City: Versailles in/near Paris Category: Sightseeing
Château de Versailles located in the same-named Parisian suburb is probably the best-known castle of... France. The splendid building has its origins in a small hunting lodge of Louis XIII, which Philibert Le Roy extended on the king’s behalf into a three-winged hunting castle in the style of the early French Baroque between 1631 and 1634. Louis XIV loved his father’s castle, and after he had taken over the government in 1661, he used it as a pleasure castle and summer residence. From 1668, he commissioned Louis Le Vau, François d’Orbay, Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Robert de Cotte to rebuild and extend it into one of the largest and most splendid palaces in Europe. Charles Lebrun was responsible for the interior. In 1682, Versailles became the royal residence and seat of the government. Today it is known as one of the highlights of European art of castle building, not at least due to the famous gardens by André Le Nôtre. Since 1979, Versailles has been part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. The outside appearance shows a striking difference in style between the garden façade and the city façade. The latter consists of many single buildings and corresponds to the old style of the original hunting lodge. On the contrary, the impressive garden façade shines in the classical Baroque style. Flatly jutting risalits, adorned with pillars and statues, liven up the rather strict sandstone façades. The “saloon of the ox’s eye” (Salon Oeil de boeuf), the Hercules Saloon as well as the splendid gallery of mirrors (Galerie des Glaces) and the adjacent bedchambers of the Queen and King are among the most significant rooms. With 30 stuccoed ceiling paintings, 357 mirrors and marble pilasters, the 246-ft (75 m) long gallery of mirrors is really impressing - especially the 17 window-sized mirrors, which seem to bring the gardens into the room. The real gardens outside are based on the Petit Parc, which was designed for Louis XIII by Jacques Boyceau de la Barauderie. Their current magnitude is due to the work of André Le Nôtre between 1662 and 1689. Typical of a Baroque garden, the castle park is divided into three areas: the parterres close to the castle, the bosquet and the spacious hunting woods. The facility is crossed by a main axis leading from the city through the castle, the garden and the big channel up to the Grand Parc. Symbolic allusions to the “Sun King” can be found everywhere, just like inside the castle. There are also numerous fountains and several maisons de plaisance: the Grand Trianon, which gave the inspiration to Sanssouci in Potsdam, the Petit Trianon as well as the Hameau de la Reine, which Queen Marie Antoniette designed as a retreat shortly before the French Revolution. The castle with its gardens and museums is open for visitors. From downtown Paris, Versailles can be reached by the RER C in about 40 minutes. The castle entrance is 10 minutes from the station. Tickets are available on site or, in advance, on the internet.more
From aspiring starlets to stars of the silver screen - except perhaps for the few remaining alleys of... the old town, the medieval watchtower, the pilgrimage church of Notre Dame de l'Espérance and of course the harbour, where luxury yachts are moored alongside the fishing boats, there is little in the glamorous Cannes of today to recall the sleepy fishing village it used to be.
These days, the town is characterized by its exquisite boutiques, its villas and its legendary hotels and casinos. This is where those with money, rank and title meet, for example during the International Film Festival in May or the Regattas in September. But you don't have to be rich to enjoy a walk through the flower market to the Allée de la Liberté or a stroll along the palm-lined Promenade de la Croisette. This is the location of the bunker-like Festival and Congress Palace that is worth a visit just to see the strange handprints of major film stars on the Allée des Etoiles. Also worth undertaking is an excursion to the Ile St Marguerite, which was one of the favourite spots of Cannes' most eminent resident, Picasso.more
Tall palm trees and enticing parks line the fantastic riverwalk La Croisette. Here and on its side streets,... splendid hotel palaces and exclusive boutiques, art galleries and movie theaters, bars and gourmet restaurants can be found. The Palais des Festival et des Congrès, where the famous Cannes Film Festival takes place, borders the west side of the Croisette, right at the harbor. From the Palais towards the east , almost parallel to the Croisette, runs the Esplanade Georges-Pompidou lined by gardens, offering a great view over the bay of La Napoule. The avenue of the stars is also located here, on which countless celebrities have eternalized themselves by putting their finger prints into the concrete slab. Along the palaces, like the famous luxurious hotel Carlton (1909, no. 58) on the one side and the colorful sun shades on the other side, you reach the east end of Croisette, where the yacht harbor and the promontory with its beautiful parks are located. The Casino Palm Ceach entices to gamble.more
The long promised and eagerly awaited Musée du Quai Branly not far from the Eiffel Tower opened in June... 2006. This ambitious project of the former French President, Jacques Chirac, is dedicated to African, South Pacific, American and Asian civilisation and art and its permanent exhibition includes over 300,000 objects - jewellery from various peoples, fabrics and handicrafts, statues and sculptures.
The result of combining two museums, a magnificent ethnological art and culture collection has been created. Jean Nouvel was the architect of this unusual museum and he also drew up the plans for the Institut du Monde Arabe and the Fondation Cartier. To accompany the exhibitions, various theatre, art and music projects take place that are designed to cover the entire cultural spectrum. The museum is alive - and the architecture also lives up to this claim. The transparent building sits on stilts in a huge garden like a park and has been gradually surrounded by trees and bushes which grow (apparently) wild around it. The search for the entrance is like plunging into a forest - another idiosyncrasy of this adventurous museum.more
The shimmering white basilica of Sacré-Cœur stands atop the "butte" of Montmartre, where it can be... seen from far away. Until the late 19th century, the city's highest hill was occupied by a couple of derelict monasteries, a few vineyards and some windmills. Then the district's cheap housing was discovered by impressionist painters like Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet, followed by Vincent van Gogh and even later by still penniless Pablo Picasso.
The compact Place du Tertre has long become a magnet for tourists, although it is now a temple to the gods of kitsch and commerce. But wander into the small streets around the square and you may find reminders here and there of the former idyll. The architectural highlight of Montmartre is the oriental-looking basilica of Sacré-Cœur, built in 1873 as a memorial to the crushing of the uprising by the Paris Commune. From the steps of the church you have a magnificent view over the rooftops of Paris.more
When in Bordeaux, visitors should not miss out on the surrounding vineyards – and of course on the... degustation of a good drop or two. After all, some of the best wines in the world are produced here. The UNESCO has placed the area under monument protection and, accordingly, there is an English and French language tour through the UNESCO-vineyard-route, which lasts over three hours and takes place at 2 pm on weekends in May as well as daily from June to September. Guests can choose between a commented tour by bus plus a hike through the vineyards of Appelation Saint-Emilion. The alternative is an excursion via a small train, which passes by the most famous castles of Saint-Emilion. An expedition through architecture, landscape and wine cellars of the big production areas. The train runs from Easter until November 13th from 10.30 to 12 am and 2 to 6.30 pm. A tour takes 35 minutes.more
Menton, a traditional seaside resort at the eastern end of the French Côte d'Azur, is typified by high... mountains stretching into nearby Italy and a climate that remains warm all year round. Avocados, oranges and lemons grow in profusion here, to the extent that the lemon has its own festival in February. The Jardin Botanique Exotique has a collection of rare sub-tropical plants. The proximity of the town to Italy is made abundantly clear in the architectural layout of the historical town centre. It is made particularly evident in the way the 16th and 17th-century façades of the houses in the old town are fashioned and in the baroque church of St Michel with its fine interior stucco work. But, more contemporary works of art in all disciplines are also at home in Menton, ranging from the chamber music festival in August to the rich legacy of the artistic genius of Jean Cocteau, who was responsible for the paintings of scenes from the Tale of Orpheus in the Salle des Mariages in the town hall. A representative collection of his drawings and paintings is on show in the Musée Jean Cocteau.more
At the beginning of the 19th Century, this idyllic fishing village was already casting its spell on a... handful of major French artists like Matisse, Braque and Signac. However, it did not achieve its present mythical status until Roger Vadim used it as the setting for a film with the young Brigitte Bardot. Since then, it has become the playground for the jet-set, along with hordes of onlookers and bathers. There is no shortage of choice of long sandy beaches in the immediate vicinity. Surfers, for example, have made La Bouillabaisse their own, while those en famille prefer to do their sunbathing at Les Graniers or Les Canebiers.
But those seeking to add a little spice to this idyllic existence are also catered for, for example in the Musée de l'Annonciade, where around 100 works allow visitors to study how French painters from 1890 to 1949 put their inspiration on canvas. A fine view over bay and hinterland can be had from the Citadel, which houses the maritime and local history museum.more
Antibes lies in the immediate vicinity of Cannes and Nice, but it seems much quieter and more peaceful... than the two neighbouring towns. This is an advantage that Picasso, who took the former castle of the Grimaldis as his permanent home from 1946, perhaps already treasured.
The pretty old town is characterized by narrow, twisted lanes. It is surrounded by a well-preserved ring wall directly bordering the sea, which Vauban, the master builder of Louis XIV, had reinforced in the 18th Century. In the town itself, the iron market hall in the art nouveau style and the Rosary Madonna by Louis Bréa are the main attractions worth seeing. You should drink a coffee on the Place Nationale surrounded by sycamores before making your way to the town's main attraction, the Musée Picasso. A rich selection of the artist's work is shown here, ranging from ceramics and sculptures to paintings. However, paintings by Miró, Bernard Pagès or Anne and Patrick Poirier are also on display.more
Reviled by some and prized by others as the Venice of Provence: it is certain that the lagoon settlement... of Port Grimaud, designed by the architect François Spoerry in 1964, is still among the most individual examples of modern coastal architecture.
Without exception, its colourfully washed houses with tiled roofs are constructed on piles in the water of the bay. Landing-stages along their fronts link them to the canals, which are crossed by small bridges. These are ideal conditions for the owners and hirers of yachts, who also make up the majority of the inhabitants. Without a personal floating platform, it is best to see the port from one of the so-called "water coaches'"(coches d'eau). At the same time, the Romanesque ecumenical church of St-François-d'Assise is worthy of particular attention for two reasons; as well as possessing some windows designed by Vasarély, its tower also offers the best view of the bay, the Massif of the Moors and the place itself.more
Cotignac is a charming, enchanted hamlet in which you can indulge in daydreams about the joys of life.... It is at the bottom of a tuff crag. Countless, partly huge, stalactites have formed inside the caves. The Cassolle river molded them with its water masses. Two towers on the top of the rock are evidence of the medieval castle that once stood here. Only in the 19th century did a street lead to Cotignac; before that, the place was cut off from the rest of the world. Nonetheless, in 1897, it became the first village in France that was completely electrified - thanks to a hydroelectric plant, which produced electricity with the help of the neighboring waterfall. A Provençal market takes place on the marketplace every Tuesday - its colorfulness, fragrances and local specialties should not be missed. After that one can stroll through the winding little streets and several studios.more
The place owes its surname to the mimosas, which thrive here cheerfully, just like 700 other flower types,... among them many tropical plants - this is because of the microclimate and the unusual location of the charming hamlet. Here too comes into effect what counts for all other picturesque places in this area: It is really nice off seasons. That is when Borme-les-Mimosas becomes very appealing and one can understand why so many artists came here looking for inspiration and many famous families lived here in search of tranquility and beauty. Each and every year in Febuary, the mimosa blossom is celebrated with a flower parade - by the way, only by 1968 did Bormes become a mimosa city! Considering all the beautiful competition, you really need to come up with something special and in any case it is an enchanting place!more
Already George Sand raved about the ruins of Èze:" the prettiest overlook on the entire trip, the perfect,... the wonderfully designed." Until this day she has been right. Underneath the eagle nests, as the rocks, practically sticking villages, high above the coast, are called, Èze must be one of the most beautiful, if the picturesque village is not even "the" most beautiful village. The name is based on Isis, the Egyptian king, who made the Phonecians built the temple not far from here in the region of Liguria. Naturally the village's fame and beauty attracts many visitors, that is why one should come in the early morning. That is when the picturesque alleys, where many artists have their studios, are the prettiest. Do not miss the way to the church - it is beautiful. The medieval event Èze d'Antan takes place once a year in Èze - a journey to the past.more
This world-famous promenade which is synonymous with Nice stretches along the bright azure Baie des Anges... (Bay of Angels). Decorated with colourful flowers, the beach promenade with its public and comfortable private beaches is a paradise for watersports fans, beach lovers, rollerbladers and flâneurs. One of the most comfortable private beaches is the Beau Rivage with its sun loungers and much sought-after parasols.
The Englishman Lewis Way constructed the path along the coast, originally just two metres wide, in 1820. The locals thus named this path the "Walk of the English". Today, it comprises two roads separated by an avenue of palm trees. Famous luxury hotels line the way, such as the Négresco, the Palais de la Méditarranée, the Royal and the West-End. The city's appearance is dominated by this promenade. With its white glinting pebble beaches, it has become Nice's main attraction and still attracts huge numbers of British and international tourists from all over the world.more
There is something about the biggest plaza in Europe, or at least one of the biggest. The Place Bellecour... unfurls on the peninsula between the two rivers, free of cars and enticing one to take a walk or visit a cafe. The ideal place to observe the buzz. An equestrian statue of Louis XIV rises in the middle of it, and in the distance one can see the towers of the Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière. The protest-happy French like to gather at the big plaza, and in the winter it is turned into an ice rink. The Place Bellecour is located close to the main shopping streets of the city. By the way, this is also Lyon's neutral point: all distances from and to Lyon are measured right here.more
No other city in the world can boast an avenue as magnificent as the 1 mi (1.8 km) Champs-Élysées -... at least that's what the French claim. The boulevard, laid out according to plans by Le Nôtre, the landscape architect famous for his designs for Versailles, runs in a straight line from the Tuileries Gardens, through the former marshlands and up the slope to the Arc de Triomphe at Place Charles-de-Gaulle/Étoile. The platform on top of the arch affords a magnificent view along the extension of the "voie royale" to La Défense to the west and towards the Louvre in the other direction.
Architectural highlights along the Champs-Élysées include the Grand Palais and Petit Palais museums, built for the 1900 World Exhibition, and the French president's official residence: the Élysée Palace. These are complemented by a series of impressive administrative buildings constructed in the Belle Époque style of the early 20th Century, the era in which the Champs-Élysées became a fashionable place, where everyone went to see and be seen. For a while, the area was dominated by commonplace boutiques, chain restaurants, ice-cream parlours, cinemas, the offices of international airlines and banks, but efforts are now being made to restore the elegance of the boulevard.more
Fascinating, wonderful, picturesque - all these characteristics are embodied in the Jardin du Luxembourg,... considered by many to be the most charming park in the French metropolis, in which chess and "boules" players pursue their favourite occupation, children play light-heartedly and au pairs from all over the world flirt with the park wardens.
Maria de Medici used to live here in the Palais, which is now home to the President of the French Senate. The Medici cycle created by Peter Paul Rubens decorated this splendid building before the huge pictures were moved to the Louvre. The only remaining evidence of the former Italian garden of Maria de Medici is the Medici Fountain on the eastern side of the Palais - most of the park is arranged in straight lines in the French style. Statues of famous French men and women and other prominent people flank the paths between the colourful flowerbeds and perfectly trimmed bushes. These include Mitterand and a mini version of New York's Statue of Liberty. Colourful boats bob around in the pond and Parisians as well as visitors to the city love the metal chairs scattered throughout the park - the only objects which keep breaking up the well thought-out geometric order of the park because you can put them where you want them.more
This jewel of Gothic architecture is hidden in the courtyard of what is today the Palais de Justice on... the Île de la Cité. The play of colors and light in this two-storey chapel is stunning and simply breathtaking. The stained glass in the high windows of the upper chapel tells the story of the Creation in over 1,100 pictures. Countless stars twinkle on the vaulted ceiling, which is supported by narrow ribs. The lower chapel was intended for the gentry while the Royal Family prayed upstairs.
After Saint Louis acquired Christ's crown of thorns and other relics in 1237, he decided to erect a building near the royal palace for his treasures. Work started in around 1240 (nothing more specific is known about the start date) and the chapel was consecrated in April 1248. Since you can only access the Saint Chapelle via the courtyard of the Palais de Justice, visitors have to undergo security checks.more
Designed by Jean Nouvel for the Fondation Cartier and opened in 1984, this unusual building made of glass... and metal can be seen from far and wide. Since then it has been a forum for modern art. Each year an international curatorium of art experts acquires fifteen new works, and the collection is therefore regularly updated.
The development of various artists is excellently documented here since it is part of the museum's task to trace the careers of the painters exhibited here over the years. Raymond Hains, Gérard Garouste and James Coleman are among the artists whose career is recorded here using various pictures. Thomas Demand from Germany, the South African William Kentridge and Yukio Nakagawa from Japan round off the collection with art from around the world. The museum has a wonderful garden which is unquestionably quite special. Lothar Baumgarten designed it and the name - Theatrum Botanicum - is based on medieval healing herb and plant books written by monks. And this oasis also feels like a garden from that time.more
For some people, it looks like a masterpiece of patisserie, for others, it is a symbol of penance, which... the Catholic church paid to atone for the crimes of the Paris Commune. In 1873, the national assembly commissioned the construction of the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, which had been delayed for a long time due to technical problems and the First World War. The building was not completed until 1914, and in 1919 the church was consecrated. Inside the church, one of the world’s largest mosaics depicting Jesus Christ can be found. Today, the stairs in front of the basilica are one of the favorite places of visitors from all over the world, who enjoy the view of Paris from here. Besides the Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Cœur is one of the city’s landmarks that can be seen from afar. A nice walk through narrow, picturesque streets away from the tourist turmoil leads down to the city.more
And yet another example of monumental architecture in Paris: Les Invalides is a spacious complex, its... chapel a triumphal eye-catcher, and its golden dome acts as a landmark. Napoleon lies to rest in the crypt – thus making the dream of Louis XIV, who wanted the church to be a tomb for emperors, come true. The Hôtel des Invalides with the mighty 650-ft (200 m) wide façade was founded by Louis XIV as a hospital for war veterans. Today it harbors the military museum of the Army of France and the Musée de l'Ordre de la Libération with mementos of De Gaulle, the Résistance and the liberation from the Nazis. Both museums are open daily, except for the first Monday of each month, and give a very good overview of the French history.more
Commissioned by Napoleon I in 1806, the Arc de Triomphe was completed in 1836 under the reign of Louis-Philippe,... the last king of France, and is today - apart from the Eiffel Tower - one of the most significant landmarks of the city. The memorial, 164 ft (50 m) high and 148 ft (45 m) wide, which was erected in honor of the French army, is located in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle. Pedestrians reach the “Arch of Triumph” via an underground passage. Stairs in the pillars lead up to the viewing platform, where an impressive view of further sights of the city opens up; the Tour Eiffel, Notre Dame, Sacré Coeur and the Louvre can be admired from here. The Arc de Triomphe is adorned with decorative reliefs; here, renowned sculptors of the 19th century, for example, carved the Marseillaise in stone. Besides a small museum, which informs about the history of the country, the Arc de Triomphe has harbored the grave of an unknown soldier who fell in the First World War since 1920. The “eternal flame of remembrance” burns at the tomb and is lit anew every evening to commemorate the victims of the world wars. The Place Charles de Gaulle still hosts commemorative ceremonies in honor of the fallen soldiers, for example, the anniversary of the armistice of 1918 on November 11.more
The basilica is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. Construction of the church began in the 6th century,... though its original form has not been preserved and today it displays architecture of the 12th-14th century. Nevertheless, the church is one of the oldest places of worship in Bordeaux. Its western portal consists of capitals from the 12th century.
Opposite there is the entrance to the imposing archaeological crypt, which is now a museum. The 400 m2 (4,400 sq ft) site was once a Gallo-Roman necropolis. Today it harbours archaeological treasures: mausolea, Gallo-Roman and Merovingian sarcophagi, children's graves as well as amphoras and frescoes from the 14th to 18th centuries discovered during archaeological excavation in 1910. The archaeological crypt is one of Bordeaux's oldest relics.more
In the 1st century AD, a small village called Burgidala occupied the site of modern-day Bordeaux. Following... its capture by the Romans, the settlement served as the capital of the Roman province of Aquitaine. The Palais Gallien is one of the vestiges of Gallo-Roman Burdigala. In its day, this large amphitheatre dating back to the late 2nd century could seat 15,000 people.
Unfortunately, the 130-metre (430-ft) long and 1,110-metre (3663-ft) wide building did not survive the ravages of time. Fires during the barbarian invasions of 276 AD and destruction during the French revolution ensured that little remains of the edifice now known as the Palais Gallien. However, the site is still well worth a visit to get a sense of Bordeaux's Gallo-Roman past. Although the origins of the name are not clear, one theory is that the Palais Gallien was named after Charlemagne's wife, Galienne, in the 8th century.more
One of the largest squares in Europe (126,000 m2; 1,372,000 sq ft), the Esplanade is a stone's throw... from the Garonne on the former site of the destroyed Chateau Trompette. Shady promenades under several rows of planted trees line the sides of the square, while statues honouring Montaigne and Montesquieu take centre stage. The impressive memorial to the Girondins and the French Republic looms unmistakably over the lawns and flower-beds. It has strong political symbolism, representing solidarity with republican ideas. The top of the 42-metre (138-ft) column is adorned by an angel of liberty bursting its chains. The wide open spaces of the Esplanade are used to stage major events, though boule (French bowls) players also use it for leisure purposes.more