5 Best Photo Opportunities in Paris

Photo Opportunities Paris

Lee Van Grack

Some people say there's no such thing as bad chocolate. I'm not sure I agree, but I know for a fact that there's no such thing as a bad photo venue in Paris. Whether you're a professional photographer toting multiple Leicas, a shutterbug using an old Brownie Hawkeye, or someone brandishing a digital camera, you'll come home with photos you'll be proud to share...and display. How not, in the city that's long been the world's heart of architecture and art?

The history of Paris can be traced back more than 2500 years, and its places of beauty reach across the twenty arrondissements that comprise the city. Each of these districts in Paris offers its unique flavor of cultures, building designs and, yes, photo opportunities. After considering the vast number of locations where a photographer could spend days, if not weeks, I narrowed it all down to five.

1. The Romantic Photo: La Place de Furstenberg

Asking someone to choose the most romantic photo opportunity in Paris is like asking parents which child they love most. Is it the banks of the Seine, or a rowing scene in the Bois de Boulogne? My choice is a tiny village square called La Place de Furstenberg, located in the heart of St-Germain des Pres, in the 6th Arrondissement. Artists like Monet and Delacroix have flocked to this place for centuries. The square was named after the Prince of Furstenberg, a descendant of Emperor Napoleon. Whether the trees are covered with leaves, or winter bare and dusted with snow, there's a feeling that draws romantics to its colors and shadows, to its quaint cafes and street musicians. With St-Sulpice Church, Deux Magots (the preferred hangout of Hemingway, Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir), and the Louvre nearby, bring plenty of film and/or extra batteries. Metro stop: Mabillon and St-Germain des Pres.

2. The Quirky Photo: The Man in the Wall

Everyone loves the strange shot that belongs on a postcard or in the family's holiday newsletter. If you're looking for that quirky shot in Paris, then get thee to Montmartre. You simply ascend "la butte" (which is what locals call Montmartre, where you'll also find the Sacre Coeur basilica), stroll to Place Marcel Ayme, and there he is, The Man in the Wall. Who was he? And why was this sculpture created? Marcel Ayme, a famous French author, wrote novels, children's books, plays, and movies. One of his short stories, Le Passe-Muraille (translated as The Walker-Through-Walls) was memorialized by sculptor Jean Marais. Lore says that if you touch the left hand of the man, you will be empowered with his magical skills. Look closely and you'll see that his left hand is far more polished than his right. Metro stop: Lamarck-Caulaincourt. Location: 18th Arrondissement, Place Marcel Ayme, just off Rue Norvins.

3. The Family Fun Photo: Pompidou Center

Talk about a tough choice! Between the zoo and Napoleon's tomb, the tour through the underground catacombs (built when there were too many dead bodies and not enough cemeteries) or the fascinating (and sometimes odorific) sewer system, how could I choose? But honestly, when it comes to family fun, you can't beat the Pompidou Center in the 4th Arrondissement. Some call it the world's largest toilet, while others consider it an architectural marvel. The massive pipes running from ground to rooftop were originally color coded, with blue for climate control, red for emergency/safety, and so on. Kids love the extensive escalator system (also on the building's exterior) and you'll get plenty of keeper photos on the plaza, where mimes, musicians, and performers of all sorts entertain around the wackiest fountain you have ever seen. The center was named after Georges Pompidou, the President of France who supported the project. The building opened to international fanfare-and more than a little derision-in 1977. The interior is well worth the visit: Pompidou houses the National Museum of Modern Art. Hours: Daily from 11AM to 9PM, closed on Tuesday. Metro stop: Rambuteau

4. The Scenic Photo: Arc de Triomphe

You've seen photos of it, photos taken through it, even photos taken standing under it, but you haven't taken your best shot until you're standing on top of it. That's right, you can go to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, and the views are staggeringly beautiful. This is the world's largest triumphal arch, the brainchild of Napoleon I, who wanted to honor his armies and celebrate victory. Construction was completed in 1833 and King Louis-Philippe led the official unveiling three years later. The design is pure romantic neoclassicism. The arch stands 162 feet high, and from the top you can see twelve avenues radiating out from its center. Most impressive is the view up the Avenue des Champs-Elysees. The safest way to reach the structure is by the underground walkway. Take the elevator to the first observation level and then walk up the stairs-all 284 of them-where you'll find research documents, models of the arch, and a gift shop. Or climb 45 steps and you'll have your panoramic view. Whether it's a summer's afternoon or a rainy winter's evening, the view from the top is a photographer's dream. Metro stop: Charles de Gaulle-Etoile.

5. The Classic Photo: The Louvre

In a city like Paris, you'll find a classic spot at every turn. The Grand Palais, Les Invalides, the magnificence of Notre Dame. Walk on the Ile St. Louis and marvel at gargoyles carved above doorways. So many choices, and only one lifetime! So what stands out as the classic Paris photo? [Drum roll] It has to be the Louvre. While it's indisputably the world's greatest museum of art, history, and culture-more than eight million visitors pass through it doors every year-it is also a testament to the endurance and passion of the French to honor their heritage. The original building was constructed in the last part of the 12th century. In 1682, Louis XIV built Versaille and departed the Louvre, turning it into a museum for part of the royal art collection. Since then, this architectural marvel has been dedicated to the arts. When photographing the Louvre, remember to pass through the archway and cross the large courtyard, where you'll find the glass pyramid designed by I.M. Pei. Metro stop: Palais Royal- Musee du Louvre.

Victoria Zackheim has lived in Paris, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay area. She is editor and contributing author of four anthologies and the author of the novel The Bone Weaver. Read her blog on Red Room.

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