It doesn’t matter if the sun’s rays set behind the Eiffel Tower or the mists coming from the nearby river Seine mysteriously enlace the Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris can always seize you in any possilble way!
I was seized by it when I was about 5 years old. My grandfather used to have subscription for one of the local newspapers and in one of the issues there was a picture of the Eiffel Tower on the last page. I knew nothing about it, and he explained that it was a tower made of steel. The image of this tower was imprinted in my childhood’s mind, and every time I saw it on television or in a movie, I dreamt of climbing it one day one day. And this dream of mine came true exactly three times so far. 🙂
I can tell you a lot about my visits to Paris and initially I wanted to make a TOP 10 of my favorite places there, however as I was writing this article I could not do so. Every single place here can amaze you. From the the old bohemian neighborhoods, the walks along the river Seine and Champs-Elysées to the museums, cobbled streets, the small cafes, and even the dirty streets that smell of…
The city of love, the capital of fashion, the most romantic place in the world – each description is fits Paris perfectly. This is a city you will either fall in love with after visiting it or you will not. There is no middle option! A visit to Paris can inspire you for a lifetime and I am sure that you will always remember it.
What is worth seeing in Paris? Well, everything! I tried to make a brief overview of my favorite places there so that you can find out what makes this city so unique and special.
The Eiffel Tower
I mentioned that there will be no ranking, but definitely in the first place among the most desired sights to visit in Paris is the Eiffel Tower (La Tour Eiffel)! This is probably one of the most visited places in the world. Strange as it may sound at first, the tower was stigmatized as a monstrous gathering of iron, and Parisians were shocked by its appearance. It was designed and built to mark the centenary of the French Revolution. Its official opening is for the Paris Exhibition in 1889 and it was designed by Alexander-Gustave Eiffel.
When you see the tower live for the very first time, you are dumbfounded! I will never forget my first visit in 2000. This was followed by many more and I had the chance to climb the tower at any time of the day – during the day, at noon, in the evening, in the heat and even in the rain. And every visit is still imprinted in my mind, because it was my childhood dream to climb way up to the top of this facility.
The tower has three levels and each of them can be reached by either the elevator or the stairs. The first level is located at 57 meters above the ground and there is a souvenir shop, cafes, a restaurant and an observation deck. The second level is at 115 meters you on it you can find the the same amenities as the first. With the difference that the views of Paris stands out more and more clearly. The first and second level can be reached by a two-storey elevator, but to get to the third level you must take another one. Once you reach the third level you bill standing at 276 meters above the ground and in front of you you’d be able to see the whole city unfolding its streets way up to the suburbs.
The views from there are amazing and if you go up at sunset you will definitely be out of breath. This is probably one of the most exciting things you can do in this astonishing city. One of the most interesting things there is the wax figure of Alexander-Gustave Eiffel sitting in his office so that the visitors can see him. 🙂
Montparnasse and Sacre Coeur
On one of the highest points in Paris, on a hill in the bohemian and picturesque district of Montparnasse rises one of the most beautiful cathedrals – the Sacré Coeur! From a distance, it looks like a wedding cake and even some Parisians call it like that. In the cathedral there is an exquisite mosaic of Jesus Christ with a flaming heart. For this reason, the cathedral itself is called “Sacred Heart” (in French Sacré Cœur). The observation deck in front of it reveals incredible and majestic views to all Paris, too.! This is definitely one of the most romantic places here. But apart from the fact that the views here can enchant you, you also have to be very vigilant, because it is full of pickpockets and while you are fascinated by the beautiful views you can be left without your purse or phone.
To get to the cathedral itself you need to climb about 200 stairs, but for the ones who are lazy there is a funicular that takes you right to the square in front of the cathedral. After admiring the beautiful views, I advise you to take some time and take a walk in the picturesque and aristocratic district of Montmartre. Translated, it means “hill of martyrs”. It used to be a small village, but as Paris continues to gro it became its neighborhood. Curved cobbled streets and pedestrian stairs will take you to interesting boutiques and restaurants, small quiet squares, art galleries and many outdoor cafes.
Near the Sacré Coeur, a little further down the boulevard is the notorious Moulin Rouge. I guess every one of you has seen or heard of the famous red windmill. I personally did not go inside, but seeing it from the outside and taking the moment to admire it is quite enough.
ДLet me warn you that if you decide to enter it is recommended to bedress elegantly and that T-shirts and shorts are not very preferable.
Strange as it may sound, one of the most famous and elegant boulevards in the world used to be a swampy field until the 17th century. A century later, elegant buildings were built there which became the hallmark of the boulevard. The Champs-Elysees starts from Place de la Concorde, where there is a beautiful spacious park. It reaches all the way to the Arc de Triomphe, where luxury shops, hotels, restaurants, cafes, cinemas and theaters are located. It is perhaps one of the busiest places in Paris, which, in addition to attracting millions of tourists from around the world, is also a favorite gathering place for the Parisians themselves. Here are some of the most expensive stores and boutiques, and each prestigious brand has its own store here – Tiffany & Co., Louis-Vuitton, Cartier and many others. For the fans of fine dining, I will mention that here is the notorious gastronomic restaurant L’Atelier Étoile de Joël Robuchon, which has a Michelin star. I wish everyone one day to be able to shop in these stores or eat there. But of course there are also quite affordable shops and restaurants.
The Triumphal arch
Almost at the end of the famous boulevard is another famous symbol of the French capital – the Arc de Triomphe. It was built by order of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806 to honor the soldiers who fought in the French army during the Napoleonic Wars. It was completed in 1836 but, unfortunately, Napoleon did not live to see it completed. The arch is quite massive and large standing tall about 50 meters height, and there are bas-reliefs with figures depicting the departure, victories and glorious return of the French armies. Curiously, some of the figures are larger than their natural size.
From the top of the arch there is an observation deck, from which you can see the starting point of the 12 boulevards that start from there. You can see the entire Champs-Elysees, the obelisk on Place de la Concorde, the Louvre,the Eiffel Tower, as well as the newest and most modern arch in Defense and many other sights.
Right at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe is the tomb of the unknown warrior – a monument dedicated to the fallen soldiers during the First World War. There is also a fire in front of the monument, which has never been extinguished since it has been first lit on November 11th, 1923.
There is hardly a person who has not heard of the famous Louvre Museum!
A magnificent palace that was once home to French kings, the Louvre is the most important among the other museums in Paris. Visitors enter the museum in the courtyard of the palace at the glass pyramid that was designed in 1917. Here you can see over 35,000 works of art (many considered masterpieces). From antiques to European paintings some of which date back to the XV and XIX centuries.
You can’t see everything here at once, but you can focus on certain wings and it’s always preferable to come early in the morning. The queues at the entrance are sometimes quite long and you’ll have towait for hours in order to enter! One of the most famous works of Leonardo da Vinci is located there – the Mona Lisa (La Gioconda). It often happens that some of the tourists enter here and literally fly through the museum just to see this specific paiting, without seeing any other of the art exhibits.
On both sides of the Louvre are the Tuileries Gardens. It is one of the most beautiful parks in Paris. If visiting the museum is exhausting, you can take a walk there or just sit on a bench to enjoy the beautiful views. There is also a small Arc de Triomphe, built in honor of the military and diplomatic successes of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Right between the Tuileries Gardens and the beginning of the Champs-Elysées is one of the most beautiful and largest squares in Paris – Concord. It is a scene of many historical events, including the execution of King Louis XVI. It is also part of Napoleon’s triumphant journey. In the center of the octagonal square rises an Egyptian obelisk, which was presented to Charles X by the Viceroy of Egypt. Years ago, when I visited this place, there used to be a Ferris wheel too, but now I’m not sure if it’s still there. 🙂
The Luxembourg Gardens
After the Tuileries Gardens, the second most famous city park is the Luxembourg Gardens. It was originally part of the Luxembourg Palace when it was built in the 17th century, but were much smaller back then. It was not until the beginning of the 19th century that they acquired their current appearance and size.
Arranged flower beds, well maintained shrubs, statues, fountains, rose gardens, greenhouses and orchards will make you forget that you are standing in the big city. In a few minutes, time will stop and you will think that you are somewhere among the wild nature. For this reason, it is a favorite place for walks and picnics of the locals. Here you will also see students from the Latin Quarter, sitting on the grass eating sandwiches and baguettes or just enjoying another nice sunny day, playing badminton or chess.
In the very heart of Paris, on the island of Cité, located on the river Seine, is nestled one of the most famous and popular cathedrals in the whole world – Notre Dame! Right here, on this small island, the Romans built the Gallo-Roman city of Lutetia and today the zero kilometer of France France is located there. The cathedral was built in Gothic style in the distant 1163 and to this day every visitor is impressed by its architecture.
The facade is richly decorated with sculptors and gargoyles and intricate flying buttresses ensure the structural integrity of the huge building. Visiting the cathedral from the inside, the magnificent stained glass windows make an impression. Notre Dame is currently being reconstructed because in April 2019 a large fire caused significant damage and the roof collapsed. The repair and restoration works are expected to be completed in 2024.
The arch in Defense
In the western part of Paris, along the small Arc de Triomphe in the Tuileries Gardens and the one known to all, another new and modern arch rises the one in Defense.
In the late 1960s, a high-rising neighborhood was designed, seen as a symbol of Paris’ entry into the 21st century. Personall this is a very favorite place of mine and I love walking around there. On my last visit in 2013, I tried to get on La Grande Arche, as Parisians call it, but unfortunately it was not open on that day. Well, I still have to have something to visit for the next time I go there. 🙂
Georges Pompidou Center
In the very heart of Paris, relatively close to the Louvre, is a very interesting and wonderful building that does not fit in any way with the architecture of this part of the city. Even some of the visitors are shocked by the architecture and can’t believe what their eyes see!
This is the Pompidou Center, where the National Museum of Modern Art is located. Personally, I have not visited the building from the inside, but it is worth even looking at from the outside.
Garnier Palace or the National Opera in Paris is probably one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Europe!
The facade is richly decorated with classical columns and eight sculptures representing allegorical figures: poetry, music, idyll, recitation, song, drama and dance. The loggia depicts busts of composers, including Rossini, Beethoven and Mozart, while the dome is covered by a statue of Apollo with allegorical figures of poetry and music. The interior is also as stunning as the exterior (I have to mention that I haven’t been inside and I’ve seen the inners of this building only in photos ) but this will be another place I have left to visit for the future.
During my visits to Paris, I was always impressed by how a black skyscraper was built in the middle of nowhere and how somehow it stands there quite unnaturally! This is the Montparnasse tower, which is literally like a thorn for the Parisians! I promise to tell you the story of this building some other time.
But I would advise you if you have time to go up to the observation deck on the top floor and admire the great views of Paris. This is the only place in the city from which you can see the Eiffel Tower from above. It really is a great place and there is both an outdoor and an indoor observation deck.
Paris will always have a special place in my heart! As I mentioned, this is a city that you will either like or not. It was very difficult for me to describe all my favorite places that it has, because there are many more and more, and I will probably have to write a second part of this article. For me Paris will always be remembered for the the Eiffel Tower, the meandering Seine, Montparnasse and Sacre Coeur, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and all the small streets and cafes around them. If someone asks me how I imagine the perfect moment in life, I will not think and I will answer: “Sitting on a metal chair aa small table, with a cup of coffee and a croissant, Parisians passing by me on their way to work while I am just sitting there and admiring the view of the Eiffel Tower!”
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