The 1st arrondissement of Paris may be its least populous in terms of residents, but thanks to the centering power of the Palais-Royal and the Louvre, it’s heavily populated by tourists. Where to go and what to do in this, the premier arrondissement? Let’s start out early on a Friday afternoon:
Place de la Concorde may be an expansive public square with the Hôtel de Crilllon and the French Naval Ministry on its northern border, but it doesn’t host much in the way of activities, and it is part of the 8th arrondissement—a full seven guides ahead of us. Instead, we head east to the Jardin des Tuileries, and almost immediately, to the north, is the Jeu de Paume, France’s first national museum dedicated to contemporary art, featuring “all forms of mechanical and electronic imagery” and virtual spaces with web-based exhibits.
To the symmetrical south of the gardens’ western end, there’s L’Orangerie, where visitors can experience a guided tour through some of the greatest artists of the early 20th century, revel in the magnificent oval exhibition of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies, and the Jean Walter-Paul Guillaume collection, which houses the works of impressionist luminaries like Renoir and Cezanne, along with works by Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, and more. The terrace of L’Orangerie also hosts four works by sculptor Auguste Rodin, including The Kiss (Le Baiser).
From the masterworks of Rodin, we continue into The Grand Couvert, the Tuileries Gardens’ western portion, which is filled with 20th century statuary, and head east into into the Grand Carré. If this leisurely stroll through the gardens has piqued your appetite, there are four little gastronomical outposts set just off of the Grande Allée where you can grab a bite.
By the time you’ve reached and passed through the Arc de Triomphe du Caroussel (tu vois, one of the many triumphal arches scattered across Paris; the one you’re thinking of, the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, was designed in the same year), it should be fairly obvious where you are.
The Louvre is the most-visited museum in the world (hence the line we can see from the arch), and its collection sit in the palace that formed the seat of French power until Louis XIV moved the throne to Versailles. The Louvre is not, as it appears to be, one contiguous building but is instead a collection of pavillons added on to the original Palais du Louvre throughout the centuries. Had the Tuileries Palace not burned down, our progress would have been halted long before we reached the I.M. Pei-designed Pyramid. (A smaller, inverted version of the pyramid acts as a skylight to the Carrousel du Louvre shopping mall; that is where you’ll find the Apple Store, not, as some thing, underneath Pei’s Pyramid). The primary trick here is to know what you want to see and where to find it; the second trick is to resign yourself to “it” not being the Mona Lisa. We’re on a tight schedule here (although the museum closes at a delightful 10pm on Wednesdays and Fridays), and one painting encased in bulletproof class that you may only get within 30 feet of is not worth the paintings we’ll miss.
After our eyes are full, we’ll take a brisk walk to nearly where we started, just north of the western end of the Tuileries, where the Rue de Mondovi curves into Rue du Mont Thabor. Lescure has been in the same family for four generations and serves a reliable, French meal in an intimate setting and at reasonable prices. We’re not interested in exploding our wallets yet—there’s time enough for that tomorrow.
Then, of course, there’s one thing left: a night cap. Just north of Place Vêndome and the Ritz Paris, on the Rue des Capucines, is Wine By One, a fantastic place to taste a wide selection of wines by the glass. And if a particular vintage strikes your fancy, their wine store can send you back to your hotel with a bottle.