Opened in 1992, one of the world’s finest post modernist public parks was built on 24 hectares of the site of the old Citroen factory. In the vast central area there are two enormous modern green houses, acres of grass, a large longitudinal mirror pool, complemented by a water feature of dancing jets rising from the paving, six themed gardens and blocks of enormous magnolias all contribute to a great place for a picnic, relaxation and passive enjoyment.
My favourite area is the White Garden easily accessed from the Balard Metro Station and comprises of walled multilevel pocket gardens connected by raised and sunken walk ways. Filled with perennials each garden is themed with plenty of seating and there is a children’s play area in the centre of them all.
Open everyday and free.
15e Arrondissement, 75015 Paris, France
+33 1 40 71 75 60
Google map: bit.ly/JKMm9e
Slightly off the beaten track, the Grand Mosque at the 5th Arr. has a large, sunken garden, fountains and a 33-metre high minaret.
The internal courtyards, lined with Andalusian mosaics, are offset by dark eucalyptus and cedar trim. The mosque's adjoining cafe and restaurant, serves excellent north African cuisine such as couscous, tajine and sweet mint tea to all.
Instead of fighting the crowds in Notre Dame, take the Metro (line 13 - Direction St. Denis-Universite) to St.-Denis Basilique to visit the great basilica of St. Denis.
It is in a poor district, but the church is superb, and not well-known. It is where the Gothic style was invented by the Abbe Suger from 1138 to 1144 (the East end), while the nave and transepts are even more spectacular.
It has some of the most beautiful stained glass in France, some of it at eye level, far easier to appreciate than Chartres, and it was the burial place of the French royal family: 46 kings, 32 queens, and 63 royal children were buried there, including Marie Antoinetee and Louis XVI, and there are many superb effigies, though the bodies were thrown out at the Revolution.
In and around Rue Daru is a small Russian community where you can find Russian restaurants and shops to browse around. The grandest feature however is the Orthodox Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky, which is an impressive sight, both outside and in.
Vaux le Vicomte is a 17th century castle built by Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV's financial secretary, who was arrested and imprisoned after Louis XIV became jealous of the splendour of Vaux. Vaux then served as a template for Versailles.
The castle itself is quite small, with a few rooms to visit, but the beauty of Vaux is in its gardens "a la Francaise", designed by Andre Le Notre. They are absolutely breathtaking, and well worth the detour if you are in Paris. The history behind Vaux is also incredible (mainly Fouquet's demise following his construction of Vaux).
Vaux also hosts specular candle-lit evenings in the summer, when the castle and gardens are illuminated with over 2,000 candles.
To access Vaux, you take the train (Grandes Lignes) from Gare de Lyon to Melun (journey 25min) or the RER D from Le Chatelet to Melun. From there, there is a Chateaubus that can take you to Vaux. Please check the website for details of openings, etc.
Please note that Vaux is not very accessible to people in wheel chairs (mainly with regards to the Castle itself).
The Bibliotheque Nationale is France's national library. It was designed to resemble four open books, each facing another. It is one of the most imposing features along the banks of the River Seine. The archives are in each of the glass towers and the library is underground.
It's a bit of a hike to get to but well worth a visit if you're tired of seeing more obvious sites like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur etc.
Tel: 01 53 79 59 59
Closest Metro: Quai de la Gare
A stunning modern building with Arab influences. Built in two sections, the roof garden can be accessed by a high-speed glass lift and metal walkway on the ninth floor. Not for the faint hearted but the views are fantastic and it's free. There is a cafe/restaurant at the top, but I didn't feel up to it after using the lift and seeing the prices.
1, rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard
This exquisitely built chapel, contains some of the most beautiful and historically important stained glass windows in the world. Architecturally it
gained enormous acclaim for being the first ever building to use so much glass in its structure. People expected it to collapse. yet almost a millenium later it remains one of the most grandiose establishments imaginable. As well as its own merits it gains ironic value for being placed within the police headquarters
of Paris. Providing an interesting juxtaposition of state and church within a secular country.
Sainte-Chapelle is extremely central, only 200m from the ile de Notre Dame on the right bank.
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