The enormous, sprawling Place de la Concorde in Paris is constantly abuzz with cars and crowds. As one of the capital's' largest squares, Concorde seems to embody the elegance and historic power of Paris. But it can also feel a little overwhelming, especially when you just happen upon it. What are some of the area's best attractions? From lush, flower-lined gardens to vibrant shopping strips and world-class art museums these are the top 8 things to do on and around Concorde.
See the Luxor Obelisk
Looming at the hectic center of the Concorde Square is the Luxor Obelisk, a 3,000-year old ancient Egyptian artifact that once stood outside the Luxor Temple. Its twin remains there. With its slightly golden, dramatically pointed peak and elaborate hieroglyphics, the 75-foot monument is a testament to grandeur and power. It seems fitting, then, that it would be chosen for the Place de la Concorde, associated with royal and imperial might for centuries. While you can't actually climb this interesting monument, admiring it from up close and from different angles can be awe-inspiring. Try to go for photos early in the morning or after dusk for the best light.
The hustle-and-bustle atmosphere on the Place de la Concorde can be a bit exhausting. The good news? It's easy to make a quick getaway to a haven of peace and tranquility: the Jardin des Tuileries. This formal garden, once the property of French royalty who lived at the adjoining Palais du Louvre, is teeming with greenery, lush blooms and poetic pathways. Enjoy a picnic on a bench there, or take a quiet stroll through its lanes to admire flowers in bloom and gurgling fountains. If you feel up for it, you can even go check out the Louvre Museum at its eastern edge.
One underappreciated museum situated at the western edge of the Tuileries and the Place de la Concorde is the Orangerie. Its permanent collection includes a stunning series of full-scale mural paintings from Claude Monet, entitled "Nymphéas" (Waterlilies). The master impressionist created them as a meditation on peace in the interim period between World War I and II. This is now one of the best places to beeline to in the capital when you're seeking a break from the urban grind.
Browse Concept Shops & Boutiques on Rue St. Honoré
Up for some casual boutique browsing or window-shopping? Just blocks away from Concorde is the Rue St. Honoré, one of the city's most-coveted shopping districts. Lined with boutiques, concept stores, chocolate shops, cafes, perfume and accessory makers, it's an ideal place for a leisurely morning or afternoon stroll. Even if you're not in the mood to buy anything, the St. Honoré district is worth a look.
See more about what to do on and around this fashionable street in our complete guide to the Louvre-Tuileries district.
Crossing over the Pont de la Concorde bridge, it's just a hop, skip and a jump over to the breathtaking art collections at the Musée d'Orsay. Home to hundreds of masterpieces from the likes of Manet, Monet, Courbet, Renoir, Matisse, Degas, Caillebotte and countless others, the Orsay museum is an essential destination for anyone interested in learning about the birth of modern art. Spend a couple of hours taking in the mesmerizing pastels of Degas' ballerinas, or the bold expressionist colors of Gaugin's landscapes.
Home to some of the best hot chocolate in Paris — rich, creamy and indulgent — Angelina is a Viennese-style tearoom not far from the Concorde, on the Rue de Rivoli. On a wintery day, little is cozier than ducking into this establishment circa 1900, pulling up a chair, admiring the ornate decor and sipping something warm and delicious. Angelina's selection of pastries is also tempting. This makes for an ideal break between visiting the nearby Louvre, Tuileries or Musée d'Orsay.
Bask in the Beauty of Place Vendome
Yearning to get away from the traffic and the exhaust fumes that sometimes mar the beauty of the Place de la Concorde? Take the Rue Castiglione up to the much quieter, mostly-pedestrian Place Vendome. First built at the beginning of the 18th century as a royal square, its ornate buildings have some of the same design elements as the lavish Palais de Versailles. The enormous column that stands at the center of the square is actually an 1874 reconstruction of a bronze predecessor erected by the Emperor Napoleon I.
Walk around the regal, photogenic square, take a few memory shots, and browse the luxury boutiques — from Cartier to Boucheron — dotted on both sides. Not to worry: if you just feel like window-shopping, the outside displays offer plenty to gawk at.
The Place Vendome leads into Rue de la Paix, which offers easy access to the stunning Opera Garnier to the northeast.
If you have some time before or after dinner, stop in at the iconic Ritz Hotel on Place Vendome for cocktails at the Hemingway Bar. This is a legendary spot where American novelist Ernest Hemingway reputedly drank to excess, and perhaps even succeeded in expelling members of the Nazi Gestapo after World War II ended. His friend F. Scott Fitzgerald was also a frequent patron. Today, it's simply one of the chicest hotel bars in Paris, but you don't need to spend a fortune to bask in the history and, well, ritziness of it all.