A day walking around Paris – Travel Photo Mondays
A day walking around Paris is definitely a wonderful way to explore and slowly discover the city on foot. When you combine walking and taking the Metro system for longer distances, it is easy to visit many of the attractions throughout the city’s main arrondissements (sections). One of the first things on my list to visit in Paris was to go to a place with a nice view of the city, and what is more spectacular than walking up to Sacre Coeur in Montmartre to see the panoramic views of the entire city. It was a bit of a walk from my hotel Movenpick in La Defense, so with a short two stop metro ride, we arrived right at Montmartre to the base of the Sacre Coeur basilica. Although there is no Metro line that takes you up to the top of Sacre Coeur, you can easily climb the stairs to the reach the top. Or you can also take the Montmartre funicular which is also conveniently located at the base of the basilica, close to the main staircase.
Sacre Coeur panorama
Once you get to the top of the stairs you will be rewarded with gorgeous views of he entire city before you. After spending some time soaking in the views, go inside the basilica and take your time visiting the ornate interiors of the church. The inside of the basilica are fashioned in a mixed Romano-Byzantine style in a simple roman style architecture mixed in with ornate Byzantine styling and interior details. There are many alcoves and smaller chapels that you can visit inside the basilica, so do take your time to explore all the cool and unusual features of this iconic church.
Just outside of Sacre Coeur, is the artist square that surrounds Montmartre. It is a very popular and touristy area, but if you look beyond the tacky shops and busy cafes, it is still a fun place to explore especially around the back streets of Montmartre. I actually enjoyed walking around Montmartre and observing all the local artists drawing their models sitting in for either a cheap and funny caricature or a more serious portrait study like the detailed image of the artist drawing the eyes of this subject below. It’s funny to think that in 1790, Montmarte was considered the outskirts of Paris, and now one of the most popular and visited attractions in all of Paris. If you look beyond the tourist traps, the architecture and details of the area are beautiful and fun to photograph, which for me is part of the challenge to look for something fresh or different even in a tourist area.
Artists at work in Montmartre
In the latter part of the 1870’s, the area around Montmartre was considered a low rent and dodgy part of Paris with many artists flocking to the area because of the cheap rents and the popular bohemian lifestyle. Famous artists like Renoir, Picasso, Matisse and Degas frequented the area and painted the streets, bars and lively scenes from the various street life around Montmartre. Now we have artists that are still working in the area but primarily adapting to the tourist trade and drawing funning images to make a living.
If you explore the back streets and area behind Sacre Coeur, you will find it surprisingly quiet and empty of the masses of tourists who end up in the vista point and the artist quarter where all the cafes and souvenir shops are. It’s more fun to explore the strange and quirky shops along the narrow streets going down the hill of Montmartre and to the Boulevard del la Chappel below. I actually enjoyed walking the quiet streets like Avenue Junot or Rue Saint Vicent which winds slowly down the hill. There are so many interesting little details, shops and hidden gems that you come across while walking and checking out the architecture and quirky buildings on these smaller streets of Montmartre. Best of all is that you are really far away from the tourist crowds and all the noise from the upper sections of Montmartre.
Walking around and checking out the Art Nouveau details
Wouldn’t you love to check out the inside of this place?
When you finally get to the bottom of Montmartre, you will eventually reach the main road called Boulevard de la Chappelle. If you take the road to the right and walk down a bit, you will eventually arrive to the famous La Pigalle, or red light district of Paris. Well known for the many burlesque cabaret shows, scary looking sex shops and book stores, it is also a fascinating and colorful area to visit and look around. I would say that it is safer to visit during the day time but also more lively and colorful to see the area around La Pigalle at night. This is when the area comes alive with all the cabaret and nudie shows and all the colorful lights and action happens later in the evening. But after a full day of walking and exploring the city, that was not going to happen to me any time soon. I think my room and bed at the hotel Movenpick nearby would be a better and more comfortable option for the evening.
Not surprisingly, many famous French painters set up their painting studios around La Pigalle including: Picasso, Van Gogh and of course Henri Toulouse-Lautrec who painted many interior cabaret scenes that he would frequent and capture in his famous paintings of the area. It must have been a fascinating time frame to be with all these artists and literary greats hanging out in this seedy albeit lively part of Paris every night.
La Pigalle, outside of the red light appeal is also a music center and draw for the music clubs and retail shops that sell musical instruments, records and music memorabilia. While visiting the area, I was only able to take a photograph of the famous Moulin Rouge landmark above. For some reason, I wasn’t motivated to take any pictures of the area. I think it would have been more interesting to come here at night to photograph the lights and graphic scenes in the area to get a different vibe and feel, but my cushy bed was a better option at that point.
The Opera and high end shopping
After walking around La Pigalle, you can walk down some of the smaller sides streets or if you prefer, another short metro ride down to the Opera of Paris. You will be transported to an elegant and more refined part of the city. The Opera house better known as Palais Garnier, exudes all the glory and fanfare that Paris is known for. This ornate building stands like a brilliant jewel box with it’s façade done in Beaux arts style and Neo Baroque elements. Considered the most famous opera house in the world, the theater is also a well established symbol for the city of Paris. Even though a new opera house was built for Opera performances, the Palais Garnier now houses a museum, the Paris opera library, and it is the current home of the Paris ballet. Unfortunately when I visited, there were no performances scheduled, so I didn’t get to see the magnificent interiors of the palace. I hope that I can visit again some day to see the interior hall and take some fabulous pictures of the inside.
The opera house from behind
Shopping at the Haussmann, Saint-Lazare and Opéra districts
Just behind the L’Opera, are the major shopping districts of the Haussmann, Saint-Lazare and Opéra area. Many of he major department stores, specialty brands and boutique stores are located all around the Opera house complex. It’s really a cornucopia of shopping albeit window shopping on my part to enjoy the beautiful windows and extravagance of Paris indulgence. I entered the famous Galleries Lafayette to check out the gorgeous rotunda and then I went up to roof top deck to check out the views. (Hint: you have to take the escalators all the way to the top) From the roof you can enjoy some of the beautiful views of the Opera and various arrondissemonts and even catch a drink or dinner on top. Late in the afternoon to sunset is the perfect time to visit and enjoy these luscious views, especially with a cocktail in hand.
Walking around to check out the views at Galleries Lafayette
Sunset with the Eiffel tower – fabulous!
Well the sun is setting and I’m exhausted and ready for just a nice quick bite for dinner and then have a really long sleep for another fantastic adventure exploring Paris. If you are visiting Paris soon, check out my checklist of 10 tips and suggestions for visiting Paris or take a look at what spending a perfect day in Paris would be (at least for me)
Thanks for visiting today, I hope you enjoyed a day walking around Paris with me. If you did, could you kindly share the post with any of the social media buttons located around the post, thank you.