Paris in a Day – part 1
For Summer vacation, you may be interested in visiting Paris. Can you do it in a day?
Other than visiting a few museums and a couple of fabulous meals, you can’t really see Paris in a day.
But if you only have a day in Paris, here are some things you can do in the “City of Light.”
Visiting World Cities
When people visit a world city, especially in Europe, there are (at least) three things they want to see the fine M.C.M.:
… and, of course, food and shopping.
You can do one of each or focus on one kind of excursion. To begin, let’s focus on the museums.
There are so many museums in Paris, let’s confine ourselves to just the art museums.
Let’s start with one of the most famous museums in the world, the Louvre Museum. This was the former royal palace until Louis XIV got tired of Paris and moved to his palace built at his father’s hunting lodge twelve miles outside of town, the Palace of Versailles.
It is the world’s most-visited art museum, and most of its collection is not on the walls. This popularity is both a blessing and a curse: everyone wants to see it, but there are lots of crowds, and some of the most popular pieces have a queue to see them.
Seeing just a few of the most high-culture items can take half a day, leaving you little time to see anything else. You can’t see everything in a day, a week, or a month. There are 35,000 works of art there; if you spent a minute in front of each, it would take 65 days to see it all.
Advice: if you go, pick two or three things to see and spend no more than two or three hours there.
- Mona Lisa: there’s a queue of foreign tourists who must get a selfie in front of da Vinci’s half-smiling Joconde.
- Venus de Milo: also known as Aphrodite de Milos, she’s beautiful but missing arms (pictured below).
- Winged Victory of Samothrace: also known as Nike of Samothrace, she’s missing a head.
Just across the River Seine to the south on the Left Bank of the river, in a former turn-of-the-century train station stands Musée d’Orsay. It is very approachable. If it’s Impressionist and post-Impressionist artists you want to see, this is the place. You won’t see any at the Louvre. At d’Orsay, you can see them all in an hour or two: Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin and van Gogh.
Starry Night Over the Rhône by van Gogh is fabulous. I’ve visited the site where it was painted, along the river in Arles, in the south of France, where the artist spent his last years, having moved there “for the light.”
If it’s Monet you want to see, this is the location of the Water Lilies that the artist created specifically for a large room specially designed for them here, called Nymphéas.
Eight large panels represent the water lilies from his home at Giverny, about an hour west of Paris.
There are other Impressionist and post-Impressionist works at Musée de l’Orangerie by Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, Rousseau, and Sisley.
The museum is on the same side of the river as the Louvre and is west of it at the end of the Tuileries Gardens. The museum, which Napoleon III built to keep his citrus trees from the Gardens inside against the cold of winter, is directly adjacent to the Place de la Concorde, the largest “square” in Paris. From there, the famous Champs-Elysées boulevard extends west through the Arc of Triumph all the way to and beyond La Défense. Cafes and luxury shops line the boulevard.
Don’t go here unless you’ve got more than a day and are really into Monet. Musée Marmottan Monet has over 300 Monet paintings, including the painting that gave the Impressionist period its name: Impression, Sunrise.
These paintings came from a donation by Monet’s son and heir. It’s stunning but a bit outside the central museum district.
To be continued with Paris Cathedrals in part 2.
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian