Best of Paris: Top 10 Attractions

To say that Paris is a city of art and culture, of haute couture and haute cuisine, is to understate the case. Because Paris is not only the main tourist destination in France, but one of the most popular destinations in the world. It is visited by more than 30 million people each year and is packed to the brim with visitor attractions, including several world-famous landmarks that together are enough to overwhelm even the seasoned tourist.

So what, you might ask, should I see in Paris? Well, to do the city justice, you must, absolutely must, keep the following in mind.

1. Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is the main attraction in Paris. It is a symbol of the city and one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. Designed by Gustave Eiffel, it was built in 1889 for the World’s Fair held in Paris in 1900. The tower has 15,000 iron sections, joined together with 2.5 million rivets, and rises 324 meters into the sky over Paris. There are several lifts here, as well as a flight of stairs that goes up to the second platform at 115 meters. There is an entry fee for stairs of 4.50 euros per person, and it costs 8 euros to go up in the elevators to the second floor and 13 euros to the upper platform, from where you can enjoy 360-degree views of Paris! There is a restaurant on the first floor, 58 Tour Eiffel, and another on the second floor, Jules Verne.

2. The Louvre

The Louvre is easily the most famous art museum in the world. It has four spacious galleries that house hundreds of monumental works of art by the best artists in the world. The Richilieu wing features Flemish, Dutch, German and other Northern European masters such as Vermeer, Rembrandt and Durer; Objets d’Art is full of French sculpture from the Middle Ages, as well as Renaissance tapestries and ancient Mesopotamian art; the Sully Wing is dedicated to the French masters of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries; and the Grande Galerie houses Italian paintings from the 13th to 17th centuries, including the famous ‘Mona Lisa’. The Louvre is not cheap at 9 euros each, but what would a visit to Paris be without a visit to the Louvre?

3. Champs Elysees

Champs Elysees is that wide avenue in the heart of Paris that all things great and illustrious (and even not so great and illustrious) must travel: the caravan of the French president travels down the avenue; the Tour de France ends here; Bastille Day parades make their appearance here. Surrounded by majestic trees, shops and restaurants, it stretches from Place de la Concorde to the ornate 18th-century Arc de Triomphe, tours of which are available for 7 euros each.

4. Notre Dame

Notre Dame is one of the oldest Gothic cathedrals in Europe and a real tourist attraction. The three-story cathedral, with its large medieval stained glass windows, dates from 1163 and offers a classic example of a Gothic cathedral facade. It has three portals: the Coronation Portal, where Mary is shown crowned by an angel; the Portal of the Final Judgment, where Jesus is represented as judge of the world; and the Portal de Santa Ana that leads to the cathedral. The medieval influence here is enormous, from the pillars and vault shafts on the inside, to the massive flying buttresses on the outside. The cathedral is located on the larger of the two islands in the Seine, Ile de la Cite, and is open every day. Oh, and this is a bumblebee.

5. Montmartre

Montmartre is that Parisian neighborhood inextricably linked to bohemian artists, particularly those of the late 19th century, such as Renoir, Monet, Gaugin, Degas and others, who lived and painted here at one point or another. Today in Montmartre, you can savor ‘chocolat chaud’ at any of the several garden restaurants at ‘La Butte’, get your portrait done at Place du Tertre, and also visit the Sacre Coeur Basilica, a gleaming white landmark of Paris built between 1873 and 1914, incorporating a variety of architectural styles and periods, including Neo-Romanesque, Byzantine, Moorish, and Renaissance, offering panoramic views of the city.

6. Place Vendome

Place Vendome, or the ‘Jewelers’ Square’, is practically synonymous with luxury shopping in Paris. It’s home to the likes of Van Cleef & Arpels, Chaumet, Boucheron, Armani, and even Cartier, which is actually on Rue de la Paix, right off the square. Window shopping is the order of the day, and the Cartier windows are the highlight of any visit here. The 100-year-old Ritz, perhaps the most famous hotel in Paris, is also located here. Nearby is also the Rue du Faubourg Saint Honore, which runs off the Place Vendome and forms the heart of the legendary Paris fashion district. Some of the world’s most famous fashion houses are located here, including Chanel, Cardin, Givenchy, Versace, and Hermes.

7. Orsay Museum

Musée d’Orsay, located across the Seine from the Louvre, is the “Museum of the 19th century”. As an art museum, it is second only to the Louvre. It has more than 6,000 exhibits, covering the period between 1848 and 1914. The Impressionists, in particular, are well represented here, as are all the other major art movements of the 19th and 20th centuries. The museum, which opened to the public in 1986, is located in the old train station, Gare d’Orsay, located in the Saint-Germain des Pres neighborhood of Paris. The entrance here costs 7 euros.

8. The Marais district

The Marais is quintessentially Paris, with colorful cafes spilling onto the sidewalks, surprising little boutiques, charming but pricey little hotels and bed-and-breakfast inns, gamut-spanning art galleries, corner bookstores and nooks and crannies … It’s a place for wandering, where you can enjoy latte and croissants, rummage through quaint shops, and literally breathe in Paris. The main attraction here is the Place de Vosges, which dates back to 1604 and was once considered the most beautiful square in Paris. The 19th century home of author Victor Hugo is also located here, in the southeast corner of the square. Place de Vosges is now packed with galleries, fashion shops, restaurants, and art galleries, with live music on the air.

9. Latin Quarter

Quartier Latin, or the Latin Quarter, is ‘the neighborhood of scholars’, where the Sorbonne University is located, ‘the intellectual cradle of Paris’, founded in the 13th century. Also of interest in the neighborhood are the historic Place Maubert, which offers visitors a glimpse of the original Paris, with its messy jumble of crooked houses and dark courtyards; Tour d’Argent, a 16th century restaurant; Boulevard Saint-Michel, which has Roman ruins and a historic square; and Jardin des Plantes, a historic botanical garden that was originally established in the 17th century and where you can now stroll among centuries-old trees, including a cedar planted in 1734.

10. Versailles

Versailles, located just southwest of Paris, is the setting for Louis XIV’s elaborate 17th-century residence, the Chateau de Versailles. Best viewed on a day trip from Paris. The highlights of any visit to the royal residence include the Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors), a 70-meter-long room with long rows of mirrors that reflect light from tall windows; and the labyrinthine park of Versailles which, divided in two by the Grand Canal, is perhaps the most perfect example of a French garden. The Castle of Versailles is open to the public for self-guided tours. Ticket price: 7.50 euros.

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