Travel & Leisure

The Paris of the Impressionists

By Nathalie de Grandmont


As it gets ready to celebrate both the 2024 Summer Olympic Games and the 150th anniversary of the Impressionist movement, Paris is buzzing with activity. Here’s an inspiring itinerary for a 48-hour tour of the City of Light.

Day 1

9:30 a.m.

To start your visit with a bang, there’s nothing like the Musée d’Orsay, which has the largest collection of Impressionist paintings in the world. Admire Édouard Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe and Olympia, Edgar Degas’s Danseuses, and many other masterpieces. Until July 2024, the art gallery is also presenting Paris 1874, Inventing Impressionism, marking the 150th anniversary of the first Impressionist exhibit, held in Paris on April 15, 1874.

12 p.m.

After you’ve been awed by a few hours at the art gallery, lunchtime offers an ideal opportunity to try the excellent cuisine at its restaurant, MUSIAM Paris. Amid superb belle époque (golden age) decor—the space is desig- nated as a historic site—chef Yann Landureau offers his reinterpretation of classic French dishes.

2 p.m.

Cross the Seine via the Léopold-Sédar-Senghor footbridge to reach the Café des Marronniers, in the heart of the Tuileries Garden, where you can people-watch under the chestnut trees (marronniers) and get a feel for a typical Parisian café. Afterwards, a visit to the Musée de l’Orangerie, a few steps away, is a must: Claude Monet’s famous Water Lilies series has been exhibited there since 1927.

7 p.m.

Why not end your first day of explor- ing on the deck of a bateau-mouche (tour boat), floating down the Seine with a glass of bubbly in your hand? Here is what, among other packages, a Vedettes de Paris river cruise has to offer during happy hour: a one-hour guided cruise that provides stunning views of the city’s most impressive monuments,fromtheEiffelTowerto Notre-Dame Cathedral (scheduled to reopen in December 2024), by way of the famous Hôtel des Invalides (commonly known as Les Invalides), a complex of museums and monuments that houses Napoleon’s tomb.

Day 2

10 a.m.

If you’d like to spend another morning in the world of Impressionist painters, you have plenty of choices. In the Eiffel Tower district (the chic 16th Arrondissement), you can see more of Monet’s canvases and learn more about his life at the Musée Marmottan Monet. Until September 1, 2024, the art museum is hosting the exhibit En Jeu! Artists and Sport (1870–1930), which looks at the visual history of sport, just in time for the Summer Olympic Games.

Another option is to head to Place des Abbesses and stroll through Montmartre, a district that was frequented by many artists in the 19th century. Just behind the Musée de Montmartre, you’ll find Renoir’s Gardens, where Auguste Renoir painted such works as La Balançoire and Bal du moulin de la Galette. The moulin (windmill) still exists. The bucolic Café Renoir, nestled in a shade garden, is the perfect spot for a snack.

2 p.m.

Time for another Parisian gem: the Opéra Garnier, the largest opera house in France, which Edgar Degas immortalized in his iconic paintings of dancers. Explore the building at your own pace or on a guided tour on the theme of la belle époque to admire its Grand Foyer, its many gilded spaces, and its double staircase.

4 p.m.

Near the Opéra is Haussmann Boulevard and its large department stores. This is your chance to window-shop and then grab a bite at Le Gourmet at Les Galeries Lafayette or on the panoramic terrace of 7ème Ciel on the roof of the iconic Printemps Haussmann luxury department store.

8 p.m.

To wrap up your visit on a high note, head for Les Invalides. In the evening, this historic site and its massive dome tell their story through a sound and light show, revealing their splendour using projections and the striking effects from the AURA experience at Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal, created by the Quebec multimedia studio Moment Factory. Day or night, the City of Light, a perpetual source of inspiration, never ceases to dazzle.