The Pompidou Centre guide
Once derided for its unconventional looks, the Pompidou Centre has become the chouchou of Parisians. Locals head to Beaubourg, as it’s colloquially known, to study in the vast public library, catch a concert or browse the National Museum of Modern Art’s mesmerising collection. Retrace the 20th century’s pioneering art movements in headline-grabbing immersive exhibitions, or make a beeline to the top of the building for a bird’s eye view over the bustling city centre.
Constantin Brancusi’s studio on Impasse Ronsin, in the 15th arrondissement, grew with the sculptor’s reputation into an exhibition space. It’s been carefully reconstructed by architect Renzo Piano on the plaza outside the Pompidou Centre. Experience Brancusi’s intimate space, organic lines and balance of shapes and textures, just as the artist intended.
Sundowners at Le Georges
The views from the Centre’s glass-walled escalators aren’t bad, but for uninterrupted vistas book a spot at rooftop brasserie Le Georges. This is one of the best views in the city, sweeping over the city’s most iconic landmarks. Watch the light play over the Eiffel Tower, the Sacré Coeur and Notre Dame, cocktail in hand.
The Stravinsky Fountain
Bright, bold and whimsical, Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle’s fountain echoes the Centre’s rainbow aesthetics. It’s populated with child-like, Dadaist sculptures: a pair of red lips, an elephant’s head and a firebird. Sit back and enjoy the music-box colours and movement, inspired by the work of composer Igor Stravinsky and the neighbourhood’s street performers.
Take a break
Glace Bachir58, rue Rambuteau, 75003
The Bachir brothers started making ice cream in Lebanon in 1936, so it’s safe to say the recipe has been perfected since then. Try the rose petal or mango flavours, covered in crushed pistachios for the most snap-worthy cone in town.
Homer Lobster21, rue Rambuteau, 75004
This hole-in-the-wall joint claims to make the best lobster roll in the world. The Connecticut – buttery brioche, lime-seasoned lobster and a scattering of fresh herbs – is certainly a serious contender.
Chez Marianne2, rue des Hospitalières Saint-Gervais, 75004
The neighbourhood’s young upstarts may be giving this Marais institution a run for its money, but Marianne’s ivy-framed terrace is still irresistible. Put together a lunch platter from a sprawling spread of Israeli bites, dips and salads, or grab a falafel to go.
For the kids
This playful museum has plenty to offer budding art-lovers. The Kids Gallery and Kids Studio riff on the major temporary exhibitions with tot-friendly shows and workshops. Over-2s are welcome, and grown-ups are actively encouraged to take part and explore their creativity en famille. Teens get their own space and free programme of events at Studio 13/16, too.
Sarcastic, playful and boundary-pushing, Franz West was one of Austria’s most prolific sculptors. This large-scale retrospective of his work spills out from the Pompidou Centre: find four of his outdoor sculptures in situ in the Marais’s cultural institutions.
A poetic look at the painter’s work in the two decades leading up to his death. The Pompidou Centre examines the artist’s literary inspirations – often dark and excessive – from Greek myths to Nietzsche.
Think Cubism is just Braque, Gris, Léger and Picasso? This innovative exhibition at the Pompidou Centre explores the bountiful work of lesser known talent alongside the masters’ most pioneering pieces.
The Pompidou Centre is open 11am–9pm; exhibitions on level 6 open until 11pm on Thursdays. It’s closed on Tuesdays and 1 May.
Rambuteau (line 11) and Hôtel de Ville (lines 1 and 11) are the closest Métro stations. The larger Châtelet station (lines 1, 4, 7, 11 and 14) is just a little further away, but can be tricky to navigate.
A full ticket (€14, €11 for concessions) gives entrance to the museum, temporary exhibitions and rooftop access. If you’re just after the view, tickets to the top are €5. Under-18s get in free. EU residents under 26 get free access to the museum and rooftop views. The permanent collections are free for all on the first Sunday of every month.
Skip the line
Avoid box office queues by booking tickets online. Security checks to get in to the Centre can be lengthy; visit after 6pm for the smoothest entry. Or plump for a pre-booked evening experience. Take the lift straight up to the Georges, check in at the cloakroom, explore the museum with a guide and finish the visit with dinner or a restorative cocktail.
Book your city break
Image credits: © Getty; © Getty; © Georges Meguerditchian; © Groupe Beaumarly; © Getty; © Stockfood; © Homer Lobster; © Puxan; © Centre Pompidou; © Lemurenköpfe in Franz West’s studio in Vienna, 992 © Harold Schönfellinger; © Francis Bacon; © Juan Gris