The Eiffel Tower tops most people’s lists of what to see in Paris, though the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre Museum and the Notre Dame Cathedral are nearby and are top picks.
Ah, Paris! The cosmopolitan capital city of France breathes life into any Seine River cruise, making for an exciting port of embarkation and departure or extension to any other European tour. At the heart of global fashion, Paris is undisputedly the vogue destination on any French itinerary.
Even a leisurely stroll down the twinkling rues and lanes of the aptly named “City of Lights” is a delightful experience, as you bask in the shimmer of illuminated bridges, streets, and monuments along the banks of the Seine River.
But don’t stroll too leisurely or you’ll miss all the great things to see and do in the expansive Parisian metropolis of over 2 million people.
The Eiffel Tower
Towering at over 1,000 feet in wrought iron, this beautiful architectural masterpiece was built in 1887 under the direction of engineer Gustave Eiffel. It is open to the public and offers a stunning and romantic vista of the city.
Arc de Triomphe
Not far from the Eiffel Tower is another renowned structural monument: the Arc de Triomphe, built in the neoclassical style in 1806, honors those who fought for France during the Napoleonic Wars. The Arc de Triomphe enjoys a privileged location at the center of Place de l’Étoile, at the western end of the Champs-Élysées (the route of the landmarks).
Art appreciators revel in the exquisite paintings and artwork at home in the Louvre Museum, the world’s largest art museum. Home to da Vinci's Mona Lisa (La Joconde) and countless other treasures, explore the vast hallways of this beautiful museum to see artistic treasures from all over the world.
Though less popular than the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay is still a favorite of art aficionados who want to see the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings in the world. Built in an old train station, the building itself is as beautiful as the art it houses. Look for famous van Gogh, Renoir, Manet, and Monet works here.
Notre Dame Cathedral
Perhaps the most evocative site in Paris right now is Notre Dame Cathedral. This French-Gothic triumph first opened in 1345, over 180 years after construction started in 1163. Considered one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world, this Catholic church has long been a landmark of human accomplishment with great meaning to people of all creeds. Unfortunately, an intense structural fire destroyed large sections of the roof of Notre Dame in April 2019, which will require serious repairs and restoration, though many feel that the intricate roof and iconic spire (a victim of the blaze) are irreplaceable artifacts of our human heritage.
Another famous Catholic landmark in Paris is the Sacré-Cœur Basilica (Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris), built in the Byzantine and ancient Roman architectural styles on the Montmartre hilltop. The basilica itself is stunning, and the view from its front steps is one of the best in all of Paris.
Palace of Versailles
Those seeking a taste of elegance while in France will enjoy a tour of the Palace of Versailles. Just outside of the city of Paris, this Baroque palace was home to the royal family from its opening in 1682 through the French Revolution in 1789 - the time between Louis XIV and Louis XVI. The grounds host beautifully maintained gardens, and palace tours are also available.
Other gardens worth visiting in Paris are the Tuileries Garden (adjacent to the Louvre museum) and the Luxembourg Gardens.
If you want a glance into the macabre underside of Paris, pass through the Catacombs of Paris, where the remains of more than six million people can be explored in this winding network of tunnels.
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