Historic in Paris
Sights in Paris
Lodgings in Paris
Known as the City of Love and Light, Paris is likewise the City of Style. Nearly synonymous with fashion, luxury, and haute couture, Paris boasts a long list of fashion history's most iconic designers. From Worth and Poiret, to Vuitton, Chanel and Dior, these fashion visionaries turned the city into a haven for designers and trendsetters alike. On our three-hour Paris fashion tour in the company of a historian, we will weave a narrative through Parisian fashion history, from our discussion of the late 18th-century notion shops in covered passageways, the rise of the grands magasins, and the 20th-century designers who revolutionized the way we dress.
- Learn about fashion history in the world's fashion capital.
- Paris fashion tour led by a fashion or art historian.
- Small group—maximum 6 people.
Paris Fashion Tour
We will begin at the Palais Royal (also explored on our Gardens of Paris Tour), where we’ll stroll through the covered passages that introduced glass-front shops to the 18th-century. Designed by Louis-Phillipe d'Orléans, Duc de Chartres in 1781, Palais Royal combined shopping, entertainment, and leisure space, becoming an instant sensation with the Parisians.
Previously accustomed to narrow, winding streets, the orderly layout of the complex was revolutionary. Customers who came here to see and be seen were dazzled by various wares, fabrics, cafés, and restaurants and would see many current designs later that night at the theatre, where actors simultaneously portrayed and influenced the style of the day.
Capital of Fashion
We will then move towards the Opéra and the grands magasins created as a result of Baron Haussmann’s 19th-century urban revitalization plan—a critical part of Parisian history explored on our Paris City Planning Tour. Here, we will learn how the most current fashion trends of the Second Empire became accessible to a wider audience.
We’ll pass by the former ateliers of high-end designers such as Charles Frederick Worth and Jacques Doucet, whose luxurious and stylish gowns attracted customers such as Empress Eugénie and other nobility. Worth and Doucet's notoriety even reached the famous actresses and the wealthiest women who visited from all over the world, truly establishing Paris as the capital of fashion.
Passing through the Place Vendôme, now home to high-end jewelers and boutiques, we’ll step into fashion of the 20th-century. Pioneered by Coco Chanel, who installed her studios nearby, we will look at the shift away from the excessive, constrictive designs for women's fashion towards more practical—yet no less stylish—silhouettes. Here, we’ll consider how the Art Déco movement influenced shoppers who flocked to the newest ready-to-wear boutiques along the famous rue Saint-Honoré.
"Our docent was knowledgeable, energetic, and came prepared with great drawings to help us visualize the designs. There was so much historical content—even my husband loved it."
Take Aways on the Champs-Elysées
Emerging onto the Champs-Elysées, we will enter one of the city's most illustrious avenues. Home to many contemporary fashion houses, the Champs-Elysées remains renowned for its extensive, high-end shopping opportunities. Here, we'll finish our time with a better understanding of fashion's evolution in Paris, and in the perfect jumping off point to do some independent shopping.
For those seeking some assistance finding the best boutiques, we suggest our Paris Shopping Tour.
After meeting your private guide, begin your walking tour that introduces you to the rich, complex, and sometimes tragic history of the Hebrew community in Paris and throughout Europe.
Your historical journey takes you back centuries, when there was a Jewish community in the Paris area before France even existed, from the Middle Ages and the rise of anti-Semitism through to the present day. Listen to your guide's explanations about main events in the history of Jewish Paris, such as the raids of the French kings, the Dreyfus affair, WWII Nazi occupation, and the Vichy government. Youll also learn about the medieval origins of various superstitions and prejudgments about the Hebrew community.
Relive the most harrowing and heroic moments of WWII during a 3-hour small group walking tour of Paris under the Nazi Occupation. Explore the former urban battlefields where the dramas of war played out. See the bullet holes and tank impacts that still scar the landscape of Paris. Learn stories of the French Resistance and the brave everyday men and women who rose up to take their city back. Hear of how Hitler ordered Paris to be destroyed, and how the city narrowly escaped certain annihilation.
Meet your guide in central Paris and begin your historical walk through the annals of WWII in Marais, the Jewish quarter that was heavily affected by the Nazi invasion in 1940.
As you walk, listen to dramatic stories of life under Nazi governance, including the hardships of food rationing and the terrors of round-ups, and deportations. Hear, too, about the local heroes who bravely risked their lives to protect the persecuted.
Stop at the Holocaust Memorial to learn more about the plight of the Jewish community, and then cross one of the bridges that spans the River Seine to the Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame Cathedral.
In front of this iconic church, hear the story of the courageous French Resistance fighters and see the first building that they took in what became the Liberation of Paris in August 1945.
Your guide will point out battle scars left by the war that still hide in plain sight on the buildings of the area, including damage caused by both Nazi and French artillery.
Stop for a coffee break at an authentic French café, and discuss with your guide how Adolf Hitler demanded that Paris be destroyed, so leaving the citys fate in the hands of just one man.
Listen, too, as your guide shares intriguing tales of how the Monuments Men saved countless works of art held in the city.
This small-group tour is a great way to discover the forgotten secrets of one of the historys most dramatic wars, as played out against the backdrop of the most beautiful city in the world.
Your tour comes to an end near the Pont Neuf bridge in the city center.
Relive the most harrowing and heroic moments of WWII during a 3-hour guided private walking tour of Paris under the Nazi Occupation. Explore the former urban battlefields where the dramas of war played out. See the bullet holes and tank impacts that still scar the landscape of Paris. Learn stories of the French Resistance and the brave everyday men and women who rose up to take their city back. Hear of how Hitler ordered Paris to be destroyed, and how the city narrowly escaped certain annihilation. The maximum group size for this tour is 10 people.
Meet your guide outside the Saint Paul metro station at 2 pm. Begin your historic walk in the Marais, a Jewish quarter that was heavily affected by the German invasion. Listen to dramatic stories of life under Nazi rule that included food rationing, round-ups and deportations, and local heroes who bravely risked their lives to protect the persecuted.
Stop at the Holocaust memorial to learn more about the plight of the Jewish community before crossing the bridges of the Seine to Notre Dame Cathedral and Ile de la Cité. In front of this iconic church, hear the stories of the French Resistance fighters and see the first building they overtook to begin the historic liberation of Paris. Your guide will point out all the World War II-era details that hide in plain sight on the buildings of the area, including French and German artillery damage.
Discuss the dramatic true story of how Hitler demanded that Paris be destroyed, and how the fate of the city rested in the hands of just one man. Hear intriguing tales of how the Monuments Men saved countless works of art and other tales of heroism. Midway through the tour, rest your feet and reflect with an included coffee break at an authentic French café. This private walking tour is the perfect way to discover the forgotten secrets of one of the most dramatic war events in history, set against the backdrop of the most beautiful city in the world. The 3-hour tour concludes at the Pont Neuf Bridge around 6 pm.
Outside the theater La Comédie-Française, meet your fashion-insider guide to begin your private walking tour through one of Paris' most stylish neighborhoods.
Pass by vintage boutiques and visit a nearby cour d'honneur, where you can enjoy a photo op, and then walk along Rue Saint-Honoré to Colette, the most famous Parisian concept store. Continue to Place Vendôme, an elegant square home to exquisite jewelry stores, as well as the Ritz, before walking along Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré to Palais de l'Elysée, the official residence of the President of France.
With a master's degree in fashion and professional experience in the French fashion industry, your guide provides a wealth of information about the world of fashion brands, visual merchandising, and the latest trends and collections. Your tour ends along the Champs-Elysées, where you're well placed to continue exploring and shopping on your own.
Please note: Visiting boutiques is available on request, and your guide can adapt the tour to your needs and interests.
Follow in the footsteps of legendary figures in Parislike Napoleon III, Marie-Antoinette, James Joyce, Sylvia Beach, and Henry IVon this 2-hour walking tour along the river Seine. With a guide, stroll the streets of Paris and travel through history as you learn about tales from the history books, brought back to life before you. Select a morning or afternoon departure time when booking.
Your Historic Paris walking tour starts near Notre-Dame, where you'll meet your guide and set off around the city.
Learn about different periods of Parisian history in a small-group tour limited to 8 people.
Gain an understanding of the people who built Paris' palaces, wrote her novels, and made her famous around the world, from Catherine de Medici to Victor Hugo to Ernest Hemingway. See where greed, hope, bravery, and blind luck played out on the stage of city streets, take in the iconic architecture, and explore alleyways, all while history unfolds through stories told by your guide.
Along the way, enjoy exterior views of Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, Pont Neuf, Tuileries Garden, the Eiffel Tower and Place de la Concorde, where your tour ends.
As one of the most visited sites in the world, and certainly in Paris, the Louvre's fascinating history remains lesser known. While this structure now displays some of the world's most renowned paintings and sculptures, an examination of its architectural history yields, in small scale, the story of Paris—from medieval fortress to luxurious palace, refashioned to reflect the tastes of the ruling powers, and eventually transformed into a world-class museum. On this 2-hour Louvre architecture tour in the company of an art or architectural historian, we will unearth these overlooked details, fleshing out the story behind one of the world's most famous art museums.
- Learn about the Louvre's extensive history and its architectural evolution.
- Led by an art or architectural historian.
- Small group size—maximum six participants per walk.
From Outpost to Museum, and In-Between
Beginning in the central outdoor Cour Carré and Cour Napoléon, we'll discuss the Louvre's tumultuous history, from outpost to fortress, then royal residence to treasure house and museum. We'll examine the exterior of the museum, considering the various building campaigns that produced it, and the monarchs who have left their mark on its walls.
Referencing some of its buildings that no longer exist (the Tuileries Palace, for example), we'll see how details in its architectural styles—the restrained imperial classicism of the East facade versus the renaissance reliefs on Lescot's pavilion in the Cour Carré, for instance—speak to the Louvre's role as a focus of Parisian urban planning from King Francois Ier through President Francois Mitterand.
"Our docent was prompt, organized, and extremely knowledgeable. Her enthusiasm for the subject was evident and helped bring the history to life. The small group size definitely contributed to our very positive experience. Thank you for one of our most memorable and enjoyable experiences in Paris."
The Louvre's Foundations
From there, we'll proceed to the interior of the museum to see the Sully wing's extensive display on the history of the Louvre. Here, we'll begin to discuss the museum's various collections in broader terms with reference to moments in French history. For example, as we move downstairs to view the foundation for Philippe Auguste's tower, which was excavated during the construction of I.M. Pei's glass pyramid (one of the Grands Projets of the era, covered in greater detail on our Paris Contemporary Architecture Tour), we'll consider Pei's controversial structure as an evocation of the Egyptian spoils that Napoleon had brought back from his Middle Eastern campaigns.
Viewing the Louvre from an architectural perspective, rather than simply as a warehouse for one of the world's most enviable collection of masterworks, brings the full spectrum of the building's roles to the forefront. As our walk comes to a close, we will depart with a better understanding of this unique structure and its position in French society over the centuries. After opening a dialogue on the building's history, you may be interested in continuing to explore the interior with our Crash Course Louvre Tour. For clients seeking more specificity, we also offer a Louvre Antiquities Tour, Louvre Dutch and Flemish Masters Tour, Louvre Italian Masters Tour, and Louvre French Masters Tour.
Experience old Parisian charm as you walk through the historic districts of Paris. The day begins on Ile de la Cité, the epicenter of Paris and the very location that the Parisii founded. After a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral, journey back through time, learning about the citys Roman and Medieval roots as you explore the cobblestoned streets of the Latin Quarter and the left bank. Visit the old Roman baths at the Cluny Museum before continuing down the fashionable Boulevard St. Germain. See some of Paris oldest streets of the Left Bank and stop in for a coffee at Paris oldest café.
As you cross over the Seine River, notice the difference in architecture as you make your way into the heart of Renaissance Paris, marvelling over Hôtel de Ville and the grand residences of the Marais district. Wander down Rue des Rosiers, the heart of the Jewish Quarter, taking in the scents of freshly baked Challahand falafel vendors that line the popular street. Take a moment to smell the roses at Paris most beautiful square, Place des Vosges. Some say it is even the most beautiful in the whole of Europe!
Follow your guide through the secret red door to discover the quaint gardens and the hidden treasures of St. Paul. Enjoy the tranquility of this picture-perfect pedestrian village amongst the hustle and bustle of the buzzing city around it. The tour ends on the glamorous Île Saint Louis, home to Berthillon Ice Cream, perfect for cooling down after a stroll through Paris extraordinary past.
Enjoy a 2.5-Hour guided visit to perhaps the most spectacular building on the Paris skyline, the incredible gold-domed Invalides. Covered with 26lbs of real gold, the Invalides is home to the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte and the fascinating museum of the army, tracing the history of the French armies and their allies from the jousts of kings, through invasion and resistance to the Normandy landings of WWII.
Commissioned by King Louis XIV and designed in the 17th century by Jules Hardouin Mansart (the same architect who designed the incredible Hall of Mirrors in Versailles) the Invalides was originally built as a hospital and home for wounded and retired soldiers returning from the kings wars. The king knew that he owed his glories to his troops, so he ordered a most magnificent building for them. The Invalides is also home to the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte and the fascinating museum of the army, tracing the history of the French armies and their allies from the jousts of kings, through invasion and resistance to the Normandy landings of WWII. Nowadays you will still find veterans living there, and the gold-domed Cathedral of St. Louis is the seat of the Bishop of the Armies.
Your expert guide will take you on a historical journey. Hear of the exploits of General Bonaparte and learn how he became Emperor Napoleon, and hear how two British pilots were hidden in this very structure during La Resistance under German occupation in the 1940s. Then visit the breathtaking tomb of the most famous general in European history. After crowning himself Emperor in 1804, Napoleon went on to conquer huge swathes of Europe, until his final defeat at Waterloo. Exiled until his death in 1821, his body was returned to France and placed here in the enormous sarcophagus built specially for him. His son is also buried next to him, his body brought to Paris by Hitler in 1940.
Join your guide on this compelling visit to the Invalides, and journey through war, defeat, resistance, and glory.
The reputation of French wines is unparalleled. Rolling vineyards cover the countryside from Burgundy to Bordeaux, producing some of the best wines in the world. Be part of a guided small group tour for visiting an historic 18th century wine cellar, now transformed into a spectacular wine experience. Learn about the grape varieties that grow across the country, the centuries old craft of winemaking and the fine art of wine tasting.
Your visit will include a tasting of three wines that have been carefully selected for you by the in-house sommelier. Then, its time to head across the city to Montmartre, to one of the best-kept secrets in the city. Enjoy a VIP visit to a beautiful working vineyard closed to the public, taste its wine and learn about the fascinating history of the famous artists quarter.
Meet your friendly, local guide and small group at a central location in Paris close to the Louvre Museum. The first visit is to the incredible vaulted wine cellars that once housed King Louis XVs wine collection. Legend has it the cellars were linked to the Louvre by tunnel to allow for easy transportation of the wines for royal banquets. Today, these wine cellars have been completely restored. Your expert guide will lead you through rooms dedicated to educating visitors about the cultivation of grapes, the winemaking process, and the smells, tastes, and colors you will recognize as you taste wines. Put your new knowledge into practice with a tasting of three wines selected for you by the sommeliers.
Next, its time to head above ground, where your guide will lead you to your next stop: a tiny and beautiful working vineyard nestled in the heart of the historical artists quarter of Montmartre. Travel here by metro, as a typical Parisian would. On the way, stroll through the most Parisian of parks, the Tuileries Gardens, before heading for lively Montmartre and the Clos Montmartre vineyard.
The presence of vines in Montmartre officially dates back to 944, and many say even to Roman times, making this the oldest vineyard in Paris. In the 18th century, three quarters of the hill of Montmartre was covered with vines. Your guide will lead you on a walking tour around this captivating area, regaling you with stories of the lives of the artists and famous residents who once called Montmartre home. This tour also gives you VIP entry to the Clos Montmartre vineyard, closed to the general public and only opened for a special few. Take a tour of this charming vineyard, and learn how the wine is made in the local town hall. Its the only town hall in Paris to have a license to make alcohol.
End your tour with a tasting of Clos Montmartre's hard-to-come-by wine. Only 1,750 bottles are made each year, and all proceeds go to support local charities in Montmartre. At the end of your tour you are free to spend your evening in Montmartre, perhaps on the artists' square at Place du Tertre or in one of the typical bars or restaurants in the area. Your guide will be happy to make recommendations to ensure you spend a perfect Parisian evening.
France is known around the world for its wine regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy, but you don't have to leave Paris to enjoy this traditional French setting. In the city, a tranquil area called Bercy was known to be the world's biggest wine marketplace in the 19th century. With a guide, your walking tour takes you through this typical Parisian area, where locals like to hang out and relax.
Start by discovering the wine district's fascinating history on a 1-hour walk along the pedestrian streets and through Bercy Park. Then head to Chai 33 restaurant, a former warehouse in the heart of the village. In charming surroundings, a sommelier shows you the historic wine cellar and tells you the secrets of the art of wine tasting. Then enjoy two carefully selected wines to end your experience.
The company founded in Paris in December 1893 is today both an iconic monument of the capital, with a world-wide reputation and welcoming more than 100,000 visitors per day over an area of 70,000 square meters.
Opened in 1894, the modest shop was quickly a great success.
On the facade of the building, several styles demonstrating the successive enlargements of the store: Haussmann, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and the drugstore spirit of the 1960s. At the center of this unique heritage property is the neo-byzantine dome, the heart of this theater of fashion.
This guided tour will take you through the aisles of the store, cross the emblematic spaces of the place and take the staff private elevators to the panoramic terrace.
You will understand how the founders invented an architecture adapted to the needs of commerce. Borrowed from the architectural vocabulary of the sacred as well as that of the spectacle, the dome, the balconies and the monumental staircase turn the heads of visitors. Your guide will tell you the history of the majestic dome and the hidden message behind the 10 coats of arms which surmount the pillars of the great hall.
You will then use the staff elevators to access the top floor. Continue your journey through the floors, discover the ingenious system of operation of the double wall of the dome and the remains of the staircase of Louis Majorelle.
An architectural and historical visit which will make you discover more than 120 years of history of a family busine.
Situated on a hill above Paris' Right Bank, the neighborhood of Montmartre has always stood apart from the rest of the city. As rents in central Paris skyrocketed in the early 1900s, artists, writers, and bohemians of all types flocked to the now-iconic winding cobblestone streets and steep staircases, transforming Montmartre from a sleepy quartierinto one of the most important centers for art and radical thought in the world. During this 3-hour Montmartre walking tour we will look at the traditions, lifestyle, and bohemian character of this storied neighborhood over the centuries.
- Explore the urban and social context of Montmartre.
- Montmartre walking tour led by a historian.
- Includes Sacre Coeur
Montmartre Walking Tour
Beginning near the Abbesses metro, one of Montmartre's most central points, we'll begin by acquiring an understanding of the area's religious background. In 250 AD, Roman prefects sentenced the Bishop of Paris—later known as Saint Denis (namesake of the cathedral explored on our Saint Denis Tour)—to death. We'll trace the route he supposedly walked (carrying his own head, no less) and discuss Montmartre's importance in the history of Christianity as the home of the Society of Jesuits, founded here by Saint Ignacio de Loyola and Saint François Xavier in 1534.
Climbing the butte to the Moulin de la Galette, we'll reflect on how Paris' rapid urban growth in the 19th century pushed the city's boundaries until it pressed into the sleepy villages on its outskirts. By the time the 20th century arrived, convivial venues like the Moulin de la Galette—once an open-air dance hall—sprang up in droves, making Paris famous for its nightlife: outdoor bals populaires, risqué cabarets, gas-lit cafes, and boisterous concert halls. Immortalized by artists like Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, and Renoir, the Moulin de la Galette was once home to the down-and-out bohemians that populated the neighborhood, gaving it its radical reputation and making Montmartre the perfect place to contemplate the modern revolution taking place in art and society at the turn of the century. (For a deeper look at Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists in Paris check out our Musee d'Orsay Tour.)
Continuing upwards to the top of the hill, we'll stop at Sacré Cœur, the basilica that has since become the symbol of the entirety of Montmartre. With its Romano-Byzantine features, Sacré Cœur stands in sharp contrast to the Gothic architecture experienced on our Notre Dame tour or at Saint Eustache, both visible from its belvedere. Now a gathering point for street musicians, the steps of Sacré Cœur are an excellent place to see the contrast between Montmartre's bohemian atmosphere and its religious history.
"This was the best tour I have ever been on. Our docent was very knowledgeable. Her love of the area was evident, and with her art history background and interest she added another dimension to the sights."
Throughout our walk, we'll strive to put Montmartre within an urban and social context, painting a vivid portrait of the key figures who have made the dynamic neighborhood their home, causing a shift from provincial town, to religious epicenter, to bohemian paradise, and have in turn been inspired by its unique atmosphere.
Of all the revolutions that have rocked Paris, none so completely changed the face of the city than the architectural revolution directed by city prefect Baron Haussmann. In a major feat of urban planning, Haussmann restructured entire neighborhoods, creating many wide avenues in the place of narrow, twisting streets. On this 3-hour Paris city planning tour led by an architectural historian, we'll explore Haussmann's Paris, examine the great changes that took place during his lifetime, and explain why Paris looks the way it does.
- See Paris through eyes of an architectural or cultural historian.
- Discover how Haussmann transformed Paris and his impact on the modern city.
- Paris city planning tour visits the Paris Opera and Grand Boulevards
- Small group—never more than 6.
Paris City Planning Tour
We begin our discussion at the Palais Royal, which was constructed in 1781 by Louis-Phillipe d'Orléans, Duc de Chartres, as the city's first purpose-built shopping and leisure complex. That's correct: an 18th century mall. Today a charming oasis of calm, Palais Royal caused a sensation when it opened, revolutionizing shopping in a city whose narrow, congested, medieval streets were a danger to any pedestrian foolish enough to set foot in them. (Note: Visitors who would actually like to shop should take a look at our Paris Shopping Tour.)
"The experience was not only educational, but fun. By the end of the walk, Paris was 'ours,' too—an incomparable gift!"
Palais Royal was also the site of the city's first covered passage, or shopping arcade. This launched a vogue that would sweep the post-Revolutionary city, with over fifty arcades built between 1790 and 1850. We will wander some of the surviving passages not destroyed by Haussmann, and which later became a source of nostalgia for those yearning for a pre-Haussmannian Paris (for those interested, Walter Benjamin's 20th century encyclopedic Arcades Project dedicates over 1000 pages to the topic).
From here, we'll emerge into modern Paris, stepping out onto one of the wide, straight-as-an-arrow "grands boulevards" created during the Second Empire (late 1800s) by Napoleon III and his prefect, Baron Haussmann. While the scale of these changes was unprecedented—huge tracts of the old city disappeared overnight—the ideas they implemented were not new.
We'll discuss how Haussmann's boulevards were modeled on those created by Louis XIV in the 17th century, and how the rise of the bourgeoisie in the 19th century led to Napoleon III's radical rebuilding of Paris. As we stroll, we'll consider the role of these streets as the hub of fashionable Parisian life in the 19th century, providing a backdrop for novelty shopping, theaters, and all variety of entertainment, as well as being a popular route for promenades.
Moving on, we'll find ourselves in front of what is perhaps the most iconic example of Second Empire urbanism, the Opéra Garnier. Completed in 1875, the Opéra is the jewel in the crown of Parisian Beaux Arts architecture. We will explore the exterior of the building in detail, placing it in context of the architectural movements of the day.
Depending on time and interest, our walk may also include a visit to one of the late 19th century department stores, Printemps or Galeries Lafayette, or even the Société Generale bank building to explore art-nouveau glass domes, completing Haussmann's vision of Paris as a city of luxury consumption and high finance.
For those interested in modern Parisian architecture, we suggest our Modernist Paris Architecture Tour.
Bohemian cafes, narrow cobblestone streets, and medieval churches give Paris' Left Bank, or Rive Gauche, its eternal charm, while its diverse history spans from the time of the Romans to present day. Over the course of this two-hour Left Bank Paris tour, guided by a local insider, we will learn the historical ins and outs of the quartier. Looking at the city through a local's eyes, we'll highlight some of the area's most important sites and monuments, maybe wandering down some of the hidden side streets to give us a feel for the atmosphere and narrative of Saint-Germain and the Latin Quarter.
- Left Bank (Rive Gauche) Paris tour with a local historian.
- Intimate private group.
Left Bank Paris Tour
The Left Bank's unusual history shapes the neighborhood's diverse identity. It was here that the Roman Empire founded Lutetia 2,000 years ago. (which we explore further on our Ancient Paris Tour.) After the decline of the empire, the land south of the Seine river became the home to numerous abbeys and monasteries. Certainly, despite a cluster of churches—Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, Saint-Séverin, and Saint-Germain-des-Prés, to name a few—the area's religious identity may have faded, but is far from forgotten.
We will start our walk in front of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés church, which barely survived the destructive acts of the 18th-century revolutionaries. One of the oldest churches in Paris, Saint-Germain-des-Prés makes for an excellent introduction to the area's religious identity. We may learn some of the church's history before delving into the quartier's bohemian background.
The Intellectuals of the Rive Gauche
The 12th-century brought scholars to the Left Bank. Flourishing into the city's new academic center, the area surrounding the now Sorbonne University became steeped in intellectualism. Though it wasn't until the 20th-century that artists, writers and other thinkers joined this group, the Left Bank is best known for fostering a growing and lively bohemian community.
As the hub of the intellectual life of the 20s and 30s, the cafés of the Left Bank were home to some of the most beloved thinkers of the 20th century, and can be found in some of our most beloved literary works. On our journey through these picturesque Parisian streets, we will see some of its famous cafes: the favorite haunts of the "Lost Generation" writers and post-war existentialist philosophers, whose lives we explore on our Paris Literary Tour.
We will continue down some of the back streets that suddenly burst to life with overflowing local cafes. These tiny streets will take us to a variety of sites, depending on the group's interests or the docent's areas of expertise, which in their own way give insight into the true nature of the area. We may have a look at some of the neighborhood's other churches such as Saint-Sulpice or the Pantheon, pass alongside the peaceful Luxembourg gardens, or discover the city's first café and other historic restaurants.
As we walk, we will have the perfect occasion to get our docent's thoughts on French society and habits, the healthcare or education systems, on how Parisians really eat, or how to use the Vélib bike rentals.
"[Our docent was] an outstanding guide . . . His knowledge of French history, architecture and the Left Bank was amazing. He provided . . . stories and information beyond the basics. And, as an American, I also appreciated his objective discussion of the differences between American and French culture and lifestyle."
After traversing parts of the Latin Quarter we will finish our stroll around the popular Place Saint-Michel, a convenient place to stop and have a drink or hop on the métro, hopefully equipped with an enriched understanding of the city as a whole.
This tour is a a perfect complement to our two-hour Right Bank Paris Walking Tour walk, though less in-depth than some of our other Paris walking tours. It aims to acquaint visitors to the city and provide an excellent overview and foundation for further explorations of Paris.
First-time visitors may also find useful our practical Welcome To Paris orientation to the city, during which we answer questions about navigating the city's transport system, point out the best and most typical local establishments, and offer a basic language lesson, among other things.
On the afternoon of July 14, 1789, a rebelling rabble laid siege to France's most-hated fortress: the Bastille. Freeing the few remaining political prisoners, the mob began, stone-by-stone, dismantling the building that had come to symbolize the injustice of the old regime. This was the Revolution of 1789. On this 3-hour French Revolution Tour in Paris, we will discover the influences that contributed to this rebellion, forever transforming the country. Led by an expert historian, we will study its different stages, and how it served as a precursor to the revolutions that followed in the 19th century, the effects of which reverberate to this day.
- Clarifies the tangled timeline of the 1789 Revolution and those that followed.
- Highlights the vestiges of 18th century revolutionary Paris.
- French Revolution tour Paris led by an expert historian.
- Small group size—maximum six people per walk.
French Revolution Tour Paris
Our walking tour begins at the former site of the hated prison. Initially built as a defense against the English during the Hundred Years' War, the Bastille eventually became a detention center for aristocratic prisoners. Though the actual number of detainees was quite low in 1789, overthrowing the tyranny of the Bastille became the symbol of the Republican movement.
Now a traffic roundabout adorned with the July Column—a monument to the later Revolution of 1830—Place de la Bastille bears little resemblance to the former prison complex of the 18th century. Even so, it has a story to tell. Together, we will trace the former outlines of the Bastille, thus setting the tone for our walk.
"Our docent clarified the rapidly evolving timeline of the French Revolution, even bringing along visuals of the many sites that are no longer standing. Her expertise and passion for sharing her insights into this period of French history was palpable and much appreciated."
Place des Vosges
As we move on from Place de la Bastille, we will encounter the neighborhood that once surrounded the fortress. Our docent will paint a picture of daily life in the crowded quartier, and the sharp division between the aristocrats and the lower classes. Entering the Place des Vosges, one of Paris' most treasured green spaces, we'll snag a bench under the trees to get to the heart of the conflict.
It was here that Victor Hugo penned his famous work Les Miserables, and we may discuss this powerful piece of historical fiction, as well as the complex political factors that characterized France's first revolutionary period. With our newfound knowledge in mind, we’ll then pass through the Marais neighborhood to study the mansions that represented the wealth of the hated French nobility, putting the class tensions into context (a topic we delve into more on our Marais Walking Tour.
We will continue on to the Hôtel de Ville, Paris' city hall. As a symbol of the government, its central square became a key location in each subsequent revolution. It was even set alight by revolutionaries during the Commune of 1871. When rebuilt, its controversial balcony was not included (which, yes, will factor into our discussion). We will certainly analyze the role this building played in political movements of the 19th century, which provides a good opportunity to introduce the continuing unrest which ignited the post-1789 revolutions.
At this point, we will return to our focus on the 1789 revolution, boarding the métro to travel a few stops to the Palais Royal. Here, on the site where the mob that sparked the first revolution formed on the night of July 13th, we may discuss the role played by Philippe Égalité, a royal who supported the revolution (though he was executed all the same).
Following our stroll through the garden, we’ll continue on through the Jardin des Tuileries—also one of the stops on our Gardens of Paris Tour. These royal gardens became public after the revolution of 1789, but here we will talk about the gardens as a symbol of the dissolution of royal power by introducing the former Tuileries Palace, which was burnt down in 1871.
As we come to the perimeter of the Tuileries, we will look out at the expanse of the Place de la Concorde, which served as the site of the feared guillotine during the Reign of Terror. Here, our walk will end with a discussion of the impact of these historical events on politics, society, and culture in France today. By the end of our walk, we will emerge with a clearer understanding of how the Revolution of 1789 indelibly transformed French society, and how its key events and locations contributed to later conflicts.
While many visitors enjoy hunting for celebrity graves—notably Frederic Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Honore Balzac, and Jim Morrison—few recognize the outstanding importance of le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise within the history of cemetery planning and funerary architecture. Under our docent's excellent guidance, we will unearth the cemetery's transition from vacant plot of land outside the city limits to its position as Paris' most coveted final resting place. Designed by architect Alexandre Brongniart and opened in 1804, the cemetery inspired new ways of commemorating the dead. Together, on this 2.5-hour Père Lachaise tour, we'll join an urban planning expert or art historian as we navigate the maze-like rows of graves, exploring the history and influence of this iconic Parisian site.
- Père Lachaise tour led by urban planning expert or art historian.
- Explore the history and influence of Paris' most famous cemetery.
- Small groups—maximum six participants.
Père Lachaise Tour
Following the closure of Cimetière des Innocents in 1780, and new laws prohibiting burial grounds within the growing and already overcrowded city, Paris turned to the outskirts of the capital to design Cimetière du Père-Lachaise and fill the gap. Despite initially being seen as unfashionable for the rich Parisians, Cimetière du Père-Lachaise grew from a mere handful of graves in its first year to over 30,000 by 1830.
Indeed, beyond its popularity, its unique layout remains far from a dying fad—it has inspired garden cemeteries the world over to be modeled on Brongniart's idyllic parc-like design, now filled with more than 70,000 tombs. While winding our way past the resting places of illustrious writers, composers, artists, and politicians, we will discuss the intricate language of nineteenth-century funerary architecture. Together, we will discover the complexities of the design of the family crypts and mausolea that populate the twisting cemetery avenues.
For a different take on how Paris' expansion shaped the development of the city, try our Montmartre Tour.
Political Strife and Père-Lachaise
A reflection of wider architectural developments, the ornate mausolea of Père Lachaise were designed to express the personalities and professions of the deceased as well as their affiliations within the political and religious divisions that continually fractured French history. We will trace the connection between these iconic constructions and the various movements in French history. Together, we will discover that Père Lachaise was also the site of the last stand of the Communards.
Here, we will connect the cemetery to the dramatic events of the 1871 uprising which ended with the massacre of the insurgents against the Wall of the Fédérés. Still revered by French leftists, this wall is now joined by poignant monuments to the Jews and resistance fighters deported to Nazi concentration camps during World War II (further explored on our Paris WWII Tour. As we dialogue about these events and their link to Père Lachaise, we will build a stronger conception of French culture and history.
"I loved every aspect of this walk--I can't praise it highly enough. There's no way we could have found our way around Pere Lachaise on our own. Our docent seemed to know everything about the cemetery and the people buried there, and his commentary was delightful and engaging."
Certainly, a visit to Père Lachaise is a crash course in two hundred years of French history, brought to life by an atmospheric landscape that has fascinated Parisian tourists for centuries. Over the course of our time together, we will explore what sets Cimetière du Père-Lachaise apart from other funerary designs of its time, as well as some of the history of some of its most famous denizens. At the conclusion of our walk, we will leave primed for further independent exploration. Will the cemetery continue to serve as the final resting place for France's most famous citizens? While that remains to be seen, its historical impact is undisputed.
In the summer of 2005, France erupted in flames. For weeks, disgruntled youth—many from the country's North African immigrant communities—set thousands of cars ablaze and vandalized shops and schools, turning the streets of Paris' infamous banlieue (suburbs) into war zones. Following this and other more recent events—notably the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, the Bataclan, and in Nice—the question of identity is raised. In the wake of so much conflict, we find ourselves in the midst of a vivid debate on what it really means to be French.
The French people have been forced to grapple with the changing face of the country, now home to Europe's largest Muslim population. Our 3.5-hour France Immigration tour, led by a social historian guide, will explore immigration to France, analyze its history, and examine the root of the issues which plague France's current political climate.
- Discuss immigration to France and its impact on French culture and a globalized world.
- Includes the most famous of Paris mosques, La Grande Mosquée
- France Immigration tour led by a social historian or political scientist.
- Small group walks of no more than six people.
France Immigration Tour & La Goutte d'Or
We will begin our walk with an overview of French colonization and its subsequent waves of immigration (a subject also explored on our Marseille Walking Tour) while we stroll around the lively streets and open-air market in La Goutte d'Or, around métro Barbès Rochechouart. This traditional working class district, located in northern Paris, attracted North African immigrants during the thirty years after WWII when France desperately needed manpower to rebuild the country (for more, see our Paris WWII Tour).
However, this era was soon fraught with the demise of the French colonies and the violent Franco-Algerian war (1954-1962). We will discuss this period while walking along the rue de la Goutte d'Or, where, during the war, many Algerians lived in hotels and where the harkis (Muslim Algerian auxiliaries in the French army) had one of their headquarters.
Paris and La Banlieue
As we work our way further east we will reach the Gare du Nord train station, an important gateway where we can observe the vast network of tracks that transport hundreds of thousands of people in from the suburbs every day. Here we will address how the situation has evolved since the sixties, with the marginalization of immigrants who have been relegated to vast concrete housing projects outside of the capital. Far removed from the elegant shops and tree-lined boulevards of central Paris, it was there that growing discontent from poor living conditions and high unemployment acted as a catalyst for much of the recent unrest.
A Multicultural City
Descending into the metro ourselves, we will travel a few stations to Belleville, another former working class suburb incorporated into Paris through 19th century Haussmanization—the subject of our Paris City Planning Tour. As a neighborhood with North African, Asian, and Jewish people living and working side by side, Belleville is now one of the city's most multicultural centers, making it the perfect location for our discussion of the changes to Paris' immigrant populace.
"This was a very interesting tour to us. It covered a lot of ground. . . It was interesting to hear the past as well as current day situations. Our guide was personable and interesting. He answered our questions and went deeper into areas we were interested in. It was great to understand Paris outside of our regular touring areas.
A Celebrated Paris Mosque: La Grande Mosquée
We will finish our walk by reentering the metro, this time heading south to our final stop, the Grand Mosque of Paris. The largest mosque in France, it was inaugurated in 1926 in recognition of the Muslims who fought for France in WWI. Over a glass of mint tea in the garden, we will discuss some current issues surrounding immigration, such as the veil, France's concept of their national identity, recent upheaval, or even the difference between American and French understanding of identity.
NOTE: Depending on the docent, the order of stops on the walk may differ from what is outlined above.
The Right Bank's garden landscapes Les Tuileries and the adjacent Palais Royal count among the most important historical gardens in Paris—and France as a whole. A stone's throw from the Musée du Louvre, these sun-drenched green spaces are filled during the warmer months with Parisians reveling in the weather. Enveloped by a dense architectural context, they provide an excellent lesson in how landscaping played an important role in the development of royal and French identity from the late-Renaissance onward. On our two-hour Gardens of Paris tour, in the company of an architectural or art historian, we will explore Paris' two most famous gardens, learning the history beyond the natural beauty of the carefully maintained foliage and blushing roses.
- Explore Paris' most famous public gardens: the Tuileries and the Palais Royal.
- Gardens of Paris tour led by an architectural or art historian.
- Small group size—no more than six on a walk.
Gardens of Paris Tour - Jardin des Tuileries
Beginning in the carefully manicured Tuileries Gardens, we will open our discussion by learning its origins, and noting the former location of the Tuileries Palace. Following the death of King Henri II, Queen Catherine de Medici moved from her previous residence to the Louvre. Her first renovation was to transform the land behind the palace into a garden modeled after those in her native Florence. Beyond its natural beauty, this stretch of land at the end of the Louvre is also of significant historical importance—most notably during the French Revolution (as explored further on our French Revolution Tour Paris).
Later renovated by Louis XIV, the garden was transformed into its present web of intricate, geometric planters. Guided by the genius of landscape architect André le Nôtre—a figure who also factors prominently in our Versailles Garden Tour—the garden was molded into the space we see today. Together, we will focus on le Nôtre's guiding principles of symmetry and perspective, and take in the magnificent statues and fountains that adorn the grounds. As we explore, we will come to understand how the Tuileries has been shaped by some of the city's greatest figures.
"Our docent was exceptional. It felt like we were taking a walk through Paris with a friend, as she pointed out the background and events that led to the construction of the beautiful gardens of the city. A fantastic tour that really made our trip feel more personal."
From here, we'll cross over the rue de Rivoli to the Gardens of the Palais Royal, once home to the Cardinal de Richelieu and a young Louis XIV, whose impact on the city's structure can be seen on our Baroque Paris Architecture Tour. Encircled by the elegant estate, the interior garden is a lush green space. Together, we can witness Parisians playing boules between the long rows of rectangularly manicured trees and pulling chairs up to sun themselves alongside the central fountain. Here, we will be able to see the divide between the more classical grounds and the Cour d'Honneur.
We'll talk about the (relatively) recent controversy over Daniel Buren's outdoor sculptures Les Deux Plateaux, which were installed in 1986. Along the way, we'll discuss the important relationship between the gardens and their buildings, between art and public space, and how these gardens formed the backdrop to dramatic events in Paris' history.
Reflecting on the Tuileries and the Palais Royal as a group, we will give these elegant gardens context, weaving a rich narrative of their place in French history. As our walk comes to a close, we will depart with a greater appreciation for Paris' gardens beyond their beauty. While we will focus only on these two gardens of the Right Bank, we hope that our time together will spark your interest in discovering more green spaces dotted across Paris.
Despite its reputation as a distinctly American art form, much of jazz’s developmental history can be traced back to the underground clubs of Paris, which embraced jazz as its own. The city has displayed a fervent love affair with jazz since the first European tour of an American jazz band in 1919, providing musicians with a vibrant club scene and enthusiastic audiences that continue today. On this 2.5 hour tour through Saint-Germain and the Latin Quarter, led by a renowned jazz musician, we will explore the history of jazz in Paris, creatively incorporating some of its most representative songs into our narrative.
- Paris Jazz tour
- Listen to the Left Bank come alive through jazz music.
- Led by renowned jazz musician Clara Ponty.
- Small groups—maximum six participants.
Jazz and Rebellion
With its hunger for new ideas and lack of racial segregation, post-war Paris was the perfect venue for introducing Europe to the new American sound. As Miles Davis wrote in his autobiography, “Everything changed while I was in Paris. It was like magic, almost like I had been hypnotized…It was April in Paris and, yeah, I was in love.” Musicians flocked to the city and several were so taken by the vibrant and supportive atmosphere that they expatriated permanently.
During WWII and the Nazi Occupation, listening to jazz was grounds for imprisonment (for more, see our Paris WWII Tour). The genre's radical, rebellious air continued, as Paris drew connections between the loose, carefree syncopation of the music and free-thinking existentialism. As a result, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, with its high concentration of students, existentialists and underground caves, became the unofficial neighborhood of bebop in the 1940s and 50s. When Dizzy Gillespie first brought his new sound to these clubs, he was met with audiences more supportive and excited than their American counterparts.
For a more introductory look at the Rive Gauche, see our Left Bank Paris Tour.
Soundtrack to an Era
With personal mp3 players in hand and a playlist that has been carefully chosen to tell the story of jazz in Paris, we will work our way through the Left Bank. We may learn the history of the Hot Club, an organization and publication founded by French students to further the reach of jazz in France. We will pass by several legendary clubs, some of which are still in operation. We may also have a look at the home of Django Reinhardt as we stroll along the same streets taken by Jean-Paul Sartre and Juliette Gréco on their way to see Miles Davis perform at Club St. Germain.
"One of the most memorable tours we have ever taken. Walking through Paris, listening to jazz on an iPod...It was such an unusual experience. "
Finally, we’ll cross the Seine and head towards the rue des Lombards, where we will end our walk near one of Paris’ premier jazz clubs, in case you would like to attend an evening show featuring the top players in the city’s contemporary scene. A small pedestrian street, rue des Lombards is famous for its numerous music venues drawing some of the best names in contemporary jazz.
Indeed, it is this continued appreciation of jazz as a vibrant, relevant genre, rather than nostalgic hymns of our dusty past, that sets Paris apart. As our walk comes to a close, we will come away with a comprehensive understanding of the history of the genre, factors contributing to its success in Paris, as well as a few new favorite songs.
Please note that we will not attend a concert as part of this tour.
During the roaring twenties, Paris was considered the cultural capital of the Western world. Artists and writers flocked to the city from far and wide, including celebrated American writer Ernest Hemingway. During this 3-hour Hemingway-focused Paris literary tour with a literature expert, we'll explore St. Germain and Montparnasse, neighborhoods in the city's Left Bank that were once the epicenter of Paris' avant-garde. We'll learn about a wide range of artists, writers, and thinkers in Hemingway's circle including Fitzgerald, Picasso, Pound, Matisse, and the inimitable Gertrude Stein, whose modernist salon provided the gravitational pull for the entire movement.
- Discover Hemingway's Paris.
- Includes many of Hemingway's haunts.
- Paris literary tour led by a literature scholar.
- Small group size—never more than 6 on a walk.
Paris Literary Tour
Hemingway loved to walk. His strolls provided him with moments of reflection but also connected him with his community, which we will experience together as we trace Hemingway’s path across the Left Bank. We’ll begin our walk not far from where the young writer and his new wife, Hadley, first established a home on rue Cardinal Lemoine. Here, we will set the tone, immersing ourselves in the life of the expat writers of the era. In the early 20th century, this was a working-class area of the Left Bank's Latin Quarter, close to the bustling rue Mouffetard, and tucked in behind the Panthéon and the Church of St. Etienne du Mont (upon the steps of which Woody Allen’s hero waits for the midnight bell to toll).
Note, we also offer an introductory Left Bank Paris Tour.
Following Hemingway's path, we will continue our walk downhill, past the academic center of the city around the Sorbonne and towards the site of Sylvia Beach’s original Shakespeare & Company bookshop. A hub of Parisian literary life between the two World Wars, Beach's shop famously published James Joyce’s Ulysses for the first time in 1922. We may discuss Hemingway's friendship with Joyce, one of the many literary expats whom Hemingway knew and admired. In the area, we will also pass by some of the residences and other favorite haunts of the Fitzgeralds, Ezra Pound, or Ford Madox Ford.
"[Our docent had] a deep knowledge of Paris during the period that the Lost Generation was creating their mark on the world. We had a delightful tour and thoroughly enjoyed our morning learning about Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein, and their lives on the Left Bank."
For more on Paris during the War check out our Paris WWII Tour.
Crossing the Luxembourg Gardens, as Hemingway did on so many occasions, we will make our way towards the infamous quartier Montparnasse. He would later establish his second home close to Montparnasse. The neighborhood was another hub of artistic life in the 1920s, with its many famous literary cafés all patronized by “Hem." Entering the café-lined streets, we will discuss the role of café life during the twenties, stopping to experience it for ourselves.
Our walk will come to a close with a well-earned coffee at perhaps one of the most emblematic cafés of them all, the Closerie des Lilas. Here, we will take a moment to reflect upon the insights we have gained on our journey through literary Paris with Hemingway as our guide. We will emerge from the experience with a better understanding of Paris as a unique place at a particular time in history—home of the “lost generation.”
Note, those interested in the Modernist movement in Paris may want to couple this tour with our Pompidou Center Tour. The center is one of Paris' best collections of modern art.
Paris is far older than one might think: at least twice as old as the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Before 1000 A.D. it was, varyingly, a Gallic settlement, a Roman town, and a Frankish royal capital, visited by such figures as Julius Caesar, Julian the Apostate, and Clovis the Frank. While the Paris we know today is radically different from its roots thanks to 19th-century overhauls by city planner Baron Haussmann (the subject of our Paris City Planning Tour), we will find Roman Paris still lurking just under the surface. Indeed, many of the remains of this early history lie buried under the streets of the modern city—some of which we will discover on this three-hour Ancient Paris tour with an architect, historian, or medievalist.
- Explore the ancient Roman origins of Paris.
- Ancient Paris tour led by an architect, historian, or medievalist.
- Maximum group size of six participants.
Our walk begins where Paris (or better, the Roman city Lutetia) itself did, on the Île de la Cité. Initially Paris' layout was focused on its central river, where many of the vestiges of its early history are clustered. We'll start with a visit to the Crypte Archéologique, where the remains of ancient houses, workshops, and the city's first fortification, dating from the third century, are found. The Crypte also features an opportunity to examine the foundations of its earliest surviving church from the sixth century. Here, we will take time to view an exhibition of recently excavated Roman wall paintings, which tell us much about domestic life in the Roman city.
Following these introductions, we may observe the surviving Roman roads and consider the impact that ancient urban planning has had on Paris to this day. By following the main road of the Roman city toward the south we will arrive at the superb remains of the Roman Baths at the Musée de Cluny (for more ancient Parisian treasures, see our Cluny Museum Tour).
Our visit will concentrate on the structure, function, and history of this huge edifice. We will examine the display of Roman statues and sculpted monuments with their Latin and Celtic inscriptions, which allow us a glimpse into the religious and civic life of the city's inhabitants. From the Baths, we will continue to Les Arènes de Lutèce (Arena of Lutetia), the Roman amphitheater. Here, we will examine this former site of gladiator and mock-sea battles, learning the role of violent entertainment in the city's early history.
Transitioning to the Middle Ages
Leaving the arena, we will transition to the medieval period. We may reach the Mountain of St Geneviève to acquaint ourselves with the legend of this fifth-century saint and the first abbey, built in her honor by Clovis. Known as the patron saint of Paris, we might uncover her unique story before descending from the mountain through the Latin Quarter. Following one of the original Roman roads, we may walk past a fragment of the twelfth-century fortifications of Philippe Auguste and the site of another early abbey. Here, we may note the city's layout, as well as the connection between the many abbeys and churches and architectural innovations.
"Our docent was so knowledgeable and was able not only to show us some extremely interesting exhibits and examples relating to the Roman and pre-Roman era in Paris, but also tied everything to other eras in the city's history, even up to today. We learned an enormous amount about the evolution of this great city, and its contours. [She] clearly loves this subject, and that was obvious throughout the tour."
Weaving a narrative from the various facets of the city's early history, our docent will help us to uncover the foundations of Paris' unique identity. As our walk comes to a close, we will reflect upon the city's transition from small village to Roman city to French capital. Together we will conclude our dialogue with an overview of the city around 1200 A.D., come away with an understanding of the basics of its urban planning. We hope that this will serve as a jumping-off point from which you can continue to explore further remains from this early period.
Many believe Louis XIV (known as the Sun King), completely abandoned Paris for his pet-project Versailles, thus having little impact on the capital. However, during his 72-year reign—the longest in French history—the Sun King did indeed impose his distinct mark on Paris' art and architecture. Even today, after centuries of modernization and reworking of the city's urban planning, the city still bears Louis XIV's imprint, with colossal structures and squares like Le Louvre and Place Vendôme. On this three-hour Baroque Paris Architecture tour led by an architect or art historian, we will explore his influence and paint a comprehensive picture of the Paris of the Sun King.
- See Paris through eyes of Louis XIV.
- Unveil the Sun King myth, and how this impacted his contributions to Paris' cityscape.
- Small groups—no more than six people on a walk.
Power and Prestige
We will begin at the Louvre, considering its impressive façade and fascinating history. First built as a fortified castle at the end of the 12th century, the Louvre was later converted into a royal residence for the French kings, and altered slightly to suit the luxurious tastes of each incumbent monarch (for more on this story, see our Louvre Architecture Tour).
Historically, France's kings preferred living outside the city limits—in Loire Valley castles or the protective fortress of Château de Vincennes to the east of the city. Louis XIV's Minister for the Arts, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, saw the remodeling of the Louvre as a way to reassert the monarchy's presence in the capital. From this came the great Colonnade. An affirmation of the Sun King's newly acquired power, this wing of the Louvre became a powerful example of neoclassical architecture, and a future reference for many of France's architects, including Garnier and Soufflot.
To learn about the art contained inside the Louvre, we suggest our Crash Course Louvre Tour.
Passing by I.M. Pei's 1989 glass pyramid—a topic on our Paris Contemporary Architecture Tour—and Napoleon I's 1806 triumphal arch, we'll stop in the Tuileries gardens. A trademark layout of André Le Nôtre, Louis' royal landscape architect, the Tuileries are a prime example of the classic "French garden." This was a concept created largely by Le Nôtre, placing importance on the manipulation of space, rather than horticulture. With the aim of projecting an impression of power, majesty, and prestige, Le Nôtre's designs found favor with Louis XIV. He later went on to design the magnificent gardens of the Sun King's new palace, Versailles (for more, see our Versailles Garden Tour.
"Our docent really engaged us in the history of Louis XIV's reign and brought some visuals for us to help us understand some of the architecture. I could tell that she was confident in her knowledge of the topics and that was very reassuring and special. It felt like we were on a private walk with a world-renowned art historian. Very well done!"
Homage to the King
We'll continue on to the Place Vendôme, originally named "Place Louis Le Grand." Designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, one of the main architects of Versailles, the square was planned as a lavish homage to the King's victories in battle. A large statue of the Sun King on horseback once dominated the Place where the Vendôme column stands today.
The first of the city's "royal squares," designed solely to surround a royal statue, the Vendôme became an important model for the many squares that followed in the 17th- and 18th-centuries. With its favorable location just behind the rue Saint-Honoré, the Place Vendôme later gained popularity in the city's fashion industry (further explored on our Paris Fashion Tour), also becoming home to upscale Parisian jewelers and the luxe Ritz Hotel.
After passing through the 18th-century Place de la Concorde, modeled after the Place Vendôme, we'll hop on the métro for a quick ride to the Invalides. First built by Louis XIV as a hospital and accommodation for the wounded veterans who fought in his many foreign campaigns, Invalides imposed a strict schedule on its residents. The building was later refashioned at the talented hands of Jules Mansart and is still home to those wounded in battle. The building's golden-domed majesty was rumored to have been initially intended as the Sun King's final resting place, but was later appropriated by another "royal," becoming the site of Napoleon's tomb in 1840.
By the end of our time together, we'll have greater knowledge of the impact this historic King had throughout the magnificent cityscape of Paris, ranging from sprawling gardens, to public squares, to magnificent baroque structures.
For a look at a different era of architecture, see our Modernist Paris Architecture Tour.
The first decades of the 20th-century saw Paris become the epicenter of experimentation in art, architecture, and design. In architecture, in particular, cultural dissonance between the past and new realities emerged in the architectural designs of Le Corbusier and Robert Mallet-Stevens, among others. During this 3-hour Paris architecture tour we'll join a practicing architect or architectural historian, to explore the aesthetics of the Modernist movement. This tour will take place in the city's 16th arrondissement and include aspects of Art Nouveau and Art Décomovements, as well as the Villa La Roche & Maison Jeanneret by Le Corbusier.
- Explore shining examples of Modernist architecture in Paris.
- Visit Villa La Roche & Maison Jeanneret by Le Corbusier
- Explore Art Nouveau and Art Deco
- Led by an architect or art historian
Paris Architecture Tour
Known for its affluent residents and iconic landmarks like Palais Galliera, it's easy to overlook the 16th arrondissement's third draw: its Modernist architecture. This quiet neighborhood is home to the city's unusually rich collection of works designed by the top architects of this period. Our tour will begin at the Palais de Chaillot, taking in the scope of Carlu, Boileau, and Azéma's joint vision. This sleek, late 1930s, modernist reimagining of the original Trocadero Palace, initially built for the 1878 World's Fair, opens our conversation and allows us to define Modernism in contrast to the popular Neoclassicism, Art Nouveau, and Art Déco.
"The concept was novel. We often visit Paris, but we were unaware of its rich collection of modernist architecture! It was thrilling to see Hector Guimard's work and Le Corbusier's 'workshop.' It was as if we were seeing Paris for the first time."
Moving on from this initial large-scale example, we'll continue our exploration by revealing its foundations in Art Nouveau. Here, we will take note of a series of buildings designed by architect Hector Guimard, as well as his famous Paris métro signs, whose lingering presence have contributed to shaping the city's aesthetic. These works will give us a sense of the early triumphs of the period, and reveal the distinct departure from the revival style popular in the 19th-century.
Le Corbusier & Mallet-Stevens
Following our examination of Guimard's contributions, we will work our way to the Villa La Roche & Maison Jeanneret, which were designed by Le Corbusier and now form the home of the Fondation Le Corbusier. Here, we will discuss the architect's profound influence on Parisian architecture, as well as European and American Modernism. We may discuss his proposed contributions to city planning, which he called Ville Contemporaine, or his controversial Plan Voisin, which suggested replacing much of central Paris with modern skyscrapers.
Complementing Le Corbusier's modern vision, we will continue on to view several structures designed by Robert Mallet-Stevens in the mid 1920s on the street to which he gave his name. Striking for their streamlined, boxy design, these buildings stood out from the rest of the city's heavily Haussmannian aesthetic. (To learn more about Baron von Haussmann and the re-making of Paris in the 19th century try our Paris City Planning Tour.
As our walk comes to a close, we'll reflect upon the hidden structures we've uncovered and come away with an understanding of how these designs set the stage for contemporary architecture.
Note, many clients often pair this tour with one of our modern art walks such as our Pompidou Center Tour.
Jews have lived in Paris since the medieval period. In this 3-hour Jewish Paris tour in the Marais we'll join a local historian and discover this hidden history of the city's Jewish Quarter, from the 12th century to World War II. Together, we'll learn how the Jewish population of Paris has informed the development of the city as a whole, from gastronomic delights, to striking architecture, to the dark days of World War II.
- Jewish Paris tour tour led by an expert on Jewish history
- Explores historical and contemporary Jewish issues in the Marais.
- Small-group size—no more than six people.
Jewish Paris Tour
We'll start our visit by looking at vestiges of King Philippe Auguste's city wall, which formed Paris' 12th century city limits, and the first of many barriers that the Jewish population had overcome to create a vibrant and crucial community. Short of funds in the royal coffers, King Philippe Auguste sought to remedy this problem and assert his royal power by expelling the Jews, seizing their property in the process. However, when funds were later depleted, the Jews were invited back—but only if they complied with a heavy tax. This characterized the ongoing cycle of tension between the King and the Jews for the entirety of his reign.
"[Our docent] was just wonderful. She was very knowledgeable about the specific focus of the tour and her background in art allowed her to field the considerable number of questions we had about dealing with confiscated art from the Jews of Paris/France after the war. Highest recommendations."
Situated just outside the wall, the Marais—called Pletzl, or little place—became the center of Jewish Paris. We will walk along streets inhabited by Jewish people for centuries that today are bustling with lively cafes, specialty shops, and Kosher restaurants. Despite the growing bourgeois-bohème presence the Marais remains the core of the Jewish community, especially the cheerful rue des Rosiers.
Kosher bakeries, Jewish bookshops, and beloved falafel stands form ways of sharing Jewish culture within the city, while synagogues stand as religious centers for community support and places of worship. We will spend time taking in the splendid façade of the Agoudas Hakehilos Synagogue (designed by Art Nouveau architect Hector Guimard—a subject discussed further on our Paris Architecture Tour), and discussing other synagogues in the neighborhood.
From its beginnings as an enclave on the outskirts of the city, to the horrors of the 20th century, Paris' Jewish community is no stranger to struggle. As we explore the Marais, we will address issues faced by French Jews, such as the Dreyfus Affair, a political scandal which stretched from 1894 to its final resolution in 1906. Our itinerary also includes a visit to the Memorial of the Shoah, which sheds light on the complex history of the Jewish minority within Paris.
With the Tomb of the Unknown Jewish Martyr and wall of names noting French victims, the Memorial of the Shoah forms a somber and poignant reminder of the atrocities committed against the Jewish community during the Holocaust. Here, we may focus on the acts of the Occupation's Vichy government, such as the roundup of Jewish Parisians in the Velodrome d'Hiver, and their subsequent removal to concentration camps, taking time to reflect upon the effects this has had on the Jewish community (for more on this difficult era, see our Paris WWII Tour.
Jewish Quarter Paris
At the end of this walk, after having explored the cultural and historic center of Jewish Paris in the Marais district, we will have gained insight into relevant topics such as the waves of immigration into the city, well-known French Jewish figures, and current and past issues. Clients with a further interest in the Marais district may wish to take our Marais Walking Tour.
Note: We will not enter any synagogues during this itinerary. Many of the synagogues in the Marais have undergone violent attacks and even bombings in the past, making them extremely security-conscious and forcing many to close to the public. In addition, all but one of the synagogues on this tour are small, shopfront temples belonging to Orthodox Jewish groups, which aren't appropriate for mixed groups of non-Jewish women and men to visit.
Once home to the crème de la crème of the French aristocracy, the Marais is full of hidden mansions waiting to be discovered. This charismatic neighborhood has undergone several dramatic transformations, but its architectural identity is perhaps most defined by these numerous private residences. Noting impressive façades and entering often overlooked courtyards, we'll step back into time with our guide, an architect or historian, on this 3-hour Marais walking tour. Together, we'll investigate how these iconic mansions tell the story of the social and artistic sea change taking place in Paris between 1550 and 1720, before the French Revolution ushered in the modern era (the subject of our French Revolution Tour Paris).
- Tour the historic Marais district of Paris through its architecture.
- Marais walking tour led by an architect or historian.
- Visit hidden courtyards.
- Small group size—no more than six people.
Marais Walking Tour
The Renaissance arrived in Paris in the mid 16th century, forever transforming art and society in the French capital. However, its most lingering effect is perhaps on Parisian architecture. The Marais is one of the best quartiers to see the examples of the Parisian Renaissance by considering the splendid mansions, or so-called hôtels particuliers built by France's rich and noble families. Depending on opening times and the tenor of the walk, we may view such structures as the Flamboyant-Gothic Hôtel de Sens, the Hôtel Carnavalet (home to the museum of the same name), the Hôtel de Donon (today the Musée Cognacq-Jay), the Hôtel Lamoignon (which now houses the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris), the enormous Hôtel Salé (now the Musée Picasso), and the palatial, and rather atypical, Hôtel de Soubise (part of today's Archives Nationales).
"Our docent helped us appreciate French history in ways I did not expect. The walk brought together the different changes in the Marais, and we were able to see many things that we would not have found on our own. It all worked."
A Transforming Quartier
As we move along, more or less chronologically, we'll discuss how the development of French architecture reflected social and political realities of the time, allowing the mansions themselves to offer insight into the lives of Paris' more privileged citizens in the 16th and 17th centuries. Part of the walk will also deal with the history of the Marais itself, and how the area fell into ruin in the 19th century, becoming one of central Paris' poorest neighborhoods. Though the Marais was spared by Baron Haussmann's reforms (a figure discussed further on our Paris City Planning Tour, its former splendors subdivided into tenements and workshops and often unrecognizable under the burden of subsequent additions and neglect.
Lastly, we'll uncover the neighborhood's incredible modern history. Ultimately neglected by Haussmann's 19th century reforms, the whole area was later threatened with comprehensive redevelopment in the 20th century. The fate of the aging, historic buildings hung in the balance until culture minister André Malraux championed the Marais as an urban conservation area in 1962. Over the next 45 years, state and city authorities would spend considerable sums buying up properties and restoring the quartier's heritage, often with spectacular results. As our walk comes to a close, we will leave with a comprehensive understanding of the area's transformation—from a basic historical timeline of its progression, to insight into how the development of French architecture reflected social and political realities of the time.
Those interested in the Jewish history of of the neighborhood may wish to take our Jewish Paris Tour.
Useful French for rail travel
|English (anglais)||French (français)||Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun|
|Where is?||Où est?||ou eh|
|...train station||la gare||lah gar|
|ticket||un billet||uhn bee-YAY|
|ticket counter||les guichet||lay ghee-SHAY|
|departures within the hour||départs dans l'heure||day-PAR dohn luhr|
|local departures||départs banlieue||day-PAR bahn-LYOO|
|long-distance departures||départs grandes lignes||day-PAR grahnd leenyh|
|departure time||heure de départ||uhr de day-PAR|
|arrival time||heure d'arrivée||urh dar-ree-YAV|
|first class||première classe||pruh-mee-YAIR klahs|
|second class||seconde classe||say-COHN-duh klahs|
|one way ticket||un billet simple||uhn bee-YAY SAHM-pluh|
|round trip (return) ticket||un billet aller-retour||uhn bee-YAY ah-LAY RAY-tour|
|I would like to reserve a seat||Je voudrais réserver une place||dzuh voo-DRAY RAY-sair-vay ooun plahs|
|I have a Eurailpass||J'ai Eurailpass||dzay ao-rail-PAHS|
|sleeping couchette||une couchette||ooun koo-SHET|
|berth in a sleeping car||une place en voiture-lit||ooune plahs uhn vwa-TOUR-lee|
|car / carriage||voiture||vwa-TOUR|
|punch your ticket||composter de billet||cohm-poh-STAY de bee-YAY|
|departures||le départ||luh day-PAR|
|coming from||en provenance de||un pro-veh-NONS de|
|going to||a destination de||ah des-tee-nah-tzee-YOWN de|
|Is this the right platform for the Paris train?||Est-ce que c’est le quai pour le train de Paris?||es kuh say le kay poo-rh leh traah de pah-REE|
|delayed||en retard||hn ruh-TAR|
Useful French for air travel
|English (anglais)||French (français)||Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun|
|Where is...||Où est?||ou eh|
|to the right||à droite||ah dwa-t|
|to the left||à gauche||ah go-sh|
|straight ahead||tout droit||too dwa|
|departures hall||Hall de départ||ahl de day-PAR|
|arrivals hall||Hall d’arrivée||ahl da-ree-VAY|
|delayed||en retard||hn ruh-TAR|
|on time||à l’heure||ah LOUR|
|early||en avance||hn ah-VAHNS|
|security check||le contrôle de sécurité||luh kon-TROLL de say-cure-ee-TAY|
|shuttle||la navette||lah na-VET|
|boarding pass||une carte d’embarquement||ooun kart dem-bark-eh-MUHn|
|baggage claim||la livraison des bagages||la lee-vray-SOHn day bah-GA-j|
|carry-on luggage||les bagages à main||lay bah-GA-j ah meh|
|checked luggage||les bagages enregistrés||lay bah-GA-j on-ray-jee-STRAY|
Useful French for car travel
|English (anglais)||French (français)||Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun|
|scooter/motorboke||une moto||ouhn mo-TOH|
|gas station||station-service||stah-see-YOHN sair-VEES|
|gas||de l'essence||deh lay-SAWNS|
|Fill it up, please||faire le plein, s'il vous plaît||fair le plahn seel voo play|
|Where is...||Où est?||ou eh|
|...the road||la route||lah root|
|...the street||la rue||lah roo|
|...the road for Paris||
la route de Paris
|lah root de pah-REE|
|to the right||à droite||ah dwa-t|
|to the left||à gauche||ah go-sh|
|keep going straight||tout droit||too dwa|
|toll||un péage||uhn PAY-ahj|
|road map||carte routière||kahrt roo-tee-YAIR|
|roundabout||rond point||rohn pwea|
Typical road signs
|English (anglais)||French (français)|
|Speed limit||Limit de vitesse|
|Give way||Cedez le passage|
|Give way to traffic coming from the left/right||Priorité à gauche / à droit|
|No passing||Interdiction de doubler/dépasser|
|No entry||Sens interdit|
|Road closed||Route barrée|
|Risk of ice||Verglas|
|Speed camera||Radar de vitesse|
|Pedestrian crossing||Passage piéton|
|Parking prohibited||Stationnement interdit|
|Pedestrian zone||Zone piétonnne|
Basic phrases in French
|English (anglais)||French (français)||pro-nun-see-YAY-shun|
|please||s'il vous plaît||seel-vou-PLAY|
|Do you speak English?||Parlez-vous anglais?||par-lay-VOU on-GLAY|
|I don't understand||Je ne comprende pas||zhuh nuh COHM-prohnd pah|
|I'm sorry||Je suis desolée||zhuh swee day-zoh-LAY|
|How much does it cost?||Combien coute?||coam-bee-YEHN koot|
|That's too much||C'est trop||say troh|
|Good evening||Bon soir||bohn SWAH|
|Good night||Bon nuit||bohn NWEE|
|Excuse me (to get attention)||Excusez-moi||eh-skooze-ay-MWA|
|Excuse me (to get past someone)||Pardon||pah-rRDOHN|
|Where is?||Où est?||ou eh|
|...the bathroom||la toilette||lah twah-LET|
|...train station||la gare||lah gahr|
Days, months, and other calendar items in French
|English (anglais)||French (français)||Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun|
|When is it open?||Quand est-il ouvert?||coan eh-TEEL oo-VAIR|
|When does it close?||Quand est l'heure de fermeture?||coan eh lure duh fair-mah-TOUR|
|At what time...||à quelle heure...||ah kell uhre|
|Day after tomorrow||après demain||ah-PRAY duh-MEHN|
|a day||un jour||ooun zhuhr|
|a month||un mois||ooun mwa|
Numbers in French
|English (anglais)||French (français)||Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun|
|21*||vingt et un *||vahnt eh UHN|
|22*||vingt deux *||vahn douh|
|23*||vingt trois *||vahn twa|
|5,000||cinq mille||sank meel|
|10,000||dix mille||dees meel|
* You can form any number between 20 and 99 just like the examples for 21, 22, and 23. For x2–x9, just say the tens-place number (trente for 30, quarante for 40, etc.), then the ones-place number (35 is trente cinq; 66 is soixsante six). The only excpetion is for 21, 31, 41, etc. For x1, say the tens-place number followed by "...et un" (trente et un, quarante et un, etc.).
‡ Yes, the French count very strangely once they get past 69. Rather than some version of "seventy,' they instead say "sixy-ten" (followed by "sixty-eleven," "sixty-twelve,' etc. up to "sixty-nineteen.") And then, just to keep things interesting, they chenge it up again and, for 80, say 'four twenties"—which always make me thinks of blackbirds baked in a pie for some reason. Ninety becomes "four-twenties-ten" and so on up to "four-nineties-ninteen" for 99, which is quite a mouthful: quartre-vingts-dix-neuf.