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Things to Do in Île-de-France - page 4

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Gare du Nord
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Servicing over 700,000 passengers every day (for a total of 190 million a year) Gare du Nord is the busiest railway station in Europe—and the busiest in the world outside Japan. The building itself, with its neoclassical design and soaring skylights, is a magnificent mix of engineering prowess and aesthetic beauty.

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Musée de l'Orangerie
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Fronting the magnificent Jardin des Tuilieries and looking out across the Seine River, the Musée de l'Orangerie (Orangerie Museum) is situated in one of Paris’ most idyllic locations. The prestigious art museum is home to a number of masterpieces, but it’s most famous for its series of MonetWater Lilies paintings.

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Quai Branly Museum (Musée du Quai Branly)
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Built as a presidential monument to Jacques Chirac, the Quai Branly Museum (Musée du Quai Branly) is a museum in Paris that feature thousands of artifacts from indigenous cultures across the globe. In addition to permanent and temporary exhibitions, the museum houses a library, lecture hall, garden, rooftop terrace, and two cafes.

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Saint Étienne du Mont
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Located in the famed Latin Quarter, Saint Étienne du Mont (Église Saint-Étienne-du-Mont) is one of Paris’ most interesting churches. The Gothic-Renaissance–style structure features two unique spiral staircases and the only remaining rood screen—an ornate partition common in medieval churches that separates the clergy from the worshippers—in Paris.

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Palais de Justice
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Located on Île de la Cité, one of the two remaining natural islands in the River Seine, the Palais de Justice is what remains of the former Royal Palace. Situated between the Gothic royal Sainte-Chapelle chapel and the former Conciergerie prison, the Palais de Justice is infamous for its role as a public execution site during the French Revolution.

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Cluny Museum (Musée de Cluny)
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The Cluny Museum (Musée de Cluny) is a popular highlight of Paris’ Latin Quarter. Best known for its six-part Lady and the Unicorn tapestry cycle, the institution also contains thousands of other objects, from illuminated manuscripts to sculptures.

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Pont de l'Alma (Alma Bridge)
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Pont de l’Alma (Alma Bridge) is a Parisian bridge built in 1854 in commemoration of the Franco-British alliance’s victory over the Russian army during the Crimean War. The bridge underwent complete rebuilding in the 1970s in order to accommodate the rapidly increasing road and river traffic – only the statues were retained from the original structure. The arch bridge is now 42 meters large and 153 meters long, and links the right and left banks of the Seine River.

Pont de l’Alma offers splendid views of the Eiffel Tower and is often the go-to location for photographers wanting to capture Paris. What made the bridge a household name worldwide, however, is the role it played in Lady Diana’s death; indeed, she perished in a car crash at the entrance of the bridge’s tunnel in 1997. The Flame of Liberty at the bridge's north end has become an unofficial memorial to her memory.

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Rodin Museum (Musée Rodin)
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Housed in the 18th-century mansion of Hôtel Biron, the Rodin Museum (Musée Rodin) is devoted to the life and works of French sculptor Auguste Rodin, and displays more than 6,600 sculptures throughout its exhibition rooms and garden.

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Montparnasse Tower (Tour Montparnasse)
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A key element of Paris’ skyline, the Montparnasse Tower (Tour Montparnasse) stands in monolithic, modern contrast to the Hausmannian boulevards below. Debuted in 1973, the tower was France’s tallest building for decades; its stark look has caused controversy since its unveiling. Even still, there’s no arguing with the panoramic views visitors can glean from its observation deck.

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Dalí Paris
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There are plenty of galleries and museums in Paris dedicated to individual artists. But the Dalí Paris is more than just paintings on a wall. In a style befitting Salvador Dalí's surreal school of art, it is a full-immersion experience. There is music playing, usually a big no-no in the more hallowed halls of art; there are sculpture versions of his paintings, giving visitors a chance to rethink these famous pieces; and there's even a full roster of children's events that welcome a new generation to get to know Dalí better. There are also some videos and other multimedia exhibits that take you into the mind of this brilliant artist.

Your entrance fee also covers the museum's neighbor, Galerie Montmartre, which features works by today's artists.

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More Things to Do in Île-de-France

Grevin Museum (Musée Grevin)

Grevin Museum (Musée Grevin)

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Fashioned from the blueprint of London’s world-renowned Madame Tussauds, the Grevin Museum (Musée Grevin), Paris’s own waxwork museum, has been sculpting famous faces since it was founded back in 1882. Today over 500 waxwork figures—including politicians, movie stars, and historic icons—are on display.

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Canal Saint-Martin

Canal Saint-Martin

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The streets of Paris are filled with romance and excitement, but for travelers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, a wander along the scenic 2.8-mile-long (4.6-kilometer-long) Canal Saint-Martin, the canal connecting the Canal de l'Ourcq to the river Seine, offers a welcome respite from the city’s urban energy.

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École Militaire

École Militaire

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The École Militaire is a large complex of buildings located in the 7th neighborhood (arrondissement) of Paris that houses several different military training facilities. The original military school was founded in 1750 by Louis XV, who wanted to create an academic college for cadet officers from poor families. One of the school’s more well-known students was Napoleon Bonaparte, who graduated from the École Militaire in one year instead of the standard two. The impressively decorated building is still home to a training school for officers in the French army. The buildings are located within sight of the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero – very close to the Champ de Mars, which originally served as a parade ground for the school’s troops and students. The front facade of the building (facing the Eiffel Tower) is decorated with true 18th-century grandeur and still contains bullet holes where German units made a ‘last stand’ prior to the liberation of Paris in WWII.

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Lido de Paris

Lido de Paris

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With a history dating back to the 1940s and a prime location on the glittering Champs-Élysées, Lido de Paris is one of Paris’ most famous and celebrated cabarets. The legendary show is a feast for the senses, with mesmerizing choreography, dazzling costumes, a medley of foot-stomping show tunes, the famous Bluebell Girls—and, in true French fashion, Champagne.

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Belleville

Belleville

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With its diverse mix of ethnicities and burgeoning art scene, Belleville has made a name for itself as one of Paris’ most fashionably eclectic districts, drawing a hip crowd of young locals, students and creative types. Integrated into Paris in 1860, Belleville started life as a hilltop village, famed for its lively guingettes and surrounding vineyards, and the vibrant neighborhood still retains much of its original character.

Today, Belleville is renowned for its sprawling Chinatown and abundance of international restaurants, quirky bars, independent art galleries and small music venues, while the hillside Belleville Park offers spectacular views over Paris. Additional landmarks include the churches of Saint Jean Baptiste de Belleville and Notre Dame de la Croix, the old aqueduct, the site of the old Belleville funicular and the birthplace of iconic French singer Edith Piaf.

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César Tower (Tour César)

César Tower (Tour César)

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Tour César is a dungeon tower built in the late 1100s upon the orders of Henri 1st the count of Champagne. The tower, which is the only known square-based octagonal dungeon tower, used to be part of a larger fortress developed by the English army during the Hundred Years’ War siege of Provins. The tower was also used as a watchtower and belfry; out of the six bells it used to have, only one remains.

César Tower has been a French historic monument since 1846. It is now a museum. Inside, it is possible to catch a glimpse of the everyday life in Provins eight centuries ago.

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Royal Opera of Versailles (L'Opéra Royal du Château de Versailles)

Royal Opera of Versailles (L'Opéra Royal du Château de Versailles)

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An opera house fit for a king, recently renovated to its original splendor, the Royal Opera at the Palace of Versailles was built for the wedding of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Upon its completion in 1770 under the direction of architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel, it was the largest concert hall in all of Europe.

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Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte

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The grandiose Château de Vaux-de-Vicomte is one of France’s most impressive architectural landmarks. Designed by the same architects behind the Palace of Versailles, the palace is a Baroque masterpiece surrounded by manicured French gardens, decorative moats, and traditional drawbridges.

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La Défense

La Défense

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Paris’ business district is home to office buildings and other high-rise structures, developed in this area just outside the city limits so as not to ruin central Paris’ historical landscape. Not many visitors make it out to La Défense, but those who do are rewarded with modern art and architecture that provide a new perspective on the city.

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Pigalle

Pigalle

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Located on the edge of the eighth and 19th arrondissements, Pigalle has long had a reputation for debauchery. Paris’ former red-light district and a haven for turn-of-the-20th-century bohemians, Pigalle is today renowned for its (sometimes sordid) nightlife and festive spirit—as well as world-famous venues like the Moulin Rouge.

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La Madeleine

La Madeleine

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La Madeleine church in Paris is one of the most striking building in the entire Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Rumour has it that it was built in order to mirror the Palais Bourbon – which houses the French National Assembly - on the opposite bank of the Seine river in order to create harmony between the clergy and the republic.

But in reality, La Madeleine was designed as a temple to Napoleon’s army and its glorious victories back in the early 1800s – which would certainly help explain why the church doesn’t actually look like a church (it doesn’t have a spire or bell-tower) but rather a lavish Greek temple. It was completed in 1828 and built in the Neo-Classical style and was inspired by an exceptionally well preserved Roman temple named Maison carrée in Nîmes; it now dominates the entire Faubourg Saint-Honoré, with its 52 20-meters high Corinthian columns.

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Palais de Chaillot

Palais de Chaillot

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The Palais de Chaillot is located on the Place du Trocadéro in Paris’ 16th neighborhood (arrondissement). Because it is just across the river Seine from the Eiffel Tower, the terrace of the Palais de Chaillot provides one of the city’s best views of the tower — it is a great place to snap photos of the famous landmark. Visitors can easily spend an entire day visiting the Palais de Chaillot, the Eiffel Tower, and walking or taking a cruise along the Seine. The Palais’ surrounding gardens (Jardins du Trocadéro) are ten hectares surrounding Paris’ largest fountain, which is well worth viewing at night while lit up.

The Palais de Chaillot was originally built for the 1937 World’s Fair/Universal Expo, and today houses the national theater (Théâtre National de Chaillot) and a number of different museums: the Musée de la Marine (Naval Museum), the Musée de l'Homme (The Museum of Man), and a museum of architecture (Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine). As if this weren’t enough to keep an inquisitive visitor occupied, the Palais de Chaillot also has an aquarium (called Cinéaqua), accessible from the Trocadero gardens. The aquarium is home to 10,000 fish and invertebrates, a shark tunnel, and its own movie theater.

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Les Halles

Les Halles

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Affectionately known as “the belly of Paris,” Les Halles was once the sight of Paris’s bustling central food market, where vendors sold fresh meats, fish, and vegetables. A focal point of Paris since the 11th century, the food stalls were dismantled in 1971 to make room for the newForum des Halles shopping center and metro station.

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Promenade Plantée

Promenade Plantée

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Promenade Plantée’s well-manicured gardens, flowering shrubs and romantic views make it one of the most popular destinations for budget conscious travelers visiting the City of Lights. Athletic visitors jog along the 2.9-mile scenic pathway as the sun rises, and dozens of couples in love gather to watch in the evening as the sunsets over Paris streets.

The greenway winds through Viaduc des Arts, where interested travelers can explore high-end shops and exquisite galleries, or comb through handmade arts and crafts booths before relaxing into the urban oasis of Promenade Plantée’s incredible gardens.

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