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5 Great Historic Sites In Paris To Discover The City’s Past

View from the station clock window at the Musee d'Orsay Paris

There are hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of reasons to love Paris. The city of light is architecturally gorgeous, there are more museums than you can shake a stick at and there’s always something new to discover.

We take a look at 5 brilliant historic sites in Paris with Voyages-sncf.com, iconic places where you can really get a feel for the past of this great city:

Musée d’Orsay: Railway station turned museum

This former railway station on the Left Bank of the Seine now houses art collections from the 1848 – 1914 period.  The building was constructed for the Universal Exhibition of 1900 and is considered an artwork in itself.  Since it opened in 1986 there have been around 10 million visitors to the museum to gaze at the works of the Impressionists – Manet, Degas, Monet, Cézanne, Renoir, Sisley, etc and post-Impressionists  – Van Gogh, Gauguin, Seurat. There is a great collection of furniture here, fabulous restaurants and plenty of temporary exhibitions too, from the classics to Barbie (2016).

Top Tip: Enjoy a lunchtime concert under the gaze of masterpieces. Tuesdays from October to May, the Musée d’Orsay musical moments

For the love of architecture …

Trocadero Chaillot

The neo-classical Palais de Chaillot on Trocadero Square was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1937.  It houses three major museums, one of which is the Architecture and National Monuments Museum – a celebration of the wonderful  architecture for which Paris is renowned with a huge section on Baron Haussmann who really shaped the modern city as we know it today with those wide sweeping boulevards.

Metro: Trocadéro

Visit an inspirational village, close to Paris

auvers-sur-oise

Just a few kilometres from the centre of Paris by train from the Gare du Nord, Auvers-sur-Oise is an idyllic village much favoured by artists such as Van Gogh, Pissarro and Cézanne.  With ivy-clad walls, stone houses and surrounded by wheat fields, this little paradise on the banks of the Oise River has remained unaltered since the nineteenth century.

RER:  Take the train from Gare du Nord to Auvers-sur-Oise (direct trains run April to October).

Walk in the footsteps of the Sun King

chateau de versailles

The Château de Versailles is probably the most famous castle in the world and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for over thirty years. Originally built as a hunting lodge for King Louis XIII, it was Louis XIV who expanded and transformed it and moved the court here in 1682 until the Revolution of 1782.  Mansart’s Hall of Mirrors and the Grand Trianon, the King’s Grand Apartments and the amazing gardens of Le Nôtre are not to be missed. The Petit Trianon and the Queen’s Garden’s reveal the more personal side of Marie-Antoinette where she only allowed visitors by personal invitation.

RER:  The Versailles Château Rive Gauche station is the closest to the Palace (a 10-minute walk). Accessible from the centre of Paris (Champs de Mars, Invalides, Musée d’Orsay, etc.), it is part of Line C of the RER regional train system.

basilica-saint-denis

One of the most important religious sites of France

A small settlement in Saint Denis to the north of the city came into prominence when the martyred body of the first Bishop of Paris and patron saint of France, Saint Denis, was interred in 250 AD. His grave became a shrine and pilgrimage centre and the Basilica became one of the most important sites of pilgrimage in France. The tombs of 75 Kings and Queens and 63 Princes and Princesses are here and the Basilica kept its connections with French royalty until the the last king – Louis XIII – was buried here, after which its importance dimmed. 

In recent years however, its fortunes were revived with the building of the national French sports stadium – the Stade de France – where major concerts and sports tournaments take place, including UEFA 2016. Visitors can also do a stadium tour, walking in the footsteps of Yannick Noah, One Direction, Jonny Wilkinson and Zinédine Zidane.

Metro and RER: Line D or Metro line 13 Porte de Paris for the stadium and Basilique Saint Denis for the church.

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