(Bonjour. I am Lindy I have lived in the beautiful city of Paris since 2009, and I would like to share my personal top 10 things to do in Paris if you are visiting on a shoestring, or just if you want to get away from the madding crowd at the Eiffel tower!)
3 – PLACE DES VOSGES/VICTOR HUGO MUSEUM
Situated at the crossroads of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements in the heart of the ancient Marais district lies the historic ‘Place des Vosges’. Often described as one of the most beautiful squares in the world, this is certainly the oldest and most distinctive in the city of Paris.
Formally named ’Place Royale’ (and various other less inspiring names after the revolution such as ‘Place des Federes’, ‘Place de la Fabrication-des-armes’, and ‘Place de l’invisibilite’!) It became ‘Place des Vosges’ in 1800 and was classed as an historic monument in 1954
Construction began in 1605 during the reign of Henri IV and was completed in 1612, two years after the much beloved king’s death at the hands of the Catholic fanatic Francois Ravaillac. The square was finally inaugurated in 1612 at the engagement of his son and successor, Louis XIII to Anne of Austria (parents of Louis XIIII – ‘The sun King’) and it is Louis XIII’s mounted statue that occupies the centre of the square, which is known as ‘Place Louis XIII’.
The vast garden square is flanked by distinctive, red bricked, many windowed buildings which reside beneath imposing blue slate roofs, giving an appearance of harmony, when in fact each is architecturally unique. Surrounding the statue, are grassy picnic areas, enclosed children’s playgrounds and sandpits, and elegant fountains. An abundance of duel sided benches offer shade beneath the many trees, the ideal place to relax with a book or simply sit and people watch.
Shady colonnades surround the square on all sides, dotted with private art and photographic galleries, exclusive shops and a variety of restaurants. Ranging from the ‘popular’ ‘Café Hugo’ situated on the corner of Rue du pas de la Mule, to the up market ‘La Carret’ where a cup of tea will set you back 8 euro – giving you an indication of the rest of the prices, My personal favourites are ‘La Nectarine’ salon du the, just a bit further on than Café Hugo, serving reasonably priced snacks, salads, omelettes and ‘plats’ as ‘ Coq au vin’ and ‘pave du saumon’ for around 13 euro, with a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
And the slightly more up-market ‘La Place Royal’ for a ‘tete-a-tete’ in a more romantic ambiance.
Shops worth visiting are ‘Parfums et Senteurs de la pays Basque‘ a gorgeous little boutique selling a collection of candles and perfumes for the home situated in between ‘Café Hugo; and ‘La Nectarine’ – you will be drawn in by the aromas alone. Another wonderful aroma exudes from Dammann Freres’ tea merchants since 1692, situated directly opposite. And I can never resist a visit to the quirky little hat stall on the corner closest to the ‘Marais’ entrance to the square, with an wide array of hats ranging from around 5 to around 25 euro – try some on for fun!
Victor Hugo Museum
The Victor Hugo Museum is on an internal corner of the square at ‘6 Place des Vosges’ and was where the writer, Paris conservationist and welfare rights publicist lived from 1832 – 1845. The museum exhibits memorabilia from his life from the periods pre, post and during his exile to Belgium and finally Guernsey due to his opposition to Napoleon.
Here wandering around what were his private apartments, one can see a collection of family paintings, personal letters and original manuscripts, elaborate room reconstructions and a poignant selection of furniture made by Hugo himself and carved with the initials ‘V.H. and J.D.’ his own and those of ‘Juliette Drouet’ the actress who was his lover for more than 50 years until her death in 1883, preceding him by just two years.All permanent exhibitions are entirely free and there is a modest little gift shop at the entrance of the museum selling notably his most famous works, ‘Les Miserables’ and ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, along with lesser known works and biographies. There are also toilets situated at the museum.
Place des Vosges is easily reached from metro station Bastille – lines 1, 5 and 8. Take exit 7 on to Rue de Beaumarchais and continue along this road for about 200 meters then take a left turn onto Rue du pas de la Mule. Place des Vosges is at 100 meters on the left. Alternatively it can be reached from metro station St Paul on line 1 with a leisurely, sign-posted, stroll through the colourful boutiques in the winding streets of the Marais (I like to arrive via Bastille, then saunter through the Marais after visiting the square)
The museum is open every day except Mondays and all public holidays.
Opening times are (correct at time of publication) 10am – 6pm.