Axe Royal (Royal Axis)
The Axe Royal, or "Royal Axis", leads from the Louvre up the Champs-Élysées to the large Arc de Triomphe, passing through the smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and past the obelisk in Place de la Concorde. This used to start at the central pavillion of the Tuilieries Palace which marked the eastern limit of the Jardin des Tuileries, but the palace was destroyed in a fire in 1871 and the ruins were demolished in 1882, thus extending the Tuilerie gardens towards the Louvre.
The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel – like the large Arc de Triomphe about three kilometers away – was erected by order of Napoleon I after his victory in 1805 over Austria and Russia in the “Battle of Three Emperors” at Austerlitz. The design was modeled on the Septimus Severus Arch in Rome.
The Marsan Wing of the Louvre houses the Musée des Arts Décoratifs which has an outstanding exhibition of masterpieces of French furniture. Beside it, the Musée de la Mode displays past and present haute couture. In France, advertising is also generally regarded as art – but which genres? This question is discussed and illustrated in detail in the Musée de la Publicité (the Museum of Advertising) – the only one worldwide.
Jardin des Tuileries: Prototype of the “French Garden”
Long before the building of Versailles, Louis XIV commissioned his Master Landscape Gardener, André Le Nôtre to redesign the Jardin des Tuileries. In the 1660’s Le Nôtre created here one of the first gardens in the “French style.” This involved the application of principles of baroque architecture to the garden, for example everything is laid out with as much symmetry as possible and, similar to the facade of a palace, the center receives special emphasis.
Today, when the weather is good, outdoor cafés attract walkers to a refreshment break; there are plenty of seats in the park where one can rest.
Those who prefer a more exclusive address will find a rewarding one under the arcades of the Rue de Rivoli, the Café Angélina where they serve one of the best hot chocolates (chocolat chaud) in all Paris. Those who are particularly interested in Impressionism and Classical Modernism with the most important paintings of artists such as Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Derain, Utrillo and Picasso are at the right address in the Musée de l'Orangerie. Above all lovers of Claude Monet, whose water lily paintings are exhibited here in rooms specially designed for that purpose, will especially enjoy a visit here.
The building opposite, on the side of the Rue de Rivoli, the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, regularly puts on exhibitions of contemporary art.
Place de la Concorde
The best location from which to get an overview of the large square, Place de la Concorde, with its busy traffic, is the terraces of the Jardin des Tuileries. The square was laid out during the reign of Louis XV and today, where once the guillotine stood, there stands an obelisk – a gift from Egypt to the Citizen-King Louis-Philippe in 1831.
The northern side of the square is dominated by the luxurious Hôtel Crillon and the Hôtel de la Marine; these buildings mark the beginning of Rue Royale and like the square itself date from the middle of the 18th century.
On the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées (“the most beautiful street in the world”) all does not glitter quite as much as the carefully cleaned and sometimes spectacular façades promise. This starts with the restaurants: if you do not know your way around, you should be careful not to be caught in a tourist trap with excessively high prices and warmed up, ready-made meals from a large kitchen. The obligatory fast-food chains all now have their stake on the Champs-Élysées.
A good tip for gourmets who wish to be careful with their vacation allowance is the Cercle Ledoyen in the first floor of Ledoyen: a somewhat more reasonably priced alternative to the star-awarded second floor.
Two reliable addresses, also good for a small meal or snack are the Brasserie L’Alsace, which primarily serves dishes from Alsace, and, located right at the top of the Champs-Élysées, Flora Danica which offers Danish specialties. The legendary Fouquet’s (house no. 99) is a wonderful place to just sit and maybe even catch a glimpse of one or two film stars, but be prepared for a steep bill. For lovers of gateaux there is an excellent address: Ladurée (house no. 75).
You cannot miss the two large buildings which were constructed for the Paris world Exhibition in 1900: the Petit Palais ) and the Grand Palais. Both are today centers of Parisian art life. In the Grand Palais the most important, large exhibitions are shown.
An attraction for (mostly young) music fans is the media department store Virgin Megastore. On the other hand fashion lovers should take time for a small detour to the Avenue Montaigne + which runs in a southwesterly direction from the Rond Point. Here internationally acclaimed fashion designers such as Dior and Lacroix have their salons.
On the Champs-Élysées on the other hand, you stroll as one who is not looking at the ware on display in the shop windows, but who is watching people. In the evening the Lido entices guests with its legendary and extravagant cabaret show. However in order to see the half-naked, long-legged dancers you will have to fork out a substantial entrance charge.
Arc de Triomphe
You should not miss the view in the evening from the 50-meter-high viewing platform of the Arc de Triomphe, onto the Champs-Élysées and westwards to the skyscraper district of La Défense with the third, modern and much larger “large arch” (La Grande Arche). It is four kilometers farther out, an impressive extension to the "Royal Axis." The square, for which Napoleon I commissioned the building of the Arc de Triomphe at the beginning of the 19th century, used to be called l’Étoile because of its star shape, but has been renamed Place Charles de Gaulle. (Pedestrians have safe access to the arch, under the extremely busy traffic in the square, through a subway).
After your stroll along the Champs-Élysées a good place to relax is in the Parc Monceau-(access is from the Arc de Triomphe along Avenue Hoche).Welloff Parisians like to relax in this green oasis, featuring a lake and romantic "ruins- style" architecture. Marcel Proust and Kurt Tucholsky used to spend time in the park which was designed by the author and painter, Carmontel, at the end of the 18th century for the Duke of Orléans.
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