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Paris: 6 Iconic spots for the best photo-ops

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Sacre Coeur Paris
Avoid crowds by photographing Sacre Coeur in the morning. Photos by Theadora Brack

By Theadora Brack in Paris—

Got 24 hours to spend in Paris? Grab the cameras and bucket lists, and let’s shoot the city like there’s no tomorrow. Here are six of my favorite iconic backdrops for photo ops, perfect for your social media portraits and status updates, too. There’s no sin in boasting. Besides, it’s free.

Channeling photographers Robert Doisneau and Robert Capa (who often showcased France’s beloved national moments in their haute couture spreads), it’s now time to snap, crackle and pop! Shall we?

Morning Glory

1. Sacré Coeur
Metro: Anvers or Abbesses, 18th arrondissement

Color scheme: Wedding cake white
Attire recommendations: Warm tones from orange to scarlet

Avoid crowds by arriving early in the morning. Blue skies suit the iridescent basilica, though she also glows at dusk. For inspiration, climb Brassaï’s Les Escaliers de Montmartre, located next to the funicular on Rue Foyatier. Also, watch out for the pair of “living sculptures.” Donned in white and mimicking Roman statues, they’ll pose with you if you throw a few coins their way.

Film buffs, yes, a pivotal scene in “Amelie” took place here near the carousel. In nearby Abbesses, you’ll find Amelie’s “Au Marche de la Butte” on rue des 3 Freres and Café les Deux Moulins at 15 rue Lepic.

After paying homage to Amelie’s gnomes in the hood, take Metro line 12 from Abbesses to Galeries Lafayette at Metro Saint-Lazare.

The rooftop of the Galeries Lafayette

2. Galeries Lafayette
Metro: Saint-Lazare, 9th arrondissement

Color scheme: Blue, beige and black brought to you by Haussmann
Attire recommendations: Mercantile green or pale baby blue

When it comes to classic French backdrops, it’s all about the view and location. Galeries Lafayette’s rooftop possesses both. Avoid crowds by arriving during the morning or after lunch. Here you’ll find one of my all-time favorite views of Paris. A triple-threat photo-op, so get your cameo on with the Tour Eiffel, the Opéra Garnier, and Sacré Coeur.

While calling on the grand magasin, don’t forget to check out its ever-changing vitrines (“windows”) and the stained glass coupole (“domed ceiling”). Heaven on earth, this Belle Epoch beauty meshed with a little exquisite Byzantine styling was installed in 1912. Try gazing up without getting all weepy. Borrow my hanky. I won’t tell.

An afternoon at the Opera Garnier

Afternoon delight

3. Opéra Garnier
Metro: Opéra, 9th arrondissement

Color scheme: Gold, beige, black and “Statue of Liberty” copper green
Attire recommendations: Gold, purple and ruby red, too

After spending time at Galeries Lafayette, jeté across the street to the Opéra. I usually photograph outside the Métro Opéra main entrance. Shining like a superstar, blue skies are this edifice’s friend, though it’s also ideal to arrive just before an evening performance in order to see the red carpet-worthy glittering garb dart across the busy rues.

Drool, much? Fashionistas, I’m talking to you. The Repetto ballet shoe shop is located just a shop, skip and a pirouette away at 22 rue de la Paix. Heaven, I am in heaven.

Reflecting on the Place Vendome

4. Place Vendôme
Metro: Opéra, 1st arrondissement

Color scheme: Beige, black and pale green
Attire recommendations: Gold, royal blue and shocking pink

After snapping a few pix at the Opéra, take Rue de la Paix to Place Vendôme. Keep your eyes peeled for Napoléon’s column. In 1935 designer Elsa Schiaparelli opened one of the first prêt-à-porter boutiques under its shadow at 21 Place Vendôme. Although the shop closed decades ago, the awning still flaps above the entryway. A promotion guru, Elsa would often unveil her collections with squads of circus performances in the middle of the square, complete with elephants and tightrope walkers!

More inspiration? Here’s where Robert Capa photographed the iconic images of poodle-toting models for Dior in 1948! Calling all cinematic fans, Billy Wilder’s “Love in the Afternoon” with Audrey Hepburn and Maurice Chevalier was shot here at the Hôtel Ritz.

Sister Wendy at the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

5. Arc-de-Triomphe du Carrousel
Metro: Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre, 1st arrondissement

Color scheme: Black, beige, gold, and pink marble
Attire recommendations: Black, beige and one piece of bling

After your Place Vendôme photo session directly below “le petit caporal’s” watch, strut on over to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, located by the Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries. The petite size of this “Mini-Me” of the big Arc de Triomphe at the far end of the Champs Elysées makes for an easy, breezy shoot. Also, this is where the infectious balloon scene in “Funny Face” with Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire was filmed.

Twilight time

Winding up at the Moulin Rouge

6. Moulin Rouge
Metro: Place Blanche, 18th arrondissement

Color scheme: red, black and white
Attire recommendations: Sequins and feathers in all colors under the rainbow

It’s now time to wind it back, wind it back, Cheapos, at the end of the day at the Moulin Rouge in historic Pigalle. Yes, we’ve come full circle back to romantic Montmartre! For your portrait taking, I’d recommend arriving around l’heure bleu (twilight). You just might spot the spirit of writer Henry Valentine Miller on the literary prowl. An avid and competitive cyclist, he’d be quite happy with the new bike lanes!

After your photo session, tempt yourself at the Musée de l’érotisme at 72 boulevard de Clichy. It’s usually open until 2 a.m. (oh, la la!). Check out their permanent exhibit on Paris’s brothels. Tired feet? Do like my Moulin Rouge dancer friends do after a long show. Prop your legs up against a door for twenty minutes. It works!

Snappy advice

Cheapos, do you have a favorite picture perfect location for a photo-op in Paris? Do spill!

About the author

Theadora Brack

About the author: Theadora Brack is a writer working in Paris. Her fiction has appeared in more than 30 literary publications, including 3AM International, The Smoking Poet, Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal.

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2 Responses to “Paris: 6 Iconic spots for the best photo-ops”

Michelle says:

I got the tip off from a Parisian to go around to the back of the Notre Dame at night for absolutely stunning photos! The apse and flying buttresses add a Gothic elegance to the building.

Tonia says:

Just recently discoverd your blog posts and am loving them. Thanks for putting Paris in a different perspective for us tourists. :-)

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