16 Les Invalides
The Hôtel des Invalides was founded as a home for disabled soldiers. Before the time of Louis XIV disabled soldiers received medical care, if at all, in hospitals or monasteries, but were usually reduced to begging. With the Hôtel des Invalides the “Sun King” founded the first home for men that became disabled while serving in his armies. The building was created from 1671 to 1676 under the direction of the architect Libéral Bruant and centered on the Eglise Saint-Louis-des-Invalides, which was later redesigned by the great architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart in 1706. The church became known as the Eglise du Dôme des Invalides and is an outstanding ecclesiastical building of the French classical period. The Eglise du Dôme des Invalides is most famous for being the site of Napoleon’s Tomb, installed here in 1840. Les Invalides has an Army Museum, founded in 1794 as the Artillery Museum, which occupies the wings around the courtyard. The museum displays a large collection of military equipment and uniforms, weapons, prints, and curiosities from many countries. There are also mementos and relics of Napoleon and well-known generals as well as plans of the French campaigns.
Address: Esplanade des Invalides, Avenue de Tourville, 75007 Paris
This majestic building opposite the Louvre Museum is another example of royal architecture. The Palais-Royal was created as a Cardinal’s Palace during the reign of King Louis XIII and later became a royal place; it was a seat of power for four centuries. Exemplifying classical French architecture, the building features a lovely central courtyard. This quiet enclosed tree-lined courtyard has the feeling of being a village in the city. Inside the courtyard is an unusual modern sculpture installation of small striped columns, which vary in height. The sculptures arouse a sense of surprise and curiosity.
Address: Address: 6 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris (Métro: Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre or Pyramides station)
19 Place du Châtelet & Tour Saint-Jacques
Place du Châtelet & Tour Saint-Jacques
The Place du Châtelet stands at the very center of Paris in the 1st arrondissement, overlooking the Seine River. Gracing this expansive square are two celebrated Parisian theaters. The elegant 19th-century Théâtre du Châtelet presents operas and classical music concerts. The Théâtre de la Ville is a listed historic monument that was once named after Sarah Bernhardt who directed shows here; this theater stages contemporary dance performances as well as a wide range of music concerts.
The area around Place du Châtelet is also worth exploring. Continue towards the Rue de Rivoli past the Boulevard de Sébastopol and wander through the small park to find the Tour Saint-Jacques. Built between 1508 and 1522 in the Late Gothic style, this tower is all that remains of the Eglise Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie (the patron saint of butchers), the town’s old parish church. During the Middle Ages, this church was the meeting point for pilgrims setting out on the “Way of Saint James” pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela, one of the three great pilgrimage destinations of medieval Christendom (the others being Jerusalem and Rome). The Saint-Jacques Tower is also famous as the place where Blaise Pascal conducted one of his barometric experiments, which showed the effect of altitude on the height of a column of mercury.
22 Bustling Boulevards & Legendary Cafés
To discover the legendary Paris cafés, the best place to start is the Boulevard Saint-Germain in the 6th arrondissement. This broad tree-lined boulevard is lined with upscale shops, prestigious cafés, and classic brasseries. The most celebrated are theCafé de Flore (172 Boulevard Saint-Germain), which was the meeting place of Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, and the Café des Deux Magots (6 Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés), the haunt of James Joyce, Picasso, Hemingway, and other creative types. At both cafés, tourists are treated to a classic Parisian café experience, complete with waiters wearing bow ties (although the waiters have a reputation for their brusque service).
The brasseries of Boulevard Montparnasse were also frequented by famous artists and writers. Le Dôme in Montparnasse is a Paris institution (108 Boulevard du Montparnasse). In its gorgeous Art Deco dining room, the restaurant serves gourmet cuisine focused on seafood. La Coupole (102 Boulevard Montparnasse) is another classic French brasserie with a mythical past; since the 1920s it was visited by famous artists such as Derain, Léger, Man Ray, and Picasso. La Coupole also boasts having served Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Chagall. Le Rotonde (105 Boulevard Montparnasse) was a gathering place for painters and Surrealistic artists in the 1920s and still attracts cinematographers and artists today.