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Paris - Élysée

Ariel Shafir


Main Attractions: 

Part 1: Palais de L'Élysée, Place de la Concorde, Place Clemenceau, Le Petit Palais, Le Grand Palais, Cours-la-Reine, Pont Alexandre III. 

Part 2: Avenue Champs-Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, Monte Carlo Restaurant, Hôtel Raphael, Place des États-Unis, Musee Baccarat, Église Saint-Pierre-de-Chaillot, Four Seasons Hotel, Avenue Montaigne, Place de la Reine Astrid, Flamme de la Liberté, Pont de L'Alma, Cathédrale de la Sainte-Trinité, Musee du Quai Branly.

Duration: 1 day. Distance: 9-10 km. Weather: Any weather.

Part 1: from Palais de L'Élysée to Pont Alexandre III.

Part 2: from Pont Alexandre III to Musee du Quai Branly.

Start: Miromesnil  Metro station (Line 9). Note: if you want to skip the Élysée Palace - start at Place de la Concorde Metro station (lines 1, 8 and 12). End: Metro station Alma-Marceau, line 9.

Introduction: On this tour you we will explore, mainly, the 8th arrondissement of the French capital on the right bank, one of its busiest and chic neighborhoods, thanks to the presence of Place de la Concorde, rue Royale, Palais de L'Élysée, Avenue des Champs Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, Petit Palais (small palace) and Grand Palais (Great Palace). The second part concetrates on the area south to the Arc de Triomphe and we, even, cross the Seine to finish at the left bank. Take this walk and see some of Paris's most prominent attractions.

Our itinerary: We walk 400 m. from Miromesnil Metro station to Palais de L'Élysée. From the Miromesnil Metro station take the exit Rue la Boétie. Head south on Rue de Miromesnil toward Rue de Penthièvre. Turn left onto Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré to see the Élysée Palace on the right. Palais de L'Élysée, 55 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré is more a symbol than a touristic attraction. Unfortunately, nowadays it is almost impossible for ordinary folk to get into the palace, but it is still worth the while to view it from the outside. So, whenever in Paris, make sure to walk by. The Elysée Palace can be visited only once a year during the “Journées Européennes du Patrimoine” (European Heritage Days), every mid-September. The garden is open to public the last Sunday of every month. Anyway, you can enjoy the stroll along  Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, a long shopping street, with international luxurious brands. This street is one of the most prominent streets in Paris, lined with 18th and 19th century buildings. This district might be one of the wealthiest of Paris.

Between 1718 and 1722, a “hôtel particulier” was constructed by the architect Armand-Claude Mollet on the initiative of the Count of Evreux. It changes its owner on many occasions. In 1753, Madame de Pompadour became the owner of the mansion. According to her will, the building was eventually passed on to King Louis XV, and had changed hands several times before in 1786 was taken over by the Duchesse de Bourbon-Condé, who renamed it Elysées-Bourbon. It will then be the successive home of notables and members of the court before the Revolution. Paris was a small town surrounded by fields and villages. The mansion received some modifications, mainly inside the house. It was here that Napoleon Bonarparte masterminded his coup of the 2nd of December 1851. The structure, as we know it, is from 1853, under Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, when the architect Joseph-Eugène Lacroix renovated the building. Now, and since 1871 during the Third Republic, the Elysée Palace became the official presidential residence and office with an exception, during the Second World War, when the building was closed and empty. Then, the first president who came back was Vincent Auriol in 1947. The famous first president of the Fifth Republic, Général de Gaulle, worked there during ten years, from 1959 to 1969. But he couldn’t bear the lack of privacy. So the Hôtel de Marigny was bought during his presidential term to accommodate foreign state officials on visit to France. The Elysee Palace is located in the eighth arrondissement of Paris, a few blocks from the Champs Elysees and the Place de la Concorde. It is a fine example of classical French architecture. The Palais de l'Elysée has 365 rooms, ceremonial rooms on the ground floor of the main building, where visitors are welcomed, the golden salon, the President's office, on the first floor, as well as the offices of his collaborators. reception rooms. The presidential office, located in the Gold Saloon, has changed very little since 1861; the terrestrial globe, a significant part of the interior, was brought in by Charles de Gaulle. The attic is converted into an apartment. It is in the east wing that are the apartments where the presidential couple live, when they choose to live at the Elysee. Today, the French Government holds regular meetings at the palace. In the underground section there is a room with a red button, by pushing which the President of France can activate the country's nuclear arsenal. Also in this room are the large screens and equipment for direct communication between the Commander-In-Chief (the President), the Minister of Defence and the leadership of the strategic air force. The palace is surrounded by a park with one of the plane trees is forty meters high. 

It is a 900 m. walk from the Palais de L'Élysée to Place de la Concorde - mainly, along the elegant Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.  Head southeast on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré toward Rue de Duras, 550 m. It is one of the most luxurious and fashionable streets in the world thanks to the presence of virtually every major global fashion house or brand and numerous art galleries. Note the  Embassy of the United Kingdom, 35, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. It had been the Hôtel de Charost since 1814. Turn right onto Rue Royale, 210 m. On your right - Galerie Royale with very prestigious jewelers:

Try NOT to miss the interiors of the Maxim restaurant at 3 rue Royale. The restaurant is an Art Nouveau gem,  with original murals, oil paintings, stained glass, ornate carvings and architectural details from the Belle Epoch period. The museum upstairs, furnished from the personal collection of the restaurant’s owner, Pierre Cardin, holds more than 550 works from the Belle Epoch:

Turn right onto Place de la Concorde, 70 m. The Place de la Concorde is one of the major public squares in Paris. It is the largest square in the French capital. It is located in the city's 8th arrondissement, at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées. The Place was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel in 1755 as a moat-skirted octagon between the Champs-Élysées to the west and the Tuileries Garden to the east. Decorated with statues and fountains, the area was named Place Louis XV to honor the king at that time. The square showcased an equestrian statue of the king, which was torn down during the French Revolution and the area renamed "Place de la Révolution". The new revolutionary government erected the guillotine in the square, and the first notable to be executed at the Place de la Révolution was king Louis XVI, on January 21, 1793. Other important figures guillotined on the site, often in front of cheering crowds, were Queen Marie Antoinette, Princess Élisabeth of France, Charlotte Corday, Madame du Barry, Georges Danton, Camille Desmoulins, Antoine Lavoisier, Maximilien Robespierre, Louis de Saint-Just and Olympe de Gouge. The guillotine was most active during the "Reign of Terror", in the summer of 1794, when in a single month more than 1,300 people were executed. A year later, when the revolution was taking a more moderate course, the guillotine was removed from the square. The square lies between Jardine de Luxembourg and Champs Elysees. The square is a very busy place with, lots of buses/cars driving by. Maybe, the most noisy site in Paris. There is not much here to do, except to stop for a photo op. The fountains flank two sides of a 230-metre high Egyptian obelisk. The latter was gifted to France from Egypt. It was, originally, standing at the entrance of Luxor Temple, in Egypt. The Construction of the two immensely beautiful fountains was completed in 1840. The whole close area is quite polluted and crossing it can be a challenge to your safety. 

From Place de la Concorde to L'Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile - it is a 2.3 km walk from east to west. The lion's share of this walk is along Avenue des Champs-Élysées.  Champs-Élysées extends along 1.9 kilometres (1.2 mi). It is a wide avenue (70 metres), running between Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle((formerly the Place de l'Étoile), where the Arc de Triomphe is located- built to honour the victories of Napoleon Bonaparte. Every year on Bastille Day on 14 July, the largest military parade in Europe passes down the Champs-Élysées, reviewed by the President of the Republic. The avenue is known for its theatres, cafés, and luxury shops, for the annual Bastille Day military parade, and as the finish of the Tour de France cycle race. The name is French for the Elysian Fields, the paradise for dead heroes in Greek mythology.

Our first stop will be Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau Metro station at Place Clemenceau and Concorde at the southern end of the avenue,quite close to where Place de la Concorde is located. It is a 750 m. walk along Champs-Élysées until we see Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau Metro station and Place Clemenceau on our left with the statues of THREE world leaders involved in the two world wars: Georges Clemenceau, Charles de Gaulle and Winston Churchill. Place Clemenceau is served by Line 1 and Line 13 of the Paris Métro and by bus lines: 42 and 73. By the way, if you take the Avenue de Marigny from Place Clemenceau to the north - you arrive (550 m. walk) to the Élysée Palace. The square pays tribute to Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929), a French politician and President of the republic.

The Statue of General de Gaulle is a work of the sculptor Jean Cardot , installed in 2000:

Another work of this sculptor is just a few steps away, practically, along avenue Winston Churchill and represents Winston Churchill:

Statue of George Clemenceau, by François Cogné, in front of the the Petit Palais faceing the Avenue des Champs-Élysées:

With our face to the north-west - we shall divert from the Champs-Élysées to the left (south) to Avenue Winston Churchill - where the Petit Palais is on our left (EAST) and the Grand Palais is on our right (WEST). Avenue Winston Churchill starts, in the north, with Place Clemenceau and ends, in the south, with the statue of Winston Churchill.

Le Petit Palais - historical perspectives of French art from 1800-1910. It houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris. Originally built for the 1900 World's Fair. This beautiful little building is full of great architecture, paintings, art and the like. The Palais has a variety of paintings, sculptures, and other artwork including works from Monet and Renoir. The building alone is worth the visit - it is absolutely stunning !

The entrance to the Petit Palais itself is very much impressive with fantastic medieval architectural carvings and paintings. The whole interior space is also impressive with a large painted domed ceiling, stunning wrought iron staircases and beautiful guard rails along the winding staircases:

The permanent collection is varied, due to its origins in different collectors' donations. Starting with Greek and Roman ceramics, ancient and medieval collections, Italian Renaissance, continuing to 17th century Dutch painting and then a large number of 19th French 'realistic' works.  are displayed alongside works from the French and Italian Renaissance and Flemish and Dutch paintings. You'll find, inside, an outstanding paintings of Delacroix, Monet, Sisley, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Courbet and a few other impressionist works. Magnificent museum !

Ground floor - Alfred Roll (1846-1919) - Portrait of Jane Hading, 1890:

Room 3 - Leon lhermitte - Les Halles - 1895:

Room 3 - Fernand Pelez - Sans asile - 1883:

Room 4 - Jacob Voet - Woman Portrait:

Room 4 - Louis-Robert Carrier-Belleuse - Porteurs de farine, scène parisienne - 1885:

Room 5 - Gustave Courbet - Le Sommeil - 1866:

Room 6 - Jean-Paul Aubé (1837 - 1916), Dante, 1879:

Room 7 - Paul Delaroche - Conquerors of the Bastille - between 1830 and 1838:

Room 11 - French Art - King Louis XV period:

Room 12 - French Art - King Louis XVI period:

In the middle of the Palais is a beautiful outside garden with pretty mosaic stonework. The garden is a nice area of tranquility. BUT, admission charge for the temporary exhibitions. It is an impressive and worthwhile museum to see and not with so many people inside. Tight security measures. Nice cafe and restaurant. The cafe / restaurant has surprising excellent food and is a nice respite when you're ready for a break. The open air courtyard is also very nice and a great place to sit just to have a rest. Free toilets. One of Paris' only FREE museums. Allow two hours for the visit. Permanent collections : free. Temporary exhibitions: Full price : €10 to €11, reduced price : €7 to €8. Opening hours: 10.00 to 18.00. Closed - Mondays.

Restaurant in the Garden:

Room 39 - Joseph-Marius Avy - Ball Blanc (The White Ball):

Underground Floor (RC in the elevator):

Sculpture of Jean Carriès (1855-1894) in the Underground Floor:

La Mère et l'enfant (1898) by Paul Troubetzkoy (1866-1928):

The Grand Palais ("Big Palace") is a large glass exhibition hall that was built for the Paris Exhibition of 1900. Built at the same time as the Petit Palais and the Pont Alexandre III, four architects were involved: the main facade was the work of Henri Deglane, the opposite side the work of Albert-Félix-Théophile Thomas, the interior and the other two ends given to Albert Louvet, with the entire job supervised by Charles Girault. The building facade is a prototypical example of Beaux-Arts architecture, and the main roof is an expanse of steel and glass. All of the exterior of this massive palace combines an imposing Classical stone façade with a riot of Art Nouveau ironwork, and a number of allegorical statue groups including work by sculptors Paul Gasq and Alfred Boucher. It is recognizable by its large glass dome flanked by the French flag. The Grand Palais is currently the largest existing ironwork and glass structure in the world. Two monumental bronze quadrigas by Georges Récipon terminate each wing of the main facade. The exterior is made of stone and features beautiful colored mosaics and intricately sculpted statues. Operation hours: Monday, Wednesday - Sunday: 10.00 - 20.00. It comprises of THREE major parts or sites: the Nave, the National Galleries and the Palais de la Découverte. The majestic nave, 240 m long, welcomes a wide variety of major national and international events: (horse riding, contemporary art). The national galleries organize large-scale exhibitions of artists that have marked the history of art (Picasso, Hopper, Renoir, etc.). The Palais de la Découverte is a museum and cultural centre is dedicated to science, where children can learn whilst having fun, through permanent collections and temporary exhibtions. A 3-in-1 site that's not to be missed. VISITOR ENTRANCES: Grand Palais Nave and South East Gallery - from Winston Churchill Entrance, avenue Winston Churchill; National Galleries - from Clémenceau Entrance, place Clémenceau or Square Jean Perrin, Champs-Elysées, avenue du Général Eisenhower; Salon d'Honneur - from Square Jean Perrin. Opening hours and Prices: Each exhibition has its own schedules and prices, discover them by clicking on the exhibition of your choice: 

Alexandre III Rotunda. Restored in 2010. It provides access mainly to the MiniPalais restaurant in the Grand Palais (through impressive bronze door) and to the Grand Palais cinema, as well as leading directly to its Nave:

As we said before, Avenue Winston Churchill ends, in the south, with the statue of Winston Churchill. If you continue a bit southward - you cross the promenade of Cours-la-Reine. It is one of the oldest parks in Paris, created in 1616 by Queen Marie de Medicis. The promenade continues to the west as the  It is one of the oldest parks in Paris, created in 1616 by Queen Marie de Medicis. Queen Marie de Medicis, nostalgic for the gardens of her native Florence, created the Cours-la-Reine not long after she began making the Luxembourg Garden (1612-1630). The Queen built ornamental gates at either end of the kilometer and a half long garden and planted four rows of elm trees, with a wide lane in the middle. It became a popular meeting place for the nobility, where young aristocrats looked for husbands and wives of equal rank. The garden was rebuilt in 1723, and the banks of the river were walled in 1769. Along with the Avenue des Champs-Élysėes, it formed one of the paths radiating out of the Place de la Concorde, like the three alleys radiating from the Palace of Versailles. This promenade continues further to the west as Cours Albert Premier and it connects Place du Canada to Place d'Alma. Both of the parks are planted with long rows of chestnut trees. Both contain several statues. One of King Albert I (Cours Albert Premier) on horseback by Armand Matial (1938) and another of Simon Bolivar (Cours-la-Reine) (see below), as well as one by Antoine Bourdelle of the Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz (Cours Albert Premier), who was exiled to Paris, and finally an equestrian statue of Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette by Paul Wayland Bartlett (1908) (cours la Reine).

The bronze equestrian statue of the famous fighter and liberator, Simon Bolivar, (1783-1832) stands on the Cours la Reine. This statue is the fourth copy of that commissioned by the city of Bogota in Colombia to the French sculptor Emmanuel Frémiet in 1930. It was donated by the Republics of Latin America for the centenary of the death of Simon Bolivar. The statue represents General Bolivar in ceremonial costume holding a sword and riding a horse at a standstill. 

Monument to Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette, a general in the American Revolutionary in Cour-la-Reine:

We cross Cours-la-reine from north to south to arrive to the river Seine and Pont Alexandre III (Alexandre the 3rd Bridge). The bridge is widely regarded as the most ornate, extravagant bridge in Paris - one of the most beautiful river crossings in the world. The bridge connects Les Invalides, the site of Napoleon’s tomb (and Quai d'Orsay), on the Left Bank with the Champs-Élysées on the Right Bank. It was built for the Exposition Universelle of 1900, an international world’s fair that introduced talking films, escalators, Russian nesting dolls, wireless telegraphy (radio), and the most powerful telescope ever built. Rudolf Diesel exhibited his new combustion engine which ran only on peanut oil, and the city of Paris had staged the first Olympic Games outside of Greece. The fair introduced the Art Nouveau style into popular culture and for the first time electric lights illuminated the City of Lights. We cross the Seine over the Alexandre III bridge from north to south - and back, from south to north. It is a special experience to walk on this bridge - especially, in a bright day. It is the ideal spot for wedding photographs. You can have unrivalled views of the Eiffel Tower. Crossing the bridge on foot might be regarded as Paris’ premiere open-air museum. An array of masterful sculptures: lions, cherubs, nymphs, maidens, cupids, water spirits, fish, scalloped seashells, and sea monsters. The gorgeous Art- Nouveau lamps contribute their decorative role as well:

We return from Pont Alexandre III to the Champs-Élysées. We can do that via Avenue Winston Churchil (the way we did from north to south) - but, we change our route and return via Avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt. SKIP TO TIP 2 below:

Paris - Around the Opera - Garnier.

Ariel Shafir


Paris - Madeleine, Palais Garnier - Opera, Grand Magasins:

Main Attractions: Place de la Madeleine, l’Egise Saint-Marie Madeleine, Galerie De La Madeleine, Paris Olympia, Hotel Scribe and Restaurante Lumière, Musée du Parfum, Garnier Opera House, Théâtre de l'Athénée, Place Édouard VII, Place Diaghilev, Galeries Lafayette, Printemps.

Start: Place de la Madeleine Metro station. You have the metro on lines 8, 12 or 14 and disembarking at the Madeleine stop, or buses numbers 24, 42, 52, 84 and 94 will also get you here. Place de la Madeleine (metro station at the Boulevard de la Madeleine, situated on the right hand side as you look at the Madeleine church). End: Havre - Caumartin Metro station (lines 3 and 9). Duration: 1/2 day. Distance: 5 km. Weather: any weather.

Introduction: The neighborhood around Opéra and Bourse is a elle époque paradise of grand boulevards, refined arcades, and mass-market art-nouveau entertainment. Here, modern day workers continue to take advantage of the legacy that nobility and finance left in the 19th century. Brightly-lit brasseries, theaters, and cinemas sit side by side with French bistros predominating in one area and Japanese restaurants in another. The area is most famous for the Palais Garnier opera house and glamorous department stores.

Our 1/2 day itinerary:  Place de la Madeleine is located at the end of the Rue Royale and is named after the impressive structure called La Madeleine, which was eventually consecrated as a church almost one hundred years after this square in Paris was first established. We shall explore, first, the culinary gems of this district - before entering the mighty church of La Madeleine.

Place de la Madeleine is a Parisian district of luxury and prestige. One of the top places in Paris for shopping. Stylish restaurants and top-notch shops are gathered here, competing to show off the most beautiful window. In fact, the square now seems devoted to food. The square excels in its abundance of gourmet food stores. Famous specialized food brands such as Fauchon and Hédiard have shops here. The Madeleine Square neighborhood has always been capable of attracting well-to-do shoppers and visitors.

Patrick Roger, #3 place de la Madeleine, Chocolatiers & Shops - Beautiful, expensive and eclectic boutique chocolate shop with intriguing decoration:

The tiny Maille boutique, easily overlooked in the corner nook (# 6 Place de la Madeleine), stocks mustard. Only in Paris could you have an entire shop devoted to mustard. Maille, one of the oldest mustard brands in France, has its origins in Marseille when distiller Antoine Maille set up his first mustard tap in 1723. You can find here more than 60 different types of mustard flavored with everything from violets to champagne -  including exotic flavors such as raspberry basil, Thai spices, Cassis, chestnut, cherry and almond, celery and truffle:

Next door two prestigious caviar houses rival for attention—Caviar Kaspia (no. 17). In #17 resides the shop that stocks one of the most prized foods in the world, caviar at Kaspia. Stocking the finest caviars since 1927, the shop has Beluga, Ossestra, and Baeri imported from Italy and Bulgaria. Smoked salmon, crab, Foie Gras, Vodka, and Iberian ham are also for sale. The elegant restaurant has an Art Nouveau décor:

Café-Restaurant Paris London, Place de la Madeleine #20:

At La Maison de la Truffe (#19), the rare and sought-after delicacy is well represented. Truffle varieties sold include: Burgundy, scallop carpaccio with Brumale truffles, White Alba, Black, and Summer. A restaurant and tasting room offers a selection of dishes prepared with truffles. There is also a shop for gourmet gifts including truffle-infused Armagnac:

Aristocratic grocer Hédiard (no. 21) is even older than Fauchon. Ferdinand Hédiard introduced Parisians to the joys of exotic fruits in the 1850s and Hédiard jams, marmalades, chocolates, biscuits, teas, confections, spices and pâtes de fruit are still bestsellers today, lined up with an enticing array of oils and spices and a fantastic wine cellar. Hediard is the ultimative upscale Parisian food shop. The bold black and red striped insignia is prominent on the boxes and tins of packaged foods. The fresh food counters offer premium quality fruits and vegetables, take out and prepared foods, pastries, cheeses, and Foie Gras. The boutique also has an extensive wine cellar and restaurant. The shop is CLOSED:

Founded in 1886 by Auguste Fauchon and revamped by designer Christian Biecher. Fauchon is one of the leading luxury gourmet shops in Paris (between # 26 and # 30 (between#26 and #30 Place de la Madeleine) and around the world. You cannot miss the gorgeous pink packaging that rivals the fashion boutiques of Avenue Montaigne. Two outlets adjacent to each other. One shop carries mostly packaged products with their signature colors of hot pink and black, including chocolates, biscuits, cookies, candies, tea, coffee, jellies, jams, and mustard. The other offers an extensive line of prepared and takeout foods, including cakes and pastries, appetizers, quiches, cheeses, caviar, hams, patés, and a bread bakery. There are tables to eat the prepared foods. A restaurant, café, and cocktail lounge complete this set of premises:

The Madeleine Church (its full title: l’Egise Saint-Marie Madeleine), the anchor of the square, is a neo-classical, Greco-Roman style temple and originally started as a shrine to the battles Napoleon had won. During the period known as the First Republic (1792-1804), following the French Revolution, the foundations of earlier sacred buildings were removed and discussions were had as to what to do with the space. As France had been de-Christianized during the Revolution a civic rather than a religious function for the building was decided upon; various suggestions were put forward including a new site for the Bank of France. Considerations were brought to a halt, however, when in 1804 Napoleon crowned himself Emperor. What followed was one of the most ambitious propaganda programs of the nineteenth century. As well as looting works from the world’s finest collections to display in the newly refurbished Louvre, renamed the Musée Napoleon, some of the greatest artists and sculptors of the age were recruited to exalt the new emperor. It was only fitting that Napoleon would turn to architects, too, to realize his vision of an imperial capital city. Three monuments of particular note were constructed with this end in view: the Arc de Triomphe, the Vendôme Column and the church at the Place de la Madeleine. To celebrate the Napoleonic army achievement, having defeated the Austrians in the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805, a competition to select the best design for the Temple was established in 1806. The competition had to be judged by to a jury selected from the Imperial Academy. As it turned out, it was Napoleon who opted for the design of one Pierre-Alexandre Vignon (1763-1828). Vignon, who had trained under the great neoclassical architect Claude Ledoux, envisioned a peripteral temple (a temple surrounded by a single row of columns). Lacking Ledoux’s more visionary character, however, Vignon’s design for the exterior was basically a scaled up version of the Maison Carrée in Nîmes. But the project was abandoned after Napoleon was exiled. The Bourbon Restoration (1814-30) sought to revive the relationship between church and state. For this reason it was decided, as the temple was still incomplete, to return to the pre-Revolution purpose of the building project, namely to construct a church dedicated to Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene has very strong connections with France. According to tradition she was among the first Christian proselytizers: after the crucifixion she journeyed to Provence from the Holy Land converting the French to Christianity. 

Open every day from 9.30 to 19.00. FREE. Admire the church’s architecture, listed as a historical monument in 1915. Its tall columns of 20 meters invite you to meet this neoclassical monster in Paris. Unlike the Maison Carrée though, the portico of La Madeleine has eight columns rather than six. These fluted Roman Corinthian columns – there are fifty-two of them in all – rise up to a staggering twenty meters and encompass the entire structure:


Note the pediment frieze, designed by Philippe Joseph Henri Lemaire in 1829 (the Bourbon Restoration). The subject is The Last Judgment, a centuries-old motif found on relief sculptures above the doors of countless churches and cathedrals. While Lemaire largely follows iconographical convention, depicting Christ the Judge at the center of the composition and on His right the archangel Gabriel with his horn announcing the Day of Judgment and on His left the archangel Michael wielding the sword of justice, it is in the figure of Mary Magdalene kneeling at the foot of Christ that the underlying message of the sculpture is revealed:

The church's bronze doors bear reliefs representing the Ten Commandments. The bottom relief - Nathan the prophet Confronts David the king:

In contrast to the severity of its exterior - on entering the church, we are faced with a surprisingly opulent spectacle. Inside, the church has a single nave with three domes, lavishly gilded in a decor inspired by Renaissance artists. At the rear of the church, above the high altar, stands a statue by Charles Marochetti depicting St Mary Magdalene being carried up to heaven by two angels:

A History of Christianity, a painting by Jules-Claude Ziegler on one of the domes:

Above the entrance door is the famous pipe organ, built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, on which such composers as Camille Saint-Saëns and Gabriel Fauré played:

Baptism of Christ by François Rude:

From L'église de la Madeleine - head southwest on Place de la Madeleine. Turn right to stay on Place de la Madeleine, 90 m. Turn left to stay on Place de la Madeleine, 20 m. Turn right onto Galerie de la Madeleine, 65 m. Galerie De La Madeleine resides west to the church. It connects Rue Boissy d'Anglas and Place de la Madeleine. The French architect, Théodore Charpentier (1797 – 1867) specialized in designing theatres and restaurants. Amongst other things, he rebuilt the Opéra Comique after it was destroyed by fire in 1838, he designed the neo-Renaissance decor of the restaurant, “Trois Frères Provençaux”, in the Palais-Royal and he also built the Café Pierron. In 1842, he turned his attention to the Place de la Madeleine then, as now, an elegant and very expensive part of Paris. Charpentier was charged by the people who owned the Société du passage Jouffroy with designing and building a Galerie, a passage couvert, between the Place de la Madeleine and the rue Boissy d’Anglais, the Galerie de la Madeleine. Work began on the Galerie in 1840 and it was opened in 1846:

From Galerie De La Madeleine - head BACK southeast toward Place de la Madeleine, 65 m. Slight right onto Place de la Madeleine, 120 m. Continue onto Boulevard de la Madeleine for 210 m. and stop at the city’s largest wine store, Lavinia, at 3-5 Boulevard de la Madeleine:

Head east on Boulevard de la Madeleine toward Rue de Caumartin, 40 m. Turn left at Place Henri Salvador onto Rue de Caumartin, 25 m. Continue onto Rue de Sèze, 140 m. Turn right onto Rue Vignon. The street bears the name of Pierre-Alexandre Vignon ( 1763 - 1828 ), architect of the Church of the nearby Madeleine. 140 m. further note Helmut Newcake - Patisserie without Gluten - rue Vignon #28. A paradise for GF people:

At #32 rue Vignon - you find L'Atelier des Sens - Food & Drink Classes & Cooking Workshops - for the whole family: parents and children. English classes are available.

We had our lunch at Paris - Le Roi du Pot au Feu , 34 rue Vignon. Pot au Feu is a beef boiled with vegetables served with red wine (typical winter dish in France). Recommended. Simple, delicious food. Reasonable prices. Efficient service:

We retrace our steps and walk BACK along rue Vignon - heading to the Opera garnier. 34 Rue Vignon. Head south on Rue Vignon toward Rue de Sèze, 180 m. Turn left onto Rue de Sèze, 140 m. The road received its name in honor of Raymond de Sèze (1748-1828), one of the lawyers of Louis XVI. Continue onto Rue de Caumartin, 25 m. Turn left onto Boulevard des Capucines, 150 m. L'Olympia, Olympia Hall or Paris Olympia is located at 28 Boulevard des Capucines (on your left). Exactly like the Moulin Rouge - this mythical hall was co-founded in 1888, by Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler. It opened in 1889 as the Montagnes Russes but was renamed the Olympia in 1893. Olympia played host to the most famous musicians, circuses, ballets, and operettas. It declined during and after WW2. Bruno Coquatrix revived it as a music hall with a grand re-opening in February 1954. Édith Piaf achieved great acclaim at the Olympia giving several series of recitals from January 1955 until October 1962. Dalida is the biggest solo icon that has performed there. The Olympia was like her second home. Her first performance in Olympia was in early 1956 at auditions held by Eddie Barclay and Bruno Coquatrix. It was then when she was discovered and chosen to sign contract. Same year she would support Charles Aznavour for his concert. First own concert in Olympia she had was in 1959. After that she would perform in Olympia every 3-4 years, singing for 30 nights in row, all of sold out. The Beatles performed eighteen days (16 January – 4 February 1964) of concerts at the Olympia Theatre, playing two and sometimes three shows a day. Jacques Brel's 1961 and 1964 concerts at L'Olympia are legendary. Marlene Dietrich's performed in the Olympia in 1962.

Turn left onto Rue Scribe to see two iconic hotels in Paris. This street honours Eugène Scribe (1791-1861), who directed the Théâtre Comique Français from 1820-50. At n° 2, the Grand Hôtel (nowadays the Intercontinental), was built in 1862 for the 1867 World Exhibition on the initiative of the Pereire brothers:

At #1 and #2 reside Hotel Scribe and Restaurante Lumière. The hotel was built in 1861 as part of the creation of the Opera district. Many celebrities were residents in this hotel, including Josephine Baker who made it her Parisian residence until year 1968:

Le Lumière restaurant is adjacent to Hotel Scribe. The restaurant’s name is derived from the Lumière brothers, Auguste and Louis, who presented here the first public projection of their new invention : the cinematography, the 28th of December 1895. The event still inhabits the premises thanks to the numerous period snapshots that adorn the room.

Head north on Rue Scribe toward Impasse Sandrie, 90 m. Make a U-turn at Impasse Sandrie and the Fragonard Perfume Museum, 9 Rue Scribe is on the right. The Musée du Parfum, also known as the Fragonard Perfume Museum, is a French private museum of perfume. The museum was created in 1983 by the Fragonard perfume company within a Napoleon III town-house (built 1860). Its rooms contain period furnishings and perfume exhibits, including antique perfume bottles, containers, toiletry sets, stills for steam distillation of perfume extracts, etc. Displays show how perfumes are made today, and present the history of perfume manufacturing and packaging. Of particular interest is an orgue à parfum (perfume organ) with tiers of ingredient bottles arranged around a balance used to mix fragrances. The museum is open daily; admission is free. Commercial:

But, the best sight from rue Scribe - is of the Paris Opera Garnier. Paris has two operas, the Garnier Opera House and the Opéra Bastille (bastille square). The Opera Garnier is also called "Opera de Paris". It was built under Napoleon III you can see the N of Napoleon on the façade. The visit of the interior of the Opera House is not free. If you find a seat it's better to go to a show to enjoy the beauty of the concert hall:

Palais Garnier - the National Opera of Paris is open: every day from 10.00 to 17.00. Closed the 1st of January and the 1st of May. It is closed also on: Monday 2 July 2018, Tuesday 11 September 2018, Wednesday 26 September 2018, Thursday 27 September 2018, Friday 28 September 2018 until 13.00, Sunday 30 September 2018, Monday 1er October 2018, Wednesday 3 October 2018, Saturday 6 October 2018, Sunday 7 Ocotber 2018, Friday 9 November 2018, Saturday 10 November 2018, 
Wednesday 14 November 2018 until 12.00, Saturday 17 November 2018, 
Saturday 15 December 2018, Tuesday 25 December 2018. Prices: 12 € Youngsters (12-25): 8 €. Book your tickets for the guided tour in advance. Online tickets:

 To reach the Palais Garnier: Metro: Opéra station, lines 3,7,8. RER: Auber station, line A. Bus: routes 20, 21, 22, 27, 29, 42, 52, 53, 66, 68, 81, 95.  

Garnier Opera House, located on Place de l'Opera is one of Paris' greatest landmarks. It was originally called the Salle des Capucines because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, but soon became known as the Palais Garnier in recognition of its opulence and its architect. It was designed by Charles Garnier in a Neo-Baroque style and it is an architectural masterpieces of its time. The Palais Garnier is "probably the most famous opera house in the world, a symbol of Paris". Built between 1865-1872, it was designed to impress from both outside and inside. This was the time of Napoleon III, when much of the Paris we know and love today was built. The whole area of the Opera Garnier was completely reconstructed by Baron Haussmann, appointed by Napoleon to modernize Paris but especially to open up this congested medieval city.

From the outside, a multi colored marble facade is topped by golden statues and the names of opera legends. The top of the main facade is adorned with golden statues representing harmony and Poetry. Looking over those two is Apollo. Below, the façade is adorned with the busts of great composers, the best-known are Mozart and Beethoven. The Palais Garnier also houses the Bibliothèque-Musée de l'Opéra de Paris (Paris Opera Library-Museum). Although the Library-Museum is no longer managed by the Opera and is part of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the museum is included in the guided tour of the Palais Garnier. The Opera building is gorgeous in its exterior and very ornate, sometimes breath-taking in its interiors. The decoration inside is amazing. Allow, at least, 1.5 hours for the guided tour:

The Entrance Hall:

Garnier did not waste much time and intended that visitors would go from one climax to another. For us, this means ascending to the Grand Staircase. The Grand Staircase is… huge. It’s actually quite a piece of engineering marvel. The staircase is housed a huge nave made of pink, green and white marble:

No doubt, the highlight of your visit to the Opera Garnier, is the Grand Foyer. This huge 18 meters high, 154 meters long and 13 meters wide hall, was intended as a place to take a break, mingle, and perhaps close a few deals. It is purposely located just outside the highest paying boxes. The Grand Foyer of the Palais Garnier, inspired by the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles:

The auditorium is not always accessible to visitors. You cannot actually go down to the stage level but can get a great view of this massive horseshoe shaped theatre. Palais Garnier auditorium and stage:

the main highlight is the famous Chagall ceiling and the 8-ton chandelier hanging down from it. Chagall’s masterpiece was actually painted only in 1965, replacing a few others before it. Chagall's Opéra Garnier Ceiling:

Just outside the Grand Hall, you can step out for some ‘fresh’ Paris air and enjoy fine views out on the balcony. You can imagine how the opera goers felt when sipping champagne up here, having the whole town watching them from down below. The Opera Terrace:

The Opera Square from the Palais Garnier Terrace:

Here, completing our visit in Palais Garnier. We have to options: heading east to the Grand Boulevards or to the west to the the grand stores (magasins) in the Boulevard Haussmann. We opted for the second option. But, before heading to Place Diahagilev - we make a small "loop" or detour to Édouard VII Square.  From the Opera continue north-west along Rue Auber 75 m. Turn left onto Rue Boudreau, 50 m.  On the first turn to the left, at 7 rue Boudreau, stands the Théâtre de l'Athénée. Renovated in 1996 and classified a historical monument, it is among the most beautiful buildings in Paris:

Turn left onto Square de l'Opéra-Louis Jouvet, 100 m. Turn right onto Place Édouard VII, 25 m. The main attraction, here, is the statue of Edward VII (1841-1910) king of England. Opposite - the Edouard VII - Sacha Guitry Theater. The English King Edward VII  was known as "the most Parisian of English kings". Naturally, it was an English architect, William Sprague , who built a theater in the center of the square in 1913 . Sacha Guitry , is a French playwright , actor , director , director and screenwriter , born on February 21 , 1885 in St. Petersburg ( Russia ) and died on July 24 , 1957 in Paris. He played and directed many plays in this theatre. Noel Coward (UK) and Orson Wells (USA) also played and directed in this theatre. The history of famous performances and plays started at 1916 and, still, exists, for more than 100 years !!!

From square Édouard-VII we return northward. Head northwest on Édouard VII Square, 25 m. Turn left to stay on Édouard VII Square, 15 m. Turn left onto Rue Bruno Coquatrix, 65 m. Turn right onto Rue de Caumartin, 170 m. Turn right onto Rue Auber, 15 m. Turn left onto Rue des Mathurins, 190 m. Here, in the intersection with rue Scribe - you get a pretty sight of the Opera - Garnier:

Turn left onto Rue Scribe, 10 m. Enter Place Diaghilev, 40 m. This square owes its name to the creator of Ballets Russes, Serge Diaghilev (1872-1929).  The proximity to the Opera influenced here in naming this square. The Ballets Russes  was a ballet company based in Paris that performed between 1909 and 1929 throughout Europe and on tours to North and South America. The Ballets Russes is widely regarded as the most influential ballet company of the 20th century. The company's productions created a huge sensation, completely reinventing the art of performing dance, integrating many visual arts and disciplines. It also introduced European and American audiences to tales, music, and design motifs drawn from Russian folklore. The influence of the Ballets Russes lasts to the present day. Diaghilev Square is served by the Metro lines 3 and 9 at the Havre-Caumartin station and lines  7 and  9 at the Chaussée d'Antin - La Fayette station. Bus lines: 22, 42, 52, 53.

For well over a century, Paris’s three legendary monuments to shopping – Le Bon Marché, Au Printemps and Galeries Lafayette – have beckoned travelers from near and far with the promise of untold, and accessible, treasure. Still functioning much as they did at the time of their inception in the mid- to late-19th century, these elegant "grandes dames" are important historic landmarks in their own right, with as much to say about the evolution of Paris as their more lofty touristic counterparts. These immense stores both signaled and facilitated the transition between old and new Paris. By the 1830s a new genre of store emerged that grouped a variety of goods in a single location. A few of these ‘magasins de nouveautés’ initiated a vigorous expansion that included organizing the store into distinct departments on several floors around a glass-covered courtyard. Although at least two of these newfangled department stores pre-dated Le Bon Marché, which was founded in 1852, none was as innovative or displayed the shrewd management, sales and display tactics – not to mention advertising strategies – that distinguished the newer store from the others and kept it at the forefront of retailing for decades. Le Bon Marché and Au Printemp’s sales and merchandising strategies had far-reaching effects on Paris society and France at large. Via their Paris flagship stores as well as through an ever-expanding catalogue and mail order business, these department stores not only promoted seasonal styles, creating the need to constantly update a wardrobe according to the trends, but they also disseminated bourgeois values to the whole of French society. Commodities once accessible only to the rich became items of mass consumption, thus blurring class lines and fortifying the rising middle class. The architecture of the grands magasins was also key in their mounting success. By the 1850s and 1860s, Baron Charles Haussmann’s massive redevelopment programme was quickly transforming old Paris, demolishing entire cramped and dingy blocks to make way for capacious boulevards and the uniformly pristine white-fronted buildings so familiar today. Ever-expanding stores hired young, ambitious architects – for example, Gustave Eiffel contributed to the expansion of Le Bon Marché in 1876. On the Right Bank, the neighbouring Galeries Lafayette and Au Printemps continue to innovate with an eye to their glorious past. Galeries Lafayette with an emphasis on art and creation via its imaginative, fashion-forward windows and the new Galerie des Galeries exhibition space, inaugurated in 2013. Au Printemps, meanwhile, has undergone a luxury new makeover and in 2013 celebrated the opening of its spectacular new Louvre branch, its first in 32 years, just opposite the museum entrance in the Carousel du Louvre. Parisians are très chic and the department stores here carry all the latest in the fashion scene. The big stores stock most of the international brand names and there are some really nice designer stuff to be had in the shops.

Galeries Lafayette: In 1895, two cousins from Alsace, Théophile Bader and Alphonse Kahn, had set up a haberdasher’s shop just down the street, at the intersection of Rue de la Chassée d’Antin and Rue La Fayette. This canny location easily capitalized on its proximity to the Opéra Garnier, the Grands Boulevards and Gare Saint-Lazare, where crowds of Parisians and out-of-towners alighted each day. From there, the cousins expanded to occupy five adjacent buildings. But it wasn’t until 1912 that Galeries Lafayette came fully into its own, with the unveiling of its spectacular domed flagship, designed in the height of Art Nouveau splendour and including a sweeping ironwork staircase rising 43 metres to the store’s iconic neo-Byzantine stained glass dome, which remains its symbol. Boasting 96 departments, Galeries Lafayette, the only one of the three grands magasins that’s still family owned, quickly became the monument to fashion and luxury which it remains to this day. This grand Parisien department store is a must visit. Its history goes back 123 years (as for 2018...) and it’s the most famous and spectacular of Parisien department stores. Here you’ll find nine floors of brand names like Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix, Thierry Mugler, Armani, Chanel, John Galliano, Prada, Sonia Rykiel, etc., and if you’re lucky, you might also see some just-as-famous shoppers in the store. Galaries Lafayette’s main Haussmann store is believed to be just as visited as the Eiffel Tower. With approximately 120 million visitors each year, it is considered to be the leading shopping centre of Europe. 50,000 visitors a day come to discover or buy clothes, fashion, decoration, delicatessen, jewelery or luxury products. Don't miss its fabulous Art Nouveau glass domes. Looking down at the layers and layers of luxury goods, you get a sense of being in fashion paradise. The main building (with the large dome) contains women's fashion (from casual to haute couture), jewelery, perfume. On the same side of the street, you will find the Lafayette Man. Finally on the other side of the street the Lafayette House offers linens and Lafayette Gourmet delicatessen. Opening hours: Monday to Saturday: 9.30 to 20.30 (until 20.45 on Thursdays and Saturdays), Sunday: 11.00 to 19.00.

La Terrasse Lafayette is an attraction in its own.  La Terrasse des Galeries is a rooftop cafe with excellent views of the city. From there you can also see also the famous glass dome:

The Opera - Garnier from La Terrasse Lafayette:

From Galeries Lafayette, Haussmann 40 we walk 500 m. westward to arrive to the Printemps department store. Head northwest on Rue de la Chaussée d'Antin, 140 m. Turn left onto Rue de Provence, 350 m and arrive to Printemps Haussmann, 64 Boulevard Haussmann. In 1865, former Bon Marché employee Jules Jaluzot took advantage of an auspicious spot just around the corner from the bustling Gare Saint-Lazare train station, on the recently created Boulevard Haussmann, to open Au Printemps with funds from his wife, a substantially wealthy actress from the Comédie Française. Within two decades, Jaluzot, a ferocious innovator in his own right, had expanded Au Printemps to an entire city block – a soaring glass and wrought iron structure embellished with statues, sumptuous mosaics and elaborate gilding. Its lovely exterior is remarkably like Zola’s model for the fictional store Au Bonheur des Dames, but since the novel was published the same year that Au Printemps opened, this is difficult to confirm. Au Printemps was the first department store to install elevators and the first building in France to be lit by electricity, a mere three years after the introduction of Thomas Edison’s electric bulb. After a fire in 1920, Au Printemps’ interior was rebuilt to include a magnificent jewel-coloured cupola, which was entirely dismantled in 1939 to preserve it from air attacks, and restored to its modern-day magnificence in the 1970s. Le Printemps is yet another upmarket Parisien department store. You can shop till you drop here, but before you get to that stage, you can refuel at one of the store’s seven catering outlets which offer anything from a quick snack to more substantial fare. Deli-Cieux, a restaurant on the 9th floor offers light and original grilled and stir-fried dishes so you can dine and enjoy the great panoramic views. Classified as a Historical Monument, Le Printemps is spread over three buildings, 25 floors, one day of which is not enough to strip all the wonders. The store is organized in three units, each corresponding to a store: the Printemps de la Mode, developed on its seven floors (accessories, luxury, international designers, fashion and trend, shoes, etc ..) an auditorium; the Spring of Beauty and the House which includes 9 floors (lingerie, beauty, care and institutes, luxury and delicacies, kitchen and utensils, linens, children, luggage ...) and the Spring Man, five floors dedicated to gentlemen, from footwear to major brands and jeans. Apart from its million references and more than 300 brands sold exclusively, this temple of glamour and luxury presents a wonder on the top floor of the Fashion Spring, the restaurant, with its magnificent Art Deco dome, classified, which opens on the rooftops of Paris, as a tribute to the City of Lights. A must see. Opening hours: Monday to Saturday: from 9.35 to 20.00 (until 20.45 on Thursdays and Saturdays), Sunday: 11.00 to 19.00. Note: you can photo the glass roof only from floors 1-3:

Climb to the 7th floor - to see marvelous sights of Paris:

Printemps from Rue du Havre (which crosses Bolulevard Haussmann):

Havre - Caumartin Metro station is a few steps south to the Printemps department store.

Paris - Montmartre morning tour

Ariel Shafir


Paris - A morning in Montmartre :

Main Attractions: Buste de Dalida, Maison de Tristan Tzara, Place Emile Goudeau, Bateau-Lavoir, Place des Abbesses, Le mur des je t'aime, Au Lapin Agile Cabaret. 

Duration: 1/2 day. Distance: 5 km. Weather: no rain. Avoid hot weather (several climbing sections).

Introduction: Montmartre means climbing in steep sloping roads. During the hot season - PLEASE reserve this quarter for the morning or late afternoon hours. 

Orientation: you can combine the SECOND half (Montmartre) of the Tipter blog "Paris - 9th arrondissement and Montmartre") with this 1/2 day blog and make ONE FULL-DAY in Montmartre. BUT, we, still, think that it is better to devote one AFTERNOON to the Montmartre - as described in the "Paris - 9th arrondissement and Montmartre" blog and one MORNING to the Montmartre as described in this blog. Each part - half-a-day.

Start & End: Lamarck – Caulaincourt Métro station (Line 12).

Our daily itinerary: We start with an "half loop" of Avenue Junot. We head, first to Dalida bust (Buste de Dalida) in Place Dalida, Montmartre. You get out from the Métro station and face Place Pecqueur. Head south on Place Constantin Pecqueur toward Rue Lucien Gaulard, 70 m. Turn right to stay on Place Constantin Pecqueur, 15 m. Turn left onto Rue Girardon. Take the stairs, 65 and you face Place Dalida and Bust of Dalida.  Dalida (her real name: Yolanda Gigliotti) (1933-1987) was a legendary Italian/Arab singer who gained a huge popularity in France during the sixties and seventies. She sang, mainly, in French and Arabic but, recorded songs in 10 languages. The most famous French female singer is almost unknown out of the French-speaking countries. Dalida's Parisian home was in Montmartre. She died aged 54 during the night of 2 to 3 May 1987 committing suicide. She is buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre. After her death the city named this square after her and installed this bust of her here. The bust is bronze and natural sized and was sculpted by the French artist Aslan. Many local and foreign fans  pay tribute to Dalida. The square is idyllic and surrounded by houses with nice courtyards:

From Place Dalida we head WEST to Rue Simon Dereure. We walk 110 m. along this road to meet the steep climbing Avenue Junot (tree-lined, so it is quite shady...). Turn LEFT (south) to Avenue Junot and climb 30 m. to see Cafe Marcel on your right. On this side starts a pretty ally, Villa Léandre, with English-style cottages and mansions:

 We continue with our loop of Avenue Junot. Continue walking south-east (now,down) along this tree-lined, aristocratic avenue.  40 m. south-east from the intersection of Avenue Junot x Villa Léandre - we see, on our right the Maison de Tristan Tzara, 15 Avenue Junot. This modern house, which is closed to the public, was built in 1926 for the poet and writer Tristan Tzara, founding father of Dadaism, by the Austrian architect Adolf Loos. It's very simple and minimalistic. It is decorated with samples of African art:


Head southeast on Avenue Junot toward Hameau des artistes, 140 m.  You may see, on your right, the windmill of Le Moulin Radet (see Tipter blog "Paris - 9th arrondissement and Montmartre").

Turn right down onto Rue Girardon, 50 m (another nice cobbled-stone road named after sculptor François Girardon (1628-1715)).

Turn right onto Rue Lepic, 80 m. At the intersection of r. Girardon and R. Lepic - is the best sight of the Moulin Radet windmill. This section of Rue Lepic, we climbed up in the former blog. Turn left onto Rue Tholozé. Take the stairs, 95 m. Turn left onto Rue Durantin. It is one of the few streets of the hill Montmartre that does not climb ! At #22 note the shop of restoration of musical instruments. At #40 try to get a glimpse inside the buildings - an amazing courtyard on two levels:

 From the fabolous courtyard of 40 Rue Durantin - we continue walking southeast on Rue Durantin toward Rue Tholozé, 140 m. Continue onto Rue Garreau, 90 m. Turn left onto Rue Ravignan and we face, 60 m. further the charming Place Émile-Goudeau on our right. Metro: Anvers (line 2) Abbesses (line 12) or Lamarck-Caulaincourt (lines 4, 12). Place Emile Goudeau is a charming, picturesque square shaded by horse chestnut trees. The Wallace fountain refreshes the many visitors who flock to this romantic square. It pays homage to the poet, journalist, novelist and singer Emile Goudeau (1849- 1906) founder of the literary club of Hydropathes (of who the water makes sick).

At #13. the Bateau-Lavoir ("The Boat Wash-house") was rebuilt on the site of the former house destroyed by a fire in May 1970. The building was dark and dirty, almost seeming to be scrap pile rather than a dwelling. On stormy days, it swayed and creaked, reminding people of washing-boats on the Seine River, hence the name. It is very famous as the residence and meeting place for a group of outstanding late 19th and early 20th-century artists. Kees van Dongen and Pablo Picasso took up residence between 1900 and 1904. After 1904 more artists and writers moved in, including Otto van Rees, Amedeo Modigliani, Pierre Mac Orlan, Juan Gris, André Salmon, Pablo Gargallo, Max Jacob and Pierre Reverdy. While residing at the Bateau-Lavoir Picasso painted works such as Garçon à la pipe (Boy with a Pipe) in 1905, and one of his most noted works, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon in 1907, considered by art historians as a proto-Cubist painting (the precursor of a movement that became known as Cubism). Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, creative artists living at the Bateau-Lavoir and in the neighborhood began moving elsewhere, mainly to Montparnasse:

260 m. further south and we arrive to Place des Abbesses. Head southwest on Rue Ravignan toward Rue des Trois Frères, 60 m. Turn right to stay on Rue Ravignan, 75 m. Continue onto Rue des Abbesses, 20 m. Turn left to stay on Rue des Abbesses, 70 m. Turn left onto Place des Abbesses. Place des Abbesses is a very Parisian picturesque square with trendy cafes and lots of small bars. We are, now, on a lower level (5 minutes walk) from Sacre Coeur. BUT, do NOT use the metro station of  Place des Abbesses to arrive to the famous basilica (cathedral). Lots of stairs inside this station.

After leaving the station you have to deal with endless flights of stairs and it is complicated (no signage) to find your way to the Sacre Coeur. Your best bet is taking the Funiculaire (might be very crowded). This is the closest metro to access the Funiculaire de Montmartre which takes you from the bottom of the hill to the Sacre Coeur. Anyway, take photo of the Art-Nouveau metro station:

Le Saint Jean de Montmartre Art-Nouveau church stands in the west side of Place des Abbesses. FREE. Get serenity in this lovely church without the herds of tourists. Almost empty. Guided tours of the church on every fourth Sunday of the month at 16.00. Built from 1894 through 1904, it was designed by architect Anatole de Baudot and Henri Labrouste. Brick and ceramic tile-faced facade. The locals call this church: "Notre-Dame des Briques". Beautiful Art Nouveau stained- glass windows executed by Jac Galland according to the design of Pascal Blanchard. Interior sculpture was by Pierre Roche. It is an austere church without posh marbles, golden decorations and remarkable paintings.

Place des Abbesses - St. Jean de Montmartre church:

This church, in the west side of the Place des Abbesses is in total contrast to the Le mur des je t'aime - in the east end of the square. Le mur des je t'aime or The I Love You Wall is a is a must-see for couples from all over the world visiting Paris. It is, actually, Jehan Rictus square within which is a small park displaying this wall.

A work of Frédéric Baron and Claire Kito. The wall, covering a surface area of 40m², is composed of 612 plates of the title "I love you" in 250 languages. The splashes of red on several plates represent cases of a broken heart, symbolizing the human race which has been torn apart and which the wall tries to bring back together. Fantastic, moving, unusual monument, dedicated to love. Touching the wall with both hands, make a wish about a true love! Once-in-life experience. The place is packed with (young) visitors. Quite difficult to get a clear picture of the WHOLE wall:

"Love is disorder. So, let us love !":

From Le mur des je t'aime, Square Jehan Rictus, Place des Abesses - head south toward Place des Abbesses, 25 m. Turn left onto Place des Abbesses, 20 m.

Turn left onto Rue la Vieuville, 120 m. Turn left to stay on Rue la Vieuville, 30 m. Continue onto Rue Drevet (a narrow lane of old stairs of the Three Brothers and the old rue du Poirier). Take the stairs, 90 m. Turn left onto Rue Gabrielle, 150 m. A quaint and atmospheric small road. Turn right onto Place Jean-Baptiste Clément, 55 m. This path/square bears the name of Jean Baptiste Clément (1836-1903), author of the song Le "Temps des cerises". Turn right to stay on Place Jean-Baptiste Clément, 70 m. Rue Norvins start on your right. Take the steps down the rue Norvins to where it intersects rue des Saules. Follow this road downhill and you will begin to enter the most interesting streets of historic Montmarte filled with narrow cobblestone streets and sometimes beautiful private gardens.

Now you realize why this was truly considered a village once, set outside the city limits. At that time it was covered with vineyards and gypsum quarries and was a real working class neighborhood to which the artists came for cheap rent and tax free wine. Head east on Rue Norvins toward Place Jean-Baptiste Clément, 30 m. Turn LEFT (north) onto Rue des Saules, 95 m. Turn left onto Rue de l'Abreuvoir, walk 55 m. north-west and if you would like to see Renoir's house it's at # 6 Rue de l'Abreuvoir which is also lined with other houses some very fortunate Parisians get to live in.

La Maison Rose, 2 rue de l Abreuvoir:


RETURN to Rue des Saules and continue descending northward until the next intersection with rue Saint-Vincent.

Here, at #22 rue des Saules - stand Au Lapin Agile Cabaret. Au Lapin Agile Cabaret ("The agile rabbit") is a legendary cabaret, once frequented by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Maurice Utrillo, and Toulouse-Lautrec (all of whom have paintings hanging inside). The cabaret has been churning out live entertainment since the turn of the twentieth century, keeping the artistic heritage of Montmartre  alive and, for ever. Live performances - every night at 21.30. The cabaret currently charges an entry fee of €24 per person, which includes a glass of the cherry house wine. Pure French chansons oldies. Crowded. For French-speaking or French-loving elders:

From the cabaret - it is 230 m. walk to the Métro station. From Au Lapin Agile, 22 Rue des Saules we head north on Rue des Saules toward Rue Paul Feval. Take the stairs, 120 m. Turn left onto Rue Caulaincourt, 120 m. and the Métro station of Lamarck - Caulaincourt is on the right.

Paris - 9th arrondissement and Montmartre

Ariel Shafir


Paris: The 9th arrondissement (quarter) and Montmartre (1/2 day itinerary).

Main Attractions: Place Saint-Georges, Musée de la Vie romantique, Musée national Gustave Moreau, Place d'Estienne d'Orves, Église Notre-Dame de Lorette,  Rue des Martyrs, Moulin Rouge, Place du Tertre, Espace Dalí, Sacre Coeur Basilica, Paroisse Saint Pierre de Montmartre, 13 Rue du Mont-Cenis, Rue Foyatier, Barbès - Rochechouart Métro station.

Start: Place Saint-Georges (Closest métro stations: Saint-Georges (line 12). End: Métro station (line 4)  Barbès - Rochechouart.

Duration: 1/2 day. Weather: no rain. Distance: 7-8 km. Orientation: the three main points are:

* This is an itinerary for 1/2 or 3/4 day.

* We left the Montmartre for the afternoon and sunset hours.

* Not all the Montmartre sights are covered in this blog. More spots and         experiences are detailed in other Tipter Paris blogs.

Our lodging in Paris: Holiday Inn Gare de L'est. Expensive. We were looking for a last-minute hotel. This hotel was the ONLY one we found with vacant room. Very good breakfast. Rooms: so-so (depending on floor and specific room). The rooms in the 8th floor (the highest one - are NOT recommended).

Sacre Coeur from Holiday Inn in Gare de l'est:

Place Saint-Georges is an elegant square with beautiful townhouses that surround it. It owes its charm to the fountain in its centre, its old lampposts, and the mansions around the square. Place Saint-Georges is situated at the junction of rue Saint-Georges and rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette in the 9th arrondissement. The square is was laid out in 1824 and named after a real estate transaction by a financial corporation, the Compagnie Saint-Georges. The fountain was placed there for horses to drink from. The fountain was dried up following the construction of the métro and, came alive again, in 1995. At the centre of the square stands the monument of the illustrator Paul Gavarni (1804-1866) - constructed at year 1911. Below, the monument's column is decorated with characters he created:  Pierrot, Lorette and other girls ("filles légères") who lived behind Notre-Dame de Lorette (see below):

Several  mansions are noteworthy: The mansion of Adolphe Thiers (# 27), behind the Gavarni Monument, was built in 1873. It has since been transformed into a library and hosts, nowadays, the Dosne-Thier Foundation:

#28 is the mansion of La Païva and was built in 1840 by E. Renaud in neo-Gothic and Renaissance styles. Esther Lachmann  (7 May 1819 – 21 January 1884), was known as La Païva and was the most famous French courtesan of 19th-century. A courtesan is a person who attends the court of a monarch or other powerful person. She was born in Russia and became very influential in Paris of the 19th-century. She married TWO of Europe's richest men (Albino Gonçalves de Araújo and Count Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck), maintained a noted literary salon out of Hôtel de la Païva, her luxurious mansion at 25 avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris. She lived on Place Saint-Georges in 1851 before moving later to the new luxurious mansion at 25 avenue des Champs-Élysées: 

If you have enough time - get a stroll in the nearby streets (like, Rue d'Aumale west to the Saint George square) to admire a few Haussmann-era buildings with elegant iron balcony railings.

With our back to the Saint-George métro station - we turn left (north-west) to Rue Notre Dame de Lorette. This is the most chic area in the 9th arrondissement. Notre-Dame-de-Lorette Street is served by the line (M) (12) at Saint-Georges and Notre-Dame-de-Lorette stations , as well as by bus lines 26 32 43 67 74 . We walk until we arrive to a big junction. Here, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette Street changes its name to Rue Pierre Fontaine. Rue Jean-Baptiste Pigalle is on your right. We turn LEFT (still, north-west) to Rue Chaptal. Walk 130 m. and you arrive to the Museum of Romantic Life, 16 Rue Chaptal. The Musée de la Vie romantique (The Museum of Romantic Life, or Museum of the Romantics)  or Hôtel Scheffer-Renan stands at the foot of Montmartre hill. It is an hôtel particulier building equipped with a greenhouse, a small garden, and a paved courtyard. A tribute to the tradition of 19th century French Romanticism, the Musée de la Vie Romantique offers a free permanent collection. The museum is open daily 10.00 - 18.00 except Monday. Permanent collections : FREE. Temporary exhibitions: Full price : €8, reduced price : €6. It is one of the City of Paris' three literary museums, along with the Maison de Balzac and the Maison de Victor Hugo. The nearest métro stations are Pigalle, Blanche, Saint-Georges, and Liège. The main house, built in 1830, was the Paris base of the Dutch-born painter Ary Scheffer (1795–1858), close friend to King Louis-Philippe and his family. For decades, Scheffer and his daughter hosted Friday-evening salons, among the most famous in La Nouvelle Athènes. George Sand (1804–1876) used to come as a neighbour with Frédéric Chopin. Other guests or participants were: Eugène Delacroix, Franz Liszt, Gioacchino Rossini and singer Pauline Viardot. Later in the century, Charles Dickens, Ivan Turgueniev, and Charles Gounod attended regularly.
The Museum displays on the first floor family portraits, household possessions, pieces of jewelry and memorabilia - mainly, of George Sand - including number of her own unique and rare watercolours paintings called "dendrites". On the second floor there are a number of Romantic canvases, sculptures and paintings by Ary Scheffer and other 19th century French contemporaries.

From the Museum of Romantic Life - we retrace our steps along Rue Chaptal. Head east on Rue Chaptal toward Rue Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, 130 m. Continue onto Rue Notre Dame de Lorette, 30 m. Turn right onto Rue de la Rochefoucauld, 270 m. On our left is the The Musée national Gustave Moreau, 14 Rue de la Rochefoucauld. The nearest métro stations are Saint-Georges and Trinité – d'Estienne d'Orves. The Musée national Gustave Moreau is an art museum dedicated to the works of Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau. The museum was originally Moreau's dwelling, transformed by his 1895 decision into a studio and museum of his work with his apartment remaining on the first floor. Today the museum contains Moreau's drawings, paintings, watercolors, and sculptures. Opening hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday: 10.00 - 12.45 and 14.00 - 17.15. Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 10.00 - 17.15. Tuesdays - closed. Prices: adult: €6, concessions: €4. Gustave Moreau first rose to fame with the exhibition in the 1864 Salon of his Oedipe et le sphinx. From the 1880s onwards, he increasingly shrank from public exhibition. This house in Nouvelle Athens, which had been his childhood home, became his increasing focus during this period of his life. In 1895, he commissioned the young architect Albert Lafon to convert it from hôtel particulier into a museum including a dedicated gallery space, private domestic quarters and studio. The latter extended over the second and third floor, connected by a small staircase, providing space for hundreds of paintings and thousands of drawings. In 1897, Moreau decided to bequeath the house and its contents to the French nation, in the hope that its preservation in total would 'allow the public to appreciate the culmination of the artist's lifelong work and labour'. When it opened to the public in 1903, the Musée Moreau had in its collection some 14,000 works. The museum appears today much as it did then, and includes a major collection of paintings both by Moreau and his contemporaries. Wealth of mythological and biblical subjects paintings. Wonderful spiral flight of stairs connecting the painter's drawing rooms and his past studios. From this huge collection of paintings and artifacts - certainly, you can find some wonderful gems and unforgettable pictures. A moving journey to La Belle Époque of Paris during the era of the French Third Republic:

With your back to the museum - turn left and head south on Rue de la Rochefoucauld toward Rue de la Tour des Dames, 15 m. Turn right onto Rue de la Tour des Dames, 170 m. Turn left onto Rue Blanche, 80 m. Continue straight onto Place d'Estienne d'Orves, 45 m. Place d'Estienne d'Orves resides exactly between the Chaussée-d'Antin district and the Saint-Georges district of the 9th district of Paris. The place d'Estienne-d'Orves is served by the line (M) (12) at the Trinité - d'Estienne d'Orves station , as well as close by the 80 99 bus lines. The painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted the place several times during his life. 

This extensive square is a pleasant stop, facing the imposing Trinity Church. You can rest on some benches installed in a circle in front of the facade of the church, sheltered by some trees or in the amusement park (WI-FI connection !). You will discover this garden at the foot of the Trinity Church. At the top of the staircase leading to it, three statues, "Faith", "Charity" and "Hope", by Duret and Lequesne protect three children at the foot of which three bronze vases allow the water to fall back. You will certainly see sparrows or pigeons come to drink there. The square is very noisy due to its proximity to a big intersection with a lot of traffic. The Trinity Church dominates this square:

Withour back to the church in Place d'Estienne d'Orves we turn left. Head south on Place d'Estienne d'Orves toward Rue Saint-Lazare, 35 m. Turn left onto Rue de Châteaudun, 500 m. note the building at Rue de Châteaudun #44:

In the intersection with rue Laffitte - satnds Église Notre-Dame de Lorette. An earlier chapel of the same name was situated at 54 rue Lamartine but was destroyed during the French Revolution. In 1821, plans were made to rebuild Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, with Louis-Hippolyte Lebas the sole architect. Originally, the church was planned to face northward towards Montmartre, but eventually faced southward towards rue Laffitte. Construction of the church began in 1823 under the reign of Louis XVIII and was completed in 1836 under the reign of Louis-Philippe. Architect Hippolyte Lebas, 1823-1836. The austere structure of Roman basilica contrasts with the pompous interior design Louis-Philippe style. Musician Georges Bizet was baptized at the church on March 16, 1840, and painter Claude Monet was baptized on May 20, 1841. The early 19th century is characterized with neoclassical style, with the church also being designed in this manner. The façade features Charles-François Lebœuf's sculpture: Six angels in adoration before the Madonna and Child. 


We continue walking several steps east along Rue de Châteaudun (beyond the church and its intersection with rue Laffitte) and turn LEFT (north) to Rue Flechier. We continue CLIMBING northward along Rue des Martyrs (Metro: Notre-Dame-De-Lorette) (this road climbs upwards into the base of Montmartre). This is the main shopping and market street of the 9th arrondissement - an authentic food shopping experience. It is home to nearly 200 small shops and restaurants. Actually, rue des Martyrs cuts through the formerly working-class ninth and 18th arrondissements. This street is said to have been named after Saint Denis - the first bishop of Paris (250 AD). Tradition has it that Saint Denis, the patron saint of France, was beheaded here in the third century. According to the legend, Saint Denis managed to walk several miles through Paris, preaching while holding his head in his arms. He finally collapsed in the Saint Denis suburbs, a place that is now the site of a beautiful medieval Basilica. Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted acrobats at the circus on the corner, Emile Zola situated a lesbian dinner club here in his novel Nana, and François Truffaut filmed scenes from Les 400 Coups. Rue des Martyrs is mentioned in Gustave Flaubert’s L’Education Sentimentale, arguably the most influential French novel of the 19th century, and in Guy de Maupassant’s Bel-Ami. Rue des Martyrs is now one of the nicest streets in Paris, home to bohemian concept stores and culinary shops beloved by Parisian foodies. Starting from Notre Dame de Lorette, Rue des Martyrs leads up through Pigalle, all the way to Montmartre and Sacré-Coeur. Once, it was known for its dodgy bars and restaurants, Rue des Martyrs, is now a a Mecca for culinary Parisians. This neighbourhood was once a little run down and dirty, although just as lively and popular as it is today. La Chambre aux Confitures (number 9, part of a small chain) sells more than 100 jams, chutneys and chocolate spreads. Première Pression Provence next door specializes in French olive oil. Pâtisserie des Martyrs (#22) may make the best lemon tart in all of Paris and a perfect assortment of other luxury confections. Apiculturists offers honey-based everything: candles, lotion, tea, nougat, and pollen grains at #30 Rue des Martyrs. Mesdemoiselles Madeleines at #37 makes only Madeleines, the little shell-shaped sponge cakes. Rose bakery #46 was under construction works in May 2017 and, presently, it is beyond its past-famed heydays. There’s always an appetizing selection of healthy organic salads and quiches – not to mention, Rose’s famous carrot cake, zingy lemon loaf, and freshly-made scones. People Drugstore at #78 offers hundreds of brands of beers:

Boulangerie (intersection with rue Manuel):

As we climb rue des Martyrs - we pass Place Lino Ventura:

At the end of climbing Rue des Martyrs - Boulevard de Rochechouart is on our right and Boulvard de Clichy is on our left.

We turn left (north-west) and walk, carefully, along Boulvard de Clichy, for 150 m. until we arrive to Place Pigalle.

The Boulevard de Cichy is located near the Paris Metro stations Place de Clichy, Blanche, and Pigalle, and served  2, 12  and 13 bus lines. A bit of a dodgy area but feel safe. At Boulvard de Clichy # 68-70 resides the old cabaret, Le Chat noir (The Black Cat), which originally opened (at 1881) around the corner at 84 Boulevard Rouchechouart. This place was famous for its excellent (and vulgar)  entertainments.

adjacent (west) to the Le Chat Noir are two more famous "institutes". At #. 72: Musée de l'Erotisme (Museum of Eroticism) - closed from year 2016. At # 82, beginning in 1889, this is where the Moulin-Rouge (Red Mill), the home of the Can-can, opened its doors. It was founded by Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler. It is famous all over the world by the red windmill on its roof. The Moulin Rouge is the birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. The can-can dance revue evolved into a form of entertainment of its own and led to the introduction of cabarets across Europe. Today, the Moulin Rouge is a tourist attraction, offering musical dance entertainment for visitors from around the world. The club's decor still contains much of the romance of la Belle Époque in France. The Expositions Universelles of 1889 and 1900 are symbols of this period. The Eiffel Tower was also constructed in 1889. On 6 October 1889, the Moulin Rouge opened in the Jardin de Paris, at the foot of the Montmartre hill. The extravagant setting – the garden was adorned with a gigantic elephant – allowed people from all walks of life to mix. Workers, residents of the Place Blanche, artists, the middle classes, businessmen, elegant women, and foreigners passing through Paris rubbed shoulders. Nicknamed "The First Palace of Women" by Oller and Zidler, the cabaret quickly became a great success. The place was loved by artists, including Toulouse-Lautrec whose posters and paintings secured rapid and international fame for the Moulin Rouge. The early years of the Moulin Rouge were marked by extravagant shows, inspired by the circus and clowns' performances. One event in the history of Moulin Rouge is the visit of Edward VII. In 26 October 1890 the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, who on a private visit to Paris, booked a table to see this quadrille whose reputation had already crossed the Channel. Recognising him, La Goulue, the famous can-can dancer, with her leg in the air, spontaneously called out "Hey, Wales, the champagne's on you!". In January 1903 the Moulin Rouge reopened its doors after renovation and improvement work carried out by Édouard Niermans, the most famous architect of the Belle Époque in Europe. Until the First World War, the Moulin Rouge became a real temple of operetta. In 27 February 1915 the Moulin Rouge was destroyed by fire. In 1921 the rebuilt Moulin Rouge reopened. After World War I the Moulin Rouge took off again, thanks to stars such as Mistinguett, Jeanne Aubert, and Maurice Chevalier, and gave the first showing in Paris of American revues. During the Second World War years (1939–1945) the German Occupation 'Guide aryien' counted the Moulin Rouge among the must visits in Paris for its troops. The famous Moulin Rouge stage shows continued for the occupation troops. In 1944, a few days after the liberation of Paris, Edith Piaf, who had been a frequent performer at German Forces social gatherings, during the Second World War, and had been considered a traitor by many, performs again at the Moulin Rouge, with Yves Montand, a newcomer chosen to appear with her. In 22 June 1951 Georges France, called Jo France acquires the Moulin Rouge and starts major renovation work. The evening dances, the acts, and the famous French cancan were back at the Moulin Rouge. In 19 May 1953 performs Bing Crosby, on the first time, on an European stage. The evening attracts 1,200 artists and stars from around the world, including Josephine Baker who sings "J'ai deux amours". Between 1951 and 1960, manyf famous artists appear including: Luis Mariano, Charles Trénet, Charles Aznavour, Line Renaud, Bourvil, Fernand Raynaud, Lena Horne. In 1955 Jo France transfers the Moulin Rouge to the brothers Joseph and Louis Clérico who already own Le Lido cabaret. In 1960 the Revue Japonaise, entirely composed of Japanese artists, launches the Kabuki in Montmartre. In 1962 - the first aquatic ballet in Moulin Rouge. Still,  the famous French cancan is performed at every revue. In 7 September 1979 the Moulin Rouge celebrates its 90th birthday. On stage, for the first time in Paris, Ginger Rogers is surrounded by various stars including Thierry Le Luron, Dalida, Charles Aznavour, Jean-Claude Brialy (later, movies star), Georges Chakiris,  Zizi Jeanmaire. On 23 November 1981 the Moulin Rouge closes for one evening to present its show to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. 4 February 1982 - one-off show with Liza Minnelli. 3 July 1984 - gala with Dean Martin.
25 September 1984 - gala with Frank Sinatra. 1 December 1986- Mikhail Baryshnikov, creates an original ballet by Maurice Béjart at the Moulin Rouge. On 20 February 1988 Prince Edward is the guest of honour. 6 October 1989 -  Centenary (!) gala with Charles Aznavour, Lauren Bacall, Ray Charles, Tony Curtis, Ella Fitzgerald, Gipsy Kings, Margaux Hemingway, Barbara Hendricks, Dorothy Lamour, Jerry Lewis, Jane Russell, Charles Trénet, and Esther Williams (!). 14 November 1999 - last showing of the Centenary revue Formidable, seen by more than 4.5 million spectators between 1988 and 1999. 6 October 2014 - Moulin Rouge celebrates its 125th anniversary. Unique club or cabaret with UNBELIEVABLE history and record of international fame and success. As for the spectacles nowadays - remember two facts: No photos during the show and less formal dress code is allowed. Not cheap but, well worth it !

Place Pigalle (Pigalle Square) draws its name from the sculptor, Jean-Baptiste Pigalle (1714–1785). At the end of the 19th century, it was a neighbourhood of painters' studios and literary cafés of which the most renowned was the Nouvelle Athènes (New Athens). The area around is busy, noisy, dirty and not worth more than a quick photo:

Now, we head (mostly, climb up) to Montmartre. From Place Pigalle - head northeast on Place Pigalle toward Boulevard de Clichy, 60 m. Continue, still northward,  onto Rue Houdon, 190 m. Turn left (north-west) onto Rue des Abbesses, 400 m. We elaborate more on Rue des Abbesses in another Tipter blog.  Rue des Abbesses continues in the same direction (north-west, and, later, north, north-east and, finally, eastward) as Rue Lepic. Rue Lepic is an ancient road climbing the hill of Montmartre from the boulevard de Clichy to the place Jean-Baptiste-Clément. In 1852 it was renamed rue de l'Empereur, and renamed again in 1864, after the General Louis Lepic (1765-1827). It is a long and demanding climb along this road until we arrive almost to the top of Montmartre hill. This street winds up the slope of Montmartre and features cafes, restaurants, some charming houses, including the two mentioned below. Scenic walk, but it is very steep.  Even if the walk is not easy - this street has all the charm of Paris located in one delightful locale. Many small bars, bakeries, and grocers adorn the lower levels, while the upper levels that lead to Sacre-Coeur are lined with pre 1900 multi story apartments.  Rue Lepic is our sportive and quaint alternative to reach Sacre Coeur without the crowds, steps, dirt and pickpockets (the tourist hordes at the main steps of the Sacre Coeur are unavoidable).

Rue Lepic #15 - setting of the movie "Emillie" - Cafe des Deux Moulins:

At #54, lived Van Gogh and his brother Théo, on the third floor, from 1886 to 1888:

Rue Lepic #61 - "Le mulin de la galette", one of the last remaining historical windmills in Montmartre:

From Le Moulin de la Galette - it is, still, 350 m. climb up until the famous squares of Montmartre. Head northeast on Rue Girardon toward Rue Norvins, 35 m. Turn right (north-east) onto Rue Norvins, 260 m. Turn right onto Place du Tertre, 40 m. Place du Tertre. The hilltop village of Montmartre has an exciting past. Before it became a part of Paris, it was a quaint village covered in little farms, vineyards and windmills. During the Belle Époque, it became a haven for artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec, Maurice Utrillo, Van Gogh and Picasso thanks to its more affordable cost of living and cheap wine (it was exempt from Paris’s wine tax)! Here, an artistic community was formed, and a lively cabaret culture flourished, many of which you can still see standing today. Place du Tertre used to be the main square in the village of Montmartre before it was absorbed into the modern day city of Paris. Artists such as Van Gogh, Picasso, Pissarro, Modigliani and many more, have all drawn inspiration from what has become known as “The Artist’s Square”. This little square is famous for the artists lined up on all sides to sell paintings or to draw your portrait or caricature and the accordion playing musicians. The square also is surrounded by overpriced restaurants with indoor and sidewalk seating, as well as tables in the square itself. This lively square resides off one block beyond the Basilica du Sacre-Coeur. Good place, especially for both a sunrise and sunset. Touristy, but still full of Parisienne character. Place du Tertre has to be Montmartre's heart. The picturesque square on the hill gets views of the Sacre Coeur church. BTW, The artists located in the square of Place due Tertre pay an annual fee of just over 550 euros for a 1 sqm. space, which is shared on an alternating roster with another artist. Essentially they only work half the week. Nevertheless, with more than ten million visitors per month to this fine street, this has the potential to be a lucrative business. Currently an artist must make an application and display proof of their artistic abilities to an official at the town hall of Montmartre, then they may be invited to join the ten year waiting list for acceptance. Currently there are a little under 300 painters, portraitists, caricaturist and silhouette artist’s formally and legally operating at Place du Tertre. Don’t get caught! A common tourist trap is not setting a price first before the artist begins the portrait. 10 euros might be a reasonable price... Many people assume that tertre is a derivative of Montmartre, but it is actually much more straightforward than that. Tertre simply translates as a small hill, and place means a public square. Therefore, the Place du Tertre isn’t anything more than a very descriptive name, since it sits on the top of Paris’s largest hill at about 130 meters height.

From Place du Tertre - we make a short detour to Espace Dali. From Place du Tertre head south for 60 m. Turn left to stay on Place du Tertre, 25 m. Turn right onto Place du Calvaire, 40 m. Continue onto Rue Poulbot the special museum of Dalí Paris, 11 Rue Poulbot is on your right. Open everyday 10.00 - 18.30. Prices: adult - € 12, youngsters (8-26) - € 9. At this small and unique museum, visitors can sample the curious and provocative world of Salvador Dalí the famous surrealist artist. The Espace Dalí is the only museum in France entirely devoted to the work (paintings, sculptures, and graphics) of Salvador Dalí. It is a limited exhibition in quantity BUT, quite high in quality and perfectly organized. Many of the artworks illustrate characters from literature such as Romeo and Juliet, Don Quixote, and excerpts from the Bible. Amazing photo opportunities. Visitors will be awed by the artist's renowned sculptures: Venus de Milo (Dalí's version), the unusual Femme Girafe and a mysterious rendition of Alice in Wonderland. The classically inspired Femme Rétrospectif was Dalí's first sculpture. Provoking, but, still,  delightful. Audio guide in a variety of alnguages BUT with an additional fee. Not cheap. Allow, at least, 1 hour:

RETURN (130 m. walk) TO Place du tertre. The Sacre Coeur Basilica is one block more to the east. But, still, you have to walk 250 m. until you arrive to its entrance. Head east on Place du Tertre toward Rue Norvins, 50 m. Turn right onto Rue Norvins, 15 m. Slight right onto Rue du Mont-Cenis, 55 m. Turn left (east) onto Rue Azais, 100 m. Turn right onto Parvis du Sacré-Cœur and take the stairs, 70 m. to Sacre Coeur Basilica, 1 Parvis du Sacré-Cœur. Metro: Anvers, Abbesses, Château-Rouge, Lamarck-Caulaincourt, Bus: 30, 54, 80, 85, Montmartrobus. Opening hours: The Sacre Coeur Basilica is open every day from 06.00. to 22.30. Entrance is FREE. Many people choose to visit the Basilica at night. Why? Partly because it is more romantic of course, and the sky over Paris is especially lovely during summer nights. One of Paris’ most visited monuments. A majestic, WHITE, impressive edifice atop the hillock of Montmartre. The whipped-cream look of the edifice is mainly due to its stone which came from the Château-Landon quarries. In wet weather, the calcite contained in the stone acts like a bleacher to give the church a definite chalky white appearance. ‘Sacré-Cœur’ means ‘Sacred-Heart’ in English and is a reference to the heart of Jesus, which is the representation of his divine love for humanity.

The top of the hill of Montmartre where the church now stands has been a sacred site where druids were thought to have worshiped there. The Romans had built temples dedicated to gods Mars and Mercury. At first glance you may think the Basilica is very old because of its style of architecture, but it was actually built in the late 1800’s. Its design is based on the style used in the ancient Romano-Byzantine empire, which you can see more often in the southern regions of France. Authorized by the National Assembly in 1873, the project was to build an imposing Christian church visible from all over Paris. The cathedral was built to honour those who perished during the French Revolution and during the Franco-Prussian war, and to make good for the 'crimes' committed by the Paris Commune. As well as honouring those who died it was also built to inspire faith into the French people who lived on and struggled during what was a very trying era. Originally the funds for the construction of Sacre Coeur were to be only from wealthy donors. Seventy-eight different architects entered a competition for the right to design Sacre Couer. The winning design was submitted by a veteran architect named Abadie. Abadie was already well known for his restoration of the St. Front Cathedral in Perigueux. The foundation stone of the Basilique Sacré-Coeur was laid in 1875. It was consecrated in 1891, fully completed in 1914, and elevated to the status of a basilica in 1919, after the end of the WW1.

Sacre Couer from rue du Chevalier-de-La-Barre:

The Bell Tower is not open to visitors.  The church bell tower is also enormous, in fact it is one of the largest and heaviest in the world weighing 19 tons. However, despite its size the inside of the Basilica de Sacre-Coeur is vast rather than interesting and fails to live up to the expectations you have from the outside. The great bell, the Savoyarde, is one of the world's heaviest bells at 19 tons:

Access to the Basilique Dome is outside the Basilica on the left. There are 300 steps to climb and no lift. Opening hours: Every day from 08.30 to 20.00  (May to September) and 9.00 to 17.00  (October to April). From the top of the dome of Sacré-Cœur (accessible to the public by stairs), a breathtaking view of Paris extends to La Défense, the Eiffel Tower, the Montparnasse Tower, the Panthéon, the Bois de Vincennes, the Buttes-Chaumont and the basilica of Saint-Denis. Nearly all the monuments of Paris can be seen with the binoculars. it is the second-highest viewpoint after the Eiffel Tower. The walk around the inside of the dome alone is worth the climb. The dome is supported by 80 columns, each topped with a different capital.

Every Sunday: 11.00 High mass with the Little Singers of Montmartre, 18.00 and 20.15 Last masses. You can walk into the cathedral for FREE and take photos of the stained glass windows and various pulpits. If you're lucky, you can hear the nuns singing which is lovely (no photos and silence whilst service is on).

Inside, the Sacré-Coeur is dim and rather gloomy except for the golden mosaics glowing from apse. This apse mosaic, designed by Luc-Olivier Merson (1922), is the largest in the world. It depicts Christ in Majesty and The Sacred Heart worshiped by the Virgin Mary, Joan of Arc and St. Michael the Archangel. The floor plan is an equal-armed Greek cross, with a large dome (83m high) over the crossing. In the huge choir, 11 tall round arches support a barrel vault. The main portal has grand bronze doors with foliage designs. Created in Romano-Byzantine style, the Sacre-Coeur has several design elements that represent nationalism as the principal theme. The triple-arched portico is surmounted by two bronze equestrian statues of France's national saints, Joan of Arc and King Saint Louis IX, designed by Hippolyte Lefebvre. The crypt (might be closed) contains statues of saints and a relic that some believe to be the very Sacred Heart (Sacré-Coeur) of Christ. The Sacre-Coeur Basilica houses a large pipe organ, constructed by Aristide Cavaille-Coll, containing 78 speaking stops and 109 ranks extending across the 32-note pedalboard and four 61-note manuals. At the rear of the grounds is a contemplative garden and fountain:


Sacre Couer is one of the best places in Paris, rivaled only Montparnasse Tower and the Eiffel Tower, for a birds eye view of the city. When you get to the Sacre Coeur, there are stunning views (mainly, incredible views of Parisian rooftops) over Paris. 

If you don't want to climb the steps you can get the venicular tram up for a couple of euros. Particularly convenient for handicapped, elderly and children is to take the Petit Train from the Moulin Rouge to the Place du Tertre - 6,50€ per adult:

We start our way back from the Montmartre. From Sacre Coeur Basilica we walk southwest on Parvis du Sacré-Cœur toward Rue du Cardinal Guibert. Take the stairs, 70 m.  Turn right onto Rue du Cardinal Guibert, 95 m. Turn left onto Rue du Chevalier de la Barre (get nice  photos of Sacre Coeur - see above), 85 m. On your right, at the intersection of 13 Rue du Mont-Cenis - note a plaque paying tribute to the old cabaret of Patachou that packed Parisian nights in the past. Patachou is one of the most popular singers of the post-war period in France. Henriette Ragon, of her real name, grew up in Paris. In 1948, Henriette Ragon opens with her husband "Chez Patachou", a tea room and a restaurant. She then hires an accordionist to offer a musical atmosphere and sometimes "push the ditty". Seduced by her voice, customers push her to try the song. It is a success and journalists are hurrying into what will quickly become the cabaret "Chez Patachou" of Montmartre. The biggest names came to perform in this famous cabaret. Jacques Brel sings for three years. In January 1952, it was the turn of Georges Brassens to make himself known thanks to the Patachou scene, pushed by his friend Pierre Galante, a journalist at Paris Match. Sung by Patachou, the songs Brave Margot and the Lovers of the public benches pack the spectators and Georges Brassens goes up to sing including The Gorilla and Fuck of you:

At the NORTH end of Rue du Mont-Cenis stands Paroisse Saint Pierre de Montmartre, 2 rue du Mont Cenis. Opening hours: everyday from 9.00 to 19.30 except on Friday from 9.00 to 18.00. The historic Saint-Pierre de Montmartre, one of the oldest churches in the city definitely deserves a visit. Saint Pierre de Montmartre is the oldest church in Paris. It replaces an ancient chapel where pilgrims stopped over on their way to the Basilica of Saint-Denis in the north of Paris. This first chapel was erected on the site of the Temple of Mars built by the Romans after they invaded France 20 centuries ago. It is the only remainder of the old royal Benedictine convent of Montmartre, built in the 12th century by order of King Louis VI and his wife, Adelaide of Savoie. The Church was partitioned in 1134 and was hence able to receive both Benedictines and parishioners at the same time. Restored by Sauvageot in 1905, the interior of the church has some beautiful contemporary stained glass windows by the master stained glass window maker Max Ingrand, and outside there are bronze doors dating from 1980. Next door is the Jardin du Calvaire (Calvary Garden; closed), which contains Stations of the Cross created for Richelieu. THe adjacent cemetery (rarely open) contains the tomb of the circumnavigator Louis Bougainville (1729-1811) and the sculptor Pigalle (1714-85):

The church is built on a traditional Latin-cross plan, with three aisles and a transept, and is a jumble of medieval and later styles. Inside, the nave is Romanesque but is covered with a 15th-century vault and flanked by aisles added in 1765 (north) and c.1838 (south). The windows are filled with stained glass windows of the 20th century. The transept and choir are also Romanesque, and the choir has one of the earliest ribbed vaults in Paris (c.1147). The apse was rebuilt in the late 12th century. Behind the altar is the tomb of Adelaide de Savioe, the nunnery's foundress and the mother of King Louis VI. Four marble Roman columns with Merovingian capitals (7th century) can be seen in the church: two against the west wall, one at the apse entrance and one in the north aisle:

Head south on Rue du Mont-Cenis toward Rue Saint-Rustique, 60 m. Turn left to stay on Rue du Mont-Cenis, 55 m. Continue east onto Rue Saint-Eleuthere - heading to the Funiculaire station, 60 m. 

Rue Saint-Eleuthere:

Turn your head to the south to get a sunset view of Tour Eiffel:

On your right - Espace Montmartre. A unique building in Montmartre with a panoramic view over Paris, the Sacré Coeur, the Eiffel Tower. A building built for the Paris Universal Exposition of 1900.

We take the stairs and descend along Rue Foyatier. One of the most famous streets in Paris, it consists of flights of stairs giving access to the top of the hill, the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, and the other attractions of the upper-Montmartre neighborhood. The Montmartre funicular runs alongside it:

view of Sacre Coeur from Rue Foyatier:

At the southern end of Rue Foyatier we turn LEFT (east) to Place Saint-Pierre. Facing you are the grassy and terraced gardens leading you to the basilica. The gardens were once gypsum quarries, hence the odd design.  it's time to take the obligatory photos no (see photo above). If you are hungry, grab a crepe or sandwich from the stand on your left, or the pleasant café with the best view of the gardens and basilica on your right.

Turn RIGHT (south-east) to Rue Seveste. Head southeast on Rue Seveste toward Passage Briquet. Turn left onto Boulevard de Rochechouart. Turn right. Turn left and you arrive to the Métro station (line 4) of Barbès - Rochechouart.

Le Mont Saint-Michel

Silvja Helmanis


Le Mont Saint-Michel - part 1:

Main Attractions: Dol-de-Bretagne, 


When: The best time to visit Mont Saint-Michel is March to October when the weather is at its best. July and August are high season so crowds are at their thickest. Low season runs November to February when the weather is at its worst.

Introduction: Le Mont Saint Michel (or Saint Michel’s Mount) is the kind of attraction you would see featured on a series entitled “bizarre churches of the world.” For Le Mont Saint Michel, it is not so much the church itself that is bizarre, but its location: engulfing the top of a small mount that can quickly change from being inland to island thanks to a rapidly flowing tide. Should you have some time to take a trip outside of Paris, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see. Most of our trip in May 2017 had been in Bretagne. BUT, Le Mont-Saint-Michel, WHICH is an island, IS, ACTUALLY IN Normandy. The island stands, exactly on the border between Bretagne and Normandy. The island resides 1 km. off France mainland northwestern coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River. Very few people live on the island (approx. 50). The Mont-Saint-Michel is one of Europe’s most breathtaking sights. Mont Saint-Michel is the second most visited site in France (after Paris) visited by more than 3 million people each yea., Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay are an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over 60 buildings on the island are protected in France as historic monuments. The abbey and the fortifications on the island stand since the 8th century AD. Until the 7th century, the place was actually called Mont Tombe and belonged to the Diocese of the Avranches. According to legend, it was the archangel Michael himself who directed the building of this magnificent abbey in the 8th century. The local legend adds that the bishop of Avranches, Saint Aubert, had a dream in which the patron of a sailor – Saint Michael, told him to build a church on top of the Mont Tombe. However, since he ignored the dream a few times Saint Michel bore a hole into his skull what made him do it. The real skull, kept in Saint-Gervais Basilica, presents the hole in it... Once the church was built it’s been captured by the Vikings what made the monks move away. But in 966 the Duke of Normandy allowed the Benedict Monks to settle there and add a pre-Romanesque church of the abbey. By the time of the French revolution, the abbey was closed and converted into a prison which led Mont Saint Michel to more deterioration. This prison was finally closed in 1863 and from then on, various efforts of restoration to this architectural wonder were started. These efforts bore fruit when it was regarded as a historical monument in 1874.

In ancient times, and nowadays, the citizens (farmers and fishermen) lived (live) outside the walls - very few on the island and the others, the majority, outside the island. Mont Saint-Michel island was accessible, for hundreds of years, only  at low tide - mostly, for the many pilgrims to its abbey. The Mont Saint-Michel remained unconquered during the Hundred Years' War. King Louis XI  turned the Mont into a prison. Since 28 April 2012, the huge car park on the mainland has been located 2.5 kilometres  from the island. Visitors can walk or use shuttles to cross the causeway.

From 2016 there is a long wooden causeway which connects the island with the mainland. A FREE shuttle bus runs every 10-15 minutes from the mainland to Mont Saint-Michel island and the opposite direction. You can use the public transportation or walk along this causeway (all free). Visitors who avoid the causeway and attempt the hazardous walk across the sands from the neighbouring coast are exposed to a severe danger of high tide and floods. Occasional flooding have created salt marsh meadows that are found to be ideally suited to grazing sheep. The well-flavoured meat that results from the diet of the sheep in the salt meadows -  makes salt meadow lamb, a local specialty that may be found on the menus of restaurants that depend on income from the many visitors and pilgrims to Mont Saint-Michel abbey and the walled complex on the island. 

Transportaion to the Mont Saint-Michel island:

In summary - the best two options are: BY TRAIN (note that there are no direct train services between Paris and Le Mont St Michel):

OPTION 1 is taking the TGV train from Paris (Gare Montparnasse) to Rennes and then the Keolis Emeraude bus which takes passengers directly to Le Mont Saint Michel (click here for more details - no reservation necessary except for groups of 10+ people). Often the Rennes connection is unavailable on off-season Sundays. In this case, take the TGV train from Paris (Gare Montparnasse) to Dol-de-Bretagne where the same Keolis Emeraude buses to Le Mont Saint Michel also operate from.

OPTION 2 is taking the TGV train from Paris (Saint-Lazare) to Caen, then a TER regional train to Pontorson, and then the Pontorson–Le Mont shuttle to Le Mont Saint Michel. The shuttle takes about 10 minutes and its timetable is coordinated with when the trains arrive at Pontorson railway station.

The trip between Paris and Mont St Michel via train plus coach will cost from about €35 to €100. To get the best prices for the TGV trip, we recommend you buy your tickets as early as possible (you can buy these up to 3 months in advance of your trip).

Now, more in detail: we did the way, from Saint-Malo, easily using a combination of train and bus. There are several trains, every day leaving Saint-Malo and heading to a small town, Dol-de-Bretagne. From there - we caught a convenient bus to Mont Saint-Michel. Typical time-table for the morning trains Saint-Malo --> Dol-de-Bretagane (25-30 minutes ride): 08.44, 10.19, 12.10, 13.15, 14.15. We did not find information on the current timetables of  bus from Dol-de-Bretagne to Mont Saint-Miche. The bus stop was opposite the railway station in Dol-de-Bretagne. Prices: Dol de Bretagne – Mont Saint Michel : 8€, Rennes – Mont Saint Michel : 15€. WE SUSPECT THAT THIS COMBINATION DOES NOT EXIST ANYMORE. This option is based on the Rennes–Dol-de-Bretagne regional coach line which takes you directly to Mont Saint-Michel in only 1 hour and 20 minutes from Rennes or 30 minutes from Dol-de-Bretagne. The line operates seven days a week (including bank holidays). You can depart from either Rennes or Dol-de-Bretagne: In Rennes, the coach departs from the bus station (upon exiting the train, follow the sign marked “Sortie Nord” and then “Gare Routière”). In Dol de Bretagne, the coach departs from the SNCF train station (upon exiting the train, cross through the lobby and turn right). WE ARE NOT SURE THAT THE DIRECT BUS LINE OF DOL-DE-BRETAGNE ---> MONT SAINT-MICHEL STILL FUNCTIONS. Your best bet is the SNCF web site. Here, we found a service of everyday bus at 10.50 and another one at 12.25 (not everyday). Please have a look at:!/?queryId=jT1m7

Another option is the bus from Pontorson to Mont Saint-Michel. You can catch a train from Paris or from Rennes to Pontorson, the gateway town to the MSM Abbey. Better, take the train to Rennes, then transfer to Pontorson. Then continue with a bus to MSM. All tickets can be purchased at the Pontorson station.

Instead we were surprised to see a direct bus from Saint-Malo to Mont Saint-Michel and vice versa. This is the Keolis bus service. As far as we understand there are two buses everyday (Spring and Summer months), in every direction EXCLUDING SUNDAYS. Departures from Saint-Malo: 09.15, 13.15. Departures from MSM: 15.45, 18.35. The ride is 75 minutes. The mandatory ticket is bi-directional and costs 23 euros/person. We must say that you can (not easily) cope with the tough time-table. 4-5 hours strolling around the island are enough (probably, with giving-up sitting in a local restaurant in MSM). There's plenty to see. All depends if you can look beyond all the souvenir shops, restaurants, and crowds. Please advice the web site:

Note: Valid to July 2018 - the web page of Keolis bus company states shortly that "there are disturbances in the line of Dol-de-Bretagne and Mont Saint Michel".

Arriving to Mont Saint-Michele does not bring you, immediately, to the island.  A particularly cheap deal, costing from only €27 is known as the Le Train du Mont-Saint-Michel – start the journey in Paris on a slower Intercités rather than the fast TGV train and change to the Oui bus in Villedieu des Poules with total traveling time around four hours. This deal, while it lasts, is only available for traveling on the following departures: from Paris Montparnasse 3 Vaugirard (from Mont St Michel) on weekdays at 7:38 (18:05) and weekends at 8:50 (18:05). All visitors to Mont St Michel, whether arriving by bus or car, have to either walk (40 minutes) or take the free shuttle buses (10 minutes), or a horse-drawn carriage (25 euros), the last 3 km to Mont St Michel. (Cycling is only allowed at quiet times.).

The views are obviously better walking towards Mont St Michel than back towards the parking lots. Free shuttle buses (Passeur navettes) transport visitors with high frequency from the parking lots to Mont St Michel. The buses stop en route at La Caserne / Grand’rue (the hotel and shopping complex on the mainland) and at Le Barrage (the dam), which offer some of the best views of Mont St Michel. (From here, it is a ten-minute walk back to the parking lot should the buses arriving from the island be too crowded.).  These Passeurs operate daily, at very regular intervals, from 7.30am to midnight. Alternatively, you can book a special horse-drawn carriage (a Maringote) or you can walk all the way from the car parks, contemplating the full magnificence of the Mont-Saint-Michel as you approach. That's what we did !

Special tips for your visit in Mont Saint-Michel:

* Avoid the restaurants and shops on the island. They are more expensive. Expect a slow service in these restaurants. Take a picnic with you. Another advice: buy just quick-to-prepare  crepes on the island.

* The whole visit in the island (and not just in the abbey) is concerned with plenty of stairs. There are flights of stairs on the way to the Abbey, and more stairs to reach the top of the Abbey after the ticketing booth. This tour is not suitable if you have walking difficulties. Prams are literally unpractical on the island.
* There are sections around the island without sufficient measures of safety (no benches, steep sections of paths, smooth or wet sections of cobbled-stone paths). Watch young kids !

* Be prepared for a lot of walking. The section of walk from/to the parking lot to/from the abbey's entrance is 35-45 minutes. 

* Most of the paths on the island are cobbled-stone ones. Come with solid, tough shoes.

* Come as early as possible - to avoid the queues in the abbey's entrance.
* Skip several "partisan" museums around the island.

* By all means take light luggage. There are security control at the island's entrance and it is all an uphill crowded climb.

* Go to the bathroom as you come into the island area.  There are no frequent or many of them further around. There is a nice clean restroom ALSO in the parking area.

* The winds and sea rapidly change in this area. Make sure to bring some layers and umbrella just in case.

* Online tickets: You can buy your ticket online for admission the same day or later. Additional charge: 1 euro processing fee.  

* If you have the opportunity to have an overnight accommodation near MSM island - come and visit the island also  later in the day, during the evening or night hours. The crowds were on their way home. The later - the better. You feel like you have the place mostly or totally to yourself. It is easy to see how the peace and serenity of the abbey, the island fortification and the ocean around - ALL help focus your attention on the contemplation of a higher power. Remember: the shuttle buses run till midnight.

* Check timelines of tide - before your visit day:

* The shuttle bus gets crowded as early as 9.30. Get in early. The group tours usually arrive around 11.00. If you happen to be there during the middle of the day prepare to be swamped by other visitors.

Mont Saint-Michel Opening hours and prices:

Last admission one hour before closing.

FROM 2 JANUARY TO 30 APRIL: Open every day 9.30-18.00.
FROM 2 MAY TO 31 AUGUST: Open every day 9.00-19.00.
FROM 1ST SEPTEMBER TO 31 DECEMBER: Open every day 9.30-18.00.

CLOSING DAYS: January 1st, May 1st and December 25.

Last admission one hour before closing.

For 3 or 4 days around the following dates: February 2nd ; March 3rd ; August 13th ; September 11th ; October 10th the entrance is limited for 2-3 hours ONLY, during each day - due to a potential danger of high tide. 

Accessing the island is FREE. BUT, entering the Abbey is concerned with paying an admission fee. FULL PRICE: 10€, REDUCED PRICE (Students and pensioners): 8€.
Audio guide price: 3€. FREE admission for under 18 years.

Lodging: There are a few hotels within Mont Saint Michel that you can book into; however, it’s helpful to note that since this is a highly isolated touristy area, the prices of these accommodations can be quite expensive (especially with the high demand as there are only a few hotels in this small island). Avoid the expensive hotels on the island. We paid more than 150 euros/double room/night in the Mercure hotel. Very good hotel, good breakfast. Silent and convenient stay. Very helpful and polite staff members.

The small town of Pontorson nearby has a better range of hotels at even lower prices and some nice French provincial restaurants.


The Navette buses can take you (FREE)  to an extensive area where there are about 6 modern hotels, restaurants, snack bars, stores and camping. From here, one can walk to Mont Saint-Michel (about 30 minute walk) or continue with the Navette bus right up to the Mont. The bus stops also near the hotels (opposite the supermarket).

Dol-de-Bretagne: This is a little historic city which boasts some exceptionally old medieval houses along its high street and with a fascinating, huge  cathedral (Cathedrale Saint-Samson). Dol de Bretagne developed around Saint-Samson Cathedral. Countless buildings were listed Historical Monuments decades ago. Dol has therefore retained a wealth of medieval features and buildings and is very picturesque. All the half-timbered buildings that still border Dol are stunning.

However, the ancient shop with a granite counter at no1 really stands out!

It is now a restaurant, Le Porche au Pain.

The cathedral is an outstanding, defensive 13th-century church. The cathedral was built when Dol was one of the foremost ecclesiastic centres of Brittany. Naughty King John of England’s troops burned down the Romanesque cathedral, so a mighty new Gothic one went up – one hideous gargoyle on it is said to resemble the evil monarch. The church was saved from destruction in WWII by a joint effort of American military commanders and the town mayor. The cathedral patron saint is St Samson who allegedly crossed the English Channel in a stone boat. To mark the last Millennium, a new stone boat was carved and now is anchored outside the church. Outside, there are two un-matching towers, a large porch, and very interesting and unique buttresses. Inside, there are some beautiful stained-glass windows. FREE. The tourist office is next block:

Dol town is built above marshes extending to the Baie de Mont St-Michel. The town developed on the top of a hill that peaked above a vast marshy area. However, in the 10th century the monks attached to the monastery Saint-Samson of Dol drained the marsh in order to reclaimed the land. They also built a dike, which has left place to the current road linking St-Malo to Pontorson. The reclaimed area, the Marais de Dol, has two distinct zones. The white marsh, closer to the sea, consists of white silt formed from ancient marine deposits. The decaying vegetation that colonized the reclaimed land produced the black marshes. Go in the direction of the river and allow 20-30 minutes for a circular itinerary along these marshes. There is a "dry" wooden causeway/path near the river:

The best part is probably walking or driving up to the island and its striking, perched-above abbey. There cannot be anyone who is not struck with awe when you first see the Mont Saint-Michel island and abbey from afar. It looks utterly stupendous. From the distance - it will forever remain one of the most fantastic sights on earth. The island and the abbey magically appear and get bigger and bigger as you get closer:

On your walk to the island you see, on your left the Couesnon river dam. Commissioned in May 2009, by regulating the water levels the dam over the Couesnon gives the river enough strength to push sediment out to sea and away from the Mont. In addition to its hydraulic function, the dam blends in with the new approach, causeway wooden route to the Mont-Saint-Michel as a work of art and a structure to welcome the public:

When you approach this beauty - the island and the Abbaye: it’s mesmerizing, sublime, a view like no other, a monument that deserves to be remembered for ever. Mont-Saint-Michel served as an inspiration for creating the town of Minas Tirith (the capital of Gondor) in the Lord of the Rings film series:

One need to go and feel the magnitude of MSM site. It goes beyond the normal WOW factor ! One of wonders in this world ! You must visit it at least once in your life !

Like all the worlds treasures, be prepared to share the experience with thousands of tourists:

After we entered the village, I followed the Grand Rue. It’s the main street of this city and a shopping paradise. It is by this point that you will witness the narrow and charming streets of Mont Saint Michel! (This is a 200 meter paved pathway that climbs progressively to the top).

La Porte du Rey:

Going Up the Abbey: There are 3 routes going up to the Abbey.

* From the Center Gate - Passing through all the souvenir shops and restaurants
* From the left before entering the Monastery - Some winding slopes before a flight of stairs and more stairs along the way to the Abbey
* After the Gate where La Mère Poulard is - There is a flight of stairs on the right leading up and you can also view the causeway from there.

The abbey is a long climb but worth the effort with the surrounding views. The Grand Degré staircase has 700 steps leading to the Abbey. This will be quite a climb and unfortunately, there are no elevators. Therefore, Mont Saint Michel isn’t friendly for disabled people. Actually, you do it 10 to 20 at a time, stopping off for a rest and photos at each level before you continue climbing:

Cedar trees:

Raise your head and get a wonderful view of the abbey, hung above:

As we said before: even if it is a long way upstairs, rest and take photos at each level before you continue climbing. The road upstairs in the western part of the complex:

View to the south - houses of the Mont Saint-Michel village:

The Eglise Saint Pierre, a small church just off the main street, is also worth a look inside to see its narrow stained-glass windows and golden chandeliers. Be sure and see the statue of Joan of Arc at the entrance to Eglise Saint Pierre church as you walk up to the abbey:

Inside are colorful stained glass windows, and the columns around the altarpiece date from the 1600’s:

there is a large statue of St Michael, slaying the dragon, in a side chapel of the main church:

As you approach the abbey, after climbing the stairs and the narrow road upward -  the abbey might be extremely crowded. A line to enter the abbey might be starting at the bottom, what will scare you at first. But, the queue clears out quite quickly:

At last, near the top is the entrance to the Abbey itself: 

From the entrance - we head to the viewing platform. More stairs to climb INSIDE the abbey. To reach this platform, we already climbed up through many stairs and rising streets before the abbey and, now, also some stairs inside of it.

Entrance to the abbey - the Cafeteria stairs:

Entrance to the abbey - arriving to the 2nd floor:

Entrance to the abbey - Continuing to climb the stairs into the abbey:

The end of flight of stairs into the abbey:

There’s no harm in going for a look around on your own. But, there are guided visits, and if you enjoy getting great explanations about the history of the area, you can join free or guided tours of one hour every day without reservations (except for exceptional dates). THESE GUIDED TOURS START AT THE OBSERVATION TERRACE - IN THE END OF THE FLIGHT OF STAIRS JUST DESCRIBED. For a more detailed visit, sign up in advance for a ‘Visite conférence’. These tours are led by specially licensed guides, who have access to parts of the abbey not normally accessible to the public. These tours last about two hours and happen at weekends and every day during school holidays (except for exceptional dates). The conference visits are NOT only in French. We remember there are tours in English, Spanish and Italian:

There are imposing views from the viewing platform on the top of the abbey. At the top you get some stunning views from the Mount out across the sea and Normandy & Brittany. In a bright day there are fantastic views of the La-Manche Channel from the top. Those who make it to the top have the Abbey to explore and view the vast emptiness of the surrounding beach. You can also see many seagulls who are flying around the island and also on the viewing platform of the abbey:

More breath-taking views of the the muddy terrain surrounding  MSM abbey from the viewing platform (where the guided tours start):

Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel museum - Architectural model:

From the small museum with the abbey model - there is ADDITIONAL flight of stairs leading to level 3 of the abbey with ANOTHER viewing terrace:

If we look down from level 3 viewing platform or terrace that's what we see....:

the level 3 viewing platform is the best place to have a look at the abbey's high-rising tower turret. The spire of the abbey church is nicely constructed of timber, copper, gold leaf and slate:

And in close up:

Michael Archangel in the top of the tower spire:

The abbey church is surprisingly stark and plain on the interior. The inside is stripped of its colours and decorations. The abbey, inside, is very well preserved for as many as thousand years. Within the building, it is very interesting to see how the rooms and chapels were structured and constructed. The church, reminiscent of a medieval castle, is huge with several halls and secret rooms to visit. The church is also surprisingly large – given that it is on the top of the hill and required building enormous underground supporting rooms/vaults to make sure that a level floor was possible for a room of this size and height. There are beautiful views in every window that you have the opportunity to snoop around. The Benedictine Abbey is a mix of medieval religion, a military fort and an important pilgrimage site from the 8th century to the 18 century. Today, 24 brothers and sisters from Jerusalem reside and conduct services in this unique wonderful abbey, and it is open to the public:

The abbey is divided into 2 parts. First is the church which three crypts built: the Trente-Cierges chapel (under the North wing),

the choir crypt (to the East)

and Saint-Martin chapel (under the South wing):

A gift from the King of France, Philipe Auguste, in the 13th century would enable the construction of one of the most impressive elements seen today at Le Mont Saint Michel: the Gothic style "Merveille." These two three-storey buildings, with the famous cloister and refectory on the rooftop, were the living quarters for resident monks. Finally, as a result of the Hundred Years’ War, military constructions were added to the Abbey in the 14th and 15th centuries.

So, the second part of the abbey is the “Merveille” or monk’s living area which is further subdivided into two parts: the East and the West. The East side was built first and has 3 rooms: the chaplaincy (cistern of the aumônerie),

the hosts room (visitors descend down a few steps to get to the lower floor of the abbey. This is the so called “Merveille” floor where the monks lived and also where guests where hosted). The “Salle des Hôtes” or “Hosts Room” was used to welcome honorable guests and offer them dinner. Therefore the room has/had very large fireplaces to allow proper heating. It is located directly under the monks refectory/dining room  (which was not heated):

and the dining-hall:

The West side was built seven years later with 3 rooms too: the wine cellar, the Knights room

and the cloister (garden quadrangle):

Mont Saint-Michel - the tower from the cloister. The Cloister is a tourist favourite. Surrounded by two rows of arches, the cloister has a beautiful garden in the center that was formerly used as a food-garden by resident monks. The cloister serves as a key access point, with each side providing access to a different wing of the church. All except the north side which gives visitors a beautiful view of the church’s gardens and the ocean below:

Entrance door to the cloister:

The charming cloister garden started in the thirteenth century. Today the garden is planted with herbaceous plants. They would not have been here during the Middle Ages but they create an unexpectedly soft domestic character to a dramatic place with dramatic views:

Coat of arms of abbey, bas relief, Le Mont-Saint-Michel - is it the order of Jerusalem Kingdom ?

Bas-relief from the 9th century. Archangel Saint Michael appearing before Saint Aubert:

Saint Madeleine Chapel:

The original lady of Mont-Saint-Michel was a classic example of a Queen of the Underworld. Until the 8th century her island was called Mont-Tombe, i.e. Mount Tomb because it was a Gallic burial site - the Black Madonna of Mont Saint-Michel:

The 11th century would see the construction of the Romanesque-style church designed by William de Volpiano. It was this Italian architect who decided to position the church’s transept crossing at the apex of the mount: the closest to God as possible. Great idea in theory, although the mount did not provide enough level ground for the foundation. To compensate, four immense crypts were built whose roofs would serve as the large level foundation necessary to build the church and abbey on top of. The Cryptes de Gros Piliers (Crypts of Big Pillars) gives you a firsthand look at the massive pillars that now keep the crypts from collapsing and meeting the same fate as one did in 1421. Since there are only a few small windows, it is a very dark yet somehow majestic room:

You then leave the crypt and follow a few corridors. Afterwards you enter the Ossuary – which was later transformed into a storage facility and also houses the tread wheel crane that was used to transport goods up to the abbey building. The Grand Roue (big wheel) is also an element that always fascinates. The goods lift wheel was installed around 1820 during the time when Le Mont Saint Michel served as a prison. Its purpose was to hoist provisions to those being held prisoner in the Abbey:

Adjacent to the former ossuary is the small chapel of Saint-Etienne. The other side of the chapel has a door to the grand staircase that leads again to the main northern building. Chapelle Saint Etienne, or St Stephen's Chapel, was built in the 8th century (and so one of the earliest Christian sanctuaries) with later 13th century rib vaulting, part of the Romanesque abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel. The chapel served as a mortuary chapel and beneath the archway is a Pieta sculpture where there was a stone bath used for washing the dead: 

The gorgeous Scriptorium - here, the monks copied and documented scrolls, maps, monastic documents: 

Here, in this point we complete our long climb to the Mont Saint-Michel abbey. We exit the glorious, historical wonder and turn to our part 2: lunch, walking along the walls, having a glance at the salty sands around the island and visting, again, Mont Saint-Michel at dark hours. Turn to Part 2.

Saint-Malo - Day 2

Silvja Helmanis


Saint Malo - Day 2:

Main Attractions: Statue of Bertrand-François Mahé de la Bourdonnais, Bastion Saint Louis, Porte Saint Louis, la Grande Porte, Porte Saint Vincent, L'Etoile du Roy, Place Chateaubriand, Château de Saint-Malo, Cour la Houssaye, Saint-Malo Cathedral, Rue Porcon de la Barbinais, Grand Rue,  Rue des Vieux Remparts, Porte de Dinan, Bastion Saint-Philippe, Creperie le Corps de Garde, Place Gasnier Duparc, Place de la Croix du Fief, Place de la Poissonnerie, Place du Pilori, Place aux Herbes, Passage Grande Hermine, La maison du Sarrasin. 

Orientation: we dedicate the second day in Saint-Malo to a nice, picturesque and quaint day of strolls in old Saint-Mal, o INTO THE WALLS. Most of our itinerary, today, are the narrow roads of Saint-Malo intra-muros. We'll take a glimpse, here and there, of the ocean, as well...

Start & End: Statue of Bertrand-François Mahé de la Bourdonnais, Rond-Point de l'Île Maurice. Duration: 1 day. Distance: 11-12 km.

A short introduction: we found Saint -Malo to be one of the most picturesque and beautiful town in Europe. It retains its medieval character, it is quite quaint and pastoral. Even if flooded by herds of tourists - its vast area and variety of parts (inland, coastal or into the ocean), still, let it be explored leisurely, quietly, with no pressure of noise and dirt - and... almost free (with no admission fees or other "penalties"). Saint-Malo is NOT a tourist trap. It holds true - IF you have a sunny day in Saint-Malo. We think it is worthwhile to dedicate a second, ADDITIONAL, day to Saint-Malo under the condition that both your staying days - are SUNNY, not windy or rainy. Bonne Chance with your couple of days in Saint-Malo !

Our 2nd day Itinerary:  We start at the most south-east corner of Saint Malo walls, at Rond-Point de l'Île Maurice - where stands the statue of Bertrand-François Mahé de la Bourdonnais. We, actually, start our daily route in the square where Espl. de la Bourse and Quai Saint-Louis intersect out of the walls (Rue de Chartres and Rue d'Orléans intersect into the town). We walk along Quai Saint-Louis from south to north along (out of) the walls on our left.

Beyond the walls you can see the bright roof of Bastion Saint Louis, 1 Rue d'Orléans (see our Tipter blog from 13 May 2017 - "Saint-Malo Day 1"). The bastion, named in honour of King Louis XIV began, was constructed in 1714,  during the second expansion of the city and was completed in 1721 during the third increase of Saint-Malo. It defended the access to harbour. During the French Revolution, the ground floor housed the terrible guillotine. Bastion Saint-Louis occupies the south-east corner of the town wall and, along with Bastion Saint-Philippe to the south-west and the curtain walls that link it to the Porte de Dinan, forms the town’s second expansion (1714-1720). This whole neighbourhood was created by filling in the sea, based on plans drawn up by the engineer Siméon de Garengeau (Paris 1647 - Saint-Malo 1741):

 130 m. further north from the statue - we see Porte Saint Louis on our left. This is one of the 8 gates to enter within the fortified walls. With their 1754 m, the city walls are a major attraction of the city. Some gates date back to the 15th century and are decorated by original sculptures:

210 m. further nort we arrive to la Grande Porte. This is the OLDEST gate of Saint-Malo walls.  Built in the Middle Ages, during the 15th century, the Great Gate of the ramparts of Saint-Malo ensures the passage between the city and the Vauban basin. It was restored during the 16th century and during the following century, the belfry that surmounted it was destroyed. Every evening, a bell rang the closing of this entrance to the city. In the early nineteenth century, the gate's door was still the subject of development work. The Grande Porte or Grand'Porte is composed of two towers and an artillery platform, typical of the second half of the 15th century. There was a stone quay, which was located just outside this gate where goods from the South Seas, China and Arabia were off-loaded to be traded by the Saint-Malo ships' owners. The entrance takes you straight into the area where there are many restaurants: 

We continue to walk additional 230 m. northward along Quai Saint-Vincent arriving to Porte Saint Vincent. The main and best way to walk into St Malo. This gate was built in 1708. The current gate is made of granite dates from 1733. Two Coats of Arms appear on the front gate: on the left (2nd photo below), the Coats of Arms of the City. On the right (3rd photo below), it symbolizes the Coat of Arms of the Duchy of Brittany:

Our next attraction is the... Tourist Information office and the adjacent L'Etoile du Roy or la frégate corsaire in Quai de Terre Neuve.  It stands 250 m. east of the Saint-Vincent gate. You can't miss it with its blue-yellow colors. L'Etoile du Roy (the Royal Star) is a replica of a British corsair frigate ordered by Robert le Turc (long line of shipowners) and built in Saint-Malo in 1745 (the 18th century). Originally named Grand Turk , it was built in 1996 in Turkey (the British television series Hornblower) under the supervision of Michael  Turk (heir to this long line of shipowners). This ship is 47 meters long, has 3 masts, 310 gross register tonnage, counted 240 sailors on board and was armed with 20 cannons. It is, actually, a floating museum. Open: everyday. Prices: adult  - 6€, child - 3€, family -  15€.

Head west on Quai de Terre Neuve toward Espl. Saint-Vincent, 40 m. Turn right onto Espl. Saint-Vincent, 30 m. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Chaussée du Sillon, 60 m. and turn left, walking 80 to arrive to the beach - Plage de l'Éventail. This the idyllic, picturesque strip of beach opposite Fort National in the Petit Bé (small island), behind the entrance to the old town. During the low tide hours, it is also the point of entry to get to the island of Fort Vauban. Some snacks along the promenade and ramparts with a terrace of a refreshment bar. Access to this beach is via Chaussée du Sillon. No smoking is allowed on this beach. The sights of the fortifications on the Petit Bé - are wonderful. Nonetheless, the wooden pillars on the sea shore:

This is the best spot in Saint-Malo to see, so close, the Petit Bé island and its Vauban fort:

From the beach we renter the town and walk westward into the walls. From Plage de l'Éventail we, first, head  east toward Chaussée du Sillon, 80 m. We turn right, 35 m. still along Chaussée du Sillon. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit, 130 m. Turn right onto Avenue Louis Martin, 40 m. Turn right onto Porte Saint-Thomas, 5 m. We turn left toward Place Chateaubriand for 25 m., turn further right toward Place Chateaubriand for 35 m. Now, we turn right, again, onto Place Chateaubriand, 50 m. and turn left to stay on Place Chateaubriand, 20 m. You can't miss the elegant building of Hotel Chateaubriand Saint-Malo. Built in the traditional neo-classical style of 19th-century French seaside resorts - but, inside, far beyond its past glory. 

François-René Chateaubriand (4 September 1768 – 4 July 1848), was a French writer, politician, diplomat and historian. He was born in Saint-Malo in the house #3 rue Chateaubriand. Around the square are many hotels and restaurants including the famous Hotel White at # 2, where Chateaubriand lived from 3 to 8 years. The writer and his family were dislodged by a fire in 1776 and then returned to settle in the birthplace of François-René, the hotel de la Gicquelais located at number 3 rue Chateaubriand. Historical Monuments have since rebuilt identically the facade of the hotel White dating from the eighteenth century. On this square, Place Chateaubriand, are also the Château de Saint-Malo , Quic-en-Groigne Tower and the Museum of History of the city. The Château de Saint-Malo dates back to the 15th and 18th centuries. The construction of the castle was done in several stages. The construction of the great dungeon was ordered in 1424 by Duke Jean V of Brittany son-in-law of King Charles VI of France . In 1475 the General Tower which was built under the orders of Duke Francis II. From 1498 to 1501 the daughter of Duke Francis II, Anne of Brittany ordered to build the tower Quic-en-Groigne (in the north-west). Four other towers were raised a few years later, these are the Ladies' Tower (in the north-east), the Tour des Moulins (in the southeast), the Square Tower and the Petit Donjon. If you look closely at the shape of the castle, you will not fail to notice that it looks like a carriage, such was the wish of the Duchess. The History Museum of Saint-Malo has been located since 1927 in the Grand Donjon. The General Tower houses the Ethnography Museum. The Castle also hosts, nowadays,  the Hôtel-de-Ville of Saint-Malo. The Museum of History of Saint-Malo traces the past of the corsair city through some famous people in Saint-Malo, like Jacques Cartier, Duguay-Trouin and François-René Chateaubriand. If you climb to the  turrets of the Grand Donjon - you'll have a nice view of the northern Saint-Malo bay. Opening hours: APR-SEP: everyday 10.00 -12.30, 14.00 - 18.00; OCT-MAR: everyday except Mon 10.00 - 12.00, 14.00 - 18.00. Closed: 1 Jan, 1 May, 1 and 11 Nov, 25 Dec. Prices: adult - 6 € (child -8 years old 3 €), family - 15 €. Most of the explanations are in French.

From the Musée d'histoire de la ville in Place Chateaubriand you walk  north on Place Chateaubriand, 20 m. Turn left to stay on Place Chateaubriand, 20 m. Place Chateaubriand turns slightly left and becomes Rue Chateaubriand, 90 m. Turn right onto Cour la Houssaye or Rue de la Corne de Cerf, 20 m. to see the pretty Cour la Houssaye (Courtyard La Houssaye). The house and garden of "La Houxaie" or Houssaye are mentioned in the oldest accounts of the city since the end of the 15th century. The architectural details of the turret house located at Rue de la Corne de Cerf No. 2 date back to this time and can be considered as the oldest house in the city. Tradition says that Anne de Bretagne would have stayed there when she came to inspect the work of the castle.

Rue de la Corne de Cerf meets Rue de Pelicot in its west end. In their intersection - you can see these interesting panel with carved medallions representing the profiles of Jacques Cartier (Saint-Malo, 1491 - Saint-Malo, 1557) and his wife, Catherine Granges, who lived on rue de Buhen (now rue Chateaubriand):

From Cour la Houssaye head southwest on Rue de la Corne de Cerf toward Rue du Pelicot. Continue to follow Rue de la Corne de Cerf, 15 m. Continue onto Escalier de la Grille, 20 m.

Turn left onto Rue Mahé de la Bourdonnais, 5 m. Continue onto Rue du Gras Mollet, 60 m. Continue onto Rue du Collège:

Head south on Rue du Collège toward Rue de la Blatrerie, 40 m. Slight right onto Rue de la Blatrerie, 40 m. Turn left onto Place Jean de Châtillon, 15 m.

Saint-Malo Cathedral from Place Jean de Châtillon. Dedicated to St. Vincent, martyr of the 4th century of Zaragoza (Spain), the Cathedral of St. Malo was enlarged from the 13th to the 18th century and surmounted by a high neo-Gothic spire which was destroyed on August 6, 1944 at the beginning of the fighting for the liberation of the city, in the WW2, in August 1944 (see below). The church is dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, and constitutes a national monument of France. It was built in a mix of Roman and Gothic styles during the episcopacy of Jean de Châtillon (1146-1163) on the site of an ancient church founded in the 7th-century. The cathedral suffered damage during WW2 when several bombs fell onto the Sacred Heart Chapel. An organ which had been built in 1893 by Louis Debierre was destroyed. On 21 May 1972, after twenty-eight years of work, a ceremony was held to celebrate the completion of the restoration:

From Place Jean de Châtillon - head south toward Rue Guillaume le Gouverneur, 40 m. Turn left onto Rue Guillaume le Gouverneur, 85 m. Turn right onto Rue Porcon de la Barbinais. The story of Pierre Porcon from La Barbinais - is half-myth/legend, half-reality: In 1665, the Saint-Malo shipowners entrusted the command of a 36-gun frigate to Pierre Porcon de La Barbinais to protect their ships that were sailing in the Mediterranean against attacks by the Algerians. Pierre Porcon was at first happy in the execution of his expeditions. In October 1680, Barbary corsairs seized several French ships without declaration of war. On 18 October 1681, ruler of Algiers Baba Hassan officially declared war on France. The Algerians having assembled a large fleet against Pierre Porcon, and he became the prisoner of the Algierians. At the time of the preparation of an expedition of a squadron of the French monarch Louis XIV against the Algierians to put an end to their acts of piracy, the  Algierians charged him to bring to Louis XIV proposals of peace, on the condition that he would come back and take his shoes if the negotiation failed. The life of 600 French prisoners, in the hands of the Algierians, depended on the respect of this last condition. The peace proposals of the  Algierians having been judged unacceptable. Pierre Porcon returned to Algiers after going to Saint-Malo to put his affairs in order. The Algierians, unhappy with this refusal of the king cut off his head in 1681. Similarly named roads are in Rennes and Dinan. The Rue Porcon de la Barbinais is the most CULINARY road in Saint-Malo. The most delicious, smelling, colorful and appetizing road in Saint-Malo.

Kouign Amann, 6 rue Porcon de la Barbinais, a takeaway bakery stand which offers a range of savoury and sweet pastries along with fresh bread. Try the Far Breton which is a pastry case filled with a set slightly sour custard filling, sometimes with fruits inside. This bakery stall also offers the other local favourite – apple tarts which are well worth trying:

Head south on Rue Porcon de la Barbinais toward Grand Rue, 10 m. Turn left onto Grand Rue, 50 m. Be sure to take in the view down the Grand Rue towards the Cathedral St Vincent:

Sample Creperie des Lutins at 7 Grand Rue. A small creperie with gallettes, soups, ciders, mussels and other Bretagne takeaway portions:

Head WEST on Grand Rue toward Rue des Marins, 10 m. Turn LEFT (south) onto Rue des Marins, 45 m. Continue onto Rue Boursaint, 25 m. Continue onto Rue de la Herse, 110 m. Turn right onto Rue des Forgeurs, 60 m. Turn left onto Rue de la Fossé, 10 m. Note the house in #4 in Rue de la Fossé (from 1620). Head south on Rue de la Fossé toward Passage du Cap-Horn, 10 m. Turn right onto Rue des Vieux Remparts, 20 m. The houses, along this road, from years 1708-1744:

Slight left to stay on Rue des Vieux Remparts, 35 m. Head west on Rue des Vieux Remparts toward Rue Robert Surcouf, 45 m. Turn LEFT (south)  onto Rue de Dinan, 80 m. Continue onto Porte de Dinan and get out, 40 m.  from the walled town, out of the walls to the promenade opposite Porte de Dinan. This gate was built in 1714 as part of the second expansion of Saint-Malo. It replaced an old gate called the Poterne de Brevet, which was once the southern entrance/exit from the town.
It was also called the Porte de la Marine (Navy Gate) because the French Navy had its offices on the ground floor of the building to the south of the gate (1 Rue Saint-Philippe). The famous corsair Robert Surcouf (Saint-Malo 1773 - 1827) lived there following his marriage in 1801. The Porte de Dinan leads to the wharf of the same name. It was called this because boats very frequently used to sail down the Rance River from Dinan in order to supply Saint-Malo with fresh provisions. In 1838, it was extended as far as the Saint-Louis and Saint-Philippe bastions. As we said in the "Saint-Malo Day 1" blog - the Saint-Philippe bastion is connected to the Môle des Noires strip of beach. This breakwater is named after the rocks called the Roches Noires which it was built on. Construction of this mole began in 1837, it was extended to a length of 520 metres in 1933, and it was rebuilt after 1944. There are FREE toilets nearby:

We retrace our steps and change our direction (for a few minutes only), heading north. From Porte de Dinan head west on Porte de Dinan toward Rue Saint-Philippe, 40 m. Continue NORTHWARD onto Rue de Dinan. Note the figures hung upstairs on the houses' walls:

After sampling Rue de Dinan - we walk back heading southalong rue de Dinan, toward Rue des Vieux Remparts, 85 m. Climb right onto Rue Saint-Philippe, 130 m. Rue Saint-Philippe turns right and becomes Rue Guy Louvel and Bastion Saint-Philip is on the left. Bastion Saint-Philippe occupies the south-west corner of the town wall and was constructed during the second expansion (1714-1720). Saint-Malo’s ship owners, who made their fortunes from captured ships, seafaring along the Pacific coast of Latin America, and the Saint-Malo East Indies Company, formed a company with 24 shareholders in order to constitute the new fortifactions.
However, the houses’ construction proceeded quite slowly: only 13 houses were built in 1725, along with 15 other houses up until 1770. This neighbourhood was called “La Californie” because it was inhabited by rich, wealthy people such as gold diggers. In 1944 (WW2), most of the fine houses in this neighbourhood caught fire, but the famous row of façades termed “Corsaires” along the ramparts was rebuilt exactly the way it had been before. The building to the WEST of the entrance to the Rue de Dinan, which has a chimney stack decorated with a sundial (1 Rue Saint-Philippe), was the home of the famous Robert Surcouf, the French corsair, from his marriage in 1801 until his death in 1826. The building was also used for administrative offices by the French Navy. You can wonderful views of the western and southern shores of Saint-Malo - through holes in the western walls of the city. One of them is the light-house in the end of Phare Môle des Noires:

Continuing NORTH along the walls of Saint-Malo we arrive to the Statue de Jacques Cartier:

View southward from the western walls - near the Statue de Jacques Cartier:

View northward from the western walls near the Statue de Jacques Cartier. The road downstairs - Rampe des Moulins Colin:

View westward, to the Petit Bé, from the western walls near the Statue de Jacques Cartier:

We can continue walking northward along the walls for 230 m. or we can descend to the town roads (Rue de la Crosse) (via Porte Saint Pierre) - and we arrive to the famous (and permanently crowded) restaurant Creperie le Corps de Garde. This world reputed "dining institute" has several dining areas, some in the old, stone-fenced house, and some on a covered terrace overlooking the bay. The latter is probably for the tourists wanting the overview of the bay while dining, and indeed, the view is magnificent. The interior in this restaurant is not so interesting though, wooden benches and stone slab tables, surely good for wild touristic groups. It is a VERY popular and bustling place - even, in rainy days. If you can select, more precisely, your sitting time here - probably target the Creperie for  the sunset hour with clear skies. BUT, make sure to order a table well in advance. Expect a lot of: people, sugar, cream, sauce and creams....:

The restaurant supplies straw hats for the diners sitting under the sun:

This is the famous terrace - where the whole fuss is about:

In case we are, still, on the walls - we descend down and continue walking, into the town, northward, along Rue Sainte-Anne. On our LEFT (north-west) and our right (east) is Rue de la Cloche. Turn RIGHT (east) to Rue de la Cloche and walk eastward (RIGHT) to Place Gasnier Duparc with its unique collection of sculptures. The square is named after Alphonse Henri Gasnier-Duparc, born on June 21 , 1879 and died in Saint-Malo on October 10 , 1945 and was a French politician, Mayor of Saint-Malo and Minister of the Navy:

Head east on Place Gasnier Duparc toward Place Jean de Châtillon, 25 m and turn left onto Place Jean de Châtillon, 30 m. to arrive to Place Jean Moulin and to see, again, Saint-Malo Cathedral. Head south on Place Jean Moulin toward Rue de la Blatrerie, 15 m. Turn left onto Rue de la Blatrerie, 30 m. Turn left onto Place Saint-Aaron, 55 m. On our left - Palais de Justice and on our right - Chapelle Saint-Aaron. Nothing special.  We continue north along rue Maclaw. Turn RIGHT (east) to rue de la Victoire. We descend the stairs in Escaier de la Grille. We return to Cour la Houssaye. We continue descending down along the narrow Rue de la Corne de Cerf. At number 2 on rue de la Corne de Cerf, before 1944, a curious wooden house with 16th century painted carvings and stained glass windows was erected, in which the famous pirate Rene Duguay-Trouin was born (Saint-Malo , 1673 - Paris, 1736). His conquest/capture of Rio de Janeiro in Brasil, in 1711, and his memories made him famous. His remains were brought back from Paris to Saint-Malo in 1973 and deposited at the cathedral. On the 5th intersection of Rue de la Corne de Cerf to the left (east) - turn onto Place de la Croix du Fief. The Cross of the Fief once marked one of the limits of the "fief", that is to say the domain under the common seigniory of the bishop and the canons of the chapter of the cathedral. This square is adjacent to the Place de la Poissonnerie. The fish market was designed by the architect Henry Auffret (1954) and the sculptor François Pellerin (Cancale, 1915 - Rennes, 1998). The market hall is adorned at the entrance with a sculpture called L'Orbiche and represents a dogfish, shaped like a small shark. It was restored in 2006. The interior frame, evoking that of a Breton chapel, is also carved in the shape of a fish highlighted by black. Very typical Bretagne sight. We take the most southern end of Place de la Poissonnerie and continue SOUTH along the narrow (and a bit dark) Rue des Merciers. Continue south along rue des Marins. Turn RIGHT (west) to Rue du Puits aux Braies and we ascend to Place du Pilori. The Pilori Square recalls the place where the condemned people were exhibited publicly before being executed. It was also called Place du Martroy by deformation of the Latin name martyretum, meaning torture. The "pillory" consisted of a movable pillar furnished with metal shackles in which the arms and feet of the culprit were engaged, bound by chains. The neck was enclosed with a  collar. The guilty man was turned around this pillar to make it visible to all, to allow him to be recognized and to raise complaints or vocal protests against him or her. In Saint-Malo, "to do the pilo" was the expression used to make an appointment to find the soul mate, in this central part of the Saint-Malo town.

Head west on Place du Pilori toward Rue Broussais, 20 m. Continue onto Rue Gouin de Beauchesne, 45 m. The name of the road refers to the Captain from Saint-Malo who rounded Cape Horn in 1700 after an exploratory voyage along the coasts of Chile and Peru. Turn left onto Place aux Herbes, 15 m. Place aux Herbes is a square that was laid out during the reconstruction of the historic town, which began in 1946 after WW2. Its name comes from the old Rue des Herbes. The east side of the square is flanked by an ensemble that was rebuilt according to drawings drafted by Louis Arretche, the architect who headed the reconstruction of Saint-Malo from 1947 onwards. The square’s west side is opened up by another passageway under a building; Rue Vincent de Gournay, where the Auberge de la Malice (Malice Inn) was once located, and featuring buildings at numbers 9, 11 and 13 which were rebuilt after the Anglo-Dutch bombardment in 1695. Head south on Place aux Herbes toward Rue Vincent de Gournay, 30 m. We walk through the small passage (see above) and turn left onto Rue de la Harpe, 35 m. Continue onto Passage Grande Hermine, 25 m. Turn right to stay on Passage Grande Hermine, 20 m. :

Note houses #3 and #5 in Passage Grande Hermine:

Here, we make a short detour to a special shop. Head east on Passage Grande Hermine toward Place du Marché aux Légumes, 15 m. Continue onto Rue de l'Orme, 30 m. to land upon "La maison du Sarrasin", 10 Rue de l'Orme. The whole shop is dedicated to buckwheat. A "temple" for people who are sensitive to Gluten. 

We continue walking along (again, narrow and a bit dark) Rue de l'Orme from west until its east end. Turn RIGHT (south) to Rue de la Herse. Turn LEFT (east) to Rue de la Halle aux Blés.  Turn RIGHT (south) to Rue des Cordiers. Head south on Rue des Cordiers toward Rue de l'Abbaye Saint-Jean, 10 m. Turn left onto Rue de l'Abbaye Saint-Jean, 30 m. Turn right onto Rue de Chartres, 110 m and turn left onto Porte Saint-Louis, 15 m.: At the moments we had arrived to Porte Saint Louis - Emmanuel Macron had been sworn as the president of France:

130 m. further south and we arrive to the statue of Bertrand-François Mahé de la Bourdonnais. 

Saint-Malo - Day 1

Silvja Helmanis


Saint-Malo Day 1:

Main Attractions: Port de plaisance Vauban, Quai Saint-Vincent, Quai Saint-Louis, Bastion Saint-Louis, statue of Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais, Porte de Dinan, Esplanade de la Bourse, Môle des Noires,  Ramparts Walk, Bastion Saint Philippe, Bastion de la Hollande, view of Fort du Petit Bé, Porte Saint Pierre, La Tour Bidouane, Bastion Fort La Reine, Porte Saint Thomas, Place Chateaubriand, Place de la Poissonnerie, Porte Saint-Vincent, Town Hall (Mairie) (out of the walls), Bon-Secours beach, Grand Bé, Petit Bé, Place du Marché aux Légumes.

Start & End: Gare de Saint Malo. The SNCF Station is in the Square Jean Coquelin. The station serves TER regional trains connecting Saint-Malo with Rennes, and TGV trains to and from Paris (Gare Montparnasse). The Gare is also the regional Gare Routière (bus terminal), with buses to Cancale, Dinan, Dinard, Pontorson (for Mont Saint-Michel) and Rennes.  Duration: 1 day. Weather: A bright day with blue sky - a MUST. With a fine weather - Saint Malo is one of the most wonderful attractions in France. Distance: 13 km.

Our Hotel: Hotel ibis Styles Saint Malo Port, 6-8 Quai du Val, 35400 Saint-Malo. There is a bus from the train station to the hotel. There is a bus stop  next to the swimming pool (La piscine du Naye) - 7 minutes walk from the hotel. The train station is located about 20 minutes walk from the hotel. DELIGHTFUL STAYING. ENJOYABLE. ALL FACILITIES are EXCELLENT. Good breakfasts. Comfortable and quiet room.

A statue near the hotel:

Transport: Taxis cost approximately €8.50 (€12.50 after 19:00, on Sundays and public holidays). Buses run every 20 minutes and go directly to the city centre and the train station. The shuttle bus is called 'Coeurs de Ville' and costs around €1.30 per person. Visit the Keolis Saint-Malo website for more information:

Introduction: St-Malo is 417 km (259 miles, 4 hours) west of Paris on the Brittany (west) coast of France. It is an historic walled town bordered by golden sand beaches. During the summer months it is packed with visitors who come to stroll the circuit of its medieval ramparts. St-Malo is packed solid in high summer (July, August, and the first few days of September), very busy April through June and September through mid-November, especially on weekends; and sleepy from mid-November through March. It is a wonderful, VERY PICTURESQUE place. Within the medieval walls (Intra-Muros, designating the historic district) are narrow streets lined with solid granite buildings that, on second look, do not appear to be as ancient as the city or its walls—and, in fact, they aren't. A disastrous fire in 1661 reduced much of the town to ashes, and aerial bombardment during World War II (1 to 14 August 1944) destroyed 80% of the buildings within the walls. You don't come here looking for medieval atmosphere except for the ramparts along the city walls. Come for the delightful seaside atmosphere, the beaches, the sunsets, and boat cruises along the Breton coast. Warning: The tides at St-Malo and surrounding areas can be dangerous, and it's important to be aware of the times of high tide. There are signs posted at various access points to warn that if you get caught on an island. Do not try to return. Rather, wait until the tide recedes and you can safely return. Times of high tides are posted at the Tourist Information Office, or you can check with your hotel. A tide table will tell you the times of high tides (pleines mers) and low (basses mers).


L'Office de Tourisme de St-Malo, Esplanade St-Vincent,  St-Malo. The Office du Tourisme is outside the Porte Saint-Vincent (one of the main entrances to the walled town). Just go across the boulevard toward the marina and you'll see it next to the Palais des Congrès. If you're planning to visit the Fort National, the Grand Bé, or the Petit Bé (see below), check with the tourist office for information on tides and the timing of visits.

Our Itinerary: The walk from the Railway Station to our first destination - Port Vauban is 1.3 km (flat terrain). From there It takes approximately 10 minutes to walk to the town centre. From Gare de Saint Malo we walk 75 m. southwest on Avenue Anita Conti. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Rue Théodore Monod (actually, continue direct westward), 190 m. Slight right to stay on Rue Théodore Monod, 25 m. At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto Avenue Louis Martin (slight left, then, slight right) and go through 2 roundabouts for, totally, 1.0 km. Actually, after 900 m. along Avenue Louis Martin - you see the water on both sides.  On your right (north-east) is Quai Surcouf. We are in Port de plaisance Vauban or Bassin Vauban. Port de plaisance Vauban and its continuation (to north-west), Espl. Saint-Vincent enjoy a prime location under the walls of the old fortified city, just a stone's throw from the Porte Saint-Vincent and the tourist office (see below).

City Walls from Espl. Saint-Vincent (north-west from Port de Vauban). On the left side of the photo below - resides the Tourist Office of Saint-Malo in Esplanade Saint-Vincent:

We walk around the Port Vauban basin. We came along  Avenue Louis Martin with our face to north-west. we slight left (our face more to the west) and, then, again, left (our face to south-west). Doing this 180° turn along the water basin - we see, on our right (north) the Porte St-Vincent (main entrance to Intra-Muros):

We walk along Quai Saint-Vincent, and,later, along Quai Saint-Louis, with our face to the south. The city walls, along both of the docks - are on our right (west):

Grande Porte (where Quai Saint-Vincent changes to Quai Saint-Louis) on our right (west):

Further south is further, southward along Quai Saint-Louis, with our face to the south - we see on our right (west) Porte Saint-Louis (another gate/entrance into the Intra Muros):

WE approach the southern end of Quai Saint-Louis. Bastion Saint-Louis resides in its most southern edge. The construction of this bastion, named in honour of King Louis XIV began, in 1714 during the second expansion of the city and was completed in 1721 during the third increase of Saint-Malo. This bastion was, after its construction, called bastion Saint-François and, then, changed its name to bastion Saint-Louis in honor of the King. It defended the access to harbour. During the French Revolution, the ground floor of the bastion was used as the storage room for the terrible guillotine.

At the south-west corner of the walls (where Quai saint-Louis meets Rue d'Orléans) stands the statue of Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais (Saint-Malo 1699 - Paris 1753) - French naval officer and administrator, in the service of the French East India Company:

As we cross the Rond-Point de l'Île Maurice (the round square with Bertrand-François Mahé statue) - we see the Espl. de la Bourse - stretching on our right to the west:

Further south, on our right, Gare maritime de la Bourse:


If you walk 1.3 km south from Rond-Point de l'Île Maurice, along Chaussée Eric Tabarly - you'll arrive to the Ibis Styles hotel. In this case - we return from the hotel BACK north to Porte de Dinan via Quai de Trichet. From Hotel ibis Styles Saint Malo Port, 6-8 Quai du Val head west on Quai du Val Rue le Pomellec. Go through 1 roundabout, 350 m along Quai de Trichet. It is 750 m. walk to Rond-Point de l'Île Maurice. Head northwest on Quai de Trichet toward Terre-Plein du Naye, 190 m. At the roundabout, take the 4th exit onto Chaussée Eric Tabarly, 500 m. Slight right to stay on Chaussée Eric Tabarly, 45 m. we enter Rond-Point de l'Île Maurice. 200 m. further to the west and we arrive to Porte de Dinan. Exit the roundabout onto Espl. de la Bourse, 130 m. Continue onto Porte de Dinan, 40 m.


View from Rond-Point de l'Île Maurice and Chaussée Eric Tabarly to the bastion Saint-Louis:

From Rond-Point de l'Île Maurice - we continue east to Porte de Dinan. Exit the roundabout onto Espl. de la Bourse, 130 m. Continue onto Porte de Dinan, 40 m. The gate of Dinan was built in 1714 during the works of the second growth. It then served as an outlet on the south side of the original precincts of the city. It was also called the Navy Gate because the offices of the Navy were on the ground floor of the building to the left of the door entering (1, rue Saint-Philippe). The famous naval commander Robert Surcouf (Saint-Malo, 1773 - 1827) also lived, after his marriage in 1801, in this former hotel, whose facades were rebuilt identically after 1944. It was called, also, "The Bishop Gate" because the bishops of Saint-Malo had to go through it at their first entry into the city:

With your face to the gate - the whole promenade to your right (EAST) is Esplanade de la Bourse. Breathtaking views of the water and beachfront as well a views of the city. Many photo opportunities:

The walk along the esplanade is MAGNIFICENT. The sights of the sea and the ferries dock on your left (south) and the ramparts (on your right and back) are stunning:

We continue walking from Esplanade de la Bourse further south along Môle des Noires. It is a narrow stretch of land with a lighthouse in its southern end. The black pier in Saint-Malo is located at the entrance of the Port. It was put into service in 1838 and was moved in 1934 to the end of the new extended pier. It was a cylindrical turret masonry 9.70 meters. Destroyed by the Germans in 1944. It . Why "Black"? It would be women in mourning who were gathering here. It would also be because of the black rocks on which the lighthouse was built:

We walk BACK from the lighthouse to the city ramparts - with our face to the north and, later, to the east:

We recommend climbing to the walls at Porte de Dinan with our face to the north, on our left (west) Rue Saint-Philippe and on our right Rue d'Orléans (both of them are quite narrow roads). We started our St-Malo ramparts walk at the Porte de Dinan and spent a delightful couple of hours wandering at our leisure. Since, we approach the midday or afternoon hours - we opt for the LEFT side (the sun coming from the west). We start walking on the ramparts over Rue Saint-Philippe. We are in the south-west corner of the ramparts:

Exactly in the south-west corner of the walls - stands Bastion Saint Philippe. Dating from 1714, Saint Philip Bastion has the shape of an irregular triangle - 2 embrasures open towards the west to protect the entrance to Saint Malo harbour and neighboring Dinard:

We go clockwise from there , turn right and start walking along the WESTERN side of the walls. 

start walking the western side of the walls - view to the south:

As we advance along the western walls - the road below us (on our right, east) is Rue Guy Louvel:

On our left(west) is a stunning view, deep below, of Plage du Môle (Beach of the Mole). As we said before - one of the explanations for the name "The Black Mole" is for the rocks (or dam, called Black Mole, 500 m. length) on which the beach and pier were built: the Roches Noires, named after their color. it is a very nice sandy beach for swimming: 

As we advance northward along the western walls - we arrive to the section of Bastion de la Hollande (Holland Bastion). This section was built to protect Saint Malo from Dutch fleet attack. Constructed 1675 – 1689. Transformed at the time of the first expansion of the city 1708. Holland Bastion was armed with 24 cannon. In 1696, the Count of Toulouse replaced them with larger pieces: 12 of 36 calibre and 12 of 48 calibre. This gift was given to the inhabitants of St Malo for their courage and successful defense during the 1696 attacks.

Further north, still in the green area of Bastion de la Hollande,  we arrive to an extensive area with cannons and statues facing the Fort du Petit Bé (an island in the sea during the tide hours). A gem of French military architecture. At the end of the 17th century, the maritime war between French, English and Dutch raged. At the heart of this economic and military battle, Saint-Malo is fast becoming the first port in France. It was urgent to defend the famous corsair city of Saint Malo, where its strategic position is of prime importance. To do this, Louis XIV commissioned the architect Vauban to implement a military defense. Vauban designed and constructed an ambitious defense system that perfectly integrated the geography of the coasts and the possible maritime attacks. At the center of this complex of fortifications, the Petit Bé island fort was built under the direction of Garangeau. It is located 700 meters from the ramparts of Saint-Malo and not far from the Grand Bé. The fort could accommodate a garrison of 160 men during the sieges. It consists of a large platform, a building on three levels and two bastions. Until 1885, it was occupied by the French army which maintained it. Beyond this date, it downgraded militarily. Although classified as a Historic Monument in 1921, the Petit Bé was abandoned for more than a century. From year 2000 the island is restored by the municipal authorities of Saint Malo and the Petit Bé is open to the public (during the low tide hours). Since then, many works have been done and guided tours allow walkers to discover  the history of Petit Bé. It is Accessible all year round at low tide or by boat (free) (see below). Guided tours of Petit Bé include: presentation of the defense systems of the Bay of Saint-Malo, commented exhibition on the mechanism of the tides, models of the 5 versions of the fort of the bay. The fort is still standing proud. A building like that which is over 300 years old, located in the open sea, with 120 years of abandonment, it is fabulous. On this island - you rub shoulders with history:

THe long and wide space of Bastion de la Hollande is quite extensive (5 minutes walk). It is bordered, below the walls, on the east side  by Rue de la Clouterie and, in its northern edge, by Porte Saint Pierre - a gate in the walls. The massive building on your right (east) is Logis Hôtel de la Porte Saint Pierre (run by the Tiphaine family since 1936). The Hotel-Restaurant Porte Saint-Pierre boasts a wonderful location, not just within the walls of the old St. Malo, but right next to a gate in the walls giving access to the beach and offering stairs up to the top of the wall. The views to the ocean are spectacular !

We continue 150 m. further north, along the western walls of Saint Malo - arriving to Crêperie Le Corps de Garde (on our right), 3 Montée Notre Dame - a nice little place overlooking the bay.  Rue de la Crosse is below the walls on our right:

220 m. walk further north will bring us to another (smaller) green area over the walls - Passage de la Poudrière and La Tour Bidouane. The Bidouane Tower is one of the main fortified towers of the Malouin ramparts. 23 m high and 13 m wide, it is part of the desire to make Saint-Malo an important stronghold. It was built on a rocky promontory during the second half of the 15th century, at the northwest corner of the Intra-muros enclosure. The tower changed its name several times: Bidouet, Tour des Champs-Vauverts or Bell Tower. It took its current name only in 1691, during its repair. It was also against this tower that the Anglo-Dutch tried to lead in 1663 an "infernal machine", that is to say to blow it up by sending a ship filled with explosives. It consists of a horseshoe plan very characteristic of the artillery towers of the fifteenth century. The fortified structure at the back of the tower, on the city side, is called the Champs-Vauverts rider. Its corner turret built in corbelling bears the date of 1652. On the platform, we find the statue of Robert Surcouf (Saint-Malo, 1773 - 1827) - a famous French corsair. The Bidouane Tower rises on three floors and allows, from its upper platform, to observe the tip of the Cap Fréhel. For several years, the Bidouane Tower has hosted many exhibitions. The views back to the south along the western walls - are not less than breathtaking ! 

The views of the beach (Passage Des Bés), downstairs are also wonderful:

On your right (east) is La Maison du Québec. Its goal: to make Quebec known and loved in France, and to strengthen the bonds of friendship between the two Francophone communities. Here, beyond this green space, in the most north-west corner of the walls - we leave the walk over the walls and descend down to the old city of Saint Malo - continuing from west to east along  We have an opportunity to get a closer glance  to the beach from this road:

Walking 180 m. eastward along Rue du Château Gaillard - and we see, on our left, the Bastion Fort La Reine. The bastion was originally an artillery battery called the White Horse Bastion, built on Vauban's orders in 1694 after the first Anglo-Dutch bombardment of the city. At its feet are the rocks where exploded the "Machine infernal" in 1693, a powder ship launched by the English to attack the port of Saint-Malo. This military fortification was raised to its current level during the work of the fourth growth of the city (1737-1744). This stage of work connected the fort with the gate (into the walls) of Saint-Thomas (Porte Saint Thomas):

Offshore (more to the west, in the sea)  is the fort of La Conche, begun in 1692 to defend the entrance pass of the Pit Norman. The latter is considered the masterpiece of the maritime forts of Vauban:

Towards the southwest, stands the islet of . The tomb of François-René de Chateaubriand (Saint-Malo, 1768 - Paris, 1848) stands out at its northeastern end (see below):

You can return to the walls from Rue du Château Gaillard (or from Place Chateaubriand a bit south to this road). Attention: we shall return to this point and to Hôtel de Ville in Place Chateaubriand downstairs within several minutes:

The northern walls command nice views over the northern beach with the relics of the Vauban glorious fortifications. Here, in Porte Saint Thomas - there is a "kink" in the walls. The St. Thomas Gate was opened in 1740 during the work of the third enlargement of the city. Near this gate were located the famous baths of Saint Malo. In 1835, the city of Saint-Malo made the decision to develop the baths which knew a growing success. The first mobile cabins were made available to bathers and a bathhouse opened in 1838 on the north side of the ramparts. In 1843, men and women were still bathing in separate parts of the beach. In 1905, wearing trousers below knee, shirt or vest were still mandatory...

The northern wall - view to the west:

The northern wall - view to the east. Further to the east - we see Château De La Duchesse Anne and the Hotel De ville (see below):

Now, as we promised before - retrace your steps and return back and down to the old city (walk back westward along the walls and descend to the city in Place Chateaubriand).  The main attraction here is the Hôtel de Ville. Open: MON - FRI: 8.30 – 12.15 and 13.30 – 18.00:

You may find yourself in the Hotel de Ville area around midday and quite hungry. The restaurants here are quite fluent, touristic and pricey. Better walk deep into the old town to find a nice, more budget, crêperies) -  restaurants specialising in making crêpes. We found a nice restaurant in Rue Sainte-Marguerite - 170 m. from Place Chateaubriand. Head east on Place Chateaubriand, 20 m. Turn right to stay on Place Chateaubriand, 80 m. Continue onto Place Guy la Chambre, 40 m. Turn right onto Rue Sainte-Marguerite, 80 m. Slight left onto Place de la Poissonnerie. Here, we found Crêperie Le Touline, Place de la Poissonnerie. 21.60 euros for two portions of  generous Crêpes and two cups of cider (be cautious !).  Delicious Galettes in the heart of old Saint-Malo. A nice local crêpe experience. A special atmosphere around. BTW, the Hotel Bristol Union in this square - might be a viable option with reasonable prices.

Our next stop is Porte Saint Vincent (150 m. walk). From Place de la Poissonnerie we head back north toward Rue Sainte-Marguerite, 10 m. Place de la Poissonnerie turns slightly right and becomes Rue Sainte-Marguerite, 80 m. Turn left onto Place Guy la Chambre, 40 m. Turn right onto Porte Saint-Vincent, 20 m. In 1616, a Benedictine convent (Our Lady of Victory) was established here. Some arcades of the old cloister are still visible, as well as the spire of the bell tower of the old church rebuilt in 1959. The first (military) extension of Saint Malo, planned by Vauban in 1689, opened the Porte Saint-Vincent in 1709 and gained a whole new district on the sea, connecting it to the Grande Porte with a new wall pierced by twenty-two embrasures and sheltering thirty-two shops topped with vaulted dwellings, "bombproof". The whole area around this gate was planned by engineer Simeon de Garengeau (Paris, 1647 - Saint-Malo, 1741) during the years 1709 to 1742. Merchants enriched by Peru's silver imports purchased spaces around and built stately homes there. In 1890, a second identical gate was added south of the first. The gate of 1709 is surmounted by the sculpted coat of arms of Brittany with the motto Potius mori quam foedari: "Rather death than defilement" and that of 1890, bears the motto Semper fidelis: "Always faithful": 

When you exit the gate of Saint Vincent (out of the walls) you can see, more clearly, on your back the bastion (and the parking lot with amusement facilities):

Looking forward you see the Jardin des Douves, left side - Tourist Information office and right side - the pier with a small marina:

Slight 45° and turn left towards the outer side of the Town Hall (Mairie). The section of the walls near the Town Hall - is very impressive:

AGAIN, we return walking over the walls. We shall climb the stairs near Saint Vincent Gate and start walking on the EASTERN walls with our face to the SOUTH.

View of the Tourist Information Office from the eastern section of Saint Malo ramparts:

Our first section of walk over the eastern walls of Saint Malo is over Rue Jacques Cartier. When Quai Saint Vincent changes to Quai Saint Louis (downstairs, on our left) - also Rue Jacques Cartier meets Place du Poids du Roi  (and Hotel ibis Styles Saint Malo Centre Historique) - downstairs, on our right.

Further south, on your LEFT (east) - Quai Saint Louis and the harbour:

On our right, downstairs - We keep walking southward along the eastern walls until we arrive to the south-east corner of the walls:

Here we see AGAIN the statue of René Duguay-Trouin:

The harbour near the south-east corner of the walls and the ferry to Saint Severine (annexed town to Saint Malo):

From here - we REPEAT part of our daily itinerary. We RETURN to the western beach of Saint-Malo in order TO ACCESS THE FAMOUS ISLANDS, adjacent to the town, DURING THE AFTERNOON LOW-TIDE HOURS (basses mers). It is 450-500 m. walk, again, to Porte Saint Pierre (the best entry point to Saint Malo western beaches). We choose the shortest (and different) route (already not explored, yet, today...). Head west on Rue d'Orléans toward Rue d'Asfeld, 85 m. Turn right onto Rue Feydeau, 50 m. Continue onto Rue de la Fossé, 130 m. Continue onto Rue André Desilles, 50 m. Continue onto Rue de la Pie Qui Boit, 120 m. Turn left onto Rue de la Crosse, 10 m. Turn right onto Place du Guet, 40 m. Cross Porte Saint Pierre and continue westward, down, onto the beach. You have, now, different views of the western walls of Saint-Malo from the Bon-Secours beach  opposite Porte Saint Pierre:

The path to and from the island is only accessible at lower tide levels, so plan accordingly where possible to ensure that you can get both on and OFF the Grand Bé. During the low tide hours -  the island can be reached on foot from the nearby Bon-Secours beach and you can climb along a coastal path to the fortress and Tombeau de Chateaubriand:

 In a bright day, during the afternoon hours - the scenery is beautiful: bright blue waters, white sand, magnificent coastline, small islands and forts out in the water. A magical place !!!

For instance: this is the stunning coastline you see from the ascent to the island:

Go for the sunset, it is stunning. With low tide you can enjoy the beach even more. Standing on the Grand Bé gives the opportunity to see the city walls and out to sea from a different angle:

The ascent up the hill of the Grand Bé island (and down back to the beach) are a bit demanding and quite time-consuming. BUT, on the top  - you are afforded with glorious views of the ocean and the city and a few VERY ROMANTIC moments:

François-René de Chateaubriand, a romantic French writer native to Saint-Malo, is buried on the island, in a grave facing the sea on both sides of the island: west and north:

From the Grand Be - you can have a view even further (west) out to Petit Bé, which has recently opened up its 17th century fort and battery to visitors. Fort National can also be reached on foot from the Grand Plage ('great beach'):

We did the walk to the Petit Bé and it took us further 15 minutes to walk along the cobbled-stone path from the Grand Bé to the Petit Bé and its fort. In 1667 the French government built a small fort on the island of Petit Bé. Construction of the island's fort began in 1689. The fort was part of the defenses that Vauban designed to protect Saint-Malo from British and Dutch fleets. The defensive works included the walls of Saint Malo, Fort National, Fort Harbourg and Fort de la Conchée. Construction works began under the direction of the engineer Siméon Garangeau. The fort was still under construction in at the time of the British attack on Saint-Malo in November 1693. When an Anglo-Dutch force attacked Saint-Malo again in 1695, the fort helped repel the attack. It was finished in 1707, the year Vauban died. The French army occupied the fort until 1885. Later, the army turned the fort over to the city of Saint-Malo. We did not enter the fort but you can pay a small fee for a guided tour (All the explanations are in French) of the fort (6 euro per adult and 4 euro for youngster). The fortress has been restored by a private enthusiast and its well worth making the visit to support him:

There are VERY impressive views of the south-western walls of Saint Malo from the Petit Bé:

You have to hurry up returning to the mainland. Otherwise you are stranded in the high tide for hours (do not dare swimming back !!!). The way back from the fort can also be done by boat if the island(s) is (are) surrounded by water. If the tide is still low - make the way back along the cobbled-stone (and cemented) path to Saint Malo. The sun is on your back and the sights of Saint Malo town, opposite, are FANTASTIC. It is a breath-taking 500 m. walk from the island(s) to Porte Saint Pierre.

We shall CLIMB along the path (100 m.) when the boats of the Société Nautique de la Baie de Saint Malo are on your left and arrive to the Porte Saint Pierre to enter (again) the town of Saint Malo:

From Porte Saint Pierre - head east on Place du Guet toward Rue de la Clouterie, 40 m. Turn left onto Rue de la Crosse, 10 m. Turn right onto Rue de la Pie Qui Boit, 120 m. Continue onto Rue André Desilles, 50 m. Turn left onto Place du Marché aux Légumes, 30 m:

 We are in the centre of Saint Malo. To return to the railway station - it is a 2 km. walk. Head north on Place du Marché aux Légumes toward Passage Grande Hermine, 25 m. Continue onto Rue de la Vieille Boucherie, 75 m. Slight right onto Rue Porcon de la Barbinais, 140 m. This road is full with colorful, delicious and aromatic Bretagne shops and foodies: chocolates, Belgian waffles, scoonies etc':

Turn right onto Rue Saint-Vincent, 140 m. Turn right toward Porte Saint-Vincent, 10 m. Turn left onto Porte Saint-Vincent, 25 m. Slight right onto Avenue Louis Martin, 40 m. Turn right toward Quai Saint-Vincent, 30 m. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Quai Saint-Vincent, 120 m. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Avenue Louis Martin, 120 m. Slight left to stay on Avenue Louis Martin. Go through 2 roundabouts, 900 m (!). At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto Rue Théodore Monod, 230 m. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Avenue Anita Conti and the station is on the right 90 m further.


Silvja Helmanis



Main Attractions: Jardin (Palais) Saint Georges, Parc du Thabor, Place de la République, Hôtel de Ville at Place de la Mairie, Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Rennes, Portes Mordelaises, Tour Duchesne, Hôtel de Blossac, Rue du Chapitre, Basilique Saint-Sauveur, Parlement de Bretagne, Le Champs Libres.

Distance: 12 km. Duration: 3/4 - 1 day. Weather: no rain or wind. Start and End: Gare de Rennes.

Introduction: Rennes is the capital of the region of Brittany. Rennes is a medium size town and well worth a visit.  BUT, during the years 2016-2018 it is under heavy construction works (underground lines) which makes a little damage to its lustre and young appeal. and It has more than 200,000 inhabitants, of whom about 60,000 are students. This gives the town a vibrant nightlife: a ‘city with a small town vibe’. Rennes is a perfect blend of city and small town life. It is considered as the best city in France for foreigners to live - beating the likes of Lyon, Nice, and yes, even Paris. Most people thoughts inevitably go to Paris, and then perhaps to the sunny French Riviera. But in a quality of life - this humble city in Brittany in western France came out as the surprise winner. French voters pointed on Rennes as an excellent place to live for foreigners (and French people as well, of course). Ther city has an exceptional historical heritage. It is welcoming and diverse. Rennes is a lively university and student city that is accustomed to opening the door to foreigners. There are parts of Rennes that are quite similar to Montmartre (in Paris), with lots of bars and cafes. But, of course it’s not as expensive as Paris. In 2018, L'Express named Rennes as "the most liveable city in France". Some streets, such as the Rue Saint Michel, have only bars on both sides. (The locals actually call it "la rue de la soif", which means "Street of Thirst". The most exciting night on "Rue de la Soif" would be the "Jeudi Soir", Thursday nights, during the universities terms. Jeudi Soir is the night when bars are most often packed with students. The sights on Thursday nights out on the town are very memorable and interesting. Rennes is particularly nice in early July, during the "Festival des Tombées de la Nuit". Its streets are then full of people enjoying the free street entertainment and eating or drinking at the terraces of the restaurants and cafés. In recent years, Rennes's bars and cafes are bustling all throughout the year. There are more than 70,000 students in Rennes. it is the eighth-largest university campus in  France. Rennes is now a significant digital innovative centre in France. Now, it is the tenth largest in France.

Short History: Rennes's history goes back more than 2,000 years, at a time when it was a small Gallic village. It was one of the major cities of the ancient Duchy of Brittany. From the early 16th century until the French Revolution, Rennes was a parliamentary, administrative and garrison city of the historic province of Brittany of the Kingdom of France. Due to the presence of the Parlement de Bretagne, many "hôtels particuliers" were built, and still exist, in the northern part, the richest in the 18th century. The Parlement de Bretagne is the most famous 17th century building in Rennes. It was rebuilt after a terrible fire in 1994. Since the 1950s, Rennes has grown in importance and increased its number of inhabitants through plans to accommodate upwards of 200,000 inhabitants. During the 1980s, Rennes became one of the main centres in telecommunication and high technology industry.  

Our Hotel: Hotel ibis Styles Rennes Centre Gare Nord, 15 Place de la Gare. Opposite the railway station, bus station and metro and 10 minutes’ walk from the historic city centre and Parlement de Bretagne. 

Our 1-day itinerary: From Hotel ibis Styles Rennes Centre Gare Nord we head northwest on Place de la Gare toward Avenue Jean Janvier, 50 m. We turn right onto Avenue Jean Janvier. Walk 500 m. northward (passing Rue Albery Aubry, Rue Descartes, Boulevard de la Liberté and Rue Saint Thomas on your left). Note at #7 Avenue Jean Janvier this building  of the municipality of Rennes. The building dates from 1928. Its architect is Jean Poirier who built several other housing buildings in Rennes between 1928 and 1936. The mosaics are of Isidore Odorico:

We return back (south) to the intersection of Avenue Jean Janvier and Rue Saint Thomas and turn RIGHT (west) (our face to the south) onto Rue Saint-Thomas, 200 m. Turn right onto Rue du Capitaine Alfred Dreyfus, 160 m. Captain Alfred Dreyfus street connects Emile Zola quay to the north and Carmes street to the south. Alfred Dreyfus was victim, in 1894, of a miscarriage of justice which is at the origin of a major political crisis of the beginnings of the Third Republic, the Dreyfus scandal upset the French society during twelve years from 1894 to 1906. The scandal began in December 1894 with the treason conviction of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a young French artillery officer of Alsatian and Jewish descent. Sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly communicating French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris, Dreyfus was imprisoned on Devil's Island in French Guiana, where he spent nearly five years. Dreyfus was judged in Rennes, in the premises of the high school (today high school Émile Zola ) from August to September 1899. The affair is often seen as a modern and universal symbol of injustice. Open letter published in a Paris newspaper in January 1898 by famed writer Émile Zola blamed the French society in an horrible injustice. In 1906 Dreyfus was exonerated and reinstated as a major in the French Army. He served during the whole of World War I, ending his service with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He died in 1935. Alfred Dreyfus was appointed Knight of the Legion of Honor on July 20, 1906, then promoted to Officer of the Legion of Honor on July 9, 1919.  We shall zig-zag, here, to get better vies of the Vilaine river in Rennes. Turn left onto Quai Emile Zola, 110 m. It bears the name of the French writer Émile Zola (see above), born in Paris on April 2 , 1840 and died in Paris on September 29 , 1902. This road is a quay of the Vilaine river stretching between the Place de la République (west)nand the Place de Joseph Loth . Located on the left (south) bank of the river, it faces the Chateaubriand wharf to its north side. The Parlement de Bretagne is not far from here (to our north-west) - but, we'll return to this building later.  We walk 300 m. to our next destination - Jardin Saint Georges. Head east on Quai Emile Zola toward Rue Léonard de Vinci, 150 m. Turn left onto Place Pasteur, 85 m. Turn right onto Rue Kléber, 5 m. Turn left 55 m.and face Jardin  & Palais Saint Georges. The Saint George Palace, 2 rue Gambetta (It is served by the Métro station République) was built in 1670 to replace a much older abbey building that stood on the same site. The Benedictine Abbey of Saint George (Abbaye Saint-Georges de Rennes) was closed in 1792 during the French Revolution and the property was seized by the government. Since 1930 the building has been listed as a monument historique of France. It is situated in the Thabor-Saint Hélier quarter of Rennes. The building now  houses the fire services for the city and other civil administrative offices. The front facade of the building consists of a long gallery of nineteen two-storey windows and paired nineteen granite arches. A landscaped formal garden, Jardin Saint-Georges, is situated in front of the building, with gravel paths leading to the main entrance. There are benches in the garden in front of the building where you can sit,to admire the garden. A heaven in the center of the town:

We continue walking NORTHWARD along Rue Gambetta - crossing Place de la Motte on our right. When we arrive to Place saint Melaine and see the church of Notre Dame St. Melaine on our right - we turn right to enter Parc du Thabor. Its name refers to a mountain overlooking Tiberias' lake in Israel , Mount Thabor. The main feature of Parc du Thabor is its mix of: a French garden , an English garden and a large botanical garden. Access to the park is through six entrances. It is served by lines C3 and 44 , stop Thabor; the nearest metro station is Sainte-Anne. The park is open all year. The park was, mainly, enhanced between 1866 and 1868 by the contributions of Denis Bühler by setting up various areas as: bowling , "hell", French gardens and English gardens . At the beginning of the 20th century, the southern part of the park, called "les Catherinettes", was built as an extension of the English garden. It reflects the idea of ​​the time of a "school garden". You'll admire the considerable maintenance to meet the criteria of a highly structured garden with floral decoration elaborated and varied in the species used according to the seasons and and the expectations of regulars and tourists alike.

1)The square Du Guesclin .
2) Hell (the RED area) .
6) French gardens (the PINK area).
4+5+7) The botanical garden and the rose garden .
8) The landscaped garden of Denis Bühler (the LIGHT GREEN area).
2+3) The Catherinettes.

The entrance is marked by a monumental portal, bearing the arms of Rennes. It is a work of Jean-Baptiste Martenot which replaced the grid previously executed by Vincent Boullé, Rennes' municipal architect during the Restoration:

The first sight (from the west entrance) is the July column (La Colomne de Juillet) of the Du Guesclin square completely renovated, in 2014.

The Guesclin square is, actually, a trapezoidal lawn with a promenade bordered with chestnut trees:

 The rest of the park includes an aviary, performance spaces, walking/running paths, formal gardens, recreational fields, a nicely-equipped children's playing park, greenhouses and specimen garden/nursery. Formal and informal lawns and flower-beds.  Wonderful statues and fountains. Variety of trees from large sequoias to Ginko Bilobas. Huge rose garden (make a visit during the blooming season !). During a sunny weekends, it could be a bit BUSY. Better, visit it during weekdays. Loads of space to relax and wander around. One of the best parks in France:

A monument in tribute to the Breton poet Glenmor adorns the junction between the English garden, hell and the bowling greens. June 27 , 1998:

Dovecote - a structure intended to house pigeons or doves:

The park's gardens are built on many levels with water features: lakes, ponds, waterfalls and fountains:

Amazing flower-beds, fantastic colours, and huge variety of plants:

the Rose garden in the east side is stunning (come in June-July):

Le Jardin Botanique - Sibirian Iris:

We loved these innovations !!!:

We make the whole way back south to the Vilaine river - all in all 1 km. From Tabor Park or Place Saint-Melaine we head south, 190 m. Turn right toward Rue Martenot, 30 m. Turn left toward Rue Martenot, take the stairs, 45 m. Turn right onto Rue Martenot, 170 m. Continue onto Rue Victor Hugo, 130 m. Turn left onto Contour de la Motte, 10 m. Continue onto Rue Gambetta, 200 m (the Palais Saint George on your left) and continue onto Place Pasteur, 45 m. Arriving to the Vilaine river - turn RIGHT (west) onto Quai  Châteaubriand. Walk 300 m. westward along  Quai Châteaubriand (following the yellow sign of  "Place Saint-Germain") and turn left at Rue Jean Jaurès, 35 m. Turn right onto Place de la République, 100 m.

Place de la République is a mighty square, served by the République metro station, the most central of the line, is a crossing point for many STAR bus lines, including lines that take a moment, either to the east or to the east. west, the quays of the Vilaine on both sides of the square. Its southern side consists mainly of the Palace of Commerce, being a gate between the northern part and the southern part of the city. It is bounded by the Lamartine Quay to the north and south by the Palais du Commerce, begun in 1890. Under the square, the Vilaine river flows. The creation of the rectangular square was undertaken by the cover of the Vilaine river in 1912 and 1913 under the leadership of Mayor Jean Janvier. A white stone wall surmounted by candelabrum lampposts with three branches surrounds the square. It's THE TRANSPORT HUB of Rennes when it comes to taking a bus. Overwhelmed by the local company Star's vehicles, the Place de la République will "lose" some of its lines in the years to come. The city wants to reduce bus traffic in the square in 25% - during the years to come:

We return walking northward, still moving from the east to the west. Our next destination is the town hall in Rennes. Head north and continue onto Rue d'Orléans, 90 m. Continue onto Place de la Mairie and the Hôtel de Ville at Place de la Mairie is on the left. The Opera is on the opposite side. The Town Hall itself is a nice building. There is a small chapel dedicated to those people from Rennes who have lost their lives in various wars that the French have fought in:

Head north on Place de la Mairie toward Rue de l'Hermine, 65 m. Turn left onto Rue de l'Hermine, 75 m. Continue onto Rue Duguesclin, 80 m. Turn left onto Place Saint-Sauveur, 15 m. Turn right onto Rue Saint-Sauveur (note: Basilique Saint-Sauveur, see photo below), 120 m. 

Basilique Saint-Sauveur:

Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Rennes is in front of you. The existing façade with its neoclassical granite towers in four stages was constructed during the 16th and 17th centuries. Rebuilding began in 1787, shortly after which the French Revolution began and all work was suspended. It did not recommence until 1816, initially under the supervision of the architect Mathurin Crucy. He died in 1826; the work was continued under the local architect Louis Richelot, and finished in 1845. The building was badly damaged during World War II. On the imposing facade,you can admire the French weapons and the sun, the emblem of Louis XIV and symbols of royal power. Note: the Cathedral is closed between 12.00 and 15.00:

Pop in behind the cathedral (to the west of the church) into Rue des Portes Mordelaises - where you can see the Portes Mordelaises. A castle entrance gate with two towers, defended by a drawbridge and featuring two smaller gates for carriages and pedestrians, once led to Mordelles. This symbolic setting was where the future Dukes of Brittany swore an oath to defend Brittany's freedoms. The medieval walls to the west were built on the site of a third-century wall. An artillery platform was added on the fortified gateway (or barbican) to protect this entrance to Rennes. It was a nice surprise to see the old city entrances retained and so well preserved:

Portes Mordelaises - Half-timbered houses in Rue des Portes Mordelaises:

Head northwest on Rue des Portes Mordelaises toward Rue de Juillet, 55 m.  Turn left onto Rue de Juillet, 25 m. Turn left onto Place du Bas des Lices, 30 m. Slight left to stay on Place du Bas des Lices and 15 m. further you see the Gout et Gourmandise restaurant, 5 Place du Bas des Lices, on your left. Divine crêpes and galettes, hot chocolate and hot soups. VERY friendly staff members. ost of the crêpe ARE GLUTEN FREE (as in most places in Bretagne / Brittany). Very authentic place to enjoy the culinary delights of Brittany:

We continue to Tour Douchesne. We take the Rue Nantaise with our face to the south. On our left we see the old walls and ramparts of Rennes with Tour Douchesne. Tour Duchesne is an old tower dating from the 15th century, it is located near the Mordelaises gates we've seen before. The tower derives its name from Jehan du Chesne, who was the first inhabitant of the tower, who was responsible for the opening and closing of the gates of the city. The tower is part of the original city walls, which date back to the 3rd century, but were rebuilt between 1447 and 1459. Today it is integrated into the Artillery Hotel:

We loved the promenades along the river in Rennes. So, we opted NOT for the shortest routes in our visit - BUT for the most romantic pieces of walk. Continue walking south along Rue Nantaise toward Place Maréchal Foch. Continue straight onto Place Maréchal Foch, 45 m. Turn right onto Mail François Mitterrand/Place Maréchal Foch and continue following Mail François Mitterrand for 90 m. Turn left (south) onto Quai d'Ille et Rance, 15 m. Turn left (east) onto Pont de Bretagne, 130 m. 

Continue onto Quai Lamennais, 30 m. Turn left onto Place de Bretagne, 5 m. Turn right onto Quai Lamennais, 40 m. Slight left toward Quai Duguay Trouin for additional 40 m. Turn left toward Quai Duguay Trouin, 15 m. Turn right onto Quai Duguay Trouin, 20 m. Turn left (NORTH) onto Rue le Bouteiller, 50 m. Continue onto the narrow Rue Georges Dottin with your face to the north, 60 m.  The Cathedral is on your left. Turn right (east) onto Rue du Chapitre and beyond 90 m. you see, on your left, the Hôtel de Blossac in 6 Rue du Chapitre. Now, office of the direction régionale des Affaires culturelles. The building, which has two main wings, was constructed in 1728. A fire in 1720 had destroyed much of the city of Rennes. The architect is said to have been Jacques Gabriel. The building has a unique classical architecture for Brittany, including its size, the assembly of several architectural components, and its grand staircase. It was private hôtel particulier for, approx., 50 years from 1947. FROM 1982 the apartments gave way to offices. It houses, now the Direction régionale des affaires culturelles (DRAC, Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs of Brittany) and the Territorial Service of architecture and heritage of Ille-et-Vilaine:

Note the houses and buildings in Rue du Chapitre: many of them are half-timbered and/or with sculptures. It starts with Café Babylone in the west and ends, in the east, with Rue de Montfort. This street was not attacked by the fire of 1720 and the buildings are, for the most part, of the 17th century. Note, at #3, the Hotel de Brie. You can also see, in the courtyard of the Escu de Runefaut hotel, at  #5, a pretty wooden staircase with turned balusters. Note the house in #20:

In  the middle of Rue du Chapitre, in the intersection with Rue de la Psalette (#1 Rue de la Psalette) - you see this house with small sculptures:

11-13 Rue du Chapitre - Eleven Art Gallery:

In the east end - turn left to Rue de Montfort. Attention, on your left, the Basilique Saint-Sauveur. Its foundation, under the name of Saint-Sauveur, predates the twelfth century. Extended several times and rebuilt in the early eighteenth century:


Turn right (east) to the impressive Rue Duguesclin (impressive and quaint road). In this part of the city, many inner courtyards remain invisible from the street. From Rue Duguesclin turn left (north) to Rue Chateaurenault. Continue north-east with Rue du Champ Jacquet. Here, you see the sculpture of Leperdit - Mayor of Rennes, 1794-5:

Return back (your face to the south) to Rue Chateaurenault. Turn LEFT (EAST) to Rue La fayette and continue walking along this road. It continues eastward as Rue Nationale. Walk until the eastern end of Rue Nationale and turn LEFT (north) to the narrow and atmospheric Rue Salomon de Brosse. Here, stands the famous Parliament of Brittany. The road bears the name of Salomon de Brosse  (1571 - 1626) - the architect of Parlement de Bretagne (1617) (also architect of the Palace of Luxembourg in Paris). It has survived the ages untroubled. It was spared in the great fire of 1720, only to be partly burnt down in 1994. It now houses the Rennes Court of Appeal, the natural successor of the Parlement. Inside, the Parlement building boasts prestigious French-style ceilings, sculpted gilded wood panelling and allegorical paintings, culminating in the magnificent Grand Chambre, or main chamber. Prices: adult - € 7.20, concessions - € 4.60, 7-18 years - € 4.60 €. Parliament's opening hours change regularly. Visiting this building is NOT easy. You must  contact the Tourist Information Office on 02 99 67 11 66 to arrange a conducted tour in advance.... Exact schedule / opening hours and admission payments - at the Rennes Tourism Office:

The Parlement de Bretagne is our last attraction in Rennes. We return to the new section of the city with our face to the south. Our final destination will be a marvelous shopping centre in Rennes. Full with restaurants, supermarkets and... the Museum of Brittany, Espace des sciences and le Théâtre National de Bretagne. Head south on Rue Salomon de Brosse toward Rue Nationale, 35 m. Turn left onto Place du Parlement de Bretagne, 70 m. Continue eastward onto Rue Victor Hugo, 160 m. Turn right (south) onto Contour de la Motte, 10 m.  Continue southward onto Rue Gambetta, 200 m. Continue onto Place Pasteur, 90 m. We keep on walking southward. Continue onto Avenue Jean Janvier, 450 m. Turn RIGHT (west) onto Rue Albert Aubry, 80 m. You face the Museum of Brittany. Le Champs Libres is on your left, extending further west along  Cours des Alliés. Metro: Charles de Gaulle. A WONDERFUL ATTRACTION. Ggreat spaces. Interesting new architecture. The Museum's Opening hours: TUE - FRI: School periods : 12.00 to 19.00, Half term holidays : 10.00 to 19.00, July & August : 13.00 to 19.00, SAT - SUN: 14.00 to 19.00. Closed:  Mondays and bank holidays. The Museum of Brittany is, usually, closed during the first two weeks every SEP. FREE - first Sunday of every month. Prices: adult - 6 €, concessions (under 18 years old) - 4 €.

It is a 300 m. walk to the Railway Station. Walk east on Cours des Alliés toward Boulevard Magenta. Turn right onto Boulevard Magenta, 190 m. Turn left onto Avenue Jean Janvier and Place de la Gare and the station is  on the right.


Silvja Helmanis



Main Attractions: Château de Vitré, Rue de la Baudrière, Rue de la Poterie,  Norte Dame Church, Promenade du Val, Rue de la Bridolle, Rue Sévigné, Rue d'en Bas, Place Saint-Yves, Rue du Château. District of Rachapt (optional detour).

Duration: 1/2 day. Distance: 3-4 km. Weather: any weather.

Our Hotel: Minotel, 47 rue de la Poterie, 35500 Vitre. Low-budget, good sleep, convenient beds, quiet, a small room, friendly owner, good breakfast, charming decor, no sockets.  61 euros/couple including breakfast. The reception is closed everyday 13.00 - 15.30.

The cat of Hotel Minotel, Vitré:

Orientation: Go to Vitré for no crowds and excellent photo , opportunities. Vitré is perhaps the most impressive medieval town in Brittany. It is one of the few places in France where you can see a complete Gothic style town. With its small sheer size and its narrow roads - Vitré can be explored within a few hours. At nightfall Vitré is illuminated and in 2000 won an award for its night time illuminations. Note: the town is very rainy and exposed to storms. Market days are Monday and Saturday mornings until 14.00 for Vitré and are held on the square in front of the church of Notre Dame. The town is very clean, lots of little shops (not touristic shops) and restaurants, very helpful and friendly locals. Most of your walk will be along cobbled-stones alleys. The architecture in Vitré is largely unspoilt and it is very enjoyable to just wander and marvel. The town is quite compact. The streets are narrow and cobbled so there is very little traffic to worry about and you can walk all over it in 1-2 hours if you don’t stand around too long. BUT, we recommend allowing 3-4 hours for the town. You can get a little map of the key sites from the Tourist Office at the railway station. The inner courtyard of the chateau is free to visit as are the local buses.

Introduction: About 25 kilometres east of Rennes. Vitre is 275 km from Paris. In 1999, Vitré obtained the label "Town of Art and History" because of its rich cultural inheritance. The town's monuments attract many tourists each year. Vitré is a perfect example of a town of 500 years ago - with its houses with porch or timber-framed, its ramparts, its religious heritage, old streets, etc. Many 15th and 16th century buildings remained much as they were in the days when it was one of the most powerful towns in Brittany. A significant part of the original ramparts of the town is also still intact.

History: The site of Vitré was occupied in Gallo-Roman times. Around year 1000 a small wooden castle, on a feudal mound, was built on the Sainte-Croix hill. The castle was burned down on several occasions. A stone castle was built in 1070 by Robert Ier on the current site, on a rocky outcrop dominating the Vilaine's river valley. Certain parts of the original stone castle are still visible today. In the 13th century, the castle was enlarged and equipped with robust towers and curtain walls. During this period the church of Nôtre-Dame, developed on the eastern side of Vitré. The city was encircled by fortified ramparts and ditches. Since the 13th century, Vitré has integrated together all of the elements of the traditional medieval city: a fortified castle, religious buildings, churches, colleges, and suburbs. In the 15th century, the castle was transformed from a military post to become a comfortable residence for Jeanne of Laval-Châtillon and her son Anne de Montmorency. At the same time, many half-timbered houses and private mansions were built inside the city. These medieval districts are characterized by their sturdy timber frame construction and their narrow, dark streets, as well as by a network of lanes. The fronts of the houses are made either of half-timbering or stone. They protected pedestrians from bad weather, and they channeled rainwater into the central gutters, helping preserve the wooden facades. The names of the Vitré's streets often originated from the trade guilds in the region. Vitré's economy flourished during the Renaissance as any city in Brittany. The merchants built large private mansions with ornate Renaissance decorations that are still visible today with the city walls. During the 17th century the city lost much of its vitality, becoming a town of secondary importance. This situation lasted through 18th century and until the arrival of the railroad in the middle of the 19th century. To prepare for the arrival of the railroads, the city decided to destroy the southern fortifications of the city to open up the closed city and to improve visibility. Vitré has been a railway hub since the first lines were opened on 15 April 1857 on the Paris-Brest line. Vitré did not suffer massive destruction during the two World Wars, and preserved its historical inheritance. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Vitré experienced an economic boom along with the rest of France. The population of Vitré expanded from 8,212 inhabitants in 1931 to around 19,000 in 2018.

From Gare de Vitré to Chateau de Vitré - 450 m. easy walk: Head west on Place du Général de Gaulle, 25 m. Turn right to stay on Place du Général de Gaulle, 35 m. On your left the Office de Tourisme de Vitré. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Prom. Saint-Yves, 260 m. Turn right onto Place Saint-Yves, 20 m. Turn left onto Rue Rallon, 95 m. Turn right at Place Galbrun, 45 m. In front of you - Vitre Chateau or Château de Vitré, Place St-Yves. Dating from the 13th century, the castle, with its pointy slate turrets, hosted the Parlement de Bretagne on three occasions in the 16th century when plague ravaged Rennes. These days it houses a museum with an extensive range of sculptures and artworks from the region, mostly paintings, sculpture and tapestries from the 16th and 17th centuries. The museum which is housed in the castle has been built in 1876 by Arthur de La Borderie, a Vitreans Historian to provide an encyclopedic history of the period. Opening hours: July & August: Everyday from 10.00m to 18.00, April, May, June & September: Everyday from 10.00 to 12.30 am and 14.00 to 18.00, March & October: Everyday from 10.30 to 12.30 am and from 14.00 to 17.00, January, February, November & December: Everyday from 10.30 to 12.30 am and from 14.00 to 17.00 BUT closed on Tuesdays (all the day) and on Saturdays and Sundays mornings. Prices (pricey !): adult : 6 €, concessions : 4 €, Free -12. As we said before - the inner court is open for FREE visit. The castle, an imposing building with many towers inset in the high walls and reached across a drawbridge, surely competes with Chateau de Jumilhac in the Dordogne for being the castle with the most pointed turrets. Wonderful for those of us who like old military architecture. The Chateau is unusual in that, with its attached buildings, it has been built in a triangular pattern. This is because of the shape of the raised rocky area it was built on. The Mairie of Vitré is housed in one of the buildings in the Chateau complex - wander into the triangular courtyard to see the lovely building. Well, the castles in Fougeres and fortifications in Dinan are BETTER than the ones in Vitré ! NOT MUCH to see in the various rooms (or halls) - but fun to climb around and enjoy the view from the windows. It is all in French with no English explanations or audio guide. NOTE: to exit the castle - press the white wide button and DO NOT use the bar-code ticket (see below):

You use the ticket's bar code to scan at the door on the building on the left to enter. You scan every other room' door with your bar code ticket (7 different rooms). Each floor is a mini museum on its own. The spiral stairs are beautiful but do be careful when it's wet. There's one level where you can walk around the tower. My guess is it was once used as a watch tower to look out for enemies. The 1st floor has a small collection of artifacts. The second floor is the bedroom. Then you have the watch tower. Then another bedroom. The very top floor is a circular room with some beautiful oil paintings of the castle and surrounding areas. Then you head down to one of the levels to get across to the other 2 towers in the north side, which have more artifacts. The last one used to be a chapel and it has religious artifacts left behind. Unfortunately, the other wing is used as the city (Mairie) hall with no public entry.

The Museum:

View from the castle windows - in the centre - Restaurant La place: 

Vitré old city houses from the castle windows and turrets:

1st floor:

2nd floor:

View from the 2nd floor to the inner court:

Views from the 3rd floor:

3rd floor wooden ceiling and coupola:

Château de Vitré in a sunny day:

In the south-west corner (outside) of the castle - there  is a splendid viewing platform:

The Place du Château, outside (east to) the castle, used to be the castle forecourt where stables and outbuildings were. It is now a car park that properly shows off one of the most imposing castles in France. We dined in La Place Restaurant, 8 Place du Château. 10.50 euros for the main portion/person. Good quality Plat du Jour. Efficient, professional service. Modern looking restaurant. Expect full capacity and heavy traffic in the rush hours - with loads of tourist groups. Check the parking lot - before sampling this restaurant. Stunning view of the castle from the dining hall (partial) and the terrace.

The strong point of this city is its historic centre as a whole. The town is basically north of the train station and there are signs around for touristy locations so you won't get lost. A superb, well preserved historic town centre. The most atmospheric street in Vitré is Rue de la Baudrière (street of people who worked with leather), where you’ll find grand high-rise half-timbered houses (colombage). These were built by merchants who made their money from the cloth trade; the town had a thriving canvas industry from the 14th century. They look like they belong in Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. So we head to the southern end of Rue de la Baudrière. From Vitre Chateau - head northwest toward Rue Rallon, 45 m. Turn left onto Rue Rallon, 95 m. Turn right onto Place Saint-Yves, 20 m. Turn left onto Prom. Saint-Yves, 180 m. Turn left onto Rue de la Baudrairie:

If you walk along Rue de la Baudrairie from south to north-  Rue de la Poterie (Pottery Street) is the second to the right (east). Rue de la Poterie is also worth a look for its preponderance of ‘porch houses’, whose first floors extend over the street creating an arcade underneath. Rue de la Poterie is the only street in Vitré on which such a large number of half-timbered houses, also known as porch houses or overhangs, remain intact. Note particularly the house of Isle, at the intersection of rue Poterie Street and rue Sévigné, double corbelling (east end of Rue de la Poterie). these overhangs created a covered market alley perfect for displaying produce. We'll return to Rue de la Poterie later in this itinerary (see below):

From the north-east end of Rue de la Poterie (where it meets Rue Sévigné -  you turn left onto Rue Duguesclin, 65 m.  Turn left onto Rue Notre Dame and walk 110 m. to find Church of Our Lady of Vitre on your right. The Norte Dame Church is well worth entering and looking upwards to the fascinating ceiling paintings and stunning stained glass windows. The attractive 15th century Church of Notre-Dame is quickly recognizable because of its decorated spire. Don't overlook this church because the castle is the principal monument in Vitré. The spiritual life was immensely important . The Basilica of Vitre is dedicated to Our Lady and responds to a common model of the region. It was built during the last medieval period, so the Gothic style dominates the construction. Although being dated near the Renaissance, the finishing is simpler than in other churches of the same period. The church also contains interesting items including an impressive stained glass windows. Note: the Gothic style south side is the most interesting part of the cathedral so don't rush straight in the front entrance without looking around the outside !  Another tip: near the church - there is an a viewing terrace with a wonderful view of the town and the surrounding fields.

From the Church of Our Lady of Vitre (Notre Dame) - we continue east on Rue Notre Dame toward Rue Saint-Louis, 180 m. Continue onto Place de la République, 35 m. Here, the weekly market takes palce. Here, stands the Post office building:

At the intersection of Place de la republique (its south-west edge) and Rue Notre Dame, with you face to Rue Notre Dame - you can turn RIGHT (north) and walk along Promenade du Val to see the majestic ramparts of Vitre. The ramparts of Vitré are the fortifications built between the 13th and 17th centuries to protect the town of Vitré and Brittany against the French Kingdom. The city was located near the Breton border, near Maine, Anjou and Normandy. They cover a length of 500 m long and 200 m width. The fortifications of the thirteenth century are the best preserved in Brittany. The ramparts were built in 1240 by Baron Andrew III and reinforced with the development of artillery in the 15th century. Vitré was a Protestant city, rich and prosperous. But during the religious wars, attacks by the Catholic leagues destroyed a part of the towers and ramparts east of the ancient city. At the end of the 16th century, a bastion was built in 1591. The fortifications were destroyed in the south in the 19th century to connect the old town with the modern neighborhood. The towers you see from south to north are: Tour des Prisonniers, Tour Doré, Tour du Géomètre, Tour Rompue or Tour de la Fresnaye:

When you arrive to the north end of Promenade du Val - turn RIGHT (north-east) (here, you see the Bastion), and, again, RIGHT (south) to return back via Rue de l'Éperon - Back to Place de la Republique. Here, turn RIGHT to meet, again, Rue Notre Dame. Turn LEFT (south) to Rue de la Bridolle. Here, we can see the famous Tour de la Bridole (or Tour du Coin or Tour du Marché). The tower of the Bridole is built in the 13th century. It has three levels with archers still visible but only from the inside. The tower is not accessible except during guided tours, Heritage Days , and exhibitions. The lack of access to the floors does not allow a wide opening to the public:

After arriving to the southern end of Rue de la Bridolle we turn right onto Rue de la Borderie, 100 m. Turn right onto Rue Duguesclin, 50 m. Turn left (again) onto Rue de la Poterie, 35 m:

Slight left onto Rue Sévigné, 50 m. Walk down along Rue Sévigné from north-east to south-west: marvelous wooden houses, some of them with striking  bold colors:

Between Borderie Street (main facade, south side and garden side) and Sévigné Street stands Hotel de Sevigne. The mansion dates from the 18th century. It was built by the Hay family of Nétumières in 1750 at the southern fortifications, on the house of the Sévigné tower, property of Madame de Sévigné (Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, Marquise de Sévigné, born Feb. 5, 1626 in Paris - died April 17, 1696 in Grignan, French writer whose correspondence is of both historical and literary significance, of old Burgundian nobility):

Head southwest on Rue Sévigné toward Rue Garengeot, 20 m. Continue onto Rue de la Tremoille, 80 m. Turn right (again) onto Rue de la Baudrairie, 35 m. Turn left onto Rue d'en Bas. At #1 Rue d'en Bas stands a red wooden house with the sign of "Au Vieux Vitré": a well-reputed restaurant: 

Rue d'en Bas is fluent with colorful wooden houses. We walk along this road from east to west until it ends with Place Saint Yves.

#5 Rue d'en Bas:

#19-21 Rue d'en Bas:

More wooden houses in Rue d'en Bas:

#30 Rue d'en Bas:

#32-34 Rue d'en Bas:

End of Rue d'en Bas and entering Place saint-Yves:

Place Saint-Yves is THE place for festivals, concerts and spectacles in Vitré. From this impressive square you get another insight of ancient Vitré walls:

We RETURN northward to Rue de la Baudrière:

The third turn to the left is Rue du Château:

La ville de Vitré a ses Heroes:

Here, we returned to Rue de la Baudrière - to our Minotel hotel.

In case you have time and you are, still, in fit- make a detour to Rachapt (1.5 - 2 km. walk both directions).  You have to repeat several roads, we've already explored, to pave you way to Rachapt. From Rue de la Baudrière - turn right onto Rue d'en Bas, 120 m. Continue onto Place Saint-Yves, 40 m. Continue onto Rue Rallon,150 m. Turn right onto Rue des Augustins, 40 m. Turn left onto Rue Pasteur, 150 m. Slight left onto Rue du Rachapt. On the north side outside the 13th-century town walls is the district of Rachapt, where old stone cottages are built into the slopes. The area is reached through St Pierre postern, a medieval covered gateway that was big enough for riders and walkers but not carriages. This district was occupied for several years by the English during the Hundred Years' War whereas the town and castle withstood all attacks. The people of Vitré paid the invaders to leave and the district took its name from this event. This peaceful place at the foot of the castle is situated in the Vilaine valley and offers a fine view of the fortress: