Main Tourist Attractions in Paris

It’s all there in Paris. There are few urban centers on Earth as spectacular and recognizable as the French capital. Paris, with its one-of-a-kind monuments and lovely streets, would consistently rank among the world’s top ten most beautiful cities.

Paris, the City of Light, has been drawing creative types, cultural vultures, and intellectuals since the Age of Enlightenment. The city’s bohemian atmosphere, wealth of museums, and elegant boulevards serve as inspiration and canvas for visitors of all stripes. The city of Paris is unlike any other on the planet. Owen Wilson said it best: “These lights, these cafes, these people drinking and singing can all be seen from a great distance in space. As far as we can tell, Paris is sizzling hot.”

Anyone who has experienced the peculiar rhythm of this dramatic metropolis cannot forget it. The mazelike alleyways, outdoor cafés, and invigorating boat trips down the Seine have even captivated professional travel writers. Paris, with its Champs-Élysées, Place des Vosges, Latin Quarter, and Montmartre, is the original pattern for other great international capitals, each of which claims to be the prototype of magnificent elegance and refinement.

I mean, where do you even start? Whether this is your first visit or you’ve been here before, you’re certain to be amazed and maybe even a little bit overawed by all there is to see and do. Get started with the top six must-see landmarks, including two museums, two monuments, and two churches. Make use of the entertaining tiny Batobus, with its glass roof and handy selection of stops at most of your top-pick sites, to go about the Seine as much as possible. Because of this, you might consider the journey itself to be an exciting aspect of your trip.

There are two museums: the Louvre and the Orsay.

The Louvre and the Orsay should be at the top of every museum-itinerary goer’s while visiting Paris, but you probably already knew that. If you have been to any of these museums on previous excursions to the city, you should definitely make a repeat visit. However, be kind to yourself and limit your exploration of these massive structures to to one every day.

Obviously, we’re talking about the Louvre. The Louvre is unparalleled by any other museum. When you first enter the courtyard and see I. M. Pei’s glass pyramid, you may be shocked. The photographs just don’t do it justice. Arc de Triomphe, a smaller replica of Napoleon’s original arch at the other end of the Voie Triomphale, is set against the pyramid, which serves as a very baffling background (the “Triumphal View”). Napoleon stole the bronze horse-drawn chariot from Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Venice in 1798 and set it atop this lesser arch (the chariot has now been returned to its rightful home and replaced with a copy). Standing in this central courtyard, you are surrounded by a massive edifice that spans many centuries, beginning with a castle fortification from the 12th century and ending with a palace from the 16th.

Taking the Batobus to the Louvre and alighting at the Louvre stop is the most convenient way to get there. Take in the breathtaking view of the Orsay, a former railway station turned art museum, located on the opposite side of the river. Entering the Louvre via the pyramid should only be attempted if you have a well-thought-out strategy in place. And without a certain, get a Paris Museum Pass in advance to avoid waiting in long lineups.

When you explore this historic palace, you’ll be walking in the same halls and galleries that were formerly frequented by Kings who admired the valuable artworks in their collections. Take a good long look about you at the elaborate castle and all the artwork it houses.

The Gallery of Apollo, Winged Victory, the Mona Lisa, and Venus de Milo are must-sees throughout your trip (where the Sun King, Louis XIV, held audiences). See the four Caryatides, female figures that act as columns, holding up the musicians’ gallery above their heads, and other Roman replicas of Greek sculptures gathered by the French royals in the Salle des Caryatides. Find King Philippe’s 12th-century moat and underground tower from the Middle Ages. Prior to the building of the pyramid, these remains were discovered during an archeological excavation in order to retrieve and preserve priceless items.

Take a moment to soak in the rays of the setting sun as you stand in the glass-roofed Marly Courtyard surrounded by the magnificent and powerful Marly horses and other sculptures from the gardens of Château de Marly, the country palace on the Seine where the Sun King entertained his close acquaintances at the tail end of his reign. Enjoy a snack and a rest in the Café on the Mollien Staircase’s ground floor. Relax on the patio with a view of the pyramid and Napoleon Courtyard.

There’s the Orsay, of course. If seeing the Louvre is a priority, then giving yourself plenty of time at the Musée d’Orsay should be, too. The beautiful items here will remain in your memory forever. Room after room of valuable artwork by legendary Impressionists like Monet, Renoir, van Gogh, Dégas, Cézanne, and Toulouse-Lautrec awaits tourists as they explore this massive old railway station, intended to amaze the hordes of visitors that poured to the city for the 1900 Paris World’s Fair. Where previously passengers waited for trains, exquisite sculptures now dot the ground and the balconies that once overlooked them.

There’s a miniature Statue of Liberty just at the museum’s entryway; France gave it to the United States in 1876 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of American freedom. Make a reservation in advance for lunch at the Grand Hotel, which used to be next to the railway station at the turn of the century.

Tower & Arch, Two Great Structures

Seeing the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe are musts on any trip to Paris. Both are iconic Parisian structures; the Arch de Triomphe was constructed to welcome visitors to the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle, while the Napoleonic Arc de Triomphe was created to celebrate the Emperor’s military successes. Stunning panoramas of the city can be seen from the summit of each of them.

That iconic structure in Paris called the Eiffel Tower. To guarantee entrance to the Eiffel Tower at a specified time, make reservations well in advance of your trip. Indulge in a luxurious double-header by visiting the tower and dining at the 58 Tour Eiffel Restaurant on the second floor. If you’re on the first story, go out onto the glass floor and see down. Try to have a photo taken as evidence.

Take the elevator to the very top and have a glass of champagne as you see Paris from the top of what was the world’s highest structure for 40 years. If the tower moves ever-so-slightly in the breeze, you’ll have an even more exciting tale to tell when you get back.

The Triumphal Arch of Arc de Triomphe. Take the tunnel under the Arc de Triomphe’s whirl of traffic and spend some time reading the inscriptions. Consider making the ascent up the 284 stairs to the summit for yet another breathtaking panorama over the city of Paris. Visit the peak at night to see Paris illuminated from above.

Ascend to the top of this triumphal arch for a bird’s-eye view of the Louvre’s smaller counterpart in the courtyard outside the museum. Understanding the scope of Napoleon’s egotism in this way is helpful. Cast your gaze toward the Sacré Coeur Basilica, positioned atop a hill in Montmartre with a breathtaking view of Paris. Take in the sights and sounds of the Champs-Élysées, one of the busiest shopping areas in the world. If you’re interested in shopping, this is a great chance to check out some of the best boutiques in the area.

Notre Dame Cathedral with Sainte-Chapelle

Last but not least, on the bigger island in the Seine, Ile de la Cité, you will find two churches: a cathedral and a chapel. Paris got its name from the Parisii, who first resided on this island in the third century BC. In 55 BC, two centuries later, the Romans demolished and devastated the Parisii hamlet. Afterward, they rebuilt the town according to Roman standards, replete with a Temple, Colosseum, Forum, and Roman Baths.

To put it simply: Notre Dame. The iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is the first stop on our itinerary since it was constructed on the foundations of a former Roman temple. Construction on this colossal architectural wonder began in 1160 and continued for for 200 years, over which it endured revolutions, wars, neglect, and repairs. Now it has been grievously destroyed by a catastrophic fire that sent its spire falling down upon its already blazing roof.

Despite its damage, Notre Dame Cathedral is still magnificent. It will be a long time before people can go in and sit quietly looking at the rose window. Right now, you can only see it from the front, the rear, and both sides. Invest some of your time in contemplating this incredible structure. You may locate a boat-turned-bar anchored along the quai after crossing the bridge to the Left Bank. Find a seat at one of the tables along the railing and a bottle of wine. Look across the river at Notre Dame and think about its incredible journey from the Middle Ages, when it was built without the advantage of modern equipment and technology, to the present, when it was saved from destruction by the efforts of 400 fire fighters who hurried here to put out the wildfire.

Sainte-Chapelle. Last but not least, see the ethereal Sainte-Chapelle, widely regarded as one of the finest architectural masterpieces in Western architecture, located at the other end of the island from Notre Dame. In the Middle Ages, this church was revered as a “portal to paradise” by devout believers. You will be astonished by the brilliant hues and light emanating from the 770-year-old stained glass windows that line the walls. Try to see a concert here if you can; the venue is stunning. Remember this always.

You’ve gotten off to an excellent start in the City of Lights. However, there is much more to consider. You will find yourself longing to return to Paris. You’ll fall in love with it all over again the next time you go back.

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