Science-related tourism in Paris

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In summary, I saw this thread and was going to piggy-back my question onto it, but decided to start a new thread rather than sidetrack the discussion. I too am going to be in Paris later this summer. My "problem" is that I will have a few days to kill before my wife arrives. I'm finishing a conference early on a Friday morning and meeting my wife at Charles de Gaulle on Monday morning. I've been racking my brains trying to figure out what to do. I'm looking for things which would be interesting, perhaps with a science focus, hopefully uniquely Parisian, and probably wouldn't be as fun for her.
  • #1
RPinPA
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I saw this thread and was going to piggy-back my question onto it, but decided to start a new thread rather than sidetrack the discussion.
https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/when-in-paris-or-amsterdam.970795/
I too am going to be in Paris later this summer. My "problem" is that I will have a few days to kill before my wife arrives. I'm finishing a conference early on a Friday morning and meeting my wife at Charles de Gaulle on Monday morning. I've been racking my brains trying to figure out what to do. I'm looking for things which would be interesting, perhaps with a science focus, hopefully uniquely Parisian, and probably wouldn't be as fun for her.

I will probably do at least one straight tourist thing, climb the Tour Eiffel. She is not much into heights or those kinds of tourist activities, so that's an easy one. But what else?

One thing I was pondering was the National Archives. I have been interested from time to time in the papers of two 19th-century scientists, Urbain le Verrier (who calculated the position of Neptune, which was found right away, and then Vulcan, which alas didn't exist) and Coulomb. I wondered if there would be an opportunity in some collection to see papers which are not available elsewhere. But in fact in both cases I have PDFs of the papers, and I think the entire collections are available online. But is there some unique scholarly activity I could take advantage of in Paris?

I'll add that while I'm not fluent in spoken French, I get along OK and I read scientific French pretty easily.

Perhaps any odd little science museums? Although she loves science museums and planetariums, she does not enjoy "bizarre science" such as the Mutter Medical Museum here in Philadelphia.

I thought I might try to get around a little to places we haven't seen on a couple of previous trips, away from the center of the city. I love walking and bicycling and she does not, so those kinds of activities would be good choices as well.
 
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  • #2
Bicycling in Paris? You better don't. Walking in a big city? Exhausting but doable.
I find the Metro interesting and especially the engineering that was needed around the Seine, but this can hardly be seen. However, the Metro net is certainly interesting on its own. There should be more museums than can be visited in a couple of days. The internet should provide you with all information. I would visit the Centre Pompidou, as I like modern art.
 
  • #3
fresh_42 said:
Bicycling in Paris? You better don't.

Because...?

fresh_42 said:
Walking in a big city? Exhausting but doable.

I do a lot of walking in big cities, for instance New York. Here in Philly (which admittedly is not "big") I do lots of both bicycling and walking. I had the impression that Paris might be bicycle-friendly, particularly in the parks. Am I wrong?
 
  • #4
RPinPA said:
One thing I was pondering was the National Archives.
Forget about this. You need credentials to get in, and even then, they won't let you see anything that hasn't been digitized, unless you can convince a curator that you have valid research that requires direct access (for example, I knew a historian who needed to see how manuscripts were stitched together!).

Personally, I love the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers. Lots of old scientific equipment in there. The automatons themselves are definitely worth the visit.

If you want to take a walk off the beaten path, I suggest the Coulée verte René-Dumont or this walk in La Villette. In the latter case, you can also visit the Cité des sciences et de l'industrie or the submarine Argonaute.

I have a book at home with some more out-of-the-ordinary scientific visits in Paris. I'll try to get back with more suggestions.
 
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  • #5
fresh_42 said:
Bicycling in Paris? You better don't. Walking in a big city? Exhausting but doable.
I second the first opinion, but Paris is definitely a city that is walkable, and nicely so.
 
  • #6
RPinPA said:
Because...?
Because you cannot rely on anything. Traffic rules are basically not applied. Too many cars and no extra lanes for bicycles. It will be an adventure, but a dangerous one. One of my dreams was once driving (by car) in Madrid. The only rule seems to be: if there is room enough for my car then I can go there. Paris is as far as I remember similar. I wondered if that would have changed.
 
  • #7
RPinPA said:
I had the impression that Paris might be bicycle-friendly
Not in my memory. The Netherlands and Denmark are, I doubt that France is even close.
(In parks and on the river bank, maybe, but you have to get there.)
 
  • #8
RPinPA said:
I had the impression that Paris might be bicycle-friendly, particularly in the parks.
Things have improved in recent years, but I would not advise anyone to cycle in Paris. There are not that many bicycle paths, and one has to understand the local behavior of motorists to be safe.
 
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  • #9
fresh_42 said:
Because you cannot rely on anything. Traffic rules are basically not applied. Too many cars and no extra lanes for bicycles. It will be an adventure, but a dangerous one. One of my dreams was once driving (by car) in Madrid. The only rule seems to be: if there is room enough for my car then I can go there. Paris is as far as I remember similar. I wondered if that would have changed.

OK, I will definitely drop that idea. I have avoided driving in Europe and it sounds like all my reasons for doing that are doubled for bicycling.
 
  • #10
RPinPA said:
I have avoided driving in Europe
My brother in law (US citizen) enjoyed the lack of speed limits here (on some highway sections) very much! :oldbiggrin:
 
  • #11
DrClaude said:
Forget about this. You need credentials to get in, and even then, they won't let you see anything that hasn't been digitized, unless you can convince a curator that you have valid research that requires direct access (for example, I knew a historian who needed to see how manuscripts were stitched together!).

Personally, I love the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers. Lots of old scientific equipment in there. The automatons themselves are definitely worth the visit.

If you want to take a walk off the beaten path, I suggest the Coulée verte René-Dumont or this walk in La Villette. In the latter case, you can also visit the Cité des sciences et de l'industrie or the submarine Argonaute.

I have a book at home with some more out-of-the-ordinary scientific visits in Paris. I'll try to get back with more suggestions.

These sound like excellent suggestions of just the type I was looking for. Thank you!
 
  • #12
RPinPA said:
I too am going to be in Paris later this summer.
Nice!
RPinPA said:
I will probably do at least one straight tourist thing, climb the Tour Eiffel.
If you can, bring a camera. You'll get a great view of Paris from up there.
RPinPA said:
I'm looking for things which would be interesting, perhaps with a science focus
The Foucault pendulum, which demonstrates the rotation of Earth, was originally located in the Panthéon, but according to Wikipedia:
Wikipedia article said:
The original pendulum was later returned to the Musée des Arts et Métiers, and a copy is now displayed at the Panthéon.
so it seems the pendulum now is at Musée des Arts et Métiers. I've never been there.
DrClaude said:
you can also visit the Cité des sciences et de l'industrie
I've been there and that was fun. :smile:
 
  • #14
Hi all, just thought I'd update this thread with what I actually ended up doing. My hotel for the weekend was in the Montparnasse neighborhood, for no particular reason except that it came up as a reasonably-priced, reasonably-central hotel in my search.

I found a bookshop and purchased a book in French of Paris walking tours, and did most of the tour they suggested for Montparnasse. I was delighted to discover the history of my neighborhood, that it was the center of the famous 1920s art scene where EVERYBODY was gathering, living, drinking, etc. The walking tour took me to the Jardin de Luxembourg, a beautiful old park where I ended up spending quite a bit of time. Also discovered that nearby was the church of St. Sulpice, a church where many famous organists have worked (I knew this from my wife, who is trained as an organist and has studied the music and biographies of many of these organists).

I also spent a lot of time walking in the parks and streets near Notre Dame (still closed after the fire) and the Louvre. In that neighborhood I spotted a poster for a Gospel concert given by this group, which I attended the next night. Aside from being wonderful music, it was quite an interesting multi-cultural experience hearing "authentic African-American music" from French speakers, with remarks in French.

I didn't end up drawn to museums for the most part but did follow the advice from this thread to visit the Cité des sciences et de l'industrie. Other than that, I mostly just walked around for hours, discovering new parts of the city that I'd never explored before.
 
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  • #15
I only just saw this thread unfortunately. But for anyone else visiting Paris asking the same question for scientific tourism and not only, visit the Jardin des Plantes, the botanical garden. Somewhat formally laid out in the fashion of a French garden. A place for pleasant relax and stroll, maybe to take your lunchtime sandwich. You might just recognise it as a backdrop that appears in a number of film scenes, e.g. in Les liaisons dangereuses (Roger Vadim, Gerard Philippe, Jeanne Moreau 1959 version).

Then for science, in the monumental building at the end are museums with permanent and often attractive temporary exhibitions. Inform yourself online about what is on, permanently and temporarily. There are organised guided tours (the French take didactic tourism quite seriously).
https://www.jardindesplantesdeparis...zoo-bibliotheques/ocean-plongee-insolite-3681
The famous name associated with the place is Cuvier, he of the wrong evolutionary theory. Another name, somehow not found in a superficial perusal is, facing the Institute from the garden side, somewhere down on the right (as I remember, it is a very long time since I have been there) is a modest kind of outhouse where Henri Becquerel discovered radioactivity of uranium salts, the first-discovered phenomenon of nuclear physics.
 
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Related to Science-related tourism in Paris

1. What are some popular science-related attractions to visit in Paris?

Paris is home to several famous science museums and attractions, such as the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, Musée Curie, and the Palais de la Découverte. Other popular destinations include the Eiffel Tower, which offers a unique perspective on the city's urban planning and engineering, and the Musée du Louvre, which houses a vast collection of scientific artifacts and artworks.

2. Are there any specialized tours or experiences for science enthusiasts in Paris?

Yes, there are several specialized tours and experiences for science enthusiasts in Paris. These include guided visits to scientific landmarks, such as the Pasteur Institute, as well as themed tours of museums and exhibitions. Additionally, many universities and research institutions offer public lectures and workshops on various scientific topics.

3. How can I learn more about the history of scientific discoveries in Paris?

There are many ways to learn about the history of scientific discoveries in Paris. One option is to visit the Musée Pasteur, which showcases the life and work of renowned scientist Louis Pasteur. Another option is to take a walking tour of the Latin Quarter, known for its historical significance in the development of scientific thought and education.

4. Are there any interactive or hands-on science experiences for children in Paris?

Yes, there are several interactive and hands-on science experiences for children in Paris. The Cité des Enfants at Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie offers a range of activities and exhibitions for children ages 2-12. The Musée des Arts et Métiers also has a section dedicated to interactive science exhibits for children.

5. Is it possible to incorporate a science-themed itinerary into a general visit to Paris?

Absolutely! Paris is a city that seamlessly blends history, culture, and science. It is possible to incorporate science-themed activities into a general visit to Paris, such as visiting the Panthéon, which houses the tombs of famous French scientists, or taking a boat tour on the Seine River to learn about the city's waterways and infrastructure.

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