From incredible art museum tours, to meandering through the largest flea market on the planet, Paris has a number of fantastic tours to choose from.
Puces de St-Ouen claims to be the largest flea market in the world, though nowadays it’s predominantly a proper - and expensive - antiques market (mainly furniture, but including old café-bar counters, traffic lights, jukeboxes and the like), with many quirky treasures to be found. Of the fourteen or so individual markets, you could concentrate on Marché Dauphine. It's good for vintage movie posters, chanson and jazz records, comics and books, and Marché Vernaison for curios and bric-a-brac.
The Rodin Museum, arguably Paris’s loveliest museum, occupies a beautiful eighteenth-century mansion. Today, major projects like The Burghers of Calais, The Thinker, The Gates of Hell and Ugolini and his Sons are exhibited in the gardens - the last forming the centrepiece of an ornamental pond. Indoors, the mould-breaking, stormy vigour of the sculptures sits beautifully with the time-worn elegance of the wooden panelling and the age-tarnished mirrors. Well-loved works like the touchingly erotic The Kiss get most of the attention, but you can explore rooms full of tortured clay and plaster figures that still bear the imprint of the artist’s hands. Don’t miss the section dedicated to the sculptor Camille Claudel, Rodin’s talented pupil, muse and lover. Finally, take in Rodin’s collection of personal artworks, from quirky walls of ancient (sculpted) hands and feet to the Van Gogh masterpiece Le Père Tanguy. Guided tours are available.
Some 20km southwest of Paris lies Louis XIV’s extraordinary Palace of Versailles. With 700 rooms, 67 staircases and 352 fireplaces alone, Versailles is, without doubt, the apotheosis of French regal indulgence. While it’s possible to see the whole complex in one day, it’s undeniably tiring, so you’d do best to plan ahead to avoid crowds and save time. The Grands Appartements, were used for the king’s official business. A procession of gilded drawing rooms leads to the dazzling Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors), where the Treaty of Versailles was signed after World War I. More fabulously rich rooms line the northern wing, beginning with the queen’s bedchamber, which has been restored exactly as it was in its last refit, of 1787, with hardly a surface unadorned with gold leaf. You can purchase an audio guide when you take yourself round the building. Looking for France holiday packages? We’ve got plenty of brilliant options to look through!
The Jacquemart-André Museum, just one of the select museums north of the Champs-Élysées, is a splendid mansion laden with the outstanding works of art that its owners, banker Édouard André and his wife, society portraitist Nélie Jacquemart, collected on their extensive trips abroad. Informative audio guides take you through sumptuous salons, mainly decorated in Louis XV and Louis XVI style. The pride of the couple’s collection was their early Italian Renaissance paintings, on the upper floor, including Uccello’s St George and the Dragon, a haunting Virgin and Child by Mantegna, and another by Botticelli. An excellent way to finish off a visit is with a reviving halt at the museum’s tea room, with its lavish interior and ceiling frescoes by Tiepolo.
Most tourists are keen, rightly, to take a boat trip on the Seine. One good option is the Batobus; otherwise Bateaux-Mouches is the best-known operator. Leaving from the Embarcadère du Pont de l’Alma on the Right Bank in the 8e, boats take you past the major Seine-side sights, such as Notre-Dame and the Louvre, complete with commentary. Night-time cruises use dazzling lights to illuminate the streetscapes – much more fun for people on board than passing pedestrians. The pricey lunch and dinner trips are best avoided. Bateaux-Mouches has many competitors including Bateaux Parisiens, Vedettes de Paris and Bateaux-Vedettes du Pont-Neuf.