We’ll begin our discussion at the Palais Royal, which was constructed in 1781 by Louis-Phillipe d'Orléans, Duc de Chartres, as the city's first purpose-built shopping and leisure complex. Today a charming oasis of calm, Palais Royal caused a sensation when it opened, revolutionizing shopping in a city whose narrow, congested, medieval streets were a danger to any pedestrian foolish enough to set foot in them. Palais Royal was also the site of the city's first covered passage, or shopping arcade, which we’ll discuss as we wander through some of the surviving ones. (Note: Visitors who would actually like to shop should take a look at our Paris Shopping Tour.)
From here, we'll emerge into modern Paris, stepping out onto one of the wide, straight-as-an-arrow grands boulevards created during the Second Empire (late 1800s) by Napoleon III and Haussmann. We'll discuss how Haussmann's boulevards were modeled on those created by Louis XIV in the 17th century, and how the rise of the bourgeoisie in the 19th century led to Napoleon III's radical rebuilding of Paris. Moving on, we'll find ourselves in front of what is perhaps the most iconic example of Second Empire urbanism, the Opéra Garnier. Completed in 1875, the Opéra is the jewel in the crown of Parisian Beaux Arts architecture. We will explore the exterior of the building in detail, placing it in context of the architectural movements of the day. Depending on time and interest, we may also visit one of the late 19th-century department stores, Printemps or Galeries Lafayette, or even the Société Generale bank building to explore art-nouveau glass domes.
Customize this Tour
We do cover extensive territory on this seminar. Please contact us with any questions; we will be happy to advise if this seminar will be appropriate for you, and can also design a private, customized tour for visitors with mobility concerns.
Will we visit the interior of the Opera Garnier on this walk?
We will not visit the interior of the Opera, though we will certainly spend concerted time outside discussing the importance of the site. We may be able to arrange an interior visit on a private walk; please contact us for more details.
Where do we meet? Where does it end?
Generally speaking, the walk begins near the Palais Royal in the first arrondissement. Your confirmation email will have the exact meeting point details along with a map. The walk typically ends near the Opéra Garnier and Grands Boulevards.
What if it’s raining?
Tours operate rain or shine, but in the case of inclement weather, your guide will modify the tour so more time is spent indoors. It never hurts to have an umbrella on hand.
The daughter of a sculptor, Marie has been surrounded by art ever since she was born. A native Parisienne, she holds an undergraduate degree in history and art history, with a specialty in iconography and French and Flemish paintings from the 16th to the 18th centuries. She also holds a Master's degree in museology from the Ecole du Louvre and one in Art History from the Sorbonne. She currently works for the French National Art History Institute on special cultural events. Since she loves literature, ballet, theatre, opera, jazz clubs, and classical concerts—she has been playing the piano since she was 9—Paris and its artistic life are a perfect fit.
Since visiting her first art exhibition at 5 years old Nicole has been passionate about the world of art and architecture. Research for her dissertation brought Nicole to France in 2006. Her doctoral dissertation explores the idea of architecture as an expression of political power, specifically during the Gothic period of twelfth-century, France. Yet her interests extend beyond the medieval period to include the modernism. Holding a PhD and Masters degrees from the Columbia University and a BA from Barnard College, Nicole has worked as a university professor, writer, curator and consultant. Receiving a fine arts training in her youth, equally informs Nicole’s approach to art and architectural history. Raised in a family of collectors and classic car aficionados Nicole is an avid classic car enthusiast, together with her husband an art collector.
Caroline is an adoptive flâneuse and has been wandering Paris' narrow streets and leafy boulevards since 2003. She holds an undergraduate degree in French and Art History with a specialty in 19th-century art and literature, and pursued graduate studies in Art History at Paris IV La Sorbonne, writing a thesis on popular imagery and caricature in Revolutionary and Napoleonic Paris. Her research was published in the journal European Comic Art. She also writes exhibition reviews and features. Her writing has been published in Apollo Magazine, the TLS, Condé Nast Traveler and WSJ Magazine.
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