Paris’s 1st arrondissement may be small in diameter but it is jam-packed with landmarks and attractions. Before Baron Haussman was put in charge of renovating the capital, the nearby Ile de le Cite, a natural island separating the two banks of the Seine, was considered the center of Paris. Now, the 1st arrondissement can essentially claim the title, with much variety from one end to the other.
The Louvre Museum (4 Place du Louvre, Metro Louvre or Chatelet) has come to epitomize this neighborhood, with its striking glass pyramid as synonymous with Paris as the Eiffel Tower. The real magic takes place within the museum, however, with centuries of history to behold. Make sure you have enough energy to give the Louvre what it deserves, or plan on coming back for a second day after joining us on a Skip-the-Line tour through the world’s most famous art museum.
Across from the Louvre is the Palais Royal (10 rue de Richelieu, Metro Palais Royal – Musee du Louvre), the former home of Cardinal Richelieu in the 1700s. Today, the palace holds the Ministry of Culture and the Constitutional Council, and the accompanying courtyard garden is perfect for a break in the sun.The Jardin des Tuileries, (4 Place du Louvre, Metro Palais Royal – Musee du Louvre or Chatelet) the garden that stretches out past the Louvre, is almost as spectacular as the museum itself. Weave in and out of the grassy lanes, complete with statues from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Or grab a green chair in front of one of the several ponds and take a few minutes to relax, as the locals do.
At Saint Chapelle (8 Boulevard du palais, Metro Cite), admire the enormous stained glass windows that spill light onto the mosaic floors. This chapel was built in the 13th century during the reign of Louis IX and houses the Crown of Thorns, considered to be one of the most precious of Christian relics. Make sure to visit on a sunny day, as the true magic of the chapel is in its stained glass.
If you like museums but the Louvre appears too daunting, head over to L’Orangerie (Jardin des Tuileries, Metro Concorde) and the Jeu de Paume (1 Place de la Concorde, Metro Concorde), two small neighboring museums at the western tip of the Jardin des Tuileries. At L’Orangerie, don’t miss Monet’s famed water lily paintings, which have been on display in two oval rooms since 1927. Jeu de Paume is an excellent way to discover some of the world’s most underrated contemporary artists, with a continuous rotation of temporary exhibitions.
One of the best parts about Paris is its opportunities for shopping, and the 1st arrondissement doesn’t disappoint. If you’re looking to do all your purchasing in one spot, Forum les Halles (101 Rue Berger, Metro Les Halles or Chatelet) shopping complex is one of the only malls in the city, with two movie theaters, a media library and eating establishments to boot. But the young atmosphere isn’t for everyone, so if you’re looking for something a bit more chic, head to Colette (213 rue Saint-Honoré, Metro Tuileries), one of the most trendy shops in the city. The three-story boutique was based on Japanese concept stores and shopping here is a truly unique experience. Browse the latest photo exhibit as you shop for this season’s latest wears, or head downstairs to the water bar. One of the most charming areas to shop in this neighborhood is on the northern edge, on Rue Montorgueil. An entirely pedestrian street, you’ll find some great bakeries here, plus an organic food restaurant, and a tiny shop selling hard-to-find-items from North Africa.