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Nouvelle Athènes & Grands Boulevards

9th Arrondissement
M° Grands Boulevards, Trinité, Pigalle, St-Georges

The vast 9th arrondissement has many personalities, from the luxury shops around the Opéra Garnier and the sex shops below Pigalle to the Orthodox Jewish quarter near the Folies Bergères. Often overlooked is the quiet residential district known as La Nouvelle Athènes, developed in the 1820s for the rising professional classes of the new industrialist era. Influenced by London’s urban architecture, the neo-classical houses feature large porches, cast-iron balcony railings and intricate moldings and friezes. Many artists and musicians also lived in the neighborhood, including Berlioz, Chopin, George Sand, Jean Cocteau, Delacroix and Guillaume Apollinaire.

At the edge of this peaceful neighborhood is the striking Eglise de la Sainte-Trinité (Place d’Estienne d’Orves), a neo-Renaissance church built during the Second Empire. The interior is richly painted, with an original Cavaillé-Coll organ built in 1869 (the composer Olivier Messiaen was the church organist from 1931-1992). The church exterior is unique, with one of the tallest bell towers in Paris, and a terraced fountain entrance featuring statues representing Faith, Charity and Hope. The small church park is popular with locals, who relax on benches under the tall shade trees while kids play on the grassy lawn.

Walk up through Nouvelle Athènes along Rue Blanche, turning right onto Rue La Bruyère and left at Rue Henner. Don’t be afraid to peek through the gates of the elegant 19th-century townhouses. At the end of the street is a flowered passage leading to the Musée de la Vie Romantique (16 Rue Chaptal). This adorable ivy-covered mansion and cottage-style garden was formerly the home of painter Ary Scheffer, who entertained friends such as George Sand, Chopin, Delacroix, Liszt and Ingres. Regular exhibits highlight the works of Scheffer and other French Romantic artists. Don’t miss the lovely garden conservatory tearoom (museum ticket not required).

Turn left outside the museum and right onto the Rue de La Rochefoucauld to visit another artist’s-home-turned-museum, the Musée Gustave Moreau (14 Rue de La Rochefoucauld). This cozy townhouse museum is made up of the artist’s living quarters and beautiful parquet-floored studios, bequeathed to the French state upon his death in 1898 along with over 7,000 of his carefully organized drawings and paintings.

Make a small detour across the street to the Rue de la Tour-des-Dames, which has some of the best examples of Nouvelle Athènes architecture, then continue down the Rue de La Rochefoucauld and right onto Rue St-Lazare. Turn left onto the Rue Taitbout and enter the passage at #80 (a private entry, sometimes locked on weekends). Pass through the first courtyard and turn left into the Square d’Orléans, built in pure English style in 1829 with 46 apartments and six artists’ studios. Illustrious former residents include Chopin (#9) and his lover George Sand (#5).

Continue again along the Rue St-Lazare and turn right onto the Rue du Notre-Dame de Lorette. Continue across the Rue de Châteaudun to Rue du Faubourg Montmartre. This bustling neighborhood has the second largest Orthodox Jewish population in Paris after the Marais, concentrated along the Rue Richer. Have a stroll up and down the Rue Cadet, a typically Parisian market street. The austere 1970s building on the right houses a French Masonic museum, the Grand Orient de la France (16 Rue Cadet).

Walk back across the Rue du Faubourg Montmartre to the entrance of the Passage Verdeau (at #31bis), one of the city’s historic covered passages. This leads to the Passage Jouffroy (cross the Rue de la Grange Batelière), home to the city’s wax museum, the Musée Grévin. Built in 1882, the museum features scenes from French history (for example, Louis XIV at Versailles) as well as modern French celebrities (Johnny Hallyday and Jean-Paul Gauthier).

Cross the busy intersection of the Boulevard Montmartre to another series of covered passages, the Passage des Panoramas. Built in 1800, this old-fashioned passage is a haven for stamp and vintage post card collectors. It was the first place in Paris to receive gas lighting in 1817. Exit through the Galerie Montmartre on to Rue Montmartre and return to the intersection of Boulevard Montmartre and Boulevard Poissonière. Lined with theatres, night clubs and trendy new restaurants, Haussmann’s Grands Boulevards have experienced a bit of a renaissance in the new millennium. Relax into the nearest café terrace with a cool drink and watch the world rush by.