/ The Baby Boomer Travel Guide
Baby Boomers, Paris — By Andy Hayes on August 5, 2010 at 11:55 pm
Filed under: Art, museum, top-feature

An Afternoon of Art on the Seine

I’ve been to Paris nearly ten times, and there are still lots of things I’ve not seen.  The French capital has portrayed itself as a city full of romance, love, art, finesse.  And it’s all true – right down to those painters creating their art alongside the river, and selling their work to passers by based half on their talent and half on their witty charm and good looks.

But if you’re looking for art in Paris, I know right where to send you.  In fact, I’ve got the perfect afternoon.  We’ll start at my favorite museum in Paris, the Museum d’Orsay (map), and then stroll along the Seine, a picturesque river that runs through the heart of the city.  Just a few blocks away are a few more treats to satisfy your cultural side, as well as some sweeter treats for your taste buds.  Let’s get going, and don’t forget your comfortable shoes!

It will be easy to get here from wherever you are staying – this is the 1st arrondissement, or neighborhood, of Paris, the most central geographically.  There are several metro stops in the area as well – Solferino is the closest to the museum, the highlight of our art-inspired afternoon.

Musee d’Orsay

The reason why I love Museum d’Orsay (Musee d’Orsay) is because the building itself is art – just look at that gorgeous photograph!   The building is the former Gare d’Orsay, or Orsay Train Station.  The building was opened in 1900 as the world’s first electrified railway terminal.   In 1977 it was decided the then unused station would be best as a museum, and after a number of discussions and refurbishments, the Museum d’Orsay opened in 1986.  Amazingly, the massive clocks on the station walls are mostly original and still work.

You’ll love this museum, and here’s why: they have the originals of some of the world’s most famous paintings, both those by French and other European artists.  Some of my personal favorites:

  • Van Gogh’s Starry Night [over the Rhone], which must be in print on the walls of many homes around the world
  • Cezanne’s Apples and Oranges
  • Bouguereau’s Birth of Venus
  • Renoir’s Le moulin de la Galette
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It is the impressionist and the post-impressionist collection the d’Orsay is known for, in fact, it’s the largest in the world.  If you’re not a painting person, fret not:  the museum has a lot of fantastic sculptures which look great in this type of open air venue – oddly enough, they are organized into groups that correspond with the continents, though this is a stylistic choice, not to represent where the artists were from.  In addition to that you’ll find some interesting furniture displays, as well as photography, which is often the media featured in the museums exhibits in rotation.

Guided tours for both adults and for children are available in English for an extra charge.  For details and the most recent schedules (which vary according to season), visit the museum website.  All year round, audio guides are available in several languages.  This is highly recommended if English or French is not your primary language.

Essential Info

  • Ticket Price: 8EUR (free for 5-18 year olds with ID).  They can be purchased online or at the museum.
  • Hours: Tue-Wed, Fri-Sun 9:30 am – 6 pm; Thu 9:30 am – 9:45 pm

Island Treats

Once you’ve finished, head out of the museum and turn right for a stroll along the River Seine.  This river makes its beginnings in Burgundy and winds its way throughout the entire country, finishing its journey emptying into the English Channel. You can take a boat tour which offers a different perspective of the city – indeed the size and heft of the Musee d’Orsay can be seen well from a boat.

Just around the bend, you’ll find that a large island appears in the river.  The sight you’re looking at should need no introduction – it’s Notre Dame (mapHours: Mon – Sat 8 am – 6:45 pm; Sun 8 am – 7:45 pm), one of Paris’s most recognizable and most photographed buildings.  It’s free, so feel free to pop in, but then make sure to spare a minute to walk around to the back of this island for my favorite church in Paris, Sainte-Chapelle (map – Hours: March 1 to October 31: 9:30 am to 6 pm, November 1 to February 28: 9 am to 5 pm).  The church was built by Louis XI to house all of his treasured artifacts, supposedly including such rarities as Christ’s Crown of Thorns.  Though nearly destroyed many times, the church today is wonderfully restored.

Continue your route around on the Seine and you’ll find you can reach another smaller island.  This is the perfect place to end your afternoon of the best of Paris, not because you’ll find more museums or attractions, but because the island is home to Berthillon (map - Hours: Wed – Sun 10 am – 8 pm), where you can sample the best ice cream in Paris.  This place is packed, and on a hot day there is a queue up for the outside window, but believe me, it is well worth it.  And after seeing two of Paris’s most beautiful churches, filled with gorgeous art, and wandering the city’s best art museum, what else could top it off than some ice cream and maybe a coffee?  It’s just how things are done in Paris.

Photo Credits: Dimitry B, Steven Parker

Related places:
  1. A
    Muse d'Orsay
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  2. B
    Notre Dame
    Place du Parvis Notre Dame, París, , France
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  3. C
    Sainte-Chapelle
    , , , , ,
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  4. D
    Glacier Berthillon
    31, Rue St Louis en l'ile, Paris, France
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Tags: Art, museum, top-feature


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