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Culture in Paris

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Paris is world famous for its unrivalled historical, cultural and architectural heritage. Paris is a unique city which attracts millions of visitors every year, as well as numerous expatriates who decide to make the city their home. With more than 136 museums, dozens of exhibitions, countless shows and a multitude of theatres, Paris is buzzing with life, and it is truly difficult to ever get bored in the city. Whether you are a history buff or an arts aficionado, Paris holds something for you which you will find nowhere else in the world.

For the youth

The importance of arts and culture in the lifestyle of the French is epitomized by the free access that young people (Europeans below the age of 26) and students can enjoy to the city’s museums. In addition to free access, many institutions will offer discounted prices to students including, for example, conferences and seminars at the Louvre, so make sure you carry your student card with you when you visit. There is therefore no excuse to not to discover the country's rich historical heritage. Exhibitions, at public museums generally cost around 8 euros whereas private exhibitions will charge around 15 euros. However, these may be an excellent way to enjoy your expat experience, especially if you like arts, and it is very difficult to rival what Paris has to offer in that respect.

If it rains

On a grey, rainy day, hit the museums. Many of the “must-sees” are found around the Seine River, but are generally very busy. In order to avoid long waits, you can purchase advance tickets which allow you to skip the queues of tourists waiting to get in or you can head to the museums early in the morning or late in the evening. One of the “must-sees” is the Palais de Tokyo, which is full of outlandish works which will intrigue and amaze you. The Quai Branly Museum is a quite amusing glass top garden. By strolling around, let your mind relax and wander amidst the strange sounds of wild animals and Indian flutes and take a walk around the globe as you admire a stunning collection of artifacts from non-European civilizations.

Formerly a train station, the Quai d'Orsay Museum hosts thousands of works within a magnificent building. Entrance fees are quite high but definitely worth it, especially the outsized paintings found on the ground floor. The museum also offers impressive views of Paris. The Grand Palais in an impressive edifice along the Champs Elysees. Inside, you will be delighted by its various themes, ranging from 17th century classicism to contemporary artists. You will be amazed by this graceful glass palace, and if you fancy a break after your visit, head to the Petit Palais (a short walk away) and enjoy a warm drink in the Jardin du Petit Palais.

Further out, after the Place de la Concorde, you will find the Louvre Museum. Its first walls were built in 1202. The Louvre used to be a prison where famous villains such as Ferrand of Flanders were locked up. Over the years, it has been extended and turned into a royal residence and each of its galleries displays a specific era. From Egyptian mummies to the 18th century, passing through Middle Ages, you will discover a great historical heritage, among which are Fragonard and Boucher. Make sure you check out the website of the Louvre for guided tours as well as conferences on a variety of themes. Of course, no visit to the Louvre is complete without seeing the Mona Lisa, but just a word of caution: the crowds in front of this art piece are second to none!

The beautiful Notre Dame has seen Paris grow and has been the source of inspiration of novelist Alexandre Dumas. The Notre Dame can be visited, but rather than speeding through, you can go to one of the many concerts organised within the walls of the cathedral. Do not miss the Châtelet, a covered and open air plaza. Formerly a prison, it hosts many charming streets leading to Odeon and the Marais, where you will find a wide array of nice and cosy cafés in which you can enjoy a Parisian hot chocolate.

Sunny Paris

You should probably start by the North with the Montmartre Basilica overlooking Paris. The nearby village is well known due to several artists, namely Picasso, Dali, Pissaro and Van Gogh, and constitute an unmissable and truly Parisian gem. The area at the foot of Montmartre is famous thanks to the Moulin Rouge cabaret and many world-famous shows such as the French Cancan and the Lido. The area around the Pigalle stations is very lively, especially late at night and is home to a profusion of adult-only shows but also bars and dancefloors.

The Tuileries Garden is one of the cornerstones of Paris. Hidden among trees, the Orangerie is where you can admire the works of Monnet, Rodin as well as Giacometti sculptures in the shadows of poplars. The garden is very popular both for locals and visitors, and in the summer you can see droves of Parisian youth heading to the gardens to relax and sunbathe. Why not be adventurous and say hello?

All the bridges in Paris have their own history. The Pont des Arts, the Alexander III Bridge, the new bridge and the small bridge are not to be missed. It is also worth going down the steps to enjoy the banks of the Seine. The Alexander III bridge is stunning and is located right in from of an even grander building, the Invalides, but do not miss the very cool bars right next to the bridge, including the Rosa Bonheur, which is a Parisian favorite. Over the summer, you can get your own bottle of Rosé and some cheese and saucisson and join the hundreds of groups who meet up on the Seine until the late hours of the night.

The Trocadero is an enchanting plaza surrounded by the Marine Museum and the Musée de l'Homme and leads up to the Eiffel Tower. Entrance fees vary between 9 and 15 euros but you will most probably have to queue up before being admitted, but the wait is worth it.

In the warmer months of the year, the Luxembourg Gardens are an ideal to hang out or to stroll. You can refresh yourself around a large pool, which is surrounded by many chairs. Nearby, you will also find the Pantheon which tells its ancient history in a unique way, and which is the final resting place for “the great men of the French Republic”.

For more information on the sights in Paris, visit the Paris Official Tourism Portal for more information about these places of interest, exhibitions, museums, as well as price reductions.

Shopping and restaurants in Paris

Paris is the capital of fashion and every year thousands congregate to the famous Fashion Week. The city is home to thousands of boutiques and galleries, including both mainstream brands as well as unique and independent shops. The latter make the shopping scene particularly interesting and different from that of other international capitals. You can start by touring the 15th with the Beaugrenelle Galleries which have a unique view on the 16th and beautiful shops.

Along the Promenades du Châtelet, you can go shopping underground, but you will find mostly international brands. Serious shoppers should definitely stop at the Galeries Lafayette, near the Opéra Garnier, which is outstanding both in terms of its shops and offerings but in terms of its architecture. Enjoy a tea while you are there, before heading out towards the chic (and expensive) Place Vendome. Along the way, you will see a range of luxury stores, including some of the world’s most famous jewelers and watchmakers. For more accessible goods, head instead towards the Haussmann Boulevard.

Paris is a treasure trove of restaurants and caters to a wide variety of tastes. Of course, the city is well stocked when it comes to Michelin stars, but also has many local joints which are great and more affordable. Le Relai de Venise is a famous Parisian restaurant, and other great options can be found in the 6th district, including the restaurant Chez Allard, which serves great frog legs and snails. In the 7th, Pascal Mièvre delicatessen, the Café Constant and the Violon d’Ingres are not to be missed. Make sure to visit either the website of the Michelin guides or La Fourchette to check out the entire offerings of Paris as well as to hunt for good deals.

 Useful links:

Paris Official Tourism Portal
Que faire à Paris?
Eiffel Tower
La Fourchette
Guide Michelin

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