Paris, France’s capital, is a major European city and a global center for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture. Its 19th-century cityscape is crisscrossed by wide boulevards and the River Seine.
Beyond such landmarks as the Eiffel Tower and the 12th-century, Gothic Notre-Dame cathedral, the city is known for its cafe culture and designer boutiques along the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Paris’ monument-lined boulevards, museums, classical bistros and boutiques are enhanced by a new wave of multimedia galleries, creative wine bars, design shops and tech start-ups.
The cloud-piercing, wrought-iron Eiffel Tower, broad Arc de Triomphe guarding the glamorous avenue des Champs-Élysées, gargoyled Notre Dame cathedral, lamplit bridges spanning the Seine and art nouveau cafes’ wicker-chair-lined terraces are enduring Parisian emblems.
Despite initial appearances, however, Paris’ cityscape isn’t static: there are some stunning modern and contemporary icons, too, from the inside-out, industrial-style Centre Pompidou to the mur végétal (vertical garden) gracing the Musée du Quai Branly, the glass sails of the Fondation Louis Vuitton contemporary-art centre, and the gleaming steel egg-shaped concert venue La Seine Musicale.
France’s reputation for its cuisine (the French word for ‘kitchen’) precedes it, and whether you seek a cosy neighborhood bistro or a triple-Michelin-starred temple to gastronomy, you’ll find that every establishment prides itself on exquisite preparation and presentation of quality produce, invariably served with wine. Enticing patisseries, boulangeries (bakeries), fromageries(cheese shops) and crowded, colourful street markets are perfect for putting together a picnic to take to the city’s beautiful parks and gardens. A host of culinary courses – held anywhere from home kitchens to the world’s most prestigious cookery schools – offers instruction for all schedules, abilities and budgets.
With an illustrious artistic pedigree – Renoir, Rodin, Picasso, Monet, Manet, Dalí and Van Gogh are but a few of the masters who have lived and worked here over the years – Paris is one of the world’s great art repositories, harboring treasures from antiquity onwards. In addition to big hitters like the incomparable Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay’s exceptional impressionist collection, and the Centre Pompidou’s cache of modern and contemporary art, scores of smaller museums showcase every imaginable genre, a diverse range of venues mount major exhibitions through to offbeat installations, and there’s also the city’s vibrant street art.
The Palace of Versailles has been listed as a World Heritage Site for 30 years and is one of the greatest achievements in French 17th century art. Louis XIII’s old hunting pavilion was transformed and extended by his son, Louis XIV, when he installed the Court and government there in 1682. A succession of kings continued to embellish the Palace up until the French Revolution. Today the Palace contains 2,300 rooms spread over 63,154 square meters.
In 1789, the French Revolution forced Louis XVI to leave Versailles for Paris. The Palace would never again be a royal residence and a new role was assigned to it in the 19th century, when it became the Museum of the History of France in 1837 by order of King Louis-Philippe, who came to the throne in 1830. The rooms of the Palace were then devoted to housing new collections of paintings and sculptures representing great figures and important events that had marked the History of France. These collections continued to be expanded until the early 20th century at which time, under the influence of its most eminent curator, Pierre de Nolhac, the Palace rediscovered its historical role when the whole central part was restored to the appearance it had had as a royal residence during the Ancien Régime.
Paris is truly ‘La Ville Lumiere’ (the City of Lights) and is “ma ville favorite dans tous le Monde” (my favorite city in the whole wide world)! Even a week does not suffice to do justice and take in the beauty, the splendor, the art, and the history of this magnificent city!