Paris: Places to Explore

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Montparnasse

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Once a warren of artists' studios and swinging cafés, much of Montparnasse was leveled in the 1960s to make way for a gritty train station and Paris's only—and much maligned—skyscraper, Tour Montparnasse. Over the years, this neighborhood has evolved into a place where Parisians can find more reasonable rents, well-priced cafés, and the kind of real-life vibe lost in some of the trendier parts of the city.

Despite the soulless architecture, the modernity of Tour Montparnasse has its advantage: the rooftop terrace has the best panoramic view of Paris. It's okay to feel smug during your ascent, as you consider yourself savvy for avoiding long lines at Tour Eiffel. And you can reward yourself with a fancy cocktail at Le Bar Américain on the 56th floor.

The other star attraction of Montparnasse is belowground. The mazelike tunnels of the Paris Catacombs contain the bones of centuries' worth of Parisians, moved here when disease, spread by rotting corpses, threatened the city center.

The café society that flourished in the early 20th century—Picasso, Modigliani, Hemingway (where didn't he drink?), Man Ray, and even Trotsky raised a glass here—is still evident along the Boulevard du Montparnasse. The Art Deco interior of La Coupole attracts diners seeking piles of golden choucroute.

Along the Boulevard Raspail you can see today's cutting-edge art stars at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson or the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, or pay your respects to Baudelaire, Alfred Dreyfus, or Simone de Beauvoir in the Cimetière du Montparnasse.

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