Explore Paris over a long weekend

The Musée d’Orsay, the Marais, Invalides, Beaubourg … Still so many things to discover in Paris

You already know Paris a little bit … at least the top sights! Now’s the time to get to know it better and discover places such as the Musée d’OrsayInvalides or even the Centre Pompidou.

Day one

you discover the impressive charm of Paris at the Hôtel des Invalides beneath whose golden dome rests the corpse of Napoleon I. Then go down to the Seine riverbanks for equally fantastic views and a laidback atmosphere. Continue in the direction of the Musée d’Orsay, with its rich collections of Impressionist paintings. After a full morning, stop for a welcome lunchbreak in the Latin Quarter. You could, for example, try the Bouillon Racine

Now you have the afternoon ahead of you to amble around Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter with its majestic Panthéon. Admire Paris’s quaint historic shopping arcades and take time to relax in the Luxembourg Gardens, an oasis of calm and greenery.

This evening, you’ll reach for the sky by dining at 58 Tour Eiffel or at Ciel de Paris, at the top of the Tour Montparnasse

Day two

If you are not yet familiar with the beautiful Place de la Madeleine – its church, fine food stores and boutiques – and the nearby Palais Garnier Opera House, then these make a fine start to the day. Next, walk down rue de la Paix to Place Vendôme, both home to upscale jewellers. Take a Vélib’ bicycle to get to the Marais district and stop off for lunch at the Café Hugo.

Your afternoon is divided up in the streets of the Marais: Place des Vosges, hôtels particuliers (former private mansions), the Musée Picasso and fashion boutiques. You finish up in the district of Les Halles where you begin to admire the original architecture of the Centre Pompidou. A place to visit for fans of modern and contemporary artworks if time permits.

In the evening, why not see a show at the Théâtre du Châtelet, followed by a good meal at the Pied de Cochon, a typically Parisian brasserie

Day three

On word that speaks volumes: Disneyland! This theme park promises lots of fun and excitement for children and adults.

And the passwords to make sightseeing easy are ‘Paris Museum Pass’ and ‘Paris Passlib'’.

Hôtel des Invalides: one of the jewels of classical architecture

Hôtel des Invalides, Paris © Thinkstock

Built from 1671 to 1676 by order of Louis XIV, in order to house war-wounded soldiers from his armies, this impressive monumental symmetrical group of buildings extends over 13 hectares. Today, it still houses a military hospital, but also the Musée de l’Armée, the Musée de l’Ordre de la Libération and the Musée des Plans-Reliefs as well as the Eglise Saint-Louis des Invalides.

The garden of the Hôtel des Invalides is decorated with bronze canons from the 17th and 18th centuries. Transformed into a military memorial, it houses the tomb of the emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and ‘great soldiers’, which lie beneath the famous golden dome covered in 12.6 kilograms of 24 carat gold, applied in 555,000 leaves.

More info about Invalides

The Musée d’Orsay: a train station converted into a museum

Musée d'Orsay, Paris © OTCP - David Lefranc

The Musée d’Orsay was originally a train station, built in1900. Afterwards, it was converted into a museum, creating an exceptional setting to showcase internationally renowned permanent and temporary exhibitions.

With paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, photographs … the Musée d’Orsay offers visitors a wide range of artworks. However, it is particularly remarkable for its huge collection of Impressionist works, including some of the greatest masterpieces in this genre.

En plus de la traditionnelle boutique du musée, les flâneurs prennent le temps d’aller au Café Campana pour profiter de son magnifique décor, conçu spécialement pour sublimer la grande horloge.

As well as browsing in the traditional museum shop, visitors can take a break at the Café Campana to admire the magnificent décor, specially designed to enhance the presence of the great clock.

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Enter the Panthéon … just on a visit!

Le Panthéon, Paris © OTCP - Marc Bertrand

Finished in 1790 under the aegis of the architect Soufflot, and situated in the heart of the Latin Quarter, atop the hill of Sainte-Geneviève, this neoclassical-style monument was intended to be a church. History decided otherwise and it became a Pantheon whose vocation is to honour the French nation’s great men of the past, such as Pierre and Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Jean Jaurès, Jean Moulin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, etc.

The exterior colonnade of the dome affords a wonderful view over Paris, including the Luxembourg Gardens, in a direct line with the monument, ideal for a relaxing break from sightseeing!

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Saint-Germain-des-Prés: the haunt of artists and intellectuals

Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris© OTCP - Jacques Lebar

The mythical quadrilateral of Saint-Germain-des-Prés was the cult district of intellectuals and artists from the time of the roaring twenties to the period after the Second World War. It was the home of swing and the New Wave.

The Church Saint-Germain-des-Prés is a gem not to be missed, notably for its 11th century nave – the only remaining Romanesque art in Paris –, for its choir, its Gothic-style capitals and its authentic 13th-century stained-glass windows.

This district is full of cafes and brasseries, places to meet and chat. The most well-known are Café de Flore, Les Deux-Magots and Brasserie Lipp

More info about Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Place Vendôme: a priceless place

Place Vendôme - Colonne Vendôme, Paris

A symbolic feature of classic town planning, the Place Vendôme is lined with some thirty or so hôtels particuliers, most of whose facades are listed monuments. At n° 13, the Hôtel de Bourvallais houses the Ministry of Justice. At the centre of the square stands the Vendôme Column, several times dismantled and then re-erected over the course of history …
And of course, since the end of the 19th-century, the Place Vendôme and the adjoining rue de la Paix have been home to the most illustrious jewellers and timepiece boutiques. Boucheron opened here in 1893, Cartier in 1899, Chaumet in 1902, Van Cleef & Arpels in 1906 … and over time have been joined by a cohort of other names.

More info about Place Vendôme

Place des Vosges: a royal getaway

Place des Vosges, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

In the heart of the Marais district, the former ‘Place royal’ (Royal Square) renamed Place des Vosges in 1800, is the oldest square in Paris. Started in 1605, its layout was completed in 1612. The square was inaugurated by a grand equestrian display, to celebrate the marriage of Louis XIII to Anne of Austria. Since that time, the square has scarcely changed. Designed as a square with a statue of Louis XIII at its centre, the square is lined on each side with identical house fronts: the ground floor skirted with arcades, two red brick floors, deeply-pitched blue slate roofs, and small-paned-glass windows.  The Pavillon du Roi and the Pavillon de la Reine are slightly higher than the others. At n° 6 on the square is the house-cum- museum of Victor Hugo.

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Musée Picasso Paris: a unique collection in a renovated setting

Musée Picasso Paris, façade, rue de Thorigny © Musée Picasso Paris - Béatrice Hatala

The palatial Hôtel Salé, built in the 17th-century in the heart of the Marais, re-opens in October 2014, after several years of renovation work. Visitors will be able to appreciate an even finer showcasing of the world’s most important collection of the works of Pablo Picasso. 

5,000 artworks painted, engraved, sculpted and drawn by the artist, 200,000  personal archive items that retrace the creative process (drafts, studies, sketches, sketchpads, photographs, films, etc.) and his own collection of some 150 works, including paintings by Matisse and Cézanne.

More info about  Musée Picasso Paris

Centre Georges-Pompidou: art, culture and big spaces

Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont - Renzo Piano - Richard Rogers

In 1977, its now famous architecture created outrage: 15,000 tons of steel, 11,000 m² of glassed surface area, interior 7,500 m² modular sets, and most notably, colourful exterior pipework! But this futuristic vessel has long since been adopted by those who love Paris. The Centre Pompidou, also referred to as Beaubourg, has areas devoted to culture and art – cinema, theatre, dance, concerts, library … –, a museum of modern and contemporary art, with an impressive 70,000 works and some 25 important temporary exhibitions every year. Cafes, restaurants, shops and a breathtaking view of Paris make it even more appealing.

More info about Centre Pompidou