If you are looking for places to visit in Paris that are not the usual attractions, you are in the right place. Especially if you like the work of Baudelaire and Sartre or any other artist that was spending time in the city during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Why? Because when I visited for the first time, I was hoping to find a “link” to that special atmosphere. So, here are my places to visit in Paris.
Years after my journey, Woody Allen made that Midnight in Paris movie, and I always thought that “he must have heard me thinking” while rushing around the streets of Paris and looking behind every corner. “My thoughts must have been loud”.
Places to visit in Paris
Joking aside, I was in love with French impressionists and Van Gogh’s work, I read Charles Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil over and over again – even began to take additional French lessons so that I would be able to read his poems in French. I was in love with 19th-century France altogether.
My final paper at the Faculty of Philosophy was on Jean-Paul Sartre’s theory of existentialism and his analyses of Baudelaire’s personality according to the Look of Others theory. Etc., etc. You get the picture.
“You will have to rush through Paris museums since there is no way you are going to be able to see it all. But, try to do one museum at a time and spend at least half of a day there.
When you go to Louvre, keep the map of the museum close and just try not to look when going through endless corridors and halls in order to reach the section with the Venus de Milo statue, Nice of Samothrace, Egypt exhibition section, Italian painters, or Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
Otherwise, you will stand in awe every meter of the way!” I wrote about my visit back in 2003.
And whenever I thought about it later, I knew I made the right decision, that was the right way to visit the Louvre for the first time.
Another great museum – L’Orsay. It’s a former railway station that was turned into an exhibition area and remained as such ever since. It houses a priceless collection of impressionists’ work, a lot of Rodin’s sculptures, the whole room with Van Gogh’s paintings, etc. Just adorable!
The Palace of Versailles was another special place. Even though in the suburbs, it’s easy to reach by bus or train. A huge castle of Luis XIV with adorable gardens and fountains appears before you behind every curve of yet another neat, lush small block of greenery.
The room of Luis XIV is all decorated in gold, and there is the Hall of Mirrors which is 75 meters long. Mirrors are placed in such a manner that they reflect the light from huge windows on the other side of the hall, and thus it looks as if being covered in windows on both sides. It was so hard to imagine that someone actually lived here, woke up every morning, and went through these corridors. (It probably took them more than half an hour just to reach the exit door.)
The thing definitely to be aware of when in Paris is that on every corner one can stumble upon a building where some famous writer, poet, or painter once lived. So, don’t be surprised when you see the inscription as such: “This is where Paul Verlaine lived.”
I have to admit that I was well prepared, I had my own “map” of “places to visit in Paris”.
There was the famous building in Saint Germain des Pres district, in Rue de Seine 57 where Baudelaire used to live. The same district was inhabited by Jean-Paul Sartre, Claude Monet, and Albert Camus. Two famous cafes Les Deux Magots and Cafe de Flore were also the rendezvous of the literary and intellectual élite of the city, Pablo Picasso, and Ernest Hemingway among others. I was like a kid in a candy store!
I remember sitting at the cafe having a quick coffee, thinking how amazing that time must have been with all the great minds gathering in one place, right here!
I had the same feeling in front of the buildings at 22 Quai de Bethune on Ile Saint Louis, where another apartment Baudelaire occupied was situated, one of many he moved to throughout his life. His windows were looking over the Seine and I stood there, thinking how the river must have seemed to the famous poet who wrote Les fleurs du mal here in this flat.
Seances in Ile Saint-Louis
Known to be a dandy, Baudelaire traveled to India when he was 20. He was moving a lot and living in hotels, going out all the time, dressing nicely, painting his hair green, and becoming an opium addict.
And he was also a member of the so-called Hashishins’ Club (another address in Ile Saint Louis), where he met famous artists of the time regularly – Theophile Gautier, Gerard de Nerval, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Honore de Balzac, Eugene Delacroix. There were monthly seances that were held in the popular Hotel de Lauzun.
Needless to say that I have read a lot about all of them before my trip.
I even went to the Montparnasse cemetery where Sartre and Baudelaire were buried, leaving a small note on their graves. The latter was buried between his mother whom he adored and his stepfather whom he despised. It was so symbolic, there were two sides to him even in death.
Well, that was a memorable journey for me, not just another trip abroad. I did buy an Eiffel Tower souvenir of course (how touristy of me). But I also brought back Baudelaire’s book of poems, Les fleurs du mal, in French.
Next: KNOCKING ON MONET’S DOOR
The full France SERIES
Oh amazing! I would feel like a kid in a candy store, too. Some famous Turkish authors and artists lived in Paris for awhile as well.
Really? Well, yes, everybody went to Paris back then, even artists from Serbia. I’d go too, if I could have gone through time first. 😀 Would take you with me, I promise! 😉
What a lovely overview of Paris. It really is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I would love to see the palace at Versailles.
You would love Versailles, it’s a huge, immensely decorated royal palace with so much history! 🙂
Paris is a melting pot of artists back then. I had the chance of seeing their work in Louvre. I regret not going to Versailles though. Next time!
Don’t you just love how you miss out on couple of “must sees” when traveling and you just have to go back? Oh, I know I do! 😀
Like the picture of the hall of mirrors, Paris is indeed beautiful and full of culture & art
It makes it so charming and unique. 🙂
I haven’t visited Paris yet, but from what I hear one should plan a whole new trip just for the museums
Yes, museums are overwhelming, there’s no way to see them all. But one should make a visit according to his/her preferences, that way it’s doable. 🙂
You really did see a different side of Paris! I’ve been to Paris twice and on both trips we rushed from one tourist spot to another. Not that I’m complaining, the Louvre was one of my best museum experiences yet. But I’d love to visit the area where Claude Monet lived – it must be so charming walking in those streets and reflecting on all the creativity that was born there!
It is lovely, believe me. Next time you visit, put a day aside to go on a day trip from Paris. I loved it, it’s probably obvious! 😀 Check out the next Glimpse, it’s all about Giverny. 😉
Paula - Gone with the Wine
Paris is always wonderful! This was a great take on what places to visit there. I have not yet visited the Versailles but I hope to be able to go back soon. There is so much to see and do in Paris.
So true! That’s why one just has to go back few times. 😉
I so wanted to do Versailles when I was in Paris and seeing it here on your post makes me that ache even stronger. It looks so gorgeous. And then of course, I have to admit that I have not seen the other parts as you have described here. Time to plan a trip again.
I don’t think it’s even possible to see it all in one take. Next time you go, do the Versailles, it’s even more beautiful in person. And after that, well, one at the time. 🙂
Sandy N Vyjay
We have been to Paris for a short stay and had to cram in a lot of things. Museums of course need lots of time and we need to come back to enjoy them. The Louvre of course is the crown jewel, however as you mention, the museum is so rich and fascinating, you are likely to get lost unless you remain focused.
You can get lost and miss out on things you wanted to see, but you’d see many other masterpieces… but you’d have to come back the next day… Overwhelming! 😀
I’ve only been to Paris once, and it was only for a couple of days. As a lover of art, I really need to plan another (longer) trip!
Oh yes, it takes a bit of time. But I’m sure you’d love the adventure! 🙂
Ah Paris. It looks so beautiful and all the art. We didn’t make it there on our European adventures. Hopefully, we make it one day. We definitely have to go back to Europe!
Fingers crossed you’ll come again soon! 😉
What a fun post! I love picturing in my mind that I’m retracing the steps of people of historical significance whenever I travel, so i totally get your excitement at these locales!!
So glad there are more of us! 😀 Thanks, it really was so much fun! 🙂