The Grand Palais is an immense exhibition space, with lines to match. If you must see the Monet exhibition, be sure to reserve your tickets in advance. If you’d like to avoid the crowds, try the lesser-known Parisian sites. These are three of my favorites:
– The Eglise Saint Eustache (Rue Rambuteau, metro Les Halles) is a 16th-century gothic church with gorgeous Renaissance décor (the south wing has just been cleaned), and an 8000-pipe organ (free recitals every Sunday at 5:30pm).
– The 12th-century Château de Vincennes is not only the only French castle you can reach by metro (at the end of Line 1, station Château de Vincennes), it also has the highest keep in Europe (the recently restored “donjon”) and the “other” Sainte-Chapelle (also built to hold the Relics of the Passion). Audio-guided tours in English.
– The famous Parisian artists’ squat known as Le 59 Rivoli (at 59 rue de Rivoli) was closed for two years while the building was brought up to code, and is now a legalized “aftersquat” open to the public with 25 permanent artists and 5 visiting artists in residence. Open Tues-Sun 1-8pm (Sat from 11am), free entry.