One of the most outstanding streets in the world, the main shopping center of Paris, the most beautiful avenue… Let us tell you why you need to take a walk along the Champs Elysees.
By the way, the Champs Elysees is located in the very center of Paris and is perfect for enjoying comfortable and even luxurious life. Check out the best hotel deals on the Champs Elysees at this link.
Where are the Champs Elysees located?
First we should tell you that the Champs Elysees or Champs Élysées in French is just a name. As tourists can notice, there are no fields (“champs” in french) here. It is actually a long avenue from Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe, which is divided into two zones: the one is a park area and the other is a center of shopping and entertainment. The easiest way to get to the Champs Elysees is by metro.
- Concorde (lines 1, 8, 12)
- Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau (lines 1 and 13)
- Franklin D. Roosevelt (lines 1 and 9)
- George V (1st line)
- Charles de Gaulle – Étoile (lines 1, 2, 6, and RER A)
» READ MORE – How to use Paris metro?
Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysees
The main attraction of the Champs Elysees is the Arc de Triomphe of Napoleon Bonaparte. Unfortunately the ordering customer did not live to see the completion of its construction, so the whole triumph went to the French people. From all sides, the monumental arch is decorated with symbols of the empire. However in fact it has become a symbol of the French Republic. Under it you can see an eternal flame and the tomb of the unknown soldier. All the official memorial events are held here.
The greatest value of the Arc de Triomphe is being an observation deck. From its flat roof one can look around the whole city. The Arc’s height provides an over-the-top view of the Eiffel Tower, the roofs of Parisian palaces and, of course, all the Champs Elysees from start to an end. From above, it becomes clear immediately why Charles de Gaulle Square, on which the arch stands, used to be called Star Square (Place Etoile). Don’t miss this attraction and book your Arc de Triomphe ticket in advance (you can do it here).
How did Champs-Élysees get its name?
The name comes from Greek mythology and means the “beautiful fields of the blessed in the afterlife on the banks of the Ocean River, where, at the end of mortal life, heroes beloved by the gods fall”. There is no sickness or suffering and eternal spring reigns on the “Isles of the Blessed” (Champs Elysees).
Shopping on the Champs Elysees
There are hundreds of shops and restaurants here. You will definitely find goods at any price range starting from McDonald’s hamburgers to Louis Vuitton bags, from Swarovski crystals to concept cars that haven’t even hit the market yet. We have selected the top 10 stores on the Champs-Elysées for you in a separate article.
Opening hours of shops
Shops on the Champs Elysees are open until 11-12 pm. For Paris and France in general it’s a real phenomenon!
» READ MORE – Shopping the sales in Paris
Events on the Champs Elysees
This is a street of parades and festivities. There is a big parade with Patrol de France on Bastille Day (July 14), on May 8 there is a mini-parade. A gay parade and a tropical carnival take place in summer, on January 1 there is a fun New Year‘s parade. The Champs-Elysées hosts the last section of the famous Tour de France in July. And in April, the Paris Marathon takes place here.
Since recently, the main New Year’s celebrations are also held on the Champs Elysees near the Arc de Triomphe. However the famous Christmas market was moved to the Tuileries Garden.
Sights on the Champs Elysees
The Champs Elysees is one of the main attractions of Paris, it is almost two kilometers long. The avenue starts from the Place de la Concorde and the Tuileries Park and ends at the Place Charles de Gaulle at the Arc de Triomphe. Haussmann facades give it a uniform architectural appearance. And there are real palaces on the avenue.
Grand Palais and Petit Palais
As a matter of fact no one has ever lived in these palaces. They were built for the World Exhibition and represent a single architectural ensemble.
These luxurious buildings were designed for exhibitions, and that is still their value. The Petit Palais is home to the Parisian Museum of Fine Arts. It looks like a smaller version of the Louvre. That’s why we recommend visiting it if the great Louvre itself scares you with its size and entrance charges.
The Grand Palais serves as an exhibition area. Festivals, fashion shows, horse races and sports competitions are held here. Also in winter there is a huge skating rink inside the Grand Palais welcoming visitors. There is an important role assigned to this place in the upcoming Olympics in Paris, so now it is closed for reconstruction.
» READ MORE – Paris museums you have to see
The Elysee Palace
There is a residence of the President of France on the Champs Elysees, the Elysee Palace. However, it is not easy to approach it. The palace is hidden in the park and you just won’t be able to see it. But it can be freely visited on the second weekend of September during the European Heritage Days.
Mansion of La Paiva
Not at all incidentally the mansion of one of the most famous courtesans of the 19th century is located on the same street. The luxury of its interiors can challenge even royal chambers. But it’s not that easy to get in. It is necessary to sign up for a guided tour, which is held once a week on Saturdays and only in French.
Everyone wants to live on the Champs Elysees, but not everyone can afford it.Book a hotel on Champs Elysees
Lido de Paris
You can no longer surprise the modern public with experimental ballet. But the Lido cabaret will definitely come up with something to make the new program better than all the previous ones. Luxurious costumes, pools and fountains on the stage and even striptease on skates! If you see elegantly dressed people on the Champs Elysees in the evening, then most likely they are going to a cabaret. We highly recommend you to follow the lead! In our article we explain how to visit a cabaret.
Enjoy your adventurous walk!
They used to build a wall in Paris to protect against the Normans, but now it is time to build fortifications to protect Normandy from the Parisians. This region is so beautiful that it attracts more tourists every year. A common Parisian dream is to spend a couple of summer weeks here. Normandy is the region of France that is worth visiting to enjoy the northern nature and see the old Norman towns and villages. By the way, be sure to check out our Normandy driving itinerary and excursions to some of the towns.
Visit Mont Saint-Michel
Normandy’s most famous landmark is the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel. It is one of the wonders of the world: a small town perched on a rock that turns into an island at high tide. And on top of the island is a monastery. The bridge will take you to the island, from there, walk and enjoy the streets where the real Normans live. They did not give their island to anyone hundreds of years ago and are unlikely to anyone today. But they are kind to travelers here.
You can rent a hotel right on the rock (see the list here) and lock yourself and the city behind the defensive wall for the night. Want to feel like you are in the Middle Ages or, say, the Iron Islands of Game of Thrones? It is right here!
Sunbathing in Deauville
Deauville is the fashionable town of Normandy. There are casinos, horse races, great beaches, and Grand hotels. This city originally became popular with the Parisian intellectual elite, and the rest of the citizens followed them. Today, Deauville is one of the best resorts in Normandy. But do not neglect nearby Trouville. In fact, Deauville and Trouville are one city. However, while Deauville is the city of the rich, the name “Trouville” translates as a city of holes. It may once have been, but today it is a pretty town by the sea. And Trouville has a wonderful market where you can always find fresh fish, local cheeses, and delicious cider. See hotels in Deauville at this link, and here, you will find Trouville hotels.Book a hotel near the beach
Taste Camembert and other cheeses
Camembert is probably the most famous French cheese. And it comes from Normandy. There is a village here, Camembert, where they originally made the cheese. Moreover, they still produce it here today. You do not have to go to Camembert itself; there are many farms around Normandy where they make it. Also, you can try dishes with it in any restaurant or café in any city in the region. A burger with camembert? A salad with camembert? Or maybe a hot camembert with fresh baguette? And that is only a hundredth of the dishes made in Normandy with this gastronomic landmark.
Relax in Honfleur
Honfleur is a small village, but Monet loved to paint it! Even if you are completely far from art, you will still want to capture Honfleur at least on your Instagram. An old port, pretty cafes, flowers, and small family-run hotels with verandas – what else do you need to be happy? Get out to sea! Rent a yacht for a private outing; maybe you will be lucky enough to meet a flock of dolphins, harbor seals, or other sea creatures.Book a hotel in Honfleur
Taste cider and Calvados
The low-alcohol cider in Normandy is accepted to drink instead of water. You can find it everywhere, as well as Calvados, the local apple brandy. There are a lot of apples in Normandy, the weather is Northerly, and the craving to extract alcohol from apples is great. The locals’ joke that the temperature of the water in the sea is +14, but inside Normands, it is +41 Calva degree (Calva is the affectionate name of Calvados). If Camembert is a village, Calvados is a whole department, and Caen is its main city (no, not Cannes, exactly Caen).
A bottle of apple brandy costs from 15 euros, but a bottle of good cider will cost you only 2-3 euros.
Visit the museum in Rouen
Rouen, the largest city in Normandy, has a magnificent art museum (Musée des Beaux-Arts) with several works of the Impressionists that left a legacy of their work in the capital.
And most importantly, visits to the permanent collection are free!
Address: Esplanade Marcel Duchamp, 76000 Rouen.
Open daily from 10:00 to 18:00.
See an evening show on the facade of the Rouen Cathedral
While we are talking about Rouen, you cannot ignore its enormous cathedral. In the literal sense, you cannot bypass the side. Only Monet painted it dozens of times (find out in the Orsay museum in Paris), so what can we do? We advise you to come here not only in the daytime but also in the evening. During the summer, starting from 9 am, there are light shows on the facade of the cathedral every half hour. The show is magnificent! To stay in Rouen at night, see hotels in Rouen at this link.Book a hotel in Rouen
Get inside the clock
Also, another place in Rouen you should visit is the square where they burned Joan of Arc, and between the Rouen Cathedral and the bonfire in a medieval street, there is the oldest city clock in Europe (Gros-Horloge). You can visit this clock and listen to the history, not only of the device but also of the city- one of the richest in old France. And when else would you find yourself inside a 14th-century clock?
Address: Rue du Gros Horloge, 76000 Rouen.
Visiting time: from 10 am to 6 pm.
Price: full ticket costs 7 euros, there are discounts.
Enjoy the rocks of Etreta
Étretat is a small fishing village on the English Channel coast. It became famous in the 19th century. Guy de Maupassant organized his evenings in Étretat. And after the same, the already mentioned above artists with their paintings well-publicized the village. Etreta, among other attractions, is famous for its picturesque cliffs and beautiful beaches, which lure tourists here. You can even swim in the Channel if the Norman weather allows you.Book a hotel in Etretat
Visit Monet in Giverny
It is commonly believed that Giverny is where Normandy begins. This is the village where Claude Monet lived, and today his house-museum and garden-museum are open to visitors, where after the artist lost his eyesight, painted his endless water lilies. Be sure to take a tour here: you will find many of Monet’s paintings brought to life and, more importantly, how many years have passed! You can get to Giverny by train from Paris or book a tour.
See a thousand-year-old tapestry
If you have ever been interested in medieval history, you certainly know of William the Conqueror’s name. He was the first to unite the English duchies and create a unified kingdom in Foggy Albion. The first king of England was originally from Normandy.
The city of Bayeux is home to a unique carpet, for which they created an entire museum. In the literature, it is known as the Bayeux Tapestry. In fact, it is not a tapestry or a carpet. It is an embroidered linen cloth, 70 meters long, which depicts the actual process of William I’s conquest of the British lands. Made in the 11th century AD, it is almost a thousand years old. We recommend visiting the museum in Bayeux and using their audio guide.
Visit William the Conqueror
It is magical, but Normandy even has the castle where William I was born! It is in the town of Falaise, perched picturesquely on a hill overlooking it. The castle is more than a thousand years old. The building is carefully restored and will appeal to fans of all kinds of medieval architecture. There is a museum inside the castle and different reconstruction events. The ticket price is 8.5 euros.
What was there a thousand years ago! Normandy was shaken by hostilities more recently. It was on this shore that the Allies landed during World War II. The battles were fierce and bloody, destroying some cities, for example, Le Havre. You can still see fortifications and defensive batteries in many landing points. You can remember this sacrifice by visiting themed museums and cemeteries in Bayeux, Caen, Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, Longues-sur-Mer, Bény-sur-Mer, Colleville-sur-Mer, and others.
We have listed only the main attractions in Normandy. And then everything depends on your desires, preferences, and imagination. Horseback riding, biking, kayaking – it is all possible here in Normandy. It is an emerald-colored country with steep cliffs and a rugged Norman spirit with apple scent and kind cows that give milk for the world’s most delicious cheeses. Here life flows at a measured pace, and even when it is windy, rainy, and cold outside, it is always warm inside. Come and get warm!
See our article about other Normandy cities worth visiting. Leave your tips on what else to do in this French region, and have a great trip!
» READ MORE – WHAT TO SEE IN NORMANDY: THE CITIES WORTH VISITING
The charm of Provence is irresistible. The rich history of this region combined with amazing monuments of architecture of all eras, interesting museums, beautiful nature, delicious cuisine, charming villages, and towns – all of these are amazing. Among the many attractions of Provence, we can name ten that are worth seeing.
The best and most convenient way to travel in Provence is by car. You can rent a car at this link.
Growing out of an ancient settlement of Gauls, Avenio, the current Avignon can be considered one of the most touristy cities in France. History has left its traces in the Roman ruins and impressive medieval buildings. In the 14th century, the city was the residence of the pontiffs; that is when they built the crenelated wall – an excellent example of medieval fortification.
The main attraction of the city is the Palais des Papes, a brilliant example of Gothic architecture. The earlier Roman Avignon Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame des Doms), situated higher on the cliff, was linked to the palace to form a unified ensemble.
In addition to these sights, there are many others in Avignon. The combination of antiquity and modernity gives the city a special style. Find a good hotel for your vacation in Avignon by clicking here.Book a hotel in Avignon
The city of Orange stands on the ancient Arauzion, which was a battlefield between the Romans, the Gallic, and the German tribes. During the reign of Emperor Augustus, they built many important buildings. Among them is the Roman theater. The amphitheater is perfectly preserved and is currently the main attraction of the city. It has 60 rows and a seating capacity for 11000 spectators and still serves its purpose as a theater performance venue.
The Triumphal Arch, decorated with beautifully crafted bas-reliefs, is one of the city’s other Roman monuments.
The representation architectural sights of Orange of the Middle Ages and later are beautiful mansions, among which is the City Hall, built in the 17th century. Among the religious buildings the most remarkable is the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Nazareth, which was built in the 6th and rebuilt in the 12th century. If you decide to stay in Orange for a few days, you can book a suitable hotel here.All hotels of Orange
» Read more – THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES IN PROVENCE
Arles stands on the site of an ancient settlement. The Romans built public buildings, fortress walls, and houses here. From the ancient and medieval heritage of the city, many monuments have survived. The main one is the famous Arena with a seating capacity of 25,000 spectators. In the Middle Ages, the building was for fortification purposes, and in the 19th century, it recovered its original appearance. In addition, other Roman buildings remained in good condition – the ancient theater, the Alyscamps Necropolis, and many others.
The Cathedral of St. Trophime is another important landmark of Arles. They built it on the site of St. Stephen’s Cathedral (5th century); in the 12th century, they rebuilt the cathedral and transferred the relics of Saint Trophime here, so they renamed it.
Arles is a special city for admirers of Vincent van Gogh because much of the artist’s creative life took place here. Find comfortable accommodation in Arles here.
» See More – SEE VAN GOGH’S PROVENCEBook a hotel in Arles
On the border of Provence is Nîmes, another old town full of Roman monuments. Before the Roman conquest in 121 BC, it was a Gallic capital. An arena built in the 1st century, A.D. is currently surviving. In the center of the city, there is Maison Carrée, an ancient Roman temple, which they later used as a Christian church. Now, this building is a museum of Roman art.
In dilapidated conditions, we see the Temple of Diana (2nd century AD), now you can see only the central hall. On the top of the hill, there is another ancient monument – the Tower Magne (3rd century BC). The town is full of curiosities and has a special charm thanks to the mixture of three Mediterranean cultures. See a tour of Nîmes (click here), where an experienced guide will show you the many interesting things to see and do.
Beautiful hotels in this city are available for booking here.Best hotels of Nimes
Les Baux-de-Provence is a small village included in the list of the most beautiful villages in France. It is on a cliff, 245 meters above sea level. The Alpine scenery, the views of Arles and other cities, which opens from here, is impossible to forget. This is where the stunning Château des Baux resides. It is not functional, but even in its current form, impressive. The castle, built in the 10th century, was a defensive construction. The high position made this fortress impregnable since the excellent overview allowed you to see the approaching enemies long before they could approach the rock.
Numerous tourists visiting des Baux are also interested in the exhibition of medieval weapons and a working model of a trebuchet. You can settle in Les Baux-de-Provence here.Look for a room in Les Baux-de-Provence
» Read more – A BIKE TRIP AROUND PROVENCE
Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is another place whose history goes back to antiquity. First mentioned in the 6th century BC, the Phoenician merchants built a sanctuary along a trade route. The Romans turned this road into a paved Via Sanktuaria and erected an altar in honor of Hercules. They built the city around it.
The well-preserved Triumphal Arch and the Mausoleum called Tomb of Julius can now be seen in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The Mausoleum’s pedestal is particularly interesting with its bas-reliefs of mythological themes. In addition to ancient monuments, the city is rich in medieval buildings, such as the monastery of St. Paul, where Vincent van Gogh died, and charming Baroque buildings. Find the right place to stay in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence at this link.All hotels of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence are listed here
The medieval town of Aix-en-Provence is associated with the famous impressionist painter Paul Cézanne. You can visit the Cezanne’s studio, where everything remains as it was during his life. The center of this beautiful city is the Cathedral of the Holy Saviour (Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur ), built in the 12th century; the interior displays outstanding works of medieval art. The Eglise de la Madeleine, another architectural monument, also has splendid paintings of different ages, from the medieval triptych “The Annunciation” to the works of Rubens.
Among the attractions, we should also note the former bishop’s palace, which now houses the Tapestry Museum (Musée des Tapisseries). You can stay in the cozy hotels, and the reservations are available here.Choose a hotel in Aix-en-Provence
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a charming town, which attracts tourists both as a resort and as a pleasant place for excursions. There are all conditions for recreation – a beautiful beach, many hotels (suitable accommodation can be found and booked here) and restaurants.
Every year, this town holds a festival dedicated to Saint Sarah, who is especially revered by the Gypsies. You can find a statue of this saint in the elegant Notre Dame de la Mer, which impresses with its splendid acoustics.
This medieval structure more than once saved the locals from Saracen raids during the Crusades. They could sit in this church fortress long enough since there was a well with drinking water inside.Best hotels of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer
Vers-Pont-du-Gard is a small town, but the main attraction is near – the Pont du Gard aqueduct. It is one of the best preserved structures of the Roman period. Almost 50 meters high and 275 meters long, this bridge is now for pedestrians, but until recently, it was also for transport. Its main purpose was to carry water to Nîmes. As an aqueduct, the Pont du Gard served until the end of Roman rule.
What is striking is that the grandiose construction holds up without any mortars and solely by its own weight. Six arches give the bridge openwork and airiness, while the load-bearing structure is only one arch. To see the hotels in Vers-Pont du Gard, follow this link.Look for a hotel around the Pont du Gard
The Greeks founded Marseille in the 6th century BC as a seaport. In this quality, it still exists. The old port (Vieux Port) is the most important attraction of the city, but currently, sailors mostly use it. By the way, Alexandre Dumas described Marseille in his novel. The boat with Edmond Dantes arrived in the Old Port. Another place mentioned in this work, the Château d’If, is a real place too. After being built in the 16th century, it had military value, but it became a prison before being converted to a museum.
There are not many preserved buildings in Marseille. The most significant architectural monuments belong to the 19th century. But there is a medieval abbey of Saint-Victor (Abbaye Saint-Victor), founded in the 5th century. The beautiful baroque town hall building is also from the 17th century.
To feel the true spirit of Provence, you can visit the cozy resort town of Cassis and the national park of Calanques with a guide. You can book a tour of these places here. There are many excellent hotels in Marseille (consider the different options and book a suitable one here).Book a hotel in the Old Port of Marseille
Have a fabulous trip through Provence!
» Read more – HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF ONE DAY IN MARSEILLE?
What do you think of when you hear “France“? If your list of associations includes Paris, wine, and delicious food, this article is for you! Book a table at one of the ten restaurants with the most interesting views of Paris.
Of course the first on our list is the famous restaurant on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. The view is fascinating – the whole Paris lies at your feet, and it is especially impressive in the evening. The restaurant has been awarded one Michelin star.
Address: Tour Eiffel, pilier Sud, Champ-de-Mars
Official website: www.lejulesverne-paris.com
Cost per person: lunch from 135 Euros, dinner from 245 Euros
Madame (ex 58 Tour Eiffel)
The view from the first floor of the Eiffel Tower is not so dizzying, which makes it even more interesting. The famous restaurant 58 used to be there – 58 meters above the ground. The Brasserie Madame opens in its place in May 2022. The merits of the new chef suggest that the restaurant will be even better than 58.
Cost per person: lunch from 56 Euros, dinner from 99 Euros. The cost depends on the view from the selected table.
Dinner on a boat
Another great way to enjoy Paris for dinner is to book a table at a cruise restaurant. A boat trip on the Seine is a must for everyone who comes to Paris, because all the main sights seem to stand along the waterfront. If you combine a river walk with lunch or dinner, the trip will become one of the most vivid memories of Paris.
Fare per person: lunch from 69 Euros, dinner from 99 Euros.
Le Ciel de Paris
The restaurant on the 56th floor of the Montparnasse tower justifies its name (translated as “the Paris sky”). Here you will be in the sky over Paris and can have a dinner admiring the lights of the night city and the Eiffel Tower. Among other things this restaurant offers really good food and is considered one of the best restaurants of the 15th arrondissement.
Address: Tour Montparnasse, 56e étage, place Raoul Dautry/33, avenue du Maine, Paris 15e.
Official website: www.cieldeparis.com
It is worthwhile to take an interesting tour of the Montparnasse Tower before visiting the restaurant.
Cost per person: lunch from 30 Euros, dinner from 70 Euros, guaranteed table by the window – 134 Euros.
» SEE MORE – Paris from above - best spots
Founded in 1582, it is one of the oldest restaurants in Europe. In addition to excellent cuisine Tour D’Argent is famous for its beautiful view of the Seine and Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris. The restaurant’s main dish is duck, and many say that it is the best cooked in the world. You will receive a postcard with the number of the duck you ate as a souvenir at the end of the evening. As of today this restaurant has one Michelin star.
Address: 15-17, quai de la Tournelle
Official website: www.latourdargent.com
Cost per person: lunch from 110 Euros, dinner from 380 Euros.
The restaurant on the roof of the Centre Georges Pompidou is designed in the general style of the building. One of its trump cards is a panoramic view of the roofs of central Paris. The menu is in the tradition of Italian cuisine. Le George has received one Michelin star for its quality of cuisine and level of service.
Address: Centre Georges-Pompidou, esplanade Beaubourg
Official website: restaurantgeorgesparis.com
Cost per person: lunch from 70 Euros, dinner from 135 Euros
The restaurant is located on the top floor and roof of the Theatre des Champs Elysees. It is not far from the Trocadero Square, so the Eiffel Tower is well visible. In addition to the beautiful view of the city the restaurant is known for its good food and interesting menu.
Address: 15, avenue Montaigne, Paris 8e.
Official website: www.maison-blanche.fr
Cost per person: lunch from 70 Euros, dinner from 100 Euros
Les Grandes Marches
Les Grandes Marches is a seafood restaurant. Here you can taste oysters and mussels and also enjoy a beautiful view of Bastille Square.
Address: 6, place de la Bastille
Official website: www.grandes-marches.com
Cost per person: lunch from 25 Euros, dinner from 40 Euros
This restaurant on the roof of the Quai Branly Museum boasts one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower and a good author’s cuisine.
Address: 27, quai Branly
Official website: www.lesombres-restaurant.com
Cost per person: lunch from 48 Euros, dinner from 110 Euros
The Warwick Champs-Elysées restaurant offers a beautiful view of the Champs-Elysées and the Eiffel Tower. It is known for its light cuisine and ideal for ending the day with a glass of champagne.
Address: 5, rue de Berri, 8e
Official website: www.wrestaurantwarwickparis.com
Cost per person: lunch and dinner from 49 Euros
» SEE MORE – 10 AFFORDABLE PLACES TO EAT IN PARIS
The Duomo di Milano is a top destination for Milan tourists, worthy of endless acclamations of praise.
The facade of the Duomo: how it became what it is
When we enter the Piazza del Duomo, the grandiose facade of the cathedral appears before us with white marble spires pointing upwards and numerous stone scaffolding on the roof. This kind of architecture, especially when combined with the chosen material, is not typical of Italy. It is easier to imagine this building somewhere in France or on the banks of the Rhine.
Gothic churches usually consisted of burnt brick in a much more down-to-earth manner. But the Duke of Visconti wanted the future great temple of Milan to be no worse than that of the French and Germans (remember – by that time, they had already built the famous Notre-Dame de Paris).
And then, the Italian Factoria, which led the construction of the Duomo, decided to invite foreigners for consultation. But everyone thought they were the only experts on the subject and sought to justify their point of view to the Duke.
However, back then, the construction of churches traditionally started with an altar, so they left the question of the appearance of the Duomo for another time. In the meantime, the cathedral would have the facade of the old basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore – they were going to demolish it anyway. The use of brick was not even discussed at the time: marble and only marble!
The centuries passed. The existing project was changed and supplemented following new trends in architecture and new, alternative projects. One builder even suggested a classical portico with columns and obelisks. They demolished the old facade of the basilica, and over one hundred years, the cathedral stood with naked walls, worthy of a large stable.
Napoleon made the decisive point. He was impatient to become King of Italy and decided to hold the coronation procedure in the main temple of Milan. Construction work rapidly accelerated, and during eight years, the cathedral received lancet windows, spires with statues, and the bulk of the decor.
True, the Factoria then tried to redo the facade of the Milan Duomo: it turned out too heterogeneous and eclectic.
Eclecticism is a combination of different styles in architecture.
The Milan Cathedral, except for minor alterations, was destined to remain exactly like that. It is an interesting cocktail:
- windows with triangular cornices and portals borrowed from Roman, classical architecture;
- the small spire is Renaissance;
- the main sculptural trim is Baroque;
- lancet arches, stained glass windows, and all spires, including the spire of the Madonna, are Flame Gothic and Neo-Gothic.
Flamboyant Gothic is the most ornate and redundant of all varieties of Gothic architecture. If you see striving facade lines, ornaments, contours, and silhouettes like tongues of flame – this is it!
They added the last detail to the appearance of the cathedral in the 20th century.These are the magnificent bronze doors: the central one and two pairs of side doors. The high relief shows scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary and Christ, deeds of bishops and monarchs, and historical events with stunning detail.
A high relief is a part of the sculpture that protrudes more than halfway. Some prominent parts (for example, the leg of one of Jesus’ tormentors) shines. Tourists around the world do a pretty good job of it!
The sculptures of Milan’s cathedral
Another favorite activity of every self-respecting tourist is looking for interesting and amusing sculptures. The so-called Peducci, the small sculptural decorations that support the trefoil arches, is especially endearing.
There are hundreds of them, and they do not repeat any of them. You will not find animals and birds, fantastic creatures and real historical figures, masks and flowers, and sports equipment.
There are even larger sculptures on the facade of the cathedral. Some stand in free-spirited poses, others casually support columns, while others depict scenes from scripture. Without knowing it in detail, one can guess Adam and Eve being cast out of Paradise or David after defeating Goliath in a craftsman’s costume.
And on the edge of the central balcony stands a female figure with a raised bowl and a crown on her head. And she resembles… well, of course, the American Statue of Liberty!
» MEER ZIEN – ADVICE FOR TOURISTS IN THE VATICAN
Inside the cathedral of Milan
Full of awe, through the side doors, we enter the cool twilight of the cathedral. There are many truly unique things here.
Italy’s largest organ is less than a hundred years old, but it surpasses its predecessor in power and sound. The instrument has 15,000 organ pipes and five keyboards, with which the maestro-organist commands this “spaceship”.
Some are thick as a water pipe, while others are like a cocktail straw. Almost all are metal, but there are also wooden ones to convey the sounds of the oboe, clarinet, and flute. They blow the air to the organ by powerful furs located in the basement.
And alongside all this are neat bundles of cables because the nature of this marvel is electromechanical. You can listen to the Milan Duomo organ at the Saturday or Sunday services. Sometimes the cathedral hosts secular music concerts, which you can find out about on Duomo’s website.
Statue of St. Bartholomew
The most notable sculpture inside the cathedral is the statue of St. Bartholomew, who died a painful death: he was skinned alive. The Renaissance tradition dictated that they cover him with his skin like a cloak, so the sculptor Marco d’Agrate did.
It is hard to say what is more fascinating about this statue, whether it is the Christian’s courage in fighting for his faith or the artist’s stunning skill in conveying the anatomy of the human muscles.
The Milan Cathedral does not have a clock with hands and a dial, like those in the churches in Zurich. Instead, there is a gilded brass band set on the floor along with one of the walls, divided by twelve zodiacal constellations. This is the midday meridian.
Every day at noon, a ray of sunlight passes through a hole in the roof and falls on the midday line at the level of the zodiac sign. One could envy the precision of this clock, but now they do not work since it interferes with the scaffolding on the roof.
Mausoleum of Gian Giacomo Medici
There are not many tombs and sarcophagi in the Duomo. The most famous among them is the marble mausoleum of the Medici, nicknamed Medeghino (little Medici). He was a controversial man, as were all members of his clan. Apparently, this is why there are allegorical sculptures of War and Peace juxtaposed on the tombstone.
The most notable Christian object of worship in the cathedral is the ciborium. The European Baroque style design is in a special pavilion above the altar. Under its canopy is a tower-skynia, symbolizing the body of Christ in the form of bread and wine. The dome of the ten-meter pavilion has eight angels, and the top has a statue of the risen Christ.
Stained Glass Windows
The grandiose stained glass windows of the Duomo are considered the largest in the world. Most of them are behind the altar. It is the authentic Bible in pictures. The English poet Shelley loved to read Dante’s The Divine Comedy in their soft golden light.
The oldest panels of colored glass from the 15th century are dedicated to St. John of Damascus, the patron saint of apothecaries. They have recently been restored and are about to take their permanent place. And the youngest stained glass windows came 500 years after the first ones. It is rather unexpected to see chimneys of factories and modern agriculture on them.
Sacred Relic of the Duomo
The true nail from Christ’s crucifix is the pride of the Cathedral of Milan. It is now in the reliquary under the dome, but every year on September 14th, they present it to the faithful for adoration.
The procession with the Sacred Nail used to be a measure to combat the plague. Apparently, it worked because the rite became annual, although it has changed over time. They employed a technical innovation – a rope elevator that lifts the bishop to a height of 40 meters to the monstrance with the nail.
No, no, it is not dangerous, but beautiful and comfortable. The clergyman at this moment sits in a round basket painted with angels and clouds. It is called Nivola, from the word “cloud.”
The relic stays on the ground for 40 hours, after which it returns to its place until the next year.
You can watch the Cathedral from the inside for hours. There is also the seven-candle candelabrum Trivulzio, the precious sacristy, the font, and below the floor level, the excavated area of the Basilica of Santa Tecla and the baptistery. Most importantly, do not forget to climb to the roof of the Duomo after such an abundance of treasures.
The way to the roof
You can fly up to the observation deck in an elevator, but it is more interesting to walk up the narrow spiral staircases and go through the maze of passages, stopping at countless balconies.
Spires and statues
From the lower level of the observation deck, you see a veritable stone forest, towers, statues, carved columns, lace friezes, and other elements with mysterious architectural names.
It is noticeable that some of the marble details are lighter in shade. Well, they restore them every ten years and clean them regularly. The finer elements of the decorations, right in front of your eyes, are the best to see. Sculptures of archangels and saints at eye level are also clearly visible and sometimes even signed. But for the large statues on top of the spires, you need binoculars.
And crowning the Milan Duomo is the main 104-meter spire above the dome.
Madonna raising the flag!
A four-meter gilded statue of the Madonna glows on the large spire of Milan’s cathedral. In a fluttering robe with a halo over her head, she has been staring up to heaven for 250 years. There was a brief interruption during World War II; they covered the statue with burlap because it was too convenient to see for bombers.
In the Madonna’s right hand is a halberd with a cross, and on civil and church holidays, the national flag flies on it. The people of Milan love the Holy Virgin and call her fondly – Madonna. And she, in turn, protects the city from all kinds of adversity.
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The highest point of the observation deck is about 60 meters high. If you look down over the parapet, you can see the gargoyles of the gutters, the ant people in the square, and the imposing arch of the Victor Emmanuel II Gallery.
The red bell tower of St. Gotthard’s Church and the mushroom-like Torre Velasca stand out against the endless line of rooftops. Vibrant Milan and the cluster of skyscrapers in the distance stretch almost to the horizon, and on clear days you can see the Alps and Apennines.
Better come here at night, when the setting sun reflects in the white marble and gently illuminates the sleeping city. You can plan your visit in advance and book tickets at this link to the Milan Cathedral with a sunset climb to the roof.
The observation deck is so large that there is enough space for everyone to relax, sit and even sunbathe in clear weather. A century ago, there was a cafe on the roof of the cathedral. No one considered it blasphemy, and it had tables, awnings, and even palm trees in pots. The visitors received ice cream and champagne.
How many secrets have the cathedral accumulated over six centuries of existence, and how many remain unsolved? It is worth a trip to see everything with your own eyes!