A day with Le Corbusier in Paris

With a little planning and a metro pass, fans of Le Corbusier can spend a full day in Paris visiting some of his most iconic works. Some are open for visits, others not, but all the ones listed below are easily visible and can be seen in one day – two if you want to head out to the suburbs and add the iconic Villa Savoye to your list. (Make sure you do the visits on a Saturday if you want to go inside his studio-apartment).

Start your day on the western side of Paris, in the 16th arrondissement at the Maison la Roche. Designed and built between 1923 and 1925 to show a collector’s extensive collection of modern art, it was one of his first experimental houses and demonstrates what Le Corbusier later identified as his ‘Five Points of a New Architecture’ – a building elevated on stilts, with a roof garden, horizontal strip windows, an open plan layout and free design of the facade – all made possible by his use of new materials such as concrete. The Maison la Roche is a wonderful example of one of Le Corbusier’s first purist villas.

After the Maison la Roche, it’s a short metro ride or walk to the Immeuble Molitor, including his own studio-apartment. Completed in 1934, it was where Le Corbusier lived and worked until his death in 1965. Here we can see how he expanded on his Five Points, and continued to work on the use of space and light. The Immeuble Molitor was the first residential building to be built with a facade made entirely of glass, and uses three different types of glass to obtain different effects with light. Like in the Maison la Roche, the furniture is sparse and leaves the architecture itself to take centre stage. (Note, as of March 2016 you need to make a reservation to visit, contact reservation@fondationlecorbusier.fr)

If you have time, whilst you are in this area I recommend strolling over to the Villa Cook, another of Le Corbusier’s purist villas, built in 1926 for an American journalist. It also develops all of the principals that later became his Five Points (the open section of the ground floor has since been filled in). Even though it’s not open for visits it’s well worth the trip, as it’s sandwiched between two other spectacular modernist villas, the Villa Collinet (1926) by Robert Mallet Stevens and the Villa Dublin (1929) by Raymond Fischer.

Have a break for lunch, and then take the metro across town to the eastern side of Paris.

Start with the Maison-Atelier Ozenfant, situated on the end of a beautiful cobbled street that borders the Parc Montsouris in the 14th arrondissement. Built in 1923 as a house and studio for his friend the purist painter Amédée Ozenfant it was one of Le Corbusier’s first purist villas, and began to set out his ideas for his Five Points.

Le Corbusier-Maison Atelier d'Ozenfant-Paris

Head up through the beautiful Parc Montsouris, and into the Cité Universitaire – the international halls of residence for the Paris universities. First stop is the Pavillion Suisse, designed and built between 1930 and 1933. A metallic structure built on stilts, it develops Le Corbusier’s theory of a ‘machine for living’. The rooms are set on the top 3 corridors and the ground floor communal areas are decorated with murals and furniture by Le Corbusier – you can visit the ground floor for 2€.

A few hundred metres away is the Maison du Bresil, built in 1953. The project was begun by Brazilian architect Lucio Costa who called on his friend Le Corbusier, already experienced with the Pavillon Suisse, to help him. Le Corbusier changed the concept to such an extent that Costa abandoned the project to him. One again the building is elevated on columns, leaving an open space underneath for people to circulate and to provide the communal areas (these can also be visited for 1€).

Then it’s time to walk down the Boulevard to the Maison Planeix. Also built for an artist, it has the same basic structure as the Maison Ozenfant, the apartment section is beneath the artist’s studio. The Maison Planeix differs from the Villa La Roche, as it is an urban house built between 2 others, rather than occupying its own space. The facade is aligned with the other facades on the street. Built for painter and sculptor, Antonin Planeix, it adheres to four of the five points. The pilotis on the ground floor are sacrificed to make space for 2 workshops and a garage, which Planeix wanted to be included so he could rent them out. The pure geometric forms of the Maison Planeix also demonstrate Le Corbusier’s interest in cubist houses.

Le Corbusier-Maison Planeix-ParisAnother 15 minutes walk and you arrive at the Cité de Refuge (1933) built as a collective housing project for the Salvation Army. It also has a facade made completely of glass, and was one of the first buildings to be air conditioned, although it did not work perfectly at the time. It has recently undergone extensive renovations and some interior modifications, and can be visited by appointment.

If you have one more half day to spare, take the train to Poissy and don’t miss a visit to the Villa Savoye. This spectacular and iconic building,  built in 1928, is the culmination of Le Corbusier’s Five Points begun at the Villa Ozenfant in 1922, and showcases the completed idea of the ‘architectural promenade’, introduced in the Maison La Roche in 1925.

Villa Savoye-Le Corbusier-ParisAM: Take the metro to Jasmin. The Villa la Roche is at 10 Square du Docteur Blanche in the 16th arrondissement. Then take line 9 to Michel Ange Molitor (2 stops, can also be walked!) The Immeuble Molitor is at 24 rue Nungesser et Colis. Then walk to the Maison Cook, 6 rue Denfert Rochereau.

PM: Take the metro to Glacière (you can get over from the 16th easily with only 1 line change), the Maison Ozenfant is at 63 avenue Reille. Then walk up through the Parc Montsouris to the Cité Universitaire to see the Pavillon Suisse and Maison de Bresil (they are very close to each other, there’s a plan at the entry gates). After that it’s 10 minutes walk down to the Maison Planeix at 26 Boulevard Massena, then another 15-20 minutes to the Cité du Refuge, 12 rue Cantagrel.

 

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Le Corbusier at the Maison la Roche

Paris and the surrounding area is a great place for fans of Le Corbusier to see his work. Tucked away in the 16th arrondissement, the Maison La Roche is a wonderful example, and of modernist architecture in France. It was designed and built between 1923 and 1925 by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret and is an experimental house, as was the Villa Savoye that he built after it in 1928. I also found it interesting as it was built for an art collector, specifically to display his collection, as was the Maison Louis Carré, built in 1956 by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, which I also visited recently.

Raoul La Roche had an outstanding collection of avant garde art, including works by Picasso, Braque, Leger and Gris. Le Corbusier was his friend, and told him ‘La Roche, someone who has a fine collection like yours needs to build a house worthy of it’. The result was the Maison La Roche and the Maison Jeanneret, two semi-detached houses designed and built for La Roche and for Le Corbusier’s brother Albert.

The Maison La Roche is split into two parts, the public gallery space and the private living space. Built over several floors, both spaces offer a series of perspectives and spectacular viewpoints, both inside and out. Natural light streams in through large windows and glazed areas, the lines of the house are clean and pure, the colours are balanced and chosen specifically to showcase the ‘architectural promenade’ that Le Corbusier wishes us to take through the building. Features seen in other of Le Corbusier’s buildings – such as ramps, lack of doors and interior walls, strip windows, as well as furniture designed with Charlotte Perriand – can be seen here, and as in his other buildings the architecture itself takes the place of any decoration.

A roof garden provides more spectacular views over the neighboring rooftops and provides a beautiful area for outdoor eating, relaxing and sunbathing. The terrace joins with that of the Maison Jeanneret – now home to the Fondation Le Corbusier, housing his archives (paintings, drawings, studies and photos, it can be visited if reserved in advance).

For fans of Le Corbusier, those who enjoy modern architecture, or any of us who like to look at beautiful works of art in any form, the Maison La Roche is not to be missed. Also make sure to make time for a visit to Le Corbusier’s own apartment and studio, which is also in the 16th arrondissement.

Maison La Roche, 10 square du Docteur Blanche, 75016 Paris  métro: Jasmin

Open: Monday 13:30 – 18:00, Tuesday-Saturday 10:00 – 18:00

Website (in English)

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Renzo Piano at the Fondation Jerome Seydoux

Walk past on a grey day and you could almost not notice it. Perhaps you might look up and see the facade sculpted by Rodin while he was still a student. Take a step back, and suddenly you notice it, a glass creature discreetly peeping up over the rooftops. The old cinema, Le Rodin, has taken on a new form and a new life in the hands of Renzo Piano.

Fondation Pathé-Paris-Renzo Piano

This beautiful building, opened in late 2014, is now home to all of the non-film archives of Pathé, and also has a small cinema where they project silent films which students from the Conservatoire accompany live on the piano. You can visit the lobby, gardens and any temporary exhibitions, or buy a ticket for a film showing, but if you want to see the entire building you need to book a guided tour (Saturdays at 12:00 and in French).

Fondation Jerome Seydoux-Renzo Piano-Paris

The guided tour allows you to visit the incredible office space housed in the top of the building, and also gives you a much better understanding of the project – the origins and complexities of the enclosed site that led to the organic form of the building, and the visions and work of both Renzo Piano and Jerome Seydoux (the current President of Pathé). Renzo Piano saw a magic lantern, rising above the Parisian rooftops. His architect partners speak of a ‘creature’ – it made me think of the giant worm in Murakami’s Super Frog Saves Tokyo, although a much more benevolent version!

On the first floor there is currently fascinating exhibition of cameras and projectors, along with some of the original posters from the archives.

Even if the full guided tour is not for you, do look up, and then go in and enjoy this incredible building.

Open Tues – Fri 13:00-19:00 and Saturdays 11:30-19:00

To book a place on a guided tour email: accueil@fondationpathe.com

Website (in French)

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The studio – apartment of Le Corbusier

In the 16th arrondissement, on the west side of Paris, is the Immeuble Molitor, an apartment building designed and built by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret between 1931 and 1934. The top two floors were Le Corbusier’s own apartment and studio in which he painted daily throughout his life. The apartment building is oriented east-west and overlooks on one side the Stade Jean Bouin (home of Parisian rugby team Stade Francais) and on the other side Roland Garros (home of the French Open tennis Championships – I could hear the clapping from the women’s final as I was on the roof terrace!)

The apartment is open plan, spaces are closed with huge doors or mobile elements. Light streams in through the windows, refractive glass Nevada bricks and roof lights – Le Corbusier wished to replicate the light he experienced in his visits to the Mediterranean. Finding the light to be even too strong in the studio, he tempered it by adding wooden blinds on the eastern facade.

Le Corbusier furnished his home according to the esthetic codes of the Modernist Movement. The kitchen units were designed by Charlotte Perriand, and some of the iconic pieces of furniture designed by Le Corbusier can also be found in the living area.

The bed is interestingly placed high up so he could see the views across Boulogne, even when he was lying down.

On the 8th floor there is a guest suite and a roof terrace with spectacular views across out to the west of the city.

For fans of Le Corbusier, or all fans of architecture in general, this is a fascinating visit.  It’s only open on Saturdays. You can buy a combo ticket for reduced entry to the nearby Villa La Roche (my next visit!) If you have a bit more time and can take a day trip out of the city, don’t miss the Villa Savoye, one of Le Corbusier’s iconic masterpieces.

  • Immeuble Molitor, 24 rue Nungesser et Coli, 75016 Paris. metro: Michel Ange Molitor or Porte d’Auteuil

Open Saturdays 10:00 – 13:00 and 13:30 – 17:00

Studio-apartment of Le Corbusier

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The Sainte Chapelle

The Sainte Chapelle is often overlooked by visitors to Paris. Thousands flock to Notre Dame just a few hundred metres away, some go further and wander around the beautiful Ile de la Cité, but the Sainte Chapelle, hidden away inside the grounds of the law courts, can go unnoticed.

Built in 1248 upon the orders of the King Saint-Louis, the Sainte Chapelle was to originally built to house the crown of thorns (today you can see this inside Notre Dame Cathedral). It’s a masterpiece of gothic architecture, and is probably most famous for it’s 600m2 of stained glass windows.

A huge restoration project on the windows has just been completed (April 2015) and they are spectacular. Two thirds of the glass is original. The Sainte Chapelle is small, and the effect of the light streaming in through the glass is breathtaking, filling the space with light and colour.

Next time don’t pass by! Look out for the spire as you pass the law courts on the Ile de la Cité. The lines can get long, so buy a timed entry ticket online, you don’t need long for the visit and it really is something very special.

Sainte Chapelle Paris-France

  • Sainte Chapelle, 8 Boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris

Open daily 09:30 – 18:00 (17:00 in winter)

Sainte Chapelle website

Sleeping beauty – La Samaritaine

Nowadays it’s easy to walk right past the Samaritaine without even noticing her. At eye level there is not much to see. But look up, and you’ll discover a beautiful mixture of art deco and art nouveau shining in the sunlight.

The Samaritaine, once the biggest department store in Paris, has been sitting quietly empty since 2005. Built in 1870, it is now owned by LVMH, and destined to be transformed into a luxury hotel. However the plans have ben held up for some time now, amidst arguments and court cases over the protection and development of the building. In the meantime, if you’re walking past, ignore the rusty shutters and derelict looking ground floor, and look upwards. You might be surprised by what you see.

  • La Samaritaine, 19 rue de la Monnaie, 75001 Paris. metro: Pont Neuf
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Alvar Aalto at the Maison Louis Carré

About 40 minutes south west of Paris is a masterpiece of modern architecture. Louis Carré was an art collector with a gallery in Paris. In 1956 he commissioned the Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto to build a villa for him, and what you can visit today is an incredible combination of architecture and design, Aalto’s only remaining work in France. Louis Carré and Alvar Aalto met at the Venice Biennale in 1956 where Aalto opened his Finnish Pavilion, and became life long friends, with Carré giving Aalto free rein to design the house and all the fittings and furniture inside, even down to the door handles. The only requirements were a slate roof (to remind him of his native Brittany) and large enough walls for him to hang his huge collection of modern art.

Maison Louis Carre-Alvar Aalto-Paris

In the dining room you can see lights designed specially to light not only the table, but also the art on the walls.

The main room of the house is the large open plan living room, again filled with furniture and lighting either specially designed by Aalto for this house, or taken from his catalogue (Artek, still edited today). His Scandinavian roots and influences can be seen throughout the house (notice the windows, the air vents and the sauna with an exit into the garden) as can his love of Japanese architecture.

The house remains exactly as it was with all the furniture still in place, only missing the art collection of Louis Carré which was sold after his death.

Every detail in the house is a work of art, and the overall impression is spectacular – the house feels unique and incredibly special, yet it does not feel like a museum, and you can see and feel how it must have been a wonderful place to live and work.

Aalto also designed the gardens, and a swimming pool and pool house which were added in 1963. They are now totally derelict and awaiting renovation, but you can still imagine what it must have been like to sit here in the sun.

The Maison Louis Carré is only open on weekend afternoons, and you should call ahead to book a timed visit. Guided tours are given in English and in French and are included in the entrance price. We very much enjoyed ours, the guide was passionate and knowledgeable about the house and the life and work of both Alvar Aalto and Louis Carré. If you love architecture and design, and want to see something very special, try and visit the Maison Louis Carré. For modern architecture and design fans I also highly recommend a trip to the Villa Savoye to see Le Corbusier’s masterpiece.

  • Maison Louis Carré, 2 Chemin du Saint Sacrement, 78490 Bazoches sur Guyonne. tel: 0134 86 79 63

http://www.maisonlouiscarre.fr

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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.

The Bourse de Commerce

You can’t miss this building as you go past it, it’s circular with a domed roof. What you perhaps don’t know is that it’s even more striking inside, and that it’s free to pop in and have a look.

The building as we see it today was built in 1889, and used as a trading hall and wheat exchange. Today it’s still in business and used by the grains sector. Currently we aren’t allowed to go right inside, but can enter the foyer and still get wonderful views of the inside of the dome through the glass doors. The spectacular frescos represent the history of trade with the 5 continents – America, Russia and the north, Asia, Africa, and Europe, and were inaugurated in 1889.

Whilst you’re in the area, take a short walk down rue Jean Jacques Rousseau towards the Louvre, and you will find the beautiful Galerie Verdo Dodat, nowadays home to Christian Louboutin, and just opposite the delicious café Claus, a fantastic place for breakfast, brunch or lunch.

UPDATE! François Pinault will finally be installing some of his incredible art collection in the Bourse de Commerce. Japanese architect Tadao Ando is tasked with the project of renovating the interior space, and the site should be open end of 2018.

  • Bourse de Commerce, 2 rue Viarmes, 75001 Paris. metro: Chatelet Les Halles

 

Parisian metro entrances

I love the way that in Paris the everyday can be beautiful. Things that we take forgranted can become a pleasure to look at if we just take the time to notice them. Metro entrances are a great example. The iconic green art nouveau ones were designed at the beginning of the 20th century by Hector Guimard, and have become synonymous with the city of Paris just like the Wallace fountains. Apparently when they were inaugurated the Parisians were afraid to go down into the metro, thinking that the orange lights looked like 2 huge eyes leading you down into a monstrous dark mouth. But apart from these very famous ones, look around you at all the other styles in the city. They have evolved over the years, and still continue to do so. I like to take pictures of them whenever I see a nice one, below a few that I particularly like, but there are many, many more!

 

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 Prettiest Squares in Paris: Place des Vosges

The oldest and one of the most beautiful squares in Paris, the Places des Vosges is spectacular at any time of year. I like it in the winter, the bare trees mean that you get a wonderful view of the magnificent 17th century red brick buildings that line the square. Built under Henry IV between 1605 and 1612, it was one of the first squares to be planned and built in a symmetrical and harmonious style  – only the pavilions of the King and Queen facing each other across the park are taller than the other buildings. The buildings all look identical, their width equals their height and the roofs are half the height of the facade – although if you look closer you will see that the windows and wrought iron balconies are often different.

The arcades are full of cafés, restaurants and art galleries, and the apartments above are some of the most expensive real estate in Paris. Victor Hugo lived at number 6, his house is now a small museum. Located in the Marais, the square has been a fashionable place to stroll, relax and have parties since the 17th century, and today it is a wonderful place to explore or have a picnic – there are plenty of benches and in the summer months the grass is full of people picnicking and enjoying the sunshine. If you are in the Marais, don’t miss it, bring a picnic or a beautiful eclair from the nearby Eclair de Genie and enjoy relaxing in the spectacular surroundings.

  • Place des Vosges, 75004 Paris  metro: St Paul

Locked rooms at Versailles

The more I go to Versailles, the more I explore, the more I love it. There is so much more than the crowded ‘Grands Appartements’ that make up the standard visit. If you have time, spend more than just half a day there. Whilst the chateau is breathtaking and the gardens huge and impressive, it’s the harder to access parts of the palace and gardens that really hold the secret to the beauty and history still whispering in the corners and corridors of this incredible place.

locked-rooms-versailles

I’m very lucky that my work allows me access to some of these parts of the palace. This is Marie Antoinette’s bathroom. She had running water, hot and cold. Some of her dresses, a day bed and the lace bath curtain have been reproduced in paper. It’s amazingly delicate and beautiful, the shutters are always closed, the room is hushed and in shadow. The security agent with the key takes us in, away from the crowds, and suddenly it’s like stepping back in history.

Above the King’s Private Apartments, are the Apartments of the mistresses of Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry. Again they can only be accessed with a security guard and a guide, and once again are a world away from what you see downstairs. The shutters are opened as we enter each room, and suddenly they seem to come back to life. Much smaller and cozier than the public parts of the palace and still lavishly furnished, it’s almost as if the ladies have just left. 

The views into the courtyard and across the gardens are spectacular.

apartments-mme-dubarry-versailles

To get access to these rooms you will need to book a guided visit, but it’s so worth it. Combine it with a stroll through the Hall of Mirrors, and an afternoon spent in the gardens and at Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon and hamlet, and you have a magical day that gives you a rare glimpse into the lives of the mythical women of Versailles.

  • Chateau de Versailles, Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles

Chateau de Versailles

The Arc de Triomphe at night

The Arc de Triomphe is one of those monuments that I always tend to overlook. Generally we whizz round it in a car, peer at it through the window, and not much more. (Incidentally, when I first moved to Paris, I was told that to drive like a true Parisian I should be able to drive all the way round it without stopping and without changing gear. Believe me, it’s impossible).

However I was recently invited to take a closer look at it, and was privileged to get a personal guided tour. I arrived just as the ‘Ceremonie de la Flamme’ was ending. Every evening at 6:30pm a ceremony takes place at the tomb of the unknown soldier, commemorating those who lost their lives in war. Run by volunteers and associations, it’s a moving and thought provoking ceremony. Lit in 1923, the flame on the tomb has never gone out, even during the Occupation of WWII.

I was then given a tour of the monumental sculptures on the outside of the arch. Sculpted by François Rude, they are extremely beautiful when seen up close, the detail and power of them is incredible. Built by Napoleon 1er, construction of the arch was begun in 1826. It has become the symbol of Paris during major events: Napoleon’s funeral cortege passed under it, de Gaulle marched through it when he liberated the city in 1944, nowadays the Tour de France ends here,

You can climb to the top of the arch, the steps are actually not half as bad as they look. Otherwise there is a lift if you really can’t make it. Upstairs there is currently a photographic exhibition called ‘Soldats Inconnus’. It’s very simple, but extremely moving and is there in commemoration of the 100 year anniversary of WWI.

The views across the city from the top are spectacular, especially at night. You get wonderful views right down the Champs Elysées and the whole of Paris is lit up in front of you, including a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower. I’ve realised that the Arc de Triomphe is definitely not a monument to be overlooked!

  • Arch de Triomphe. Place Charles de Gaulle Etoile, 75008 Paris

Open daily 10am to 11pm.

Arc de Triomphe website

The best views in Paris? The towers of Notre Dame

Notre Dame cathedral is one of those must see places in Paris that can’t be missed. Who can visit it and not be inspired to read Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame?

notre-dame-cathedral-paris

However the part I like best is the towers. From here you get some of the best views in Paris. Built right in the heart of the city, the views beat even the Eiffel Tower in my opinion – you’re high enough to see for miles yet close enough to be able to pick out the details.

But even better? The gargoyles and especially the chimera. The gargoyles are used to drain water away from the cathedral, it usually runs out of their mouths. The chimera however are my favourites, they represent all kinds of imaginary beasts, many of them half animal and half human, and all looking out accross the city.

Even the roof of the cathedral itself is incredibly beautiful, and full of detail.

The lines can be long. Oh yes, and there are 387 steps!  And that’s not even right to the top, you can keep going if you want to. But it’s well worth the climb. And you can always book a skip the line tour, these include a walk around the beautiful Ile de la Cité, tons of fascinating history about the island and the cathedral, and of course you get whisked straight past those annoying lines…

  • Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris. Ile de la Cité. métro Cité or St Michel

Open daily until 6.45pm

Pont Alexandre III

Inaugurated in 1900 for the Universal Exhibition, the Pont Alexandre III is the most elegant bridge in Paris and a great place to take some wonderful photos.

Tsar Nicolas of Russia laid the first stone in 1896 – the bridge is named after his father, the Emperor Alexandre III, and commemorates the alliance between France and Russia signed in 1891.

The setting for many famous film scenes and music videos, the bridge itself is richly decorated and is surrounded by beautiful monuments. To one side there is the Esplanade des Invalides with the golden dome of the Invalides housing Napoleon’s tomb, to the other the Grand Palais and Petit Palais, both home to a variety of excellent temporary exhibitions, and the Champs Elysées is just a short stroll away. You can also access the quays of the River Seine from here.

Chagall at the Opera Garnier

The Opera Garnier, built in 1875, is as spectacular inside as outside.

Even if you’re not a fan of visiting historic buildings, or an opera fan, I still highly recommend you go and look at the ceiling in the main auditorium. Painted by Marc Chagall in 1964, it caused a huge scandal when it was unveiled. Divided into five main colours, it pays homage to the great composers and their works. Surprising in this setting, and incredibly beautiful, it’s worth a visit just to be able to look at this, even if only for a few minutes.

I would happily visit again and again just to enjoy the beauty of this amazing work of art in such an incredible setting.

Open daily from 10:00 to 16:30. Check that they are not rehearsing, in which case you won’t be able to go into the auditorium. Tickets cost 10€.

  • Palais Garnier, 75009 Paris.  Metro: Opera

Le Corbusier at the Villa Savoye

Thirty three kilometers north west of Paris, in Poissy, is the Villa Savoye. Designed by Le Corbusier and built between 1929 and 1931, it’s a icon of 20th century modernist architecture. Originally built as a country retreat for the Savoye family, the city of Poissy has since surrounded it and even taken over some of the original 7 hectare gardens, leaving it hidden in a hectare of greenery close to the city centre.

Designed around Le Corbusier’s ‘Five Points’, the horizontal windows and open floor plan, the hanging garden and clean lines, make the building look incredibly contemporary. It’s hard to believe it’s over 80 years old.

The Savoye family lived in the Villa from 1931 until 1940. Occupied but the Germans and then the Allies, it was damaged during WWII, and was listed a historic monument in 1964 whilst Le Corbusier was still alive, a rare occurrence. Restored in the 1990’s, it is now run by the Centre des Monuments Nationaux, and can be visited daily and even hired out for private events. It also hosts contemporary art events, and houses a few pieces of Le Corbusier’s iconic furniture designs.

I love the stark beauty of the Villa Savoye. It’s easy to get to if you have a car, but can also be reached by train and bus. Open daily except Mondays and national holidays, the opportunity to visit such a key and influential piece of architecture is not to be missed.

Take the RER A to Poissy and then bus No 50 direction La Coudraie. Bus stop ‘Villa Savoye’.

  • Villa Savoye, 82 rue de Villiers, 78300 Poissy.

Visit the Villa Savoye