TRAVEL / Paris by foot: A walker's guide: Parc Monceau

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The Independent Culture
This leisurely walk passes through the exquisite late 18th-century Parc Monceau, the centrepiece of a smart Second Empire district. It then follows a route along surrounding streets, where opulent mansions convey the magnificence in which some Parisians live, before ending at Place St-Augustin.

Parc Monceau to Avenue Velasquez: The walk starts at the Monceau metro station (1) on the Boulevard de Courcelles. Enter the park where Nicolas Ledoux's 18th-century tollhouse (2) stands. On either side are sumptuously gilded 19th-century wrought-iron gates which support ornate lampposts. Take the second path on the left past the monument to Guy de Maupassant (3) (1897). This is only one of a series of six Belle Epoque monuments of prominent French writers and musicians which are scattered throughout the park. Most feature a solemn bust of a great man who is accompanied by a swooning muse.

Straight ahead is the most important remaining folly, a moss-covered Corinthian colonnade (4) running around the edge of a tiny lake with the requisite island in the centre. Walk around the colonnade and under a 16th-century arch (5) transplanted from the old Paris Hotel de Ville, which burned down in 1871. Turn left on the Allee de la Comtesse de Segur into Avenue Velasquez, a wide tree-lined street with 19th-century NeoClassical mansions. At No 7 is the splendid Cernuschi museum (6), which houses a collection of Far Eastern art.

Avenue Velasquez to Avenue Van Dyck: Re-enter the park and turn left into the second small winding path, which is bordered by an 18th-century mossy pyramid (7), antique tombs, a stone arcade, an obelisk and a small Chinese stone pagoda. The melancholy tone of these false ruins suits the spirit of the late 18th century.

Turn right on the first path past the pyramid and walk back to the central avenue. Straight ahead a Renaissance bridge fords the little stream running from the lake. Turn left and walk past the monument (1902) to the musician Ambroise Thomas (8). Turn left on the next avenue and walk to the monument (1897) to the composer Charles Gounod (9) on the left. From here follow the first winding path towards the Avenue Van Dyck exit on the left. Ahead to the right, in the corner of the park, is the Chopin monument (10) (1906), and looking along the Allee de la Comtesse de Segur, the monument to the 19th-century French poet Alfred de Musset.

Avenue Van Dyck to Rue de Monceau: Leave the park and pass into Avenue Van Dyck. No 5 on the right is a most impressive Parc Monceau mansion (11), a Neo-Baroque structure built by chocolate manufacturer Emile Menier; No 6 is in the French Renaissance style that came back into favour in the 1860s. Straight ahead, beyond the ornate grille, there is a fine view of Avenue Hoche and in the distance the Arc de Triomphe. Walk past the gate and turn left into Rue de Courcelles and left again into Rue Murillo, bordered by more elaborate town houses in 18th-century and French Renaissance styles (12). At the corner of Rue Rembrandt, on the left, is another gate into the park and on the right a massive apartment building from 1900 (No 7) and an elegant French Renaissance house with elaborately carved wooden front door (No 1). At the corner of the Rue Rembrandt and the Rue de Courcelles stands the oddest of all the neighbourhood buildings, a striking five-storey red Chinese pagoda (13). It is an exclusive emporium of Chinese art.

Turn left on to the Rue de Monceau, walk past Avenue Ruysdael and continue to the Musee Nissim de Camondo at No 63 Rue de Monceau (14). Some nearby buildings worth having a look at are Nos. 52, 60 and 61 (15).

Boulevard Malesherbes: At the junction of Rue de Monceau and Boulevard Malesherbes, turn right. This boulevard with dignified six-storey apartment buildings is typical of the great avenues cut through Paris by Baron Haussmann, Prefect of the Seine during the Second Empire. They greatly pleased the Industrial Age bourgeoisie, but horrified sensitive souls and writers, who compared them with the buildings of New York.

No 75 is the marble front of Benneton, the most fashionable Paris card and stationery engraver (16). On the left, approaching the Boulevard Haussmann, looms the greatest 19th-century Paris church, St-Augustin (17), built by Victor-Louis Baltard. Enter the church through the back door on Rue de la Bienfaisance. Walk through and leave by the main door. On the left is the massive stone building of the French Officers' club, the Cercle Militaire (18). Straight ahead is a bronze statue of Joan of Arc (19). Continue on to Place St-Augustin, to St-Augustin metro station.

Starting point: Boulevard de Courcelles.

Length: 3 km (2 miles), lasting about 90 minutes.

Getting there: The nearest metro is Monceau; buses taking you there are Nos 30, 84 and 94.

St Augustin church: Open 7am-7pm daily.

Stopping-off points: Near the Renaissance bridge in the Parc Monceau there is a kiosk serving coffee and sandwiches. There are two cafes at Place de Rio de Janeiro servicing the office workers in the surrounding area, and there is a brasserie opposite St-Augustin church. The Square M Pagnol is a pleasant place to relax and take in the beauty of the park at the end of the walk.

Text extracted and maps adapted from the 'Eyewitness Travel Guide: Paris', published by Dorling Kindersley on 9 September, price pounds 14.99. Available from all good bookshops, or to order by credit card (Visa, Access or American Express) telephone 0621 819600, 8.30am-5.00pm.

(Photograph and map omitted)