Overflowing with enticing options at every turn, Paris's Left Bank, La Rive Gauche, including the historic students' stomping grounds, is now a salubrious mix of the top tourist attractions in the city, lovely shopping, and charming restaurants.
Wondering how to spend your time and where to eat when you're visiting the Eiffel Tower, Place des Invalides, and the Musee Rodin? Check out these suggestions!
Paris's Left Bank is home to some of its most stunning sites - the Eiffel Tower, Napoleon's Tomb, and the famous Rodin Museum, contained in the sculptor's former home. Depending on how much time you have, you could make a day of it or, like us, do the agenda below, and then come back for more (this is certainly not everything - just one day, which could easily be split into several!)
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*Post updated, June, 2019
Visiting The Eiffel Tower
If you aren't staying in the Left Bank, start your day on this side of the Sine with a metro ride, or a nice walk, across the Seine to the Eiffel Tower. Arriving at the Eiffel Tower by metro, be sure to exit at the Trocadero stop, not the Eiffel Tower stop - it's slightly less crowded, and you'll start at an elevated point that's great for pictures (see us, below!).
Continue down the steps, through the crowds, and into the Champs de Mars Parc (a great French Revolution name, eh?)
From here, you'll get to see the Eiffel Tower from close-up, and, as you move through the Parc, from ground level, but far away. Opinions definitely vary on this, but I, personally am not hugely into spending a lot of time going into/up monuments. There is a large amount of security around the Eiffel Tower, and an absolutely massive number of tourists, even when we visited during a relatively quiet time of year. There are big tour bus drop-off areas right under the Tower and it's packed. If you do want to go up the Eiffel Tower, this is where you will do so. If this is important to you, go for it! If, like me, you'd rather spend your time away from the crowds, then carry on walking through the Parc. Strangely, just like that, the crowds evaporate. If you do not go through security, the picture below is about as close as you'll be able to get (note: security fence).
Avoiding scams at the Eiffel Tower
BEWARE OF SCAMS DURING YOUR VISIT. Visiting the Eiffel Tower is an incredible and unforgettable experience. At or near the top of the to-do list of every visitor to Paris.
However, as with all major tourist attractions through the world, the Eiffel Tower is a hotspot for low-level crime. This should not in any way deter you from visiting. I never felt even remotely unsafe in any real way. The French Police are EVERYWHERE.
But, you need to be smart.
The petty theft scheme of the moment is always changing, but while we were there, in late October, 2018, these were the scams that we saw personally:
Remember - it is far less common for people to talk to strangers in Europe than in the U.S. - just leave.
OK, off of my soap box and onto more fun things!
Lunch on Paris's Left Bank after visiting the Eiffel Tower
Les Invalides: Church and Napoleon's Tomb
Surprisingly close to the Champ de Mars and the Eiffel Tower, especially if you took that lunch break, is Les Invalides - an expansive testament to France's military might.
Never doing anything halfway, Napoleon's final resting place itself certainly does not disappoint. Originally a rest home and hospital for the veterans of France's many 17th-century wars, it's now home to Napoleon's tomb and a massive imperial war museum.
Begun in 1671, the transformation of Les Invalides into almost a shrine to the Emperor was complete when he was interred here in 1840, several decades after this actual death. Napoleon's tomb lies behind a stunning 17th-century church and under an incredibly ornate dome. It's an incongruous, yet architecturally stunning combination. In addition to viewing the original church itself, you can see Napoleon's tomb from above, and then taking a short (and non-scary) staircase down to see it from the angle shown in the photograph below.
Les Invalides: The Imperial War Museum
When you've finished viewing the church itself and Napoleon's Tomb, continue into the impressive Imperial War Museum. Stay until your Husband has gotten his fill. Even this history buff couldn't make it through the whole place. It's shockingly huge. It does boast truly incredible displays of armor and other military regalia.
There is a lovely gift shop full of Napoleon-themed merchandise. Imperial tea towels, galore (I am the proud owner of two).
Visiting the Rodin Museum
A very easy walk from Les Invalides, the Rodin Museum is an absolute treasure.
It houses not only the Rodin's work, but also his personal art collection, acquired during his lifetime while he lived in the stunning mansion.
The museum has both interior and exterior portions, in addition to a nice, outdoor cafe.
After finishing the interior, take a turn around the grounds - more beautiful sculpture await! And the building itself is stunningly situated in perfectly manicured grounds.
Where to shop on Paris's Left Bank
No day in Paris would be complete without some luxury shopping.
Depending on your shopping stamina, you'll want to plot your course accordingly. One can't-miss stop is the Hermes on Rue de Sevres - opened in 2010 in a former hotel swimming pool, the store itself is worth a visit, even if you don't spring for any merchandise.
And, if are looking to buy, the sales people do a wonderful job making the shopping experience feel personalized and comfortable. I taught a lovely young Frenchman the word for "stirrup" as we looked at scares (amazing hand gestures had been involved up 'til that point!). A bit closer toward the Seine are a number of other nice boutiques, including a COS branch (one of my personal favorites).
Where to eat dinner on Paris's Left Bank
One of my personal favorites restaurants in France is my recommendation for a casual dinner - Au Vieux Colombier (65 Rue de Rennes, 75006 Paris). Au Vieux Colobier sits at a busy intersection with stunning views. Make sure to get a window seat to watch the crowds pass and try the escargot.
Take a stroll in the Jardin du Luxembourg
Finally, stop by the Jardins de Luxembourg for an after dinner stroll. It's just as gorgeous as you're expecting, and so much better. Begun in 1612, with the construction fo the Luxembourg Palace by Marie de Medici (wife of King Henry IV of France), the garden has continued to grow with the palace, which is now the meeting place of the French Senate. Home to many statues, the garden is a lovely place to enjoy a relaxing walk, or grab a coffee. If you're a Les Miserables fan, this is where Cosette and Marius had their first (super romantic) meeting.
Have a wonderful visit!! Thanks so much for stopping by! xx
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