Off-the-Beaten-Path: The Quiet Charms of Passy
11 November 2013
Western Paris is beloved by visitors: it’s home, after all, to celebrated sights such as the grandiose, yawning Avenue des Champs-Elysées, the equally pomp-filled Arc de Triomphe, and, of course, the Eiffel Tower, the city’s most-recognized and iconic structure. But tourists– like many Parisians– tend to assume that the city’s posh, upwardly mobile west lacks dynamism or current-day appeal, and overlook some of the area’s more residential areas and charming neighborhoods. One such neighborhood is known as Passy, and definitely merits a half-day to a day of exploring, especially once you’ve already seen the area’s major sights.
Situated in the verdant and wealthy 16th arrondissement, and just a station away from the bustling Trocadero with its modern art museums and vast plaza overlooking the Eiffel Tower, Passy offers a charming balance between under-appreciated cultural sites and museums, shopping, and top-rate dining. There are also charming little nooks and cobbled side streets to explore. Take some time to amble in this often-neglected neighborhood.
The easiest way to get to Passy is by Metro: get off at the Passy station (line 6). Alternatively, you can get off at Trocadero, visit sites such as the Palais de Tokyo and adjoining Modern Art Museum of the City of Paris, and then easily walk a few blocks to reach the much quieter Passy.
A little neighborhood history…
Formerly a commune outside of the city walls, Passy was only annexed into Paris in 1860. Like Montmartre and other areas that were formerly independent villages, Passy has retained a quiet, village-like charm.
History and literature buffs should enjoy exploring the area, since the neighborhood has been inhabited by such important figures as French writer Honoré de Balzac (see more about visiting his house in the area below), and even has important ties to American history: Benjamin Franklin lived in the area for nine years during the American Revolutionary War. There’s a street named after the American maverick/inventor/politician, too.
What to See?
Passy has a lot to offer, but the best strategy might be to just amble in the area for a few hours, starting at the metro and exploring the animated main streets lined with shops, restaurants and bookstores, before tucking into quiet residential alleyways and visiting the area’s cultural sites.
Rue de Passy
This is the “main drag”, studded with shops, restaurants, and high-quality bakeries and patisseries (I’ve found them all to be very good). One revered spot for shopping is Franck et Fils, a chic department store at #80.
Rue de l’annonciation
Just below the rue de Passy, this charming pedestrian-only street is paved with cobblestones and is a very pleasant place to walk, browse, dine, and taste. For pastry fans, you can satisfy your sweet tooth at #29, Aux Merveilleux de Fred, known for their creative and delicious meringues and other pastries. Head down the street to rue Bois le Vent reach the neighborhood’s covered market, where you can stock up for a picnic or for a home-made dinner. It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday.
Maison de Balzac
Whether or not you’ve read the sweeping portrait of human experience known as Balzac’s Human Comedy, this tiny museum is worth a visit– especially the well-preserved writer’s study and desk (pictured at left) and the room detailing how Balzac invented his countless characters, complete with illustrations of each fascinating personage. The museum also hosts temporary exhibits.
47, rue Raynouard, +33 (0)1 55 74 41 81
Musee de Vin
Wine lovers should visit this under-appreciated site dedicated to the history and present practice of oenology. Wine tastings are part of the visit, to the delight of some.
5, square Charles-Dickens, +33 (0)1 45 25 63 26
Interested in the rich history of crystal-making? Fine crystal house Baccarat has a dedicated museum that reveals the ins and outs of the industry, and its many continuing traditions.
11, place des États-Unis, + 33 (0)1 40 22 11 00
For your last stop, consider heading back toward Trocadero and visiting this lovely cemetery, where important figures such as composer Claude Debussy are buried. Amble around and admire the old-fashioned headstones and the always-gorgeous landscaping.
Place du Trocadero