Unravel the incredible layers of the 2000 years of history that makes the Paris of the 21st century more complex and interesting than the tourists would ever suspect. Discover the hidden places and hot new spots in each district.
This new itinerary is the result of literally years of study and is designed for individual travellers who are well beyond being satisfied by the typical tourist traps. The idea originally came from a very experienced traveller who knew that after years of visiting Paris, he was simply scratching the surface.
He rightly assumed that the vast majority of interesting experiences are unavailable to people who don’t speak French. His challenge to me was: “I want to stop feeling like a tourist. I want to see the things you can’t find on your own. I want to properly understand Paris.”
Paris 1 to 8 is the response to this challenge. It is designed to provide the finest conquest of the city since Roman times. You can throw away the standard guide books and write your own!
Paris 1 to 8 is an introduction, providing an in-depth insight into the inner circle of Paris.
The itinerary can be divided into modules, allowing for a single day in any arrondissement. Half day highlights are also available and there is a huge variety of options available for short walking tours in any quartier or arrondissement.
For travellers who want to transcend the “typical tourist” label, simply becoming well acquainted with the quartier around their hotel or apartment is an invaluable introduction.
As a complete itinerary there is an introduction day to the history of Paris, followed by a full day spent in each arrondissement from 1 to 8. We'll also do a “walk through” of the most interesting museums in each area.
The introduction starts with the Gallo-Romain and medieval remains of Paris in the Archeological crypt under the forecourt of Notre Dame.
The Île de la Cité was the also site of the original palace of the French Kings. We can still see authentic vestiges of the royal Capetian palace - the chapel built by Saint Louis (Louis IX) and the Conciergerie built by Philippe le Bel.
We then move across the river to the Louvre, originally built around 1200. It was then transformed into a sumptuous royal residence. The foundations of this Medieval castle are a must see.
The “image” of Paris.
The Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysées, Place de la Concorde, along with the luxury fashion designers in rue du Faubourg-St-Honoré and avenue Montaigne represent the quintessential international image of France. Most of the hotels in the "palace" category are in the 8th, as is the Elysée Palace, official residence of the French president. Former residences of wealthy Parisians which have been preserved as museums (Nissim de Camondo, Jacquemart André) allow us to experience the “luxe” heritage of this unique city.
The « noble » faubourg.
It became the new “in” place for the aristocrats to build their mansions from the end of the 17th century. With various ministries and embassies now occupying these palatial residences, the 7th has been called “Washington on the Seine”. The Hotel des Invalides with Napoleon’s tomb and the Eiffel Tower on the former training ground of the Ecole Militaire (Champ de Mars) are the main tourist attractions.
The chic district.
Including the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens surrounding the palace built by Marie de Medici (now the French Senate), this elegant area was the home of patrician Parisians 2000 years ago and so it remains today. Continuing the tradition of the ancient Marché Saint-Germain, the district has a rich array of designer boutiques, antique dealers and markets. Famous cafés (Procope, Deux Magots, Café de Flore) remain popular haunts.
The vestiges of the original Gallo-Roman city when Paris was called Lutèce (Lutetia) are still visible (and visitable!). The “University" district from the 13th century is where you will still find the prestigious Sorbonne. The quartier became known as the “Latin Quarter” because it was the language then commonly used by the students who had come from many countries. From the Pantheon, Saint-Michel fountain, along the Seine to the Jardin des Plantes, this area is a favorite for locals doing walking tours.
The best preserved ancient quartiers of Paris, including the right bank (Hôtel de Ville, Marais and the Jewish Quartier) and across the Seine to Notre-Dame and Île Saint-Louis.
The itinerary covers the contemporary Pompidou Centre, successive sites of royal residences from medieval times around the village St Paul and Place des Vosges and the patrician Île Saint-Louis. We finish the day back at the historic birthplace of Paris, the “Cité” at the “crypte archeologique” beneath the forecourt of Notre-Dame.
The historic Marais. The northern part of the Marais was given to the Templars who established a self contained city outside the walls of Paris. The “marshlands”, which had been used for the cultivation of fruit trees, vegetables and aromatic plants, became the site of the new private residences of the great aristocratic Parisian families. These now house some of the most interesting museums in Paris including Carnavalet (the Museum of the History of Paris),Hôtel Soubise (now the National Archives) and Hôtel Salé (Picasso Museum).
The arrondissement of contrasts. Geographically the smallest, its diversity is stunning - from the financial district in the west and the chic rue de la Paix, the elegant Galerie Vivienne, original national library and the theatres to the foodies’ favorite (rue Montorgueil) and the bustling garment district by way of historic passageways and amazing architecture. Extending from the upmarket fashion boutiques of Place des Victoires, you’ll discover the best of the furnishing fabrics in Rue du Mail. This arrondissement is also where you’ll find the oldest (700 years old) toilet in Paris!
The true heart of Paris, the original centre of power. The tour covers 1000 years of French history, starting on the site of the Palais de la Cité, residence of the first Capetian Kings, with a walk through the Conciergerie. The royal presence is represented by the Louvre, site of the Tuileries Palace and Garden, Palais Royal and Place Vendôme. It contrasts with the “stomach of Paris” - Les Halles, the original central markets established in the eleventh century - with its lively gourmet shops still maintaining the tradition.
INTRODUCTION TO THE HISTORY OF PARIS
Since 1860, with the extension of Paris (including faubourgs outside the wall of the “Fermiers généraux”) by Napoleon III and Haussmann, there have been 20 arrondissements, spiraling like a snail from the western side of the Ile de la Cité.
Each arrondissement is divided into four “quartiers” (basically the north west, north east, south west and south east sections of each arrondissement).
Parisians tend to identify very strongly with their own quartier, with many seldom venturing far beyond their neighbourhood on a regular basis.
Come with us and discover the background and diversity of that make Paris a far more complex and interest city than tourists realise.