Paris’s most famous museum, the Louvre, and I have a tortured relationship. On the one hand, I think the scope of the artwork contained within the Louvre’s walls is flat-out amazing, and as an art and history nerd, I love visiting its collections. On the other hand…crowds.
See, the thing is, I like the Louvre in theory, but I don’t actually enjoy visiting it in practice. Yet, despite my frustrations with the museum, I’ve somehow wound up there on each of my previous trips to Paris (see here, here, and here). This time around, I decided I was better off avoiding the stress of squeezing through crowds of people clamoring to see the Mona Lisa. Luckily for me, Paris had plenty of other museums and attractions to fill my days with. In addition to my beloved Rodin Museum, here are a few of the other spots I enjoyed.
Musée de l’Orangerie:
About five minutes into my visit to the Orangerie Museum, I had this thought: why oh why had I never been here before? Located right next to the Louvre, the Orangerie is a treat – it’s a small, manageable collection, but it is filled with amazing treasures (think Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, and a chorus of other favorites). The bottom level hosts a top-notch gallery of impressionist artwork, but the main level is home to the real stunner: Monet’s Water Lilies, not pictured here because photographs are strictly forbidden. I loved seeing the large paintings in person (and couldn’t help but think of this scene from one of my favorite movies all the while) (if only the museum could’ve been that empty when I visited).
Getting there: Jardin Tuileries, 75001 Paris, France (Métro: Concorde)
Palais Garnier (Paris Opéra):
I love Europe’s grand opera houses, and I can now add Paris’s Palais Garnier to the list of stunning opera houses I’ve had the pleasure of visiting (along with my other favorites in Budapest and Palermo). While I didn’t have the wardrobe – or the budget, to be honest – to swing an actual opera performance on this trip, exploring the impossibly large interior was still a treat. The opera is decked out to the max, and it was incredible to take it all in: the huge, vaulted ceilings, the ornate stonework, the glittering chandeliers, the beautiful painted frescoes. Ooh la la, indeed.
Getting there: 8 Rue Scribe, 75009 Paris, France (Métro: Opéra or Chaussée d’Antin-La Fayette)
When I’m on vacation, I hate shopping. It always feels like a waste to me: I’d rather spend my money (and time!) on seeing the sites and eating the food, not holed away in a department store buying clothing that I could probably get back home. It might seem odd, then, that Galeries Lafayette – a gigantic, upscale department store – would be on my agenda for Paris.
In fact, I didn’t shop at Galeries Lafayette at all; rather, I came to gawk at the ornate, golden ceiling. The building’s interior is truly stunning, and a quick stop here was well-worth braving the crowds of serious shoppers. Galeries Lafayette was beautiful enough as it was, but I would love to come back someday and see it decorated for Christmas – I can only imagine how awe-inspiring it would be then.
Getting there: 40 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris, France (Métro: Chaussée d’Antin-La Fayette)
Confession: Though Centre Pompidou is home to a museum of modern art, I bought a ticket with no intention of visiting the collection. Nope, I came for only one reason – the view. I had heard that the view from Pompidou was amazing, and it did not disappoint; taking a series of escalators up to the top, I found myself with a great vantage point over the city, with the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur looming in the distance. Perhaps one day I’ll go back for the art, but this time around, I was plenty satisfied with taking in the sweet views.
Getting there: Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France (Métro: Hôtel de Ville)
Here’s my big takeaway about Canal Saint-Martin: I wish I had had more time to spend there. After grabbing lunch at Jules et Shim, I took a little stroll around the canal, but it would have been nice to linger longer. The area is lovely, and in the summertime, the Canal seems like a perfect spot to relax, hang out, and just soak up Paris. This one definitely goes on my “must revisit” list for the next time I’m in town.
Getting there: 10th arrondissement (Métro: Jacques Bonsergent)
Love Locks on Pont de l’Archevêché:
Okay, okay – I realize this spot is just as crawling with tourists as the Louvre (and I realize that it’s not a great idea to begin with, as the bridge is collapsing), but I always find the Love Locks bridge oddly fascinating. On the one hand, there’s something terribly cheesy about adding a lock to the bridge. On the other, if there’s any place to be unabashedly romantic, it’s probably Paris, and it is pretty interesting to peruse the locks, which tend to range from sentimental and sappy to humorous and bizarre. Plus, it seems that every time I pass over this bridge, I see a couple taking wedding photographs – and I’m not going to lie, I find the the thought of that, getting married in Paris, to be incredibly charming.
Getting there: Located behind Notre Dame (Métro: Maubert-Mutualité)
So, there you have it: a catalog of how I passed my time while in Paris (when I wasn’t eating copious éclairs, of course). I’m sure I will gather up the courage to brave the crowds at the Louvre again one day in the future, but it’s nice to know that in the meanwhile, there’s plenty else to do in the city.