Looking for the best literary and cultural icons to visit in Paris? On the hunt for deliciously simple local food? We’ve rounded up 10 of the best things to do and see in Paris that will nourish your mind, body and soul.
For les flâneurs or those wanting to immerse themselves in the artistic and cultural ambiance of bygone Paris Montmartre is hard to beat. Here, you will find narrow lanes, winding hills, dazzling nightlife, and memories of the greatest artists, singers, writers and poets nostalgically embedded in the cobblestone. You can almost hear la môme Piaf’s gritty realism as you step out from the Abbesses metro into the heart of Montmartre with the glorious Sacré-Coeur Cathedral inviting you to pause, reflect and breathe in the magnificent views of the City of Lights. Wander down the rue du Chevalier de la Barre, used by Woody Allen in Midnight in Paris, and drop into Au Lapin Agile to hear accordion players whisk you back to the heyday of the la chanson française.
2. Latin Quarter
Take a walking tour through the bohemian Latin Quarter, home to historic landmarks, medieval streets, riverside book sellers, universities as well as the enduring traces of some of France’s most important artistic and literary figures. Pause at the Beat Hotel, 9, rue Git-le-Coeur, where Kerouac and Ginsberg stayed, browse the quaint stores along Rue Mouffetard, then explore the impressive Panthéon where Voltaire and Victor Hugo, among others, are buried.
3. Shakespeare and Company
Within the Latin Quarter you will also find the iconic bookstore Shakespeare and Company. Founded by George Whitman in 1951, and originally called Le Mistral, it quickly became a meeting place for Anglophone writers and readers, and is now firmly considered a “Left Bank literary institution”. (1) In 2006, George posted a sign letting customers know that his daughter Sylvia would be taking the reigns: “Each monastery had a frère lampier whose duty was to light the lamps at nightfall. I have been doing this for fifty years. Now it is my daughter’s turn.” (1) No visit to Paris would be complete without a stop at this atmospheric bookstore.
One of the most famous art galleries in the world, the Louvre is well worth a leisurely visit as there is always something new to appreciate here. Walk through the beautifully formal Tuileries gardens to arrive at the gallery. Visit the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, then wind your way through the permanent collections and touring exhibits, marvelling at the architecture of the late 12th century “grand palace” that houses the museum.
5. Père Lachaise Cemetery
Visit the resting place of Jim Morrison and quietly explore this 44-hectare Parisian cemetery that contains 70,000 burial plots. (2) Other famous literary and cultural figures laid to rest here include Oscar Wilde, Molière, Edith Piaf and Guillaume Apollinaire, and you will find a wide variety of architectural styles represented in the graves and burial chambers.
6. Alma Market
The bustling marché du Pont de l’Alma takes place on Wednesday and Saturday mornings and is a wonderful place to spot the best chefs in Paris as well as to pick up some delicious produce for a picnic lunch. As well as an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables you will also find perfectly crisp baguettes, a wide variety of cheese, fresh fish, olives, flowers and much more. Experience simple French food at its absolute best here.
7. Le Marais
The historic Marais district, once a marshland (hence its name) is renowned for its architectural heritage with landmarks such as Place de la Bastille, Place de la République and the Hôtel de Ville as well as the elegant Place des Vosges. (3) The Rue des Rosiers is also home to the Jewish quarter. On Sundays Le Marais is one of the busiest and most vibrant areas of Paris to explore, with its unique stores and array of delis, bakeries and delicious Jewish restaurants.
8. Sainte Chapelle
Take in a concert at the breathtaking Sainte Chapelle. Built in just 7 years, the Sainte Chapelle was intended to house precious Christian relics, including Christ’s Crown of Thorns. (4) Famous for its stained glass which spans 15 windows and depicts 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments, the Saint Chapelle now also offers unforgettable concerts on the weekends.
9. Chartres Cathedral
Located outside of Paris, Chartres is well worth the train ride. An excellent example of French Gothic Art, the Cathedral is on the Unesco World Heritage List, and is well known for both its architecture and its Labyrinth – one of only 3 remaining Labyrinths in France. It’s a popular pilgrimage destination and sacred site that complements any journey to Paris.
10. Le 61
This bar and cultural meeting hub at 3, rue de l’Oise rarely makes the list of top tourist destinations in Paris, but is a fascinating place to visit for those interested in journalism and current affairs. Run by a former Le Monde journalist, it is the place to find the top war correspondents and journalists taking a break between assignments.
If you would like to visit these inspirational locations in Paris and become truly immersed in Parisian culture reserve your spot our 2018 journey: Passion for Paris with Phil Cousineau: An 8-Day Adventure in the City of Light and Lights with Special Guest Host Mort Rosenblum. This is an incredible opportunity to visit Paris with 2 prolific authors whose combined knowledge of the City of Lights is astonishing. The thoughtfully designed itinerary takes in all the above destinations and more! Not to be missed!
~ Sacred Earth Journeys