Le Grand Palais: A Lot More Than Just a Pretty Photo

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Here’s a paradox that is very specific to the City of Light: One of Paris’s buildings that is among the most photographed by sight-seers is also one of the city’s facilities that is least visited by tourists. If you’ve been to Paris, chances are you’ve had a glimpse (and taken multiple photos) from Les Invalides, the Orsay Museum, the Champs Elysees or especially from the ornate Pont Alexandre III. Any guesses what it might be? Continue Reading →

Marais Museum Chronicles History of French Jews

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There are more than 150 museums in the City of Light, ranging from tiny exhibitions to huge world-renowned institutions like the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay. But many Parisian museums fall between the obscure and the famous, and one of the most interesting of these is the Musee d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaisme/MAHJ (Museum of Jewish Art and History). The museum, housed in an historic 17th century Marais mansion, chronicles the rich and sometimes very complex history of Jews throughout Europe and North Africa—with a specific focus on French Jews—from the Middle Ages to present day through its world-class collection of paintings, sculpture, religious objects, manuscripts, textiles and historic documents. Some of the most fascinating artifacts are nearly 800 years old. Continue Reading →

Place des Vosges: Paris’s Most Beautiful Square

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There are many beautiful parks, squares and “places” throughout Paris, each with its own special charm. But ask a Parisian–or even a visitor to the City of Light–to name Paris’s most beautiful square, and the answer is routinely the Place des Vosges. Continue Reading →

Old-World and Jewish Goodies at Sacha Finkelsztajn

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Prior to World War II, the Marais was the center of Jewish life in Paris and the Rue des Rosiers (Street of the Rose Bushes) was the heart of this Jewish enclave. But much has changed in the old Jewish quarter over the past 70 years. The street now boasts considerably more trendy and overpriced boutiques (even a number of international chain stores) than Jewish businesses. But there are still remnants of Paris’s once-thriving Jewish district along the five block-long street and its adjacent lanes: the Agudath Hakehilot orthodox synagogue, Judaica bookstores Librairie Bibliophane and Diasporama, and a number of kosher restaurants and delis. A must-stop destination among these is Sacha Finkelsztajn, a bakery and delicatessen dubbed by locals as La Boutique Jaune (the yellow shop)—so-named because of its bright yellow facade—that’s been operated by the same family for nearly 60 years. Continue Reading →

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 →

Free Exhibit Chronicles Paris’s 20th Century History

Paris, 1953. By Marc Riboud © Marc Riboud/Magnum Photos

A free exhibit of 150 photographs chronicling the sometimes turbulent history of Paris, its residents, and its challenges and triumphs throughout the 20th century has just been extended by a month so that Parisians and visitors to the City of Light can experience the region’s rich history as seen through the lenses of some of the world’s best photojournalists. Titled “Paris Magnum,” the exhibition includes images taken by 30 photographers from the renowned Magnum photo agency. The photo display, which opened just before last Christmas, was originally scheduled to conclude on March 27, but recently was extended an additional month through April 25. Continue Reading →

Eiffel Renovations Include Glass Floor. Sacre Bleu!

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Renovations of the first level of the Eiffel Tower wrapped up this week, and they include a new feature that is wowing (and in some cases terrifying!) tourists: A glass floor 57 meters above the ground that one can walk across–or, as the case seems to be, lie on to take selfies. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo opened the new attraction this week, telling CNN that the project is helping Paris reinvent itself “without ruining our history.” She christened the new see-through-floor with a series of Twitter messages in several languages inviting tourists to pay a visit to the Eiffel Tower to check out the nearly $39 million in renovations, which also include shops, restaurants, a new museum and newly installed safety railings that provide better views of the City of Light. Continue Reading →

Summer Trip to Paris? Don’t Miss the Tuileries Garden

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Travelers to the City of Light definitely should not miss a chance to visit one of Paris’s many parks during the summer when then weather is warm and sunny, the trees are lush and rustling in the breezes off the Seine, and Parisians show up in force for picnics, sunbathing and to just stroll through and relax in these urban oases. One of my favorites is right in the heart of “Visitor’s Paris”–the Jardin des Tuilieries, which connects the Louvre with the Place de la Concorde. Continue Reading →

Golden Statue Near the Louvre Honors Joan of Arc

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Visitors to the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens are often surprised to stumble across a glittering gold statue of a soldier on horseback, seemingly guarding the posh Hotel Regina that overlooks the area. And many snap pics of the equestrian sculpture without ever really knowing that they’ve captured the likeness of Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc), a peasant from northeast France who became a commander in the French military and led several victories over the invading English forces during the Hundred Years’ War. Today, Jeanne d’Arc is a martyr of the Catholic Church and one of the nine patron saints of France. Continue Reading →