Located in the heart of Paris, this very touristic neighborhood is one of the oldest in the city. Bordered by the Seine, it’s particularly nice to visit when it is nice weather. You can enjoy the magnificent Tuileries Garden or stroll under the archways of rue de Rivoli before heading towards the famous and very vast Louvre Museum.
Statue of Molière
(40 rue Richelieu, M7, 14: station Pyramides, M1, 7: station Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre)
Crédits © Moonik
The most famous playwright in the French language is honored at 40, rue Richelieu. At the exit of the Opéra neighborhood, you’ll have the chance to admire a large bronze statue depicting Molière deep in thought. It was Joseph Régnier, secretary of the Comédie-Française during the end of the 19th century that ordered the creation of the structure. A lovely note to the dramatic arts since the statue is found just a few steps from the Comédie-Française.
(1 place Colette, M1, 7: station Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre)
A real cultural institution whose creation started up in the 17th century, this theater is the only one belonging to the French government. The Comédie-Française is made up of a troop of permanent comedians called “Troupe des Comédiens-Français”. It will be hard for you to visit the Salle Richelieu (the main performance hall) that is only open to the public one Sunday every quarter. It was restored in 2013 and is really worth a detour. To take part in its rare visits, you’ll have to sign up in advance on the web site of the Comédie-Française. For theater enthusiasts, you can attend performances of the classics of old or French theater. Note that despite the performances’ quality, the prices are still surprisingly low (41 euros max at full price for a good seat) and you can enjoy preferential prices by buying last minute seats (50% cheaper) at the Comédie-Française box office about an hour before the start of the show, or seats with lower visibility (unguaranteed seats, but the visibility isn’t really as bad as you think) for 5 euros. Furthermore, those under 28 can enjoy free seats on the first Monday of every month (you can get them at the “Little Office” in the lobby). The theater offers evening as well as matinee shows (at 2pm) for those who like to go to bed earlier.
(1 place du Palais Royal, M1, 7 : station Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre)
Crédits © Marie-Lan Nguyen
Leaving the Comédie Française, you can plunge into rue Saint-Honoré and admire, almost immediately on your left, the buildings for the Conseil d’Etait, Conseil Constitutionnel and the Ministry of Culture brought together in the immense Palais Royal that gives its name to the square where it is found. The building was originally purchased then transformed by Cardinal Richelieu in 1624. It passed from hand to hand among those in the upper spheres of society and officially became the Palais Royal while Louis XIV was a child and moved in there with his mother and brother. During the 18th century, the Palais Royal became a popular place for political and artistic life in France. It was also during this time that the interior of the Palais was transformed and adopted a rococo style thanks to the architect, Oppenord, one of the creators of this charged style. You can visit this large building, listed as a historical monument, as well as its gardens. Note that if the buildings stay open continuously, the garden’s hours vary along with the seasons. Plan ahead for your visit by going to the website of the Palais Royal.
(M1, 7 : station Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre, M1 : station Tuileries, M1, 8, 12 : station: Concorde)
Crédits © Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
To enjoy something green after a long visit in the Louvre, the ideal thing to do is go around the vast Tuileries Garden that stretches over more than 25 hectares. From the Louvre, you can go under the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (not to be confused with the Arc de Triomphe des Champs Elysées); and from the Place de la Concorde, you’ll just have to cross through the golden metal gates that you can’t miss to enjoy the French garden listed as UNESCO global heritage site.
Many benches and chairs are made available for free to visitors that can move them at their leisure to enjoy the ponds and treat themselves to sunbathing or a break in the shade. You can also rent a sailboat and sail along the little waves of the garden’s pond.
The garden was created by the request of Catherine de Medici (mother of the future kings of France, François II, Charles IX, and Henri III) in 1564. A century later, Louis XIV and his minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, ordered that the garden be completely redesigned by André Le Nôtre. The garden we know today hasn’t changed since that time and the main paths have stayed the same.
From the garden, you can easily get to many museums that border Tuileries like the Musée de la Mode et du Textile where you can discover clothing dating from different time periods throughout an exhibit telling the history of textiles from the 14th century to our time. Further down, approaching the Place de la Concorde and its obelisk, you’ll pass by Musée de l’Orangerie. The main goal of the Orangerie, as its name suggests, was to protect the garden’s orange trees. The building was shut down in 1853 and little by little transformed into a museum. It was first chosen in 1920 by Monet himself to display his cycle, Waterlilies, which he just donated to the government. Then the collection developed gradually. Today, the Orangerie contains many impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. On the far west of Tuileries and parallel to this museum, you’ll find the Musée du Jeu de Paume. The building was constructed under the reign of Napoleon III during the Second Empire and was originally a court to play “palm game” (ancestor to tennis). The building’s size as well as its architecture made it the twin to the Orangerie and allowed it to respect the garden’s symmetry. Today the Jeu de Paume houses in its 1200m2 works from contemporary artists, filmmakers, and photographers.
Musée de la Mode et du Textile : 107-111, rue de Rivoli, Paris 1st arrondissement. (Closed on Mondays. Full price: 11 euros, reduced price: 8.50 euros, free everyday for anyone under 25 and students)
Musée de l’Orangerie : Jardin des Tuileries, Paris 1st arrondissement. (Closed on Tuesdays. Full price: 9 euros, reduced price: 6.50 euros)
Musée du Jeu de Paume : 1, place de la Concorde, Jardin des Tuileries, Paris 1st arrondissement (Closed on Mondays. Full price: 10 euros, reduced price: 7.50 euros, free for students and anyone under 25 on the last Tuesday of the month).
Place de la Concorde
(M1, 8, 12 : station Concorde)
Leaving Tuileries, you’ll stumble directly upon the frantic traffic on Place de la Concorde. This square was built by Gabriel, Louis XIII’s architect, and is considered as the most monumental urban planning project as well as the most representative of the Age of Enlightenment. In fact, it was during the 18th century that the architects abandoned the charged style of rococo to return to more classic ones, borrowed from ancient Greece and Rome. This switch gave birth to the neoclassical style. Place de la Concorde, with its octagonal shape, is a perfect example of it. Furthermore, it played an important role during the French Revolution. It was, in fact, an important meeting place since it was there that the guillotine was installed and that Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were both decapitated.
However, Concorde has changed since it has been remodeled during the 19th century. It was especially at this time period that the majority of the sculptures, the two fountains, and the obelisk (given to Charles X by the viceroy of Egypt) that overlooks the square, were added. Later, sculptures representing the eight other main French cities were added to decorate the eight corners giving shape to the square. Turning your back to Tuileries, you can see on your left on the other side of the Seine, the Palais Bourbon (which housed the French National Assembly). Across from you, you’ll have a spectacular view over the Champs-Elysées, the Arc de Triomphe, and you’ll also maybe see the buildings of the Défense in the distance. The avenue that stretches off on your right leads to the Madeleine. Crossing the Place de la Concorde, you can get to the United States Embassy. If Concorde is a grandiose square, it is still extremely burdened by heavy traffic. Go there and try to cross it during the day (especially at peak hours) and that can turn out to be a wild journey. That is why we recommend going there to visit at night. That will allow you to admire the golden decorations and the lit up monuments, and you won’t risk getting honked at and your pictures won’t be ruined by the incessant traffic.
Archways on Rue de Rivoli
(M1, 8, 12 : station Concorde, M1, 7 : station Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre, M1 : station Louvre Rivoli)
Crédits © Guilhem Vellut
If you decide to retrace your steps without going by Tuileries Garden, you can take the archways on rue de Rivoli. The part of the archways that stretches from Place de la Concorde up to the statue of Joan of Arc honors the large luxury brands. There is something there for all tastes, but not for all budgets. Between the upscale ready-to-wear boutiques and tailor-made accessories, you can stop by the Anglo-Saxon bookshop, W.H. Smith, or go try a pastry or something for breakfast in the famous tea salon, Angelina. For this gourmet stop, you’ll need to stay patient, because the place’s fame and beauty attracts curious visitors that come in numbers. Also, it’s possible that you’ll need to wait a certain amount of time before having a seat. For a more “chic Parisian bistro” atmosphere, we recommend the brunch at Fumoir. Rue de Rivoli is also surrounded by luxury hotels like Hôtel Cambon, The Westin Paris Vendôme, or Le Meurice. From the statue of Joan of Arc, the shops become less luxurious and you’ll find many souvenir shops where you can buy post cards, but be careful of tourist traps! The rest of rue de Rivoli has already been discovered and stretches down to the heart of Marais, passing by Châtelet and Hôtel de Ville de Paris. You’ll find many bars and ready-to-wear boutiques at more accessible prices.
W.H. Smith: 248, rue de Rivoli, Paris 1st arrondissement.
Salon de thé Angelina: 226, rue de Rivoli, Paris 1st arrondissement.
Le Fumoir: 6, rue de l’Amiral de Coligny, Paris 1st arrondissement.
Hôtel Cambon: 3, rue Cambon, Paris 1st arrondissement.
The Westin Paris Vendôme: 3, rue de Castiglione, Paris 1st arrondissement.
Le Meurice: 228, rue de Rivoli, Paris 1st arrondissement.
Ok, I guess we still need to talk about Louvre Museum here!
(99 rue de Rivoli, M1, 7: station Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre, M1: station Louvre Rivoli)
An essential step in your visit in Paris, the Louvre Museum is found on the other side of the Place du Palais Royal and its many buildings stretch up to the Quai François Mitterrand that borders the Seine. While the Louvre is so essential to your visit, its history is often lesser known. In fact, this splendid museum that covers more than 60,000m2 hasn’t always been a museum. There was originally a fortress on the current site of the Louvre. Built in 1190 by Phillipe-Auguste, it stretched over the southwestern quarter of the current Cour Carrée. It was in 1546 that the king, François I decided to transform the medieval building into a luxurious palace. Directed by Pierre Lescot, the construction gave birth to a Renaissance styled building. The construction was then followed up by the reigns of Henri II and Charles IX. As for the planning and decoration of the interior of the Louvre Palace, they were successfully completed under the reigns of Louis XI and Louis XIII. The project was nevertheless interrupted in 1678 when the king Louis XIV decided to not live in the Louvre Palace, but to distance himself from the center of Paris by moving into the Palace of Versailles. But the Louvre didn’t immediately transform into a museum since it served as a warehouse where they stored the art works belonging to the royal family. The project creating a national and public museum was only started during the Revolution, a time when the old palace became the “Muséum Central des Arts de la République”. A few hundred works were exhibited to the revolutionary public. But the Louvre wasn’t only a museum at the time since many artists (David, Verney, Isabey, etc.) lived in the old apartments that weren’t open to the public. Many street shops moved into the halls of the Louvre each day, and you could even find little shacks built against the museums walls. In 1800, during the reign of Napoleon, he ordered the expulsion of the merchants and residents of the museum that he wanted to expand on but also protect, because he feared that one of the merchants or residents could start a fire or destroy a growing collection that was already almost priceless.
Today, the museum’s collections are really diverse. The Louvre is graced with a very large collection of western art from the Middle Ages up to 1848 as well as collections for ancient civilizations (Eastern, Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman) and Islamic art. You can also admire the most beautiful works of art in the world and maybe even see the smile of the mysterious Mona Lisa if you manage to elbow your way through the crowd of tourists.
The museum and its web site are well organized since all the artwork is referenced online. You can also preplan your route so that you don’t get lost once you are here. You can also download a complete audio guide on your phone or tablet for a pretty modest price (1.79 euros) and choose among a large selection of themed tours according to subjects or collections that you are interested in the most. Note that it is necessary to reserve those visits though. The site will let you avoid waiting in line at the entrance to the museum by reserving a ticket in advance. In terms of quality, the price is really a good deal given the setting, the quality of exhibits, and reasonable enough prices (12 euros at full price for the permanent exhibits, 13 for secondary exhibits in Hall Napoléon, or 16 for the paired or out of season tickets, September to March. Access to the permanent exhibits is free on Sundays). Youth (under 18 years old or under 25 year old residents of the European Union) have free access to the permanent collection throughout the year.
For a serene visit, we recommend avoiding going there during the weekend and holidays, and favoring visits during the weekdays, especially in the morning or evening on Thursday (up to 9:45pm). The museum is closed on Tuesdays.
Helpful tip: in case it is too crowded and/or super hot, don’t hesitate to go walk around the Etruscan, Roman, and Greek area on the ground floor and mezzanine. These halls aren’t really the most popular and you can take a cool and calming moment among the ancient statues.
But the museum isn’t limited to its works of art, the architecture there is exceptional in itself. Since 1989, the glass pyramid has become the symbol of the museum. If the work by I.M. Pei, erected in the center of the impressive Cour Napoléon, is beautifully impressive, its inversed twin, which decorates the underground merchant gallery of the Carrousel du Louvre is even more so. You will be able to stroll around the surrounding and enjoy the place’s architectural eclecticism in discovering the Carrousel’s boutiques that will lead you to the entrance of the museum. We don’t recommend the remodeled part of Carrousel that offers really expensive dishes that are often bad quality in a noisy and unpleasant setting.
Our recommended hotels in this neighborhood
Grand Hôtel du Palais Royal : the rooms are warm and very stylish, some have a balcony with views of the monuments of the city
Hôtel Pont Royal : Located in the midst of the stylish Saint-Germain des Prés area, with modernity and elegance, the hotel staff strive to ensure your expectations are fulfilled.
Hôtel Regina : some rooms will benefit from a wonderful view on the Jardin des Tuileries, Ideally situated in the heart of Paris.
Relais Hôtel du Vieux Paris : Built in 1480, you’ll fall under the spell of this vintage building bursting with poetry.
Hôtel Villa D’Estrees : charming and prestigious hotel, provides high quality hosting and exceptional comfort, in the heart of the Latin Quarter.
Hôtel Royal Saint Honoré : the Louvre and the Tuileries are close by, making this an ideal setting for walking, the best way to discover the City of Lights.
Hôtel le Relais du Louvre : situated between the Louvre and Notre-Dame, restful colour schemes and charming period furniture provide the elegant setting for the suites and rooms.
Hôtel Britannique : nestled on a quiet street near the Seine, this charming hotel favours the classical elegance of top of the line comfort and inviting décor.