Art deco and art nouveau in the 7th arrondissement

The 7th arrondissement is a great place for a quiet stroll. It is bordered by the Eiffel Tower on one side and St Germain des Près on the other, is home to the spectacular gold domed Invalides (a military hospital and final resting place of Napoleon) and remains very residential and peaceful.

Invalides, Paris

Three main streets run through the 7th: the rue St Dominique, rue de i’Université and the rue de Grenelle, the area I explored here lies between the Eiffel Tower and the Invalides and is known as the Gros Caillou (or big rock, it seems there probably was one here many years ago). The rue St Dominique particularly is a favourite of mine, for its great food shops and lively but relaxed, typical Parisian buzz.

The area is also home to some beautiful art deco buildings, particularly along the riverside on the Quai d’Orsay, formerly the site of a large tobacco plant that we can still see references too in the friezes on some of the buildings.

Some of the city’s most spectacular art nouveau buildings can also be found in the Gros Caillou, most notably those designed by Jules Lavirotte in the early 1900’s.

And as always in Paris, don’t forget to explore the courtyards and passageways, they always hide some hidden treasures and rarely disappoint.

  • Le Gros Caillou. Area between the Eiffel Tower and the Invalides, 75007 Paris. metro: La Tour Maubourg
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Rosa Bonheur sur Seine

I recently discovered what I think is going to be my new favourite café/bar in Paris. Rosa Bonheur in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont is already a firm fixture both during the day for well priced, simple food and at night as a bar and ‘guingette’. Now you can enjoy the same home cooking and atmosphere on the banks of the Seine, just by the beautiful Pont Alexandre III. The café is on a barge moored on the riverside, and on the river bank they also have a wood fired oven where they make pizzas and a take away tapas bar, with plenty of tables to sit and enjoy. At night there is music and dancing, they have a choir, petanque in the summer…. check out their Facebook page for upcoming events.

Not only is the atmosphere laid back and relaxed, the views from the window are spectacular. My favourite thing (apart of course from the delicious and huge slices of cake)? A traditional ‘baby foot’ with a twist – all female players!

  • Rosa Bonheur sur Seine, Quai d’Orsay, Pont des Invalides, 75007 Paris. metro: Invalides

Open Monday – Sunday, 12:00 – 1:30am (midnight on Sunday) Opening hours change depending on the season, check the website below.

Rosa Bonheur website

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Springtime in Paris

It may be a cliché, but it’s hard to resist Paris in the springtime, when the cherry blossoms fill the Champ de Mars, and the flower markets spill over with peonies and hyacinths.

Pain Poilane

Pain Poilane is reputed amongst many to be the best bread in Paris. A family run bakery established in 1932 in St Germain des Près, the bread is made the traditional way, using stone milled flour, water, sea salt from Brittany and yeast. Cooked in a wood fired oven, the big 2kg loaves are instantly recognizable, both in their texture and flavour.

Around 1000 loaves a day are exported to the US, Japan and the Middle East (I even heard a story about an American who loved it so much he placed an order to have a loaf couriered to him and then to his children in the US each week for life). You will often find it used for sandwiches in brasseries around the city, and you can buy a quarter or half a loaf if 2kg seems like too much!

  • 8 rue du Cherche Midi, 76006 Paris.  métro: Sevres Babylone or St Sulpice, closed Sunday
  • 49 Boulevard de Grenelle, 75015 Paris.  métro: Dupleix, closed Monday
  • 38 rue Debelleyme, 75003 Paris. métro: Filles du Calvaire or St Sebastien Froissart, closed Monday

The Eiffel Tower

There are a few good reasons I can think of for getting up early and heading into the city in the dark. One is to see the dawn breaking behind the Eiffel Tower. With the city almost silent, and the tower and area surrounding it completely empty, you really feel that you are privileged to be seeing something special.

A bit less silent, but no less beautiful, the tower at night is also spectacular when it’s lit up, especially when it sparkles. It’s actually much nicer from a distance when it’s sparkling rather than close up, the best views are from the Trocadero. Be there on the hour every hour from sunset until 1am and see it sparkling for 5 minutes. It’s impossible not to stop and stare, no matter how many times you’ve seen it.

Built in 1889 for the world’s fair, initially only intended to stay up for 20 years, it was first reviled and is now loved by the Parisians. It’s a monument you can’t miss on a visit to Paris. The lines can be incredibly long, especially in high season. Book a timed entry ticket on the internet to avoid spending half your day waiting, and don’t wait until the last minute to book, they sell out way in advance. Or take a guided tour, not only do you get to skip the line but you’ll be amazed how much you learn – as you can imagine there are many fascinating stories surrounding this world famous icon. The other alternative is to take the stairs, the lines are shorter and it’s cheaper, and as long as you can cope with the views below it’s a fun option!

Open daily all year round 9.30am to 11pm (midnight from June through early Sept).

Eiffel Tower website

  • Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars, 75007 Paris. metro Bir Hakeim or RER Champ de Mars. The best way in my opinion is go to Trocadero metro and walk down, you get the best views.

The Rodin Museum

One of my favourite museums in Paris is the Rodin Museum. It is housed in the magnificent Hotel Biron and set in large and peaceful gardens in the 7th arrondissement. It’s also right by the Invalides, as you wander around the beautiful museum gardens you can see the gold dome peeping up behind the sculptures and clipped trees.

The garden has a small café and lots of benches and wooden deckchairs under the trees. It is also home to many of Rodin’s bronze sculptures. If you don’t have time to go into the museum, or just want to sit and enjoy the quiet, for 2€ you can spend as long as you like there.

The Hotel Biron was built in 1727. By 1905 it was falling into ruin, the once beautiful gardens overgrown, and it became a temporary residence for various artists, including Jean Cocteau, Isadora Duncan, Henri Matisse and Auguste Rodin. From 1911 onwards Rodin took over the whole building, and in 1916 offered to donate the entire collection of his work to the state, on the condition that the Hotel Biron became the Musée Rodin.

The museum is small but houses an impressive collection of Rodin’s sculptures, as well as several works by some of his friends and contemporaries – Camille Claudel, Van Gogh, Bourdelle and John Singer Sargent. The inside of the building is as beautiful as the outside, and temporary exhibitions are also frequently held.

Open daily except Mondays.

A tip for visiting all museums in Paris, buy your ticket online before you visit. Lines can be long, particularly in summer, and an e-ticket is one of the best ways to skip them!

Rodin Museum

  • Musée Rodin, 79 rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris  Metro: Varenne or Invalides