The Museums of Le Marais
When thinking of museums to visit in Paris, the first thing that springs to mind are the great temples of art, notably the Louvre, epitomised by the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa, the Orsay Museum, featuring a stunning collection of Romanticism and Impressionism that will delight any art lover, and the Pompidou Centre, with one of the most comprehensive modern and contemporary art collections in the world.
However, apart from those grand institutions, Paris also has other venues where, in addition to art, you can discover the life and times of other personages associated with the city, or simply enjoy the works of private collections displayed in fabulous exhibition halls.
One of the trendiest districts of late is Le Marais, situated in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements on the right bank of the Seine. It boasts numerous venues where in some cases you can enjoy a different, less crowded and at once rewarding exhibition experience. Here, then, is our selection of some of the museums you should make a point of visiting while touring this colourful, cosmopolitan district.
Maison de Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo is the first protagonist in our selection as he is privileged to have his own museum in what is the nerve centre of Le Marais, the Place des Vosges. From 1832 to 1848, Victor Hugo lived on the third floor of the Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée, where he wrote most of Les Misérables. Currently a museum, where visitors can gain greater insight into this essential figure of French literature.
Another great name, this time of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, makes up our second option. The Musée Picasso, housed in the Hôtel Salé, has a large collection of 200 paintings, 100 sculptures – this is the most prominent section in the museum – and ceramics, and 3,000 drawings and engravings covering all periods. It also features the painter’s own art collection, with works by Paul Cézanne and Henri Rousseau, among others.
What started out as a monument to the “Unknown Jewish Martyr” grew into the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, one of the largest Holocaust documentation centres in Europe. The Hebrew word shoah, which means “catastrophe”, is used to designate the Holocaust. The entrance to the building is inscribed with the names of the 76,000 Jews that were deported from France to the Nazi concentration camps.
Museum of Jewish Art and History
Situated in Le Marais is the Jewish quarter, known locally as the Pletzl (meaning “square” in Yiddish). It is worth strolling around the streets in the area and enjoying the sight of the colourful shops. While in this quarter, we recommend a visit to the Hôtel de Saint-Aignan, located at 71 Rue du Temple, as it houses the Museum of Jewish Art and History, where you can learn all about the history of the Jewish communities of France, Europe and North Africa, from the Middle Ages until the present.
Housed in the Hôtel Donon, the Cognacq-Jay Museum features the 18th-century collection of artworks built up by Ernest Cognacq and his wife, Marie-Louise Jay, from 1900 to 1925. Your visit will reveal more than 1,200 works and objects collected by this couple of art collectors, the standout pieces being paintings by Canaletto, Tiepolo, Boucher, Fragonard, Greuze and Reynolds.
Museum of Magic and Museum of Automata
The Museum of Magic reveals the secrets behind the art of magic, conjuring tricks and illusionism. On display are all manner of items used to perform magic tricks (magic wands, boxes, magic caps, etc.) and visitors are treated to live shows, too. Also housed in this building is the Museum of Automata, boasting a collection of 100 mechanical contrivances which will amaze you. Ideal for those travelling with children.
Book your Vueling to Paris, tour one of the city’s trendiest districts and venture into some of its unusual museums.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
In the Footsteps of Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc is one of those unforgettable historical figures with a passionate biography. Her life has spawned a myriad of books and films that attempt to uncover the secrets of that mysterious personage. Born into times of upheaval, against the backdrop of the Thirty Years’ War, she went from being a humble, illiterate countrywoman to leading an army of five thousand men, all prompted by her “visions”. It was God himself that talked to her and told her she had a mission to accomplish – to lead the French army and drive out the English in order to achieve the coronation of Charles VII of France. Quite a feat! This might seem outlandish to us now but, in the early 15th century, the role and power of religion were undisputed. Not for nothing were kings thus proclaimed “by the grace of God”. What’s more, the recipient of these visions was a brave and tenacious woman with powerful convictions.
Orleans, the City that Saw Her Triumph
One of the key moments in her life took place in Orleans, for which she was thenceforth known as the Maid of Orleans. On 8 May 1429 she accomplished one of her most extraordinary feats by liberating the city from the English, which marked the beginning of the reconquest of the occupied territories. To commemorate her victory, the Joan of Arc Festival is held in Orleans at this time every year at which her momentous feat is re-enacted through mock battles, accompanied by a modern festival event, the Set Electro Festival, with various DJ performances.
During the siege of Orleans, our heroine lived in the house of Jacques Boucher, treasurer to the Duke of Orleans. Rebuilt in 1960, it is currently known as the House of Joan of Arc. The building features a multimedia room, and a research and documentation centre for those wishing to learn more about the Maid of Orleans and her passage through the city.
For the more scholarly researchers, the Joan of Arc Centre houses one of the largest libraries on the subject, enabling visitors to consult a host of period manuscripts and documents.
Rouen – the Tragic End
After her passage through Orleans, Joan of Arc sought to lay down her arms, as she had ceased to have visions, but she was entreated to return to the battlefield and ended up acquiescing. This time things did not go so well. After being defeated in a number of campaigns, in 1430 she was captured by the Burgundians, handed over to the English and taken to Rouen. Here commenced the most arduous episode in her life. After a lengthy inquisitorial procedure, she was accused of heresy and witchcraft and sentenced to be burned at the stake.
During her interrogation, she was incarcerated in the Dungeon or Joan of Arc Tower, part of the castle built by Philippe Auguste in 1204. Still standing, the castle is open to the public.
The Archiepiscopal Palace, an acclaimed specimen of medieval architecture and the setting for part of the legal process was recently converted into the Historial Jeanne d’Arc. Inaugurated in March 2015, it is now the largest area dedicated to the memory of Joan of Arc. Its 1,000m2 of floor space is endowed with the latest technologies for narrating and unveiling the history of our heroine and taking us back to the period she lived in.
Joan of Arc was executed on 30 May 1431 in the Place du Vieux Marché, now an essential place of pilgrimage. The Church of Joan of Arc was built in the square in 1979, designed by the architect, Louis Arretche, for a dual purpose – to honour St Joan of Arc and as a civilian memorial to the heroine. The church was built on the very spot where the saint was burned alive, and the exact location of her martyrdom is duly marked.
How to Get There
Both destinations are a train journey of just over an hour away from Paris. The Orleans train runs from the Gare Austerlitz, while the Rouen line starts at the Gare Saint-Lazare.
Live out the story of Joan of Arc – check out our flights to Paris here.
Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación
Mechelen Beer Has the Essence of Woman
In Belgium, beer is undoubtedly a quintessential beverage, something the people of Mechelen – just over 20 kilometres from Brussels – are well aware of. Citizens of this Flemish town have had enough with beer being regarded as a male prerogative, prompting them to launch a guide entitled, Beer in women’s hands,which stresses the historical and current role of women in the making of this elixir.
This Mechlinian project features recommendations on both tours of the city to visit historic sites and craft breweries and pointers to tasting the best local beers combined with typical dishes. A good example of this are bapas (snacks paired with a beer) and food pairing (creative combinations of beer with local dishes). All these options have one goal – to banish the myth that beer is not a woman’s drink and to dispel the belief that they prefer wine (and white wine at that) or light, fruity beers.
Another option in the guide is to cycle from Het Anker brewery, the oldest in Flanders, originally run by Beguines, nuns of a lay religious order who lived mainly in Mechelen and Louvain. This is where Golden Carolus is brewed – thus called after Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, who was brought up in this city – as is the brand named Lucifer, which tops the rankings of the best beers in the world.
Another suggestion in the guide is to have an aperitif in St Rumbold’s Tower, one of the major tourist landmarks in Mechelen. After the effort of climbing the more than 500 steps to the top of the tower, a beer is just what you need to quench your thirst as you take in the views of the city. St Rumbold’s Tower, nearly 100 metres tall, houses two famous carillons with 49 bells. It is worth mentioning that Mechelen is renowned for its Royal Carillon School, where many carillonneurs from all over the world have come to learn the secrets of this instrument.
The guide also recommends going on a multicultural, historical walk with tastings included. The itinerary takes you through the city’s central square, the Grote Markt, site of one of Mechelen’s three city halls, and of the unusual statue known as the Opsinjoor, depicting a man pulling a doll around on a sheet, considered the city’s mascot. Other landmarks on the route include the Palace of Margaret of Austria, Charles V’s aunt and governor of the Netherlands in the 16th century, the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, originally a Jesuit church, the Church of Our Lady across the river Dijle, which features works by Rubens, and the Palace of Margaret of York, the residence of the Bishop of Kamerrijk (Cambrai) when he was in Mechelen.
A final recommendation for Mechelen is a visit to the Dossin Casern, an erstwhile transit camp converted into a museum and documentation centre on the Holocaust and human rights. From 1942 to 1944 it was used by the Nazis as a transit camp where over 25,000 Belgian Jews and gypsies were detained before being deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Mechelen is an ideal spot for sightseeing on a day trip from Brussels, as it is easily reached by train. Check out our flights to the Belgium capital here.
Welcome to the City of Museums
With over forty museums, Basel can well boast of being one of Europe’s cities with the best contemporary cultural facilities. A large number of these numerous museums feature the plastic arts as their central theme, displaying works that range from antiquity to the present. The city’s penchant for collecting has its origins in the 16th century, when collectors hailed from both the private and public sectors. Several private collections have been opened to the public in recent years, augmenting the supply even further.
The Kunstmuseum Basel – the Beginning of Everything
This is the most significant museum in Basel and the largest in Switzerland. Its collections, which date back to 1662, feature works running from the Middle Ages up to the present. Hans Holbein enthusiasts are in for a treat if they come here, as it boasts one of the largest collections of this artist’s work.
The Beyeler Foundation – a European Collector’s Classic
This foundation, housing the collection of the spouses, Ernest and Hildy Beyeler, is one of the largest and most important in central Europe. It is a compendium of classical modern art, from Monet, Cézanne and Van Gogh to Picasso, Warhol, Lichtenstein and Bacon. The counterpoint to these figures is a display of tribal art from Africa, Oceania and Alaska, the contrast producing an interesting result. Also well worth seeing are the surroundings of the beautiful building – designed by Renzo Piano – with its priceless garden.
The Tinguely Museum – an In-Depth Look at the Artist’s Sculpture Machines
Dedicated to the life and work of the Swiss sculptor, Jean Tinguely. The interior of this original building, the work of the architect, Mario Botta, houses the sculpture machines that brought him fame, in addition to documentation, photographs and drawings of his work.
The Antikenmuseum (Museum of Antiquities) – in Search of the Classics
This is the only Swiss museum devoted to ancient Mediterranean art and civilisation. The collection features pieces dating from between the 4th millennium BC and the 7th century AD, sourced from the ancient Egyptian, Greek, Italic and Roman cultures, as well as works from the Near East and Cyprus. Featured are Greek ceramics and sculptures and the section dedicated to ancient Egypt.
Klingental – the Region’s Art Trends
Housed in the Klingental convent church, the Ausstellungsraum Klingental is dedicated to the region’s artistic production.
Schaulager – A Space for the Experts
The building housing this unusual space was designed by the Herzog & de Meuron architects studio. Directed at a specialist art audience, it also hosts events for the public at large and is innovative even in its conceptualisation. It is not intended to be a run-of-the-mill museum, but a storage facility open to the public which houses the undisplayed works of the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation.
HeK – a Look at New Media in Art Production
The Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel (House of Electronic Arts Basel) specialises in art created using electronic media, known as “new media” or digital art. There are facilities for hosting all kinds of activities associated with these new trends in art. It also hosts the Forum for New Media, as well as Shift, Festival of Electronic Arts.
Schoenthal – Open-Air Sculpture
The former Romanesque convent of Schoenthal, situated half an hour from Basel, houses the Stiftung Sculpture at Schoenthal, a not-to-be-missed sculpture park featuring nearly twenty works by Swiss and international artists. The Romanesque church has been converted into a gallery for temporary exhibitions of contemporary artworks.
Have you taken note of all the art you can see in Basel? Check out our flights here and see it all first-hand.
Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicaciónmore info