A sweeping majestic perspective, opened up by Catherine de Medici in the 1560s, crosses Paris, from the Louvre to the west, aligning landmark sites in the capital including palaces, French gardens, a huge square, a mythical avenue, and a triumphal arch. Today, this historic route still impresses and delights visitors who, by walking in a straight line for 3 kilometres, can journey through the history of Paris, from its most glorious to its most tragic periods.
1 / The Louvre Museum and its pyramid
The walk begins at one of the capital’s top sites, the Louvre Museum. Long before it became a museum, the building was the residence of the kings of France: first a dark fortress and then a stately palace. After being redesigned, partially destroyed, and then rebuilt many times over, today it is a museum open to everyone. From here you can see the grand perspective stretching through the Tuileries Gardens and up the Champs Élysées. Considered to be the greatest museum in the world, visitors flock to the Louvre to see its extraordinary collections and incomparable masterpieces: Leonardo da Vinci's ‘Mona Lisa’ of course, but also the ‘Venus de Milo’, the ‘Victory of Samothrace’, ‘Liberty guiding the People’ and the ‘Raft of the Medusa’, which are just some of a collection of more than 460,000 works, from ancient civilizations to the 1840s.
Did you know ? The oldest work on display in the Louvre dates back 9,000 years, it is the Neolithic statue from Ain Ghazal in Jordan.
The entrance to the museum is through the famous glass pyramid that stands at the centre of the Cour Napoléon and which floods the underground atrium with natural daylight; the atrium connects the three wings of the museum. Since its construction in 1989, by architect Ieoh Ming Pei, the pyramid has brought the Louvre into the 21st century and become a monument in its own right. At the foot of the pyramid, the equestrian statue of Louis XIV is the vantage point from which to see the view right up to the Arc de Triomphe.
Between the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens, you’ll see the carrousel triumphal arch built between 1806 and 1808 to commemorate Napoleon Bonaparte’s victory at Austerlitz.
Musée du Louvre – Cour Napoléon - Pyramide du Louvre, Paris 1er
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2 / Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Occupying an entire wing of the Louvre, the MAD decorative arts museum has vast collections of furniture, design, ceramics, gold and silverware, jewellery, toys, textiles, and fashion ... With more than 567,000 works of art from the Middle Ages to the present day, the MAD is the very essence of the French art of living. The temporary fashion exhibitions held here are a great success, attracting fashionistas from all over the world to see the historical collections of the greatest fashion houses such as Dior, Chanel, Lanvin or Saint Laurent.
Musée des Arts Décoratifs (MAD) – 107 rue de Rivoli, Paris 1er
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3 / Rue de Rivoli
Step into Rue de Rivoli, one of the longest streets in the capital. It is a perfect example of the urban development of Paris since the French Revolution. Perfectly straight and bordered by strictly aligned buildings, it stretches for 3 kilometres from the Marais to Place de la Concorde. The street is devoted to commerce with countless fashion and souvenir shops. From the Louvre Museum to the Tuileries Gardens, its arcades are home to beautiful hotels and elegant tea rooms. Don’t forget to look down at the decorative mosaic pavement.
Rue de Rivoli, Paris 1er et 4e
Walk on the left side of Rue de Rivoli alongside the MAD and make your way to the Tuileries Gardens
4 / Tuileries Gardens
Spread across 22-hectares, the Tuileries Gardens are one of the largest green areas in Paris. Designed in 1664 by the landscape architect André Le Nôtre, under Louis XIV, they have remained much the same since. Quite different from Catherine de Medici's Italian garden, this garden is perfectly designed and strictly symmetrical in the French style and extends from the Louvre to Concorde.
The gardens are made up of terraces, alleyways, expanses of lawn, flowerbeds, ornamental ponds and fountains, and planted with some 3,000 trees, according to a precise plan.
More than 100 sculptures decorate the garden, classical figures of course, but also the languid bronze women of Aristide Maillol, who play hide-and-seek between the hedges behind the arch of the Carrousel. Contemporary works by Louise Bourgeois, Henry Moore, Jean Dubuffet, Giuseppe Penone and Alberto Giacometti can also be observed near the flowerbeds.
The 4,000 iconic park chairs are free to sit on, and for children there are model boats to sail on the ornamental pond. Every summer a fun fair is held in the Tuileries Gardens.
Jardin des Tuileries – 113 rue de Rivoli, Paris 1er
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5 / Musée de l'Orangerie
On the left side of the Octagonal pond in the Tuileries stands a pavilion built in 1852; Today, it is the Musée de l’Orangerie. As its name suggests, it was originally intended to house the orange trees in the garden. When, in 1918, Claude Monet promised to bequeath a large group of his paintings, work was carried out here to host them. Two elliptical shaped rooms were created, forming the sign of infinity and illuminated by glass roofs, facing east-west to follow the course of the sun. No less than 8 works are fixed on 91 metres of curved walls, to show the ‘Water Lilies’ to the public in the heart of Paris.
The Walter-Guillaume collection is on display on the ground floor of the museum. 146 works, from the 1860s to the 1930s, including modernism and figuration, by Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin, Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Soutine or Van Dongen, express the most outstanding work of the École de Paris in the history of art.
Musée de l’Orangerie – Jardins des Tuileries, place de la Concorde, Paris 1er
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6/ Le Jeu de Paume
On the right of the Octagonal pond, another pavilion, erected in 1860, was designed to house the halls of the jeu de paume, the ancestor of tennis. This building has the same dimensions as the Orangerie, its counterpart. From the 1900s, the building became a place for exhibiting paintings from foreign schools, then the Impressionists and finally modern and contemporary art. Today, the site is devoted to the diffusion of the image in the 20th and 21st centuries through photography, video, cinema, and installations. The sharp and eclectic programming makes it a must on the visual creation scene. The museum is closed for work until 2021.
Jeu de Paume – Place de la Concorde, Paris 1er
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The Tuileries Gardens lead to the grandiose Place de la Concorde.
7 / Place de la Concorde
Step onto the largest square in Paris. Designed in 1755 and initially called Place Louis XV, it stands out from other royal squares as it opens onto the famous long perspective. From here, the panoramic view of the Tuileries, the Champs Élysées, the Seine … and even the Eiffel Tower in the distance, is magnificent!
During the French Revolution, more than 1,000 people were guillotined on the square, including Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, Danton, Madame du Barry and Robespierre. Renamed Place de la Concorde after the Revolution, it has been home to the obelisk of the Luxor Temple since 1836. Standing at the centre of the square in line with the grand perspective, this more than 3,200-year old obelisk was a gift of the viceroy of Egypt and chosen by Jean-François Champollion. From the top of its 23 metres of pink granite topped with gold, it forms the axis of a gigantic sundial.
Place de la Concorde, Paris 8e
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8 / Hôtel de la Marine
Standing majestically on the Place de la Concorde since 1774, this building and its neighbouring symmetrical twin are the work of the architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel, who also designed the Place de la Concorde as well as the Petit Trianon at Versailles. Initially a furniture store for the crown, it then housed the Ministry of the Navy until 2015. It was here that the decree for the abolition of slavery was signed on 27 April 1848.
The Hôtel de la Marine, with its long façade and loggia, is currently undergoing renovation work and is due to open to the public in spring 2021. This vitrine of French ‘art de vivre’ will then offer visitors a tour of the restored 18th and 19th century decor of the reception rooms and grand apartments as well as the famous Al Thani collection, comprising 6,000 items (antiques, paintings, medieval manuscripts, old and historical objects and jewellery). Finally, a tearoom and a restaurant, overseen by starred chefs, will showcase tableware and French gastronomy.
Hôtel de la Marine – 2 place de la Concorde, Paris 1er
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9 / Eglise de Madeleine (church)
Visible at the end of Rue Royale from Place de la Concorde, the monumental Madeleine church on Place de la Madeleine is worth taking a detour for! Commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to glorify the French armies, it only became a church in 1845 after years of work. In accordance with the fashion of the time, it was built on the model of the Greek temples of Antiquity.
Numerous concerts are organized all year round. The famous great organ with its remarkable sounds contributes to the fame of the church. Titular organists included Camille Saint-Saëns and Gabriel Fauré. The funerals of personalities such as Chopin, Mistinguett, Edith Piaf, Coco Chanel, Joséphine Baker, Marlene Dietrich and recently Johnny Hallyday were held here.
Eglise de la Madeleine – place de la Madeleine, Paris 8e
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10 / Gardens of the Champs Élysées
Retrace your steps to Place de la Concorde to begin your stroll up the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. The gardens of the Champs-Elysées, which border the world-famous avenue, from the Place de la Concorde to the Champs-Elysées roundabout, are an invitation to wander at will, relax and let children play. They are flanked by numerous pavilions and notable buildings, as well as fountains, a merry-go-round, a puppet theatre, and gastronomic restaurants.
Take time to admire the many remarkable trees such as the giant redwood or a sugar maple. The landscape is made up of colourful flower borders including rose bushes and rhododendrons and interspersed with monuments and statues.
Tall contemporary fountains of bronze and crystal, created in 2019 by designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, have transformed the Champs Élysées roundabout into a modern crossroads, which also marks the transition between the greenery of the gardens and the minerality of the avenue.
Jardins des Champs-Elysées – 10 avenue des Champs-Elysées, Paris 8e
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As you stroll up the left-hand side of the Champs Élysées, you will come to the Petit Palais, which is situated opposite the Grand Palais. These two brilliant monuments, dating from the Universal Exhibition of 1900, are two palaces of stone and glass that recall the boldness of the architects, in the pure Beaux-Arts style that was so popular during the Belle Epoque.
11 / Petit Palais
This ‘small palace’ with a remarkable golden door is the fine arts museum of the City of Paris. Open and free to everyone, it offers extensive exhibition galleries surrounding a delightful inner garden with ornamental ponds. Like a small Louvre, its collections range from Antiquity to 1918, with paintings, sculptures, and art objects such as Etruscan vases, Greek icons, crystal jewellery as well as engravings by Durer and paintings by Delacroix, Gauguin, Degas and Courbet.
Petit Palais – Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris – Avenue Winston Churchill, Paris 8e
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12 / Grand Palais
With its stone colonnade, this 240-metre long ‘grand palace’, topped with a sumptuous glass roof, dominates the entire avenue. Its galleries host prestigious art exhibitions, and its nave is the setting for exceptional events such as the Fiac, horse jumping competitions, a giant skating rink and even a fun fair.
Did you know ?
The nave of the Grand Palais is the biggest in Europe. The metallic structure of its roof weighs more than the Eiffel Tower!
Grand Palais – 3 avenue du Général-Eisenhower, Paris 8e
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As you stand between the Petit and Grand Palais with your back to the Champs-Elysées, your eye is instantly drawn to another long perspective: the Invalides across the Pont Alexandre-III.
13 / Palais de la Découverte
Go around the Grand Palais and you will come to the Palais de la Découverte. This exciting, interactive, and ultra-modern science museum is geared to kids and adults with experiments and activities based around astronomy, astrophysics, chemistry, mathematics, life sciences, digital technology and robotics. A great place for learning and having fun! The Planetarium and its 15-metre dome offer a journey through space and time.
Palais de la Découverte – Avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Paris 8e
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14 / Théâtre du Rond-Point
On the corner of Avenue des Champs Élysées and Avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt stands the Théâtre du Rond-point, recognizable by its unusual round shape. It was used to display scenes of the great battles of the Empire from 1860 onwards before becoming an ice rink until the 1970s. Since the 1980s, it has been a theatre, under the impetus of actors Madeleine Renaud and Jean-Louis Barrault, who gave it new life.
Théâtre du Rond-Point – 2 bis avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Paris 8e
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15 / Théâtre des Champs Élysées
Turn off the Champs-Elysées into Avenue Montaigne renowned for its beautiful boutiques and Haute Couture houses. At number 15 is the Théâtre des Champs Élysées, in remarkable Art Deco style, signed Auguste Perret, and facade decorated with white marble bas-reliefs, sculpted by Antoine Bourdelle. This Italian style auditorium inaugurated in 1913 was quick to show daring avant-garde creations, including ‘The Rite of Spring’ by Igor Stravinsky with choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky in May 1913, and the famous revue led by Josephine Baker.
Théâtre des Champs-Élysées – 15 avenue Montaigne, Paris 8e
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Retrace your steps to continue your exploration of the Avenue des Champs-Elysées
16 / Avenue des Champs Élysées
Known as the ‘most beautiful avenue in the world’, the Champs Élysées has been synonymous with luxury and prestige for more than 100 years and is lined with cinemas, restaurants, and cafés. It is a showcase for France’s top brands such as Louis Vuitton, Guerlain, Ladurée, Dior, Lacoste, Cartier, Galeries Lafayette, as well as PSG and Séphora, open 7/7 and until late in the evening.
On the first Sunday of each month, the avenue is closed to motor traffic and becomes the loveliest promenade in the world, for pedestrians and cyclists.
Every year, a traditional military parade on July 14th takes place here as well as the finish of the Tour de France. Finally, the end-of-year illuminations, from mid-November to early January, provide a glittering and colourful spectacle.
Avenue des Champs-Elysées, Paris 8e
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17 / Lido de Paris
At number 116 on the avenue, don’t miss the Lido de Paris. This emblematic cabaret of the capital was originally a bathing place decorated on a Venetian theme, from which it takes its name. Since 1946, the famous Bluebell Girls troupe has been performing nightly in a dazzling revue.
Lido de Paris – 116 avenue des Champs-Elysées, Paris 8e
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18 / Arc de Triomphe
At the top of the avenue, on Place Charles-de-Gaulle, the Arc de Triomphe finishes the perspective. This monument, as impressive from afar as it is up close, was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon, as a tribute to his troops, and was finally inaugurated in 1836. The façade, vaults and arcades are richly decorated and sculpted with names of campaigns, battles and figures of the French Revolution and Empire. The most famous sculpture is the high relief ‘Departure of the Volunteers of 1792’ by François Rude, known as La Marseillaise.
Beneath the Arc de Triomphe, you can see the eternal flame that has been burning on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier since 1923. Every day at 6.30pm, it is rekindled in a solemn ceremony.
Climb the 260 steps to the top of the monument. The panoramic terrace offers a bird’s eye view of the famous sweeping perspective down to the Louvre. This 360° view embraces all of Paris: the Eiffel, Notre-Dame de Paris, Montmartre, the Centre Pompidou, La Défense …
Did you know ? The Place Charles-de-Gaulle is also called Place de l’Etoile because 12 avenues converge here and form a star with 12 branches delimited by red paving stones, visible only from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.
Arc de Triomphe – place Charles de Gaulle, Paris 8e
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