Many of the images that come to mind when one thinks of Paris were born during the Belle Epoque from the end the 19th century to the start of the WWI. The Impressionist paintings of tree-lined boulevards, the cabarets, the cafes, the bohemian glamour. This tour shows off the art that was produced during this era and the parts of Paris that inspired it. For art fans, many scenes along the way will seem familiar because they have been immortalized on canvas.
The tour begins at the birthplace of Claude Monet, a founder of the Impressionist movement, and continues south with a walk down a couple of Paris' historic grand boulevards, then onto the ornate Palais Garnier Opera House. It winds through the Tuileries and across the Seine with stops at the Musée de L'Orangerie and the Musée d’Orsay to visit famous Impressionist works. It ends at the lovely Musée Rodin with a stroll through the gardens to ponder Rodin’s masterpiece “The Gates of Hell” and his iconic “Thinker.”
It is best to do this tour on a day when it is nice enough outside to enjoy the Tuileries, the gardens at the Rodin Museum and walking along the grand boulevards. However, if you choose to do it during unpleasant weather, it is possible to skip most of the outdoor portions and connect the dots with the Metro (though it will require a number of trips). Either way, wear comfortable walking shoes since most of the day will be on foot. This tour is not for Mondays, when the Rodin and Orsay museums, are closed or Tuesdays, when the Orangerie Museum is closed.
It seems appropriate to start off our tour at the birthplace of one of the founders of the Impressionist movement, Claude Monet. The Rue Laffitte is a charming street with a splendid view of Montmartre's peak, the old headquarters of bohemia, topped with the gleaming Sacred Heart Basilica. Monet was born at No. 45 in 1840.
One of the four grand boulevards of Paris. This central street was captured by Camille Pisarro as seen in the attached photo of his painting "Boulevard des Italiens, Morning, Sunlight." It was home to a number of cafés that were famous artist hangouts. It has been referenced in works from Balzac to Proust. No. 13 was the Café Anglais, a famous restaurant where Alexandre Dumas used to be a regular. No. 22 was the fashionable Café Tortoni that Manet frequented.
This magnificent building for showcasing performing arts is a work of art on its own. It alos has been the inspiration for many different genres of art throughout the years.
It was the setting for a number of Degas' ballet paintings as well as the inspiration for Gaston Leroux' classic novel "The Phantom of the Opera." Inside it's easy to see why. While not necessarily spooky, the interior seems like something out of a fantasy. Marble floors and golden statues, painted ceilings and an elegant sweeping staircase. You have to pay to go in for guided and self-guided tours. If you have another opportunity to go in the evening and see a show, balcony seats with limited visibility can be as low as 8 Euros (less expensive than the tours). That makes it possible to explore the lavish interior and hear some music at the same time.
If you go during the daytime, the front doors will not be open. The entrance for daytime visits is at the western corner at the intersection of Rue Auber and Rue Scribe. Make sure to go around front and take in the beautiful façade anyway; there is often a crowd and street musicians gathered on the front steps.
Address: Rue Auber and Rue Scribe
Phone: + 33 (0)1 71 25 24 23
Adults 9 Euros
Kids 6 Euros
Guided tours 12.50 Euros
Another one of the four grand boulevards, Boulevard des Capucines was immortalized in Claude Monet's painting of the same name. This street has a long artistic history. In April 1874, the Impressionists held their first exhibition at No. 35. The group of young painters included Renoir, Edouard Manet, Pissarro and Monet. Monet's painting "Impressions" gave the movement the title that it bares today.
This historic square hosts an enormous column erected by Napoleon I to give himself a little pat on the shoulder for his victory in the Battle of Austerlitz. It is topped with a statue of Napoleon dressed like a Roman emperor, crown of laurels and all.
This popular public garden used to be the site of the Tuileries Palace until 1871 when it was destroyed by a fire as a political statement. The palace gardens, created by Catherine de Medici, survived and have been a destination for Parisian promenades for centuries. The pool is often surrounded with people lounging in sun chairs and children pushing toy sailboats across the water. The park functions as an immense front lawn for the Louvre, leading all the way up to the big glass pyramids at the museum's entrance.
Home to many Impressionist paintings, this museum is most famous for being selected by Monet as the permanent home for his eight water-lily masterpieces, the "Nymphéas." They are displayed in the light conditions designed by Monet himself in two large oval rooms.
Address: Jardin des Tuileries
Phone: +33 (0)1 44 77 80 07
Adults 7.50 Euros
Kids 5 Euros
This was once an old train station before it was converted into a museum. The d'Orsay houses a large collection of French art dating from the mid-19th to the early 20th century, including a huge number of Impressionist works. Make sure to go look at the model of the Palais Garnier Opera House in the back to see how it compares to what you just saw.
Address: 1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur
(Just right of the Seine, on west side of building)
Phone: +33 (0)1 40 49 48 14
Closed Mondays, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday 9:30am - 6pm, Thurdays 9:30am - 9:45pm
Adults 8 Euros
Kids 5.50 Euros, 18 and under free
There is a pass that includes both the Musée Rodin and the Musée d'Orsay for 12 Euros; you can buy this at the counter.
An impressive collection of Rodin's art is housed in what used to be his personal mansion. Wander through the gorgeous gardens and you will find more of his famous works, including "The Thinker" and "The Gates of Hell."
Fifteen of the works of Rodin's model, assistant and lover, Camille Claudel (1864-1943), are also on display, including the emotional and intimate marble sculpture of a man and woman in a loving embrace, titled "Vertumne et Pomone."
Address: 79 Rue de Varenne
Phone: +33 (0)1 44 18 61 10
Closed Mondays, Tues-Sun open 10am - 5:45pm
Garden 1 Euro
Museum 6 Euros (12-25 5 Euros, entry to certain exhibitions are extra)