Paris sights Top 10
10 Best Sights in Paris
Here is our take on the 10 best sites or attractions in Paris, in alphabetical order. There are so many things that we love about Paris that we just had to make a limit. For general information about Paris including the Paris Metro or a list of other things to see and do in Paris, please follow the links.
Sights in Paris - Arc de Triomphe
This Arch was commissioned by Napoléon to commemorate one of his victorious battles, although he never saw it completed. The arch was also made famous in photos as the Allied troops entered the heart of Paris. It sits in the middle of a traffic circle that has 12 streets including the Champs Elysées converging onto it. You reach the arch by an underground passageway, so don't try to cross the traffic! You can take an elevator or stairs to the top for wonderful views of Paris, and enjoy a museum about the arch.
Sights in Paris - Eiffel Tower
The tower was built as a temporary exhibit for the 1889 World's Fair. Now just over 100 years old it has become the symbol of Paris. While you see the tower from many places in Paris its size will amaze you as you approach. In all there are 7,000 tons of metal and the base covers nearly 3 acres. There are elevators to take you to the 1st (200 feet), 2nd (400 feet) and 3rd (900 feet) floors. The first level has a restaurant, exhibits and films about the tower as well as souvenirs. The second level offers great views of Paris and a snack bar, and the top level offers views as far away as 40 miles. Plan to arrive before 9:00am or in the evening to avoid the worst lines. At night the tower is lit. You can enjoy the tower from Parc du Champ-de-Mars, the adjoining park. Some of the best views are from the Tracedero, with it's canyon fountains and Art Deco statues.
Sights in Paris - Louvre Museum
This 16th Century Palace is the largest and most impressive museum in Europe and its most famous piece is the Mona Lisa. The museum is so large that of you spent one minute at each piece in the museum you would spend your entire life there. For those that don't have a lifetime we recommend one of the following. Pick up the free Louvre Handbook at the information desk as you enter the pyramid, join one of the 90 minute English tours ($6.00) which run 6 times a day except on Sunday, or rent an audio guide ($5.50), or purchase a museum guide book before your visit. The museum is busiest in the morning, on Sunday because of cheaper tickets, and Monday and Wednesday due to the closing day of Tuesday. If you are not a fan of museums, you can still enter the complex at the I.M Pei pyramid to explore the Carrousel du Louvre shops and then take a stroll in the adjoining Tuileries Gardens.
Sights in Paris - Luxembourg Gardens
This park is considered one of the most beautiful in Paris and is a favorite amongst Parisians. Spending time in one of Paris' many parks and cafés is simply the best way to enjoy this wonderful city and the Luxembourg Gardens is a gem. The park is filled with flowers, boxed trees, and the laughter of children. There is a pond where you can rent and play with a motorized remote control boat, and a children's play area. The Luxembourg Palace which looms over the park is the home of the French Parliament. After a morning of sight seeing, there is no better treat than to enjoy a peaceful afternoon in this park.
Sights in Paris - Montmartre
Montmatre is a neighborhood more than a sight, but well worth the visit. Take the funicular up to the Neo-Byzantine church (1870) which crowns the top of the hill and offers the second highest (next to the Eiffel Tower) view point in Paris. At one time there were 30 windmills on the hill but today the only two remaining are on rue Lepic. The area has long been a favorite for artists and Bohemians. The most famous, Toulouse Lautrec, produced posters of cabaret and café life in Paris in the early 1900's. The place du Tertre remains a hangout for artists trying to sell their works. Rue de Sauls leads to the only vineyard in Paris. Down the hill from Montmarte you'll find Pigalle, Paris' red light district, known derogatively as Pig Alley. The most popular club on the street is the touristy Moulin Rouge.
Sights in Paris - Musée d'Orsay
The current President of France, Jacques Chirac, was once the mayor of Paris. One of his greatest achievements as mayor was the conversion of the once abandoned Orsay train station into a world class museum. The building itself is a beautiful site and tribute to the great rail stations of Europe. Upon entering, climb to the top of the staircase and look back to envision trains entering and exiting the station. Now you can start your visit on the top floor and work your way down. The museum is most famous for its Impressionist works including those by Monet, Renoir and van Gogh, just to name a few. There is also a wonderful Art Nouveau section. Finally the café is a nice place for a light lunch, offering views of the Right Bank through the station's giant clock.
Sights in Paris - Notre Dame
This cathedral is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Construction began on the building in 1163 but it took 5 architects and almost 100 years to complete. The statues on the front portal date back to 1170. One of the highlights is the rose window, nearly 40 feet wide, that depicts the life of the Virgin Mary. The original building had small windows but around 1220 the flying buttresses were added. These outdoor columns take on the weight of the walls allowing for stained glass windows that are nearly floor to ceiling. The buttresses also serve as rain gutters. During the French Revolution much of the church was damaged including the removal of the heads from the Gallery of Kings statues. When Napéleon was crowned here in 1804 the walls were in such bad condition that they had to be covered with tapestries. In 1831 author Victor Hugo wrote the book Notre-Dame de Paris and started a fever to return this jewel to its former glory. For wonderful views of Paris set amongst gargoyles, climb the 400 steps to the top of the bell tower.
Sights in Paris - Place des Vosges
This is the second park to make our 10 favorites in Paris. The park fills a square surrounded by 36 brick and stone townhouses, 9 on each side. House Number six was the home of Victor Hugo. Henry IV built the square in the Marais as a place for royalty, today it is one of the most exclusive, yet working class, neighborhoods in Paris. The trees that line the park make a great retreat on a warm day, a perfect spot for an afternoon picnic. Children playing in sandboxes, nannies with baby carriages, and lovers kissing on park benches, this is Paris at its finest!
Sights in Paris - Sainte Chapelle
King Louis IX had this Gothic chapel built in 1242 to house his newest purchase, the Crown of Thorns, the relic supposedly worn by Christ during his crucifixion. What makes this chapel different than many other Gothic churches is the fact that it was built in only 6 years and under the direction of one architect. The result is a unity in construction styles. The main floor or basement is where the average citizen was allowed to come and worship. The upper floor was for the royalty. But none of this information can convey to you the beauty of its stained glass windows located in the upper floor. The windows cover an area of over 6,500 square feet. The result is a feeling of being surrounded by jewels as you witness an impressive light show on a sunny day. Many evenings there are classical concerts ($30) held here. Today the Crown of Thorns is kept in the treasury at Notre Dame.
Sights in Paris - Seine Cruise
This is a wonderful way to see Paris. Sitting on the deck of a boat as it cruises along the Seine River. There are several companies offering these one hour cruises. Our favorite is Les Vedettes de Pont-Neuf. This company uses slightly smaller boats than the others and has a human being telling you about the major sites in both French and English. Other companies offer a loud speaker recording in about 5 languages. The prices are a bit higher than others but well worth it. The best time to enjoy one of these cruises is after dark when Paris can be seen in its lighted glory!
Day Trip from Paris- Join an organized day trip from Paris to visit Chartres, Giverny, the Loire Valley, Mont St Michel, Normandy and the D-day Beaches, Reims and the Champagne Region or Versailles. More Info
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