One of the really great things about spending time in the center of a large city like Paris is that there are a wide choice of places to visit, all within a short walk of each other. For example, The Cluny Museum is very close to the Île de la Cité. This offers and opportunity to visit several sights in one afternoon.
Île de la Cité, an island in the Seine, was the center of Paris, and French life. It was home to the royal family through the 14th century. The former royal palace is now the Palais de Justice, where the highest courts in France have resided for hundreds of years. Between the 14th and 18th centuries, it was a place where royal tribunals were held. It is also home to the royal chapel - Sainte-Chapelle (Holy Chapel).
The Sainte-Chapelle was built between 1240 and 1248 CE by Louis IX. It served as the reliquary for the holy relics that Louis had collected, including the purported crown of thorns. There are two levels to the chapel. The ground floor was where members of the court worshipped. The upper floor, which was also the reliquary, was used only by the royal family. The upper floor is known for its beautiful stained glass windows that line the entire length of the chapel, and its star-field ceiling.
Of course, no visit to Île de la Cité would be complete without a stop at Notre Dame. The cathedral is still under reconstruction after the devastating fire of 2019, but they finally removed the scaffolding from the front of the church. Today you can on a set of stairs that have been built in front of the building. You can enjoy the view, eat a snack and rest up before you continue your walk.
While in the area, stop at Shakespeare & Co. This is not the original store which was opened in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, and closed in 1941. In 1951, George Whitman opened an English-language bookshop named Le Mistral, and in 1961 he named it after Beach’s store. The store is still run by the Whitman family, and continues the tradition of supporting writers of English literature.
A short walk from Île de la Cité is the Musée Cluny - France’s national museum of the Middle Ages. The Cluny resides in the Hôtel de Cluny, which was the home to the Cluny Abbey. The building was constructed in the 15th century, built around the ruins of a Roman bath. In 1832 the Hôtel de Cluny was bought by Alexandre Du Sommerand to house his collection of renaissance art. The French government bought the museum when Du Sommerand died in 1843, and has run the collection ever since. The Cluny was modernized in the 2010’s with new displays, some structural changes internally, and a new welcome/visitor’s center.
Of course, the Cluny’s main draw are the Unicorn tapestries. Titled “The Lady and the Unicorn,” these six amazing works date from around 1500 CE. They are believed to represent the five senses, along with an allegory entitled A Mon Seul Désir - My Only Desire. The tapestries are considered to be a sister collection to “Hunt of the Unicorn” tapestries on display at the Cloisters in NYC.
A city like Paris gives visitors the chance to see many sights and museums in one day. If you choose smaller museums and galleries, you can do this without feeling rushed or overwhelmed.