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7 ways Paris out-techs other cities
Libraries with video game workshops for seniors, palaces with Google makeovers; the City of Light has a geeky side, too
Paris doesn't conjure images of co-working spaces and iPads as much as rustic sidewalk cafés and tattered newspapers, but the city has eagerly implemented technology in recent years.
There are apps for everything from 19th-century public drinking fountains to finding the closest pastry shop, and with two fully automated driverless metro lines, free public Wi-Fi in most parks and countless inventive public installations around town, the city is becoming a place where tech start-ups and the geeks that love them can thrive.
“Where else can you find a citywide swipe-card bike rental system, as well as a region-wide swipe-card electric car rental system and cellular data access through the subway system?” says Thibaut Thomas, former communications director at the high-tech gallery Gaîté Lyrique.
Here's where to go to get a taste of the digital advancements in the City of Light.
1. Nintendo 3DS at the Louvre
The Louvre often feels like a labyrinth and perhaps that’s what prompted this odd-sounding pairing.
Nintendo audio guides, inaugurated last year, help visitors navigate the world’s second largest museum while learning about major pieces and more than 700 other works of art in seven languages.
For just €5 ($6.50), it’s the best way to enjoy the Louvre without a private guide.
Musée du Louvre; +33 1 40 20 50 50; open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays; 9 a.m.-9:45 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays; closed Tuesdays
2. LCD floor at Pavillon de l’Arsenal
Architecture, technology and history buffs can spend hours retracing the city’s history at this free gallery. The standout is the 37-square-meter mosaic of 48 LCD screens that project the future of the city with stunning Google Earth images.
Visitors can explore the projects by using one of four adjacent touch screen panels.
Pavillon de l’Arsenal, 21 Boulevard Morland; +33 1 42 76 33 97; open 10:30 a.m.–6:30 a.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on Sundays
3. Video game workshops at Gaîté Lyrique Gallery
Whether it’s music, art or video games, this former 19th-century theater is the premier gallery for cutting edge digital experiences.
Even its roots are techie: it used to be theme park dedicated to Inspector Gadget.
The gallery is also a stop for international DJs and musicians, such as German techno du Booka Shade and English electro musicians Nathan Fake and Wesley Matsell.
The library hosts video game workshops that pair seniors with a youngster who will introduce them to the latest game craze.
Gaîté Lyrique Gallery, 3 bis rue Papin; +33 1 53 01 52 00; open 2-8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 2-6 p.m. on Sundays
4. Apple stores in cool locations
As if it didn’t have enough draws, the Louvre also boasts the city’s first Apple Store located beneath its inverted glass pyramid (a la "The Da Vinci code").
Over by the Opera, the newest Parisian Apple store opened in 2010 in a gorgeous 19th-century building that once housed a bank.
The juxtaposition of the building's high ceilings, glass atrium ceiling and wrought iron balconies and the latest Apple products is an apt representation of modern Paris.
12 Rue Halévy, open 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Wedneday, open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; Carrousel du Louvre, open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily; www.apple.com
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5. Google's History Galleries at Versailles
Louis XIV’s massive palace was never fully equipped for the eventual 6 million visitors that would pass through its doors each year.
Most just follow the tourists in front from room to room without really knowing what they are looking at in Louis XIV’s grand estate.
Google’s Culture Institute stepped in and joined forces with Versailles to renovate the former prince’s chambers, creating 11 new rooms dubbed the "History Galleries."
Extensive Google Mapping and modeling along with 3D films present a step-by-step history of the chateau from hunting lodge to present-day glory, helping to put the rest of the visit in context.
Chateau de Versailles; +33 01 30 83 78 00
6. La Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie
Located across from the old slaughterhouses in the Parc de la Villette, this science museum is the place for large-scale geek exhibits.
Traveling themed exhibits highlighting topics from da Vinci to "Star Wars" join permanent galleries on energy, health, innovation and transportation issues in the world today.
Visitors can also check out the Geode, a plus-sized movie theater showing the latest IMAX and 3D films, the 360-degree planetarium to experience the stars and a 1950s French submarine.
La Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, 30 Ave. Corentin Cariou; +33 1 40 05 70 00; open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Sundays
7. 'The Last Bar Before the End of the World'
For coffee or cocktails, geeks and friends head to the Le Dernier Bar Avant la Fin du Monde ("The Last Bar Before the End of the World") for drinks, such as the Death Star or Proton Pack.
Opened in 2012, this bar is, of course, the hangout for lovers of sci-fi, manga and any other category that self-defined geeks can imagine.
Dozens of board games are free to play, while three floors feature futuristic and steampunk-inspired décor and restrooms with flatscreens above urinals for nonstop entertainment.
Tech geeks will also love Touch’in Paris, where patrons can order food and cocktails directly from their tactile tables. Using interactive Resto-Touch technology, modern French dishes and an array of cocktails are just a tap away.
Le Dernier Bar Avant la Fin du Monde, avenue Victoria; +33 1 53 00 98 9519; open 10 a.m.-1 a.m. daily
Touch‘in Paris, rue Vignon; +33 1 40 06 02 64 20; open 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Monday-Saturday
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