Paris is a city of museums, landmarks and history – and one can easily spend more than a few days visiting its attractions, but to start with, here are five “must sees”. And once you have visited these, there is plenty of other stuff to do in Paris.
– often major cities are identified by a single landmark – for Paris it is the Eiffel tower. The tower was named after Gustave Eiffel, the engineer who is partially responsible for its design. It was built in 1889 as the entrance to the World’s Fair. Today it is one of the most visited attractions in Paris. Tourists can visit three different levels – the first and second levels have restaurants – and from the top level, one has some of the best views anywhere of the entire city.
Chateau de Versailles
was once home to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. In the summer it is home to thousands of people who have come from around the world to glimpse its magnificent architecture and stroll through the impeccably manicured gardens. While not in Paris proper, (20 kilometers outside the city center) it is fairly easy to reach Versailles by metro or bus – less than 30 minutes. Like with several other major Parisian attractions, especially in the summer – arrive early to beat what become very long lines to get in.
– often mentioned in the same breath as the Eiffel Tower as the place to visit in Paris – one is certainly not disappointed by its truly global collection of sculpture masterpieces, paintings, antiquities and jewelry. Wile the Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo da Vinci is its most popular piece visited regardless of nationality (make this the first painting you visit early in the morning to avoid the crowds that invariably are drawn to its “spell”) – this world class museum boasts thousands of pieces of fine art across its collections.
– while the Louvre is often mentioned as “the” museum to visit in Paris no visit should exclude the impressive Orsay. This museum is housed in an old railway station and is famous for its collection of impressionism paintings. Prominent mostly French artists have many of their works here including Degas, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne and Van Gogh. Like the Mona Lisa in the nearby Louvre, the most visited painting here is Vincent van Gogh’s self portrait.
– this is the cathedral most identified with Paris. This impressive Gothic building is located next to the Seine River. Work on the cathedral started in 1163 and lasted more than 100 years. Admission is free – you can also walk up to the top of the South Tower for excellent views of the city – (nearly 400 steps and no elevator)!
L: The Louvre – Glass Pyramid R: Musee d’Orsay
Other well worthwhile well-known Paris attractions are Sacre Coeur (massive marble church built on Paris’s highest hill), The Arc de Triomphe, the Pantheon, and the Catacombs.
Paris has a well developed metro, however many of the major attractions in Central Paris are within walking distance of each other especially along the river Seine. If your going to be staying in Paris, consider choosing a hotel close to the Louvre – this is a very central location for visiting some of Paris’s most well-known museums either by foot or on the metro.
Several movies made within the past decade to watch or revisit to get one excited about visiting one of the world’s greatest cities are “2 Days in Paris”, “Before Sunset” and “Midnight in Paris”.