There are few places on Earth as beloved as the city of Paris, France. There is little wonder why, once you arrive.
The food, language, architecture, wine, and small, crooked streets are alone worthy of adoration. Factor in the museums, the culture, the Seine, and the art districts and you’re bound to fall for this incredible city. Here are a few of the must-see spots, several of which pair rather nicely with a baguette and some brie…
The Eiffel Tower
Among the most recognizable monuments on earth, the Eifel Tower is a massive wrought iron structure that perches at one end the Champ de Mars. The tower was constructed for the 1889 World’s Fair and continues to turn heads as a symbol for all things French. Architects and designers Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, Maurice Koechlin, and Stephen Sauvestre made their indelible mark on Parisian soil with the tower that still awes crowds today. Open most days from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. local time, you may want to get an early start the day you decide to visit, as the Eifel tower is the most-visited monument in the world.
The Louvre is most certainly a feast for the eyes, boasting over 35,000 works of art, including the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, The Raft of Medusa, and countless masterpieces from around the world. Visitors can enjoy getting an up-close view of human history captured in the art, sculpture, and relics found at the Louvre. From the Seated Scribe, dating to the 4th Dynasty of Egypt (2620-2500 BC), to the 8th-century Winged Bulls that once stood guard at the Persian Palace of Darius I, turn any corner and you’re almost sure to exclaim, “That’s here too?!” The museum also includes tours of the Tulleries and Carousel Gardens and Louvre Castle, which visitors are wise to make time for. The Louvre is located at 99 rue de Rivoli and can be visited Monday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., or Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.
Known as one of the best places to shop on Earth, the Champs-Elysees stretches a mile across the Parisian landscape, from the obelisk at Place de la Concorde on the east to the Arc de Triomphe on the west. Every major haute couture name, from Louis Vuitton to Hermes, has a brick-and-mortar shop on the Champs-Elysees. There’s more than just shopping though. Visitors can enjoy foods from almost every culture created by some of the best chefs in the world. The gorgeous tree-lined street offers wide sidewalks that lead to important milestones, including the Grand Palais and Petit Palais—both boasting ever-changing art exhibitions. You can visit Champs-Elysees anytime, day or night, as many of the shops run on a 24-hour schedule to accommodate the wonderful culture of Paris.
Known as a shining example of French Gothic architecture due to its stained glass and naturalist sculpture, the cathedral is among the most famous churches in the world. Construction began in 1163 and was completed in 1345, the entirety of Notre Dame taking nearly 200 years to build. The buildings eventually began to deteriorate, and so, restoration began in 1843 and continued until 1864. The crumbling gargoyles, originally designed to carry water away from the rooftops and ward off evil spirits, were replaced during the restoration with decorative chimeras or ‘grotesques’. The most famous of these is known today as Le Stryge [The Vampire] and sits atop an upper balcony overlooking the city.
Notre Dame still hosts church services today. Perhaps the better known of which are the Lent sermons led by famous academics, public figures, and other celebrated Catholics. You can visit Notre Dame from 7:45 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. Monday through Friday, and Saturday through Sunday from 7:45 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. without an entrance fee. To visit the castle and its various towers, you’ll need to be at Notre Dame between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
The Musée d’Orsay
While it’s true that a visit to the Louvre is practically mandatory while in Paris, the Musée d’Orsay is unquestionably another must-see for visitors to the city of lights. The museum is housed in a former railway station and, like the Louvre, is itself a work of art. Built just before 1900, and renovated in the 1980’s, the architecture alone is worth the visit. The building boasts a magnificent, barrel-vaulted, glass and tile main hall. Placed within the glass walls are large, transparent clocks, each overlooking a different side of Paris. Depending on the clock, you can peer through its face and view the Louvre, the famous Sacré-Cœur basilica, the Tuileries gardens, or the iconic Grand Roue de Paris [The Great Ferris Wheel of Paris].
The Musée d’Orsay is highly lauded for its one-of-a-kind impressionist works by French masters such as Monet, Van Gogh, and Matisse, among many others. Great impressionist art is just the tip of the iceberg, however. The museum also hosts a vast selection of sculpture, photography installations, and architectural marvels. The Musée d’Orsay is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Monday. (However, we don’t suggest visiting on a Tuesday, as the Louvre is closed, and you can probably guess where the art-seekers choose to assemble.)
Laced with cobblestone streets and French Gothic architecture, the perineal Marais District is the closest you can find to Pre-Napoleon, medieval Paris. From leading artists, writers, poets, and musicians to decadent French chefs and bakers and well-known pillars of the French Jewish community, Le Marias has been the flashpoint of cultures for hundreds of years. Similar in feel to the West Village in New York, the neighborhood is home to wide variety of shops, galleries, and architecture. Simply walking around Le Marais is a treat as you’re always sure to be delighted.
Arc de Triomphe
Commissioned by Napoleon, the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile was erected to honor those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The monumental arch was built between 1806 and 1836 and inaugurated by King Louis Philippe. Located at the west end of Champs-Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe is the largest of its kind. The Arch is decorated with numerous sculptures and reliefs depicting moments in the government and military’s history. Beneath the Arch lays the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, interred on November 11, 1920. On the tomb, an internal flame is kept alight in remembrance of soldiers who died but were never identified, during both WWI and WWII. The Arc de Triomphe is typically open daily from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. from April to September, and from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. from October to March.
Considering Paris for your next vacation? We don’t blame you, Paris is always a good idea!
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