Paris is a vibrant city with a tremendous amount of visitor appeal for art and history lovers, romantics, gourmands and fashionistas. While viewing “The City of Light” from high up the Eiffel Tower is undeniably a favorite tourist attraction, there are so many additional things to do in Paris that give visitors an intimate feel for Parisian culture.
Sights and Attractions
A first time visit to Paris should definitely include these favorite sights that represent the city’s history and lifestyle.
- Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral – this masterpiece of French Gothic architecture is “point zero” for measuring the distance from Paris to all other points in France. The inside is spectacular, but be sure to see the classic flying buttresses and gargoyles on the outside.
- The Arc de Triomphe – Climb to the top for a view of the entire city, including the twelve avenues that radiate outward from the Arch to create the Etoile (star). Travel Maestro tip: The traffic circle that surrounds the monument is perilous; reach the center by way of the pedestrian tunnel near the north side of the Champs Elysees (near Cartier).
- La Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmartre – Sitting atop the highest hill in Paris, the view from the top of the dome encompasses the whole city. At its base, the lovely market square of Place du Tertre is teeming with shops, cafes, artists painting and street performers.
- A cruise on the Seine on one of the Bateaux Mouches boats is unabashedly touristy, but a relaxing way to see the city. Travel Maestro tip: The ride is much more romantic at night when the city is beautifully illuminated.
- Revel in the latest in French fashion at the stunning art-nouveau department store, Galleries LaFayette. Free fashion shows (reservations required) run Mondays and Fridays at 3 p.m., March through December, on the seventh floor.
- The Eiffel Tower – Enjoy a bottom/up view with a picnic in the grassy area at the tower’s feet and don’t miss the sparkling 10-minute light show each hour in the evenings. Travel Maestro tip: If your Paris visit simply won’t be complete without going up, avoid long ticket lines by purchasing a ticket to walk the stairs to the second level, then from there buy an elevator ticket to the top.
Art and Museums
Paris has attracted artists and art lovers for centuries. From the priceless collections found in the many outstanding museums to independent galleries to street art, Paris has art of every genre for the aficionado.
- The massive Musee du Louvre, once the residence of French kings, houses three famous women: Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory of Samothrace and Leonardo da Vinci’s mysterious Mona Lisa – and it is impossible to digest in one visit.
- Iconic impressionist paintings by the masters of the genre are on display in the Musee d’Orsay, a beautifully renovated, one-time train station, and the Musee de l’Orangerie where Monet’s enormous Water Lilies canvases are displayed in the round, flooded by natural light.
- The contemporary art of the Centre Pompidou is one of the world’s most novel structures with its “inside out” architecture and a must-see for modern art lovers.
- The timeless sculptures of Rodin can be seen at the Musee Rodin, a stately mansion that was once home to the artist himself.
- Aspiring artists display their works free of charge, both on the streets and in beautiful art galleries. Art lovers need look no further than the streets surrounding major museums, especially in Montmartre and near the Musée Picasso and Centre Pompidou in the Marais.
Travel Maestro tip: A number of Paris’ world renowned museums offer free admission on the first Sunday of each month and at all times for art lovers under 18. Most museums are closed one day a week, so be sure to check their schedule.
Paris is a fairly compact and easy to navigate city, making it extremely walkable. Here are some favorite routes to soak up the quintessential Parisian culture; although when you tire of walking, just have a seat on the terrasse of any nearby café, enjoy an espresso or a cup of sinfully rich hot chocolate and people-watch like a real Parisian. Travel Maestro tip: In many restaurants and cafes, you’re charged more if you sit out on the terrace than if you stand at the bar or sit at a table inside.
- Promenade from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs Elysees, lined with shops, showrooms, and sidewalk cafes, through the Place de la Concorde with the 3,300-year-old Obelisk of Luxor at its center, through the Jardin des Tuileries to the Louvre.
- Saunter from Notre-Dame through the Latin Quarter to the colonnaded Pantheon and through the Jardin du Luxembourg.
- Meander along the Seine from Pont de l’Alma to Musee d’Orsay on the walkable river banks, crossing the Ile de la Cite or the Ile St. Louis. Travel Maestro tip: Be sure to browse the book sellers’ stalls that line the Left Bank.
- Take a midnight stroll along the romantic streets of Montmartre.
- Amble along the Canal St. Martin at dusk, often referred to as one of Paris’ most romantic spots.
Even More Things to Do In Paris
There is no shortage of nightclubs for every style, from student hipster to Versace-clad fashionista, and techno club-barges to Moulin Rouge cabaret. The variety of performing arts is dazzling, with world-class opera, ballet and symphony. Like nightlife, Paris has a shopping district to suit everyone’s taste from the sophisticated Saint Honore area to the funky and eclectic Marais.
Wonderful, rich food is one of France’s gifts to the world, and there are thousands of restaurants in Paris, from inexpensive neighborhood bistros to the most refined and elegant gourmet establishments. Choosing some of the best would be a difficult task beyond Travel Maestro’s qualifications, but suffice it to say that you will have no problem eating and drinking well in Paris.
As Audrey Hepburn said, “Paris is always a good idea.” To customize your own trip to the City of Light, contact a Covington Vacation Advisor today.