On this post I will highlight the places we visited and the best things to see and best things to do in Paris, Day 1.
Throughout the years living in the UK, we visited Paris many times and each time we discover new things to do and visit. We had already visited most of the main attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Centre Pompidou, Notre Dame, and others. This time we wanted to concentrate on places that we hadn’t seen before, as well as returning to a few places we enjoyed on previous visits.
This trip to France started with a stop in Paris of two days to attend a wedding, just before going to the Dordogne for a week, returning to Paris for the last 3 days of the trip. The wedding was at Issy-les-Moulineaux, a very attractive suburb of Paris. We stayed at Hotel Bootcamp by Happy Culture for two nights. The hotel was very close to the location of the civil and religious ceremony, and although a budget hotel, it was very comfortable with a very good breakfast.
Issy-les-Moulineaux is a traditional suburb full of cafés and restaurants in a very well-kept and vibrant neighbourhood. We arrived just in time for dinner on the first day and we headed directly to a restaurant called Issy Guinguette. We sat outside in their lovely garden, surrounded by grapevines, and had an excellent meal accompanied by first class wine. We loved our stay at Issy-les Moulineaux, and we were sorry that we did not have more time to explore the area a bit more.
Restaurant Issy Guinguette
The day after the wedding we left to the Dordogne to explore this beautiful part of France and you can check all the places we visited on my other posts. Some of the posts are here:
On our return from the Dordogne, we stopped in Paris for a 3-day visit. We were guests at a friend’s flat who lives in Châtillon, a suburb to the south of Paris. As they live very close to the tube station, we parked our car in their garage and did not remove it until we returned home. We bought a 3-day pass for “The Metro” and walked a lot on this part of the trip.
Our first day started with a walk around “Pont de Bir Hakein” where we could take some photos from the Eiffel Tower at a distance. The views from this bridge are quite incredible, and after taking a few photos, and walking around a bit, we took the tube and got off at Saint-Michel station on our way to the Panthéon. Saint-Michel is also the stop if you want to visit Notre Dame, but because of the refurbishment going on there it was not possible to visit it at the time. We had been to the cathedral before, so it was not a big deal for us, although we would probably re-visit again, as it is worth it.
From the station we walked all the way to the Panthéon (which is in the Latin Quarter of Paris) passing by the buildings of La Sorbonne, the famous university in Paris. The Quartier Latin neighbourhood is full of iconic architecture and curiosities to discover, so if you can, I advise you to take the following self-guided audio tour or this private walking tour to get a feel for the real local Parisian life.
The Panthéon was founded by King Clovis following his conversion to Christianity, and it started as a basilica to house his tomb and that of his wife, Clotilde. Originally named as Church of Saint-Geneviève (the patron saint of Paris), it was transformed into the national Pantheon in 1791 when Voltaire was transferred there, followed by Rousseau and Marat in 1794. The funeral of Victor Hugo took place there in 1885. Nowadays, various French men and women are honoured there — such as politicians, writers, scientists, and others.
The inside is decorated with paintings on canvas illustrating the life of Saint Geneviève and Christianity in France.
In the crypt you can visit the tombs of all the famous people honoured at the Panthéon; in addition to the names already mentioned, Alexandre Dumas, Marie Curie, and Joséphine Baker are also resting there.
You will also be able to see an exact copy of the famous Foucault’s Pendulum, the original being at the Musée des Arts et Métiers. The pendulum was named after the physicist Léon Foucault, who created the device for his experiment that demonstrated earth’s rotation. The pendulum lends its name, and has symbolic significance, in Umberto Eco’s novel Foucault’s Pendulum (Il Pendolo di Foucult).
At the time of our visit a simple ticket to visit the monument was €11,50 with an extra €3,00 for an audio guide. There are other tickets that include the Basilique de Saint-Denis, and another one that includes a guided tour of the Panthéon as well, at different prices. Lately, I’ve heard that it is possible to visit the top of the Panthéon from where you can have landscaping views of Paris. This didn’t seem to be available at the time of our visit though.
It is an impressive building in a mix of Gothic and Greek architecture designed by the French architect Jacques Germain Soufflot. It is older than the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. It makes an interesting visit to appreciate the architecture and the tombs of all the many famous people resting there.
After our visit, it was lunch time and we decided to have something quick to eat, and some cold beer at “Comptoir du Panthéon” — a café just on the road opposite the Panthéon, Rue Soufflot. I ordered a Croque Madame, and my husband ordered some egg and mayonnaise salad. Both dishes were good, but mine was too big and I could not finish it all, as it came accompanied with salad and fries as well. With lunch over we walked in the direction of the Catacombs of Paris as we had tickets booked for two pm.
The walk from the Panthéon to the Catacombs is about half an hour passing through lovely neighbourhood full of interesting buildings and squares. On the way we stopped at Place de L’Estrapade to see what was on offer at the Portuguese and Brazilian Bookshop. They have a good supply of good quality books in Portuguese in various subjects.
We arrived at the Catacombs just in time for our booked slot.
The Catacombs were created in 1785 to store the remains of millions of Parisians after the site was identified as a vast network of underground limestone quarries outside the bounds of Paris. The reason for these quarries to start being used as storage for the bones of the deceased, was that the existing cemeteries were overcrowded, and they started piling up the bones into mass graves built on the walls of these cemeteries. With time this also proved to be an unsustainable mean of storing the bones when the walls of properties adjacent to it started collapsing. That was when officials decided to start using the quarries to store the bones and between 1785 and 1787, they exhumed all the remains from the “Les Innocents Cemetery”. In later years other cemeteries transferred their remains to the Catacombs as well.
Public visitation was opened in 1809 by appointment only, but today it is fully open to the public and is one of the top tourist attractions. However, it is more of an archaeological or historical visit than a creepy adventure in my opinion. Only part of the vast length of tunnels are open for visitation and this is called “Denfert-Rochereau Ossuary”, known as “The Catacombs of Paris”.
The limestone tunnels date from the 13th century and it is where the bones are stored in a neat and orderly way. You will see disassembled bones and skulls all over the walls.
If you want, you can book a Skip-the-Line Paris Catacombs Special Access Tour at this link here which will also give access to extra chambers that are normally closed to the public. There are both English and French speaking guides to tell you all about the history of the catacombs.
After our visit was finished, we sat at a café just outside the exit to refresh ourselves with some cold beers as it was a very hot day.
Continuing our walks in Paris we decided to go to Place Paul Verlaine to see the mineral water fountain. It took us about half an hour walking from the Catacombs, admiring the buildings and the streets on the way.
We were curious to see this mineral water fountain and I read that there were another two or three of them scattered in different parts of Paris. When we arrived, there were a little queue of local people with their big bottles waiting to fill up. We tried the water and rested on a bench on the square before going to the nearest tube station to catch the metro back to Châtillon.
Tonight, we went out with our friend to Oscar, a local restaurant in Châtillon for dinner. This is a modern restaurant serving a variety of dishes at affordable prices. We all ate very well and had a fabulous time in there.
Some of the food we had at Oscar’s Restaurant
When we got back to the flat, we were very tired of the walking, but looking forward to what Paris had in store for us the next day.
Below you will find a list of what to visit, where to stay and where to eat in Paris, Day 1. I classified each place as follows:
BOLD – Visited, tried and recommended
NOT BOLD – Not visited or tried, but planning to visit or try and heard very good reviews
*** – Excellent
** – Good
* – OK
£££ – Expensive
££ – Fair and affordable
£ – Cheap
WHAT TO SEE IN PARIS – DAY 1
1 – Issy-les-Moulineaux – Attractive suburb in Paris – ***
2 – Châtillon – Another suburb in Paris – ***
3 – Pont de Bir Hakein – ***
4 – Panthéon – ***
5 – La Sorbonne – ***
6 – Quartier Latin – ***
7 – Catacombs of Paris – ***
8 – Place de L’Estrapade – ***
9 – Place Paul Verlaine – ***
WHERE TO STAY IN PARIS
1 – Hotel Bootcamp – Issy-les-Moulineaux – 4* – ££
2 – Mode Paris Aparthotel – Paris – 4* – ££
3 – Sinner – Paris – 5* – £££
4 – Hotel du Petit Moulin – Paris – 4* – ££
WHERE TO EAT IN PARIS – DAY 1
1 – Issy Guinguette – Issy-les-Moulineaux – *** – ££
2 – Comptoir du Panthéon – Paris – *** – ££
3 – Oscar – Châtillon – *** – ££
4 – Giraffe – Paris – £££
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