Things to Do in Île-de-France - page 3
From riding Space Mountain to flying with Peter Pan and snapping a selfie with Mickey Mouse, few theme parks serve up as much fairy-tale magic as Disneyland®. With some 14 million annual visitors, Disneyland® Paris is Europe’s biggest and busiest theme park, boasting adrenaline-fueled rides, state-of-the-art movie sets, and spectacular shows and parades that make it a fantasyland for kids and adults alike.
From getting your adrenaline pumping on Space Mountain and flying with Peter Pan, to snapping a selfie with Donald and Mickey, and hunting down all your favorite characters, a visit to Disneyland®Paris can be exhausting! Thankfully, there’s also the on-site Disney®Village with its myriad of shops and restaurants, where you can take a break from the action and refuel in preparation for the next round of shows and rides.
Of course, the Disney®fun doesn’t end just because its lunchtime and many of the restaurants continue the fantastical theme. Tuck into a Tex-Mex buffet at Billy Bob's Country Western Saloon; join the gang for brunch at Café Mickey; picnic in the wilderness at the Rainforest Café; or book an extra special Disney®dinner show (don’t worry, there’s old favorites like Starbucks, the Hard Rock Café and McDonalds, too). Once you’ve finished eating, get your credit card ready for a tour of the official Disney®souvenir stores, where you can pick up adorable toys, exclusive collectables and Disney®-inspired fashions to transform your little ones into real-life pirates and princesses.
The smaller companion to the neighboring Grand Palais, the aptly named Petit Palais is both an art venue and an architectural landmark. Like the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais was originally built for the World’s Fair in 1900. Today, it houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris (the Fine Arts Museum of the City of Paris).
An expansive green space that stretches between the Eiffel Tower and the École Militaire (Military School), the Champ de Mars has been an important public park since the 18th century. Key episodes of the French Revolution took place here, as did several World’s Fairs. Today, it’s a popular stop for relaxing and sightseeing.
ZooSafari et Chateau de Thoiryis a 370 acre zoo, castle, and botanical garden in the town of Thoiry, France. The biggest section of the zoo covers 240 acres and has a road running through it for five miles. It is the African Reserve section, and visitors drive through in their own car while the animals roam freely. Some of the animals you can see here include horses, bears, bison, wildebeest, greater and lesser kudu, camels, zebras, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, and elephants. In the walk-through section of the zoo, you can see tigers, leopards, gibbons, red pandas, lemurs, macaques, cheetahs, wolves, pygmy goats, and Komodo dragons.
The 16th century chateau is still home to the Counts of La Panouse, but some sections are open to the public with guides dressed in costume. The castle was designed as a solar calendar with the garden walkways as the hands. On the summer and winter solstices, the sun rises and sets in the castle windows as if it is coming out of the castle itself. The castle is surrounded by 95 acres of landscaped gardens and trees.
Poised overlooking the Seine, the Palais Bourbon dates to 1722. Originally built for the Duchesse de Bourbon (a daughter of King Louis XIV), the Palais Bourbon has been used to house legislative bodies, including the French National Assembly—the lower house of the French Parliament—since the end of the 18th century.
Located across from the Louvre in the heart of Paris, the Palais-Royal is an architectural highlight known for its scenic gardens and regal heritage. Originally named the Palais-Cardinal—it was built for Cardinal Richelieu in 1633—the palace later housed French royalty until Versailles was completed in 1682.
In Paris’ Beaubourg district, Centre Pompidou is a multidisciplinary cultural venue that’s home to the National Museum of Contemporary Art. Visitors come to see famous paintings by legendary artists, such as Henri Matisse and Wassily Kandinsky, and to marvel at the building’s design.
With its mixture of gourmet markets, cool bars, and historic landmarks, Paris' bohemian Bastille neighborhood allows travelers to escape the city's bustling center and discover the "Parisian's Paris." The heart of the area is Place de la Bastille—the former home of the Bastille fortress—where traffic whirls at a roundabout topped by the 170-foot (52-meter) Colonne de Juillet.
Built under the orders of Louis XIV beginning in 1670, Les Invalides—also known as the Hôtel National des Invalides—was created as a hospital and care facility for wounded war veterans. Today, the site still serves that purpose, though the sprawling complex also comprises several museums, numerous courtyards, and Paris’ tallest dome.
More Things to Do in Île-de-France
The Wall of Love (Le Mur des Je T'aime) is a massive work of art featuring the words “I love you” written in over 250 languages. Composed of 612 dark-blue tiles, this work by artist Frédéric Baron and calligraphist Claire Kito is a favorite meeting spot for lovers and offers more evidence that Paris is in fact the City of Love.
One of only two Seine islands in Paris (the other is the neighboring Île de la Cité), Île Saint-Louis is a tranquil oasis in the city center. Among the first parts of the city to be organized by modern urban planning works during the 17th century, the island is known for its scenic quays, elegant residences, and unhurried pace.
One of Paris’s most beloved cabarets, Au Lapin Agile has been delighting audiences in Montmartre for decades. The title translates to “The Nimble Rabbit” from French, originating from a painting of a rabbit jumping out of a hot frying pan. The small theater was once a hotspot for bohemian Parisian artists such as Picasso, Modigliani, Toulouse-Latrec, and Utrillo. Picasso helped to make the space famous with his 1905 painting of “At the Lapin Agile.”
The iconic pink cottage cabaret drew in some of Paris’s most eccentric characters, many of which carved their names into the original wooden tables that still remain today. Having opened in 1860, the Paris institution has long been a source of evening revelry, good food and drink, and French song and dance performance. It continues to be an authentic venue for all three today.
Fontaine Saint-Michel was sculpted by Gabriel Davioud in 1860 and gives its name to the square where it’s located, Place Saint-Michel. The monumental fountain, located between boulevard Saint-Michel and Place Saint-Andres-des-Arts was commissioned by Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann as part of Napoleon III’s plans to bring more light and air to the city of Paris.
The fountain depicts the archangel Michael vanquishing Satan, a controversial political symbol at the time hinting at Napoleon vanquishing the revolutionary fervor of the neighborhood. Unlike many of Paris’s fountains, Fontaine Saint-Michel was made from various colors of materials, including red and green marble, blue and yellow stone, and bronze. Place Saint-Michel is a popular meeting spot among both the city’s youth and foreign visitors.
Located in the 2nd Arrondissement, the Galerie Vivienne is one of the most iconic covered passages in Paris. Built in 1823 in a neoclassical Pompeian style, the 176-meter long passage features an elegant canopy, mosaic tile floors, paintings and sculptures depicting trade-related scenes and a rotunda with images of goddesses and nymphs. The arcade was originally home to a variety of shops, including tailors, cobblers, wine shops, confectioners and bookstores and enjoyed a great deal of success due to its prime location near the Vanel de Serrant Hotel. While many of its most prestigious shops eventually moved elsewhere, the passage was reborn in the 1960s.
Today, it offers a sophisticated and cozy shopping experience, with shops ranging from clothing boutiques to grocery shops to the old Jousseaume bookstore, one of only two original stores remaining. The other, the Legrand Filles and Fils delicatessen, existed before the gallery was even built.
Built in 1653 by Cardinal de Richelieu, the impressive La Sorbonne building in Paris’ Latin Quarter (Quartier Latin) houses classrooms for several universities, including the University of Paris. In addition to a historic library, the Sorbonne campus—the intellectual heart of the student-filled district—features a chapel and an airy courtyard.
Wine may be an essential part of the Parisian mystique, but only one vineyard remains in the city: Clos Montmartre, whose origins date back nearly a century. A small plot located in hilly Montmartre, the vineyard grows pinot noir, gamay, and other grapes, which it harvests annually and makes into coveted wines.
Originally built in 1635, Château d'Auvers-Sur-Oise is the gorgeous castle where Vincent Van Gogh famously spent the last 70 days of life. Consequently, the site now features a fascinating exhibit dedicated to Impressionism and works to immerse visitors in 19th-century Parisian life.
At the time of construction, the château featured a splendid Louis XIII facade, along with lavish Tivoli-inspired gardens with numerous fountains and orangeries. While the façade still exists today, the rest of the castle was significantly renovated in 1662 to make it inherently French and considerably larger, with two new pavilions.Nowadays, the castle is entirely dedicated to impressionists and features exciting highlights, including holograms of household painters like Renoir and Monet, an interpretation center with interactive terminals and even a simulated steam train whizzing through Haussmann-era Paris.
France’s splendid Château de Chantilly castle is located 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Paris. Rebuilt after the French Revolution, the palace that stands today dates to the 19th century and is renowned for its opulence. It is also home to the Musée Condé: considered one of the country's most important art collections.
One of Paris’ liveliest markets, the Marché d’Aligre, located in the 12th arrondissement, includes an open-air portion and a covered portion (which is sometimes referred to as the Marché Beauvau). Open six days a week, this popular market sells everything from fresh produce, cheese, and meat to antiques and housewares.
First opened in 1895 by Theophile Bader, Galeries Lafayette is a department store in Paris that houses luxury fashion brands including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Christian Dior. In addition to a stained glass dome ceiling and rooftop terrace with views of the Eiffel Tower, Galeries Lafayette features weekly fashion shows on Friday afternoons.
One of Paris’ top literary landmarks, Shakespeare and Company is an English-language bookstore in the Latin Quarter opened in 1951 by George Whitman. It was named after a bookstore founded in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, famous for hosting luminaries including Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein.
Place Dauphine is an iconic public square wedged between lavish townhouses on the western tip of Ile de la Cité in Paris. The square was the second project of the “royal squares program” instigated by Henri IV – the first one being what is now known as Place des Vosges – and was named after his son, soon-to-be Dauphin of France Louis XIII. To this day, it remains one of the most prestigious areas in the city.
The square’s – which is actually triangular in shape – westernmost corner connects to Pont Neuf, linking the right and left banks of the Seine River. Although the houses surrounding Place Dauphine were built in the early 1600s, only two have preserved their original features, i.e., the two located on either side of the narrow entrance leading to Pont Neuf. Nowadays, the oddly three-sided square is popular with both locals enjoying apéro and photographers searching for a quintessential Paris atmosphere.
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