, and is a short walk from the Musee des Arts et Metiers or from the Place de la Republique. Continue Reading →