Already packed with attractions for the bon vivant, Paris continues to add to its list of visitor attractions. Throughout the French capital, historic sites that were somewhat neglected not so long ago are reborn in style, offering tourists and Parisians alike new luminous perspectives on the City of Light.
Take the Hôtel de la Marine (www.hotel-de-la-marine.paris/en). Formerly the depository of the French royal collections, then the seat of the Ministry of the Navy for more than 200 years, it is one of two identical neoclassical palaces that stand on the Place de la Concorde, where motorists and cyclists ride on the cobblestones between the Jardin des Tuileries and the Champs-Élysées. . Now you can block out traffic noise and explore this 18th century landmark with the “Confidant”, a headset that cleverly uses binaural technology producing 3D audio effects, and helps you navigate the sumptuously restored apartments and living rooms of majestic and golden reception.
You’ll hear about the characters who made their mark here, from kings and revolutionaries to jewel thieves, sailors and architect aces. The colonnaded facades of this building and the one next door (which houses the five-star Hôtel de Crillon) were designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel, who also orchestrated the Place Louis XV – today’s Place de la Concorde. Step onto the loggia and you’ll overlook a square packed with screaming crowds during the French Revolution, when a bronze equestrian statue of Louis XV was pulled down and royals like King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were among those who were guillotined.
A Grand Tour ticket to the Hôtel de la Marine, €17 ($27), also gives you access to the galleries of the Al Thani collection. These treasures, amassed by Qatar’s ruling family, span 5,000 years of civilization and include a gilt-bronze bear sculpture from China’s Han Dynasty, a Mayan mask pendant and a jade wine cup of a Mughal emperor. . Flanking the interior courtyard of the building, two restaurants (with terraces). Michelin-starred chef Jean-François Piege serves French cuisine with Mediterranean accents at Le Mimosa, while there’s tropical decor and duck foie gras, caviar verrine and New England lobster rolls on the menu. from Cafe Lapérouse.
Take a 20-minute walk east via the Jardin des Tuileries and you can stroll around another revitalized central Paris landmark, La Samaritaine (dfs.com/en/samaritaine). Dating back to 1870, this prestigious department store closed in 2005 but relaunched after a major renovation by owners LVMH (Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton). The store’s art deco and art nouveau period features, including steel beams, antique staircases and tiled mosaics, are complemented by a sleek new look by Tokyo-based architects SANAA, including a corrugated glass-fronted entrance on Rivoli Street.
As you drift along the fragrant aisles of La Samaritaine, you’ll smell and observe an assortment of luxury brand goods (think Cartier, Chanel), as well as stock from up-and-coming Parisian fashionistas and concept stores to suit all budgets. LouLou’s shop, for example, offers quirky books, candles, souvenirs and posters, and Maison Château Rouge sells African-inspired rugs, pottery and t-shirts.
Beyond retail therapy, you can browse art installations and photographs of La Samaritaine’s redesign, watch and listen to vintage advertisements – from the 1960s, 70s and 80s – on dial-up phones and retro TVs. , and sample the store’s gourmet cuisine and beverage selection. These include bakery treats from top French baker Eric Kayser, coffee from seasoned Parisian roaster La Brulerie des Gobelins, as well as vegan dishes, poke bowls and pastry treats. On the fifth floor, under the store’s gorgeous glass roof and peacock murals, Voyage is a lavish dining venue and champagne and cocktail lounge. The setting is so beautiful that many customers come to take pictures.
Fancy some madness? You can wine, dine, stay and be pampered at Cheval Blanc (chevalblanc.com), a new luxury hotel on the Pont-Neuf side of La Samaritaine, its art deco facade facing the Seine. Named after the LVMH-owned vineyard in France’s Saint-Emilion wine region, the hotel has 72 rooms and suites, some with views of Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower. Rates from €1100 ($1738) per night. There’s also a Dior spa, 30-metre swimming pool, café, bar, brasserie and seafood restaurant, as well as Plénitude, an haute cuisine affair with €395 tasting menus by Arnaud Donckele, who won three Michelin stars for his restaurant La Vague d’Or. at the Cheval Blanc in St Tropez.
Another new five-star hotel is Madame Reve (madamereve.com/en), which has 82 rooms and suites, from around €400, nestled in the historic Louvre post office, a 10-minute walk from La Samaritaine and the Louvre itself. Also containing a wellness area, a Viennese-influenced café and Mediterranean and Japanese restaurants, the hotel is just one part of the revival of the vast 1880s post office building. address will also include shops, offices, social housing, a crèche, a police station, postal facilities and a rooftop bar and garden.
Around the corner, Bourse de Commerce is another reborn venue (pinaultcollection.com/en/boursedecommerce). Japanese architect Tadao Ando has added a contemporary sparkle to this former 18th-century commodity exchange, with billionaire French businessman François Pinault sharing his private art collection (mostly 20th and 21st centuries), with stars like Bertrand Lavier, David Hammons, Jeff Koons and Cindy Sherman.
Settling in the Marais district, the Carnavalet Museum is more beautiful than ever after a four-year makeover (carnavalet.paris.fr). Occupying two Renaissance-era mansions, Paris’ oldest museum has seen its gallery spaces expanded and brightened up, with 80 new digital devices joining a series of eclectic exhibits to trace episodes from the city’s past. In the atmospheric vaulted basement, we delve into its origins as an Iron Age settlement for the Parisii tribe and its passage as the Roman colony of Lutetia, before browsing the other fascinating galleries and reliving the periods royal and revolutionary dramas of Paris (and Belle Epoque, post WWII and the COVID-19 era).
This labyrinthine, free museum has so much to see, but we particularly love the decorative street and shop signs of yesteryear, the models of Paris as it evolved, and the lavishly furnished rooms displaying interior design trends. through the centuries. There are replica salons designed by Charles Le Brun, a 17th-century painter who helped decorate the Palace of Versailles, and a stunning recreation of a fin-de-siècle Parisian jewelry boutique. The museum also offers paid temporary exhibitions, including a recent one celebrating the genius of Marcel Proust on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his death. Refreshments, meanwhile, can be had at the café-restaurant (lesjardinsdolympe.com) at the edge of the museum’s pretty courtyard garden. Alternatively, nearby, in the recently renovated former bank offices of Crédit Municipal, Griffon is a cozy stage for drinks, tapas, concerts and literary encounters (griffon.paris).
Paris’ thirst for the regeneration of heritage sites into multipurpose cultural centers has spread to other districts, with some places being transformed as part of the Reinventing Paris program supported by the mayor. In the 11th arrondissement, plans are underway to transform a former electrical substation into Etoile Voltaire, a state-of-the-art cinema with a rooftop restaurant and hangout. A few streets away, L’atelier des Lumières is a digital art space projecting sound and light shows by legendary artists in a 19th-century foundry (atelier-lumieres.com). Van Gogh, Dali and Gaudi have already had the high-tech treatment, while this year’s flagship exhibitions – through January 2023 – will highlight abstract art from the dreamy paintings of Provence by Kandinsky and Cézanne.
Qatar, Etihad and Emirates serve Paris from Sydney and Melbourne via Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively.
As of August 1, all COVID-19 travel restrictions to enter France have been lifted. No test is required regardless of vaccination status.
Steve McKenna traveled at his own expense.