Perhaps the most culturally compelling country in all of Europe, France brings together natural beauty, culture, and some of the most notable museums and art attractions in the world. Louis XIV wished to create a “place (Paris) dedicated to leisure” and we believe his dreams have been fulfilled! We feel Paris is the most romantic and aesthetically pleasing city on the planet. Its overall cultural-artistic environment is magical. The quality of Paris museums is unmatched: The Louvre, The Palace of Versailles, Orsay, the Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis, and more.
We think Owen Wilson’s character in the Woody Allen film, Midnight in Paris, gives a perfect summation of Paris:
“How’s anyone ever going to come up with a book or a painting or a symphony or a sculpture that can compete with a great city [Paris]? You can’t. When you look around, every street, every boulevard is its own special art form.”
Berges de Seine
Conceived by Paris’ progressive mayor Bertrand Delanoë and begun back in April 2010, the now-completed 1.4-mile Left Bank pedestrian zone, Berges de Seine, has become one of our new favorite spots in Paris. Set along the Seine River between The Pont Royal and Pont de l’Alma in the midst of colorful gardens, the area has become ideal for picnics, relaxation, dining, and numerous family-friendly activities. A big draw is the “Le Satellite Des Sens”, a bright green bus that takes kids on an “artistic discovery tour of the five senses.” Bev and I are drawn to the “ZZZ”, a row of renovated shipping crates where you may enjoy an afternoon nap or even a catered meal!
Marais has become the chic, trendy area of the 4th Arrondissement and center of the city’s thriving LGBT+ community over the past decade. It’s also the city’s long-established Jewish Quarter (“Pletzel”), with expensive, fashionable boutiques juxtaposed to quaint Jewish stores, bookshops, kosher grocery stores, and butcher shops. As all the major Parisian shopping outlets are closed on Sundays, Le Marais is the place to go for those in need of a shopping “fix.” Another fun artsy stopover is the brightly lit Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, representing approximately 60 artists and estates. We feel this is an ideal place for viewing compelling pieces of contemporary art. Of special note is the Agoudas Hakehilos Synagogue, designed in 1913 by Hector Guimard, the facade resembles an open book. Similar to other Parisian synagogues, the front door was dynamited by the Nazi Regime on Yom Kippur in 1941. The Star of David over the door was added after the building was restored.
Le Loir dans La Théière
For café culture, this area whose name translates to “the dormouse in the teapot” from the Mad Hatter’s tea party is a delightful walk that resembles a place the Beat poets would have enjoyed. Stop by L’As du Fallafel for their falafel sandwich and don’t let the line discourage you, as it’s worth the wait!
The 4th Arrondissement is home to one of Paris’ most famous bakeries, Blé Sucré. Fabrice Le Bourdat’s croissants are delectable, with a crisp outer crust and fluffy center. According to an article in the March 30 issue of The Wall Street Journal, what makes Bourdat’s croissants so delicious is that, “the waking palate needs a little salt, and that’s exactly what this pastry almost imperceptibly delivers.” For this reason, we suggest getting your croissants early at Blé Sucré’s 7:00 a.m. opening!
Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame, the most visited unticketed site in Paris with upwards of 14 million people crossing its threshold a year, is not just a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture but was also the focus of Catholic Paris for seven centuries. Built on a site occupied by earlier churches and, a millennium before that, a Gallo-Roman temple, it was begun in 1163 according to the design of Bishop Maurice de Sully and largely completed by the early 14th-century. The cathedral was badly damaged during the Revolution; architect Eugene Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc carried out extensive renovations between 1845 and 1864. The cathedral is on a very grand scale, with the interior alone meausirng at 120 meters long, 48 meters wide, and 35 meters high, and can accommodate more than 6,000 worshippers.
Tragically, the Notre Dame was ravaged by an accidental fire in April 2019. Though it is currently closed for visitors during the restoration period, we still feel it is worth a visit to see the facade and we are hopeful for a full recovery!
Founded in 1864, Brasserie Bofinger is one of the oldest and most popular of brasseries in Paris. Located in the Right Bank’s 4th Arrondissement, Bofinger features unique Alsatian fare, the smoked haddock and steak tartare are two of our favorite items on the menu. The brasserie is decorated in a grand, refined style reflecting the Belle Époque décor. Another special feature here is the truly unique men’s urinals — porcelain dolphins and sea monsters to entertain the patrons!
Berthillon Ice Cream Shop
Located adjacent to the Notre Dame, this iconic Parisian ice cream shop is said to have the most delicious ice cream in the world! If you have time to wait in the always long line, we feel it’s worth the time!
For more Paris Arrondissement information, see our other blog posts:
8th, 9th & 10th Arrondissement