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Top 10 monuments to visit in Paris and Ile-de-France

Paris and the Île-de-France region are full of monuments that reveal incredible architecture and offer a true journey through history. Castles, royal residences, basilicas, chapels, contemporary buildings, a stay in Île-de-France is an opportunity to see masterpieces that have survived the ages to continue to enchant visitors from France and around the world. If Paris has the reputation of being a true open-air museum, you should not hesitate to leave the capital during a weekend or an extended vacation to discover these other splendors located here and there in the region. Open to adults, to children, unmissable stages, here are 10 of the most beautiful buildings to visit in Paris and in Île-de-France

1- The cathedral basilica of Saint-Denis

It is the last residence of the kings and queens of France. The cathedral basilica of Saint-Denis is the first masterpiece of Gothic art. This church of a powerful abbey, which was a major place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, has seen its destiny forever linked to that of royalty since it is the burial place of the kings and queens of France. It even houses the most important collection of funerary sculptures from the 12th to the 16th century with its more than seventy sculpted tombs including those of François I, Catherine de Médicis, Louis XVI and Dagobert. This summer, treat yourself to a unique experience by discovering the stone-cutting workshops at the Saint-Denis cathedral basilica.

2- The Château de Maisons in Maisons-Laffitte

Overlooking a loop of the Seine, the Château de Maisons in Maisons-Laffitte was built in the 17th century by the famous architect François Mansart at the height of his powers: the majesty, symmetry and balance of the forms of this exemplary residence made it one of the masterpieces of its time. Until June 27, 2022, discover a little-known page in the history of the Château de Maisons! The exhibition 1882, A Nordic Summer at the Château de Maisons takes the public back to the summer of 1882, when the last owner of the building, Wilhelm Tilman Grommé, invited his lifelong friend, the Finnish painter Adolf von Becker, to make use of the château, its park, and the Old Church of Maisons-Laffitte as he wished. Two young Finnish artists, Albert Edelfelt and Gunnar Berndtson, took advantage of the man's hospitality to paint in the prestigious setting of the château, accompanied by Antonia-Louise Bonjean, their favorite model.

3- The Hotel de la Marine

Come and discover the new iconic place of the French heritage and enjoy a breathtaking view on the Place de la Concorde. This superb architectural ensemble, created in the 18th century by Ange-Jacques Gabriel, is a witness to the transformations of France, from royalty to the present day. The curious are invited to an immersive visit of the magnificent apartments of the intendant, which have been completely refurnished. The tour continues with the ceremonial rooms that give access to a loggia, from which one can enjoy a breathtaking view of the Place de la Concorde. Not to be missed during the visit to theHôtel de la Marine, the exhibition gallery where a renewed selection of masterpieces from the Al Thani Collection is permanently revealed to the public

4- The Palais de la Cité

Enter the Sainte-Chapelle, a jewel of the radiant Gothic style, and admire the 1,113 stained glass windows in all their details. It was Louis IX who had this religious monument built in the heart of the Palais de la Cité, his Parisian home. Designed as a monumental reliquary, it housed the Crown of Thorns of Christ. During a visit to this medieval royal palace, don't miss the splendid gothic rooms while strolling in the Conciergerie, which was also a revolutionary court and Marie-Antoinette's prison. The Histopad, which is provided to you when you pay the entrance fee, offers an immersive visit to better understand the history of the place and its successive functions. It is also an opportunity to discover the rooms of the Palais de la Cité reconstructed during key periods such as the 14th century under Philippe Le Beletau, and the 18th century during the French Revolution

5- The Castle of Champs-sur-Marne

This monument which was first built in the 18th century for a financier of Louis XIV made the happiness and the pride of its occupants in the Age of Enlightenment. Among them were the Dukes of La Vallière and the Marquise de Pompadour, prominent members of Louis XV's first circle. If the Château de Champs-sur-Marne suffered the assaults of the Revolution and was also abused during the 19th century, the whole estate was bought back during the Belle Époque by Louis Cahen d'Anvers, also a financier. As a true lover and follower of the French style, he gave it a real renaissance, revealing all its former splendor. He furnished it with pieces signed by some of the greatest names in cabinetmaking, and made its park one of the most beautiful in the Île-de-France region.

6- The Chapelle Expiatoire

In the heart of Paris, square Louis XVI in the 8th arrondissement is a monument still unknown to many visitors: the Chapelle Expiatoire. Built during the Restoration, it echoes an important moment in French history, since this little neoclassical marvel stands on the site of the former parish cemetery of the Madeleine where the King and Queen were buried during the Revolution. It was also the burial place of 500 others condemned to the guillotine, including Madame du Barry, Olympe de Gouges and Charlotte Corday..

7- The Pantheon, the temple of the French nation

In 1791, the Revolution transformed the monument into a temple for great men. In the XIXth century, it received, according to the successive regimes, a religious or patriotic affectation. Since 1885, when Victor Hugo entered the Pantheon, the building has become the resting place of men and women who have marked the history of France: Voltaire, Rousseau, Zola, Pierre and Marie Curie, Simone Veil and most recently Josephine Baker. From April1, 2022, discover an exceptional panorama! The colonnades of the Pantheon are now open to visitors every day and offer a fantastic 360° panorama of Paris, from the Eiffel Tower to the Sacré-Coeur and the unmissable Notre-Dame de Paris.

8- The Castle of Vincennes

Go to the gates of Paris to discover the one that occupied the role of medieval royal residence from the 12th to the 18th century. The Château de Vincennes, a place that played a very important role in the history of France, has preserved its medieval towers, its enclosure, its Sainte-Chapelle that houses the relics of the Passion of Christ and its incredible 14th century keep, which is the highest in Europe. In 1365, King Charles V of France transformed the family manor house in Vincennes to make it more comfortable to live in. He had the present dungeon built to house his precious manuscripts and art collections. The keep was also used as a prison from the 16th to the 19th century. Under Napoleon, the whole fortress protected Paris from invasions.

9- The Castle of Rambouillet

Located only 45 minutes from Paris by train, the Château de Rambouillet is a building that was built in the 14th century and has been home to some of the greatest figures in French history. François I, Louis XVI and Napoleon I have notably stayed there. If the facades and the rooms inside are sublime, in particular Marie-Antoinette's boudoir with its superb woodwork, you should not miss a walk outside either, with a regular garden called "à la française", canals, six islands and an English garden whose layout dates from the second half of the 18th century. The walk also leads to the Queen's Dairy, a gift from King Louis XVI to his wife Marie-Antoinette. Further on, in the English part, is the Chaumière aux coquillages. Built at the request of the Duke of Penthievre, its decoration of shells, mother-of-pearl and marble fragments makes it a place of unparalleled finesse in Europe

10- The Villa Savoye

Located in Poissy in the Yvelines, the Villa Savoye is an internationally renowned masterpiece. Nicknamed "Les Heures Claires" by the Savoye couple who commissioned it and lived there, it was built between 1928 and 1931 by the architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier, and Pierre Jeanneret. This weekend villa is now considered an iconic work of modern architecture. Left abandoned for a time, it was restored by the state between 1963 and 1997 and now welcomes many architecture lovers. The monument has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2016.

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