Paris – 7th Arrondissement
The first destination stop for those heading to Paris for the first time will almost always be the Eiffel Tower in the 7th arrondissement. Go early in the day so you avoid long lines, or opt to walk up the 1,665 steps (tickets are cheaper, and the lines are shorter). Once you get to the top, you’ll have the gorgeous view of Paris… but without the Eiffel Tower in it! The Eiffel Tower’s light show starts up after dark, every hour on the hour for five minutes and it is not to be missed. The Champ de Mars, the grassy lawn spread out in front of the Eiffel Tower, is a great place for a picnic.
The 7th is home to one of the city’s landmark, must-see museums: the Musée d’Orsay, which is housed in a former train station. The revamped Impressionist wing is particularly magnificent, and there’s a beautiful cafe, designed by the Campana Brothers, for a lunchtime pick-me-up. We also recommend the series of rooms devoted to Van Gogh’s work.
Other important sites in the arrondissement include the Musée du Quai Branly, the Ethnic Arts museum, which was designed by architect Jean Nouvel with hanging vertical gardens.
The gold dome of Invalides marks the Musée de l’Armée, one of the largest and most interesting military museums in the world, and the majestic tomb of Napoléon.
Perhaps the most underrated must-do on a first trip to Paris is a visit to the Musée Rodin. A former chateau for French nobility, this is where Rodin lived and worked before he died. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens which display Rodin’s work. The Thinker, in deep contemplation in the beautiful rose gardens, the Burghers of Calais almost come alive as they anguish over their terrible decision… After marveling at the sculptures inside and out, plan to enjoy lunch in the garden with a cool bière pression, simply because it’s a gorgeous place to be.
The American Library in Paris is not a museum but a Paris institution among expats. Founded in the early 1900s, the library offers a fascinating schedule of lectures by well-known authors, lectures and book signings. Or choose to simply relax in an armchair, read a book, catch up on the internet or scan today’s news.
For shop-a-holics, nothing will beat Le Bon Marché and its glorious La Grande Epicierie de Paris.
One of the advantages of the 7th arrondissement is the abundance of Paris open air markets, which allow you to shop for the freshest foods from the countryside every day of the week. Try rue Cler, a market street with fixed shops rather than a temporary open air market. It’s the heart of the Village St. Dominique and a food destination for the whole neighborhood. Open daily, you’ll find excellent cheese shops, delicatessens, flower stalls, butchers, fish merchants, chocolate shops, wine shops and greengrocers here. Sundays are one of their busiest days as French families descend on to rue Cler to shop for the family lunch after mass nearby. Some stores are not open on Monday mornings. There are several popular apartments for rent on rue Cler, a real treat to be able to step outside and find buttery warm croissants just outside, hot out of the oven!
Other markets include the Saxe-Breteuil and the Grenelle open-air markets.
Lead photo credit : Eiffel Tower by Corey Frye