In this post you will find everything you need to know about Paris. From a bit of history to how to get there or how to get around the capital of France
- Practical information
On this page you can find general information about the beautiful city of Paris. From its history to learning how to get around.
France is a safe country. The most touristic areas of the country, especially in Paris, have significant police protection, it is in them, as well as in public transport, where the highest rate of theft occurs, so it is advisable to take a minimum of precautions:
What if you should avoid some suburbs of big cities like Paris, Marseille or Toulouse. But since they are not touristic areas, they should not be included in our plans.
In the event of loss or theft, whether of objects or documentation, it is advisable to file a complaint at a Police Station: «main courante», if there has been no physical damage, and «plainte» in the event of robbery with aggression.
For European citizens, it is recommended that they apply for the European Health Card (TSE). In Spain, it can be requested at any of the Social Security service and information centers or through the Social Security website.
The Card entitles its holder to receive the health benefits that he may need during a temporary stay in France, regardless of the purpose of the stay.
This card entitles you to receive health benefits throughout the French public health network and in many affiliated private establishments, under the same conditions as French Social Security beneficiaries.
In many cases, these conditions include a co-payment system for the medical benefits received and the medicines purchased with a prescription. Specific details can be found here:
For citizens from outside Europe, a good travel insurance is recommended. Healthcare in France is tremendously expensive and, as they say: prevention is better than cure. You can consult them on the IATI website, specialists in travel insurance that, for being our reader, you will get a 5% discount on any of the insurance modalities.
The maximum speed on motorways is 130 km/h in normal weather conditions and 110 km/h in case of rain; 80 km/h on bidirectional national highways without central separation and 50 km/h in cities.
Driving with an alcohol level of more than 0.25 mg per liter of expired air, or 0.5 g in blood, is prohibited.
The French administration rigorously enforces traffic legislation, following the «zero tolerance» principle. Thus, a speeding of more than 40 km/h over the authorized limit is sanctioned with the immediate withdrawal of the driving license and a significant fine. In the event that speeding, whatever it may be, puts the lives of third parties at risk, the penalty can be one year in prison and a fine of more than €15,000 ($17,000). The sanction can reach 10 years in prison if there are aggravating circumstances.
Paris has three international airports and is one of the most visited cities in the world, being one of the ones that receives the most flights.
It is the most important airport in Paris and the second in Europe by number of passengers (after Heathrow in London). More than 76 million travelers passed through its terminals in 2019.
Charles de Gaulle Airport is huge and has 3 terminals. The second of these has different halls connected to each other. To move between the different terminals there is a free bus.
We recommend going long, long before the departure of the flight.
How to get from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Paris.
There are quite a few ways to get to Paris from Charles de Gaulle Airport.
1. Transfer service
It is certainly the most comfortable option but not the cheapest.
For this we recommend the Civitatis service, very good and professional.
RER trains on line B connect Charles de Gaulle Airport with the center of Paris in approximately 30 minutes and their frequency is between 10 and 15 minutes.
The price of the ticket is 11.45€ which corresponds to zones 1 to 5. This same ticket will be used to transfer to the Paris metro.
More information on the Paris Airports website.
3. RoissyBus shuttle
The Roissybus is a bus that connects Charles de Gaulle Airport with the Opera square. It takes approximately 60 minutes and the ticket price is 16.20€. The frequency is between 15 and 30 minutes depending on the time slot.
More information on the Paris Airports website.
There are two urban bus lines that arrive in Paris from Charles de Gaulle:
Bus 350: Connects the airport with the Gare de l’Est station.
Bus 351: Connects the airport with Plaza Nation.
The journey takes about 60 minutes and the price is 2.10€. The frequency is between 15 and 35 minutes.
Hours are from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
If you arrive after 9:30 p.m., you can take one of the two night bus routes (Noctilien) that connect Charles de Gaulle with Gare de l’Est station. The lines are 140 and 143 and their price is 8€.
The taxi between Charles de Gaulle Airport is between 50€ and 70€, depending on the destination.
Go to the downtown area on the right bank of the Seine River, where, for example, the Pompidou Center is located, the price is closed and it is €53.
Go to the central area of the left bank of the river, where the Eiffel Tower is located, the price is also closed and is €58.
6. Go to Disneyland Paris
If your destination is Disneyland, the most direct way to get there is by taking the Disneyland Magical Shuttle from €23 with a duration of approximately 45 minutes.
If your flight arrives at Charles de Gaulle Airport and your connection departs from Paris Orly airport, you can take the RER B train to Antony and transfer to the Orlyval light rail there.
The frequency is between 4 and 7 minutes and the journey takes about 30 minutes. The train work between 6 am and 11:35 pm. The price of RER+Orlyval tickets is €12.10.
Orly (ORY) is the second largest airport in Paris after Charles de Gaulle. In 2018, more than 32 million passengers passed through its terminals. It has two terminals: South and West. If you want to move between both terminals you can do it for free on the Orlyval automatic train.
How to get to Paris from Orly
1. Transfer service
It is certainly the most comfortable option but not the cheapest.
For this we recommend the Civitatis service, very good and professional.
2. Orlyval and RER B
The Orlyval automatic train connects Orly Airport with the Antony RER station, where we can take line B.
The frequency is between 3 and 7 minutes, and the journey takes about 30 minutes. The price is 14.10€.
More information on the Paris Airports website.
Tram line 7 connects Villejuif-Louis Aragon metro station (terminus of Paris metro line 7) with Athis-Mons via Orly 4. The line passes through Paris-Orly airport with a stop at Orly 4 and the Coeur d’Orly area (Ibis, Ibis Budget and Novotel hotels).
The journey takes about 45 minutes to/from the Villejuif-Louis Aragon metro stop and the frequency is between 8 and 15 minutes. It works from 5.30 to 00.30. The price is 2.10€.
Tram line 9 connects the Porte de Choisy metro station (Paris metro line 7) with Orly Ville. It connects the Paris-Orly airport with the 183 bus.
The journey takes 1 hour to Orly airport, it works from 05:30 to 00:30. The price is €1.90.
Bus 183 provides access to Paris-Orly and the Rungis international market. Its route allows a connection on the T7 tramway (“Bretagne” stop), the T9 tramway (at “Choisy-le-Roi RER” and “Robert Peary”) as well as the RER C (at “Pont de Rungis – Aéroport d’ Orly” and “Choisy-le-Roi RER”).
More information on the Paris Airports website.
This is a shuttle bus service between Paris-Orly airport and Place Denfert-Rochereau.
The journey takes about 30 minutes with a frequency between 10 and 15 minutes. The Orlybus runs from 05:35 to 00:30. The ticket price is 11.20€.
More information on the Paris Airports website.
The price of a taxi from Orly Airport to the center of Paris is between €70 and €80.
Beauvais Airport, 85 km north of Paris is a small airport in Tillé, a small town located near Beauvais. Beauvais is the airport where low cost airlines.
How to get to Paris from Beauvais airport
1. Transfer service
It is certainly the most comfortable option but not the cheapest.
For this we recommend the Civitatis service, very good and professional.
Paris-Beauvais Airport offers a regular direct bus service between central Paris at Porte Maillot station and the airport.
The journey takes about 75 minutes and the price is 16.90€ (one way). The return ticket price is 29.90€
To return from Paris to the airport, buses leave 3 hours before the flight from the bus park on Boulevard Pershingla next to Porte Maillot station.
It is not a recommended transport due to its high cost, between 170€ and 210€.
More information on the Paris-Beauvais Airport website.
The first line of the Paris metro was inaugurated on July 19, 1900 and connected Porte de Vincennes with Porte Maillot. Since its inauguration, the network has been gradually expanding, having opened the last line in 1998, which is considered one of the most modern in the world. Today it has 303 stations and 219 kilometers of tracks.
It is the third longest metro network in Western Europe, only surpassed by London and Madrid.
The metro is the fastest way to get around Paris. The metro network consists of 16 lines that communicate with each other and with the RER trains.
The hours are from 5.30 to 1.00.
There are several types of transport ticket: single ticket, called Ticket t+, and daily and weekly passes, Paris Visite and Passe Navigo. We will analyze these below.
More information on the Paris transport website.
The most popular transportation system after the subway. Paris has more than 60 lines and 40 night lines.
The advantage over the metro is that you see Paris during the journey. The downside is that, as long as you get stuck, you don’t get to the destination in life.
Night buses (Noctilien).
Noctilien buses are night buses that run between 00:30 and 07:00. The frequency of these buses is from 10 to 15 minutes on weekends and from 15 to 30 minutes on weekdays. They are identified by having the letter N before the number.
There are several types of transport ticket: single ticket, called Ticket t+, and daily and weekly passes, Paris Visite and Passe Navigo.
It is advisable to buy tickets in advance at metro stations, newsagents and tobacconists. If we buy them from the driver, it carries an extra fee of €0.40.
More information on the Paris transport website.
It worked until 1957, the year in which it was completely replaced by the metro, but at the end of the 20th century, the RATP company put it back into operation.
There are currently 9 tram lines in operation, although they are of little use to tourists.
More information on the Paris transport website.
The RER trains in Paris are regional trains that, in addition to reaching nearby places, complement the metro network when they run through the city center.
The Paris suburban network has five lines, more than 250 stations and almost 600 kilometers of track. The RER lines are named with letters: A, B, C, D and E. The most interesting from a tourist point of view are the first three.
RER A: Connects Disneyland Paris with the city center.
RER B: Connects Charles de Gaulle Airport with the center of Paris.
RER C: Arrives at Orly Airport and the Château de Versailles.
The lines have normal and express trains. The express do not stop at all stations so you have to take this into account and look carefully at the station screens. In these we also have to look at the destinations since they vary according to the hours on the same lines.
More information on the Paris transport website.
The Montmartre Funicular connects the lower part of the Montmartre neighborhood with its upper part, where the Basilica of the Sacred Heart is located.
The Montmartre Funicular became operational in the summer of 1900 and was then hydraulically powered using a system of cisterns that filled and emptied according to passenger load. It has undergone several renovations until reaching the current one, from 1991.
Its hours are from 6:00 to 00:45. There are several types of transport ticket: single ticket, called Ticket t+, and daily and weekly passes, Paris Visite and Passe Navigo.
The Batobus is a tourist boat that runs along the Seine river making stops at the main points of interest in Paris.
As with tourist buses, at each stop you can stop as long as you want and wait for the next boats.
The schedule in summer is from 10:00 to 19:00 and in winter from 10:00 to 17:00 and its frequency is 30 minutes in summer and 45 in winter.
Here you can buy your tickets in advance:
All tour bus companies offer open-top, double-decker buses with Spanish commentary via headphones.
We recommend Paris Big Bus (formerly Les Cars Rouges), the oldest tourist bus company in Paris. As its old name indicated, Big Bus Paris buses are red.
The Big Bus Paris itinerary has a total duration of 2:15 hours and makes 11 stops, allowing you to get on and off at each of them.
The Big Bus operates from 9:30 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. and its frequency ranges between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on the time of year.
Here you can easily buy tickets in advance:
Taxis in Paris are normal cars and the only thing that identifies them is the sign on the roof. Inside they must have a taximeter and a plate indicating the license number.
The minimum service has a cost of €7 so, unless you run out of transport at dawn, it will not be worth using it.
Ticket t+ is the name by which the single ticket for the Paris transport network is known. This ticket allows the use of the main means of transport for 90 minutes (except Orlyval, Roissybus, buses 299, 350, 351 and Noctiliens and Tram Express 11).
It comes in the form of a cardboard ticket or loaded onto a contactless medium.
The t+ Ticket does not allow you to go / return on the same line, or interrupt the trip and then continue on the same line.
The price is 2.10€. The 10-trip t+ Ticket costs €16.90.
The Passe Navigo is the most used transport pass by the inhabitants of Paris and is the cheapest way to get around the city for long stays.
We have the Passe Navigo Semaine, which is valid for the whole week and has several inconvenients:
|ZONE||WEEK PRICE||MONTH PRICE|
The Passe Navigo can be purchased at Metro stations, RER stations and at airports.
There is also the Passe Navigo Jour, valid for one day with unlimited travel.
|Zone 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-5||8.45€|
|Zone 1-3, 2-4, 3-5||11.30€|
|Zone 1-4, 2-5||14€|
Your Navigo Jour pass is valid for unlimited travel in certain areas of the Île-de-France network. Keep in mind that the Navigo Jour pass does not have any zoning.
To choose the zones of your pass, just take into account the zones of your starting point and your arrival point. For example, if you are looking for a pass to go from Aulnay-Sous-Bois (zone 4) to Evry (zone 5), buy an «all zones» pass, since you have to go through Paris.
The Mobilis Pass is valid for a full day from midnight to midnight the following day.
The Mobilis pass is personal: do not forget to write your name, surnames and date of use on the coupon so that it is valid.
The prices are exactly the same as the Navigo Jours Pass.
Paris Visite Pass
The Paris Visite card allows the traveler unlimited use of the Metro, Bus, RER, Tramway, Orlyval, Montmartrobus, Noctilien and Funicular de Montmartre and, in addition, small discounts are obtained in some attractions, among others, the Opera, the cruise the Seine or the tourist bus.
The Paris Visite card is available in periods of 1, 2, 3 and 5 days. For the calculation of days, full days are counted, so the first day is counted when we use it for the first time, regardless of the time.
It must be completed with your last name, first name and date of use in order to use it and, of course, it must be validated before any trip.
|VALIDITY||1 DAY||2 DAYS||3 DAYS||5 DAYS|
The Paris Visite pass is considerably more expensive than the Navigo, so it is not recommended, especially for passes of more than one day.
It is known that already during the Chassean period (4000 and 3800 BC) there was a permanent settlement in the current Bercy district. This is attested by the remains of three canoes found in an old branch of the Seine River dating from that period.
It is believed that the foundation of the city dates back to the years 250-200 BC. by the Gallic people of the Parisians (parisii) although the exact location of the first settlement is not known, although it is believed that it was on the Île de la Cité.
The Roman city extends on the left bank and on the Ile de la Cité; takes the name of Lutetia (Lutèce). At this time the city was a small city with barely 10,000 inhabitants, although it evolved thanks to river traffic.
The strategic position of Lutetia against the great invasions made it the place of residence of the Emperor Julian between 357 and 360, and then of Valentinian I in 365-366. It is at that time that the city takes the name of Paris.
In the year 508, after conquering most of Gaul, Clovis I made Paris his capital and established his main residence there (Palais des Thermes), and had several religious buildings built there, including the Basilica of the Holy Apostles, where he is buried
The eastern extension of the kingdom of the Franks under the reign of Charlemagne caused Paris to lose its privileged political position.
From the middle of the 9th century, it formed part of the territory of the Robertians, who took the title of Count of Paris.
In 885-886, besieged by the Normans, the city managed to successfully resist them, while preventing their access to the river. This episode brings great prestige to Paris and his Count Eudes, who helped in his defense. On the other hand, it marks a stage in the decline of the Carolingian Empire, having considered the behavior of Carlos the Fat during the events unworthy.
Robert the Pious had the Palais de la Cité and several abbeys restored, while Louis VI and later Louis VII established their court and chancery there. At the same time, the city prospered, becoming an important place for the trade in wheat, fish, and cloth, uniting Parisian merchants within a “house of water merchants” favored by Louis VII in 1170-1171.
It was Philip Augustus who made Paris the undisputed capital of the kingdom, over which he was the first of the Capetians to exercise strong control; this position was further strengthened during the reigns of Louis IX and Felipe IV “the beautiful”.
The city also became the symbol of royal power, which sought to endow it with buildings worthy of its rank: the Notre-Dame cathedral was completed around 1250, the Sainte-Chapelle which houses Christ’s crown of thorns in 1248, the Palais de la Cité was renovated and enlarged, and the Parisian market was covered and walled up (Halles). Paris continues to grow, the left bank was repopulated in the 13th century; at the beginning of the 14th century, its population was estimated at around 200,000, making it the most populous city in Europe.
In 1348, the city was first struck by the plague, which ravaged Europe between 1347 and 1351; this evil then reaches him in a cyclical way for several centuries. During the Hundred Years’ War it was exposed to English attacks, which led Charles V to build a new wall on the right bank that included the suburbs. At the end of the war, Paris retreated behind its walls and its population was reduced to around 100,000 inhabitants, half that of a century before.
In 1528, Francis I officially established his residence in Paris. Under his reign, the city prospered and Paris reached 280,000 inhabitants and remained the largest city in the Christian world.
In 1677, King Louis XIV transferred his residence to Versailles and, five years later, the seat of government was also transferred. During his reign, the Sun King only came to Paris for official ceremonies, thus displaying a hostility towards the city that Parisians did not appreciate.
In 1715, the regent Philippe d’Orléans left Versailles for the Palais-Royal. The young Louis XV settles into the Tuileries Palace for a brief return of royalty to Paris. Starting in 1722, Louis XV returned to the Palace of Versailles, breaking the fragile reconciliation with the Parisian people.
Louis XV took a personal interest in the city in 1749 when he decided to develop the Place Louis XV (now Place de la Concorde), the creation of the military school in 1752 and, above all, the construction of a dedicated church at Sainte-Geneviève in 1754 , better known under the current name of Panthéon.
The French Revolution began in Versailles with the convocation of the Estates General but the Parisians, affected by the economic crisis, aware of the political problems due to the philosophy of the Enlightenment and moved by resentment towards the royal power that had abandoned the city for more of a century, gave it a new course.
The storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, linked to the uprising of the cabinetmakers of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, was a first step. On October 5, the riot, sparked by women in the Parisian markets, reached Versailles in the afternoon. On the morning of the 6th, the castle was invaded and the king had to agree to reside in Paris at the Tuileries Palace and convene the Constituent Assembly there, which moved to the Manège des Tuileries on October 19.
On July 14, 1790, the Fête de la Fédération took place on the Champ-de-Mars, a place that on July 17, 1791 was the scene of a dramatic execution. On the night of August 9, 1792, a revolutionary commune took possession of the town hall. On August 10, the crowd besieged the Tuileries Palace with the support of the new municipal government. King Louis XVI and the royal family are imprisoned in the tower of the palace. The French monarchy is de facto abolished. After the elections of 1792, the representatives of the Paris Commune, very radical, opposed the group of Girondins at the National Convention (representing the more moderate opinion of the middle class of the provinces) who would be isolated in 1793.
On January 21, 1793, Louis XVI was guillotined at Place Louis XV, renamed “Place de la Révolution.” He was followed to the gallows by 1,119 people, including Marie Antoinette, Danton, Lavoisier, and finally Robespierre and his followers on July 27, 1794.
On December 2, 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte, who seized power in 1799, was crowned Emperor by Pope Pius VII in Notre-Dame Cathedral. He decided to establish Paris as the capital of his Empire and intended to make it the “new Rome”. For this he ordered the construction of the triumphal arches of the Star and the Carrousel, as well as the imperial palace of the Stock Exchange (completed under the Restoration) and the Vendôme column.
In 1814, the Battle of Paris led to the capitulation of the capital and then led to Napoleon’s first abdication and the Restoration. The Cossacks of the Russian army occupy certain points in the city. The allied armies leave the city after June 3, 1814, the date of the departure of Tsar Alexander I.
At the end of the Hundred Days, the fall of the Empire in July 1815 brought the English and Prussian armies to Paris, even camping on the Champs Elysées. Louis XVIII, back from his exile in Ghent, settled again in the Tuileries.
With the arrival of the Second Empire in 1852, Paris was radically transformed. From a medieval structure, with old and unhealthy buildings, almost devoid of important roads, it has become a modern city in less than twenty years. Napoleon III had precise ideas about urban planning and housing.
During the Belle Époque, the economic expansion of Paris is important; in 1913 the city had one hundred thousand companies that employed one million workers. Between 1900 and 1913, 175 cinemas were created in Paris, many department stores opened and contributed to the influence of the city of light. Paris then becomes the second international financial center almost on par with London.
Two universal exhibitions leave a great mark on the city, with the Eiffel Tower being built for the one in 1889 (on the centenary of the French Revolution), the city’s main icon. The first subway line, the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais and the Alexandre-III bridge are built in 1900.
From the Belle Époque to the Roaring Twenties, Paris experienced the height of its cultural influence (especially in the Montparnasse and Montmartre neighborhoods) and was home to many artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Braque, and Fernand Léger.
The interwar period took place in a context of social and economic crisis. After the bombings most of the city is in ruins.
During World War II, Paris is occupied by the Wehrmacht on June 14, 1940. As the Allied troops approach, the Resistance triggers an armed uprising on August 19, 1944. The Liberation of Paris took place on August 25 with the entry into Paris of General Leclerc’s 2nd Armored Division and Major General Raymond O. Barton’s US 4th Infantry Division.
In this entry we are going to narrate our first trip to France in the form of a diary. We will visit Paris and the areas of Picardy and Normandy, focusing mainly on the World War cemeteries.
Remember to always travel with travel insurance. With IATI, specialists in travel insurance, you have a 5% discount for being our reader.
You can find a multitude of activities, tours and excursions in France with Civitatis:
This time we return to France to visit Mont Saint Michel, which we couldn’t visit on our 2015 trip because we didn’t have time.
The night before we went to bed with the uncertainty caused by a strike by air traffic controllers at French airports. But in principle, both on the Easyjet website and on the Aena website, it seems that it is on time. And without imagining that it would be the last plane trip we would take in a long time due to the Covid-19 pandemic that would be declared just a week later.
First of all, do not forget your travel insurance, for what may happen. We recommend IATI, specialists in travel insurance. Also, for being our reader, you will get a 5% discount on your insurance:
We arrived at the airport and, indeed, boarded on time. But being already seated, they warn that we will be delayed an hour.
We took off about 50 minutes late. Nantes welcomes us with rain and 2ºc. We’re going to be cold.
We go straight for the car, a citroen cactus, uglier than a pain inside and out. The car cost us a total of €64.94 ($78) for three days.
We left the airport and soon… traffic jam. Works on a bridge on the Nantes ring road. But hey, it’s relatively light.
We passed the traffic jam and about 20 km further on, PAM!, another traffic jam. This fatter and slower. More road works.
We passed the drink and about halfway between Nantes and Rennes we stopped to eat something.
I didn’t remember from the previous time, but the coffee in France is really bad. So few more coffees we were going to drink.
We continue on our way. About an hour and a half later we arrived at the medieval town of Dinan.
Dinan is founded in the 11th century. Around the year 1283 the wall was built and in 1364 the castle. The city prospered in the 16th century thanks to crafts and the port on the Rance River. In the 18th century, commercial activity was stimulated by the installation of numerous looms that supplied sails and fabrics to the ships of Saint Malo.
There are many car parks in the town, but since we are in low season, those in the center of town have free spaces.
We parked in the one in the market square and they charged us €2.40 ($2.90) per hour and a half. From here we begin to walk through the medieval quarter. The first stop is the Église Saint-Malo de Dinan.
Built during the 15th century, Duke Francis II, fearing the capture of Dinan, ordered the destruction of the first church of Saint-Malo shortly after. Between the end of the 15th century and the 16th century it was rebuilt and gradually enlarged.
We continue walking and a little further down we reach the Les Cordeliers convent. Built in 1251 under the patronage of Notre Dame des Vertus for the Franciscan monks, today converted into a secondary education institute. The downside is that visitors are not allowed.
We continue down walking through the beautiful old town of Dinan until we reach the Tour de l’Horloge, a bell tower built in the fifteenth century. You can go up to the bell tower by paying €4 ($4.80).
Nearby is the Basilique Saint-Sauveur de Dinan. It is one of two Catholic parish churches in Dinan along with the Église Saint-Malo. The oldest parts of the building were built in the 12th century and are Romanesque and Gothic in style.
We continue walking and arrive at the Château de Dinan. Built in 1384, it was declared a historical monument in 1886. It belongs to the commune and houses a municipal museum. With this visit we finish with Dinan.
Around 5:30 p.m. we set off for Saint Malo. About half an hour later we arrived in the city and left the car in one of the intramural parking lots.
Sain Malo is a historic French port in Ille-et-Vilaine, Brittany, on the English Channel coast. It was founded by the roosters in the 1st century BC. such as the Roman Reginca or Aletum.
At the end of the fourth century AD. C., the district of Saint-Servan was the site of an important promontory of the Saxon coast that protected the estuary of the Rance from maritime invaders from beyond the borders.
During the decline of the Western Roman Empire, Armorica (modern Britain) rebelled against Roman rule under the Bagaudae and in the 5th and 6th centuries received many Celtic Britons fleeing instability across the Channel.
Modern Saint-Malo traces its origins to a monastic settlement founded by Saint Aaron and Saint Brendan in the early 6th century.
On March 11, 1590, Saint-Malo proclaimed its independence from the Kingdom of France and became the Republic of Saint-Malo, taking the motto “not French, not Breton, but Malouine”. The republic comes to an end on December 5, 1594 with the conversion to Catholicism of King Henry IV.
After the definitive annexation of the Duchy of Brittany to France, and with the discovery of America and the development of overseas trade, Saint-Malo became an economic emporium. This economic development slowed down due to the French Revolution. The most traumatic episode was the shooting of 60 «counter-revolutionaries» in the dunes of the Vendean Armada in December 1793. The youngest was 16 years old, the oldest 19 .
We went up the wall to walk around it and enjoy the views. It was a wind that literally took you away from the rain at times. There was even a moment when sleet fell on us.
The truth is that it was worth it. The views of both the coast and the city are incredible. The pity is that at high tide it was not possible to reach the Petit and Grand Bé islands.
We walked along the wall and went down to the height of the town hall. The wind and the rain had been with us.
We went through the door of San Vicente and next to it we sat down in a creperie called La duchesse Anne to have a drink and, of course, to eat a crepe while it was pouring with rain.
After replenishing our strength, we went for a night walk to the cathedral.
The town at night was completely deserted and with little lighting so we decided to return to the car that we were 45 km from the hotel. Parking cost us only €0.60 ($0.70) for almost two hours. I guess in high season it will be more expensive.
It took us almost an hour to get to the hotel. It was raining buckets and nothing could be seen, apart from the fact that we got lost along the way.
The chosen hotel was the Ibis Portonson Baie du Mont Saint Michel. A newly built hotel, so much so that on google maps the location appears in the middle of a fence. The hotel was very good, the classic cut of all ibis. Also very cheap, €57 ($68.44) per night with breakfast included.
For dinner, as it was getting late, we decided to have it at the hotel restaurant, which specialized in grilled meat. The menu was only in French so after a while we played it safe and ordered some hamburgers that were really good. The only downside was the slow slow service.
After dinner, to bed, you had to get up very early.
We get up very early. Today it was time to visit the site that was the reason for the trip: Mont Saint Michel.
Mont Saint Michel is located on a rocky tidal island (an island connected to land through a sand bar), although during prehistory it was on dry land.
Mont Saint-Michel was used in the 6th and 7th centuries as a bastion of Armorica until it was sacked by the Franks. Between the 5th and 8th centuries, Mont Saint Michel belonged to the territory of Neustria and, at the beginning of the 9th century, it was an important place in the Neustrian marches.
Until the 8th century the island was called Mont Tombe (Latin for tomb). According to a legend, the archangel Michael appeared in the year 708 to Aubert de Avranches, bishop of Avranches, and instructed him to build a church on the islet.
Through the Treaty of Compiègne in the year 867, the king of the Franks grants the Cotentin peninsula and the Avranchin, including Mont Saint Michel, to the Bretons.
In the year 933 William I Longsword annexed the Cotentin Peninsula of the weakened Duchy of Brittany to Normandy.
In 1067, the Mont Saint-Michel monastery supported William the Conqueror in his claim to the throne of England.
During the Hundred Years’ War, the Kingdom of England made repeated assaults on the island, but were unable to take it due to the improvement of the abbey’s fortifications.
We had breakfast quietly, throwing away half a coffee that looked like it was dog, undrinkable.
We set off and by 9 in the morning we were out of the car. We left it in one of the 13 car parks. In summer it has to be tremendous what people gather. There is a free bus that takes you from the car parks to the gate of the enclosure but we decided to do it on foot enjoying the views.
Supposedly it takes about 35 minutes but, between photos and selfies, it takes about 45.
As we crossed the bridge, a regular bus arrived from the nearby town of Portonson. The truth is that while I was preparing the trip I didn’t see him anywhere.
The town is very pretty, we climbed past a multitude of restaurants, hotels and gift shops on both sides until we reached, after about a million steps, the abbey.
The entrance fee is €11 ($13.21) and, apart from that, we rented an audio guide for an additional €3 ($3.60), which was very good because since we didn’t have headphones we could share it.
The abbey is truly spectacular, with a very, very rich history. It is a totally essential visit.
During the entire visit we were accompanied by a South Korean television crew who looked like they were recording a documentary.
At the end of the visit, the next step was to visit Fougères. We thought to eat there but we were separated by 50 minutes by car in the end we decided to look for something on the outskirts of the mountain. To return we took the free bus to the first stop it made.
There were many restaurants but some were closed. We assume that they will be seasonal and only open in summer.
In the end we decided on one that had very good reviews on the internet: Restaurant La Ferme Saint Michel, with typical French food.
We ate exaggeratedly well although somewhat expensive, but it is the tonic in France. We ate 2 menus, one for €24 ($28.80) and another for €29 ($34.80). Both consisted of a starter, main course and dessert, all to choose from several options. The truth is that it is highly recommended.
With a full belly, we returned to the parking lot and paid the €9.10 ($11) that it cost in low season and headed for the medieval village of Fougères.
Fougères is a French commune and sub-prefecture of Ille-et-Vilaine, in the Brittany region. The presence of numerous megalithic monuments, particularly in the Fougères forest, suggests that the region was already inhabited in Neolithic times.
The creation of Fougères dates back to the Middle Ages. We find the first mention of the Château de Fougères towards the end of the 10th century, when it was then a simple wooden fortification situated on a rocky promontory, whose position advantageously dominated the Nançon valley and the surrounding marshes.
From the twelfth century the population moved away from the banks of the Nançon and the city grew upwards, divided into two parishes: Saint-Sulpice for the lower city and Saint-Léonard for the upper city. The economy then is based on the tanneries, weavers and drapers.
In the 16th century the city lost its defensive role. The craft continues to develop, particularly pewter work. During the Wars of Religion, the city remained Catholic while Vitré was affected by clashes with the Huguenots.
At the beginning of the 20th century, industry gradually replaced craftsmanship and the manufacture of footwear grew little by little.
During the Oil Crisis of 1973, shoe factories gradually closed. From here the industry diversified: agri-food, furniture, mechanics, glass, electronics, computing and robotics. Fougères also organizes an important cattle market. Beginning in the 2000s, the city became more open to tourism, thanks to the development of its medieval castle and historic quarters.
A little less than an hour after leaving we were parking in one of the car parks in the town that was free, at least at this time.
As soon as we leave the car park, we find ourselves in front of the Château de Fougères.
The Château de Fougères, was built in the 10th century and destroyed in 1166, what we can now see is a reconstruction that spans from the 12th to the 15th century. It can be visited by paying €8.50 ($10.25).
Next to the Château de Fougères is the Église Saint-Sulpice de Fougères. Built between the moats of the castle and the old course of the river Nançon, in the medieval quarter of the tanners between the 12th and 16th centuries, it constitutes the heart of the bourg-vieil (ville-basse).
Nearby there was a path that was supposed to lead to a viewpoint called Butte à Bigot. Do not go. You don’t see a shit.
We get off the trickster and we walk through the medieval quarter until we reach the public garden.
We climb the hills of the public garden until we reach the Eglise Saint-Léonard. From there we can admire magnificent views.
The Eglise Saint-Léonard was built in the 12th century by the monks of Pontlevoy on the plateau overlooking the castle of Ferns.
Since it was too late, we decided to cancel the visit to Vitré and go directly to Rennes, where we have the hotel for the night.
About 40 minutes after leaving, we arrived at the hotel. We chose the Novotel Rennes Alma. Well located for us since it was next to the exit of the ring road that headed straight for Nantes so as not to lose time the next day. The bad thing is that, to get to the center of Rennes, you have to use public transport.
Find the best hotel at the best price in Rennes with Agoda:
The hotel surprised us but not for the better. There was no elevator. It only has two floors but climbing the stairs loaded with suitcases is a chore. Also, he looked quite old. The room was very spacious and we had free teas and instant coffees in the room.
Rennes is the capital of the Bretagne region and capital of the Ille-et-Vilaine department. It was founded between the 2nd and 1st centuries b.C. as the capital of the Gallic tribe of the redons, then called Condate. During the Roman Empire it became an important urban nucleus.
The city became one of the most important towns in the border region of the Duchy of Bretagne during the Middle Ages with the arrival of the Breton peoples.
Following the annexation of the Duchy of Bretagne to the Kingdom of France, it becomes a provincial capital and hosts the Parliament of Bretagne.
We left the hotel and went to the subway, which was about 15 minutes from the hotel. We took line A for €1.50 ($1.80) each ticket, which is valid for one hour, and went to République station.
We exit the metro and find ourselves next to the Palais du Commerce. Built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is an old stock exchange. The building housed the library, the Regional School of Fine Arts or the National Conservatory of Music. A post office and the Café de la Paix have been present in the building since the first inauguration.
We go for a walk to the center of the city. Very close we reach the Place de la Mairie. In it we can find the Hôtel de Ville and the Opéra de Rennes.
The Hôtel de Ville was built between 1734 and 1743 by Ange-Jacques Gabriel after the great fire of Rennes in 1720, while Toussaint-François Rallier du Baty was mayor. It housed in its north wing the faculties of law and science from 1840. The chemistry cabinet, occupied in particular by professor Faustino Malaguti until 1855, was in the current mayor’s office.
The Opéra de Rennes is an Italian-style hall designed by Charles Millardet and built by Pierre Louise in the 19th century. Today, the building mainly houses lyrical art and hosts some local events, such as the open-air opera.
Nearby is the Palace of the Parliament of Bretagne. It is a building of classical architecture built in the 17th century and was the seat of the Parliament of Bretagne from its construction until its dissolution by the French Revolution in February 1790. The building became the Rennes Court of Appeal in 1804. This monument it was completely restored after the fire of February 5, 1994, as a result of an incident related to the violent demonstrations of fishermen.
We continue walking through the beautiful medieval center of Rennes until we reach the Basilique Saint-Aubin in Notre-Dame de Bonne-Nouvelle. It is a minor Catholic basilica located on the Place Sainte-Anne. Its construction began in 1884 and to this day it remains unfinished. Apart from that, they are fixing the surroundings so the compound is closed and full of construction materials.
To one side is the Le Couvent des Jacobins – Center des Congrès de Rennes Métropole. It is an old religious building and a former barracks built in 1369. It includes an abbey, a cloister and convent buildings. In 2018, the building became the Rennes Métropole convention center.
For dinner, while walking, we booked a hamburger place with a very good aspect. It’s called Back to the 60’s and as it indicates, it’s set in the United States of the 60’s. Since it closed late and it was full, we continued walking.
After a while we came back and it was still full but we still went in. We waited 20 minutes and got a table. It must be said that, indeed, they were a scandal and it was not too expensive. All the burgers were around €15 ($18.15) and came with a bunch of fries and a little bit of salad.
After dinner we returned to the subway to go to the hotel to rest. Taking out the ticket, a girl who had just gotten off arrived and gave us her ticket, which was still valid. She explained to us that it is standard practice to leave them on top of the machine for people to use. There we realized that there were quite a few bills in all of them. In fact, there were signs saying that it was prohibited. When we got to our stop, we did the same thing. Wherever you go, do what you see…
We get up early with a bit of rain and we set off for Nantes. At first we were going to separate an hour and a half but the surroundings of the hotel were all cut off by a popular race for Women’s Day.
Nantes is the capital of the Loire-Atlantique Department and is located on the banks of the homonymous river.
It is believed that during Roman times its name was Condevicnum and it was the capital of a town called “Namnetes” and was part of the Lugdunense province (whose capital was Lugdunum, present-day Lyon).
Imperial rule over Nantes ended at the beginning of the 5th century, and the city was successively part of the Kingdom of Clovis, the Frankish Kingdom of Neustria, and the Carolingian Empire.
In the year 843, the Vikings invaded Nantes for the first time. They settled on an island in the area and over almost 100 years they made several attempts to conquer it. They were definitively expelled in 937 by the Breton duke Alain Barbetorte, who made the city his capital. But, after his death, the dukedom passed to the counts of Rennes.
In the middle of the 11th century, Count Hoel de Cornouaille inherited the County of Nantes and married the heir to the Duchy of Brittany. During the Hundred Years’ War, Nantes was besieged by the English in 1343, attacked by the Earl of Buckingham, and subsequently liberated by Olivier de Clisson in 1380.
It was besieged again in 1491 by the King of France, Charles VIII, to whom it was delivered for treason, marrying Duchess Anne of Brittany to legitimize the rights he had just acquired over Anne’s inheritance.
As a result of these marriages, Brittany, as well as the city of Nantes, was officially incorporated into France in 1532. Nantes ceased to be the capital of Brittany, becoming Rennes.
Between the 15th and 19th centuries it was the most important Atlantic slave trading port in all of France.
After a thousand turns and on the verge of desperation, we managed to reach the back of the hotel where the parking entrance was.
The hotel we chose was the Ibis Nantes center Gare Sud. Right in the center of Nantes but easy to get to by car in normal conditions, in fact, leaving the city was not difficult at all. Parking cost us €13 ($15.73) extra.
We left things in storage because it was early and we are going to see Nantes.
Right next to the hotel is La Tour Lu. The tower belongs to the old LU (biscuit) factory opened in 1895. Two corner towers were built in 1909 but were damaged by bombing during World War II. Today only one of them remains, which was restored to its original state by the architect Jean-Marie Lépinay at the end of the 1990s.
From here we cross a bridge to the outside of the Château des ducs de Bretagne, the castle of the Dukes of Bretagne. It served as the center of the historic province of Brittany until its separation in 1956.
It is located on the right bank of the Loire river, which previously fed its ditches. It was the residence of the dukes of Bretagne between the 13th and 16th centuries, later becoming the Breton residence of the French monarchy. Today the castle houses the Nantes History Museum.
Next to the castle is the tourist office. We go in for a bit of information. The girl who attended us had a terrible time the poor thing because she spoke little english.
We entered the castle since walking along the top of the wall is free. Despite the rain and the cold, walking the walls is very good, you enjoy good views of the surroundings.
On one of the sides, there was a very long slide that went to the pit but it only opens in summer if the weather allows it. Now, it’s really ugly.
From here we went for a walk in the rain to the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul, the cathedral of the Diocese of Nantes and seat of the Bishop of Nantes. Its construction spanned 457 years, from 1434 to 1891, but these delays in no way affect the quality or consistency of its Gothic style. It has been classified as a historical monument since 1862.
Inside you can admire the tomb and effigies of Duke Francis II of Bretagne and his wife Margaret of Foix (parents of Anne of Bretagne). This marble tomb, which Michel Colombe took five years to complete (1502-1507), is decorated with the twelve apostles and four women who represent strength, prudence, temperance and justice. It was installed in the cathedral in 1817.
The building also houses the cenotaph of General de Lamoricière, a monument erected in 1878 in papal tribute to the services rendered by this son of Nantes.
Leaving the cathedral, we noticed that there was a green line on the ground. It turns out that they have marked the tourist tours of the city. In addition, at certain points there is an eye drawn, a perfect point to contemplate the monument.
We were already a little hungry but it was early. Next to the cathedral there was a pastry bakery where there was a long queue that stretched down the street. This has to be very tasty, so we got in line.
The site is called La Boulangerie d’Antan. It had a million kinds of bread, cakes and sandwiches. We bought some typical sweets from Nantes called bottereaux, which are like a kind of small square donuts, and also a brioche I don’t know which was very good.
Very close we passed in front of a starbucks. Although we don’t like it very much, we decided to go in to see if, being a franchise, the coffee was less bad. I ordered a warm matchalatte and Sara ordered a coffee that was less bad but not good.
With our bodies warm, we approach the nearby Place Royale. It was designed in 1786 by the architect Mathurin Crucy and built in 1790 after the destruction of the medieval walls. The fountain was built in 1865.
Next to the fountain there was a group of people making a claim for Women’s Day.
Behind the Place Royale is the Basilique Saint-Nicolas. It is a neo-gothic style basilica. The current building was built between 1844 and 1869, although as early as 1186 there are signs of a religious building.
Nearby is also the Passage Pommeraye, a market gallery built from the end of 1840. Its construction led to the ruin of its promoter, Louis Pommeraye.
The passage, considered an architectural success, was still a flourishing place of commerce. It has benefited from a renovation completed in 2015. The site is certainly gorgeous.
A little further on we come to Place Graslin. This is one of the main squares in the city center of which the most significant monument is the Graslin Theater, which is Nantes’ opera house built at the end of the 17th century.
While we are on our way to Les Machines de l’Île, we are looking for somewhere to eat, but nothing is open. On a Sunday at noon all restaurants closed? live to see.
Arriving at the esplanade where the Les Machines de l’Île site is located, we see that there is a small cafeteria called Café de la Branche, so we go in to look. They had sandwiches and sandwiches so we ate au gratin sandwiches that came on a plate with salad that was very good and cost €7.50 ($9.07).
After eating, the first tour of the Grand Éléphant began, the star of the Les Machines de l’Île exhibition.
Les Machines de l’île is an exhibition and entertainment space created by François Delarozière and Pierre Orefice that is located on the Ile de Nantes, in the Parc des Chantiers, on the site of former shipyards now in disuse. The island’s machines are at the crossroads of Jules Verne’s “invented worlds”, the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci and the industrial history of Nantes.
We made a long queue to be able to buy the ticket. The price of admission to the exhibition is €8.50 ($10.30). With this same ticket you get a discount of €1.60 ($1.94) if you want to get on the Carrousel des Mondes Marins. But if instead of riding the carousel you just want to see it, they charge you €6.30 ($7.60). Good business. The ride on the Grand Éléphant costs another €8.50 ($10.30).
The exhibition is pretty cool. It consists of various machines in the shape of animals imitating their movements where they tell you various stories about them. The explanations are in French but in many places you have QR codes with which you download an application where they are also given in various languages. You also have access to the workshops in which they show an explanatory video of how everything has been assembled. It is in french but subtitled in english.
On leaving, we approached the Carrousel des Mondes Marins but since they put many images in the explanatory video, we didn’t pay the 6€ since we weren’t going to get on.
From here we went for a walk along the banks of the Loire River to the hotel to check-in and rest a bit.
The walk along the riverbank had been recommended to us by the girl at the information office, but the truth is that there is nothing remarkable about it.
The hotel follows the same line as the Ibis. The room was a bit small, but having stayed twice in tiny Japanese hotel rooms, we don’t mind too much. The best thing is that it has great views of the Château des Ducs de Bretagne and the cathedral.
After the break we go out again for a walk. We walked through Les cours Saint-Pierre et Saint-André, which are two boulevards that run behind the cathedral and are separated by a square where there is a column that pays homage to Louis XVI.
We reached the nearby Eglise Saint Clément and retraced our steps. We pass by the Erdre river canal, where they show a video of a girl’s face in the water. Silly but curious. It’s called Nymphea.
From here we went to the old town to find somewhere to have dinner. We walked around the castle and followed one of the green tourist lines. The line took us to the Place du Buffau, where there is a curious sculpture of a guy with one foot outside the pedestal with which we were fooling around for a while.
We followed the green line back to the center and reached the Église Sainte-Croix de Nantes where it entered a closed shopping gallery.
We continued walking and when we arrived at the Hôtel de Ville it started to rain. We decided to go somewhere for dinner. With the pints we had we got into a very fine and modern place called Le cochon qui fume. We ate very well despite the sablazo and we went to rest at the hotel.
Last hours in France. We got up early and went to the bakery the day before to buy some sandwiches to eat on the plane and some sweets. Back to the hotel we did it walking. We returned to the castle to enjoy it for a little while without rain.
It was very sad to leave because today it was sunny and the sky was completely clear. We went back to the hotel, took the car and went to the airport. At 11.50 the flight to Granada left on time, where we arrived about 20 minutes early after a quiet flight.
A very intense and well-used three-day trip. Once again, France surprises us with its landscapes, its towns and its people. The truth is that it was well worth it and it will surely not be the last time we visit it.
We continue our visit to France. Today we are going to the north of the country.
Today we are going to Lille where a friend is waiting for us to spend several days touring the north of the country. At 11.46 we take the TGV that leaves from the Paris Nord station. An hour later we arrived at the Lille station.
Lille is the capital of the Upper France region. It developed economically in the 1990s thanks to the construction of the Euralille business district and the arrival of the High Speed Trains and the Eurostar.
The area was already inhabited around 2,000 BC. for the remains found on the banks of the Deûle river. After the Roman conquest of Gaul, the settlements on the Deûle River grew, although what is now Lille was nothing more than a scattered group of population centers linked by secondary roads. At the end of the V century a. C., a nucleus located on the eastern bank of the river began to grow slowly, being the densest of all the surrounding populations.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the location on the eastern bank of the Deûle gradually brought together the surrounding inhabited areas. The origin of the city of Lille is narrated by the medieval legend of “Lydéric and Phinaert”. This legend tells that Lydéric was the son of Salvaert and Ermengaert, princes of Dijon. When these went to England to father their future son, they were arrested by Phinaert, giant and lord of the lands of present-day Lille, who also executed Salvaert. Ermengaert was able to flee and, before she died, she gave birth to Lydéric, who had to be raised with a hermit, fleeing from the giant. When Lydéric grew up, he murdered Phinaert in revenge for the death of his parents, and received the giant’s lands, where he founded in 640 the city of L’Ile, from which according to legend Lille derives its name.
We go to the hotel to check in. We chose the Citadines City Center, next to the train station. A small apartment with a kitchen. It was very good and it cost us €64 per night.
Find the best hotel at the best price with all the guarantees on AGODA:
Remember to always travel with travel insurance. With IATI, specialists in travel insurance, you have a 5% discount for being our reader.
From here we went to eat and then to take a walk around the city. We ate at a place called L’Estaminet Gantois. It was very tasty and not overly expensive.
We walked around the Grand’Place, also called Place du Général de Gaulle, who was a native of Lille. It is the main meeting point for the residents of Lille, the square dates back to the origins of the city, around the year 1066, at the crossroads of the main fairs between North and South. Dedicated to trade, of which the Old Stock Market (Vieille Bourse de Lille) remains the most representative symbol.
It is dominated by four women: the Goddess at its center commemorating the siege of Lille by the Austrians in 1792, and the three women who crown the Voix du Nord building. These three graces represent the three provinces of the region: Artois, Flanders and Hainaut.
The Old Stock Exchange (Vieille Bourse) built between 1652 and 1653 by Julien Destrée, is considered the most beautiful monument in the city. The truth is that the building is quite spectacular. In the inner courtyard there are many stalls selling used books.
Behind the Grand Place, crossing the Vieille Bourse, we arrive at the Place du Théâtre. The square owes its name to the old theater that bordered the square and was lost during a fire in 1903. The current Lille Opera was built in its place.
The history of the Place du Théâtre is closely linked to that of the Place du Général de Gaulle (Grand Place) until 1652, the date of the creation of the Bourse du Commerce, called “Vieille Bourse”. Before the construction of the commercial interchange, “Vieille Bourse”, the two places formed only one.
Next to the opera is the Beffroi de la Chambre de Commerce de Lille, the new Chamber of Commerce. It was built in 1921 in a neo-regionalist style, inspired by the Flemish architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries, to replace the Old Stock Exchange, which had become too small. Its bell tower, 76 meters high, has a chime with 25 bells, from which comes the music of P’tit Quinquin, which is performed every noon.
A five-minute walk from the Place du Théâtre is the Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille Cathedral. Built between 1854 and 1999 in the neo-Gothic style, it stands on the site of the old motte castrale, on which the Saint-Nicolas bell tower still stands.
The cathedral inside is impressive, with beautiful mosaics on the floor. You have to visit it, and it’s also free.
After visiting the interior of the cathedral, we decided to have a snack at a nearby place called Pâtisserie Méert. An impressive looking place with some really good sweets. Although it is quite expensive but, this is a special occasion.
After replenishing (unnecessarily) strength, we went to the Citadel of Lille. Designed and built by Vauban between 1667 and 1670, it symbolizes the conquest of the city by Louis XIV who ordered its construction to consolidate the defense of the Flanders border. With five bastions it forms a star-shaped defense, protecting a small inland city. The main gate still bears a Latin inscription in homage to Louis XIV, the Sun King.
After visiting the citadel we went to rest a bit until dinner time. For dinner we made a reservation at a restaurant called La Bastide 48. A quite luxurious place but we had a very, very good dinner. After dinner a short walk and to sleep that the next day a long day awaited us.
If you want to get to know Lille well, you can always hire a beautiful tour of the city:
We get up very early and go to the rental office to get the car. We pick you up and leave for Ypres, 39 kilometers from Lille.
Ypres is a small city in northwestern Belgium in the Westhoek region in the province of West Flanders. Very prosperous city during the Middle Ages thanks to the textile industry. Sadly famous for being one of the most violent and long-lasting fronts of the First World War, 4 major battles took place in which almost 2 million soldiers on both sides died in less than four years. On the battlefields around Ypres, the Germans used poison gas for the first time on April 22, 1915 as chemical weapons.
Before arriving in Ypres we had a small problem and that is that the GPS took us over and over again to the same closed road and close to the Belgian border. Whatever we did, we got to the same point. With that there was no roaming (being paid…) there was no choice but to use the orientation and take a good detour, but we ended up arriving.
When we got out of the car, we realized that it was unexpectedly cold. It was so surprising that our companions had to go to a store to buy some jackets.
As soon as we parked, we headed to the Grote Markt. But first we passed by the Sint-Pieterskerk, a small Gothic-Romanesque church founded in 1073 by the Flemish Count Robrecht de Fries. In 1638 the tower burned down and was not rebuilt until 1868. During the First World War, the church, like the rest of Ypres, was completely destroyed.
Continuing along the same street, we arrive at the Grote Markt. There we find the spectacular Lakenhalle building (cloth market). It is one of the largest civil buildings in Europe in the Gothic style. It was built between 1230 and 1304. The 70 meter high bell tower was built from 1250 as a sign of the power of the bourgeoisie. On the east side, the Gulden Halleke was built against the hall complex in 1360, replaced in 1620 by the Nieuwerck.
The building was completely destroyed during the First World War and later rebuilt. The restored cloth room was completed in 1967. The architects, including Jules Coomans, opted for a faithful reconstruction of the pre-war situation. At the bottom of the cloth walkways, the original stones are still visible, these are the largest. The higher you go, the smaller the stones become.
The building is truly spectacular, it is hard to believe that it is in such a small city. In the building we can find the tourist office and the In Flanders Fields Museum, dedicated to the study of the First World War.
Behind the spectacular building is the Sint-Maartenskathedraal, the former St. Martin’s Cathedral. Built between 1230 and 1370, it replaced a small Romanesque church from the 10th century that stood on the site.
Very close to the Grote Markt is the Menenpoort or Menin Gate, a city gate that was built by the British in 1927 on the east side of the city, as a “memorial to the disappeared”. Inside are engraved the names of the 54,896 names of British soldiers who disappeared during the First World War. The name refers to the city of Menen, a city that can be reached from the center of Ypres through the Menin Gate. The gate is one of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s memorials for the Missing.
Every day at 8 pm the “last message” is held in memory of the fallen.
As it was already lunch time, we set out to find an open place. For this we returned to the Lakenhalle area. On the way we passed the Ypres War Victims Monument, dedicated to the 155 civilian and military victims of Ypres who died in the First World War. There are also 21 names on two plaques dedicated to later victims who died during World War II when Ypres was occupied by German forces between 1940 and 1945.
We ate at a place called ;t Ganzeke is really called that, I haven’t accidentally touched too many letters), a huge restaurant and it was almost full. We ate very well and it was not too expensive.
With renewed strength we got back in the car and drove to Mont Saint Eloi (80km) to visit the ruins of its abbey.
Saint Eloi Abbey was founded on the top of the hill in 1066 by the Bishop of Arras, Lietbertus, and had already served as a place of worship centuries before. The entire abbey was completely renovated in the classicist style between 1733 and 1765. After the French Revolution it was sold and the buyer demolished the buildings for building materials. Today only two towers remain, which have been protected since 1836.
From here we went to Le Flambeau de la Paix (the Torch Of Peace) in Neuville-Saint-Vaast 4km away. It is a monumental hand rising from the ground with a torch and symbolizes rebirth after the turmoil of the Great War of Neuville-Saint-Vaast. Occupied and heavily fortified by the Germans since October 1914, this city was taken by French troops in 1915, house after house, after two weeks of furious fighting that cost the lives of more than 5,000 men and left only ruins. The monument is located directly opposite the military museum.
Then we went to the Nécropole Nationale de Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, 8km away. It is a military cemetery and monument inaugurated in 1925 and almost 45,000 French combatants rest there, of which 20,000 are in individual graves, who lost their lives on the front between October 1914 and September 1915. With 25 hectares of surface, It is the largest military necropolis in France.
The enclosure is really overwhelming. That large area full of crosses… It makes my hair stand on end just remembering it.
Directly opposite, on November 11, 2014, on the centenary of the Great War, an international monument is inaugurated with the names of 600,000 soldiers who fell on the ground of the North and Pas-de-Calais between 1914 and 1918 called Anneau de la Mémoire (Memory Ring).
After the overwhelming visit, we returned to the car to go to Arras, 15km away, which is where we were going to spend the night. But on the way we stopped for a moment at the Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery. Its curious name comes from a small cafe that was located here and was destroyed during the bombing of 1915. In addition to giving its name to this sector, it also gave it to a communication trench that brought the troops to the front line. Commonwealth soldiers began burying their fallen comrades here in March 1916. Buried here are 6,725 British soldiers, 749 Canadians, 116 Australians, 7 New Zealanders, 43 South Africans, 15 Indians and 4 Germans.
From here we went straight to Arras, the historical and administrative capital of the Pas-de-Calais department. Existing since the Gallic period when the Atrebates settled in Artois, its development began when the Romans conquered the region in 56 BC. Although it is known that there were already Neanderthals inhabiting the area 200,000 years ago.
Arras is known for its two magnificent baroque squares that form a unique architectural ensemble in the world, its bell tower and its Citadel, both classified as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. With 225 buildings listed as historic monuments, Arras is the city with the highest density of monuments in France.
We left our things at the hotel, choosing the ibis Arras Center Les Places, located in the heart of the city between Place des Héros and Grand Place. The room was tiny but well set up and relatively cheap.
We immediately went to visit the city. We start with the Place des Héros located in the center of Arras, between the town hall with its municipal bell tower and the rue de la Taillerie that connects it with the Grand Place. Formerly known as Petite Place, it was renamed Place des Héros in 1945 as a tribute to the city’s resistance fighters who were killed during World War II.
On the square is the Hôtel de Ville d’Arras, the city hall. Its construction began in the year 1501. The building was destroyed during the First World War and was rebuilt exactly the same. Its spectacular 75-meter-high bell tower stands out.
Nearby is the flamboyant Gothic Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste d’Arras, built in 1920 to replace the 16th-century church on the site, which was destroyed during the First World War.
At dinner time, we entered a site that I had seen on the internet. It’s called L’Ami Bidasse’, tucked away in a basement on Rue de la Taillerie, it serves French food at a great price.
After dinner we took a last stroll through the Place des Héros and went to sleep so we could get up early.
Today, for personal reasons we had to cancel the plan for the day. We had to run to Brussels to take our friends to the airport who had to go back to Spain.
On the way back to Lille, as it was on the way, we decided to visit Ghent. When we were in Belgium we couldn’t visit it due to lack of time. But first, as it was getting too late to eat, we decided to stop at a town halfway called Ternat. We made quite a discovery, a place whose name I can’t remember and I can’t find on google maps, so I don’t know if it’s still open, where we ate an exquisite hamburger. The gentleman who attended us, who seemed to be the owner, managed to explain to us by signs that he only spoke Dutch and the menu was only in that language, but in Belgium at 3 in the afternoon it had to be whatever it was. So we point a finger at a random burger and PRIZE! It was brutal. The man, not to speak the same language, was really nice and friendly.
With a full stomach, we set off again for Ghent.
As soon as we parked, we went in search of a coffee to see if it was less bad than in France and yes, it was quite good. We had it at a place called the Vooruit cafe, in a really cool building called the Vooruit, which is an event room.
Ghent is the capital of the Belgian province of East Flanders. It arose from the Celtic residential areas in the area of the confluence of the Leie and the Scheldt. In the Middle Ages, fueled by a thriving woolen industry, Ghent became one of the largest cities in Europe.
On those days there must have been some music festival since there were stages all over the city where there were groups playing music of various styles.
Walking we reach the Sint-Baafskathedraal, the Cathedral of Saint Bavo. It was originally a parish church dedicated to John the Baptist. In 942, Transmar, the Bishop of Tournai, consecrated the church as the Church of Saint John of which only the crypt remains today. The construction of the current one was carried out in three phases from the 12th century until its completion with the construction of the nave from 1533.
When we visited the city was completely covered by restoration. a pity
A little further on is Het Belfort van Gent, the Belfry of Ghent, a large bell tower dating from the 14th century. At 95 meters high, it is part of the emblematic “Three Torens” (three towers) of the historic center of Ghent, together with the towers of the Sint-Baafskathedraal (Saint Bavo’s Cathedral) and the Sint-Niklaaskerk (Saint Nicholas Church).
Opposite Het Belfort van Gent is the Sint-Niklaaskerk (Church of Saint Nicholas). Built between the 13th and 15th centuries to replace the old Romanesque church, this Scheldt Gothic church is one of the oldest buildings in the city.
Nearby is the Sint-Michielsbrug (Saint Michael’s bridge) and next to it, the spectacular Oud Postgebouw, the old post office building, designed by the architect Louis Cloquet and built between 1900 and 1908. Since 1998 it was sold by post office, it has been converted into a shopping center on the ground floor and apartments on the top floor. They look cheap.
Crossing the bridge we arrive over the river Lys, we arrive at Sint-Michielskerk (St. Michael’s church). It was built between 1440 and 1825 in the late Gothic style.
At this point we turned around and went to rest a bit enjoying the live music that was on a stage on the riverbank.
After the break, we made our way through the crowd. We crossed the river again, this time over the Grasbrug bridge and to reach the Groot Vleeshuis, a meat market that already exists in documents from the year 1251. The current building is a restoration for the 1913 world exhibition, identical to the existing building in 1744 The building is now used as a promotion center for regional products from East Flanders.
Crossing the Vleeshuisbrug bridge we arrive at the Gravensteen, the Castle of the Counts of Ghent. Built in 1180 by order of Count Philip of Alsace to replace the previous castle that stood on the same site as this one, it is the only remaining medieval castle in Flanders with a nearly intact defense system.
Currently you can visit the guardhouse, the wall, the homage tower, the count’s residence and the stables. The entrance with audioguide costs 12€.
As it was getting late, we went for a walk towards the car. On the way we passed by the Stadhuis Gent, the city hall of Ghent. The façade on the Hoogpoort side shows the Flamboyant late Gothic of the early 16th century, which contrasts sharply with the Renaissance style of the Botermarkt façade. In this more recent wing (1559-1618) you can see three-quarter columns and Doric, Ionic and Corinthian pilasters, inspired by Italian palaces.
We get to the car and go to Lille (72km). The hotel was the same as the night before we spent in the city.
Find the best activities to do in Ghent with CIVITATIS:
It’s time to get up early and get on the road, there’s a long way to go. The first stop: Mémorial Neuve Chapelle at 36km in the town of Richebourg. This monument pays tribute to the memory of the 10,000 Indian soldiers who died in France during the First World War, and particularly during the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle. It was inaugurated on October 7, 1927.
The next stop is the Mémorial national du Canada à Vimy at 27km. It is an impressive monument inaugurated on July 26, 1936 to honor the memory of the 66,000 Canadian soldiers who died during the First World War, especially the 11,285 in the Battle of Vimy Ridge in this very place. It is very shocking to see many fences with warning signs not to cross them since there are still unexploded mines and it can be dangerous. More than 100 years later.
Just opposite is the Monument to the Moroccan Division, much more modest than the previous one, to pay tribute to the Moroccan soldiers who lost their lives in the Great War.
Very close, less than 1 km away is the Center d’accueil et d’éducation du Mémorial national du Canada à Vimy, a military museum and next to it, Part of the trenches of the First World War that are preserved. We can also see several craters from bombs dropped on the ground in the area.
From here we head south. We made a technical stop in Arras at 11km to eat a kebab and continue to Thiepval, at 37km to visit the Thiepval Memorial. It is a memorial dedicated to the Franco-British armies and the British soldiers who fell during the Battle of the Somne in the second half of 1916. It was inaugurated in 1932 in the presence of the President of the French Republic Albert Lebrun and the then Prince of Wales, the future Edward VIII. 72,244 names are currently registered in it. Bad luck wanted it to be under restoration and was partially covered by scaffolding.
A 10-minute drive away is Ulster Tower. Opened on November 19, 1921, it was one of the first memorials to be erected on the Western Front and pays tribute to all Ulster soldiers and especially those of the 36th Division who served in the Great War. It is inspired by the Tower of Helen found on the Clandeboye Estate, County Down in Northern Ireland.
The tower was closed and it was not possible to access the interior, so we went 12 kilometers to visit the Mémorial national sud-africain du bois Delville, which looked good. It is a monument in the town of Longueval inaugurated in 1922 to honor the 3,150 soldiers who participated in the First World War, of whom 1,080 died in just 6 days (from July 14 to 20, 1916) in this place. There is also a museum chronicling South Africa’s involvement in the two world wars and various conflicts during the cold war.
Unfortunately it doesn’t open on Mondays so we couldn’t go in and it was one of the most interesting monuments to see. We settle for taking a picture of it in the distance.
Before starting the march to Caen, where we had the hotel, we decided to have a coffee in the village. The only place there was called Le Calypso II. A rather seedy place that serves as a gas station, cafeteria, tobacconist and post office. We were surprised that the coffee was the least dog we had on our entire trip and the place was seedy as hell. To go to the bathroom you went through the master’s house but, as the place was, it was surprisingly clean. The owner was very nice. We managed to understand him (thanks to the little french that my girlfriend remembers from studying it at the high school) that he was the grandson of a man from Zaragoza, I seem to remember that he was a Republican exiled after the Spanish Civil War. The truth is that, to know that we don’t speak French, he talked nonstop. In any case, it was a pleasant surprise.
After coffee and a pleasant chat, we started the march to Caen, from which 300 km separated us. We decided to take the toll road, which was about 20€ but we saved 1 hour of walking (3.15 instead of 4.19).
The hotel we chose is the ibis Caen Porte de Bretagne. Well located because, as we were only passing through, it was next to the highway.
We hired a great offer on the Ibis website, for 57€ we even had breakfast included. The room very well, in the style of all the Ibis in which we have stayed.
The problem was at the reception. To begin with, the girl at the reception only spoke French. I find it really serious that a receptionist from a prestigious chain like Accor does not know how to communicate in English. With that situation, the second problem was making him understand that we had breakfast included, which was free for an offer they had on the official website when making the reservation (two months before).
Everything was going to tell us that with the price we had paid it could not be that it was included. Giving it as impossible we decided to go to dinner. On the way back from dinner there was another guy who did speak English, but the same problem. With that price there is no breakfast (give it the happy price). He already gave up when we showed him all the reservation details directly from the Accor website. We were finally able to have breakfast the next day after nearly two hours of arguing.
Today we get up early again. We went down to breakfast with the uncertainty to see if they had fixed yesterday’s problem and, yes, it was fixed. We finished the simple buffet and set off for Bayeux, which separated us 28 kilometers.
Bayeux was founded in the 1st century BC. by the Bodiocases during the Roman Empire under the name of Augustodurum. In the year 890, the Vikings invade and destroy the city.
Bayeux is famous for its embroidered tapestries, especially the Bayeux Tapestry.
A masterpiece of Romanesque art from the 11th century, the Bayeux Tapestry, also known as the Queen Mathilde Tapestry, is a gigantic embroidered tapestry 68 meters long (you read that right), commissioned by Bishop Odon, half-brother of William, to adorn its new cathedral in 1077. It recounts the events of the conquest of England by the Duke of Normandy. The story begins in 1064, when the King of England, Edward the Confessor, orders his brother-in-law, Harold, to go to Normandy to propose to his cousin, William the Conqueror, the throne of England. The story ends, after many events, with Harold’s death in battle from an arrow in the eye and William the Conqueror named King of England in 1066 in Westminster Abbey.
We leave the car in a parking lot very close to the cathedral and we go to visit the city. The first thing we come across is the impressive Notre Dame de Bayeux Cathedral.
Notre Dame de Bayeux Cathedral, begun during the Romanesque era, was consecrated in 1077 by Bishop Odon de Conteville in the presence of his brother, William the Conqueror. After suffering significant damage in the 12th century, it was rebuilt between the 12th and 15th centuries, in different Gothic styles: Early Gothic, Radiant Gothic and Extravagant Gothic. Actually, most of the construction took place between the years 1230 and 1270.
The visit to the cathedral is free so we took the opportunity to enter. The interior is beautiful and the crypt is spectacular.
On leaving the cathedral, we went to visit perhaps the most representative image of Bayeux: the mill.
If you are not in a hurry, you can hire a beautiful tour of the charming city of Bayeux at the following link:
We continued walking around the wonderful old part of the city and got back in the car to go to our next destination: the Batterie de Longues-sur-Mer, 8 km away.
The German Battery is the main work of the Atlantic Wall. The Longues-sur-Mer battery remains one of the most spectacular sites in the Normandy landing beach sector with its four casemates that still house the cannons. Originally, it played a strategic role on June 6, 1944.
From here, we continue to the Normandy American Cemetery, 15 km. We park in the huge cemetery parking lot and first of all approach the coastline, from where there are impressive views of Omaha Beach, the main point of the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944.
The American Cemetery, which is also a monument, is located in Colleville-sur-Mer, on the site of the St. Laurent Temporary American Cemetery, established by the First United States Army on June 8, 1944, as the first American cemetery on European soil. It contains the graves of 9,385 US servicemen, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and subsequent operations.
On the walls of the disappeared, in a semicircular garden on the east side of the monument, 1,557 names are inscribed. Rosettes mark the names of those who were recovered and identified.
Despite the number of people there, the venue is overwhelming. Such a huge expanse with so many tombs. Is awesome.
Overwhelmed, we returned to the car and drove to the Crisbecq Battery, 60 km away. Crisbecq Battery (sometimes called Marcouf Battery) was a World War II German artillery battery built by the Organization Todt near the French town of Saint-Marcouf and formed part of Nazi Germany’s Atlantic Wall coastal fortifications. The main armament was three 21 cm Czech Kanone 39 guns, two of which were housed in heavily fortified casemates up to 3 thick in concrete. The battery, with a range of 27 to 33 kilometers, could cover the beaches between Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue and Pointe du Hoc.
The place was completely abandoned after the war until in 2004, two history buffs bought the land, restored it and opened it as a museum. Admission is 7€ (2015) and it is quite well put together to be done by amateurs.
After visiting the museum we ran to Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue 17 km away, to visit the Ile Tatihou, a small island of only 29 hectares in front of the city. The island contains the Fort Vauban built in 1694 and since 2008 it has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage. Unfortunately we arrived too late and narrowly missed the last amphibious vehicle that takes you to the island, so we had to settle for photographing it from afar.
We decided to set off for our new destination: Rouen, 240 km away. There we took the hotel night because it was too close to Paris to leave the car because I had no desire to enter the capital with the car. We took the toll road because we saved more than an hour of travel for the 9€ it cost.
After looking around for the hotel a few times, we finally found it. We chose the Rouen Saint Server, a small hotel very central and for only €40 per night. We checked in and went to dinner. Looking for a place, we realized that the city looked very nice. The idea was to leave very early for Paris but we decided to spend the morning in Rouen. Walking around we found a small (very small) pizzeria with good looks and good prices: pizzeria de la cathédrale. We were not disappointed. Huge homemade pizza for €7 in the heart of the city.
After dinner, from which we had a good piece of pizza left over and we took it to the hotel for breakfast, we went to rest and plan the next day in the city.
Today we get up early to enjoy Rouen before going to Paris.
Rouen is the administrative capital of Normandy and is crossed by the Seine River. It is known as the city of a hundred bell towers and for being the place of the martyrdom of Joan of Arc in 1431, where she was burned at the stake in the Vieux Marché square.
The first thing was to take a walk through the beautiful old town until reaching Place Barthélémy, where the Église catholique Saint-Maclou is located, an impressive Gothic church built between 1437 and 1517 by the architect Jacques-Eugène Barthélémy. The church is considered by art historians to be a jewel of extravagant Gothic art.
Here we sat down for breakfast in a small cafeteria called Antico Caffe, a very bad coffee (of course) but a croissant that was… it’s the most delicious croissant I’ve ever tasted. A dry stick, without filling or anything… spectacular. Of course, the price was just as spectacular (expensive), but it’s worth it.
After gaining strength, we went to the nearby Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen, a spectacular Gothic building built in the mid-12th century. It was in the archbishop’s palace of Rouen, in the Gothic style, contemporary to the cathedral, where the second trial of Joan of Arc took place. In this cathedral is where the heart of King Richard I of England is buried.
During the 1890s, the famous painter Claude Monet painted a series of 30 paintings depicting the cathedral at different times of the day and the seasons.
We continue walking through the center, which is really beautiful. We do not regret having thought better of staying to visit the city instead of going to Paris early.
Walking on foot, we reach the Gros-Horloge, a Renaissance pavilion that extends along the street with a low arch. On the Renaissance double dial, the single hand points to the time.
Returning to the car, we finally passed the Place du Général de Gaulle, where the town hall is located and, next to it, Abbatiale Saint-Ouen. Opposite the square is an equestrian statue of Napoleon I.
Hôtel de ville de Rouen (town hall), is the former abbey of Saint-Ouen, in the building of the former monks’ dormitories. The abbey was abandoned in 1790 and from 1800 the new town hall was installed here.
Next to the town hall is the abbey church. Founded around 750, the Abbey of Saint-Ouen was one of the most powerful Benedictine monasteries in Normandy. After the French Revolution, the yauntamiento moved to the former monks’ dormitory, a beautiful classical building from the mid-18th century. The abbey church, which many visitors take for the cathedral due to its majestic proportions, is located within the former convent gardens.
Now we went to the hotel to get the things to pick up the car and leave it at the rental office, at the train station in the city. We take the train at 12.59. The ticket cost us €10 per head. At 2:10 p.m. we arrived at Saint Lazare station. We went directly to the hotel, the Hôtel ibis Paris Gare du Nord Château Landon 10ème, next to the Gare du Nord, which was where the next morning we took the train to the airport. The hotel is quite good, in line with all the ibis, a small but comfortable room for 70€ a night.
Find the best hotel at the best price in Paris with Agoda:
We left our things at the hotel and went to the Église Saint-Sulpice. To get there we took metro line 4 to the Odéon station. Built in the 17th century, on foundations from the 12th century, the Saint-Sulpice church is one of the largest in Paris. Inside you can admire the chapel of the Virgin with a statue of Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, the sacristy and the Louis XV-style woodwork, the mural paintings by Eugène Delacroix and the great organ by Cavaillé-Coll. The church of Saint-Sulpice is one of the settings of the novel “The Da Vinci Code” by Down Brown (in my humble opinion, bad and simple to say enough. Good to invest in advertising).
In front of the church, on Place Saint-Sulpice, is the Fontaine Saint-Sulpice, also maliciously called the “fountain of the four cardinal points” because it is decorated with four statues of Catholic bishops, famous preachers from the time of Louis XIV , but who were never made cardinals. The fountain was erected between 1843 and 1848 by the architect Louis Visconti.
After visiting the church, we got on the metro line 12 to Place de la Concorde. From there we went towards L’église de la Madeleine. Passing first through the nearby Le Village Royal, a shopping arcade that I have no idea how they let us in. Stores like Chanel, Dior and stuff.
L’église de la Madeleine is located between Place de la Concorde and the Opera House, in the heart of Haussmanian Paris. Its construction lasted from 1764 to 1842. Its aspect of a Greek temple, without a cross or a bell tower, is very atypical in the area of religious architecture. Napoleon wanted this church to be a pantheon to the glory of his armies.
From here we went for a long walk to the Champs de Mars, to say goodbye to the Eiffel Tower. And early to sleep that you had to get up early, not much, very much.
Impressive morning. He had to go back to Spain. At 6.15 in the morning we left with the RER B to Charles de Gaulle airport. You had to go with time because it is gigantic. About 40 minutes later we got off at Terminal 2 station. From there we walked a long way to a shuttle bus that took us to our tiny terminal, 2G. Something happened to me at the control that had never happened to me or happened again until we returned to France in 2020. My girlfriend passed calmly and when I went to pass, asking if I had liquids, I took out the two toiletry bags full to the top. The boy’s face was a poem and he even called someone else to lend us a hand to put them in little bags. Of shame… Now yes, never again.
Almost two hours late, around 10:30 (instead of 8:35) we left for Bilbao airport where we landed an hour and a half later.
Paris… the city of love… The truth is that I expected more, I guess because of the expectations I had after being one of the most famous and visited cities in the world. Still, it’s a beautiful city… and expensive. I was very surprised by the friendliness of the Parisians, which I did not expect as they do not have a good reputation.
The north of France really enchanted me. Beautiful landscapes, with charming medieval villages. A kind and charming people and a quite turbulent recent history but that particularly attracts me a lot. oh! and a superb beer…
The worst… the coffee. In my later trips I would confirm that it is the general trend in France. The hottest coffee I’ve ever had (and I’ve been to the US and Canada).
I recommend the excursions and, at the same time, I think I will repeat them. (And I repeated 5 years later).
Find the best activities and tours in France with Civitatis:
At 2:20 p.m. we took off from Malaga airport bound for Paris, where we landed around 4:45 p.m. at Orly airport. We took the Orlyval light rail to Antony RER station where we boarded RER line B to Châtelet – Les Halles station.
The combined ticket cost us €12 per person. From there we took the metro to the Malesherbes station, which was about 5 minutes from the hotel.
If you don’t want to complicate your life, you can always hire a transfer service.
The chosen hotel is the Romance Malasherbes, a small, very simple and relatively cheap 3-star hotel: €89 per night. The downside is that it was a bit far from the center.
We left our bags at the hotel and went to have a first contact with the city. We went to Trocadero, for this we had to take metro line 3 to the Havre – Caumartin station where we changed to line 9 to Trocadero. In total about 25 minutes of travel.
The Palais de Chaillot is located on the Trocadero square and was built for the 1937 Universal Exhibition by the architects Léon Azéma, Jacques Carlu and Louis-Hippolyte Boileau, instead of the square of the old Trocadero Palace. But the best thing about the palace is the impressive view from its esplanade of the Eiffel Tower.
Going down the stairs are the Trocadero gardens and the spectacular Fontaine du Trocadéro, also built in 1937. Here you will see many people lying on the lawn around the fountain resting and even having picnics.
Remember to always travel with travel insurance. With IATI, specialists in travel insurance, you have a 5% discount for being our reader.
We crossed the Pont d’Iéna to get to the base of the tower and took a tour of the surroundings and the Champs de Mars which, with its 24.5 hectares, the Champ-de-Mars is one of the largest green spaces in Paris. In the 16th century, the landscape of this vast esplanade consisted mainly of vineyards and orchards. Since 1790 it has been used for all major commemorations.
From here we went for a walk towards the Arc de Triomphe contemplating the Eiffel Tower from different perspectives.
Buy your tickets for the Eiffel Tower comfortably from home:
Walking and walking we reached the Palais de Tokyo. Built for the 1937 International Exhibition, the building called “Palais de Tokyo” takes its name from “quai de Tokio” (now New York avenue) and is a museum of modern art.
A little further on, by the northern end of the Pont de l’Alma, is the Flamme de la Liberté. Erected in 1987 to celebrate the centenary of the founding of the International Herald Tribune newspaper. In 1989 it was donated by him during the United State of America bicentennial, to symbolize the friendship between France and United States.
In it you will see photos and memories of Diana of Wales since her admirers have transformed it into a commemorative wake. The Alma tunnel begins here, which was where the traffic accident in which she died took place.
From here we went straight to the Arc de Triomphe. Desired by Napoleon I in 1806, the Arc de Triomphe was inaugurated in 1836 by the French King Louis-Philippe, who dedicated it to the armies of the Revolution and the Empire. The Unknown Soldier was buried in the median in 1921. The flame of memory is rekindled every day at 6:30 p.m. You can go up to admire the views from the panoramic terrace for €13 ($15.40) per person.
From here we went down the avenue des Champs-Élysées where we had dinner at a hamburger restaurant called Quick. A fast food chain where the hamburger looked nauseating but didn’t taste bad. But come on, we were not going to repeat it.
After dinner we got into the subway to go to the hotel to rest.
Do you want to avoid the long queues to go up to the Arc de Triomphe? Find your skip-the-line ticket here:
We got up early and go to the Sainte Chapelle. It is a Gothic temple on the Ile de la Cité.
The Ile de la Cité is an island located in the Seine, in the heart of Paris. It is considered the ancient cradle of the city of Paris.
The Sainte Chapelle was built between 1241 and 1248 at the request of King Louis IX to house the Holy Crown of Thorns, a piece of the True Cross, as well as several other Passion relics he had acquired since 1239. Designed as a sanctuary almost entirely glazed, stands out for its impressive and famous stained glass windows.
Along with the Conciergerie, the Sainte-Chapelle is one of the remnants of the City Palace, encompassing the site covered by the current courthouse.
Do you want to avoid the long lines to enter the Sainte-Chapelle? Buy your skip-the-line ticket here:
From here we approach the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. Construction began in the year 1163 after the laying of the first stone by Bishop Maurice de Sully, it underwent numerous modifications and reconstructions until its completion almost two centuries later in the year 1345. It is one of the most emblematic monuments of Paris and a Catholic place of worship, seat of the Archdiocese of Paris, dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
The line was huge so we decided not to go in at the moment, we would visit it later.
We were walking around the area, such as Place Jean XXIII, where the Fontaine de la Vierge is located. The fountain was created by Alphonse Vigoureux in 1845, to equip Place Jean-XXIII, created the year before.
Next to the square is the Pont de l’Archevêché, where there were hundreds of thousands of “love” padlocks… destroying the bridge and further polluting the river with the lucky thrown keys. The truth is that it seems to me an absurd custom, but hey, it’s my opinion.
From here we went for a walk to the Place de la Bastille, a symbolic place of the French Revolution, where the old Bastille fortress was destroyed between July 14, 1789 and July 14, 1790.
In the square is also the Opera Bastille which was designed by Carlos Ott and inaugurated in 1989 during the celebrations of the bicentennial of the Revolution as part of the main works of Paris. It is with the Opera Garnier one of the two rooms that constitute the Paris Opera.
From the square we walked towards the Centre Pompidou. But first we passed by the Hôtel de Ville, the city hall of Paris. The Hôtel de Ville was rebuilt in the Neo-Renaissance style to replace the old building from 1357 that was devoured by fire during the Commune de Paris in 1871.
Nearby is the aforementioned Georges-Pompidou National Center for Art and Culture. Inaugurated in 1977, it is a building with an architecture… let’s say peculiar. The truth is that it is to be seen. If you are in Paris, come and see it.
Here we rested for a while and then we went to the Louvre. We pass through the Nelson Mandela Garden, in the heart of the new district of Halles. In it we can find the Bourse de Commerce — Pinault Collection building. The Stock Exchange is the new venue for the presentation of the Pinault Collection. This historical building has been completely restored and transformed into a museum by the great Japanese architect Tadao Ando.
Next to the gardens is the Eglise Saint-Eustache (Church of Saint Eustquio), built between 1532 and 1633 in a Gothic style, although with some Renaissance touches.
After stopping for something light to eat, we arrived at the Musée du Louvre. Originally built as a castle by King Philippe Auguste in 1190, in 1546 King François I began the transformation of the fortress into a residence. In 1793, during the French Revolution, it went from being a royal residence to a museum. It houses works of art from the 7th millennium B.C. until 1850. The admission price is €13.60 ($15.50) and it is said that you can spend a week and not see it in its entirety. Since we didn’t have much time, we dedicated ourselves to going through it from the outside and taking the obligatory photo of ourselves fooling around in the pyramid and others. Now we have an excuse to go back to Paris.
If you want to go further, you can hire a fabulous guided tour of the Louvre Museum to have a complete experience:
Opposite is the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel which was built in the Corinthian style between 1806 and 1808 to commemorate Napoleon’s military victories the previous year.
After the arch we arrive at the Jardin des Tuileries. The Tuileries Garden takes its name from the tile factories that were located in the place where Queen Catherine de’ Medici built the late Tuileries Palace in 1564. The famous gardener of the king, André Le Nôtre, gave it its name in 1664. Current look of a French garden.
At the end of the gardens we reach the Place de la Concorde. It is located at the foot of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and in it is the Obelisk of Luxor (3,300 years old). There are also two monumental fountains: the fountain of the seas and the fountain of the rivers. Created in 1772, the Place de la Concorde was one of the places of execution during the French Revolution. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (among others) were guillotined there. Between 1836 and 1846, the architect Jacques-Ignace Hittorf gave the square the appearance we see today.
From here we went to rest for a while until dinner. We had time for 11:00 p.m. to visit the Eiffel Tower. Reading blogs and websites, they recommended getting a ticket for the tower at least 6 months before the visit, but better if it was a year before. We bought it on May 27 (almost two months before) and there was only a ticket for the last hour during all the days that we were going to be in Paris.
The entrance cost us 9€ per person and it was up to the second floor. If we wanted to go up to the top we had to go through the ticket office on the 2nd floor but at the time we had we were told that it would be complicated due to the time. Taking the online ticket you enter through another door different from the rest, without a queue and, seen what has been seen, better. The views from above, even at night, were impressive. There were like two billion people. We were unlucky and couldn’t climb to the top, but still worth it.
If you want to enjoy a wonderful experience, we recommend a fabulous tour of Paris, with a boat trip on the Seine and a visit to the Eiffel Tower:
Once the visit to the tower is over. Run back to the hotel before the subway finished and go to sleep.
We get up early and go to the catacombs, which was one of the reasons for the trip to Paris. Covering an area of 11,000 m² underground, this ossuary is called “catacombs”, referring to the catacombs of Rome and contains more than 6 million bones from different Parisian cemeteries.
We left the station right in front of the entrance. It seemed very strange to me that there were two queues… it will be one for the box office and another to enter. Well, no, the line went around and a half to the block. There could be a thousand people there. Bearing in mind that the shifts are 200 people every 45 minutes… needless to say, we don’t wait. We agreed that we would return at lunchtime to see how the queue was going.
Meanwhile we went to the viewpoint of the Montparnasse Tower. Built between 1969 and 1973 on the site of the old Montparnasse station and at 210 meters high, it was for almost 40 years the tallest building in France until the inauguration in 2011 of the First tower. During its construction and afterwards, the tower was heavily criticized. His detractors found him (and still find him) disturbing due to his disproportionate height compared to the rest of the city of Paris. The truth is that it is a horribly ugly tome that if it is true that it doesn’t even match the rest of the city.
Despite its ugliness, it is unrivaled in terms of views. On the 56th floor, after going up in what they say is the fastest elevator in Europe (it only takes 38 seconds to go up) you find yourself with amazing views. The entrance cost us 13€.
Buy your ticket for the Montparnasse Tower comfortably here:
After the amazing views, we got on the subway and went to visit the Pantheon. At the Gare Montparnasse station we took the metro line 13 to the Duroc station where we changed to line 10 to the Cardinal Lemoine station.
The Pantheon is a neoclassical monument located in the heart of the Latin Quarter. Built between 1757 and 1790, it was intended to be a church that would house the reliquary of Saint Genevieve but, after the French revolution, it was dedicated to honoring the great historical figures of France, except the military, for whom the military pantheon is reserved of the Invalids.
Of course, some work had to touch us and it was the dome, which was covered by scaffolding. Inside, we can admire the impressive architecture of the building in addition to its works of art. In addition, we can visit the crypt in which illustrious figures such as Marie Curie, Voltaire or Alexandre Dumas are buried.
Leaving, as it was already early lunchtime in Europe, we ran back to the catacombs. When we arrived… THERE WAS THE SAME LINE! my god!!! We decided to go back early in the morning before opening time.
So we went back to Notre Dame Cathedral this time to get inside. There was less queue than the previous time so we stayed. The truth is that it was going quite fast.
The Cathedral of Notre Dame, like almost all the cathedrals we have visited, is quite spectacular, although I have to say that it is by no means the most beautiful one we have visited.
After visiting the cathedral we went to Montmartre. To get to the Sacré Cœur Basilica, we take line 4 from Saint Michel Notre Dame station to Barbès Rochechouart station. There we took a short walk to the Montmartre funicular stop. The journey up takes about 5 minutes and is very comfortable for travelers who are already exhausted after all day walking. It leaves you practically at the base of the basilica.
The Basilica of the Sacré Cœur, consecrated in 1919, is one of the most emblematic monuments of Paris. Located at the top of Montmartre, it offers, with its 130 meters of altitude, one of the most incredible panoramic views of the capital. Inside the building, the ceiling is decorated with the largest mosaic in all of France. You can also climb the Dome to admire 360º views of Paris. Although spectacular views can also be seen from the entrance esplanade.
After admiring the views we decided to take a walk around the neighborhood to find something for dinner. We dined at a creperie called Le Tire-Bouchon, a pretty quaint and cheap place. We ate a menu that consisted of a savory and a sweet crepe. In total it cost us 24.40€. After dinner we walked back to the basilica and went back down in the funicular.
After reaching the bottom, finally before going to rest, we approached the Moulin Rouge, which was about a ten minute walk away, to take the obligatory photo in front of the front.
Today we get up early. We go to Versailles to see the famous palace. To do this, we took the metro to the Invalides station, where we changed to the RER C line. About 30 minutes later we arrived at the Gare de Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche station. From there, only about 5 minutes separate us from the Plaza de Armas, in front of the palace. As soon as you turn the corner you can already see the grandeur of the palace.
The Palace of Versailles is a French castle and historic monument located in the city of Versailles, in the Yvelines. Construction started in 1623, it was the residence of the kings of France Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI. The king and court resided there permanently from May 6, 1682 to October 6, 1789, with the exception of the Regency years from 1715 to 1723. From 1789 it became the French History Museum.
The visit costs 15€ (2015). It includes an audio guide and you can visit both the most famous places in the Palace: the Hall of Mirrors, the Grand Apartments of the King and the Queen, the King’s bedroom, etc… as well as the temporary exhibitions.
Guided by friends who had already been there, they told us that the interior of the palace was very uncomfortable to see due to the number of people they brought in and that, if we had visited the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, which was very similar, we should not miss the weather. So we did so we bought the entrance to the gardens only on the web. Look where, after making the endless queue for access, it turned out that the gardens are free (2015) and what we had bought was the entrance to the Domains of Marie Antoinette. Well, since we had it, we entered.
Marie Antoinette’s domains are made up of the Petit Trianon, the Queen’s gardens and the Aldea. It was opened to the public in 2006 to portray the life of Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI, who liked to enjoy these places leading a simple country life in her own way, far from the luxuries of Versailles. Her domains were a gift from her husband Louis XVI to her in 1774 so that she would have privacy and be able to flee the court. In fact, it was a strict area that no one could access without being invited.
The gardens are immense. It is impossible to see them in their entirety on foot. Most of the fountains were closed to the public and had to be seen from afar. After having spent the whole morning, the truth is that we felt as if we had lost the morning. They are very cool but I thought they would be much more spectacular. We still had too high expectations.
If you prefer more comfort, you can always hire a fabulous excursion with everything you need to get to know Versailles:
On the way back from Versailles in the afternoon, we dedicated ourselves to walking around the city a bit, since it was already too late. We were again seeing the Arc de Triomphe with tranquility and observing the details.
Later we went back down the Champs Elysées until we reached the Grand Palais. This is one of the most emblematic monuments of Paris. It was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900 and its most striking feature is the glass dome that crowns the French pavilion. The Grand Palais is divided into 3 different spaces: La Nef, the Galeries Nationales and the Palais de la Découverte. The Nef (ship) is used for large events of different types, such as horse riding, amusement parks, etc… the Galeries Nationales is used for large exhibitions on artists who have marked the history of art such as Picasso, Renoir, etc… And the Palais de la Découverte is a museum and cultural center dedicated to the sciences with permanent and temporary exhibitions. Of course the building is gorgeous.
Directly opposite is the Petit Palais. Like the Grand Palais, it was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900 and houses the Museum of Fine Arts of the Ville de Paris. The building, although smaller than the Grand Palais, is just as spectacular.
From here you can see the Hôtel des Invalides building in the distance, which we will visit tomorrow but even so we will approach the Pont Alexandre III, which was also inaugurated for the universal exhibition of 1900. Its ends are decorated with 4 monumental pylons 17 meters high. height, adorned with 4 gilded bronze winged horses that symbolize the success of the arts, sciences, commerce and industry.
Last day of the first stage of Paris. Today we got up very early to visit the Hôtel des Invalides. We wanted to be at the gate by opening time before it got busted and we had to spend the morning queuing.
The Hôtel des Invalides was built by order of King Louis XIV between 1670 and 1679 to house the retired soldiers of his armies. Today it is still a hospital-hospice as well as housing the French defense ministry and the Saint-Louis des Invalides Church where the tomb of Napoleon I is located. It also houses several museums such as the musée de l’Armée (Armada), houses the musée des Plans-Reliefs (Plans-Reliefs) and the musée de l’Ordre de la Libération (Order of Liberation).
We arrived a little before 10 in the morning and we were surprised that no one was there yet. He surprised us more that a small group of about ten more people would join us. Bearing in mind that it is one of the most visited monuments in Paris… Upon leaving we would find out that we entered through the back door where there is much less queuing. Round business.
The entrance cost us 9€ (2015) and gave us the right to visit practically the entire site. We went in and bought our ticket. The first thing we came across was the Navy Museum, created in 1905 as a merger of the Artillery Museum (1796) and the Navy Historical Museum, created a hundred years later. It contains many paintings and many war objects used throughout history.
After a long tour of the endless museum we arrive at the Saint-Louis des Invalides Church which includes l’Eglise des Soldats and l’Eglise du Dôme. Built in 1676 at the request of the Minister of War, it houses the pantheon of governors in which several governors of the Invalides, marshals of France and great military leaders rest, including that of Napoleon the first.
Tomb of Napoleon I.
On the way out, we stopped by a supermarket and bought some sandwiches to eat. There was no time to lose.
One of the places that I absolutely had to visit the day I visited Paris was the Père-Lachaise cemetery, where Jim Morrison, singer of The Doors, one of my favorite groups, is buried. So after the invalids we took a leap.
The Père Lachaise cemetery is named after King Louis XIV’s confessor, Father François d’Aix de La Chaise. It is the most prestigious and most visited necropolis in Paris. It is really huge and contains more than 70,000 graves. Many illustrious people are buried here, such as Jim Morrison himself, Honoré de Balzac, Frédéric Chopin, Edith Piaf and another one I wanted to visit, Oscar Wilde.
At the entrance, you have a plan of the gigantic cemetery with the tombs of those historical figures marked so that you try not to get lost.
Grave of Oscar Wild.
If you prefer to expand, you can hire a tour of the cemetery that tells you all the history and the famous people buried there:
After visiting the cemetery we ate something very late and went to the center. We got off the metro at the Opéra station. Right at the exit we find the Opera Garnier building, built by order of Napoleon III, on the occasion of the great renovation works of the capital that Baron Haussmann carried out under his orders, by Charles Garnier and inaugurated in 1875, it is the thirteenth opera house in Paris, after the foundation of this institution by Louis XIV in 1669.
We walked to the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann, a famous department store opened in 1894 by cousins Théophile Bader and Alphonse Kahn. With different departments with many stalls of luxury brands (cheap), it has a central patio with a spectacular dome in Art Nouveau style built in 1912.
Looking for some toilets, on the toy store floor there is a window in a corner from which you can see spectacular views of the Sacré Cœur basilica. I don’t know if we discovered a trick but the truth is that there was absolutely no one there.
It was getting to be dinner time, so we went to the Latin Quarter in search of somewhere good and not too expensive. We ate a menu at a place called Saveurs de Savoie. We ate really well for €18 ($20.40) per person.
From here we went on a fabulous walk through the center of Paris until we reached the Musée du Louvre which, as it was quite late, there were few people left around. We continue walking until we reach the cathedral to contemplate it at night.
And from here we approached the Champ de Mars, where there were a lot of people making “botellón” to see the night show of lights of the Tour Eiffel.
And from here to dinner something light and to sleep that the next day we left Paris.