We’re going to be taking a little detour now to visit some more contemporary sights. It is not a coincidence that some of the most popular Parisian tourist attractions are historic sights, with some dating all the way back to the 14th century. One reason they are so famous and revered is because they have stood the test of time and still elicit a sense of awe and wonder even in our post-modern age.
But perhaps you have little interest in visiting historical monuments. Maybe you’re the kind of person who has a distaste for anachronism. Lucky for you, the city of Paris contains a perfect blend of old and new. Today, we will be visiting two shining examples of post-modernism that fit within our 21st century paradigm. The first is l’Arche de la Défense (the Arch of Defense), also known as la Grande Arche (the Great Arch), and the second is Le Centre Pompidou.
L’arche de la Défense
L’Arche de la Défense is situated in le quartier d’affaires de Paris (Paris’ business/financial district) amid a host of modern skyscrapers. Its position is at one end of la voie royale (the royal way) which extends from the district of la Défense, passes through the Arc de Triomphe, the avenue of the Champs-Elysées, la Place de la Concorde, and ends at the Louvre. Building of the arch began in 1985 and the inauguration took place July 14, 1989, marking the French Revolution’s 200th anniversary. Made of concrete, marble and glass and with cube-like dimensions, the arch is 110 meters high and mirrors that of the Arc de Triomphe but on a much grander and more modern scale. Unfortunately, le toit n’est plus accessible au public (the roof is no longer accessible to the public). However, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the site and its open-air museum that includes sixty pieces of modern art. If you found the Arc de Triomphe un peu démodé (a little old-fashion) for your tastes, you will appreciate the modernism of l’Arche de la Défense.
Le Centre Pompidou
Le Centre Pompidou (The Pompidou Center) gives off an equally futuristic vibe thanks to its oddly-shaped outward appearance (made of steel and glass) reflecting its high-tech architectural heritage. It was named after French President George Pompidou (1969-1974) who wanted a multidisciplinary cultural center in the heart of Paris. It is also home to le Musée National d’Art Moderne (the National Museum of Modern Art) which, coincidentally, is the largest modern art museum on the European continent. Besides the museum, a variety of shows and movies are available and it’s a great place for the whole family thanks to the many workshops catering to both children and adults. The exhibits change frequently so you’ll never have to see the same thing twice should you choose to make a second visit.
Le Centre Pompidou est ouvert chaque jour (is open every day) from 11 am to 10 pm except for Tuesdays and on May 31st. Tickets for the museum and exhibitions are €13 or €11 for adults depending on the period and are also available online. Show tickets are €14 and €6 for movies. If you’ve already visited the major museums in Paris, achetez simplement un ticket ordinaire (just buy a regular ticket). However, if the Centre Pompidou is one of your first stops on your tour of Paris, I would advise purchasing a Paris Museum Pass. This consists of 2-day, 4-day, or 6-day consecutive passes that will give you access to no less than 60 museums and attractions throughout the city, plus free entry to le Musée National d’Art Moderne. Prices are €39, €54, €69, respectively. You won’t be able to fit in all sixty but it’ll give you a vast array of museums and sites to choose from and will save you money in the long run.
L’Arche de la Défense and le Centre Pompidou are two of Paris’ modern treasures that offer the visitor a different perspective of the city. Part of Paris’ charm lies in its mix of ancien et moderne (ancient and modern). It’s a city rich in history but also very forward-thinking. With one foot in the past and another in the future, it is no wonder that Paris is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.