Fiona

Paris off the beaten track: things to do outside the city

When you visit Paris you tend to think Notre Dame, Louvre, River Seine, Musee d'Orsay... All the top attractions you’ve seen on postcards spring to mind. But don’t be fooled - there’s so much more to see and do than meets the eye, or that falls within in the urban horizon. To take full advantage of your Paris Pass, we would suggest you travel just outside Paris where there are plenty of not-to-miss museums, monuments and historical sites. Here are five places to go – for FREE – with the Paris Pass just outside the city centre. Palace of Versailles Palace of Versailles is an iconic chateau outside of Paris that symbolises the historic French monarchy. Once home to King Louis XVI it’s one of the most resplendent and opulent castles in the world. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Palace of Versailles is a spectacular building that takes visitors back in time through the world of the royals and upper class who ruled France for centuries. Set in 250 acres of beautiful lawns, manicured gardens, fountains and woodland, it’s a picture-perfect site and one that couldn’t come more highly recommended. Inside, the Palace of Versailles is just as impressive boasting the Hall of Mirrors, with its stunning windows, décor and mirrors (also where the Treaty of Versailles is believed to have been signed); as well as the Grand Apartment of Louis XIV, and Baroque and Gothic architectural influences throughout. With the Monument Café on site, too, you can happily spend a day walking through the gardens and through the rooms of this magnificent old palace. House of Auguste Rodin at Meudon Auguste Rodin was a 19th century sculptor considered to be one of the best of his kind, and certainly of his time. His The Thinker is one of Rodin’s most famous sculptures and his unique style of artistry was believed to have set the tone and inspired the more modern movements that followed in the 20th century. As Rodin’s former home and workshop, the Villa des Brillants sits on the heights of Meudon and is a Louis XIII style house which Rodin originally purchased in an auction back in 1895. It includes a museum displaying plaster studies for some of his other renowned works such as Gates of Hell and The Kiss and is a great place to go to get a behind-the-scenes feel of what a artist’s studio and workplace. Visitors can also walk through the gardens and explore Rodin’s house in which he lived with Rose Beuret. Villa Savoye If you’re a fan of architecture and modern design, a trip out to Poissy to visit Villa Savoye is a must. Architect Le Corbusier was one of the pioneers of the modern movement and he inspired many of the designs we see today. His ‘back to the future’ style house, Villa Savoye (1928), is nicknamed his ‘machine for living’ and you can see why when you step inside. Championing the thinking that beautiful can be functional and modern, the interior of Villa Savoye is practical and minimal, exemplary of Le Corbusier’s beliefs – but controversial and new to the styles of his time. Villa Savoye stands for aesthetic revolution and it’s a fascinating place to visit. Here's a fact; you wouldn’t know it but the house was actually ruined during the bombings of WWII and later rebuilt! Maurice Denis Museum Situated in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the Maurice Denis Museum celebrates the Nabi art movement – a movement of post-impressionist avant garde artists in the 1890s, concerned with the ideals of methodology based on God and mysticism. One of the great Nabi artists was Maurice Denis, a symbolist painter, and the museum dedicated to him is the largest colletion of Nabi art in France. The Maurice Denis Museum, also known as the Priory, is housed in an old hospital dating back to the 18th century where Maurice Denis lived until he died, then it was turned into a school and neurological treatment centre for children, before it was turned into a museum dedicated to art. The fascinating museum includes the works of the Nabi painters including Maurice Denis, Paul Gauguin and Émile Bernard among others. Saint-Denis Cathedral Saint-Denis Cathedral is a shrine and burial place for the French monarchy in Paris. A stunning historic necropolis, Saint-Denis contains priceless sculptures, tombs and artworks to celebrate the country's former rulers, including the burial plots of 42 kings, 32 queens, and 63 princes and princesses. One of the most impressive items on display at this famed cathedral is the desiccated heart of King Louis XVIII! As well as housing the important relics and bodies of the old French monarchy, Saint-Denis is also one of the finest examples of stained glass windows dating back to the Middle Ages. The Cathedral itself it said to lie on the site of an old Roman cemetery and it’s believed to be the burial place of the martyr Denis, which is where the Cathedral got its name from. All of these attractions can be visited for FREE with a Paris Pass. To find out more about the other top Paris attractions included, click here.

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