They don’t call it the city of lights for nothing. It’s a large, bustling metropolis, where traffic and scammers abound, but if you can get past these obstacles, Paris can be truly magical. There is more jaw-dropping art than you can see in a week of constant viewing, the towering churches are out of this world beautiful, and the food and wine is heavenly. The feelings experienced while in this city made for lovers will stick with you long after you’re gone. In fact, after some time away, you might find that the bad experiences fade away, and the good memories will have you yearning to return.
1. The Louvre
The Louvre is the epitome of art museums. With nearly 35,000 objects and over 650,000 square feet, the Louvre is one of the largest museums in the world and it’s also an historic monument. It was built as a fortress in the 12th century and was a royal palace until 1682. There are 3 wings in the museum, but the most famous pieces like Winged Victory, Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa are in the Denon wing. The lines can be incredibly long to enter, so purchase tickets in advance, use the Paris Museum Pass, or opt for one of the less busy entrances than the glass pyramid like the Porte des Lions entrance or Carrousel du Louvre entrance in the underground shopping mall.
2. Eiffel Tower
Built in 1889 for the World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower is 1063 feet tall and is the symbol of Paris. It can be seen all over the city because none of the buildings even come close to its height. Ascend to the top or marvel at the construction and engineering from the base. Whatever you choose, just don’t miss this beauty all lit up at night.
3. Notre Dame
Complete with flying buttresses, gargoyles, and rose windows that are 10 meters in diameter, this towering Gothic cathedral sits on an island in the middle of the Seine River. Construction began in the 12th century and didn’t finish until about 200 years later, and it’s easy to see why…it’s huge and the architecture is amazingly detailed. Entry is free, but for a small fee you can tour the Treasury, crypt, or ascend the towers to see where the Hunchback of Notre Dame lives!
4. Palace of Versailles
See how lavishly France’s royalty lived from 1682 until the French Revolution in 1789. The Palace of Versailles has over 700 rooms, 1,200 fireplaces, and 60 staircases, all ornately decorated and dripping in luxuries like fine art, furniture, and fabrics. Only a few of these rooms are open to visitors, but the Hall of Mirrors and Grand Apartments of the King and Queen will put you in a state of awe without needing to see the other 697ish rooms. Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon and her working farm, which were both built as an escape from the palace, are also open to the public, and they are housed on the 200+ acres of meticulously groomed gardens that are an absolute pleasure to walk or bike through.
5. Shop for a Picnic
Become a local for a day and shop for a picnic lunch. Parisians shop daily for their meals because they don’t have much storage space and because they love fresh ingredients. Experience a piece of their culture by visiting the boulangerie for bread, the boucherie for meat, the fromagerie for cheese, a produce stand for fruits and vegetables, and a shop for wine. You will probably be exhausted from going to so many shops, but you will feel very French as you walk around with a baguette sticking out of your shopping bag.
6. Champs Elysees
Dress in your most trendy clothes, go for a stroll down the Champs Elysess, and mix with Paris’ fashionistas and ultra-wealthy. This famous street is dotted with many high end stores and car show rooms that most of us can’t afford to step into, but there are also more reasonable stores like H&M and Banana Republic to satiate your spending urge. The grand finale of the Champs Elysees is the Arc De Triomphe, which is a magnificent arch that honors those who served in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Go through a tunnel under the street to get to the arch, then ascend its 284 steps and look down to marvel at the insane traffic pattern that surrounds the roundabout.
7. Disneyland Paris
If you love Disney even half as much as I do, then you will love Disneyland Paris. There are so many unique things to see in this park like beautiful landscaping, French architecture, and the best night show I’ve ever seen at any Disney resort. The parades and shows feature different characters than in the U.S. like Peter Pan, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Alice in Wonderland, so with all of these differences it won’t feel like you’re just visiting the Magic Kingdom back at home.
8. Orsay Museum
This museum holds a beautiful collection of French impressionist and post-impressionist art, with famous pieces like Van Gogh’s Self-portrait, Manet’s Olympia, Rodin’s The Gates of Hell, and my personal favorite, Ingres’s The Source. However, one of the coolest things about this museum is the building. It’s a repurposed train station from the turn of the 19th century that still has the curved ceiling covered in windows to let sunlight pour in. The café on the second floor holds great photo opportunities to capture the entire length of the museum or of the huge clocks that double as windows.
The centerpiece of the Monmartre neighborhood is the Basilica of Sacre Coeur, which was built out of a heavenly white stone in 1912 on the highest point in Paris. A scenic climb to the steps or dome of this Basilica rewards visitors with panoramic views of the city. This is the area of Paris where artists such as Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh all have worked, and you can still see aspiring artists painting here today. Monmartre is also home to the Moulin Rouge nightclub, but be warned if you decide to venture near this establishment. The walk is pretty seedy and all men in your party will constantly be invited to go inside other nightclubs to have a look (if you know what I mean).
10. The Left Bank
Travel to the Left Bank of the Seine River to escape modern Paris and delve into a part of the city that is reminiscent of the early 20th century, where artists and writers blossomed. Visit the Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore, a shop that specializes in books written in English, which was frequented by Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein, just to name a few. No trip to the left bank is complete without perusing the nearly 200 famous green stalls (or bouquinistes), that line the river and sell used books, prints, magazines and tourist trinkets. These stalls have been a Left Bank staple for hundreds of years.
After visiting these ten sights, I’m sure you will fall in love with Paris just like I did. The city provides a good mix of old and new attractions, and it’s fun to imagine yourself in both the present and the past while exploring this timeless city. Whether you like art, shopping, literature, religious sites, architecture, or just exploring different cultures, there’s something for everyone. There are plenty of places to escape the fast pace of the city and enjoy your surroundings, so don’t forget to slow down, order a glass of wine, and enjoy the simple fact that you’re in Paris.
Was there something else that made you fall in love with Paris? Let me know in the comments below!
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