Paris DAY 4: Louvre, Notre Dame & Latin Quarter

Last day, what a pity! Today we’re gonna visit two key parts of the city: city centre and the well known Latin quarter. If we had any more time left we would have dedicated more time to this part of this beautiful city but unfortunately we got only 12 hours…

We started our day at 7am, as usual. Our first stop was meant to be great, famous and gorgeous museum Louvre.

The Louvre Museum is one of the largest and most important museums in the world. It is housed in the expansive Louvre Palace, situated in the 1st arrondissement, at the heart of Paris.

The collection of the Louvre Museum was first established in the sixteenth century as the private collection of King Francis I. One of the works of art he purchased was the now famous Mona Lisa painting. The collection grew steadily thanks to donations and purchases by the kings. In 1793, during the French Revolution, the Louvre became a national art museum and the private royal collection opened to the public.

The museum has a collection of over one million works of art, of which about 35,000 are on display, spread out over three wings of the former palace. The museum has a diverse collection ranging from the Antiquity up to the mid-nineteenth century.

Some of the most famous works of art in the museum are the Venus of Milo, the Nike of Samothrake, the Dying Slave by Michelangelo and of course Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

After entering the museum through the Louvre Pyramid or via the Carrousel du Louvre, you have access to three large wings: Sully, Richelieu and Denon.

Sully Wing

The Sully wing is the oldest part of the Louvre. The second floor holds a collection of French paintings, drawings and prints. One of the highlights is the erotic Turkish Bath, painted in the late eighteenth century by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

The first and ground floors of the Sully wing display works from the enormous collection of antiquities. In the thirty rooms with Egyptian antiquities you find artifacts and sculptures from Ancient Egypt such as the famous Seated Scribe and a colossal statue of Pharaoh Ramesses II. On the ground floor is the statue of Aphrodite, better known as the ‘Venus of Milo’, one of the highlights of the Louvre’s Greek collection.

For something completely different, you can go to the Lower Ground Floor of the Sully wing where you can see some remnants of the medieval castle of the Louvre.

 

Richelieu Wing

Paintings from the Middle Ages up to the nineteenth century from across Europe are on the second floor of the Richelieu wing, including many works from master painters such as Rubens and Rembrandt. Some of the most notable works are the Lacemaker from Jan Vermeer and the Virgin of Chancellor Rolin, a fifteenth-century work by the Flemish painter Jan van Eyck. The first floor of the Richelieu wing houses a collection of decorative arts, with objects such as clocks, furniture, china and tapestries.

On the same floor are the sumptuously decorated Napoleon III Apartments. They give you an idea of what the Louvre interior looked like when it was still in use as a royal palace.

The ground and lower ground floor are home to the Louvre’s extensive collection of sculptures. They are arranged around two glass covered courtyards: Cour Puget and Cour Marly. The latter houses the Horses of Marly, large marble sculptures created in the eighteenth century by Guillaume Coustou. Nearby is the Tomb of Philippe Pot, supported by eight Pleurants (weepers).
The ground floor also houses a collection of antiquities from the Near East. The main attraction here is the Code of Hammurabi, a large basalt stele from the eighteenth century BC, inscribed with the Babylonian law code.

 

Denon Wing

The Denon Wing is the most crowded of the three wings of the Louvre Museum; the Mona Lisa, a portrait of a woman by Leonardo da Vinci on the first floor is the biggest crowd puller. There are other masterpieces however, including the Wedding Feast at Cana from Veronese and the Consecration of Emperor Napoleon I by Jacques Louis David. Another star attraction of the museum is the Winged Victory of Samothrace, a Greek marble statue displayed at a prominent spot in the atrium connecting the Denon wing with the Sully wing.

The ground floor of the Denon wing houses the museum’s large collection of Roman and Etruscan antiquities as well as a collection of sculptures from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century. Here you find Antonio Canova’s marble statue of Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss. Even more famous is Michelangelo’s Dying Slave. On the same floor are eight rooms with artifacts from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. Medieval sculptures from Europe are displayed on the lower ground floor of the Denon wing.

History of the Louvre Palace

The Louvre was created in several phases. Originally built as a twelfth-century fortress by King Philip II, it was significantly expanded in the fourteenth century during the reign of King Charles V.

Its current palatial appearance goes back to the late fifteenth century, when the original fortress was demolished and the wing along the Seine river was built. The palace was extended during the sixteenth century by architect Pierre Lescot, who expanded the palace into a complex with two courtyards. A decade later Catharina de Medici added the Tuileries Palace to the west of the Louvre. Construction on the Louvre was halted for some time when king Louis XIV decided to move to the Versailles Palace.

In the nineteenth century, during the Second Empire, the Louvre was expanded again with the addition of the Richelieu wing. The wings were extended even further westward during the Third Empire. The Louvre now had four symmetric wings surrounding a large courtyard. This would not last long, as the Communards burned the Tuileries Palace to the ground in 1871, opening up the west side of the palace.

Louvre Pyramid

The most recent addition to the Louvre was the construction of the Louvre Pyramid, which functions as the museum’s main entrance. The pyramid was built in 1989 by the renowned American architect I.M. Pei. The glass pyramid allows the sunlight to enter the underground floor.

The modern addition originally received mixed reviews, as it contrasts sharply with the classical design of the surrounding buildings, but today it is generally accepted as a clever solution which has given the museum a spacious central entrance without the need to touch the historic patrimony.

Five hours was a very little amount of time for this place full of all those masterpieces, but we had to move on…
We walked along the two bridges, the oldest one in Paris called Pont Neuf and probably the most iconic one with “love locks” all over it. We visited the 59 Rivoli gallery, Saint-Jacques Tower church and ended this part of the day with lunch in Centre Georges Pompidou.
Sitting opposite McDonald’s and H&M on one of the busiest shopping streets in Paris, 59 Rivoli sticks out like a sore thumb. The front walls of the building are constantly changing, covered in balloons, streamers, and banners, and for a time they featured an enormous face sculpted into the facade. They are a stark and silly response to the commercial hustle of the city center. A unique spark of creativity amidst the usual collection of clothing and shoe stores. The building, also known as ‘Chez Robert Electron Libre,’ is located between the Louvre and the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall). A modern, thriving art studio so close to the most famous museum in the world, which may not have existed at all without the assistance of the Mayor’s office.
In 1999, three artists named Kalex, Gaspard, and Bruno (playfully calling themselves ‘the KGB’) forcibly gained access to a building which had lain dormant for 15 years. Abandoned by the state, 59 Rue de Rivoli became their home and office. Only three months later, the eviction notices began arriving. Thanks to some crafty legal work, and good publicity from the Parisian press, the group was still enjoying their new home in March 2001, but remained ‘squatters’, hence the term ‘Squart’.
They found a sympathetic ear in Mayoral candidate Bertrand Delanoë, who promised, if elected, to make 59 Rivoli a legal art studio and gallery. Delanoë was elected in March 2001, and remained true to his word. The city bought 59 Rue de Rivoli in 2005, and granted the space for use as a studio and performance space. The building needed to be closed for renovations in 2006, but has been open to the public since re-opening in 2009.

There are 20 permanent artists in the building, as well as ten positions for temporary residents. These residents stay for between three and six months at a time. For this reason, a visit in June can be vastly different from a visit in November. Although the artists no longer live on the premises, each artist’s studio space is theirs for the length of their residency, with each floor hosting four or five artists.

It can feel a little odd walking into someone’s workplace. But the artists at 59 Rivoli are invariably cheerful and easy to talk to — often in English. This is the whole point of the building: to see the artists at work, and to interact with them and their space. So visitors shouldn’t feel shy or awkward. There are six floors, each with four or five artists displaying their wares. Some spaces are very clearly defined as belonging to a particular artist. In others, it is not immediately clear who has sculpted or painted what.

Unlike a classic art gallery, the art is not divided by style or medium. All of the works are contemporary, ranging from fairly traditional portraits, to huge wall-sized explorations of color and mood, to a full-room installations using old junk and used metro tickets. More importantly, whenever you visit, half of these artworks will be different, if not half of the artists themselves. In the sense that this is a gallery, it is a reflection of what each artist is working on that day, week or month. It may be that your favorite work will be a half-finished portrait, propped up against a chair.

Photography is allowed in many of the rooms, although this is dependent on the wishes of each artist, so it is worth checking first. Most sell their work on site, and many can be commissioned for one-off portraits and other original pieces.

It’s not simply a home for the visual arts. The building hosts concerts every weekend, and twice a year the collective organizes a weekend-long music and art festival, filling the whole space with live music.

 

The Tour Saint-Jacques stands alone in the middle of a little garden of the same name. A tower in the flamboyant Gothic style, built between 1509 and 1523, the Tour Saint-Jacques is the only remaining vestige of the Eglise Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie destroyed in 1797. This sanctuary was the meeting point on the Via Toronensis (or Tours route) of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle). The statue of Blaise Pascal, at the base of the tower, is a reminder that it was here that he repeated his barometric experiments carried out in Puy-de-Dôme. On the north-west corner, a statue of Saint Jacques le Majeur dominates the platform on which a small meteorological station was established in 1891. It belongs to the Observatoire de Montsouris. The sculpted symbols of the four evangelists (the lion, bull, eagle and man), appear on the corners. These statues were restored during the last century, along with the gargoyles and the 18 statues of saints that decorate the walls of the tower.

 

In 1969 French President Georges Pompidou launched the idea of creating a new cultural institution in Paris dedicated to modern art. In 1971 a competition for this new cultural center attracted 650 entries. The winning project, submitted by the architects Richard Rogers, Renzo Piano and Gianfranco Franchini broke with architectural conventions by moving functional elements such as escalators, water pipes and air conditioning to the outside of the building, freeing interior space for the display of art works. The pipes and ducts are all color-coded: blue for air, green for water, red for elevators, yellow for electricity, gray for corridors and white for the building itself.

The construction of the glass and metal building in the centrally located Beaubourg neighborhood ran into a lot of opposition from people who disliked the idea of an ‘oil refinery’ in a historic district. But when the museum opened in December 1977, it became an instant success: originally designed to accommodate some 5000 visitors per day, the Centre Pompidou has been welcoming over 25 000 visitors per day making it one of the most visited attractions in Paris.

The Centre Pompidou is home to one of the world’s most important museums of modern art, the MNAM, but it also contains a very popular library, a bookshop, a movie theatre and a panoramic terrace. The Public Information Library or BPI boasts a collection of 450 000 books, 2600 magazines and a large number of new media items.
The library occupies the first three floors of the building, while the museum’s permanent collection is located on floors 4 and 5. The first and top floor are used for large expositions. The museum has one of the most important collections of modern art. Its more than 59 000 works cover a broad spectrum of twentieth-century arts. The 4th floor contains works from 1905 to 1965 and covers art movements such as fauvism, abstract art, surrealism and cubist art. Some of the featured artists include Matisse, Kadinsky, Miró and Picasso.  The 5th floor covers the period after 1965, including the pop-art movement and figurative art.

 

Place Beaubourg

The square in front of the Centre Pompidou, the ‘Place Georges Pompidou’ or ‘Place Beaubourg’, is very popular. The large crowds are animated by mimes, street portraitists and entertainers.

If you want to see some modern art without going into the museum, just go to the right of the square, to the place Igor Stravinsky where you’ll find the most famous modern fountain in Paris. The fountain has several kinetic sculptures, designed by Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely.

Our next stop is (finally!) meant to be the significant emblem of Paris: Notre Dame! But on the way there we (in addition to all the architectural gems) also spotted another nice and interesting building: Hôtel de Ville – city hall, the center of political Paris. Like Paris, it has been through some turbulent times…

Until 1141 when water merchants created the port de Grève (Shore Harbour) to relieve Paris’s busy port, the site was merely a shingle beach. The square near the harbour was known as the ‘place de Grève’.

In 1246 the first municipality was created when the Parisian trade guilds elected aldermen as representatives towards the King. There was no municipal building until 1357 when one of the aldermen, a water merchant, bought a house near the place de Grève.

The two-storied building featured two towers and arcades. Known as the House of Pillars, it served as a meeting place for the aldermen.

In 1553 King Francis I decided to build a dedicated city Hall. That first Hôtel de Ville, designed in the Renaissance style, was only fully completed in 1628.

A revolting Commune which had occupied the Hôtel de Ville for months set the building on fire in May 1871, destroying the building as well as the valuable city archives. Shortly after the Commune was defeated by federal troops, the city government held a competition for the construction of a new city hall. The architects Théodore Ballu and Edouard Deperthes won this competition with their proposition to reconstruct the Hôtel de Ville in its original style. Funded by a national subscription the construction started in 1873. Nine years later, the new Hôtel de Ville was officially inaugurated.

Statues

The building is decorated with 108 statues, representing famous Parisians. Thirty other statues represent French cities. The clock at the central tower is adorned with several feminine sculptures representing the Seine River, the city of Paris, ‘Work’ and ‘Education’.

Interior

The interior of the city hall is decorated in a pompous IIIe Empire style. Noteworthy are the large staircase,the long Salle des Fêtes (ballroom), the painted ceilings and walls, the stained glass windows and the numerous chandeliers.

 

The Square

From 1310 on, the Place de Grève was the square were most of the executions in Paris took place. Here people were beheaded, quartered, cooked up or burned at the stake. In 1792, a guillotine was installed. It would prove itself useful during the French Revolution. The last execution took place in 1830, after which the square was renamed Place de l’Hôtel de Ville.
The square was later enlarged to its current size by Baron Haussmann, as part of his modernization of Paris. In 1982 the large square became a pedestrian zone.
Finally the main point of the second part of our tour day, a lovely Notre Dame cathedrale!
Not the largest cathedral in the world, the Notre-Dame might be the most famous of all cathedrals. The Gothic masterpiece is located on the Île de la Cité, a small island in the heart of the city.
The site of the Notre dame is the cradle of Paris and has always been the religious center of the city. The Celts had their sacred ground here, the Romans built a temple to worship Jupiter. A Christian basilica was built in the sixth century and the last religious structure before the Notre-Dame construction started was a Romanesque church.
Bishop Maurice de Sully started the construction in 1163. The Cathedral was to be built in the new Gothic style and had to reflect Paris’s status as the capital of the Kingdom France. It was the first cathedral built on a monumental scale and became the prototype for future cathedrals in France, like the cathedrals of Amiens, Chartres or Rheims, just to name the most famous.
It took until 1345 before the cathedral was completed, partly because the design was enlarged during construction. The result is an overwhelming building, 128 meters long with two 69 meter tall towers. The spire over the crossing reaches 90 meters and was added in the nineteenth century by Viollet-le-Duc. The Notre-Dame Cathedral has several large rose windows, the northern thirteenth-century window is the most impressive. The massive window has a diameter of 13.1 meters.

The frontal west facade features three wide portals; above the portals is the Gallery of Kings – 28 statues of Judean Kings – and higher up are the famous gargoyles and grotesques. The spectacular eastern flying buttresses at the east side of the building are 15m wide.

During the Revolution, many of the cathedral’s sculptures, gargoyles and interior was removed or demolished. Even the gallery of Kings was severely damaged: the revolutionaries though the statues represented

It wasn’t until the nineteenth century before the Cathedral was fully restored thanks in part to the writer Victor Hugo, who with his book ‘Notre-Dame de Paris’, made the Parisians realise the cathedral was worth restoring. The twenty-year-long restoration was led by a local architect, Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc. Viollet-le-Duc made drastic, controversial modifications to the building and even added a spire. The cathedral was restored again between 1991 and 2001, this time the historic architecture was carefully preserved.

Food in the Centre Pompidou where we went for a lunch was EXTREMELY expensive, so now we had “une faim de loup” – we were really hungry, so via Pont Saint-Michel ran to the Latin Quarter which is known not just for its beautiful picturesque buildings, old metro stations and fountain, but also for amazing cheap restaurants…each restaurant usually offers three- or four-course menu for usually 10/15€, including welcome drink, hors d’oeuvre (optional), soup, main course and some kind of typical French dessert. We felt like throwing away all the remaining money so we had four courses and just…oh, we really couldn’t complain, all the meals were delicious and the panna cotta we got for a dessert…no wonder that it had become my most favourite sweet afterwards. Now let me tell you a bit about the Latin Quarter…

The Quartier Latin is the heart of student Paris – and has been for more than 800 years. France’s oldest university, La Sorbonne, was founded here in 1257, and the neighborhood takes its name from the fact that Latin was the common language of the students, who came from all over Europe. Today the area is full of cheap and cheerful cafés, bars, and shops.

The main drag, Boulevard St-Michel, is a busy street where bookshops have given way to chain clothing stores and fast-food joints – but don’t let that stop you! There are (almost) as many French people wandering the streets here as there are tourists. At Place St-Michel, the symbolic gateway to the quartier, notice the 19th-century fountain depicting Saint Michael slaying the “great dragon,” Satan—a symbolic warning to rebellious locals from Napoléon III. Today the fountain serves as a meeting spot and makes a rather fine metaphor for the boulevard it anchors: a bit grimy but extremely popular.

When you’ve had enough of the crowds, turn off the boulevard and explore the side streets, where you can find quirky boutiques and intimate bistros. Or stop for a demi (a half pint of draft beer) at one of the cafés on Place de la Sorbonne, ground zero for students (and their many noisy demonstrations). Around the winding streets behind the Panthéon, where French luminaries are laid to rest, you can still encounter plenty of academics arguing philosophy while sipping espresso, but today the 5e arrondissement is also one of Paris’s most charming and expensive places to live.

Shop along Rue Mouffetard as Parisians do – all the while complaining about the high prices – for one of the best selections of runny cheeses, fresh breads, and charcuterie. Grab a seat in a bustling café, or follow the locals’ lead and stand at the bar, where drinks are always cheaper. Film buffs won’t have to look far to find one of the small cinema revival houses showing old American films in English (look for v.o., for version originale). Not far from le Mouffe is the gorgeous white Grande Mosquée de Paris with its impressive minaret. Just beyond the mosque is the Jardin des Plantes – a large, if somewhat bland, botanical garden that is home to three natural history museums, most notably the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution. Inside, kids can marvel at enormous whale skeletons, along with all sorts of taxidermy. Some of Paris’s most intriguing sites are in this neighborhood, including the Musée de Cluny and the innovative Institut du Monde Arabe. See ancient history mingle with modern life at the Arènes de Lutèce, a Roman amphitheater and favorite soccer pitch for neighborhood kids. Or just find some kind of pretty place to sit down, stretch your legs and relax. 🙂

A the end of the day we visited once again a baggage locker where we had left out luggage and then we hopped on a bus that brough us back home…to our lovely boring end of the world. But me and my three friends I was there with are already planning next trips – Krakow, Rome and more to come, so don’t worry, there’ll be a lot to write about!

//some pics are blurry, yes…I’m sorry about that, but we didn’t have much time so we basically just ran past everything and sometimes I just couldn’t catch it right…//

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