International Alumni: 10 FREE things to do in Paris!

A restaurant in the heart of Paris

In honor of the launch of the France Alumni Network, the Office of Alumni Relations presents these free attractions Paris, as suggested by the experts: GW alumni living in the city. Whether you live in Paris or just want to visit, don’t miss these stellar sites!

1. Discover and explore Paris on foot. There are interesting areas in each of the 20 “arrondisements”.

2. Visit the Musee Carnavalet and its garden, located in Le Marais, where you will also find the Picasso Museum (currently closed until summer 2013) and the old Jewish quarter.

3. Nearby, find the Place des Vosges (royal residences begun in 1605 under Henri IV); Victor Hugo later live here.  Bring a sandwich and join the people hanging out here on a sunny day. And don’t miss the Hotel de Soubise!

4. Take in a free concert; see listings in the L’officiel des spectacles or Pariscope (35-40 cents at a news kiosk).

5. Rainy day? Go to the Grands Magazines (department stores) to see French ready-to-wear fashion. Catch the view from the top floor of Le Printemps or the glass dome inside Galeries Lafayette. On the left bank, the Bon Marche is the Bloomingdale’s of Paris.

6. Don’t miss the open markets located all over the city.

7. Make a pilgrimage to the 9th-c. shopping arcades, or passages couverts. These iron-columned, glass-covered structures shot up around the city in the 1820s and ’30s; they were visionary pieces of industrial-age technology.

  • The Passage des Panoramas, off the boulevard Montmartre, is the place to start. Fewer than 20 of the original 150 arcades first built still stand. Many can be found in the 2nd Arrondissement.  See the Galerie des Variétés, connected to the Théâtre des Variétés where in the 1860s many of Offenbach’s operas were first performed. The Passage Jouffroy on the other side of boulevard Montmartre is much livelier and more prosperous. To the east, at 23, rue St.-Augustin, is the Passage Choiseul. An exquisitely restored Galerie Vivienne at 4, rue des Petits-Champs, it is situated just north of the stone arcades at the Palais Royal. Galerie Véro-Dodat (19, rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau) rounds out a compact tour of the arcades.

8. For Roman Paris and the student area (the Quartier Latin), see the Arènes de Lutece, rue de Navarre, 5eme arrondisement, Metro Place Monge. Take a stroll past the Odeon, Musee Cluny and landmark churches nearby. Enjoy the Jardin du Luxembourg and its playgrounds, fountains with boats, dogs playing, grassy seating areas, tennis courts, running trail and concerts. Parks abound in Paris. Ludlum fans may love the more intimate but beautiful Parc Monceau, across town in the 17th (Metro Monceau, line 2).

9. Trek up to Montmartre, home to many impressionists in the 19th century. The Sacré-Coeur basilica is here. Be a bit careful in the park. Or take the funicular (1 metro ticket) to the top a few blocks north of Metro stop No. 2, Anvers.

10. See the Louvre Museum: free to under-18; under 26 free Fridays after 6pm; free to all only on the 1st Sunday of each month. The Musée d’Art Moderne permanent collection is free at all times (11 av du President Wilson, 16th).

…And don’t forget to choose a picturesque cafe in an interesting area, and for the price of a small espresso, sit, watch the crowds, read a newspaper, and get sense the quality of life that is Paris.


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