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Our brilliant City of Light is known for a multitude of memorable essences — romance, history, art, culture, cuisine, music, film, literature, fashion, and the urban ambiance that makes Paris so Parisian. The layers are many.
You could be blindfolded and spun around in the world, land in Paris, have the blindfold removed, and know right away where you are. Timeless and evolving at the same moment.
The architecture — from iconic monuments to everyday elements, such as park benches, street lamps, and zinc roofs — may sometimes seem like a backdrop or “set” for the more dramatic aspects of Parisian life. But, as Ruby Boukabou proves in her new book, architecture is a major character in the theater of Paris. “You just have to slow down and appreciate the details,” she suggests.
Ruby — a native Aussie — dove deep into all aspects of Paris architecture, but sees The Architecture Lover’s Guide to Paris more as a story of Paris with a theme of “place” than a straight architecture book.
- an architectural timeline for the building of Paris,
- an organized study of major categories of architecture (think train stations, museums, châteaux, bridges, places of worship, parks, and more),
- a guide to hotels, cafés, restaurants, bars, and shopping places, with a unifying theme of their architecture
- a plan for a rewarding whirlwind 36 hours in Paris (with some favorite restaurants mentioned for a delicious interlude),
- six self-guided walking tours to find the famous and hidden gems, and
- Google Earth virtual tours for those who can’t come to Paris at the moment
This well-designed book is the first guide in a while that inspired me to make an immediate “to do” list — and I’ve lived in Paris for 15 years. Whether you’re a long-time resident, a visitor, or an armchair traveler, such a comprehensive tribute to all aspects of Paris architecture provides a world of new discovery, with stunning photographs that show the art of architecture in the best possible way.
One of my favorite parts of the book is Ruby’s concise history of architectural eras and a summary of where to find examples of each of the eras — from the indigenous Parisii fishing village of 250 BC through the most modern additions to the city.
For example, to see elements from the Renaissance era (c.1515-1643), visit the Place des Vosges, Place Dauphine, or the Fontaine des Innocents. Or, to see Rococo examples (1715-1774), discover the Hôtel Matignon, the Hôtel de Soubise, or the clock room in Versailles.
For me, finally, the history and the elements of each era are clear. Like tasting French wine in the terroir where it was made, I can’t wait to take a Roman-focused walking tour or wander an Art Nouveau path to embed the details of those eras in my sense memory.
I also appreciated Ruby’s philosophy of learning while having fun — sitting in a gothic church to listen to music, dining in the Art Nouveau brasserie Le Bouillon Chartier, savoring a cocktail at the Terrass Hotel in Montmartre, or going up up and away in the Parc André Citroën hot air balloon.
You can see the Paris panoramas by changing your perspective and heading skyward —the expansive views from rooftop cafes, towers like the Tour Saint-Jacques or Tour Montparnasse, or Sacré-Coeur Basilica and the Panthéon.
In the Beginning . . .
Ruby began her architectural writing journey after the 2019 fire at Notre Dame, a cathedral that is the “symbolic and literal heart of Paris,” as she describes it. The worldwide response to the tragedy made a book about the importance of architecture a timely and fitting tribute.
She talked with architects and designers, whose passion, she admits, was contagious. She spent time researching in historic Paris libraries. (Why not combine the research of architecture with an environment of historic architecture itself?). But she also went walking, as she encourages us to do — the best way to take time to see the details.
She spent time revisiting familiar places and discovering new treasures, but still gravitates toward her favorites when it’s time to relax — paying tribute to the neoclassical glory of the Panthéon, stepping into another world with the mosaic tables and strong coffee in the courtyard café of the Grande Mosquée de Paris, and spending contemplative time at the Temple de la Sybille in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont looking out toward Sacré-Coeur.
She calls the city a symphony of beautiful design. As the maestro of this guided discovery, Ruby has inspired a new appreciation for this 105 km architectural museum. Here’s to an exciting journey for all who read this book.
About the Tap-Dancing Author
True to a mash-up of old proverbs, no moss grows under Ruby’s feet. Partly because she’s a quick-footed tap dancer, dancing across the Paris bridges that she loves, physically and metaphorically.
But also because she is multi-talented and seemingly tireless. She is working on two of her next travel guides, a novel, and a podcast called Sense in the City (focusing on sensory experiences in cities around the world). And, when she returns to Paris from Australia, she will continue her cabaret/dinner show called Paris by Night.
You’ll also find the book (as well as Ruby’s 2019 book The Art Lover’s Guide to Paris) at the Paris English-language bookshops (W.H. Smith, Librairie Galignani, Abbey Bookshop, Shakespeare & Co, Red Wheelbarrow, and Bill & Rosa’s Book Room). Or order from any of your local independent bookstores.
Lead photo credit : Architecture lovers guide to Paris © Olivia Rutherford