PARIS — Observatoire

The 14th arrondissement of Paris is named after the observatory of Paris which is found here. The skyline of this district is dominated by the Tour Montparnasse. There are also some of the more unusual tourist attractions in this area such as the Montparnasse cemetery, where many famous French citizens are buried and the catacombs. During the early 20th century this area was populated by many writers and artists who moved here from Montmartre when the rents became too high there. Some of those who lived here were Picasso, Apollinaire, Leger, Chagall, Klee, Zadkine, Henry Miller, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and the photographer Man Ray. It was a very lively place with cafes and jazz clubs where the artists, writers and intellectuals met, discussed, drank and ate and it still attracts similar kinds of people.

The sights found here are:
Tour Montparnasse
Gare Montparnasse
Musée Jean Moulin
Montparnasse Cemetery
Fondation Cartier
Place Denfert-Rochereau
Catacombs of Paris
La Sante Prison
Musée Lenine
Parc MontSouris

Tour Montparnasse

Tour Montparnasse
This skyscraper is 210 metres tall and was one of the first major towers to be built in Paris. When it was built it was disliked by many because it intruded into the skyline of Paris and from this time skyscrapers were only built on the outskirts of the city. It was built between 1969 and 1972 on top of the Montparnasse-Bienvenüe Métro station. On the 56th floor there is a restaurant and observation deck with fantastic views. For an even higher view you can visit the terrace on the top floor which can also be accessed by climbing from the 56th floor. The rest of the building contains offices.
For information about the tower visit the website at:
http://www.tourmontparnasse56.com/index_EN.php#/home

Traveller's Tip

For an impressive view visit the tower at night to see the illuminated landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Dôme des Invalides.

Gare Montparnasse
This is one of the six main train stations and was originally opened in 1840. It was completely rebuilt in 1969. Today it is used for the intercity TGV trains travelling to the west and south-west of France as well as several suburban and regional services. In 1895 there was a huge derailment here of the Granville-Paris Express when it overran the buffer stop and crashed out into the Place du Rennes. No-one on board was killed and the only fatality was a woman killed by falling masonary on the street. This event inspired many artists and writers.

Musée Jean Moulin
The Musée Jean Moulin is part of another museum, le Mémorial du Maréchal Leclerc de Hauteclocque et de la Libération de Paris. These museums have displays concerning WW2 through photographs, documents and film. The Resistance movement is portrayed through the eyes of two men — Marechal Leclerc de Hautecloque who commanded the first Allied unit to enter Paris and Jean Moulin who was a communist and was executed for being a member of the Resistance.
For information about the museum visit the following website at:http://www.paris.fr/portail/loisirs/Portal.lut?page_id=6923

Montparnasse Cemetery
This cemetery was created from three farms in 1824 and is the final resting place of the intellectual and artistic elite of Paris as well as some notable foreigners. There are also monuments to police and firefighters killed in the line of duty in the city of Paris. Some of those buried here are Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir, Charles Baudelaire, Robert Enrico, Guy de Maupassant, Maria Montez, Man Ray, Camille Sant-Saëns, Jean-Paul Satre, Jean Seberg as well as many others.
For information about the cemetery and a map of the graves visit the following website at: http://www.paris.fr/portail/english/Portal.lut?page_id=8222&document_type_id=5&document_id=34190&portlet_id=19019

Fondation Cartier
This Foundation was created in 1984 to help support and raise awareness of contemporary art by the jewellers — Cartier. The building that now houses the art gallery is an architectural landmark built on the site of the former American Center in 1993 by the architect Jean Nouvel. This is a glass house of cards layered seamlessly between the boulevard and the garden filled with mature trees, including the Lebanese cedar ‘Tree of Liberty’ planted here by the poet Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand in 1825. The collection today covers every domain of art, from painting, video and drawing, to photography, sculpture and monumental installations. The foundation also hosts performance nights in contemporary dance, music, film and fashion.
For information about the Fondation Cartier visit the website at: http://fondation.cartier.com

Place Denfert-Rochereau

Place Denfert-Rochereau
This public square is one of the largest and most important squares on the Left Bank. It is named after Pierre Denfert-Rochereau who was the French commander who organised the defense at the siege of Belfort in the Franco-Prussian War between 1870 and 1871. At the centre of the square is the huge statue of the Lion of Belfort which is the name that was given to Pierre Denfert-Rochereau. The two stone 19th century buildings that are found on the square were where the taxes were collected on goods entering the city. Many demonstrations have been held on this square and it is also the start of a lot of protest marches. The entrance to the Paris Catacombs is found here as well.

Paris Catacombs

Catacombs of Paris
The Catacombs of Paris contain the remains of 5 to 6 million Parisians from the late 18th century. The entrance is found on Place Denfert-Rochereau behind a black door opposite the métro station entrance. You then will have to climb down a steep spiral staircase and walk through a tunnel before you come to an area which is lined with rows and rows of stacked bones and skulls. The catacombs were created when the city cemeteries became too full and because there were so many underground tunnels as the result of quarrying that happened here since Roman times they were a useful alternative. People have been attracted to this rather gruesome place for many years and they were officially opened to the public in 1867 and have been popular ever since. It will cost you around €8 to visit and you can take a self-guided tour which will last around 45 minutes. They are open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am until 4pm.

Traveller's Tip

Be aware that your bag will be searched at the end of your visit because people have tried to steal bones in the past.

La Sante Prison
This is one of the most famous prisons in France and was built in the mid 19th century. During WW2 it was used to hold opponents to the German occupation as well as common criminals. On Bastille Day in 1944 when the Allied Forces were entering Paris there was a revolt at the prison and a lot of people were killed. The prison has received very bad press over time because of its unsanitary conditions.

Musée Lenine
This museum is a replica of the apartment that Lenin, his wife and her mother lived in from 1902 until 1912. In the building is furniture, sculpture, painting, medals and memorabilia of Lenin. It is found at 4 Rue Marie-Rose and is open by appointment during the week from 9.30am until 5pm. It is free to visit. The phone number is +33142799958.

Parc MontSouris

Parc MontSouris
This lovely park was built between 1865 and 1873 and is the third largest park in Paris, not including the Bois de Boulogne or the Bois de Vincennes. The park was designed in the English style with lawns and around 1,400 trees and there is a large lake in the centre. Also in the park is a meteorological observatory which has been collecting and evaluating climatic statistics since 1947. There are lots of bronze and stone statues as well as a music bandstand that holds free weekend concerts from May to September. There are some amusements in the park that are particularly good for children including pony rides, a puppet theatre and several playgrounds. There is a snack bar and a restaurant as well.