Posh, quiet and residential, Neuilly-sur-Seine is a suburb on the western boundary of Paris. While the area itself remains low-key it is within walking distance or a swift Métro ride from sights, museums and parks that the whole world knows and loves.
The 17th, 16th and 8th Arrondissements border Neuilly-sur-Seine, which puts the Arc de Triomphe, Musée Marmottan, Parc Monceau and a whole lot more within your grasp. And when the day is done, and you’ve had your fill of culture, dining and nightlife, you can retreat from the hectic city and to your peaceful home from home by the Seine.
Lets explore the best things to do in Neuilly-sur-Seine:
1. Folie Saint James
A neat symbol of Ancien Régime excess survives on Rue de Longchamp, one street in from the river.
The mansion and park here was commission by Claude Baudard de Saint James, treasurer of the French Navy in the reign of Louis XVI. They were planned by François-Joseph Bélanger at the end of the 1770s, and Saint James’ one instruction for his architect was, “Do what you want provided it is expensive”! There’s a fine Palladian mansion fronting a park with a Doric under a man-made grotto.
The house and its park have recently come through a two-year revamp, restoring them to their 18th-century splendour.
2. Local Sights
Although Neuilly-sur-Seine is a great place to live for its low crime, stylish shops, dining and upmarket ambience, there isn’t a whole lot for tourists to sink their teeth into.
But on a casual walk around the area you’ll find enough to keep you enthused for a while if you’re interested in its past.
The Château de Neuilly was the preferred residence of Louis-Philippe I during the July Monarchy, but was destroyed in the French Revolution of 1848 and the enormous grounds were divided into seven boulevards and nine streets.
At 52 Boulevard d’Argenson is the last remaining wing, which was integrated into a convent in 1907.
3. Arc de Triomphe
If the weather’s good you could easily walk from the east side of Neuilly-sur-Seine along Avenue de la Grande Armée to one of the world’s iconic landmarks.
The Arc de Triomphe, if you don’t already know, is a titanic triumphal arch modelled on the Arch of Titus in Rome.
It was begun in 1806 and finally inaugurated 30 years later to honour the French people who died in the Revolutionary War and Napoleon’s various campaigns.
Get up close to view the reliefs of the battles, check out the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and go to the roof to gaze down each of the 12 radiating avenues.
4. Musée Marmottan
Under ten minutes by cab through the Bois de Boulogne, the Musée Marmottan is heaven for Monet lovers.
It started out as an exhibition for furniture and art from The First Empire, and all of these items from Napoleon I’s rule are magnificent.
But in the 1960s Claude Monet’s son Michel donated his collection of his father’s paintings, and overnight the museum had more works by this artist than any other attraction in the world.
Follwing later donations there are now over 300 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings to dazzle you, by luminaries like Renoir, Gauguin and Sisley.
Another world-renowned sight is close at hand, and you’d be remiss not to make your way down to the Trocadéro on the right bank of the Seine.
Here on the terrace of the Palais du Chaillot you’ll get what most agree is the ultimate view of the Eiffel Tower.
Day or night it’s a superlative place to be, but don’t be surprised if you have to wait or jostle for a decent photo opportunity.
The building you’re standing on, together with its gardens below, was completed for the Exposition Internationale in 1937: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted at this very spot in 1948, and there are also four different museums to peruse inside.
Around 15 minutes door-to-door on the Métro Line 1 is a titan of world culture.
The second-most visited museum in the world is a fortress-turned-royal residence that is absolutely replete with art and artefacts from any number of periods and parts of the world.
If there’s a specific civilisation or movement that holds your interest, you will find something relevant and fascinating to study here.
But there are two specific works that you can’t leave without seeing: Delacroix’s stirring Liberty Leading the People and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
Another of the essentials for first-timers in Paris, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées runs diagonally from Place de la Concorde and Place de Charles de Gaulle.
As a scene that is already etched in everyone’s imagination the appeal of the Champs-Élysées is simply being there and getting the photograph.
The avenue is enriched by boutiques for premier luxury brands, but for most people the view of the Arc de Triomphe, the finish line of the Tour de France and memories of parades and events of monumental historic importance will capture the heart and imagination
8. Parc Monceau
Up there with the prettiest parks in the city, Parc Monceau is in the English style, and has sinuous paths and rolling lawns instead of a French geometric parterre.
The park was laid out for a cousin of Louis XVI, who was guillotined in the Reign of Terror.
Eventually it ended up in the hands of the city and became the first public park created by Baron Haussmann.
There are lots of glimpses from an earlier time though.
At the northern entrance is a rotunda from 1787 that was once a toll gate as part of the Wall of the Farmers-General.
And inside there’s a classical colonnade and an pyramid-shaped ice house built for the original owner.
9. La Défense
The city’s futuristic business district is on the other bank of the Seine and was planned in the 1960s as a way of keeping modern architecture out of the centre of Paris.
You’re so close that you can pop across the bridge for an hour or two.
And, standing on Avenue Charles de Gaulle, just as the Arc de Triomphe is unmistakable to the east, in the west you’ll be able to see the Grande Arche, which has been here since 1989. It’s the work of Danish architect Johan Otto von Spreckelsen and is a 110-metre-high rectangular frame made from reinforced concrete but clad with glass and Italian Carrara marble.
10. Musée Jacquemart-André
Édouard André and his wife Nélie Jacquemart were prolific art collectors in the 19th century.
Funded by a massive banking inheritance, the couple made annual trips to Italy and before long had assembled one of the richest collections of Italian art in France.
And it’s all housed in their resplendent mansion built to order in 1875 by the architect Henri Parent.
The Italian Museum inside has paintings by Canaletto, Botticini, Donatello, Uccello and Botticini, but you can also poke around the couple’s resplendent state apartments, private apartments and winter garden.
11. Jardin d’Acclimatation
You can saunter down to this amusement park in the Bois de Boulogne in a matter of minutes.
In a city with cultural attractions geared towards grown-ups, here’s one day-out that the younger family members are bound to adore.
Admission is a very reasonable at €3, although after that you’ll have to pay for some of the fairground rides; but the petting zoo, aviary and playgrounds are all free.
There’s an old-world feel about the place thanks to its 19th-century architecture and traditional activities like donkey rides and puppet theatre.
12. Musée Cernuschi
Like the Musée Jacquemart-André, this museum is in the affluent 8th Arrondissement, and was also the home of a banker who had a passion for art.
Henri Cernuschi’s taste was for Asian art, and in the 1800s he amassed some 5,000 pieces, mostly from China.
Thanks to later donations the fund has grown to more than 12,500 objects dating back as far as 17,000 years.
The permanent exhibition is free to enter and shines for its works from the Han, Tang, Northern Wei and Sui dynasties.
Also see the large Japanese bronze Buddha of Meguro dating to the 1700s.
13. Bois de Boulogne
A royal hunting ground and the second-largest park in Paris, the Bois de Boulogne is an absolutely enormous leafy escape directly south of Neuilly.
In the 1850s it was all gentrified, with avenues , lakes, an ornamental waterfall and a race track that is still a reference point for horse racing.
And if you’re up for more sporting action then on the south side of the park is a cluster of celebrated venues.
The king of these is Roland-Garros, serving up the French Open for two superb weeks at the start of the summer.
Tennis fans won’t need to be told that it’s a sporting event of the highest prestige.
The Parc des Princes close by is the home of PSG, one of Europe’s top football teams.
14. Fondation Louis Vuitton
Also moments away on foot is the most recent addition to the city’s physical and cultural landscape.
The outlandish Fondation Louis Vuitton arrived in 2014 and was designed by Frank Gehry.
Its roof is composed of “sails” made from 13,500 square metres of curved glass that had to be made in a specially-designed furnace.
The venue has a permanent gallery recounting the story of Gehry’s project, but is mostly devoted to short-term contemporary art exhibitions for individual artists, collections or specially curated themes.
15. Marché Poncelet
Ten minutes at most on the Métro Line 1 is one of the city’s most cherished markets.
Marché Poncelet is in the very affluent 17th Arrondissement, which abounds with Haussmann-era avenues next to regal townhouses.
The market is on the village-like pedestrian streets of Rue Poncelet and Rue Bayen, and is open daily apart from Mondays and Sunday afternoons.
Drop by to hear vendors touting their wares, either to buy first-rate provisions for your accommodation or something ready-made like rotisserie chicken.
It’s the only place you need for premium-quality fish, charcuterie, freshly baked bread, pastries, cheese , fruit and vegetables.