(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!)
4 – The ‘Petit Palais’
The ‘Grand Palais’ and the ‘Petit Palais’ are situated in the 8th ‘arrondissement’ on opposite sides of ‘Avenue Winston Churchill’, which lies mid way down the lovely tree lined lower part of the ‘Champs Elysees’ between the ‘Place du rond point’ and ‘Place de la Concorde’, and are a stones throw from metro station ‘Champs Elysees Clemenceau’ which is served by metro lines 1 and 13.
Built in 1900 for the ‘Exposition Universelle’, the imposing Grand Palais with its enormous glass dome houses temporary, usually prestigious, art exhibitions and prices vary accordingly.
The more discreet and more classically designed ‘Petit Palais’ which is, in my opinion one of the loveliest buildings in the city, has been home to the ‘Musée des Beaux Arts de la ville de Paris’ since 1902, and also plays host to temporary exhibitions for which there is a fee, but as one of the 14 ‘Museums of the city of Paris’ all permanent exhibitions are entirely free.
(Please note that during popular temporary exhibitions there is often a queue at the main entrance, if you are visiting the permanent collection only there is a smaller entrance down some stairs to the right of the main entrance)
The Petit Palais stretches either side of a palatial stone staircase leading to a magnificent arched gateway, fabricated in glass and wrought iron and surrounded by an intricate stone arch, which is a joy to behold and photograph in both daylight and floodlit during the evening. (there is access for wheelchair users on Avenue Detuit situated at the back of the building accessible from the Champs Elysees)
The interior of the building is every bit as impressive as the exterior. From the elegant wrought iron staircases, and wonderful mosaic floors and beautiful decorative murals to the fabulous stained glass ‘Cupole’.
It is constructed in four wings enclosing a tranquil ‘Moroccan’ style garden with a central pool surrounded by shady exotic plants and a semi circular peristyle that boasts a frescoed, vaulted ceiling depicting the hours of the day, day and night and female allegories of the four seasons.
Overlooking the garden is the café where you can enjoy an excellent ‘Café Gourmond’ or a selection of pasta dishes, sandwiches, and ‘soupe de jour’ with prices starting at under 5 euro. They also offer a glass of Bordeaux for a modest 4 euro! This is a convenient place to take a break after a morning shopping and sightseeing on the Champs Elysees, and there are clean free toilets to be found both in the café and in the basement of the museum.
The museum houses collections from the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and amongst many other works, paintings by Flemish and Dutch artists such as Rembrandt and Rubens. French artists such as Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Renoir and Toulouse-lautrec. Sculptures by Renoir and Rodin, and many decorative arts including wonderful art deco pieces by Emile Gallé and Lalique, and fine examples of Christian art from the western and eastrn world.
For those seeking souvenirs, the museum shop offers a good choice gifts with prices starting at less than 4 euro, and is a nice place to browse through the numerous books on art nouveau.
After visiting the Petit Palais, Avenue Winston Churchill is interesting in its own right. Flanked by a statues of both Charles de Galle and Georges Clemenceau at one end (De Galle is practically next to the metro and Clemenceau on the opposite side of the road) and Winston Churchill at the other (a little further on from the entrace to the petit palais) This Avenue leads onto ‘Pont Alexandre III’, also constructed for the Universal Exhibition in 1900 to symbolise unity between France and Russia with the first stone having been laid by Tsar Nicholas II. This distinctive bridge which is guarded at each side by two pillars bearing gilded bronze statues of Pegaus, crosses the Seine and leads directly onto the ‘Esplanade des Invalides’ affording a marvellous view of ‘Les Invalides’, the final resting place of the Emperor Napoleon.
The petit Palais is open every day except Mondays and public holidays
Opening times are (correct at publication):-
10am – 6pm
Late night opening Thursdays until 8pm
Permanent exhibitions – free
Temporary exhibitions – prices vary