A Hidden Marais Garden Open Only On Weekends

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One of Paris’s most delightful parks—the Clos des Blancs-Manteaux in the Marais–is definitely one of the City of Light’s most hidden treasures. Many visitors stumble across Clos des Blancs-Manteaux by complete accident. And that’s entirely because they’re in the right place at precisely the right time. Why is timing so important? Because this lush three-tiered park is open only on weekends due to its location in a courtyard shared with an adjacent preschool. But it’s definitely worth a special weekend trip. Continue Reading →

A Hidden Paris Gem: Palais-Royal Gardens

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One of Paris’s most serene public parks is one not often visited by tourists to the City of Light—the gardens of the Palais-Royal, directly north of the Louvre in the 1st Arrondissement. Why is it such a secret gem? First, the Palais-Royal itself is not commonly visited by tourists—or even Parisians themselves. The former royal palace today is home mostly to a host of French bureaucracies and administrative offices. And second, the garden—though very large—is part of an entirely enclosed courtyard in the center of the complex, making it nearly invisible to passers-by. And that’s a shame because its beautiful fountain, gorgeous landscaping and iconic double rows of perfectly manicured trees lining long promenades combine to create the quintessential Parisian green space. Continue Reading →

A Salute to Louis XIV at Place des Victoires

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A little-visited but still quite scenic—and historic—site in Paris’s 1st Arrondissement is the Place des Victoires, a circular “square” that was created to honor King Loius XIV. Place des Victoires is a short walk from the more popular Palais Royal, but few tourists make their way to this locale. And that’s mostly because aside from a large statue of Louis in the center of the circle, there’s no real “sight” to see. That’s a shame, because the circle has delightful 17th century architecture and, for history buffs, roots stretching back to the French royal House of Bourbon, and links to the French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte. Continue Reading →

Hotel de Sens: A Marvelous Medieval Marais Mansion

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Paris is nirvana for lovers of art and architecture. It seems like every new street corner unveils another marvel, some totally unexpected. This is one of the true joys of visiting the City of Light—suddenly stumbling upon a beautiful old building, statue, park or street art that warms the heart and sparks the spirit. One of the best of these surprises is when wandering the streets of the Marais near the Seine and suddenly catching a glimpse of the gorgeous stone mansion Hotel de Sens—what can only be described as a stately medieval castle, complete with turrets, spires and grand stone arches. And it is accurate to depict the Hotel de Sens as medieval, as its construction as a private mansion began in 1475, the tail end of the Middle Ages. In fact, the Hotel de Sens is one of only three medieval residences remaining in all of Paris. Continue Reading →

Rue Quincampoix: A Perfect Medieval Parisian Street

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One of the most enjoyable experiences in Paris is to wander along a medieval, cobblestone lane lined with ancient stone buildings and massive arched doorways that is so narrow that is seems barely able to accommodate a Smart Car, much less any other modern mode of transportation. Yes, you can certainly meander the City of Light’s many streets—particularly those in the twisty, turny Marais—to find your own favorite byways to stroll. Actually, one of the most popular tourist experiences is “getting lost” in Paris’s charming neighborhoods and stumbling across that perfect Parisian street on your own. But there’s a quaint, ancient lane that’s literally within a stone’s throw of a major tourist destination that somehow escapes most visitors’ attentions—and yet delivers wholly on that medieval Parisian experience: the tiny Rue Quincampoix just west of the Pompidou Center. And it’s well worth a visit. 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 →

A Serious Museum Examining Sex and Sexuality

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Paris is bursting at the seams with museums and galleries. And among the City of Light’s 175 public and private museums are several unconventional collections, including the Musee de l’Erotisme (Museum of Eroticism). And let’s set the record straight: This unusual seven-level exhibition space in Paris’s Pigalle district is a serious museum, not a prurient tourist trap. The artifacts on display, amassed since the 1960s by cultural anthropologists Alain Plumey and Joseph Khalifa, date back to the 1st century A.D. and provide a fascinating examination of the roles that sex and sexuality have played in numerous cultures and civilizations during the past two millennia. Continue Reading →

Saint Gervais, a Gorgeous Out-of-the-Way Church

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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 of my favorites of these less-visited sites is also one of the oldest churches in Paris (it’s roots going back to the 4th century)—Saint Gervais-Saint Protais, located just east of Hotel de Ville in the 4th Arrondissement. Continue Reading →