Must-Do Experiences On A Weekend In Paris

23 Jan 2016

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The French capital has a host of new, revived and hidden attractions, making the city ripe for another visit. After three years of closure, the Rodin Museum has reopened in the 18th Century Hotel Biron at 79 Rue de Varennes. The interior of the handsome mansion has been refreshed, with the aid of period photographs, to appear as it was when Auguste Rodin lived and worked here from 1908, with the story of the sculptor told through his works.

Demand is unusually low. So, for the next few months (excluding Valentine's weekend) you can find exceptional value and avoid the usual crowds.

 Paris, sunrise, France, Eiffel Tower, Getty

Get Your Bearings

The core of Paris is where the Seine broadens around the two city-centre islands: the Ile de la Cite, home to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, and the Ile-St-Denis. Other key monuments and intersections include the Opera Garnier, the Place de la Concorde, the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. The main tourist office is at 25 Rue des Pyramides; open 10am to 7pm daily.

While Paris is a great city for walking, its size means the Metro is a valuable asset. Single tickets for journeys within the Paris boundaries cost €1.80 ($A2.80). Or buy a carnet of 10 for €14.10 ($A21.80).

The Metro runs mainly beneath the streets, but has some above-ground stretches that give a fresh perspective on the city.

Day One

Take a hike

Start at the tourist office. Walk north to admire the spectacular facade of the Opera Garnier, rich with sculptures of the muses and composers. Retrace your steps down Avenue de l'Opera.

At the first Starbucks in Paris, bear left along Rue des Petit Champs, which divides the 1st and 2nd arrondissements. A more Parisian place for a coffee is Belle Epoque at No 36.

Turn right and immediately left along Rue Villedo, with Japanese shops and galleries, then right along Rue de Richelieu, passing the monument of Moliere. Turn left at the Comedie Francais and cut through a gallery that leads across the Cour d'Honneur of the Palais Royal, through an artwork called Les Deux Plateaux by Daniel Buren, resembling giant sticks of rock poking up through the ground.

You will reach the lovely 1823 Galerie Vero-Dadot, where the architecture and decoration are even more enticing than the art, book and music boutiques. Bear left, when you emerge, to the Bourse de Commerce, formerly the grain market. You are now on the western edge of Chatelet-Les Halles, the old market that's been artistically reinvigorated.

 Les Deux Plateaux, Daniel Buren, art, Paris, France, Getty

Lunch on the run

A few minutes' walk southeast is the villagey heart of St-Honore, with plenty of options for a quick, tasty lunch – try a galette at the Creperie St-Honore at 24 Rue du Pont Neuf, if you get that far.

Window shopping

Rue St-Honore is flanked by upmarket fashion stores whose profit margins are as impressive as their premises. For more modest prices, the Place du Marche St-Honore is a stylish glass structure ringed by stalls.

Or you could try an only-in-Paris store. Shakespeare and Company, the Left Bank bookshop at 37 Rue de la Bucherie (10am to 11pm, daily), is a long-established expatriate hub with a new cafe.

Also on the Left Bank, Boutique de l'Assemblee Nationale at 7 Rue Aristide Briand offers patriotic gifts such as Tricolore toothbrushes. Tucked behind the Opera Garnier at 9 Rue Scribe, the new Fragonard Musee du Parfum has a fascinating collection and a gift shop.

An aperitif

You can barely walk 100 metres along a central Parisian street without seeing a bar boasting of its Happy Hour – typically €5 ($A7.70) a pint. You'll pay more at the Cafe de la Paix at 5 Place de l'Opera, but this is the classic Paris brasserie, opened in 1862 by Empress Eugenie.

Dine with the locals

Le Poule au Pot at 9 Rue Vauvilliers takes its name from the boiled chicken dish that Henri IV commanded his subjects to eat each Sunday. Today, this convivial restaurant, which was founded in 1935, serves the dish every night apart from Monday, when it is closed.

For a quieter, neighbourhood location, try Le Bistro on the corner of Rue Perignon and Rue Bellart, close to Segur Metro station. Try steak tartare, entrecote or confit de canard in cheerful surroundings decorated with faded rugby posters.


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Day Two

Go to church

The Eglise du Dome was the model for Washington DC's Capitol Building. It is the most imposing element of the 17th Century Invalides complex, built by Louis XIV for wounded soldiers. The €11/$A17 (€9/$A14 after 4pm) entry fee covers the church and its main draw, the tomb of Napoleon; and the Musee de l'Armee.

A walk in the park

Half the appeal of the Rodin Museum resides in the sculpture-filled gardens. Highlights include The Gates of Hell and The Thinker. Open 9am to 5.45pm daily, except Monday (Wednesday to 8.45pm), entry €10/$A15 (gardens only: €4/$A6).

The Thinker, art, Rodin Museum, Paris, France, Getty

Take a ride

From Pasteur Metro take line 6 towards Charles de Gaulle. It starts with great views of the Eiffel Tower and culminates with a crossing of the Seine. At Passy station, the line dips underground again; change at Trocadero for line 9 three stops to Ranelagh.

Out to brunch

A minute's walk from Ranelagh Metro along Rue Mozart at No 50, the relaxed, indulgent Bo-Zinc Cafe has an excellent brunch, from noon on Sunday, featuring salmon blinis and patisserie.

Cultural afternoon

The Marmottan Monet Museum at 2 Rue Louis Boilly was once a hunting lodge but now hosts the world's largest Monet collection, featuring Water Lilies and Impression, Soleil levant.

Take a view

A vaisseau de verre – 'glass ship' – has arrived in the Bois de Boulogne in the shape of the Fondation Louis Vuitton. Architect Frank Gehry deployed 3,600 glass panels to form a dozen 'sails' in this modern art space, which also has fresh views of Paris.

This article was written by Simon Calder from The Independent and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

The Independent

The Independent is a British national morning newspaper published in London by Independent Print Limited, owned by Alexander Lebedev since 2010. Nicknamed the Indy, it was launched in 1986 and is one of the youngest UK national daily newspapers.