Ah Paris. The city of light. The city of romance. The capital of France is not only beautiful to explore with its charming parks, historic architecture and countless museums, but offers plenty of reasons to just take in the atmosphere. Street cafes, local patisseries and world-class restaurants combined with great shopping will give you so much to see and do. You can also venture out of the iconic city centre to the leafy neighbourhoods to wander and explore at your leisure.
Depending on how long you wish to spend in Paris – you will need to do your research and prioritise what you really need to see. The most popular sites are often crowded, so you may wish to book online or go early/late in the day. It is best to stay close to the heart of the city if you have limited time.
We did so much walking in Paris – it’s an ideal way to see things at your own pace. We also travelled on the Metro (such an efficient network of trains). Look out for those wonderful antique signs at the entrances to their stations.
We also used the services of the Hop-on-Hop-off bus for a day or two (mostly so that we could do the night tour of Paris – but for us it was disappointing. We had to wait for ages and didn’t really see much at all. It would have been better to catch a taxi to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and stop for some better photos.
In saying that, HOHO are a great way to get around a city if you have limited time, but the fact that they only go “one way” makes for time wasted if you just want to go back a stop or two.
Let’s visit a few of the iconic spots that Paris has to offer. Some of these I have made separate posts for more information and photos.
Built in 1889 for the World Trade Fair, the tower stands 324 metres tall.
Even if you don’t get the chance to go up the tower, there is plenty to see at ground level. Look up under the structure, admire the huge pylons that support it. It is always very crowded in this area so be careful of pickpockets who frequent this area.
You can approach the Eiffel Tower from many angles. Walk along the champs de Mar, a green space that gives you a fantastic unimpeded view of the tower. A good spot to get your “selfies” from here.
Another way is to walk across the Pont d’Iéna bridge. If you choose to walk away from the tower using this bridge, don’t forget to turn around for that picture you may have missed.
Other ways to get there are buses and the metro.
We climbed the 700+ steps to the first level for spectacular views of the city but couldn’t go higher as we had to book in advance. Still this was worth the climb.
ARC DE TRIOMPHE
Located at one end of the Champs-Elysée, the Arc de Triomphe is a war memorial for the French. It was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to celebrate his victory at the Battle of Austerlitz.
At almost 50 metres tall, it offers panoramic views across Paris and especially down the Champs Elysses. After walking all day, we could not find the energy to climb to the top (besides there was also a very long line). Perhaps on another visit.
There are several vantage points to photograph the Arc de Triomphe – from opposite the streets, from the Champs Elysses (perhaps the most iconic photograph) and up close to the monument itself. You must enter this area via undergound passages. Do not attempt to cross the many roads that surround it.
Walk around the monument, pay your respects at the memorial and look up at the incredible ceiling and statues that grace the sides of the Arc de Triomphe.
The 73,000-square-meters Louvre Museum is the largest art museum in the world.
Once a palace, it now it houses more than 35,000 artworks, including the world-famous Mona Lisa and Venus of Milo.
Many people only have the time to visit the outside. Those glass fountains in the courtyard of the museum at any time of the day offer many photographic opportunities.
Another of Paris’ famous museums is the Musee d’Orsay, housed in an old train station with its famous clock. Unfortunately we did not visit this museum on account of the ban on photography (which I believe is now lifted). Time for a return visit to Paris..
NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL
Notre Dame de Paris is is a medieval Catholic cathedral in the centre of Paris. It is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Construction was completed in 1345. Over the centuries, the church has been added to, almost destroyed during the French Revolution, renovated, and most recently, significantly damaged by fire in 2019.
Entry to the cathedral is free (fee to climb the tower) and is the most visited French monument.
The views of this magnificent cathedral from any vantage point are stunning, especially if you climb the tower.
Montmartre is an example of old-world Paris and is one of its favourite neighbourhoods. There is so much to see and do, from wandering the colourful streets with their local markets, boutiques and galleries to visiting the iconic sites that this area has to offer.
This postcard sums up Montmartre very well.
Sacre Coeur Basilica
Located on top of the hill at Montmartre, Sacré-Cœur was built in 1919 and it is a Romano-Byzantine styled Catholic church.
You can reach this via those amazing (and many) steps. Look up and look down, there’s always a great photo opportunity here.
The spacious green area in front of the church is a nice location for picnic and to admire the spectacular city view of Paris.
We did take a look inside the Sacre Coeur but with no photography allowed, I have no evidence of this visit! The building itself was majestic though and taking lots of photos from different angles provided us with great memories, especially as we stayed in Montmartre with a direct view to the church.
In the late afternoon, take a walk through the massive old Montmartre Cemitiere. There are so many interesting headstones and monuments including some of France’s famous people.
Moulin Rouge – A famous Paris nightclub. We didn’t get to see a show here. The buses go past so always a good opportunity for a quick photo.
PLACE DE LA CONCORDE
The Place de la Concorde with an area of 19 acres is the largest public square in Paris.
You can walk from the Louvre Museum, through the beautiful Arc de Triomphe du Carousel, then through the Tuileries Gardens to reach the Place de la Concorde.
There are plenty of seats in the gardens to take a rest or just enjoy the sunshine. Great statues here as well.
The centre of the Place is occupied by an Egyptian obelisk, decorated with hieroglyphics relating to the reign of the pharaoh Ramesses II.
This is flanked by two magnificent fountains made of cast iron. I have seen them both when they were operating and empty, thus giving a better opportunity to photograph the many statues that make up the fountains.
This was also the square where many executions including a king, queen and many others during the Reign of Terror in the late 1700’s.
This is Paris’ most iconic street. Stretching from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe, the avenue is lined with fashion boutiques and al fresco dining. World-famous luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Gucci, Chanel, Christian Dior, and Giorgio Armani can be found here.
If you’re a lover of the arts, you should not miss exploring the old Paris Opera House, Palais Garnier. It’s the setting for the 1910 novel, The Phantom of the Opera.
Today, the opulent Beaux-Arts building is mainly used for ballet performances.
Be sure to check out the grand marble staircase, massive foyer and the painted ceiling that depicts the history of music.
We took a self-guided tour of this most opulent building as it gave us more time to just wander on our own. Definitely worth a visit.
LES INVALIDES AND NAPOLEON’S TOMB
Les Invalides is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments relating to French military history.
Most notable of these are the Musee de L’Armee and the Dome des Invalides which houses the tomb of Napoleon. A great place to just visit and walk around. So much to see.
PALAIS DE JUSTICE AND SAINTE CHAPELLE
The Palais de Justice (formerly the Palais de la City) is located on the Boulevard du Palais in the Ile de la Cite in central Paris. It was constructed in 1868.
Among the oldest surviving buildings of the Palais de la Cite are the Sainte Chapelle (built in 1240) and the Conciergerie, a former prison, now a museum. This is where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before being executed on the guillotine in 1793.
The first public clock in Paris was added to one of the towers in 1370. This beautifully restored clock is definitely worth seeing.
How nice are these gates at the entrance to the Palais de Justice.
Sainte Chapelle – this Gothic style chapel was built in 1248 and has the one of the world’s most extensive stained-glass collections. No photographs seems to do justice of what you are seeing inside this chapel. You simply must visit this while in Paris.
Built in 1900, it now houses the Paris Museum of Fine Arts. The main feature of this building is the front façade with its gorgeous entry doors at the top of the stairs. Even if you don’t visit the museum, it is nice to walk by and get photos. There is a statue of Winston Churchill in the grounds as well.
Opposite this Museum is another imposing building the Grand Palais. So much to photograph around this area.
JARDIN DU LUXEMBOURG
A pleasant place to take a stroll or have a picnic lunch. Created in 1612, there are beautiful French and English style gardens along with fountains and a beautiful palace.
RIVER SEINE AND BRIDGES
A cruise on the River Seine is one of the most iconic things you can do in Paris. There are many different choices here so pick one that suits your budget and limit of time. It really is such a romantic feel, floating along under all those beautiful bridges. We chose late afternoon as the sun was setting and that was a great choice. Lasting around an hour, you can get great views of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Louvre, as well as the Musee D’Orsay. In fact, the journey is one long feast of the Paris we love so much.
Well that was just a taste of what Paris has to offer. Even though we have spent almost 2 weeks there on two separate trips, I still want to return for another look.
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