I have visited Paris, France four times; it is my favorite vacation destination. I will try to give you the benefit of my familiarity with the city to direct you to the spots which will bring you the most delight and provide the most memories of your visit.
Eiffel Tower - Wikimedia
The Eiffel Tower was built for the World Exhibition in 1889, held in celebration of the French Revolution in 1789. The tower is 984 feet tall and the top of it can be seen from the distance in practically every section of Paris. Gustave Eiffel designed and oversaw the construction of the Eiffel Tower. He was also involved in the construction of the Statue of Liberty which was a gift from France to the United States. The tower consists of 12,000 iron pieces which have been fit together through the use of seven million nails. The base pillars of the Eiffel Tower are oriented with the four points of the compass. Originally, the citizens of Paris feared that the tower was structurally unsound and even considered it an eyesore. It was the tallest structure in the world until the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York City in 1930. Today, the tower attracts more visitors than any other paid tourist attraction in the world.
Arc de Triomphe - Attribution: Michael Meinecke Wikimedia
Arc de Triomphe
The arch was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate his victories, but he was ousted before the arch was completed. It is located at the end of the Champs-Elysées, in the middle of the Place Charles de Gaulle, which is also known as the "Place de l'Étoile". The Place is a large circular square from which twelve streets emanate. All of the streets are named after French military leaders. Below the arch is the Grave of the Unknown Soldiers, honoring the men who died during the First World War. Every year on Armistice Day (November 11), the President of the Republic lays a ceremonial wreath. The top of the arch has a viewing platform which gives visitors an extensive view of the city. There is no elevator, so you must walk up 234 steps to take in the view. The structure is 164 feet high. The Arch can be seem from a distance throughout the city, thanks to the zoning restrictions which do not allow the construction of high buildings
The Louvre Museum - Wikimedia
The Louvre Museum
The Louvre Museum was originally a fortress built in the 12th century by King Philip II. In the 16th century, King Francis I first housed his private art collection here. One of the works of art he purchased was the famous Mona Lisa painted by Leonardo da Vinci. In 1793, the Louvre became a national art museum and the private royal collection was opened to the public. Today, the museum holds over one million works of art; 35,000 pieces are on display at one time throughout the three wings of what was once the King’s Palace. The famous statue of Venus de Milo and also the Greek marble statue called the Winged Victory of Samothrace attract visitors from all over the world. The most recent addition to the Louvre was the construction of the Louvre Pyramid, which functions as the museum's main entrance. The pyramid was built in 1989 by the American architect I.M. Pei. The glass pyramid allows the sunlight to enter the underground floor. The modern addition contrasts sharply with the classical design of the surrounding buildings, but it has gradually achieved acceptance by the general public.
Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral - Wikimedia
Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral has always been the religious center of the city. Bishop Maurice de Sully started the construction in 1163 using the new Gothic style of architecture which became the prototype for future cathedrals in France. It took almost two centuries before the Cathedral was completed. Inside, there are several large rose windows; the northern being the most impressive with a diameter of 42.5 feet. The interior is remarkable, with room for 6,000 worshipers. Napoleon crowned himself Emperor and his wife Josephine as Empress in the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Crusaders prayed here before leaving on their holy wars. The recognizable tall towers are 226 feet high. Visitors are invited to climb 387 steps to the top of one of the towers. The south tower holds a 13-ton bell which is rung on special occasions. Six masses are celebrated on Sunday, four on weekdays and one on Saturday.
Champs Elysees - Wikimedia
The Champs Elysees, which means “Elysian Fields,” is 1.2 miles long and is rightfully the most famous avenue in the world. At the western end is the Arc de Triomphe, from which you can walk to cinemas, theaters, cafés and luxury shops. On the opposite end is the Place de La Concorde which contains the famous obelisk known as “Cleopatra’s Needle.” The Place is bordered by beautifully arranged gardens with fountains and some grand buildings. The elegant Tuileries Gardens and adjoining Louvre Museum sit to the east, just past the vast Concorde plaza and the obelisk. The Champs Elysees is where Parisians celebrate New Year's Eve and where the military parades are held on the 14th of July. The Ladurée is a café on the avenue where you are liable to bump into stars of the American film industry. It is worth it just to stroll down the massive sidewalks with their elegant facades and leafy plane trees.
Pont Neuf (New Bridge) - Wikimedia
The Pont Neuf (New Bridge) is Paris's best known bridge and one of its most beautiful. In the middle of the sixteenth century, there were only two bridges which crossed the Seine River. They were both in bad condition and always overcrowded, so King Henry III decided in 1578 to build a new bridge. It was opened finally in 1607 during the reign of King Henry IV. A statue of Henry IV can be seen at the center of the bridge, on the Place du Pont Neuf. At 761 feet long, it was the first bridge with walking pavements, allowing Parisians to use the bridge as a meeting place, often designating the statue of Henry IV as the place to meet. It was also the first bridge that had to deal with vehicular transportation – carts, wagons, and personal carriages. Unlike earlier bridges, it was built of stone instead of wood. It is now the oldest extant bridge in Paris.
Moulin Rouge - Wikimedia
In 1889, the Moulin Rouge (Red Mill) was opened with the claim that it would become “a temple of music and dance.” Its reputation quickly grew as a place where men could watch young Parisian girls performing unique and amazing dance moves. Although the Can-Can had been around since 1830, the Moulin Rouge became famous for its execution as a bawdy dance to entertain the male clientele. One of the Moulin Rouge’s most well-known patrons was the artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec who painted numerous scenes of the activities in the Moulin Rouge. The site eventually lost its vulgar reputation and became a fashionable cabaret catering to a high-class clientele.
Montmartre - Wikimedia
Montmartre is situated on a hill that reaches a height of 427 feet, located in the north end of Paris. It has long been known as an artist's colony in the city. The word Montmartre means “mountain of the martyr” in remembrance of the martyrdom of St. Denis who was decapitated on the hill in 250 A.D. By the late eighteenth century, Montmartre became a popular drinking and entertainment area, hosting establishments like Moulin Rouge and Le Chat Noir (The Black Cat). About the same time, artists began making Montmartre their home. Among these were Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Henri Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Pablo Picasso. The composers Erik Satie also lived in Montmartre. To get to the top of the hill, visitors can take the funicular railway which takes you up to the Basilica du Sacré-Coeur (Church of the Sacred Heart) which is visited by millions of tourists each year. I myself took the funicular up to the Basilica, which had additional steps to climb to enter the church.
I hope you get to see Paris, “the City of Light,” and to love it as much as I do. Bon Voyage!
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