November 29, 2023

"I'm standing on the bridge and I'm back in the middle of Paris,
in the home of us all. There the water flows,
there you lie, and I throw my heart into the river
and dive into you and love you."

- Kurt Tucholsky 

In mid-October, Stefan surprises me with a spontaneous question: "What do you think about us going to Paris again?" My heart opens up at this question. The last few years have been tough. We've both been very busy building up our respective companies, plus family, health, the global situation ... A lot of things had to take a back seat. So yes. Yes. YES! Let's go to Paris.

Our eldest can't get time off at such short notice, but the younger one is on vacation at the beginning of November anyway. So the three of us are going. And it's Yan's first visit to Paris. Ernest Hemingway said: "If you were lucky enough to live in Paris when you were young, the city will stay with you, no matter where else you go in your life." In my opinion, this is not only true if you were lucky enough to live in the city. Once you immerse yourself in Paris, it stays with you forever.

Looking forward to Paris

Die wichtigsten Gepäckstücke der Künstlerin | The artist's most important pieces of luggage.

So we start preparing to really immerse ourselves. I get a travel sketchbook, a cute little wooden palette and a new pen. And we plan: how long can we stay, what do we want to see, where will we stay?

We decided on Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Our apartment in the rue Dauphine is just a few steps away from the Pont Neuf and the Île de la Cité. The Louvre and Notre Dame are within walking distance and we are right in the middle of it all. We have four days, which is not bad. But still not enough, of course.

Since it's Yan's first visit to the city, we want to do all the things you do when you see Paris for the first time. We see the sights, visit the Louvre, buy souvenirs at the Galeries Lafayette, take a boat ride on the Seine, etc. But we also take time to just walk around the city, to be there. Just to sit and enjoy.

My personal plans? I want to be inspired, see, feel and create new art from the experience.

An Interlude

During the Renaissance, Italy was still the undisputed center of European art. However, the political fragmentation of Italy led to conflicts and wars between the various rulers or other powers. The Italian Wars of the 16th century saw a series of conflicts between the major European powers for control of Italian territories.

The country became the scene of battles and plundering. The destruction of infrastructure, the loss of resources, and the economic strain contributed to Italy's decline. Added to this was the discovery of new trade routes and the rise of new trading powers such as Spain and Portugal. The discovery of the sea route to India by Vasco da Gama and the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus shifted the focus of maritime trade from the Mediterranean ports of Italy to the Atlantic ports.

France's golden era

Meanwhile, at the end of the 16th century, peace finally returned to France after the turmoil of the Huguenot Wars. The Edict of Nantes, signed in 1598 under Henri Quatre, guaranteed religious freedom for Protestants. Not only were Protestants allowed to establish their own schools and universities, but artists and intellectuals from various religious groups were able to work in a relatively tolerant environment.

Royal support for the arts was strong in France. Especially under Louis XIV, the baroque splendor of the Palace of Versailles was created. The splendor of Versailles seduced artists, architects, and aristocrats from all over Europe. All things French were in vogue. Paris became a meeting place for galleries and art schools. Art trade and cultural exchange flourished.

Paris became a center of attraction for artists from different parts of Europe and the world. The city offered a vibrant cultural atmosphere of freedom, creativity and innovation. In the 18th century, the Salon de Paris, an annual art exhibition, became the central place for artists to showcase their work.

Schloss Versailles in der Nähe von Paris.

The diversity of art in 19th century Paris

The tolerant and lively atmosphere of the city was a breeding ground for the development of new artistic styles and movements. The 19th century was a crucial period for the development of art in Paris. The new achievements of the time contributed to this. The railroad made it possible to travel faster and farther than ever before, and the development of ready-mixed and transportable paint in a tube in 1841 allowed artists to paint en plein air.

In the early years of the 19th century, Neoclassicism dominated the art scene, influenced by Enlightenment ideas and the revival of classical art forms. By mid-century, however, the Romantic movement, characterized by emotional expressiveness and individualism, was gaining ground. Artists such as Eugène Delacroix were prominent in this movement.

In the second half of the 19th century, Realism developed as a reaction to Romantic idealization - until Impressionism in the 1870s marked another significant step in the development of art. The Impressionists and their successors, the Post-Impressionists, initially had difficulty exhibiting their work in the Salon because their innovative approaches did not conform to established norms. As a result, they organized their own exhibitions, including the famous "Salon des Refusés" of 1863, which featured many of the groundbreaking works that would later be recognized as masterpieces.

Art in Exile

Later, Paris continued to play a central role in the art world with further developments such as the rise of Cubism in the early 20th century, the development of abstract art and other modern art movements. In the 1940s and 1950s, however, New York began to supplant Paris as the art capital.

The Second World War had severely affected Europe, especially Paris. Many artists fled and had to leave Europe. Many moved to New York. After the war, the economy in the USA boomed. With the money, the art scene also moved to the USA. Galleries, art institutions and collectors concentrated more and more on New York. It was there that the Abstract Expressionist movement emerged, led by artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning.

The New York art brokerage Artsy compiled a comprehensive report in 2015. 2015: The Year in Art, which included a ranking of the world's most influential art cities. At the time, Paris was only 5th on the list. Since then, however, Brexit has taken place. London, then in second place, is now losing its appeal. Many art galleries want a foothold in Europe and are turning their attention back to Paris. And that is where we are going.

Arrival in Paris

When we arrive in Paris, it is raining. We still have some time before we can move into our apartment. So we park the car in the rented garage on the Île de la Cité and take our first walk around the city. Our first stop is Notre Dame. We are curious to see how far the restoration work has progressed after the devastating fire in 2019.

Despite the rain, the weather is mild and the air is very soft. It's only drizzling now, so we're really enjoying our walk. It's so wonderful to be back here. From the front, Notre Dame looks almost restored. However, when we take a boat tour on the Seine a few days later and circle the city island by boat, we see that there is still a lot of work to be done on the nave before the cathedral reopens next year.

Paris is a work of art in itself. We stroll through the streets and enjoy watching Yan marvel at everything for the first time. After a while the long drive starts to take its toll. Since there is still time before we can move into our apartment, we sit in a street café and watch the world go by, and I have the opportunity to make some first sketches.

After settling in and getting some rest, we set off to see the Eiffel Tower. An important item on Yan's bucket list. It's already dark and the tower is beautifully illuminated. At first we watch the glittering spectacle from the platform of the Trocadéro on the other side of the Seine, but then we stroll across the bridge to under the Eiffel Tower and - to our own surprise - are once again impressed by the sheer size of the structure. And so our first evening in Paris comes to an end.

Museums in Paris

Most people who come to Paris also come to see art, both old and new. The city's museums play a crucial role in this.

Paris has over 130 museums. They cover a wide range of subjects, including art, history, science, fashion, and much more. The museums are major tourist attractions and contribute significantly to the city's economy. The Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay and the Centre Pompidou top the list.

The Louvre

The Louvre is the most famous art museum in the world - and the most visited. The building has a long history dating back to the late 12th century. Originally built as a fortress, it later became a royal residence and was converted into a museum in 1793 during the French Revolution.

Today it houses nearly 380,000 works of art, antiquities and artifacts, of which about 35,000 are on display in over 70,000 square meters. The Louvre's collection is divided into nine sections: 

  1. Oriental collection
  2. Islamic Art
  3. Egyptian Collection
  4. Greek, Etruscan and Roman
  5. Paintings
  6. Graphic Arts
  7. Sculpture Collection
  8. Arts and Crafts
  9. Art from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas

France - and the Louvre - also gained access to the world's cultural treasures through its vast colonial and post-colonial holdings and connections.

Musée d'Orsay

On the left bank of the Seine, opposite the Tuileries Gardens, the Musée d'Orsay is housed in a magnificent former train station.

The Gare d'Orsay was built at the end of the 19th century as a long-distance train station. By the end of the 1930s it could no longer accommodate the increasingly long trains.

After years of vacancy, various conversions and years of renovation, it was finally reopened as a museum in 1986. It focuses on the art of the 19th century.

Its collection includes a wide range of artworks, paintings, sculptures, photographs and decorative arts. The works are by artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Auguste Rodin and many others. The focus is on Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, but other art movements of the 19th century are also represented.

Some of the most famous masterpieces at the Musée d'Orsay are Bal du moulin de la Galette by Renoir, Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe by Manet and Portrait of the Artist by Vincent van Gogh.

Centre Pompidou

The Centre Pompidou, officially the Centre Georges Pompidou, is an important cultural center and museum for modern art.
Named after the former President of the Republic, it was opened on January 31, 1977. The architects Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini designed an avant-garde building: structural and functional elements such as pipes, stairs and elevators are visible on the outside.

The Centre Pompidou is home to the Musée National d'Art Moderne, the largest museum of modern art in Europe.
The collection includes paintings, sculptures, photographs and design objects from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Artists such as Picasso, Kandinsky, Duchamp, Frida Kahlo and Otto Dix are represented in the collection. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum also organizes temporary exhibitions, often presenting avant-garde art and innovative artistic concepts.

Over the years, the Centre Pompidou has become a cultural center. It also houses a public library, a movie theater, a restaurant and a panoramic roof with a breathtaking view of the Paris skyline.

Paris has many other museums to offer, such as the Musée de l'Orangerie, with its oval rooms and monumental water lilies by Monet, the Musée Picasso in the heart of the Marais, which houses more than 5,000 works by the artist and is well worth a visit, or the Petit Palais - Museum of Fine Arts.
The museum, which is free to enter, mainly exhibits French art by artists such as Courbet, Matisse and Cezanne. It also has a beautiful, idyllic courtyard that is worth a visit in itself.

Although I wouldn't mind spending every day in the museum, there are so many other things to see and with only 4 days to spare, you have to choose one museum. We decide to go to the Louvre and of course visit the most famous woman in Paris - who is actually a Florentine. As always, the Mona Lisa is surrounded by crowds of people, so we spend only a short time there and concentrate on the other masterpieces on our list. My personal highlight: the Nike of Samothrace.

Lost Masterpieces: Paris Museums and Their Stolen Treasures

Parisian's museums are often the scene of art thefts. One was the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911, when a former Louvre artisan hid in the museum after hours and stole the painting from under his coat, hoping to return it to Italy. He kept it for two years. Finally he was caught in 1913, and the Mona Lisa returned to the Louvre.

More recently, in 2010, a spectacular art heist took place at the Paris Museum of Modern Art. On the night of May 20-21, the burglar took advantage of lax security and stole five works of art worth an estimated 100 million euros. Among the works stolen were paintings by Picasso, Braque, Modigliani, Léger and Delaunay. The thief and his accomplices were later caught and sentenced. However, the stolen masterpieces were never recovered.

Le Marais and Montmartre

As we leave the Louvre, the sun is shining. So we stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries and enjoy nature. After a well-deserved break, we head to the Galleries Lafayette to shop for souvenirs. Last item on the agenda for the second day: the Arc de Triomphe. Again we are impressed. By its size and beauty, but also by its tactility. The marble feels wonderfully smooth in my hands.

We shorten the way home with a few metro stops and walk the rest of the way back to our apartment along the banks of the Seine. We have booked a boat tour for the next morning. Yan loves the water and boats, so we are doing him a favor. In the end, all three of us are thrilled and have a lot of fun - even though it's pretty cold on the water.

We have no more sightseeing planned for the remaining two days. We decided not only to see the landmarks, but also to explore the life of the city. We chose our favorite neighborhoods, Le Marais and Montmartre.


As an artist, I can't leave Paris without visiting the artists' district of Montmartre. This is where famous artists met, lived and worked in the 19th and 20th centuries. Even then, the Place du Tertre was a meeting place for artists who presented and sold their works. Some of the former studios of famous artists (such as Picasso and Van Gogh) can still be visited today.

Of course, Montmartre is very touristy, especially around the Place du Tertre. But there is a reason for that, because it is really beautiful here. But there are some magical corners, especially away from the crowds. So we just set off and see where the walk takes us. Narrow alleys, picturesque cobblestones, colorful houses - the neighborhood is colorful, diverse and lively.

Situated on a hill, there are always unexpected views of the city. And the Sacré-Coeur Basilica towers above it all.

Le Marais

We take the metro to Saint Paul and stroll along Rue de Rivoli to Place des Vosges, where time stands still for a moment. In our opinion, this is the most beautiful square in Paris and we linger for a while, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.

With its cobbled streets and charming historic buildings, the Marais is like a trip back in time. History and modernity blend together. Small boutiques, art galleries and cafés - we stroll the narrow streets, browse vintage shops and sample delicacies at the Marché couvert des Enfants Rouges.

Insider tip: Le Village Saint-Paul. A small, nostalgic district, a little village in the city, surrounded by the streets of Rue Charlemagne, Rue Saint-Paul, Rue de l'Ave Maria and Rue des Jardins Saint-Paul. The labyrinth of interconnected alleys, squares and charming courtyards is car-free. Artists, designers and antique dealers have set up shop here. After a stroll, relax in one of the cafés.

We end our last evening at Au Bourguignon du Marais. A relaxed but elegant atmosphere, very friendly waiters and excellent authentic French food. Our trip to Paris couldn't have ended any better.

We will be back

The next morning, we make our way home. We have just over 7 hours of driving ahead of us, but we are filled with impressions and memories and talk about them the whole way. My plan to replenish my inspiration has succeeded. I feel a growing desire to incorporate this journey into my art.

Audrey Hepburn said it before and she was right: "Paris is always a good idea."

Have you already been to Paris and do you keep coming back? Maybe you have some tips for me on what I should definitely not miss on my next trip to Paris.

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About the Author Lea Finke

Lea Finke is an artist with all her soul. In her blog, she talks about inspiration, passion, and encounters with art.

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