Massy is the southern suburb of Paris, a new town designed for commuters in the 1960s.
Before development, the area was a remote country retreat for the likes of Romantic writer Chateaubriand and Louis XIV’s powerful finance minister, Colbert, among others. You can visit their old houses, all of which have pleasant grounds and are preserved as museums.
Paris is always within reach, and the RER will take you to Notre Dame in 30 minutes.
The route goes straight through the southern part of the city, so we’ll give you some ideas for the left bank of the Seine, just by public transport.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Massey:
1. Église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine
The ancient pilgrimage route, the Way of Saint James, passes through Massy on the long journey to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.
In France, many start their 1,448-kilometer trek with the Tour de Saint-Jacques in Paris.
Pilgrims traditionally stop in Massy to worship the church, which was badly damaged during the Allied bombing of Massy during World War II.
The only original structure that remains here is the 13th-century bell tower, now kept as a monument next to a new church built in the 1950s.
2. Massey Opera House
Massy owns the only opera house in the Ile-de-France region outside Paris.
Despite the name, the venue has books on various performers, so it’s worth checking the calendar before you come to Marseille: there’s dance, theatre, literary recitals, music as well as Tosca, Turandot, Faust De and Così fan tutte and other operas in recent years.
This is a cathedral-like venue that opened in 1993 at a cost of 172 million francs.
If you’d like to learn more, you can book a guided tour at the Massy Tourist Office to go behind the scenes and see the rehearsal stage and orchestra pit.
3. Local attractions
Marcy isn’t full of sensational landmarks, but if you find yourself in the suburbs, you can have a fun morning.
Before its postwar establishment, Massy was a rural retreat for wealthy Parisians such as the historian Fustel de Coulanges.
Another is Jacques-René Tenon, a self-proclaimed surgeon who helped improve hygiene in the city’s hospitals, whose stately mansion at 66 Rue de Versailles still stands.
Château du Haut and La Cimade are two other such residences, both private but worthy of your attention from the outside.
During the 20th century, Massy was outfitted with some striking modern sculptures, one worth seeing is Raymond Moretti’s 1989 Arbre de Lumière.
4. Center Culturel Paul B
If Opéra de Massy is for high culture, Centre Culturel Paul B is a stylish new performing arts centre where you can discover fresh musical talent.
New artists share fees with touring bands, all in a laid-back, stylish setting.
Whether you like jazz, indie, hip-hop, world music or any kind of rock, it’s worth checking out.
The venue was designed with acoustics in mind and features a large auditorium with a capacity of 1,000 spectators.
There is also a more intimate Club 400 stage where you can discover up-and-coming artists from the cosmopolitan city of Paris.
5. Parc de Sceaux
Louis XIV’s finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, chose the local suburb of Sceaux as his residence.
His castle was later demolished and replaced by a mansion restored by Louis XIII during the Second Empire.
But the park around it follows the same plan as when the illustrious André Le Nôtre, who made his name at Versailles, was landscaping.
The park has rigid geometry, manicured with very precise trim and the kind of overwhelming scale you get at Versailles.
The boulevard intersects the lawn and disappears into the distance, while the Grand Canal is over a kilometer long, fed by terraced fountains descending from the castle.
6. Musée du Domaine Départemental de Sceaux
That castle and its outbuildings are a single museum with art from the Parisian school and majestic architecture.
Pavillon d’Aurore is one of the few fragments of Colbert’s original 17th-century castle, decorated by the distinguished Charles le Brun, who also worked at Versailles.
The Orangery preserves the sculptures that adorned the grounds during the Colbert era.
The new 19th century house is an art gallery with paintings, ceramics and furniture.
More than 400 landscapes from the 1800s were taken by Georges Michel, Albert Lebourg and Constant Troyon, among others, and some 950 early photographs by Eugène Atget, Félix Martin-Sabon and Charles Lansiaux.
Known at the time as Vallée-aux-Loups, the hotel was where the writer-turned-politician François-René de Chateaubriand retreated from the Parisian political scene.
He moved here with his wife Céleste in 1807 and really liked the house and its beautiful park.
In the home where he also wrote his memoirs, there is an exhibition of his work, some personal items and paintings from that era.
Reflecting Chateaubriand’s passion for travel and botany, the 56 hectares are planted with 500 species of trees and shrubs.
The idyllic Île Verte is also part of the property, home to a range of cultural figures, from the poet Jules Barbier to the painter Jean Fautrier.
8. Marché International de Rungis
Set your alarm and head to the outskirts of Rungis, where the largest wholesale market on Earth does business.
The numbers involved in this 234-hectare complex are almost unbelievable: 13,000 people work here every day, and around 26,000 cars enter the site.
As you can guess, this isn’t where you go grocery shopping, but a giant, fine-tuned machine that helps put food on a Parisian restaurant table.
You can book a guided tour as an individual or a group, and the first tour starts at 04:30, so it’s suitable for early risers.
9. Paris Catacombs
No more than 20 minutes on the RER is an ossuary where the bones of some 6 million Parisians are stacked in decorative arrangements.
While these tunnels and galleries lined with bones and skulls may seem a little creepy, they emerged in response to the crisis that engulfed the city in the 1700s.
Due to the collapse and lack of space, Paris could not bury it, so the cemetery was cleared and the historic tombs were moved to these former quarries in what is now the 14th arrondissement.
10. Visit Montparnasse
Waiting in line for the Eiffel Tower and then scrambling to see the view from the platform is one of the downsides of visiting Paris.
So if time is at a premium, or you want to see the Paris skyline including the Eiffel Tower, a trip to Montparnasse is for you.
The views from the top of the 210-meter skyscraper are quite possibly the best in the city, especially since the massive black tower is not part of it.
The views are exhilarating during the day, and at night, when the Eiffel Tower is lit up, they’re as romantic as possible.
11. Musée National du Moyen Âge
Heading to the Seine from the south, the RER will take you through the oldest district of Paris.
Hôtel de Cluny started out as a luxury townhouse for the Aboots of Cluny and was expanded into a palace in the early 16th century.
This amalgamation of Gothic and Renaissance design is the ideal stage for this medieval treasure trove.
There are gilded Limoges enamels, Visigothic votive crowns, volumes of illuminated manuscripts and rooms lined with stained glass.
But most striking is The Lady and the Unicorn, a series of six unparalleled tapestries woven around 1500.
12. Latin Quarter
Traditionally the bohemian part of Paris, the Latin Quarter is home to many higher education institutions, such as the incomparable Sorbonne, with a youthful vibe.
If you’re wondering why it’s called the Latin Quarter, the name comes from the widespread use of Latin in the region, as it was the language of academia in the 18th century.
Since the prime days of this quarter in the 1950s and 1960s, gentrification has removed some of the edges.
But if you’re fascinated by 20th century culture, you can come to the same streets and visit the same places as Picasso, Camus, Sartre and Hemingway.
13. Luxembourg Gardens
The Luxembourg Gardens is a precious attraction on the Left Bank, a park planned during the Renaissance by Marie de’ Medici, the widow of Henry IV. The palace it accompanies is now the seat of the French Senate, while the park is full of sculptures and monuments from the era of Marie de’ Medici.
What you need to see is the rectangular Medici fountain, which dates back to 1631 and was restored during the reigns of Napoleon and Napoleon III. The garden is also known for its famous green chairs and more than 100 statues by artists such as Bartholdi, who designed the Statue of Liberty.
14. Île de la Cité
A fabled island on the Seine is packed with many of the city’s most historic and photogenic monuments.
You can get there in 30 minutes on the RER. Beginning with Notre Dame, it was built in the Middle Ages and is probably the most popular Gothic building in the world, elevated to mythical status by Victor Hugo.
Another national monument is the Conciergerie, a medieval palace converted into a prison where men and women condemned during the revolution await their fate.
Gaze at the 13th-century stained glass windows of Sainte-Chapelle and cross the Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in the city.
In the southwestern suburbs of Paris, you have a unique opportunity to drive to Versailles without worrying about traffic.
If you leave early, you can arrive in about 20 minutes, and are free to spend the whole day soaking up the magic of unmatched royal property There is so much in this complex that you could spend three days pottering around the palace , there is no reason to see the same thing twice and the pavilions and outbuildings.
If you’re inspired by Louis XIV, you can head to the Hall of Mirrors, the King’s Apartments and Private Apartments, the enormous Grand Canal, André Le Nôtre’s parterre and his grand palace of pleasures, the Grand Trianon.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Massy, France
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