Monday, 26 December 2016

What to see in Paris | Off the beaten track

Touristy Paris is relatively easy and quick to see - three days in the capital of 'joie de vivre' should suffice if you're after the classic trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower, snoop at the Orsay and selfie with the Notre Dame Cathedral. But I think no one should be content with seeing just that; not saying these attractions aren't good but they aren't particularly telling of the REAL Paris, the one you discover when you get lost or when you take a route less known.

Over the past four months I've had plenty a chance to a) see these overly crowded overly hyped touristy places and b) stray from the main boulevards and find some museums and places I would have never known of otherwise, thus drafting a list of all the cool places I'd like to show to friends who had already been and done the subpoint a) stuff.

Monet - Marmottan  Museum
closed Mondays; paying

 In the lovely 'bourgeois' 16th arrondissement, this house turned museum houses the biggest collection of Monet's art, complete with a beautiful circular room with waterlily paintings. The upstairs preserves art collectionner Marmottan's interior which is late neoclassical.

Sculpture gallery and Objets d'art @ Louvre
closed Tuesdays; paying & free for under 25 EU

 All of the Louvre should be on your list but God knows it takes a good few full days to really see it. However, whilst crowds flock to see the Mona Lisa which is (in my humble opinion) overrated you should turn left to the Richelieu wing and start by visiting the 'outdoor' sculpture halls and then go upstairs to admire the amazing art objects section with stunning artefacts from Louis XIV and Louis XV eras.

Musée de l'Orangerie 
closed Tuesdays; paying & free for under 25 EU (- temporary exhibitions)

Enjoy the pinnacle of impressionistic atmospheres in Monet's Waterlily rooms where they sometimes play piano to really set the mood. A perfect stop along the way if you're in the 1st arrondissement and have already visited the Orsay Museum.

Château de Fontainebleau
closed Tuesdays; paying & free for under 25 EU; UNESCO listed

Technically not in Paris, this chateau is often overlooked but not by those who (want to) know their stuff. If you've already seen Versailles (HERE) and Chantilly (HERE) then this should be next on your list: a main royal residence since the middle ages, it houses some of the best artworks of French Renaissance in the country and splendid interiors that can rival the best of them.

Opera Garnier
booking required

A once in a lifetime fairytale experience, visiting the Opera is a must if you're into Parisian Belle Epoque grandeur. Fun fact, there are working fountains inside because there's a river/water tank underneath the foundations (hence the Phantom of the Opera gondola scene). Just an example of the fun facts they tell you on the tour.

Musée Jacquemart - André
open every day; paying

 This is my kind of museum all the way. Nestled on Haussmann boulevard very near the Arch of Triumph, the house of 19th century power-couple Jacquemart-André still preserves their amazing art and furniture collection. The highlights? A Fragonard galant scene, a 19th century living room with automated walls that sunk into the ground to create a larger ballroom and the 'Winter Room' full of palm trees. 

Hôtel de Sully
booking only

 The ultimate destination if you're also intrigued by the phenomenon of hôtel particuliers, of which most remain unchanged since the 1600s in the Marais district, the Sully residence is a prime example. Hey, if it was good enough for Voltaire to visit, I think it'll do just fine. It is now the HQ for the centre of heritage conservation but with prior booking you can have a peek into the upstairs rooms. 

Picasso Museum
closed Mondays; paying & free for under 25 EU

 For fans of modern art this should be a no-brainer: the only Picasso museum outside Spain is the ideal stop. At the moment they're running an exhibition showing the special relationship between the artist and Giacometti but the permanent collection is always displayed upstairs anyway. 

Atelier Brancusi
closed Tuesdays; open from 2pm to 6pm; free

 This should go without saying, you NEED to see this when in Paris and you have no excuse, it's free and right in front of the Pompidou Centre. It's a faithful recreation of Brancusi's studio which he left, together with his works, to the French state. It was so serene and beautiful it brought a tear to my eye.

Musee en Herbe
open every day; paying 

 Their tag line is 'the only museum for 4 year olds to 103 year olds'. And they're not wrong, this is the perfect kid-friendly museum where adults won't be bored out of their minds. They had a surprisingly meaty exhibition with Le Chat cartoons by Gelluck which were clever reinterpretations of famous art works. A really great find!

Palais Tokyo
closed until Feb 2017; open every day otherwise; paying

 An unconventional space with unusual shows, this is for those quirky tourists who want to look further than classic chic Paris. Think existential, black turtleneck crowds - it's a very hip place with a cool vibe and an equally good café apparently.

Cité de l'architecture
closed Mondays and Tuesdays; paying

 One of the most unexpected revelations during my stay was the Cité de l'architecture in the Trocadero centre opposite the Eiffel Tower. The refurbished space unorthodoxly shelters bits and pieces of architecture, from full Gothic arches to a full-scale replica of Le Corbusier's apartment models for La Cité Radieuse. For anyone interested in the way the Parisian skyline has changed with time!

La Sainte Chapelle
open every day; paying

 Sadly I was an absolute escargot-head and forgot to take my camera along the day we went to visit this and I am kicking myself for it every time I talk about La Sainte Chapelle and want to recommend it to someone. In my opinion, skip the Notre Dame queues all together and visit this 13th century gem of a chapel instead. The floor to ceiling vibrant (and original!) stained glass windows will take your breath away. Try to go at sundown for the full effect!

That's it, I'm out, all spent from listmaking to figure out what I'd put in this post. It's been a good distraction from the stomachache and Christmas food-coma nonetheless...

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