The heart of Paris

Paris is called the `City of Love’, simply because it is one of the most romantic cities in the world.

The city of Paris constitutes 20 arrondissements, or suburbs, which spin out from the centre of the city in a clockwise spiral.  The most prominent of these is the 1st arrondissement, which is located along the Right Bank of the River Seine (it extends onto the western section of the Île de la Cité in the middle of the river). It is home to famous sites like the Louvre, the Jardins des Tuileries, and the Palais-Royal, as well as world-class shopping venues like Les Halles.

Of course, it would be foolish to visit Paris and not take in the extensive art and artefact collection at The Louvre Museum. The museum is open daily except Tuesdays and on certain public holidays. The permanent collections are open from 9 am to 6 pm, with late openings on Wednesdays and Fridays until 10 pm. The shopping area around the entrance under the pyramid is open 9 am to 10 pm.  With 35,000 exhibits, including the world’s most famous painting The Mona Lisa, you can spend many an interesting day at the Louvre.

West of the Louvre is le Jardin des Tuileries, near the Place de le Concorde, featuring impeccably landscaped gardens which attract Parisians, picnickers, and art lovers alike. The gardens are filled with modern sculptures throughout. Nearby is Musee de la Orangerie, an art gallery featuring Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, which includes masterpieces such as Monet’s Water Lilies.  The Orangerie is open daily, except Tuesdays, Christmas Day and May 1st from 12.30pm to 7pm and until 9pm each Thursday.

The nearby Sainte Chapelle is known for its Gothic style architecture. The church’s soaring vaulted ceilings, intricate stained glass windows and colourful tile mosaics on the floor are sure to impress. Make sure you go on a sunny day, as the highlight of this small chapel in Rayonnante Gothic style are the large stained-glass windows which soar up to near the vaulted ceiling. Next door is the Conciergerie, a former palace turned prison. Here you can visit the cell where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before she was beheaded.     

Also worth a visit is Le Palais Royal.  Ordered by Cardinal de Richelieu (1585-1642), King Louis XIIIth’s prime Minister in 1629 and completed in 1636.  It was originally called Palais Cardinal but it became Le Palais Royal when Anne d’Autriche, Louis XIIIth’s wife, went to live there to get away from the Louvre palace.  It includes also a beautiful garden Les jardins du Palais Royal, enclosed within the buildings. It has also been the theatre of one of the seminal events of the French Revolution. The Théatre Français nearby was built in 1716. There are numerous restaurants inside the garden , including famous Le Grand Véfour. There’s also the controversial Colonnes de Buren, which are striped columns installed within the inside yard among the XVIIth century architecture. Open 7.00am to 11.00pm during the summer and 7.00am to 8.30pm in the winter with hours varying in the spring and Autumn months.

One of the largest shopping centres in Paris is also located in the 1st Arrondissement. The Forum les Halles, is built on the site of Paris’ former farmer’s market, which was closed in the 1960s. Les halles is filled mostly with clothing, electronics and accessories shops, and you will also find movies and fast-food restaurants here. These days,  les Halles attracts a younger crowd but the interesting underground layout and the building’s magnificent interior is worth a visit. It’s open daily from 9am to 7pm.

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