The city of light and love has so much to offer, it boggles the mind. Proposing at the Eiffel Tower, shopping on the Champs-Elysées, or enjoying some Haute Cuisine in a Seineside restaurant; Paris will keep you occupied for several lifetimes.
This alphabetical introduction, courtesy of Eva, is not enough to cover all of Paris’ beauty, but it will give you some insight and ideas for your next trip to France.
Arc de Triomphe
At the western end of the renowned Champs Elysées you’ll find one of Paris’ most famous monuments, the Arc de Triomphe. With its impressive 50m height, this arch is one of the largest in the world. Don’t risk your life crossing the Place Charles de Gaulle (one of the busiest roundabouts in Paris), but instead take the ‘passerelle’ tunnel to have a closer look at the inscriptions on the arch and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or to admire the stunning view of the Eiffel Tower and Grande Arche.
Beaubourg aka Centre Pompidou
Without a doubt one of Paris’ most remarkable architectural creations, the Pompidou Centre houses a library, music research centre and Europe’s largest museum of modern art. Many great artists have exhibited in this colourful building, ever since its opening in 1977. The centre’s top floor exclusive club and restaurant give an amazing view over the city. For the less wealthy amongst us, the Beaubourg area holds plenty of cute restaurants. Alternatively, why not enjoy a crêpe whilst listening to some locals playing music at the Place de Beaubourg?
Au soleil, sous la pluie, à midi ou à minuit, il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Elysées… – just one of many ‘chansons’ about the world’s most famous boulevard. As the song says, in the sun or in the rain, during the day or during the night, everything you want is at Champs-Elysées. How about trying some macarons at Paris’ famous Laduree pastry shop, or having coffee at the Renault showroom?
Dôme des Invalides
The Dôme des Invalides is the remarkable centre of the Invalides complex, which contains museums and a retirement home for veterans amongst its structures. In the gilded dome church you’ll find the tombs of many famous war heroes as well as Napoleon’s mausoleum. This attraction is highly recommended for lovers of French military history.
Since its construction in 1889 the Eiffel Tower has been synonymous with Paris. So much has been said already about this ‘Iron Lady’, but words can never compete with the real experience of actually standing in line for over 2 hours to access the elevator (or 300 stairs per level, for the brave ones amongst us) to enjoy a splendid view over the city.
Back in the days when people preferred books over Iphones, Paris was the place to be for famous (and not so famous) writers and artists. They gathered in the Flore Café to discuss everything and nothing, the conversation lubricated by copious quantities of wine. Today Flore Café is mainly known as a restaurant or coffee place for those who want to bond with the intellectual spirits of the past (or who are just hungry).
Gare du Nord
As I make my way from Amsterdam to Paris, the moment the high speed Thalys train arrives at the impressive Gare du Nord I’m flooded with great happiness and joy. Gare du Nord is one of Paris’ largest railway stations and one of the busiest in Europe, with departures for destinations in northern France and in countries further afield. Step off the train, let the police dog sniff your bag for ‘funny business’, and get ready to go and explore the beautiful city that is Paris.
Forum des Halles
Take a metro to the most central station of the city (Châtelet Les Halles) and discover a huge underground shopping centre. Just below street level, this Parisian mall is known for its characteristic design of the glass and iron rooftops that stick out and determine the street image of the Châtelet area.
Ile de la Cité
Take a walk over the Pont Neuf, one of the oldest and most beautiful bridges of Paris, to the Ile de la Cité. This is one of two islands in the Seine river and is the most popular, due to the presence of Notre Dame Cathedral amongst the major attractions to be found here. Due to its central location, a lot of other interesting places can easily be reached; follow the Quais de Seine, which will lead you down the riverside and take you to the Institut du Monde Arabe in only a few minutes.
Jardin du Luxembourg
No better place to go to after a day of wandering around in the VI arrondissement than the Luxembourg Gardens. A 25 hectare park with a huge pond, over a hundred statues (one of which is the very first Statue of Liberty) and lovely little green seats to sit down, rest your feet and enjoy serenity in the middle of the city centre.
Wine and dine at the Eiffel Tower restaurant is so 2011. Restaurant Kong is the new place to be! Situated close to Pont Neuf, this interesting venue with a frameless glass roof gives you a stunning view over Paris. French cuisine reinterpreted by Japan, a restaurant for Parisians, designed by Philippe Starck. Nom nom, I’ll book my table now!
One of the most famous museums in the world, filmed, shot and written about and an absolute must-see during your stay in Paris. You can’t leave without at least having had a sneaky peeky at the tiny Mona Lisa inside, or at the impressive glass pyramid just outside the beautiful Louvre buildings. Let your memory of all the beautiful paintings sink in during a walk in the Tuileries gardens – don’t get lost in the labyrinth!
Do the can-can! Back in the Belle Epoque, France’s good old times, the Moulin Rouge was an inspirational place to congregate for painters such as Toulouse-Lautrec and other admirers of extravagant dance spectacles. Nowadays the theater is mostly an attraction for tourists who want to take a picture of the famous red windmill, but it can still be frequented for music and dance shows.
Paris has a fair amount of churches and cathedrals worth a visit, but the Notre Dame, situated on Ile de la Cité, is probably the most frequented. Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame gave this gothic cathedral world fame and still today, hundreds of thousands of visitors stand in line to check out Quasimodo’s whereabouts.
With a surface of over 11,000 square metres, the extravagant Opéra Garnier is the largest opera building in the world. This impressive structure can house approximately 2,000 guests as well as a Phantom. Nowadays Opéra Garnier is mainly used for ballet; other performances are usually held in the Opéra Bastille.
Every year, over hundreds of thousands of visitors wander around Père Lachaise, most likely trying to find the grave of Jim Morrison. But there is much more to explore: not only can you find the graves of Edith Piaf, Marcel Proust and Oscar Wilde, but everyone who has lived in Paris or has passed away whilst being there has the right to be buried at Père Lachaise. Definitely worth a visit, preferably on a sunny day. After all, it’s still a graveyard…
This lively area, located in the 5th and 6th districts of Paris around the Sorbonne University, is known for its great atmosphere and many bistros and restaurants. This is a favourite place for students, writers and of course tourists to come together. There’s nothing better than enjoying a glass of red wine on a terrace whilst reading a French classic novel you just found in one of the many bookstores in the Quartier Latin. Don’t forget to check out Shakespeare & Company!
Rue de Rivoli
For those who want just a little more exclusive fashion than the regular H&M or Zara in the nearby Les Halles shopping centre, there is Rue de Rivoli. Running past the Louvre, this street full of designer stores is definitely worth your time, if only to just browse the beautiful shop windows. Should you have any energy and money left over, the famous department stores of Printemps and Lafayette are just around the corner.
Sacre Cœur & Montmartre
Get up early and make sure you get to Montmartre before all the other tourists do. Wander around the small, cobblestone streets, have your portrait drawn by one of the artists at Place du Tertre, and take the 300 steps up to the terrace of the Sacre Coeur, the famous white church. From here, you have a great view over most of the city of Paris. And remember, the way down is always easier.
A skyscraper in the centre of Paris…Tour Montparnasse is 210 metres high and has 58 floors, which contain mainly offices. On the 56th floor, however, you’ll find a restaurant, exhibition space and even a mini cinema. If you’re not afraid of heights, you can take the stairs to the terrace at the 59th floor for a 360° panoramic view over Paris.
Everyone knows the characteristic Art Nouveau metro signs in Paris, even if you’re not one of the 4 million people that take the metro on a daily basis. Not only is the metro the easiest way to get from one point to another while avoiding the hectic traffic, it is also full of hidden treasures. Make sure to admire the stations of Abesses, Porte Dauphine, Cité and Palais Royal while you’re on your way.
If you want to escape the claustrophobia of the city centre, there’s a beautiful palace waiting for you just outside Paris, in Versailles. Since the chateau was built, many changes have taken place to extend it. Nowadays, the Versailles palace is a wonderful place to spend a day enjoying the beautiful weather whilst walking around in the gardens. The surroundings still breathe the history of France’s old system of absolute monarchy.
World Fair 1900
The World Fair, in French Exposition Universelle, was held in Paris in 1900 to celebrate the architectural achievements of the past century and to discuss innovations for the coming century. Man of the hour Gustav Eiffel was one of the jury members. Many of the characteristic Art Nouveau masterpieces in Paris were once the subject of discussion during the World Fair.
Paris’ XX arrondissement is a very popular multicultural neighborhood. This arrondissement has a lively nightlife, with the Flêche d’Or concert hall being of the major venues. The Belleville Park, on the 108m high Belleville Hill, gives you a splendid view over the city. This district also holds Paris’ second largest Chinatown, which is a colourful way to while away your afternoon.
Yves Saint Laurent
French fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent was born in Algeria, but spent most of his life in Paris. His luxury fashion house was founded in 1962 and is one of the most renowned and remarkable names in the industry. Still today women wear blazers and tuxedos based on YSL’s innovative design.
Zoo de Vincennes
The Parc Zoologique de Paris, near the Bois de Vincennes, is said to be one of the largest zoos in Europe, with 15 hectares of space and 1200 animals, of which a certain number are exotic species. The zoo even has a huge artificial rock 65 metres high, which gives you an amazing view over Paris! If you want to include a visit to the giant panda in your Paris trip, you will have to come back in 2014, as the park is currently closed for renovation.
So, how many of these features can you tick off your list? Better pack your bags and drag yourself off to Paris while hotel rooms are still affordable. Drop a comment below to let us know your favourite Parisian attraction, and while you’re at it why not post a photo on our Facebook page?
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