PARIS — Palais Bourbon

The 7th arrondissement is found on the Left Bank of the Seine River and is known as one of Paris’ most elegant residential areas with its luxurious townhouses, government ministries and embassies. It is also rich in antiques and art with many galleries and antique shops found here. It is best to visit these during the week as you will find many of them closed on the weekend or only open for short hours then. You will also find some of the most elegant restaurants in this area as well.

The sights found here are:
Musée du Quai Branly
Eiffel Tower
Champ de Mars
École Militaire
UNESCO Building
Musée Valentin Hauy
Hôtel des Invalides
Musée de l’Ordre de la Libération
Musée Rodin
Hôtel Matignon
Le Bon Marché
Musée Maillol
Musée d’Orsay
Musée National de la Légion d’Honneur et des Ordres de Chevalerie
National Assembly of France

Musée du Quai Branly
This museum is dedicated to the arts and civilisations of Africa, Oceania, Asia and the Americas. It has around 300,000 exhibits of sculptures, fabrics, statues, jewellery from the former collections of the Musée de l’Homme and the Musée des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie. The museum covers a large area of exhibition space as well as a beautiful garden planted out with wisteria, magnolia and roses which is wonderful when they are in full bloom.
For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.quaibranly.fr/en/accueil.html

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is the symbol of Paris and one of its most visited attractions. French engineer Gustave Eiffel spent two years working to erect this monument for the World Exhibition of 1889. It was rather controversial when it was first up as many Parisians hated it but it gradually it became part of the Parisian landscape. The tower is 300 metres tall and at the time of its building it was the tallest structure in the world. You can climb the first two levels using stairs but if you want to go any higher you will have to take a lift. You visit the tower in three stages: The first landing provides a view over the rooftops, as well as a cinema museum showing films, restaurants, and a bar. The second landing offers a panoramic look at the city. The third landing gives the most spectacular view.
For information about the Eiffel Tower visit the website at: http://www.tour-eiffel.com

Traveller's Tip

Possibly the best view of the Eiffel Tower is at night when it is just breathtaking. Every girder is highlighted and these sparkle for five minutes every hour on the hour until 1am.
  • When the tower is open, you can see the 1889 lift machinery in the east and west pillars.
  • You can beat the queues which can be very long at busy times by buying your tickets online at the website.
    Champ de Mars

    Champ de Mars
    This is the huge park that you see between the Eiffel Tower and the École Militaire. In the 16th century this field was used to grow vegetables and vineyards and in the 18th century it was used by the military as a battle training area and this is how it got its name — Mars being the Roman god of war. After 1790 it was used for many different types of celebrations and events. Today it is a huge lawned area with wide walking paths crossing the lawns with trees and flower beds scattered throughout.

    Traveller's Tip

    This is a great place to come at nightfall on Bastille Day — 14th July as it has a superb view of the fireworks display that is put on here.
    École Militaire

    École Militaire
    Construction on this school began in 1751 during the reign of Louis XV to educate 500 cadets from poor backgrounds each year. It took until 1780 to complete the building work due to financial difficulties. Napoleon Bonaparte graduated from here in 1785 and the school itself closed in 1787. After this the buildings were used as barracks and storage for the imperial guard until 1878 when it became a military institution for war studies. Between 1951 and 1966 it also housed the NATO Defence College which subsequently moved to Rome. Today the complex houses Collège Interarmées de Défense and the Institut des Hautes Études de Défense Nationale. Highlights of the building include the grand central staircase, a guard room , a salon called ‘Marshalls’ where Napoleon Bonaparte had his headquarters in 1795, a chapel and a library. The clock found in the Cour d’Honneur inner courtyard that was made by Jean André Lepaute 235 years ago. The artwork on it is of a young bare breasted woman who is thought to be Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV. Also on the clock is an old barefooted character that holds a book symbolising studies. The same company founded by the clockmaker still maintains it. You cannot visit this building.
    For information about the École Militaire visit the following website at: http://www.cdem.defense.gouv.fr/spip.php?rubrique174 (in French only)

    UNESCO Building
    This the headquarters of UNESCO whose building is found behind the École Militaire. There are a number of artworks inside including a huge mobile by Alexander Calder. There is also a lovely Japanese Garden which is worth a visit if you have time. You can visit the UNESCO headquarters for free and there is a guided tour. It is open between 9.30am and 12.30pm and 2.30pm and 6pm Monday to Friday.
    For information about UNESCO visit the website at: http://www.unesco.org

    Musée Valentin Hauy
    This private museum was established in 1886 and named after the founder of the first school for the blind. The exhibits found here are tools and information about education of the blind from 1771 until the present day.
    For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.avh.asso.fr/rubrics/association/museum.php?langue=eng

    Hôtel des Invalides

    Hôtel des Invalides
    The Hôtel des Invalides was built by King Louis XIV in 1670 as a hospital and home for wounded war veterans and it still performs these functions as well as providing office space for numerous departments of the French armed forces. There are several parts to this complex as well as the hospital, including museums and two churches as well as extensive grounds. The Musée de l’Armée (Army Museum) is one of the greatest military museums in the world, with a multitude of weapons, suits of armour, cannons, battle flags, and every other sort of military paraphernalia ranging from the Middle Ages to the contemporary. The Église du Dome is where you will find Napoleon’s tomb which was moved here in 1840 from the island in St Helena where he died in forced exile. The tomb is a huge red granite sarcophagus inside of which there are six coffins protecting the body. The sarcophagus is found beneath the gilded dome of the church which is just magnificent and very lavishly decorated. There are other tombs in here as well of Napoleon’s family, General Vauban who was a general under Louis 1V and Marichal Foch who controlled Allied forces in World War I. The lawns in front of the building are very popular as places to kick balls around as well as a place to sunbathe even though there are signs to ‘keep off the grass’. Depending on your interest in things military you will need to be prepared to spend at least two to three hours here, possibly more.
    For information about the Hôtel des Invalides visit the website at: http://www.invalides.org

    Musée de l’Ordre de la Libération
    This museum is dedicated to the Ordre de la Libération which is the second highest national honour after the Légion d’Honneur. It was created by Charles de Gaulle who was the leader of the Free French Forces but it was moved to Les Invalides in 1967. The museum has three galleries and six rooms documenting the history of the Free French Forces including manuscripts written by de Gaulle, uniforms, weapons, memories of those who were in the resistance or in concentration camps. The hall of honour is dedicated to General de Gaulle.
    For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.ordredelaliberation.fr/english/contenido1.php

    Musée Rodin

    Musée Rodin
    If you are a fan of sculpture then this is the museum for you. Auguste Rodin was the most famous French sculptor of his time and his works are highly realistic. Included in the collection are his sketches and paintings which are brilliant as well. Musée Rodin is located in a 18th century mansion which was Rodin’s home and the place where he worked. It is located near Les Invalides. The gardens contain many of his larger sculptures including the famous The Thinker sitting on a pedestal and looking over the garden. Inside there are around 6,600 of his sculptures made of bronze, terracotta, plaster, marble, wax, molten glass and stoneware. One of the highlights is The Kiss.
    For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.musee-rodin.fr/welcome.htm

    Traveller's Tip

    This is one of the best museums in Paris but if you dont’t want o go into the museum at least pay the small entrance fee of €1 to visit the garden which is just lovely and of course one of the highlights is arguably Rodin’s most famous sculpture - The Thinker. There is a cafe in the gardens where you can sit and have a drink and just soak up the atmosphere of this very special place.

    Hôtel Matignon
    This is the official residence of the French Prime Minister and is found at 57 Rue de Varenne. The mansion was originally built by the Count of Matignon in 1725 as a present for his son, the Duke of Valentinois. The design of the house was very original. The main residence consists of a single-storey building that rises from a wide terrace and is topped by a balustrade with two suites of rooms. Access from the street is via a portico with columns which leads into a courtyard with two wings of offices and outbuildings. On the right of these is another courtyard, the stables and the kitchens. One of the highlights of the building is the segmented cupola of the entrance hall and the first room on the right which was built as a dining room. The wood panelling and rich decorations found in the interior of the building are stunning and attract many visitors. There have been several owners of Hôtel Matignon over the years with the owners hosting lavish receptions for important guests but in 1922 ownership passed to the state and eventually it was occupied by the Prime Minister in 1958.
    For a virtual tour of Hôtel Matignon visit the website at: http://www.gouvernement.fr/visite-virtuelle-matignon-360

    Le Bon Marché
    This is Paris’ oldest and the only department store found on the Left Bank. It is located in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Inside the store you will find the best designer fashions for the home and for clothing. Behind the shop is La Grande Epicerie which is the food hall and it is impressive with its many exotic and delicious foods including foie gras, patés, oyster and sushi as well as many others.
    To find out more about Le Bon Marché visit the website at: http://www.lebonmarche.com

    Musée Maillol
    This art museum opened in 1995 and it shows the work of the sculptor Aristide Maillol along with the works of other artists. It was established by Dina Vierny who was the sculptor’s model. In the permanent collection are drawings, engravings, paintings, sculptures, decorative art, original plaster and terracotta work of Maillol. Other works include a painting by Henri Rousseau; drawings by Cézanne, Degas, Ingres, Matisse; wood and watercolours by Gauguin; sculptures by Rodin as well as others. There is also an annual programme of temporary exhibitions. It is open every day (except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day) from 10.30am until 7pm and on Friday evenings until 9.30pm. It costs €11.
    To find out more about the museum visit the website at: http://www.museemaillol.com (in French only)

    Musée d’Orsay

    Musée d’Orsay
    This is one of the world&rsquo's most-visited museums and deservedly so not just for the fantastic art contained within but for the uniqueness of the building itself so you will need to plan to spend a few hours here at least. It is housed in a grand railway station called the Gare d'’Orsay which was designed by Victor Laloux who won a contest for his design. His design was acclaimed for its integration of the metal vault in the stone exterior. The hall measures 40 metres wide by 32 metres high and the 12,000 ton of metal used here is more than that used in the Eiffel Tower. The Gare d'’Orsay was inaugurated in 1900 for the Paris World Expo and it was considered a masterpiece of industrial architecture. It became redundant as a railway station when longer trains were used from 1939. Over time it was used as a parking lot, a shooting stand, a theatre and a reception centre for prisoners of war. From 1961 to 1978 it was left empty until the French President at the time decided to use it as a museum for 19th and 20th century art. Restoration of the Musée d’Orsay took from 1979 to 1986. It now houses the largest collection of painting, sculpture, and decorative objects produced between 1848-1914, showcasing many of the most remarkable works of the early modern era. It contains work from Degas, Rodin, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, van Gogh and others.
    To find out more about the museum visit the website at: http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/home.html

    Musée National de la Légion d’Honneur et des Ordres de Chevalerie
    The Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur was founded in 1802 by Napoléon to reward those who were the most loyal in terms of ‘honour and country’. The Hôtel de Salm which is next to the Musée d’Orsay was bought to house the administration of the Order in 1804 and is now the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur. The museum you see today was created in 1925 and displays a history of the honours, medals, decorations and knightly orders from the time of Louis X1 up to the present. The highlight of the museum is the collection of medals and objects linked to Napoléon as well as his personal belongings and tributes.
    To find out more about the museum visit the website at: http://www.musee-legiondhonneur.fr/00_koama/visu_lh/index.asp?sid=320&lid=2

    National Assembly of France
    The National Assembly is the lower house of the French Parliament. The other house is the French Senate. Each of the 577 members are elected in a French constituency. The government body is presided over by a president, normally elected from the largest of the political parties represented in the National Assembly. Since 1830 the official seat of the National Assembly is the Palais Bourbon on the Left Bank of the River Seine. The Palais Bourbon was built between 1722 and 1728 for the Duchess of Bourbon who was the daughter of King Louis X1V and Madame de Montespan. Over time it has housed different people including the Council of Five Hundreds during the FrenchRevolution,Napoléon and now the National Assembly. You can visit it by making reservations in advance.
    To find out more about the National Assembly of France visit the website at: http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/english/index.asp