Paris - Around Town : Invalides and Eiffel Tower Quarters (part 1)

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Two of Paris’s best-known landmarks, the golden-domed Hôtel des Invalides and the Eiffel Tower, are found in these quarters. Large parts of the area were created in the 19th century, when there was still room to construct wide avenues and grassy esplanades. To the east of the Invalides are numerous stately mansions now converted into embassies, and the French parliament. Jean Nouvel’s Musée du Quai Branly is a striking feature beside the Seine.

Young Napoleon

The most famous alumnus of the Ecole Militaire was Napoleon Bonaparte, who was admitted as a cadet, aged 15, in 1784 and deemed “fit to be an excellent sailor”. He graduated as a lieutenant in the artillery, and his passing-out report stated that “he could go far if the circumstances are right”. The rest, as they say, is history.

  1. Hôtel des Invalides

    Dôme church
  2. Eiffel Tower

  3. Les Egouts

    In a city of glamour and grandeur, the sewers (egouts) of Paris are an incongruously popular attraction. They date from the Second Empire (1851–70), when Baron Haussmann was transforming the city. The sewers, which helped to sanitize and ventilate Paris, are considered one of his finest achievements. Most of the work was done by an engineer named Belgrand. The 2,100-km (1,300-mile) network covers the area from Les Halles to La Villette – if laid end-to-end the sewers would stretch from Paris to Istanbul. An hour-long tour includes a walk through some of the tunnels, where you’ll see water pipes and various cables. The Paris Sewers Museum, which is situated in the sewers beneath the Quai d’Orsay on the Left Bank, tells the story of the city’s water and sewers, from their beginnings to the present day. There is an audio-visual show and a museum shop.

    • Face au 93, quai d’Orsay, 75007

    • Open May–Sep: 11am–5pm Sat–Wed; Oct–Apr: 11am–4pm Sat–Wed

    • Closed two weeks mid-Jan

    • Admission charge

  4. Musée de l’Armée

    The Army Museum contains one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of arms, armour and displays on military history in the world. There are weapons ranging from pre-historic times to the end of World War II, representing countries around the world. Housed in the Hôtel des Invalides, the galleries occupy the old refectories in two wings on either side of the courtyard. The museum ticket includes entry to the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, the Historial Charles de Gaulle, the Musée de L’Ordre de la Liberation and Napoleon’s Tomb (see Musée de l’Armée Exhibits).

    • Hôtel des Invalides, 75007

    • Open 10am–6pm Wed–Mon, (until 9pm Tue & 5pm in winter)

    • Closed 1st Mon of month (except Jul–Sep), public hols

    • Admission charge

    Musée de l’Armée
  5. Musée Rodin

    An impressive collection of works by the sculptor and artist Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) is housed in a splendid 18th-century mansion, the Hôtel Biron, where he spent the last nine years of his life. The rooms display his works roughly chronologically, including his sketches and watercolours. Masterpieces such as The Kiss and Eve are displayed in the airy rotundas. One room is devoted to works by his talented model and muse, Camille Claudel, and Rodin’s personal collection of paintings by Van Gogh, Monet and other masters hang on the walls. The museum’s other highlight is the gardens, the third-largest private gardens in Paris, where famous works such as Balzac and The Gates of Hell stand among the lime trees and rose bushes.

    • 79 rue de Varenne, 75007

    • Open 9:30am–5:45pm Tue–Sun (until 4:45pm in winter), gardens open one hour later

    • Admission charge


    Musée Rodin
  6. Musée du Quai Branly

    The aim of this museum is to showcase the arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. The collection boasts nearly 300,000 artifacts, including a fantastic array of African instruments, Gabonese masks, Aztec statues and 17th-century painted animal hides from North America (once the pride of the French royal family). Designed by Jean Nouvel, the building is an exhibit in itself: glass is ingeniously used to allow the surrounding greenery to act as a natural backdrop to the collection.

    • 37 quai Branly, 75007

    • Open 11am–7pm Tue–Sun (until 9pm Thu–Sat)

    • Admission charge

  7. Rue Cler

    The cobblestone pedestrianized road that stretches south of rue de Grenelle to avenue de La Motte-Picquet is the most exclusive street market in Paris. Here greengrocers, fishmongers, butchers, and wine merchants sell top-quality produce to the well-heeled residents of the area. Tear yourself away from the mouth-watering cheeses and pastries, however, to feast your eyes on the Art Nouveau buildings at Nos. 33 and 151.

  8. Ecole Militaire

    At the urging of his mistress Madame Pompadour, Louis XV approved the building of the Royal Military Academy in 1751. Although its purpose was to educate the sons of impoverished officers, a grand edifice was designed by Jacques-Ange Gabriel, architect of the place de la Concorde and the Petit Trianon at Versailles, and completed in 1773. The central pavilion with its quadrangular dome and Corinthian pillars is a splendid example of the French Classical style.

    • 1 pl Joffre, 75007

    • Open to the public by special permission only (apply in writing)


    The headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) were built in 1958 by an international team of architects from France (Zehrfuss), Italy (Nervi) and the United States (Breuer). Their Y-shaped building of concrete and glass may be unremarkable, but inside the showcase of 20th-century art by renowned international artists is well worth a visit. There is a huge mural by Picasso, ceramics by Joan Miró, and a 2nd-century mosaic from El Djem in Tunisia. Outside is a giant mobile by Alexander Calder and a peaceful Japanese garden.

    • 7 pl de Fontenoy, 75007

    • 01 45 68 10 00

    • By appointment only

    • Free

  10. Assemblée Nationale

    Built for the daughter of Louis XIV in 1722, the Palais Bourbon has housed the lower house of the French parliament since 1827. The Council of the Five Hundred met here during the Revolution, and it was the headquarters of the German Occupation during World War II. Napoleon added the Classical riverfront façade in 1806 to complement La Madeleine across the river.

    • 33 Quai d’Orsay, 75007

    • Open for tours only (identity papers compulsory) 10am, 2pm, 3pm Sat, except public hols and when parliament is in session

    • Free

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